February 10, 2010
Above: panelists Dara Greenwald, Gregory Sholette, and moderator Rebecca Zorach
“Pedagogy of the Periphery” CAA Shadow Session
Wed., Feb. 10, 4-8pm, at Three Walls (119 n. peoria #2d, http://www.three-walls.org/ )
A workshop-style event on the history, practice, and theory of experimental pedagogy inside and outside institutions, in conjunction with AREA Chicago’s issue #9 (Peripheral Vision), the Open Practice Committee, the Emma Goldman Center for the Study and Practice of Creative Anarchosyndicalism, and the Radical Caucus for Art’s Autonomizing Practices panel at the College Art Association meeting. Educators and students discuss pedagogical practices, broadly defined—with their optimism, obstacles, methods, pleasures, and frustrations—with short informal presentations and time for large- and small-group discussion, including questions submitted for discussion in advance by students and flexibility to address current events as needed (such as events in the campus uprisings happening in California, Europe, and elsewhere). This free event allows people not attending the conference to benefit from a sampling of visiting speakers and Chicago teachers. It is not conceived as anti-CAA, but happens alongside the conference to illustrate the fact that some conversations are easier to hold outside the professional machine.
4:00 meet and greet
4:30 Panel I: Greg Sholette / Dara Greenwald / Liz Mason-Deese and Tim Stallmann
5:45 Panel II: Eve Ewing / Nicole Marroquin / Bert Stabler
7:00 Small group discussions / report back from small groups
<some snacks will be available but you are welcome to bring your own>
From Occupied Berkeley
From AREA Chicago
Questions and discussion:
Students and others are invited to send questions in advance that will be compiled and distributed for discussion in small groups of no more than 8 to be facilitated by the speakers. These might be responses to the readings, burning questions about your education, things you want to discuss. There will be time for discussion of the speakers’ presentations, but this allows everyone in the room an opportunity to help set the agenda for discussion.
You’re invited to read the above texts. Here are some of our questions to get you started….
Where can we find optimism right now in our individual or collective educational endeavors?
The Necrosocial piece argues that current institutions of higher education are moribund and worse than useless. Can we evaluate this argument? Could these institutions be changed from within or are they a lost cause? Can universities, or schools, create pockets of reflection and action? Can they nourish other more autonomous projects?
Can the teaching of art or art history be a “practice of freedom” (Paulo Freire, bell hooks)?
How should teachers teach, now? How should students learn?
May 14, 2009
The RDS of OLS for OPC
“I think this group activity, this gathering together, is a symptom of fear.”
-David Hare, “Artists’ Sessions at Studio 35,” April 21, 1950
This all began when I responded to a colleague’s paper on Hollis Frampton by suggesting that it would be great to hear more from her about the “rich discursive scene” that was the art world of the sixties and seventies. A few weeks later I was asked by the OPC to report “on the RDS [i.e. the “rich discursive scene”] that may or may not take place at the Our Literal Speed conference.”
By RDS I meant to signal the fact that artists were, by the late sixties, officially swimming in discursive production—reading it, producing it, incorporating it, arguing over it. In the early sixties Irving Sandler described the discursive space within which postwar art was inevitably produced and received as a kind of confessional culture, which he traced back to the New York School and their compulsion toward group discussions and publications. By the late sixties that causal marriage of art and discourse had become institutionalized. Artforum moved from Los Angeles to New York, art journals in general—Art News, Art International, Arts Magazine—began, with the help of an influx of private money, expanding their circulation and reaching out to a younger audience, and artists started moonlighting as art critics. Which is to say, distinguishing the non-discursive product from its discursive reception was becoming increasingly problematic.
That artistic production cannot and should not be extricated from its institutional, discursive reception seems to be a key conviction at work in the constellation that is being called “Our Literal Speed”—OLS for short. For, despite the multiple disagreements and mutual skepticisms that were expressed during the conference, the people who gathered for OLS—scholars, artists, activists, students—seemed committed to the idea that what we say about art, how we present it to each other, what kinds of public statements grow up around it actually matter.
Rather than reporting on each of the details of the three long days that comprised OLS in its Chicago manifestation, I’d like to say a few words about what it was like to experience OLS’s RDS—what it was like to swim in it.
“My anxiety about this event has already started”
-Gregg Bordowitz, OLS, April 30, 2009
OLS did a good job on the first evening of marking out who was and was not in-the-know—or at least of creating the illusion of such a marking. The conference opened with a talk by art historian, “David Joselit”, played, to everyone’s surprise (or so I would later learn), by the performance artist Mary Ellen Carroll. But you had to know who both were in order to know that what you were watching was a performance by Mary Ellen Carroll and that what you were hearing was an actual paper written by Joselit, who sat silently in the second row (http://www.flickr.com/photos/artoridiocy/3490753490/).
Joselit’s paper was a pretty typical jab at corporate capital and the ease with which images of all stripes play into its agenda. The paper told of how the “art world”, encompassed in what Joselit named the “blockbuster-museum store-art magazine matrix,” acted as an “accomplice” to the “image production and consumption” that characterizes our “mediated” public sphere. By subjecting images to his own discursive matrix, Joselit (in the guise of Carroll) demonstrated images’ powers as well as their stupidity. Things fell apart, however, in the question-answer period, when “David Joselit” was unable to explain some of the most questionable of his claims—such as that images produced in the world of art and those produced in and for the world of politics function with little to no difference. When Joselit refused to step in, in any form, to explain himself, the audience was unable to offer a rejoinder to his polemical talk. Instead Joselit continued to sit quietly in the second row, sometimes scribbling notes, while his avatar fielded any dissension (most of which came from Anne Wagner and Tom Mitchell).
It was then that whatever demarcation of togetherness had initially been achieved in distinguishing a group in-the-know from one not in the know—students, non-art historians, those of us who did not attend the first iteration of OLS at Karlsruhe, Germany—quickly disintegrated. For one began to wonder, as Gregg Bordowitz stated, who exactly was the target of this gag. The tone was set that first night as tense and cautionary, though there was an excitement too. People were talking and perhaps with more freedom than they would have if Joselit had been at the podium. As the days progressed I began to wonder whether the kind of community forged out of that initial pulling-apart wasn’t actually something very like togetherness after all. No one said that togetherness was supposed to feel good.
“The notion of a shared project makes me nervous. We’re all in different worlds.”
-Juliet Koss, OLS, May 1, 2009
The second day of OLS was 14 hours long. It began with some very sound art history—delivered by Juliet Koss and Eve Meltzer—went through a few moments of awkward confrontation and ended late, with two somewhat self-indulgent statements by Alexander Dumbadze and Art & Language (performing in absentia).
The RDS on display on the second day might be characterized as “self-indulgent” overall. In that it was, by turns, self-referential, theory laden, and attention grabbing. There were moments, as on the first day, when a group of insiders seemed to be gestured toward. But there were also moments when, I can only assume, the majority feeling was that of the outsider. And, indeed, the possibilities of coming together, of sharing a discursive space or creating one seemed constantly in question.
What words we decide to use in common and whether such a decision is required or even possible was a sticking point, for example, in the morning session, which led to the further question of who “we” are and what right we have in incorporating others into our first-person claims. This question applies directly to how art historians and artists configure their lines of critique—whether, as Bordowitz reminded us, we describe culture’s relation to (ostensibly) extrinsic structures, such as capital, as ideological or hegemonic.
