Posts Tagged 'participatory art'

Relational Aesthetics

During my thesis research about societal situations structured by design I have been finding very interest examples of creative collaboration. However is still a field in development that does not have very well defined boundaries between the different fields, sometimes is more artistic, sometimes is more psycho-therapeutical, political, marketing, and so on. Participatory developments are methodologies with a huge potential, they are demanded by the societies, they are interesting opportunities for businesses, and even a comfortable way for governments to invest in culture. Therefore I consider important to start critic discussions in every field about the subject. I found recently the research work of Claire Bishop and although it still have many opportunity areas it is a breakthrough for the contemporary concept of relational aesthetics. Here I resume some important thoughts from an interview between her and Jennifer Roche. I would be very rewarding to hear some comments about it.

Socially Engaged Art, Critics and Discontents: An Interview with Claire Bishop
By Jennifer Roche

Socially engaged art, community-based art, experimental communities, dialogic art, littoral art, participatory, interventionist, research-based and collaborative art.

In socially engaged art, critic Claire Bishop believes the aesthetic is being sacrificed on the altar of social change.

“Artists are increasingly judged by their working process — the degree to which they supply good or bad models of collaboration,”

“There can be no failed, unsuccessful, unresolved, or boring works of collaborative art because all are equally essential to the task of strengthening the social bond,”

Bishop draws on the notion of the aesthetic as defined by philosopher Jacques Rancière, who said that the aesthetic is the “ability to think contradiction.” “For Rancière,” writes Bishop, “the aesthetic doesn’t need to be sacrificed at the altar of social change, as it already inherently contains this ameliorative process.” In other words, art heals. No need to hurry it along

“Their work joins a tradition of highly authored situations that fuse social reality with carefully calculated artifice,” Bishop says of Deller and the others. Like Dadaism before them, they created “intersubjective relations (that) weren’t an end in themselves but rather served to unfold a more complex knot of concerns about pleasure, visibility, engagement, and the conventions of social interaction.”

Bishop clearly wishes to shed the recurring ethical themes in the critical discourse, which she often describes as Christian ideals of self-sacrifice and “good souls,” in favour of embracing the contradiction that naturally arises from the artist’s intentions.

I would like to argue that the best collaborative practices need to be thought of in terms other than their ameliorative consequences
In this context it is crucial for art practices to tread a careful line between social intervention and autonomy.

My view is inevitably influenced by living in the U.K., where New Labour have for the last nine years instrumentalised art to fulfill policies of social inclusion…

The mere fact of being collaborative, or participatory, or interactive, is not enough to legitimise a work or guarantee its significance.

If we look at the proliferation of collaborative art practices today, it seems that many no longer have the oppositional and anti-authoritarian punch they had in the late 1960s and 1970s – when radical theatre, community arts and critical pedagogy emerged in opposition to dominant modes of social control. Today participation is used by business as a tool for improving efficiency and workforce morale; it is all-pervasive in the mass-media in the form of reality television; and it is a privileged medium for government funding agencies seeking to create the impression of social inclusion.

[Lacan] would argue that the best socially collaborative art does not derive from a superegoic injunction to “love thy neighbour,” but from the position of “do not give up on your desire.”

It requires intelligence and imagination and risk and pleasure and generosity, both from the artists and the participants.

Rethinking the conventions of participation.

Overturning the very premises from which social engagement operates can be both artistically and critically invigorating.

I completely agree that turning to other disciplines can help to sharpen our mode of discussion about works of art, particularly those that step into the social arena.

I resist very strongly – is the idea that art is the “last place” to go for engagement, that it is the only remaining “free space.” This idea is dangerous and lazy.

The situation I would want to avoid is of inconsequential practices that make no impact on either field.

WORKERS WHO CANNOT BE PAID, REMUNERATED TO REMAIN INSIDE CARDBOARD BOXES
Kunst Werke. Berlin, Germany. September 2000
Santiago Sierra


Still from Jeremy Deller’s video,
“The Battle of Orgreave

Monumentos para las masas


Trial and Error, San Juan – What sites in the city provoke strong emotions and opinions? What narratives can be found beneath the surface of a contested, neglected or much loved place? This workshop was an attempt to activating old and new sites in the city by connecting the personal, historical, and political narratives that accompany them.

The participants, mainly from the the Faculty of Architecture, Urbanism and Design at the National University of San Juan, Argentina, were asked to choose sites and objects in the city that they wanted to alter, replace or highlight for different reasons. This way the city was mapped. The participants guided us through many layers of official and unofficial stories about the city, Argentina’s turbulent history and everyday life. The debate sometimes went high and conflicting readings of certain sites were revealed.

