Brooke Morrison SP

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Social Practices in Art Fall 14
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Reading Responses

11/16 Ellsworth, Pedagogy's Hinge

The chapter discusses pedagogical design as a means of bringing inside and outside into relation. When "inner thoughts, feelings, memories, fears, desires, and ideas" interact with "outside others, events, history, culture, and socially constructed ideas," the binary of self/other can potentially become unstable. With pedagogy as a "hinge" in design, real learning - which can only take place in relation - can occur. Conceptions of inside and outside are disrupted and refigured, affecting the way individuals "make sense of the world" (38). On page 54, Ellsworth gives these definitions:

  • Teaching = thinking (not complying)
  • Thinking = confrontation/encounter with an outside/unthought (possible desires waiting their chance); space outside the actual this is filled with things in the making

These definitions result in the conclusion that pedagogy must create spaces for open-ended thinking, the future left undecided.
Examples in text:

  • "Architecture is the scientific art of making structure express ideas." - Frank Lloyd Wright (43)
  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum - "put in motion physically and cognitively in ways that make it impossible to ever settle into a position that would place him either inside or outside the Holocaust" (52)
Alien Staff
  • Vietnam War Memorial: "extend personal memories into public places and events and to extend social histories and events into personal experience" (53)
  • Wodiczko: "Shifts in external boundaries (ethic and state borders, for example, North-South, East-West) are closely bound up with migrations and the crossing of those boundaries. These in turn impose themselves on shifts in internal boundaries - ideas, beliefs, ideologies, languages, metaphors, slogans" (48). Alien Staff -- "The double presence in media and life invites a new perception of a stranger as imagined (a character on a screen) or as experienced (an actor offstage, a real life person)... crossing the boundary between stranger and non-stranger" (49)
  • Winnicott - transitional space
  • Suzanne Lacy: "fill pedagogical voids left by other educational practices" (45)

11/10 Latent Learning Curriculums

This collections of writings addresses "hidden learning processes embedded within interdisciplinary art and social practices" (2). The idea is to "re-frame the concept of learning as inseparable and inherently tied to actional contexts within social practices" (2). This idea of not only saying that learning is an important part of social practices but saying that learning can only truly happen within social practices is fairly radical, and exciting.
Some ideas that interest me:

  • Future Farmers (5): Art is more open than activism.
  • WochenKlausur (6): "Art is always what people want it to be. It is not a question of consensus; everyone does not have to share a single view on art. It is more that people who use the same definition for art find themselves in groups." And as the meaning of "art" has been changing, so has its function.
  • Randall Szott (LeisureArts)(11): Important questions are "why make and how does making fit within a context larger than the history of art."
  • Andrea Fraser (Orchard)(13-4): On being a for-profit limited liability corporation: "... a desire to mount a critique of the commercial art market from within its structures, to critically engage the economic relations and conditions of value in the art market and attempt to construct functional alternatives; to avoid the marginality within a market-dominated art world that not-for-profit status often implies." - More thoughts on critiquing the system from within.
  • Michel Foucault (16-8): Utopias: "sites with no real place," "general relation of direct or inverted analogy with the real space of Society," "present society itself in a perfected form, or else society turned upside down," "fundamentally unreal spaces" -- Heterotopias: "counter-sites," "effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted," "outside of all places" -- Mirrors: between utopias and heterotopias, "mixed, joint experience" -- Reminds me of the idea in Social Acupuncture of creating an ephemeral gap in everyday reality which works according to different rules

11/10 Ellsworth, The Materiality of Pedagogy

The chapter discusses learning as transitional space, pedagogy as sensational, going beyond subjectivity. During this unintentional, involuntary transitional experience, the inner and outer perceptions of reality are mixed, interrelated yet separate (30). In this way, binaries are overcome, and the learner finds new senses of self, others, and the world (16) - this moves beyond past-based habit (30). Depersonalization, when one forgets the self, is central to the learning (30,31). Learning is a social experience, in relation between inner and outer, collaborative (28). From these experiences emerge senses of identity (26) - participation precedes recognition, being precedes cognition (33).
Transitional space which encourages sensations that allow for learning can potentially be created everywhere; it depends on the flexibility of the environment (32). If the materiality of learning is addressed in designing environments for interaction, we as artists can help foster transitional spaces and noncompliant learning that opens thinking and understanding of reality. We need to consider the physical experience of our work to get to these reactions.

11/3 Davis, What Occupy Wall Street Can Learn From the Situationists (A Cautionary Tale)

Davis describes the failings of the Situationist Movement, emphasizing the troubles that will arise if their values are applied to the Occupy Wall Street movement. The biggest failings of the Situationist International had to do with its "commitment to a purely propagandistic politics [and] avowed leaderlessness." SI remained focused on the ideal rather than working with reality, causing it to disband after only 11 years. Davis describes it as an "armchair revolutionist, lacking commitment to thinking through the demands of organizing to make ideas reality." He brings out the contradictions of a group that insists upon equality and no hierarchy, yet cannot avoid the reality of such organization - but continues to deny it, thus creating a nonfunctional, corrupt system. Despite such failings, SI is still glamorized today, and Davis cautions against this.
I see this sort of thinking often - the desire to completely counteract the system. But, in my mind, this method rarely succeeds because it relies too heavily on the ideal rather than the realistic. In order to bring about change, there must be a balance between the two. Working within and around the system brings about stronger, more long-lasting effects than working in utter opposition (thinking of Social Acupuncture and other articles we've read; the idea of opening up moments in the everyday which suggest new possibilities. Also the methods of Wochenklausur, who use the established system of museums.).
Article Link

