Week 08, Wednesday Jan 25, February 8,  Topic:  Dialogical practices and relational aesthetics

This session aims to create a dialogical situation to reflect on the use of conversation as a research and intervention practice by artists working with communities.

readings for this session

A- Grant, K., 2005. Conversation Pieces: The Role of Dialogue in Socially Engaged Art. In Z. Kocur and S. Leung, eds. Theory in Contemporary Art Since 1985. Oxford: Blackwell, pp.  _-_. [available as pdf] http://grantkester.net/resources/Conversation+Pieces_+The+Role+of+Dialogue+in+Socially-Engaged+Art.pdf

Video of Grant Kester at the Art of Collaboration symposium (2009) : http://atc.ucsc.edu/artofcollaboration/grant_kester_part1.mov

two examples analysed in the text:

1- the Austrian arts collective WochenKlausur

WochenKlausur: Shelter for Drug-Addicted Women Zurich, 1994
Project 1 (1994): Wochenklausur: Shelter for Drug-Addicted Women

“The group used an unusual strategy to obtain support for this intervention. Every day, four different experts in the field of drug issues were sent out on Lake Zurich in a boat, where they were able to discuss their views and exchange information without any public exposure. After two weeks a total of almost sixty experts had participated: all of the secretaries of the Swiss political parties, the mayor and four Zurich city councilors, two prosecuting attorneys, the editors in chief of the biggest Swiss newspapers, police chiefs, and specialists from the fields of medicine, prevention and therapy. The results of the discussions were small improvements on particular issues, such as the controlled distribution of narcotics to AIDS sufferers or the representation of users in court by social workers. First and foremost, however, the boat rides aided WochenKlausur’s efforts in realizing their plan for the women’s shelter. The plan was discussed with all participants before and after their trip out on the lake. Thus it was possible to secure political and media support for the project.”

Project (2003) Activity Program for a Nursing Home

“On the occasion of the European Cultural Capital Graz 2003, WochenKlausur developed a year-long program of activities for older people with severe mental disabilities. The Kainbach Nursing Home houses approximately 600 people with severe mental disabilities. Many of them are of a relatively advanced age and have no variety in their everyday lives: no one visits them and they do not go on outings with relatives – in other words they never leave the care facility. The home’s personnel is working at limit and cannot take on any further tasks.

Thus the artist group developed a year-long program that makes it possible for the facility’s residents to engage in activities outside of the home. The client’s varied interests, and most of all their specific disabilities and limitations, made it necessary to develop a tailor-made program adapted to the individual abilities, possibilities and difficulties of the clients.

The group elaborated a selection of activities that was as wide-ranging as possible: there were hardly any limits on the diversity of conceivable ideas.

Numerous businesses, institutions, associations and private individuals were asked if they could devote one day per year to engaging in activities with a small group of residents from the nursing home. More than fifty of these organizations and people agreed to participate. Frequently they requested assistance in planning the actual activities. Together with WochenKlausur, a different event was planned for every week between May 2003 and May 2004. Thus it was possible to work out a program for an entire calendar year.”

Wochenklausur: the method (Art and Sociopolitical Intervention)

“The artist group WochenKlausur has been conducting social interventions since 1993. The concept of intervention, whose usage in art has undergone an inflationary trend in recent years, is often used for any form of change. In contrast, WochenKlausur, at the invitation of art institutions, develops and realizes proposals – small-scale but very concrete – for improving sociopolitical deficits. In the context of many twentieth-century artists who understood how to actively take part in the shaping of society, WochenKlausur sees art as an opportunity for achieving long-term improvements in human coexistence. Artists’ competence in finding creative solutions, traditionally utilized in shaping materials, can just as well be applied in all areas of society: in ecology, education and city planning. There are problems everywhere that cannot be solved using conventional approaches and are thus suitable subjects for artistic projects. Theoretically, there is no difference between artists who do their best to paint pictures and those who do their best to solve social problems with clearly fixed boundaries. The individually selected task, like the painter’s self-defined objective, must only be precisely articulated. Interventionist art can only be effective when the problem to be solved is clearly stated.”

Wochenklausur: the art  (From the Object to the Concrete Interevention)

2- California artist Suzanne Lacy

The Roof is on Fire from suzanne lacy on Vimeo.

The Roof is on Fire Performance with 220 Teenagers, (talking in parked cars) Oakland, CA, 1994, © Suzanne Lacy

Suzanne Lacy, Annice Jacoby, Chris Johnson (Oakland 1993-4) “The Roof is on Fire”

“In June, Oakland teenagers made national news twice in one week. The first was a youth “riot” after the city’s annual summer festival. Windows were broken, stones thrown, and cans of mace sprayed. Later investigation revealed the role of the police in escalating what began as a minor incident, but an enduring legacy was a television news clip of a youth putting his foot through a plate glass window — an instant replay that captured the imagination of a country afraid of its own offspring

One week later, national television again trained its cameras on Oakland, but this time young people were in control of the message. The Roof Is On Fire, TEAM’s first large-scale performance art event, featured 220 public high school students in unscripted and unedited conversations on family, sexuality, drugs, music, neighborhoods and the future as they sat in 100 cars parked on a rooftop garage. With cameras rolling and audience members roaming from car to car to listen, the production had the haunting familiarity of images on the evening news. But unlike the typical newscast, this story had a different twist: youth represented themselves. The Roof Is On Fire was aired as a one-hour documentary by the Bay Area’s local NBC affiliate and was covered extensively on local news and national CNN.”

B- Bourriaud, N., 2002. Relational aesthethics. Paris: Presses du réel. [available as pdf] Bourriaud-Relational-aesthethics

Additional readings:

Foster, H., 1996. The artist as ethnographer. In The return of the real: the avant-garde at the end of the century. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, pp. 171-205. Available at: http://tinyurl.com/yldr5nq ; download here

Literature Review: The Artist as Ethnographer by Hal Foster

Benjamin, Walter, (1936). The author as producer. New Left Review, 1/62 (1970).read online or download here:  Walter Benjamin The Author as Producer


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