neil cummings

Practice of Everyday Life

26 Jan 2009

Working SessionI was in conversation with Dr Dan Smith at Chelsea College of Art and Design. We were attempting to play with the lecture format and discuss notions of the everyday. We used Michel de Certeau and the Practice of Everyday Life (1984) as our guide.

De Certeau defines two broad spheres within everyday practices.

The first sphere is that of Strategy. Strategy is the realm of power. Political, economic, financial, aesthetic, legal and scientific. It’s the proper place for the excise of authority. A strategic authority confers the ability to oversee a particular field - financial, aesthetic, legal, etc. Armies and war, laws and legal codes, monetary policy and bond issues spring to mind. Institutions help dominate a particular field of strategy, like the Serpentine Gallery, White Cube or the Frieze Art Fair.

The second is that of tactics. Tactics belong to the weak, those outside of the proper place of action, authority and speech. Tactics are fragmentary, creative and improvisery. Like never quite having the right tool. They rely on opportunity and chance, or stealing, DIY, maybe hacking.

De Certeau offers a great example of the interplay of Strategy and Tactics. That of reading. He says that the text (or book) is the result of strategy, it’s the proper record of a text produced by publishing. Through commissioning, editing, printing, advertising, and retail. All protected by the force of law. Copyright. The author - and the ‘field’ of publishing, turn words into social authority. And profit.

But as readers we skip-read, jump chapters, cut to the end, copy sections of text and pretend these are our 'own' words. All the while listening to the radio. Reading is the silent, tactical, re-purposing of writing and the authority of the text. Of course, Strategies and Tactics are part of a dialectical process.

You can read about a walk along the Thames, or notes of a lecture called Ordinary

51.490008, -0.127523

Chelsea College of Art and Design
Atterbury Street
United Kingdom

Submitted by neil on 2 March, 2009 - 22:37