11/3 Bourriaud, Relational Aesthetics

10/27 Goffman, The Individual as a Unit

Goffman's essay discusses the variations within individuals and two particular ways in which they can interact in public spaces. He begins by emphasizing that "the individual can be different things," so much so that the same individual participating in one system of reference is another, different individual when participating in another system of reference - this goes beyond a stable identity playing different roles. The rest of the essay is split into two sections, for two things that an individual can be in a public space:

  1. Vehicular Unit: Here, Goffman relates public order to traffic codes. Order is defined as individuals working to avoid collision; there must be interference for orderliness to occur (6). This is achieved through the following of conventional rules (I see this as a sort of conflict taming, in terms of wicked problems). These accepted restrictions allow for independent movement and safe passage patterns. Hoffman continues with details on road regulations, and he compares these to pedestrian regulations. He looks at such subjects as physical contact and passing, positing that road traffic is most governed by formal understandings, while pedestrian traffic relies more on informal understandings (9). Individuals use the processes of externalization (intention display) and scanning to make organization work. When approaching another individual, a system of body check, intention signaling, and face engagement is used to pass with ease. This includes important moments of "critical sign" and "establishment point" (13). He then goes on to talk about the complications of multiple parties participating in confrontation, talking about gamesmanship, gallantry, and mutual trust (14-17). This trust is sustained because chaos ("trickery") is not helpful (a sort of biological, evolutionary explanation).
  2. Participation Units: Individuals go out into public spaces in interactional units: either a "single" or a "with." Withs are perceived to be together. They maintain closeness, exclusion of non-members, and, usually, equal availability to their conversation and speaking rights. On the other hand, a single is relatively vulnerable to contact and less freedom in some ways. They have a tendency to "make an effort to externalize a legitimate purpose and character" (21). Goffman goes on to detail maintenance and shifting of withs, as well as joining and merging. He defines encounters as "states of talk and the gatherings in which they occur" (25). Interestingly, the last points Goffman makes in this section refer to the separation of singles/withs from their context. "Singles and withs are to be treated as though sealed off from their setting... these barriers can be breached for good and bad reasons" (26).

10/27 Ransick and Goble, A Manifesto for the Present

The manifesto makes 12 statements concerning how humans perceive the reality of the present, highlighting issues yet supporting a potential that exists if improvements are made (#12 "The world already possesses the dream of a time whose consciousness it must now possess in order to actually live it.").
The first statement of the manifesto ties directly to the theories of Peter Weinreich. In the field of social science, Weinreich writes that "One’s ethnic identity is defined as that part of the totality of one’s self-construal made up of those dimensions that express the continuity between one’s construal of past ancestry and one’s future aspirations in relation to ethnicity." As Goffman states, individuals change. There is no single, inherent identity in each person. Rather, identity is recreated every minute, affected by many factors, such as systems of reference. Sensei Ryushin of the Zen Mountain Monastery, who has come to speak at Bennington several times, talks about this, saying that the identity we feel we possess when we go to sleep and the one we recreate upon waking is entirely of our brain's making. We long for and create a sense of unity and meaning. Zen Buddhism uses the term "small self" for the "I" we refer to in speech and thought; it is said that "To know the Self is to forget the Self." Maintaining an identity (by use of memories - constructed in the brain and changing every time we think back on them - and by identifying with groups - discussed as "imagined communities" in linguistic terms) is part of maintaining social order, as defined by Goffman.
This is also related to #7 in the manifesto, which discusses how "being precedes cognition." I've seen this in discussion with Tunisians three years following their historical revolution: the term "revolution" is applied afterwards, but while these things were being lived, they did not fall into such neat structures of understanding. In a sense, I would say that life is chaos, and we look for meaning afterwards by applying narratives to lived complexities, generalizing in a way that allows for communication and discussion, but which is also limiting.

10/13 HCD Toolkit

This document gives an outline for conducting human-centered design, particularly in foreign country contexts, but applicable to any context.
The Toolkit sets out three lenses through which to view this process: Desirability, Feasibility, and Viability.
Similar to D. School's 5 modes and Tim Brown's 3 spaces. here we are given 3 phases:

  • Hear - stories, observations, needs, barriers, constraints
    • 1 identity challenge
    • 2 existing knowledge
    • 3 who to speak with?
      • 1/3 on each extreme and in the middle
    • 4 research methods
    • 5 develop interview approach
      • specific --> broad --> deep
      • sacrificial concept: scenario based question, for further understanding, not necessarily feasible, makes less abstract
      • show me, draw it, ask why
    • 6 mindset
      • beginner's; observe VS interpret
  • Create - opportunities, solutions, prototypes; concrete <--> abstract
    • 1 develop approach
    • 2 share stories (avoid prescribing, generalizing)
    • 3 patterns
      • venn diagram, process map, relational map, 2x2 map
    • 4 create opportunity areas
      • "How might we...?" (quantity > quality)
    • 5 brainstorm solutions
    • 6 prototype
      • model, storyboard, role-play, diagram
    • 7 gather feedback
  • Deliver - capabilities, finance
    • 1 revenue model
    • 2 capabilities
    • 3 pipeline of solutions
    • 4 implementation pipeline
    • 5 mini-pilots, iteration
    • 6 learning plan

In terms of the work we are doing in class, I am particularly interested in the tips given for interviews, which I think will help us get to meaningful conversation which will lead to understanding and idea formation and, ultimately, creation.