I take such a question to have been behind Tony Cokes’s decision to conclude his joint presentation with Andrew Perchuk with passages taken from Thomas Frank’s “Bush, The Working Class Hero” (http://www.newstatesman.com/200408300012). Frank asks in his essay, which tries to explain the irrational choice made by Kansans to vote George W. Bush into office, “How could so many people get it so wrong?” Frank distinguishes a “we” in his text—a group of rational thinkers capable of properly making decisions based on “our” best interests—from another, less rational group, i.e. Kansans—I’ll admit to being among this class of people—whose decisions often work against their best interests (i.e. in their supporting a party that regularly organizes against working-class interests). Cokes’s inclusion of the Frank text in his presentation acted—in my reading of it anyway—as a reflection on how we treat our “objects” of study, as well as how we figure or define the rational versus the irrational in political (as well as cultural) decision-making (http://supervalentthought.com/2008/11/09/political-happiness-or-cruel-optimism/).
While the conversation that followed the morning’s presentations did, as I’ve already noted, address the question of “we”—“who we are” as art historians and how that inflects our decision-making (Koss), whether we are “working on the same problems” (Bordowitz), what our “responsibility” is to establishing a language in common (Joselit)—these questions of group identity were never connected to the questionable incorporation and disincorporation of a group of rational thinkers at work in Frank’s project. Understanding that Frank’s confidence in distinguishing his rational from others’ irrational decision-making is related to our own approaches to art making and art writing would have required us to think in greater detail about what our responsibilities are to each other and the subjects we seek to engage. As the day wore on, however, the persistence with which this question was evoked—the question of how and for whom we write about and produce art—made me wonder whether somebody weren’t, consciously or not, trying to make a point.
“Um. I don’t have an avatar. I don’t even know where to get one.”
-Hal Foster, OLS, May 2, 2009
We (some of us anyway) learned during the first session of the third day that what had been an extraordinarily participatory experience during a session with Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn the evening before actually came with a hitch. Organized by artist Tania Bruguera, Ayers and Dohrn spoke to a large group gathered at Chicago’s Merchandise Mart about activism, optimism for Obama and our responsibilities as individuals at this moment and in this country (Ayers: “Obama’s not going to save us, but with any luck we can save Obama.”). The conversation was lively, conversational and at times confrontational. Two young men were particularly disruptive, shouting from the audience and demanding that Ayers and Dohrn take into account the ever-expanding conditions of global capital and acknowledge the waning effectiveness of in-the-street activism and individual choice. There was also a middle-aged man who demanded to know what we would to do with all the loosed “killers” if the kind of prison reform supported by Ayers and Dohrn were fulfilled. Other audience members joined in—Hamza Walker put the middle-aged man against prison reform to bed, others were confessional, didactic, angry. Things got dialogical. At least that’s how it felt.
During the question and answer period after the morning’s session the following day, however, Rainer Ganahl stood up and said he wanted to discuss what had happened the night before. It appears that after the event at the Merchandise Mart it was revealed (to some but not all) that several of the audience members who had responded to Ayers and Dohrn had been planted by Bruguera—I’m guessing the angry young men and the gentleman who expressed doubt about the practicality of prison reform, but what do I know.
We spent some time that morning discussing how this revelation made us feel and the value that it may or may not have for us. The discussion followed well from a lecture delivered that morning by Carrie Lambert-Beatty on the “para-fictional” in art and its Milgrim-esque overtones. We seemed to have returned to Bordowitz’s fear, expressed that first evening, of being the butt of a joke. But, the point was made, would any of us have raised our voice to Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn without the confrontational plants? That is, could the alienating tactics to which we were subjected have actually engendered a kind of dialog not otherwise possible? And could these recursive and tentative gestures toward the possibility of community and conversation be the RDS that OLS’s organizers, with their enthusiasm for the present, the literal and the non-functional, were reaching for?
“How imaginative have we been?”
-Darby English, OLS, May 2, 2009
Among the many performances and lectures that comprised OLS only Darby English’s attempted a non-discursive intervention. His “performance,” as it was termed in the program, was an automated Power-Point presentation of a series of images interspersed with questions and statements, written, it is presumed, by English. The images came mainly from two sources: scenes that looked to have been taken from the Civil Rights movement—the burnings buses of the Freedom Riders—and installation photos of an exhibition that may have taken place a little later in that same decade—an exhibition of “post painterly” abstractions and proto-minimalist sculptures. The sparse text that accompanied the images expressed an impatience for overly skeptical receptions of art and critical stances that assume themselves to be above rather than enthralled with the illusionistic. And then the question: “How imaginative have we been?”
Again a “we” is designated. We who share a common obligation to each other and the objects we study/produce; we who cared enough or summoned enough curiosity to gather together for these three days of comedy, abuse, didacticism and, at times, inspiration. How imaginative have we been? The images on display in English’s presentation—burning buses, minimalist paintings—put the question to us as well. Have we been imaginative enough to think past the given-ness of representation? To not simply reject our illusions, but to seek, jointly, to create new ones? To risk our lives for the most pedestrian of freedoms? To abandon medium specificity and its histories as an assurance of meaning? To believe in the power of symbolic action? To imagine that there could be a real, shared commitment between the burning buses of the Freedom Riders and the abstractions of the late sixties? To discover and describe the rich discursive scene that gave birth to both?
March 31, 2009
OPC Blog Entry 8
March 31st, 2009
Yesterday we hosted a lunch for young artists – both Cuban and non-Cuban – who have lived and worked in Havana. We spoke informally about their experiences as students in Cuban institutions and with experimental arts education. We learned of the ambiguous relationship between Bruguera’s collaborative art school Arte de Conducta and the state-run Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA), which offers programs in the visual arts as well as in dance, music, theater, and architecture. Many of the artists with whom we spoke had been students at ISA, and even earned degrees there, while simultaneously participating in Arte de Conducta.
The students described how their professors consistently expected hard work and mature projects, refusing excuses such as the lack of resources and studio space. Further, some of the artists we spoke to considered these limitations as an encouragement towards collaboration. Among a group of seven or eight students, one might own a video camera, one might be able to get their hands on editing software, and another might possess studio space. The same was true in regards to access to information. Anyone who returned from travel abroad with an exhibition catalogue would often see the book transfered from hand to hand across a large portion of Havana’s young arts scene before it returned to its owner.
Throughout this trip, we have been intensely interested in the socio-political context for art in Cuba but it was only in this informal setting that the artists we have been spending time with opened up to us about their personal experiences — negotiating bureaucracies, racial tensions, and economic hardship. Even then, the foreign students, hailing from Colombia and the Virgin Islands, were the most open about their perceptions of social and political pressures on artists in Cuba. Arte de Conducta had only a small percentage of non-Cuban students, as Bruguera was reluctant to open up her project to students who typically already had opportunities to participate in comparable forms of arts education.
March 30, 2009
GUILLERMO GÓMEZ-PEÑA, photographed by Zach Gross, 2007.
OPC Blog Entry 7
March 30th, 2009
Guillermo Gómez-Peña generously invited us into his dressing room and rehearsal space minutes before his performance, which took place in the outdoor courtyard of the Wifredo Lam Center. Amidst the pre-performance hubbub we spoke with Gómez-Peña and six of his collaborators not only about the impending event but also about broader issues related to practices removed from art world centers.
