By chance, when ‘Arty Fouray,’ a possible nickname for Arthur Fouray – matching the character count of Warhol’s name (4 for the first name, 6 for the last name, with each syllable having a double meaning) – was transcribed vocally on a phone, in 2014, it resulted in an intriguing acronym: RT4A.
The shift can be seen as both Warhol-inspired and reminiscent of Cage’s artistic approach – a playful experiment with unpredictable and arbitrary source material: a given name. The moniker Arthur Fouray was consciously deconstructed into a form beyond traditional, ego-driven notions of artistic identity. Thus, RT4A can be viewed as a response to the cultural imperialism prevalent in the cultural sectors of the 21st century, where birth names and cultural inheritances are often overemphasised.
By shedding an identity and adopting an impersonal acronym, RT4A performs a kind of symbolic violence against the artist’s ego and the cultural capital typically associated with a known, individual artist’s name. In the same way, the concept of ‘institutional critique’ put forth by artists such as Hans Haacke and Andrea Fraser questioned the inherent power structures of arts institutions and sought to expose their underlying biases. Impersonal acronyms could reconfigure the politics of recognition in the art world.
A mutable identity resonates with Donna Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto (1985), as it echoes the cyborg’s erasure of boundaries between the identity of a human and a machine. RT4A, an impersonal and robotic cypher, takes the place of an ego-laden individual artist identity. In this context, it even becomes a simulacrum – a copy without an original, an entity that undermines the difference between the ‘real’ and the ‘imaginary’. Highly influenced by Jean Baudrillard’s postmodern theory of ‘hyperreality’ – where the real and the simulated become indistinguishable – the RT4A project can be seen as an avatar, a simulacrum, complicating the distinctions between ‘real’ artists and ‘constructed’ identities.
As a signature, it embodies a paradox: simultaneously the mark of an artistic act and an impersonal symbol obscuring individual identity. This duality reflects artistic practices’ profound tensions and paradoxes as they navigate between personal expression and the collective forces of culture and society. It not only facilitates the incorporation of other artists’ practices into RT4A but also ensures that its creations are not confined to the temporal boundaries of a single artist’s lifespan. It gives rise to an anti-Benjaminian aura – one that transcends a singular, irreplaceable presence and instead potentially structures by or into the collective.
The impersonal acronym, multiplicity, and diversity of practices can be seen as an assertion of a ‘right to opacity’, an invitation for viewers to engage with the artworks on their own terms. RT4A can be seen as a manifestation of utopian longing, a hope for more equitable, inclusive, ‘out of the box’ art worlds.