10/13 D. School, "Bootcamp Bootleg"

Similar to the 3 spaces laid out in Tim Brown's article, here there are 5 modes to design thinking:

  • Empathize (Observe, Engage, Immerse)
  • Define (point of view; focus; needs, insights, meaningful challenge)
  • Ideate (flaring; many diverse ideas)
  • Prototype (ideas --> physical; "as if you know you're right")
  • Test (refine and improve solutions; "as if you know you're wrong")

The rest of the document explains various methods that can be used, including:

  • maintain beginner's mindset (open)
  • ask: What? How? Why? (moving between concrete and emotional)
  • Interviews - ask why, never "usually" (precision), stories, allow silence, neutral, not binary questions
  • consider extreme users
  • empathy map (say, do, think, feel)
  • journey map (timeline)
  • 2x2 matrix
  • USER needs to ______ because _______
  • brain/bodystorm
  • impose constraints
  • "I like, I wish, What if"

These are methods that I can see the class using in our work. Here, empathizing is highlighted as part of this human-based process, and it is said that immersing oneself with the community you're working with is important. This is something we are well placed to do here with the Bennington community.

10/13 Brown, "Design Thinking"

Tim Brown defines design thinking as a complex process, summed up in the following equation:
designer sensibility + people's needs + technologically feasible + business strategy = customer value + market opportunity
Notably, it is a multidisciplinary, human-centered approach to innovation, and it has the potential to provide improvements on both the customer and market sides.
There are three "spaces" in the process, which the group must go between throughout:

  • Inspiration (problem/opportunity)
  • Ideation (generate, develop, test - prototype)
  • Implementation (chart path to market)

This article on design thinking reminds me of discussions in the module on Wicked Problems that I took last year. I'm particularly drawn to visual mind mapping as a method within the process of design thinking - or mediation, of the most interest to me. I have done this through the program, Freemind, for example. In my opinion, addressing the complexity of any issue is key to approaching solutions.

10/6 Lippard, "Time Capsule"

Lucy Lippard discusses the evolving nature of activist art in the US since the 1950s, focusing on the 1960s. She starts by differentiating community-based art (communication, exchange, affirmative) from activist art (creative dissent, confrontation, rejective). She then talks about the idea that art does not lead change, but rather it reflects social agendas - nonetheless in a powerful way. But, she says, the artists are perpetually restricted by the art world and the context - the society - in which the art is made.
The 1950s-60s are defined by art working along political agendas, often anti-war, and professing a solidarity with the working class (despite the generally middle-class status of artists, an interesting note). Conceptual Art works to emphasize process over objecthood, with the goal of subverting museums and markets. Lippard further defines the movement as part of a "rebellion against the (male) artist-as-hero syndrome of the Abstract Expressionists" (414). Minimalism was seens as 'democratic' in some sense, and the post-modernism of the 1970s-80s valued photo/text work over painting sculpture. I am interested by an idea stated in this section: "The role of photographic 'truth' has been successfully questioned to the point where nobody really believes anything they see" (415). The notion of truth is ultimately such a subjective one... As comes into current day discussion on 'creative nonfiction' writing...
Lippard then talks about the state of the 1960s world events as causing artists to feel obligated to add their voices to the conversation on such matters, "whether or not they were well informed or motivated" (415). This makes me think of one aspect of art-making in Tunisia, where, ever since the 2011 revolution which ousted their president of 22 years, artists have felt an international pressure to make "revolutionary art" - for one thing, that's where the money. For another, it's such a huge event in the history of this country which was only declared a republic in 1957, following Ottoman then French control, and which had only had two presidents since that time. How can you not address it? A local artist talked to me about this issue, in which artists who were not truly and wholly motivated and personally driven to make such work did, in some sort of 'inauthentic' way. In any case, I'm interested in the idea of the political sphere being referred to be some artists as 'real life,' because I've been having this strange thought recently myself.
In the next paragraph, Lippard claims that in order to fully engage in the society, communal work, rather than that done by an individual artist, is necessary. She then discusses New York in the 60s/70s and Streetworks. Then is the factor of artists' rights and protests against certain museums.
Moving on in history, following the abandonment of Vietnam, oppositional art diminished, losing this great driving factor. In the mid-70s, conflict between feminists increased, and theory was emphasized over action. In the late 70s came disagreements between morals and artistic freedoms - a conflict I find of continual interest, this debatable 'downside' to the freedom many yearn for, especially when I discuss with friends of other countries who admire the democratic freedoms of the US.
In the 80s came Punk/New Wave-inspired artist work in poor neighborhoods, unconventional exhibitions, and an emphasis on the creation of art venues (419).
And the final question posed by the article: "Can there be revolutionary art without a revolution?" How complex a question, in light of debates on what constitutes a revolution in the first place.

10/6 Allan Kaprow, "Notes on the Elimination of the Audience"

Kaprow's ultimate point is that audiences, as they are commonly defined in stage theater contexts, should be eliminated in Happenings. The connotations of theatre productions and the cliche audience responses are limiting, not allowing people to really engage with, participate in, and get something from the event. I find his redefining of 'watching' to be most interesting: it can become, he says, a meditative act, "away from something like spoon-feeding, towards something purposive, possibly intense." It is not a completely passive act, in his terms. He also says that audiences for Happenings should be "willing and committed," knowing generally what will happen in advance - yet, he celebrates the moments of the unexpected which arise from this being a "lifelike" situation. Participants are not professionals, they are everyday people. I also found his comparison of the preparation for happenings to the preparation for "a parade, a football match, a wedding, a religious service" to be a thought-provoking concept. The clearness of such preparation interests me, and that it is for a group, certainly, rather than a single individual, necessarily taking account of every attendee's experience. What are the goals of such events?