While speaking with us, Gómez-Peña and his collaborator Roberto Sifuentes emphasized their efforts to tailor each performance to the local conditions of its presentation. The performance at the Lam Center was no exception. Their collaborators included artists from across Latin America, but Gómez-Peña and Sifuentes took care to include Cubans in the planning and execution of their piece as well.
In response to our question about his role as an internationally renowned artist returning to a radically local situation, Gómez-Peña described himself as a permanent border-crosser, narrating his experiences of performing at Latino community centers in San Antonio one evening and at the Tate Modern the following week. Gómez-Peña explained his practice is characterized by a constant opposition to stasis – a refusal to refusing to be situated in one context or the other.
We asked Gómez-Peña his opinion about the pressures facing young Cuban artists during the Havana Biennial, when they are confronted by a temporary influx of artists and curators from the United States, Western, Europe, and other art world centers. Gómez-Peña replied that it was a difficult question, one that he needed to think more about. Though aware of the danger that local artists might be compelled to assimilate into the predominant languages of contemporary art, Gómez-Peña displayed a generally positive attitude about the potential for increased familiarity with international practices that foreigners could offer Cuban artists.
March 29, 2009
OPC Blog Entry 6
March 29th, 2009
Tonight we attended two major biennial events, performances by Guillermo Gómez-Peña and Tania Bruguera at the Wifredo Lam Center in Old Havana. The evening began with Bruguera’s performance, in which two soldiers holding a white dove flanked a podium situated in the center of the stage and in front of a large orange curtain. The performance’s physical infrastructure consisted of a stage and podium, plus two soldiers and a white bird. As people from the audience climbed on the stage and approached the microphone, the soldiers placed the bird on the shoulders of anyone who wished to speak. By turns funny and poetic, nearly all political, the statements and actions by members of the audience who took the stage roused the audience into cheers several times during the evening. Audience members invariably addressed Cuba’s political situation, and most expressed pro-democratic sentiments. Other participants spoke of social problems or were generally critical of the current state of affairs in Cuba during this somewhat choreographed scene of controlled chaos. Finally, Bruguera, who had previously watched from amidst the crowd, took the stage and thanked the Cuban people.
Following Bruguera’s performance, the crowd moved into a courtyard of the Lam Center, where Gómez-Peña and his collaborators performed. In the space were four performance stations and a large screen on which live video footage of the various stations was projected. The first station, to the right of the entrance, featured a santera (santeria priestess) dressed in blue silken robes waving a matching fan through the air as audience members bathed her feet. One participant, the University of Chicago’s own Marilyn Volkman, was brought onstage, where the santera combed through her hair, then mimed a scalping.
At the station next in the clockwise direction an acupuncturist stuck needles adorned with national flags into a young Cuban woman’s naked body. A man holding a video camera followed the lines of the woman’s body, slowing over each tiny flag. Later in the evening, members of the audience were invited to remove the flags, one by one.
On the largest station, next in the circuit, Gómez-Peña stood adorned in his typical Chicano cyberpunk attire: one black patent leather high heel and one chunky black motorcycle boot; a skirt of black leather shreds and metal grommets; a black bustier alternating with a bare chest, showcasing his tattoos; one long gray braid slung over his right shoulder; feather earrings; and heavy black eye makeup extending from his lashes towards his hairline. Between reading cyberpunk manifestos, Gómez-Peña invited audience members onto the stage to hold a gun against various parts of his body.
Atop the following station lay Gómez-Peña’s longtime collaborator Roberto Sifuentes in a red-stained white gauze diaper, his arms and legs painted red; a red bandana across his forehead and an abstract geometric design painted in black horizontally across his nose and cheeks; and a brace on his left leg. Partway into the performance, the santera joined Sifuentes in a series of rituals they performed in dance-like slow motion movements.
At the end of the evening, Bruguera joined Gómez-Peña on his stage as the final audience participant to press the rifle against the performer. After several moments frozen in the arrangement of Bruguera’s choosing, Gómez-Peña positioned Bruguera so that the two artists straddled one another on the stage. Once disentangled, Gómez-Peña and Bruguera approached the acupuncture station and removed the last flag from the patient’s forehead.
March 29, 2009
OPC Blog Entry 5
March 29th, 2009
Today we took a city bus to the neighborhood of San Agustín, the headquarters of the laboratorio artístico de San Agustín (LASA). This alternative venue was established in 2008 by the artist Candelario when his friends needed space to work. About an hour outside central Havana, San Agustín has become for LASA a forum for interactive engagement with the social and spatial aspects of a small community. This approach of direct intervention is defined by LASA as “contextual art.”
According to the group’s own description, borrowed from Paul Ardenne’s Un art contextuel, in this model “the art work is an insertion in the complexity of the concrete world, its confrontation with the material conditions.” Curator Dannys Montes de Oca Morada, in writing about LASA, says “What characterizes this type of project and particularly LASA is an action that involved many agents from the social sphere, originating as operational platform or scene of actions that establish an ecosystem of relations, exchange and communication to subvert also the traditional models of production, circulation, and reception of the work, its aural condition and its physical limits of autonomous existence.”
As their writings suggest, the performances presented at LASA this weekend were immersed in the public space of San Agustín. For the biennial exhibition, international artists invited by LASA came to the neighborhood and created work that involved the residents and the cityscape in the area.
German artist Peter Kees drove around in a 1950s-era car and asked members of the community what they considered the quintessential sounds of San Agustín. After collecting a number of audio clips, Kees attached a neon orange loudspeaker to the roof of the car to replay them. The car was displayed in the rear area of LASA’s building, installed between painted water tanks on the roof of the adjoining building and films screened in the interior of the art space.
One of the films screened was a lyrical depiction of the neighborhood by Italian/French artist Laura Delle Piane. The film followed a series of neighborhood residents as they went about mundane actions throughout the day, from a middle-aged man shaving to a small girl preparing for ballet practice. As we watched the film, other residents of San Agustín chuckled and pointed out friends and neighbors.
The physical space of LASA demonstrates the biennial’s diverse exhibition spaces: colonial forts, white box galleries, and crumbling warehouse spaces all housed artworks around the city of Havana. See their website for more information: <http://www.lasa-cuba.blogspot.com>.
March 27, 2009
OPC Blog Entry 4
March 27th, 2009
The 10th Havana Biennial opened today at the Fortaleza de San Carlos, a Spanish colonial fort situated on a small peninsula separated from Old Havana by a body of water. One of more than a dozen biennial exhibition spaces throughout the city, the fort’s picturesque location seemed like an ideal setting for the pavilions but reaching it was not uncomplicated. With no chartered shuttle, no means of traversing by foot, and baffling municipal bus routes, it was as though the biennial was designed to prohibit all but Havana insiders from reaching it. Several pavilions were installed within the fort’s centuries old infrastructures, which also contained vitrines displaying aboriginal weapons, medieval battering rams, and a Neanderthal man diorama. Enigmatic maps and unclear labeling enabled visitors to wander into the fort’s permanent displays and wonder if they were viewing a contemporary art installation.
