WEEK 8 E-tivity THOMAS

Conversation Pieces: The Role of Dialogue in Socially-Engaged Art by Grant Kester, from Theory in Contemporary Art Since 1985, Edited by Zoya Kucor and Simon Leung (Blackwell, 2005)

The text examines the difference between conventional Art forms and Art forms that is described in the text as “ Dialogical-art” which also can be named according to the French theoretician Nicolas Bourriaud as “Relational Aesthetics” (Kester p: 3) The text examines how Dialogical-art differs from other Art forms (with emphasis on modernist-art) which aim to “provoke dialogue among viewer” which “typically occurs in response to a finished object” (Kester p: 2) Dialogical-art on the other hand creates dialogue in another way according to Grant Kester. The artists focuses more on creating a platform which encourage collaboration, dialogue and conversation and where the result is change and dialogue among the viewers (Kester p: 2) Grant Kester explains how Dialogical artists can be regarded as “Context provider” instead to being “Content providers” where within the created platform: “participants can share insights and forge a provisional sense of collectivity” (Kester p: 11)

One example given by the author is a project executed in the UK in 1999 in relation to “ArtBarns: After Kurt Schwitters” by the Projects Environment (today named Littoral) The work “A better life for rural women“ was created by the UK Nigerian artist Mama Toro who made a space for dialogue in a barn using Nigerian wallpapers. The space was then used to execute different types of dance performances and conversations and talks between the Manchester Nigerian community and families from the rural areas around Manchester. Grant Kester explains how “Mama Toro defined here role as an artist not simply in terms of the creation of wall paper, but also through the facilitation of a dialogical exchange.” (Kester p: 12) The dialogue was shaped by similarities between the local farmers and members of the African community where many originated from rural areas in Africa. An interesting point made in the text is how this Art work not only created a visual experience but it also created according to Grant Kester a non political platform where none of the participants needed to: “surrender their identities (of nationality, race, ethnicity etc) in order to constitute a new, provisional community based around their shared material circumstances and experiences (the spatial-cultural context of the farming villages) (Kester p: 13) The result of the dialogue was that the African community formed a cooperative, which could buy vegetables from the farmers. This was economically beneficial for both parties.

In relation to the text I got to think about the lecture of the artist A Mckeown on the 10.02.10 and here ongoing project “Deptford45s” Deptford45s is a webpage that invites others to participate. The artist explained in the lecture how she in the end wanted the project to get a life of its own. In that way the artist execute and creates a platform but is not needed to create the content of the work which in Deptford45s is provided by the local community. I find this idea of creating artwork to be very interesting and a good way to make art artists part of dialogue in society.

On the other hand the traditional Art forms that provide content and which Kester explain “try to shock, attach, dislocate” (Kester p: 4) through physical manifestations is also part of what the Russian literary theorist Mikhail Bakhtin argues: “ That the work of art can be viewed as a kind of conversation; a locus of differing meanings, interpretations and points of view. (Kester p: 3) By creating  visual manifestations (which Mama Toro did with the wallpaper) you can create objects which can be used as parts of for example Audio-visual essays.


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