9/30 Acconci, "Public Space in a Private Time"

Vito Acconci Article Summary.jpg
I am particularly interested by the idea of "sense of place" and how that interacts with sense of identity. If every place is a combination of historical place (memory) and virtual place (imagination), what is the reality of a place? And how can a group share an understanding of one place? How do people connect to these places? How do they express their connection, or disconnection? What happens when different groups have different senses of place over the same physical location? (well, conflict - how to mediate?)

Some place-related thoughts...
From Avi Friedman in his book The Nature of Place:
“Places give the people who inhabit, visit, and use them an identity. Those with an authentic atmosphere inspire and draw them into some kind of relationship. They are characterized by signs and symbols unique to each… Places can be engaging. They can turn a passive visitor into an active participant in a life scene… Places can evoke spiritual experiences… Some quality in a place may put us in a mood to help foster new relationships or strengthen old ones… I have searched for the subtle and overt qualities that make us appreciate, or become disconnected from, a location… What, then, is the nature of places? Why do some places resonate more deeply within us than others? Why do we experience some places as nurturing? What is it in certain areas that fosters community – and in others that discourages it? What are the characteristics of positive or good places?” (8-11)

From Jeff Malpas, in his book Place of Landscape: Concepts, Contexts, Studies:
“… landscape can operate to embody, conceal, and support forms of power… it is directly tied to the interconnection of human life with the spaces and places in which that life is lived… place, I would argue, must encompass both the spatial and the temporal… what is the place (what are the places) that it [landscape] opens up, to which it allows entry, within which it appears?... connection of place with both space and time… political and social function of landscape, in its operations as a mode of self-formation and self-articulation, in its expressive and representational character… Landscape is not only formed in the geography of a place, but also in the cultural contex that belongs with that place… multiplicity of perspectives that are present in every landscape… The question concerning the place of landscape is thus not only a question of how landscape relates to forms of power or to modes of representation, but of how landscape functions in relation to place itself, in relation to human being in place, and of how place may be said to function in and through landscape.” (vii-xii)

“the inevitable modification of the landscape… ‘revelatory’ character of landscape… the visual and the spectatorial are not the same… the visual always implicates more just than the visual alone… Landscape is a representation of place, and as such, it is the re-presentation of a relatedness to place, a re-presentation of a mode of ‘emplacement.’… If landscape is always a mode of involvement that encompasses us and our world, then in landscape art it is that prior involvement, and the mode of that involvement, that is represented to us – and what it represents will likely include a set of social and political elements as much of anything that is purely ‘aesthetic.’… presents a particular formation of landscape… reinforces certain relations of meaningfulness, certain ways of seeing or modes of revelation, certain structures of power and authority.” (3-15)

And linked to thoughts on Experience, from Yi-Fe Tuan, in his book Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience:
“Experience is a cover-all term for the various modes through which a person knows and constructs a reality. These modes range from the more direct and passive senses of smell, taste, and touch, to the active visual perception and the indirect mode of symbolization… Experience is directed to the external world. Seeing and thinking clearly reach out beyond the self… Experience has a connotation of passivity… Experience thus implies the ability to learn from what one has undergone… Experience is compounded of feelings and thought. Human feeling is not a succession of discrete sensations; rather memory and anticipation are able to wield sensory impacts into a shifting stream of experience so that we may speak of a life of feelings as we do of a life of thought. It is a common tendency to regard feeling and thought as opposed, the one registering subjective states, the other reporting on objective reality. In fact, they lie near the two ends of an experiental continuum, and both are ways of knowing.” (8-10)

And, my favorite, the novelist Orhan Pamuk writing on place in his memoir, Istanbul:
"What gives a city its special character is not just its topography or its buildings but rather the sum total of every chance encounter, every memory, letter, color, and image jostling in its inhabitants’ crowded memories." (110)
"I must describe the history of the city following the destruction of the Ottoman Empire and – even more important – the way this history is reflected in the city’s “beautiful” landscapes and its people." (91)
"Remains of a glorious past civilization are everywhere visible… These are nothing like the remains of great empires to be seen in western cities, preserved like museums of history and proudly displayed. The people of Istanbul simply carry on with their lives amid the ruins. Many western writers and travelers find this charming. But for the city’s more sensitive and attuned residents, these ruins are reminders that the present city is so poor and confused that it can never again dream of rising to its former heights of wealth, power, and culture.” (101)

9/30 Beuys, "I Am Searching For Field Character"

Beuys argues for art-making that functions as part of a 'free democratic socialism' system. He emphasizes the potential for every person to be an artist, to use their creativity in having a say in the creation of the social body. "Communication occurs in reciprocity," he says. Art-making is not about the artist as separate from society, communicating his certain thoughts to his audience. It is a two-way act.
One issue is the idea that all humans can experience life primarily spiritually. It seems there will always be some who do not perceive primarily this way, and that, in fact, this is best.

9/30 Goldberg, "Revolutionizing Human Thought"

Goldberg discusses Beuys's work, stating that the artist's goal was to "transform people's everyday lives" by "chang[ing] consciousness." Outer change begins as inner change. This is in contrast to last week's article on "Social Acupuncture," which insisted that the only way to cause real change is to take direct action, like the work of WockenKlausur. Still, it seems that the dramatic acts of Beuys's had to affect the way his audience saw things - but how much control can one have over what this effect will be and what sorts of change it might engender?