Installation art was heavily represented at this part of the biennial, as opposed to otherwise performance-heavy biennial and the several painting exhibitions showcasing earlier generations of Cuban artists such as Wilfredo Lam. For us, the most interesting works at the fort were in the media of video and photography, both often functioning as part of a larger installation. Colombian artist Maria Elvira Escallón, for example, presented an installation featuring four large color photographs of metal bed frames. Some of the beds were placed in domestic spaces alongside chairs and night tables, while others were depicted more fantastically, with erupted grass almost completely obscuring the frame. At the end of the room was a white wall with a tiny peephole a little above eye-level. Through a fisheye lens, viewers witnessed a small chair adjacent to a metal bed frame resembling those in the photographs but here overflowing with soil. The way in which the stark arrangement of the material objects was coupled with the lusciously saturated, visually stunning aesthetic of their photographic representations resulted in a work that engaged the viewer sensorially and phenomenologically, as well as conceptually.
Juan Manuel Parada, a member of a Colombian video art collective, displayed Paka Posse, a surreal video telling a story about artistic and political development via different modes of animation technology. In this allegory of successive systems of visual representation, a magical pencil transforms the black-and-white world of collaged photographs into a mutable realm of color and imagination in which anyone with access to the pencils can change their world at will. Though the government of the collaged world sends forces armed with magical erasers to repress the spread of pencils, the rebels soon triumph in their creation of a whimsical, interactive utopia. Photography and video soon follow in Parada’s kooky history of representative technologies, imbuing their new world with an alluring, glossy sheen.
Later this weekend, we will be heading to San Agustín to spend the day at LASA, an artistic laboratory. We also look forward to Guillermo Gómez-Peña and Tania Bruguera’s upcoming performances at the Wilfredo Lam Center.
March 26, 2009
OPC Blog Entry 3
March 26th, 2009
Today we were lucky to have the opportunity to speak with British curator Claire Bishop, who writes about participatory art practices and pedagogical issues. During our interview, we discussed how the work of the young artists in the Havana Biennial dovetails with her research interests. She opened up to us about her anxieties: how the model she has developed in her work surrounding Great Britain and Western Europe translates to the local Cuban context. Bishop admitted that her framework faltered even in New York City, where institutional structures more closely mirror those in Europe than in Cuba.
We questioned Bishop about how market pressures differ in places outside of Western Europe – particularly in Cuba, where capitalist structures are underdeveloped to say the least. She expressed concern that the presence of Western art world figures (including herself) in Havana this week would encourage young Cuban artists to adopt the logic of market-friendly practices.
Bishop noted parallels between the makeshift institutional art structures present in Cuba and attempts by some practitioners working in heavily bureaucratized art centers to offer alternative collaborative and pedagogical models. We discussed the contrast between Cuba, where political restraint intersects with artistic experimentation, and places like the United States, where political liberties are frequently coupled with the expectation that artists fit into preexisting artistic models. We plan to meet with Bishop again when we all have attended more biennial events to continue our conversation about these themes.
One artist’s work exhibited today resonated with our conversation. Núria Güell’s Aportación de agentes del orden documented the artist’s encounters with police officers in Havana over the course of several months. Noticeably non-Cuban, Güell was the focus of much attention on the street, mostly lecherous. To carry out her project, Güell cleverly entrapped a number of her accosters, responding to their catcalls by inviting them on a date to her opening at Arte de Conducta’s nine night exhibition. There, the men were confronted with a bulletin board that mimicked a detective’s investigation board displaying their photographs, transcripts of their conversations, and personal information such as phone numbers and addresses. A small camera mounted above the board captured viewers’ reactions, hopefully including those of her solicitors. To protect her privacy, Güell was not present at the opening and we were not able to positively identify the men in question, but the footage might reveal whether her invitations were accepted. Despite the often oppressive nature of everyday life in Havana, particularly for a non-Cuban female, Güell was able to exploit the experimental impetus of the Arte de Conducta to delve into these issues in her artwork.
March 25, 2009
OPC Blog Entry 2
March 25th, 2009
During our first full day in Havana, we spent more time experiencing the constructive chaos of Arte de Conducta at the Galería Habana. The second night of this experimental art school’s Estado de Excepción primarily featured performances, most of them heavily body-oriented. For her Muro de lamentos project, Jeanette Chávez asked men on the streets of Havana to enter the gallery and undress, then stand facing a wall, beat their chests, and chant “Mea Culpa.” Both of the men who agreed to participate performed this task for approximately twenty minutes; lacking watches, they had to trust internal clocks to determine when their responsibility should end.
Carlos Martiel spoke with us about his performance of that night, in which he sliced open healed scars from childhood while crouching naked on the gallery floor. After searching out and re-opening every old wound, Martiel stood upright before the crowd for several minutes while viewers took photographs and filmed. The artist cited the influence of feminist forbears such as Ana Mendieta and Marina Abramovic, yet he was one of six men who performed nude – or, nearly nude – this night. While Martiel’s work references his personal experience as a twenty-first century Cuban, he also discussed aesthetic influences ranging from post-war European actionist art to contemporary Latin American artists.
In speaking to the artists of Arte de Conducta, it was often difficult to tell where the performances ended. In Mauricio Miranda’s performance Indemnidad the artist mingled with the crowd, chatting with friends and exhibition guests while revealing to each interlocutor an accurately rendered gun tattooed on his upper leg. While his actions of the second night mirrored his social interactions of the previous evening, there was a surreptitious conceptual shift involved. With performances occurring in every corner of the extremely crowded exhibition space, Miranda’s practice of sidling up to people and lifting his shorts to his upper thigh was covert yet revelatory. Miranda’s performance confronted us with the challenge of how to present ephemeral, conceptual artworks without distorting the artists’ intentions.
The most immersive performance of the night was Cabaret poético, in which an organic exchange between audience and performers soon became apparent during the dance, music and spoken word segments. The performance involved not only artists of the collective OMNI, but their family members and the crowd as well. We were struck by the use of imagery from U.S. cinema in the videos that played behind or in between the performers. From Groucho Marx to Michael Jackson to Waking Life, these visuals provided breaks in the cabaret performances. These performances were openly critical, but epitomized activism as a social experience, with a political constituency built upon shared social relations.
March 24, 2009
OPC Blog Entry 1
March 24th, 2009
With the Havana Biennial still two days away, we are getting the lay of the land. The first major event of the week, the group exhibition Estado de Excepción by the students of Arte de Conducta, opened Tuesday, March 24th.
Visitors had entered even before the 5 PM opening, and by the time we arrived around 6, the space was packed. The crowd had barely begun to dwindle when the show officially closed at 9. After familiarizing ourselves with the space, we had the chance to look more closely at the work and speak with the artists involved. Even at midnight – after a full day of installation, plus hours of conversing, not to mention months of preparation – the artists were still eager to talk with us about their work.
The cooperative concept of the exhibition extended to the opening itself, where the group dynamic was evident. Having been students at Arte de Conducta anywhere from six months to several years, the participants were not only familiar with fellow students’ work, but also involved in the exhibition and presentation of the final projects.
From slide shows to actions to video, this first night of nine one-day installations was a multimedia event. For example, in Raychel Carrión’s video Falla de origen, the artist documented an off-pace march in Cuba’s May Day parade. Nancy Martínez’s Secuencia de uno involved a carnival machine that offered winning players handmade dolls of Fidel Castro at various stages in history. While many of the artists’ works referenced aspects of Cuban history and politics, others addressed issues ranging from personal histories to global events. Ernesto Gallardo’s La Historia y yo memorialized the young artist’s life as a millennial Cuban in the style of traditional museum display. Novo, a collective of young artists, lined the gallery walls with collaged newspaper remnants with results ranging from comedy to provocation.