All the contribiution from San Juan can be viewed in our online park (click on the objects to read more about the individual contributions) >>

Some places attracted more attention than others and often the same object was contributed twice, but for different reasons. For example a small replica of the Statue of Liberty, that is said to have arrived in San Juan by mistake in beginning of the 1900s. The real goal should have been San Juan in Puerto Rico! What does it mean to have this strong symbol of USA in the Freedome square of Pocito? Why is it there?

Also the war monument to commemorate victims of the Malvinas/The Falklands War in the 1980’s was debated. The architectural shapes are surronded by army vehicles and weapons, which ended up at the site because of prestige and competition between different army units.

Apart from already existing monuments there were also several suggestion of sites that should be declared monuments – a popular water fountain for example, because of its everyday usage and importance in San Juan’s hot climate.

Last we would like to mention Cesar Pelusa contribution – a monument that had not yet been inaugurated at the time of the workshop. It is a monument to Brave Leopoldo, governor in San Juan assigned by the military dictatorship, situated in an important place near the Civic Center.
”I choose this monument since I don’t want it to be erected. It represents a lie for all the community, mainly to the new generations that know little history.”

Thank you, all the participants at the National University of San Juan, and thank you for the warm welcoming. We had a great time!

Go to the park >>

Conceptual Devices / Superflex / Superchannel

To illustrate some of the issues that have been put into discussion on Point of view, regarding the subject of ‘conceptual devices’ – see posts underneath – I would like to introduce the project Superchannel by the Danish art group Superflex.

I am fascinated by the potential of empowerment and subversive use of the conceptual device as Francesca mentions in her previous post. Superchannel is a fantastic project that illustrates how such subversive powers can be exercised by means of communication tools.

The project provides only for a device – or tool as Superflex defines all their projects – which consists of a television studio and a broadcasting medium (an internet website). It started off in Copenhagen where a free-access studio (available for anyone to use) was build in a gallery. The success of this first studio encouraged Superflex to open new studios, gradually building a network of free-access studios. Some of these were iniated to explore and discuss specific social contexts, such as the Coronation Court project in Liverpool.

Coronation Court is one the oldest housing flats in Liverpool and was about to undergo a major refurbishment when Superstudio was installed. The project dealt specifically with the concept of empowerment because the studio was used as a tool for tenants to discuss issues such as the maintenance, renovations and the rent. They developed a medium that could not only amplify these issues, but had also the potential to create a community that, by its union, was able to participate in the decision making of the building and – on another level – create social cohesion inside the building.

A couple of things intrigue me about this project. First of all, the fact that Superflex has created a playful and simple concept which radically diverts the power of communication and distribution from television studios to their clients: the viewer. And secondly, the position that Superflex takes up as artists. They have limited their role to providing and maintaining the tool and have never interfered in the production of content by its users. This position, I think, is essential to reach the full potential of the conceptual device.

Currently there are around 33 studios worldwide, and around 30.000 shows have been broadcasted.

Cesare Pietroiusti and relational art


“An artist’s intervention in an urban context should not be easily recognizable as art. I prefer ‘Who knows what that is?’, rather than, ‘It’s art, so it’s not intended for me’. “ – Cesare Pietroiusti, taken from the MIT press website

This quote by Pietroiusti (whom I mentioned before in this post) I think is emblematic for the relational approach to contemporary art, in which the viewer (in Pietroiusti’s work often participant) plays a central role. Just to make a point (and to explain why often people think art is not intended for them) I’d like to put a quote by the painter Rothko on the other end of the line:
“To take a picture out into the world is ‘an unfeeling act’. How often it must be permanently impaired by the eyes of the vulgar and the cruelty of the impotent.” (1)
Underneath the personal and deep disgust Rothko expresses about his possible audience, lies a more fundamental thought common in this time. It’s the idea of the purified and transcendental viewer, liberated from the mundane and the banalities of popular culture, ready to step into the enlightened, sanctified realm of the artist. Absolutely not to be taken lightly, as proved by another quote from minimalist Barnett Newman:
“Harold Rosenberg challenged me to explain what one of my paintings could mean to the world. My answer was that if he and others could read it properly, it would mean the end of all state capitalism and totalitarianism.” (1)

Seems like these guys were getting a little too ‘high on their own supply’. It also shows how a relational approach to art – which involves the emancipation of the viewer; someone to be taken seriously and the sole person who can impregnate art with purpose and meaning – has been born out of an existential necessity. Because I wonder if we could still think of a legitimate reason for art, if we would have continued to despise our audience, look down on them like little, silly people. I think I might have considered a career shift myself…

For better ways of addressing and involving audiences, please read:
1. Grant H. Kester, Conversation pieces, community + communication in modern art, 2004, University of California Press, London Engeland


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