9/22 O'Donnell, "Social Acupuncture"

Beginning with what could be seen as an off-putting and demotivating rant on the problems of society and uselessness of art, O'Donnell's article continues on to discuss philosophies of art-making and it's role in society and, in the second half, to describe examples of the artist's own projects. Ultimately, he is detailing civic engagement as artistic practice, with a critical eye. This encounter-based art form replaced object-based art, he explains, in response to the commodification of art on the part of capitalist systems. O'Donnell endorses 'neo--philistinism," being critically opposed to work that does not engage with material (material being the social body) and accumulate social capital (fame - which provides access and support; helping others cannot be done without the awareness of helping oneself in some way as well; individualism must be maintained/addressed). O'Donnell defines his method of engaging with the social body as "social acupuncture:" causing moments of discomfort in certain areas that will, in the end, (slowly) improve the system as a whole. In contrast, he emphasizes the lack of effect of "feel-good" methods; in fact, motivation is not truly important as long as one is doing social deeds. The artist's own work deals most with creating situations of detournement, times in which normal rules are not in play, allowing for interactions not governed by consumption and power structures.
To me, the idea of artist as "a conduit for already existing energies and resources" is exciting; using materials of society that are already out there and revealing alternative ways of seeing them or dealing with them. I can also see the power of multiple perspectives and inputs and creators. O'Donnell brings up a good point when mentioning the sticky issue of telling other people's stories (pg 74), and how this method of intervention can get around this by allowing people to tell their own stories. Still, in most cases, the artist is deciding on the structure for the context in which participants are sharing their stories, and that context can have great effect on the story itself.
O'Donnell's talk of people's perspectives of 'the Other' made me think of writer Orhan Pamuk's statement: “the art of the novel [is] at its most powerful when it [can] deliver us, or at least try to, into the worlds of those who do not think or live like us. Indeed, it is, in my view, the novelist’s duty to bring out the humanity of the ‘other,’ to embrace even those his readers do not wish to know or understand and perhaps even regard as dangerous" (from the introduction to his novel, Snow). Encounter-based art which allows participants to share stories can certainly have this effect. But I also do believe in the power of individually created work (writing, visual art) to still have this ability in circumstances. This is just to say that, all forms, in my mind, do have their place.
I was especially interested by the idea of "the Multitude"(35, 91). The sentence that O'Donnell leaves out in his quote of Hardt and Negri's book Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire on page 35 is: "Instead we are a multiplicity of singular forms of life and at the same time share a common global existence." This realization which goes contrary to broad generalizations of identity and can be seen as the base of successful mediation is something that is important to me personally to bring to viewers.
Lastly, while I was interested by and agreed with many of O'Donnell's points and was inspired by much of his work, I couldn't help thinking that if I were some of the people mentioned - the ones being asked "indecent" questions in the gallery or sitting on the bus during the Back of the Bus project, - I, too, would feel mainly negative about the encounter and offended, I think. Would I have taken away the perspective of critique of quotidian structures? I'm not sure; maybe I would. Yet I wonder whether a few of his methods were indeed overdoing the uncomfortable factor.

9/15 Kester, "Conversation Pieces: Community and Communication in Modern Art" excerpt

Kester Chapter Summary.png
(apologies for spelling errors)
Further thoughts: What is lost and gained when the artist is not the only person creating an artwork? How can these methods be used in situations of cultural conflict? What is authentic?

9/15 Purves, Blows Against the Empire

Purves ultimately looks at the power of combining the Situationist method of detournement with unexpected gift-giving to create a sort of alternative reality, a new structure of understanding and acting. Detournement disconnects the expected and the unexpected, forcing people to not rely on set modes of understanding. Gift-giving creates a unique relationship, a social bond that always comes with strings attached for the receiver. With both of these methods together, Purves believes it is possible to foster alternative community, outside of the capitalist system.
Several examples of artists who do this are provided: Ehren Tool sends letters to figures of power accompanied by handmade bowls; Josh Greene distributed two-hundred one dollar bills to strangers in the street one day; the Diggers set up a free food program; Diana Mars hosts free Wednesday night dinner at her house; one man provides a hot tub to his community, regulating the usage with entry codes and guidelines; the band Crash Worship encourages audience members to create the music; and Johnny Spencer discussed art while taking a walk with two blind women, leaving no physical evidence of the experience.
Through discussing these examples, Purves explains the restrictions that must exist in order for these methods to have effects: the actions must be unexpected and short-term. If longer term, barriers of some sort are necessary (like with the hot tub, as opposed to People's Park), in order for community members to feel a sense of accountability. "When one opens up a pocket, free space inside or outside the spectacular society, then the weight of that society presses in upon it."
Other ideas: cocreation, exchange, conceptual, reproduction, responsibility, communal, public, restraints
Overall, the essay was hopeful and inspiring. Participation is equal to creation ("by participating one created a world in which free food was 'a fact'). Reality is in the hands of humans, of creators, of artists.

9/15 Scholz, A History of the Social Web

Scholz talks about the evolution of the web as an interactive, participatory culture. He names the main forces behind this evolution "fear, desire (to be with others), and fandom." The motivations behind participatory art-making he defines as "activation, authorship, and community." As the web becomes more and more popular, Scholz describes the progression from border-free, collaborative utopia to market-driven commercial hierarchy. Purves, in his article, also talks about utopias, alternate realities that are only available in small moments, as unexpected phenomenon. When a thing is overdone (like the web, or like the free food company), it deviates from the original, 'pure' intentions as market-driven interests take over. While providing new structures for collaboration, communication, and cross-cultural participation, the web also brings the complexities of virtual relationships, ownership and rights conflicts, and broadening means of control.