We look forward to seeing more work by young Cuban artists and, after visiting the biennial later in the week, gaining insight into how this work is in conversation with the influx of international artists coming to Havana.
March 17, 2009
This project will explore issues relating to art pedagogy and professionalization at the intersection between local contexts and the international art world.
Through attendance at the Havana Biennial, a series of interviews and studio visits with emerging artists in Havana, and documentation of Cátedra Arte de Conducta’s participation in the Biennial, we will use a discussion-based approach to explore what it means to be an emerging artist trained in a local context but entering international art structures. In an increasingly internationalized and professionalized art world, both American and Cuban students experience the difficulties of entering the global art field as young practitioners. While participation in international biennials is an increasingly important aspect of artistic and academic practice, art students and art historians trained outside of the major cultural art capitals are forced to embark on less direct paths into their professional fields. Despite divergent socio- political histories, both Chicago and Havana lack both geographical and infrastructural proximity to the institutional centers regulating art practice today. Working as an artist or art historian today necessitates an awareness of the constant dialogue surrounding art and art historical practice, which is hindered by a lack of proximity to the centers of, for example, New York, Los Angeles, Berlin, Venice, Sao Paolo, or London.
This trip is intended as the first of a series of annual trips to international art biennials that will form a crucial component of the curriculum in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Chicago.
Funding was graciously provided by the UChicago Arts Council, FOTA, the Open Practice Committee, and the Claire Kantor Foundation.
Adrian Anagnost Art His PhD
Amy Babinec MFA 09
Andre Callot MFA 10
Michelle Maydanchik Art His PhD
Danielle Paz MFA 09
Vanessa Ruiz MFA 09
Marilyn Volkman MFA 09
Tania Bruguera Sponsoring Faculty, DOVA
Judy Hoffman Sponsoring Faculty, DOVA
October 24, 2008
Student workshop at the University of Chicago with Doug Ashford, Gregg Bordowitz, Carolina Caycedo, Eda Cufer, and Brain Holmes.
Disruptions: the political in art now is a two-day symposium that explores the intersections of politics and art in the first decade of the 21st century. Scheduled for October 24 and 25, 2008, at the University of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art – Chicago, the program brings together influential theorists, artists, curators, and educators to discuss the many ways artists inspire political action and social change as well as the social function of art.
Disruptions: the political in art now opens with the keynote lecture “The Contemporary Paradoxes of Political Art” by esteemed philosopher Jacques Rancière at the University of Chicago on Friday, October 24, at 4 pm (Swift Hall, third floor, 1025 East 58th St). The symposium continues on Saturday, October 25, at the MCA Theater from 11 am to 6 pm (220 E Chicago Ave).
Saturday speakers include: artist and educator Doug Ashford; filmmaker and activist Gregg Bordowitz; artist Carolina Caycedo; performer and writer Salem Collo-Julin; dramaturge, curator, and writer Eda Cufer; cultural critic Brian Holmes; artist Simon Leung; experimental geographer and artist Trevor Paglen; artist and member of Otabenga Jones & Associates Robert Pruitt; and artist and curator Mark Tribe.
Disruptions: the political in art now is part of a series of provocative and stimulating programs presented at the MCA that relate to the theme of “Art and Democracy.” The symposium is collaboratively organized by the MCA and the University of Chicago’s Open Practice Committee/ Department of Visual Arts in cooperation with Critical Inquiry, which presents the keynote lecture. Rancière is the 2008 Critical Inquiry Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Chicago.
Notes from Student Workshop:
* On October 24th, 2008, a group of students from Northwestern University, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the University of Chicago met with five speakers from the symposium Disruptions: The Political in Art Now. The workshop was led by Doug Ashford, Gregg Bordowitz, Carolina Caycedo, Eda Cufer, and Brian Holmes. Students discussions took place under five rubrics: Antagonism(s), Event, Propagation, Re:presentation, and Sustainability and Autonomy. These notes, taken by the students themselves, while at times partial and fragmentary give an accurate sketch of the ferment palpable here in Chicago at the time.
Sustainability and Autonomy
Workshop leader: Carolina Caycedo
Participants: Hank, Leah, Matt, Anna, Andrew, Eli
CC: If you want to intervene in the public sphere one must straighten out his or her own ethics and reasons for involvement…..
CC: Change is about chance, I-Ching. Containment of potential. With regards to what is in the mind, we have great energy from which to draw from.
H: should we start with the first question? Can a work of art be political without being reduced to base sloganeering?
CC: depends on the context of the work and the forces that drive it…..if you present during an election time, or in a demonstration, in front of a museum…ex. Columbia has been in a civil war for 40 yrs. Its hard for an artist to step out (die, censor) Artists in Columbia that talk about politics…..must recognize the multi faceted sides of a situation.
L: is this group meeting to talk about art and politics in relationship to sustainability and autonomy? ….versus what? dependency on the system?
CC: sustainability is a concept where one can exist without depleting resources. There is currently an installation at the Tate Modern, made by artist Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, that consists of monumental sculptures, rows and rows of iron bunk beds, video, sound of unceasing rain…..the concept is an apocalyptic vision of London in the future, and museums have become a refuge for the people. Meanwhile, there are very real problems in London today…the economy is flailing, people are struggling, …
A lot of art mirrors the materialism that it is critiquing……produces more waste.
L: it doesn’t work because it is rhetorical?
CC: because it is worried about what is going to happen not what is happening. Political art should at least be worried about what is happening.
H: I will play devils advocate. I think Ranciere would say that art that is a political statement doesn’t allow for a space for play. …if it’s a democratic space, if the meaning isn’t interdependent on a particular political statement then it’s free from being prescriptive. Seems almost an idealistic wish, if its political one wants the audience to be motivated…
CC: all art is political because it produces. It is a product, or an idea. ….several degrees of responsibility in relationship to producing. How do you as an artist integrate your values with what you make.
CC: I did a project where I lived in a van for two weeks and during that time I lived without money bartering my way through the city in order to eat, bath, have a place to sleep and socialize. A website extended the swapping throughout my everyday in London and later in San Juan. I am willing to barter, give, receive and redistribute knowledge, commodities and services as part of a daily exercise of anarchy, a development of a personal and alternative economy and a constant search for freedom.
L: ideally for me, it seems necessary to reach as many people as possible, to work within a gallery, museum, or forum that pulls in or connects to a broad audience.
CC: What is it that you do?
L: I collaborate with others to collect and distribute seeds. We have a website: http://siteware.wordpress.com/. Save your Seeds, it’s a conversation between the seeds, the land and the people. We send out packets to collect seeds…but there are many layers to this project…designed to start conversations about what foods have seeds, what we eat, what foods do not have seeds,
Did you know that 90% of soy is genetically modified? Our idea is to bring the project into people’s home, so that they are personally engaged in a dialogue.
H: are they blogging? How are you recording this?
L: Yes. We are still trying to generate an audience, the less information there is the less likely that it will be propagated.