I too find it interesting how intentions for the internet were so positive. How researchers and writers envisioned societies transformed into enlightened pinnacles of civilization thanks to instant communication and a rapid exchange of ideas. The Internet was meant to become a positive force for the world, and to proceed with these noble goals, but in all honesty like nearly every major breakthrough or pursuit, commercial forces grabbed on and took it over. To be fair, this was easily predicable as evidenced by the Internet's predecessors: the telegraph, the telephone, the newspaper. I think its just the competitive nature of human beings who see an opportunity to generate income from a new, untapped source. I suppose that's not necessarily a bad thing, though it does compete with this pure image of the Internet many came to believe in. -Nathan Paul


9/20 Derive

It's a Saturday around noon, and I start at the Farmer's Market. Wanting to begin by talking with someone right away, I walk over to the tent with jewelry to look at the things there, even though I don't much care for them and know I won't buy anything. "This is very nice," I tell the middle-aged woman sitting there. She thanks me. "Are you here every week?" I ask. "Yes, almost," she tells me. "Will you be here next week?" She says yes with certainty. I tell her I'm glad, that my parents are coming next weekend and that my mother would love these things. "Well, it's all hand made, by me," she tells me. I hold up a necklace with thin silver metal in the shape of a tree and a blue stone. "This is one is really nice," I say, which is true. "Yes, isn't that one pretty?" Perhaps she would have said more if I'd had more questions, but she seemed fairly straightforward with her answers, so I decided to continue on. I walked all the way through, looking at each stall, before stopping again. Part of my problem was that I didn't want to spend much money. I went to a tent selling vegetables, on that had less people, and chose a long, red pepper. I greeted the young woman behind the table and asked if everything came from a nearby farm. "Yep, we're in Pownal," she told me. I nodded in recognition (more of the name than of the place itself), and she told me exactly what road they were on. "Usually the farmer's here, but he's not today," she said. "Well, this guy is sort of a farmer, though." She motioned to the young, bearded man next to her. "No, I'm not," he said bluntly. "Well, yes you are, you work on growing the crops and harvesting..." "An important job," I say, just to say something. "Yeah..." the man concedes. "You know, technically, I own the farm." There is a silent moment for a few seconds, I can tell there are many things I don't know about. "Ah, don't listen to anything he says!" The woman tell me with a smile. I pay for my pepper then. She makes sure I know that it's not a spicy one. Then I walk to the next farm stand, where they're selling sunflowers for a dollar. I pay the older man behind the table for one, asking him the same question I used before, "Is everything here from a local farm?" "Yes, yes," he says, a bit caught off guard. "We're in Pownal."
After this, because I don't want to buy anything more, I decide to go - the market is so small I feel a bit awkward standing around on my own. Afterwards I realize I should have sat at the picnic table in front of the woman playing music for a while. I should have continued conversations too, but I noticed that I was stopping them short because it felt strange to be speaking to people because you've been told to.
Now I walked down main street, noticing a popcorn stand that I had never seen before. There were very few people on the streets. I went into a yarn store. A woman greeted me. I was looking at the wall of yarn when I heard her say, "Now isn't that pretty!" I thought she must be talking to me, so I turned around to look at her and made a noise, "Hmm?" She was looking at me too, "Can I help you?" I realized there was another woman near her, behind the wall, who I couldn't see. "Umm, I'm just looking for plain black yarn." I told her. She pointed to the top shelf near me. I took one down and continued looking at the other things. Then a woman came in with a small dog on a leash. "Cute dog," I said. "Excuse me," she said rather as she walked past me. "Something smells good in here," she said to the women in the back. "Now that would be my lunch!" One of them responded. "Aw, what a cute dog!" The women exclaimed. "I just got her. The one I had before died last week..." No longer feeling that I could intervene, I left the store without buying anything, wondering whether the women would think I had stolen the black yarn.
Then I went to the library and sat at a table to do work for a bit. I was feeling nervous the whole time I was downtown because of all the work I had to do. On my way out, I asked the woman at the front desk about meditation class, which I had seen advertised last year, even though I knew I would have no time to go to them. She had to check lists and ask another older woman there about it before giving me an answer. Then I asked about library cards and how to get one. She told me student prices are $5 for a year. I told here I'd think about then, and left. Again, another conversation I could have expanded on.
Finally, I walked back down to four corners and went into the art gallery there. It had been a few years since I'd been inside, and it seemed quite different. The man at the counter greeted me. I was the only customer there. There were so many things to look at - being sold but also advertised as a gallery - and there was music playing, so it was not awkward. After looking around I walked over to the man and said, "It's been a few years since I've been here, and it looks like you've gotten some different sorts of things in. Really nice things here, especially the ceramics." He agreed with a friendly smile. I asked about how he found all the artists, whose towns were written below their names. He talked about traveling a lot, and how now that they were becoming more well-known, people found them, too. I told him I would love to bring my parents here next weekend when they were visiting. Or else buy their Christmas gifts here. He nodded. We then discussed the 'chalk vault,' an old bank vault with chalkboards on the walls and a box full of chalk which invited people to come and write and draw freely. He described how they cleaned off the boards every month or two, and how depending on whether the first person made something text-based or image-based, the next people would follow this. "I keep an eye on what people do, I like to see what will happen." "Like a sociological experiment," I said. "Yes!" he agreed. I told him I hoped to be back soon as I left. While this was my strongest interaction, again, I still felt that I could have pushed the conversation further, especially as he seemed so willing to talk.