H: I’m not an artist. I am a grad student in the English dep. I want my work to be polemic. I want people to be involved. I’m not interested in the objective. I’m not interested in continuing the debate. My ethics are about redistribution. I’m interested in how people reform things, how people put things back together.
I’m also interested in early 20th century avant agarde cinema and images of water within these films. I am trying to revive these films and re show them in a new context.
A: I am an art therapy graduate student at the art institute. I work with people who are socially marginalized and struggling to survive. I am interested in art’s relationship to politics and awareness. In some ways I think Ranciere’s ideas are appropriate for academia, but I’m not sure how they apply to social action.
M: it’s inextricable from your life. You can’t create a form that is purely autonomous from everything else. My lifestyle choices are refined so that they express my ideas.
CC: Art can influence people’s ethics. I think art is more than a tool for expressing. First, it can be a tool for learning but it also can be a way of viewing and living.
E: I’m interested in portraying the cycles of life. I work with a lot of different materials. Stains, natural materials that provoke decay. I’m in an experimental phase right now. My work explores the theatrical side of life and death. I use costumes.
L: The individual vs. the collective is being brought up now more than before. Both political parties are using ideas of sustainability and autonomy but mean totally different things. The “green” movement is being run by the richest people in the world. It only works if everyone gains. The rich are the only ones that have access to design the infrastructure. How can we begin to be more engaged with politics?
M: Change will not happen through governmental politics.
Workshop leader: Gregg Bordowitz
Participants: Alicia, David,Nicole, Marissa , Erik, Danielle
Why did the participants choose “event” as their workshop?
Responses: Not an object; interested in performance; the event of watching/observing; how does something that happens become an event?
Structuring Questions for Discussion
What is an event? (A happening with significance?)
What is an object?
How is an event an object? (Through framing?)
How is an object an event?
What is the necessary level of participation of the viewer in events and in objects?
How do you produce something that is tangible, with borders, from the ephemeral?
Mind: thoughts and movement.
Events become objects in mind via memory (Bergson, Matter and Memory).
What is the difference between an event and an object?
Pragmatists: An object is defined by its use.
Is an event defined by time?
What is an object? Take an example: coffee cup. How do you know the cup?
By language, experience, senses (tactility, sight, etc.)
You touch the cup and become one with it. Your constantly moving molecules touch.
How do you distinguish yourself from the cup?
An object is always three things: itself, its negation, and a symbol.
The coffee cup is a coffee cup, it is ephemeral and so it is its negation, and it is a symbol through all of its attached associations (vessel, morning coffee, $2, etc.)
All objects are processes, relations, etc.
So, how do we now define events?
Object and event exist in relation, not as opposites but on a continuum.
Example: “The morning cup of coffee”
Coffee is an object. Having your morning coffee is an event. “The morning cup of coffee” has become a locution (linguistic object) and a symbol (attached associations). This all produces an image in your mind. You must have your morning coffee.
Example of producing an image in your mind: “shouting in a room”
The locution produces image in your mind, even without an event.
Narratives become objects, capturing ongoing events from the continuous flow.
What is not an event? An event can be a bounded object.
Clock: representation of time as quantity.
But, real time is a quality, not a quantity: the durée (Bergson, Matter and Memory)
Further example of time: “the event starts at 8.” When does the event really start?
When you start dressing? When the preparations begin?
We can make choices precisely because time is qualitative.
We experience our free will when we experience time as a quality (free, no purpose).
Ø Revolutionary time
This is problematic if you do not believe in free will. Rancière’s argument is based on free will. So far we have been sketching a philosophical genealogy.
Absolute freedom from time is madness. That is why we have practice: meditation, drawing, etc. Practice turns freedom from time into experience.
The media as an event: question of history and the speed of events.
We are in an event here and now, in this room. Outside this room there are no politics. Politics are only inside this room, among us.
People decide to change the world for each other when they cease to see a future. Qualitative time is thus disrupted. This change is not necessarily “good”; it may be fascist. So, how to bring ethics to bear on an event?
The form of an object is its ethics. The form contains its potential.
What is ethics? Is it morals? For many general purposes, they may be interchangeable.
How do you have ethics in a world without God?
Ethics and aesthetics are the same (Wichtenstein, Vienna)
Ethics: judgments. Do good and bad exist or not?
An object conducts itself because we conduct it.
Does an object embody the ethics of its maker? Is the object an archive of ethics?
What is an author/maker? What are his/her responsibilities?
In Modernist aesthetics, form and content are inseparable. Rancière’s article concentrates on form.Does form dictate content? Is content inherent to the form? Are form and content inseparable?
In an object, such as a door in a room, are the ethics rendered invisible?
Does the door embody the ethics of its maker; is it an archive of ethics?
Is the content (ethics, means of production) invisible, with only the form (the surface of the door) visible? Are form and content thus analogous to surface (as form) and depth (as content)?
In Gregg’s film and video work, ethics are played out in editing (form), not in the images (content). Linda Nochlin, Michael Fried, and Clement Greenberg were conscious of this relationship of form and ethics.
There is a viable argument for art for art’s sake. It can be dangerous to politicize art. Example: Nazi Germany
Postmodernism: Can you unyoke yourself from the burdens described by “form is content and content is form”?
Notes from open discussion session of all groups together
What if freedom is not defined as a negative? Is the experience of unburdened duration (the durée) a positive form of freedom?
Protection of property rights is derived from the body (John Stuart Mill)
Ambition and desire are two sides of the same coin
Questions of affect and feeling: the law arises out of sensation (e.g. murder is illegal out of survival and out of empathy with other human beings)
Henri Bergson. Matter and Memory
John Dewey, Art in Experience
William James, stream of consciousness
Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
John Stuart Mill
Workshop leader: Eda Cufer
Participants: Andre, Kris, Michelle M., Marilyn, Aaron, David
-growing up in a different world, being made for another world
-Hamlet and Antigone: classic stories of confrontation of individual with State or system.
But different types of antagonism here:
-Antigone: direct confrontation of State/Creon, with own body, own conviction (sacrificial)
-Ranciere: democracy as bringing new / one’s own voice into space of politics. Effect of enlargement.
-Hamlet: confronts different type of political system. Claudius is a criminal, murderer. Hamlet’s tactics are encompassing: draw people into spying, surveillance. Written at time when capitalism was nascent. And only 2 centuries after America discovered. Great deal of shaping of economic order at this time. Hamlet, in this context, is m odel of confrontation with distributed power (not in person of one king, but a kind of state apparatus). This is closer to our current world.
- mousetrap as model for antagonistic confrontation: e.g. Hamlet’s play within a play.
-YesMen as example: how connected to Hamlet’s tactics? Specifically: the play within a play structure.
-Re-presentation (play within a play): doesn’t just reveal but exaggerate the existing logic of the scene they inhabit/infiltrate.
-e.g. by connecting accepted contemporary practices to a tainted history (e.g. of slavery). Turning fact into crime, or the appearance of a crime.
-authority and obedience: YesMen test people’s capacity to be obedient to the system they are aligned with. But also their invents get remediated by the media (e.g. Dow and CNN).
-Hamlet: a drama of the voice of authority. Of which authority to listen to?
-What forms does authority present itself in YesMen case? E.g. they bought the GATT website, which is a kind of authority that got them invited to specialized conference.
-The power of self-congratulation: when people gather in closed society (corporation, conference), they reproduce the values that characterize their own world. So YesMen can slip into those situations because there is an assumption that when that group is being addressed, it will be in the address/idiom of their own world. YesMen use, very concertedly, the language of those groups.
-Schlingers (sp?): in Austria, using idiom of ultra-right-wing politics. Also used form of Big Brother tv show.
-So there are exaggerated tactics present in art, overheated rhetoric, but in everyday political discourse, this form of rhetoric gets aired every day (e.g. the claim of terrorism so easily deployed).
-Misogyny as a form of antagonism (e.g. in Shakespeare). Is the source of the antagonism towards women in the writing of the play, or in the performances? And to what extent can a performance now change the thought/antagonism of a play? What latitude is there in form for re-mediating antagonism?
-Free speech in America: because it’s possible to say more in the U.S., does this give critical artists more latitude?
-e.g. YesMen speech on French TV, played as ridiculously conservative. But did people notice? What does it take to make people recognize the seriousness/dissent of a message?
-Humor: e.g. Colbert Report. Exists in common/conventionalized system of entertainment.
-Humor as post-facto effect of YesMen.
-Colbert at White House Press dinner: doing a bit as conservative pundit. Not at all funny to the immediate audience. But funny to the intended audience of the event’s remediation.
-Permission: as something that undercuts dissent. The frame for Colbert AS comedy: does this undercut his dissenting acts?
-Comedy marginalizes itself?
-Presentation of culture and politics as disconnected from daily life, the everyday. Produces power of dissociation from own life, or from truth?
-TV: under guise of information, tv presents carefully scripted theater.
-What’s the role of first-hand experience of events v. mediated experience of events. Mediation erodes the connection/response potentials for events?
-Is the Web a different sort of mediation than TV? How optimistic or cynical should we feel about the appearance of interactivity of the Web? Or of “user-driven” systems?
[a lot of the conversation towards the end was about the conditions for antagonism—e.g. structures of mediation, consumption, participation, but also, optimism and cynicism as internally-held or psychological mediators. We bridged from conditions to actual forms of dissent when talking about “mousetraps,” or plays within plays as in Hamlet. Antagonism TBA.]
Workshop Leader: Doug Ashford
Participants: Michael, Adrian, Victoria, Jorge, Amber, Nozomi, Joel
- Male 2 minutes: Propagation as plants-institutions-political frameworks-politics
- Male 2 minutes: Hybrids and dissensus opposite of consensus-nodes of disagreement
- Male 1 minute: dissensus creates context for propagation. Need TIME to propagate
- Male 1 minute: Propagation is cloning/copying. Looking for widening- Want dis-consensus/ propagation with internal and external criticism of capitalism.
- Male 1 minute: Common ground-finer notions of modeling political movement-What forms?
- Female 30 seconds: Need slowness for direct democracy.
- Male 30 seconds: Not a top down approach-cultivation of action and how to spread action.
- Female 1 minutes 5 seconds: Tomatoes-Monsanto owns patents-they are sterile. Alternative view of ownership and prorogation-
- Male 1 minute: Monsanto owns genetic material-copyright-we need propagation as a mistake.
Method of propagation is [ ]
Imposing an IDEA is coercive
From 16th century propagation originated from propaganda
Seduction [ ]
What is the source?
Clearly define the source.
Is [ ] always good propagation?
If art is always political? Then how is it different?
Artist’s interventions-All viewers are not passive.
Dissensus- work coming from people other then the power.
Propagation is the world-comes to you.
Top down-education is propagation
PROPAGATION AS A MISTATKE-More fruitful
History of def. of propaganda- resistant to (something) that it’s always from the top.
Depends on how you define it. Commercials teach us to be consumer drones.
Very specific way of communicating/commercials not an example.
Ideally a self-propagating system
Slippery category in (something)
Burden on citizenry to be skeptical (something)
If it is an all in one system, we need to clarify the genealogy of knowledge/historical frameworks/we need to debate these categories.
Still in the modern notion of the spectacle (?) than the exhibition-Something WOA-something everyday life.
We need to create a different language. If not we xxx delegate to function (e.g. art s/a/b “good” just b/c it do s/t.
Art has possibility of creating an environment of dissensus.
What’s at stake for art this is political?
Appreciate beauty (?) more than function
Elitism in art skew notion of what an artist is/purpose of (something) creativity/artists can manifest the (something)
Lack of cultural empathy
Problematic in cultural propagation.
Propagation/propaganda – What is really top-down?
Art as functional or aesthetic object?
This is more of the role of the designed object.
Art and accidental propagation
Political art is ironic
Functional art as a ‘bad aesthetic” brings us back to the concept of autonomous art
Does form and function have to be at odds?
Must a commercial industry loose the subject (advertising and responsibility)
Separation of art and commerce
Cannot have it without
Idea of artistic ethics
Culture as ethic instrument or kept separate?
Who can be involved in the autonomy of art?
The unspecialized teacher, does this allow for a wide field of cultural consideration?
As the context of freedom, for the contemplation of
Difficult in commodity art
Still room for ethical artist
Function vs. Utility
Propagation vs. propaganda as a form with this practical utility
Utility in life creates intentionality
Protected commerce as a shaded area to protect the artist –University as protective area
(Many protests) Ironically universities are supported by high capital
When does the content really start?
Freewill is found in the quality or quantity
Events and objects – both experiences
Qualitative experience in time
Need and politics – home + ? = purity?
Fail again/ Fail better
Freedom – unburdened relationship to burden/time
Freedom of rights
Freedom – unburdened relationship to burden/time
Freedom of rights
Freedom of categories of living.
Workshop Leader: Brian Holmes
Participants: Alison, Sophia, Amy, Tara, Gonzalo, David, and Annabel
The idea is to deal with the theme of re:presentation, in the sense of relations, contradictions, complementarities and latencies between the event and the artistic image whatever the medium. On the one hand, political art is the creation of the event: the rupture of consensus, the transformation of a situation, the act that changes the intimate map of all those involved a leaves a different social territory in its wake. On the other hand, political art is the prolongation of this act, its refraction in memory, its discursive and material re-elaboration, its inscription in a field of intellectual and affective debate. This structure is easy to grasp if you think of this sequence: a decisive public gesture becomes an artistic image, But what about those cases where it’s the unveiling of the image that produces the rupture? And how to measure the relation between the dramatic moment in the streets or the theaters and the slower revolution that takes place through the circulation and use of artistic ideas and affects? Does the word “representation” mark the process of institutional control, the legalism of acceptable interpretations, overcoding in short? Is “presentation” the upsurge of expression, the moment that makes history and language anew, the decoding of a programmed society? Or would we need a different vocabulary to talk about these relations to set them into motion?
BH: Photograph of “Ne Pas Plier” shows a demonstration and art movement happening live. Photos are enlarged faces to show “we have faces.” This is work that is out in the world that effects change over time. Formally and representationally they are represented. These events happen in public spaces which are theaters. In France, in America they happen in the media. Why? America is a repressed society. What is the connection between confrontational space of politics and art practice which can also, but also exist somewhere else.
AD: In NYC’s Drill Hall (Armory), the people seemed embarrassed to show activated responses (except Mark Tribe’s performance). The Chicago group Incubate were there giving away soup.