9/14 Derive

I started walking from the Episcopal Church, by the Pleasant Street parking lot, at 11:15am on a Sunday. Habit drew me towards the main road, through a pleasant-looking alleyway between two brick walls. Not having been in Bennington for nearly a year, I noticed many small new things, mainly new stores, including one called "the heart of things," a phrase that someone had just been discussing earlier that day. I noticed things that were not new but that I had never noticed before: street names on signs, the Baptist church, Ramunto's. I noticed several things that had to do with foreign places - a travel agency, a Mexican food place, an Italian restaurant - and thought about how even in small towns there are ties to the universal beyond the town. As I walked, I stayed in the sidewalk that had sunlight since it was a bit chilly. Deciding I would like to get off of the main street, I turned back onto Pleasant Street, walking up further than I had walked before. I passed a woman with a small dog - "Hello. Cute dog," I said, even though I don't much care for dogs. She smiled, but just tugged on the leash and spoke to her dog as it tried to approach me, "No no, come here." Just past this encounter, there were two men sitting on a porch, talking loudly. I couldn't tell whether they were speaking a language other than English or if they were just speaking in a way that I couldn't understand what was being said. They were looking over at me, and I felt uncomfortable, here where the street felt more residential and less safe, in a way, from the main street. At the end of the street was an old brick warehouse that, according to the sign, had been turned into a garage. I didn't see anyone around it, and I didn't want to approach it, so I went back to the main road. Walking back towards the four corners intersection, I noticed several people sitting in their cars, just sitting. I noticed the leaves and acorns on the ground and realized I hadn't seen acorns in a long time. Walking this way, the mountains were much more visible, shadowing over the town. I hear a train whistle. There is an old woman holding plastic bags walking away from a gas station with pictures of woman otters dressed in American flag colors. She looks like she's thinking of going back, or waiting for someone, but then she starts walking on the sidewalk towards me. I wonder for a moment whether she's someone I know, someone whose name I've forgotten. I say "Good morning" as we pass and she responds. At this point, I continue walking until I'm back at the parking lot.

Artist Presentation: WochenKlausur

"WochenKlausur," translates roughly to "Weeks of Closure"
Artist group (8 artists), Austrian, founded in 1993
"Artistic creativity is no longer seen as a formal act but as an intervention into society."

How to conduct a Social Intervention
1. Invitation from art institution (political capital, deems the action as 'art')

exhibition space is studio
limit timeframe (~8 weeks)

2. Establish issue to be addressed - the group (6 artists) does this by researching local political circumstances
3. Project begins. Goal: Develop small-scale, concrete proposal for improving sociopolitical deficits that will have long-term effects. Take action.

How to critique
Compare the intention with the result, how many objectives were achieved?

How is sociopolitical action art?
The definition of art is subjective. "Art is what people want it to be."
The meaning is always changing, thus the function is always changing.
Action become art when: they are presented within the context of art and have been accepted as such - "actions mutate and suddenly are art" Who decides what is art? Powerful institutions (museums, schools, media). "It becomes art through its recognition, and that comes about within institutional mechanisms."

Why should sociopolitical action be categorized as art?

  • The title 'art' makes intervention more appealing.
  • Can allow for quicker realization of goals.
  • Art gets more media attention.
  • Unorthodox approaches allow for new solutions, otherwise unavailable. Coming from external perspective.
  • General skills of an artist are useful in this area: notice where trends are heading, draw attention to problems not seen by others, make finer distinctions.


Mobile clinic, basic medical treatment for homeless; permanent institution, +700 treatments/month
Boat dialogues on Lake Zurich, thirty bed daytime women's shelter, six years before losing funding
25% population is senior citizens, raise money through photo action, build senior center with bocce court
1 year legal residency to seven immigrants, commissioned to produce Social Sculptures, collect supplies to send to Kurdistan/Bosnia
Worked with pupils to improve design of classrooms, ultimately improving motivation
Worked with teens to make a cultural program proposal, worked together to create a teen centre (chose site, renovated, found sponsors, set up rules and an activities program)
Teamed together residents and experts to address water infrastructure problems (erosion, no running water or waste disposal, lack of green vegetables, complex legal situation doesn't allow relocation now); projects include: youth community garden, online platform for communication, physical model of village, re-location center
Invited as part of ECONOMY exhibition; encouraged group of unemployed women to start a cooperative, selling 'meal bags'

More Information

2011 Creative Time Summit

When Art Becomes Social Change, essay on WochenKlausur by Heather Davis
"Here, art becomes strictly an instrument to transform existing realities."
"Resistance for WochenKlausur necessarily means adherence, and the power of their work is through its ability to convey the advantageous position found in the entanglements of power."
"Despite these concrete interventions and how effective they are, WochenKlausur does not address underlying structures of power. For example, in the Zurich project, the members quickly realized that young women were at the bottom of the social hierarchy among street drug users and subjected to much abuse and exploitation... Notwithstanding the efficacy of the intervention, and the social and personal amelioration it provided, it could not address the underlying concerns and reasons why young women end up in such a vulnerable position. Although WochenKlausur provides astute political evaluations, including nuanced understandings of feminist and social justice frameworks, the projects can only obliquely address larger, systematic structures of power. Art historian and critic Grant Kester elaborates: At the same time, the realism that allows WochenKlausur to so effectively respond to specific problems can also tend to foreclose a political vision that could link these concrete solutions to a broader emancipatory movement among those who have been strategically disempowered."