AR: Susan Sontag’s essays about the Abu Ghraib saying that the public didn’t see them as real. Perhaps the media’s presence keeps events at a mediated distance. Its hard for people to imagine a genuine reaction.
DM: It’s mediation of every level. Examples of concert goers holding their cell phones up video-recording. It’s a flip of the practice of holding lighters. This is a disconnect through the entire society.
TH: Some of the protest I’ve been in (in NYC) disguise how many people are actually there. They are “designated protest areas” which is ridiculous.
DM: Paris and New York as sites of protest- How are they the same? How are they different?
BH: Formally the presence of protest needs to be felt. In the far left, there’s an insurrection mentality that veers toward war. Right now a force is being raised during this election cycle, but the state wants us not to do this. Artists are not really involved.
AB: I was sensitive to the police visually at the protests. Are artist encouraged to not make political gestures and instead consider the market.
AD: We Americans are encouraged to consider the market first and foremost. I think MFA’s are not encouraged to make the work they want to make. I think artists should consider what they want their political work to do exactly.
BH: What is autonomy in art? These themes are what the US was founded. These questions are shelved. Is there no use to them?
SD: There is also private resistance, which is more prevalent. There’s a loss of idealism and people like at the armory event want to hope and keep their hope. Does “politics of quietude” mean we are defeated?
BH: This is like Christianity. Imperial law didn’t leave room for people to change. Christianity resulted in two situations. 1) In your head you are free, 2) The ruler dictates the religions of the state. In the politics of religion there is some freedom from capitalism. There is eroticism; sexuality is a part of politics.
SD: Is there a politics of giving up, of interiority? How about a utopian/ dystopian vision with in your own home. Is that a rejection of societal values?
AR: Those idea are co-opted so fast that it becomes fashion/ fetishism. Such as the Green Movement, I don’t like being attacked and spoken to on the street, although I do want to engage.
DM: The return to the self… an alternative to being co-opted by a group movement. Revolt She Said, is about protests in 1968, and even then their ideology was being co-opted. The extremes ascetic practices require a curtailing of our desires. How do we mediate our conventions, desires?
BH: Punk rock was begun as a critique of the co-opting of rock by industry. Punk rock is aesthetic, run by artist in school, working class . It took a confrontational approach, trying other things when their movement was co-opted. The word “ascetic” is a particular point, of difficulties, sharing your attitudes is political now that we are living in a country that could be fascist, if there’s a McCain Administration.
AB: I think its important to have a dialogic relationship with the “ fascists”- And my work is including talking to people.
AR: We are only allowed to protest in certain areas.
AD: In the art world you have a tight control on what things can be seen. We (DB Foundation) made work about ambition. What does an artist mean by ambition? I asked 15 artist thier ambitions, and they created and presented their work. They had museum labels. The artists had only their work their. What does this word mean to an artist? [ambition]
BH: The art system makes it clear what success is. People focus on the art system as if the rest of the country doesn’t exist. What do you think?
GAEM: You have to do art work for need, not for another reason.
DM: Leon Golub had anxiety about making works mediated by institutions…Making with a deep sense of conscience.
BH: Let’s talk about need, your films about coca spaying in Columbia.
GAEM: I am in between Columbia and here- spraying people on the streets with water to get them touched by it but not really. I don’t get affected personally, but visited people affected by it. These levels of how you are affected by it.
BH: Some people are in need, some are in want.
Doug Ashford became a member of the artists collective Group Material in 1981. This collective produced over forty exhibitions and public projects internationally using museum and other public spaces as cultural arenas in which audiences were invited to imagine democratic forms. Since the disbanding of Group Material in 1997, Ashford has gone on to produce exhibitions and publish articles independently, although his primary creative practice has been teaching. He currently serves on the faculty of Cooper Union.
Gregg Bordowitz is a writer, AIDS activist, and film and videomaker. His work, including Fast Trip, Long Drop (1993) and Habit (2001), documents his personal experience of testing positive and living with HIV within the context of a personal and global crisis. His writings are collected in The AIDS Crisis Is Ridiculous and Other Writings: 1986-2003. He is currently on faculty in the Film, Video, and New Media department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Carolina Caycedo is an artist and member of the Colombian artists’ group Colectivo Cambalache, with whom she helped create the ambulatory Museo de la calle (Museum of the Street) which revolved around a streetcar as a site of exchange. Her street actions, public marches, bartering, and itinerant projects respond to the effects of global capitalism as it impacts communities and the economies of the street. Caycedo lives and works in Isabela, Puerto Rico.
Salem Collo-Julin is a life-long Chicagoan, a writer and artist who has been described as a “poster child” for working in groups. Included in her myriad of activities, she frequently makes work with the group Temporary Services, a collaboration with Brett Bloom and Marc Fischer; in addition, she is responsible for a list-serve called GoChgo, an internet forum for creatives, activists, teachers, performers and other irregular people to share information about what they are up to in Chicago and beyond.
Eda Cufer is a dramaturge, curator, and writer who has collaborated with visual and performing artists; in 1984 she co-founded the art collective NSK, based in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Her essays on theater, dance, visual art, culture, and politics have appeared in many journals and books. With the support of an Andy Warhol/Creative Capital Foundation Fellowship, she is currently completing a book, Art as Mousetrap, which examines the interdependency between art practices and global economic and political structures.
Brian Holmes is a cultural critic, activist, and translator who lives in Paris. His interests lie primarily in the intersection of artistic and political practice. He is a member of the editorial committees of the art magazine Springerin and the political-economic journal Multitudes; a regular contributor to the magazine Parachute; a founder of the new journal Autonomie Artistique, and author of the blog, Continental Drift.
Simon Leung is an artist and associate professor at the University of California, Irvine, where he teaches critical theory, art history and new genres. His work in various media is project-based, and inspired by the intersection between ethics/aesthetics, critical theory, politics of sexuality and post-colonialism, public space, and theories of modernism and postmodernism.
Trevor Paglen is an artist, writer, and experimental geographer working at department of geography at the University of California, Berkeley. His work involves deliberately blurring the lines between social science, contemporary art, and a host of even more obscure disciplines to construct unfamiliar, yet meticulously researched ways to interpret the world around us. Paglen’s first book, Torture Taxi: On the Trail of the CIA’s Rendition Flights, received great attention from the media and public.
Robert A. Pruitt is a founding member of the artist collective Otabenga Jones & Associates. Pruitt creates sculptures, drawings, video, and installations about the dichotomy of the Black American experience, and the impact of Black cultural production on the global landscape. Born in Houston, Texas, Pruitt now lives and works in Chicago, teaching at Northwestern University.
Jacques Rancière is a French philosopher and emeritus professor of philosophy at the University of Paris who first came to prominence when he co-authored Reading Capital (1968), with the Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser. Today, Rancière is most well known for his aesthetic philosophy and books on democracy. In this keynote address, he examines the role of images in a democracy and how art and politics are intertwined.
Mark Tribe is an artist and curator whose interests include art, technology, and politics. His work has been widely exhibited; he has organized curatorial projects for the New Museum of Contemporary Art, MASS MoCA, and inSite_05; and is the co-author of New Media Art. In 1996, he founded Rhizome.org, and online resource for new media artists. Tribe is assistant professor of modern culture and media studies at Brown University, where he teaches courses on digital art, curating, open-source culture, radical media, and surveillance.