First, I offered to members of my house a laundry service - I could pick up laundry, wash and dry it at school, and return it to them within 2 hours, charging $2 (plus the price of washing and drying). I posted this in the house Facebook group. Only one person responded - I ended up doing three loads of laundry for her, so she paid me $6.
I then made chocolate cinnamon cookies and chocolate covered apples. I reserved a table in commons during lunch on Friday and sold these - 50 cents for a cookie, $2 for an apple. I sold a good number of cookies, and two teachers donated a few extra dollars. I only sold two apples. I made $13.50 here.
I then sold the remaining apples at St. Peter's church after the service on Sunday. Several people donated a few dollars rather than buying an apple, or gave me more than the price I was asking: $1.50. Here, I made $16.00, still with four apples left.

I thought about offering to do McDonald's delivery a night or two between 11:00-11:30PM, charging a small fee, but I didn't have to do this because I made just enough money. $6.00 (laundry) + $13.50 (school bake sale) + $16.00 (church bake sale) = $35.50; $35.50 - $14.00 (supplies) = $21.50

Artist Inspirations

Nicene Kossentini
"After the political revolution, you have to have a cultural revolution to understand the problems and to try to debate together, to think together about art in Tunisia... To have a reaction (to the revolution), we need distance." - Audio Dispatch on Tunisia: One Year After the Revolution (2012)
Kossentini expressed these same ideas in an email interview I had with her in December 2013. She told me she was trying to describe to me the difficulty of creation in chaos. Her personal belief is that an artist's process/approach (démarche) may take detours when it is confronted by exterior turbulences, but it never changes direction.
The City in the Sky

Anadolu Kültür
"Working through the medium of culture and arts to enable Turkey to become a more democratic, pluralistic and free country, we as the Anadolu Kültür, DEPO and DSM team share the values that have emerged through the Gezi Park resistance and the responsibility of reinforcing solidarity."

Red Thread (part of Anadolu Kültür)
"Red Thread has been designed as an active platform that will enable collaboration and the sharing of knowledge between artists, theoreticians, social scientists and people working in the field of culture from the Balkans, the Middle East, the Caucasus, and North Africa and beyond. Its aim is to produce knowledge on artistic practices that explore social issues within a broad geopolitical context and to disseminate this knowledge to wider sections of society in order to challenge the hegemony of Western narratives in official art histories and exhibition practices. Via an active and accessible web site that will enable research on both historical and contemporary approaches that deepen and question the relationships between art and society and debates on subject matter treated by the magazine, Red Thread aims to re-problematize modernist heritages and histories in these ‘marginal’ areas, and to produce new approaches for the region to form and position its own history, and the reinterpretation of art history."

Lab Kultur
"Culture surrounds us as soon as we open our eyes in the morning. Culture accompanies us through the day, it shapes our city life. From reading the newspaper to a discussion about copyright, from appreciating street art to evening concerts or visiting the theatre to experiencing all influences which make our district alive and appealing.
LABKULTUR is a European webmagazine for culture and creativity. It reports on cities within the world of digital and social change,studies the influence that culture has on city development and analyses the production and life situations of artists and creatives. LABKULTUR understands creativity as the engine of urban future. It is a project of ecce.
LABKULTUR.TV disputes the contemporary, extended concept of culture which is arising from passive museum visits and mere viewing of a piece of art. Culture and creativity require active participation. In particular European cities and regions with highly industrial and manufacturing pasts must work harder in the future at using culture and creativity as the catalyst to bring about change."

"Djerbahood" Project
"It sounds odd to invite people to scrawl over the walls of a picturesque Tunisian village. Usually, graffiti is not welcome, but what happens in Erriadh is unique. The island of Djerba - known as ‘Island of Dreams’ - has invited 150 international artists to take part in the street art project “Djerbahood”, curated by Tunisian-French artist Mehdi Ben Cheikh. In July and August 2014, artists from about 30 nations travelled to Erriadh to create murals. One of the oldest villages in Tunisia, it has become host to one of the biggest meetings of the modern street art scene."

"Urban Art in Tunisia"- short documentary by Open Art Tunisia

The Virtual Dinner Guest Project
"Connecting the world at its dinner tables to promote free speech, alternative media, and social innovation."

"On the Occasion of our Second Anniversary," Creative Time Reports
“Our mission underscores that artists are important to society, that artists should be weighing in on the times in which we live and that public spaces are places for free expression and creativity,” explains our president and artistic director, Anne Pasternak. When I asked her what prompted the creation of Creative Time Reports, which turns two this month, she told me: “I thought to myself, ‘Well, if artists matter in society and if we want them to impact how we think about today’s most pressing issues, what are the public spaces that would truly magnify their voices? Where should they be participating? Where is public dialogue happening?’ And the answer is mainstream media.”

Gregory Sale
Some notes from his talk on 9/10:

  • practice based in voices less heard in the community
  • personal connection --> motivation --> action (What can I do? What skills do I have?)
  • expectation that artists will push the boundary/be subversive
  • very few people who know the whole work (many events over period of several months) - full work only known through documentation
  • "Love for Love": poetry workshops, text based drawing; engage individuals and local institutions; 50,000 buttons in 4 institutions; artists and political strategies (campaign button); when caring goes into a community, does it come out?; find voices that need to be heard and provide a platform
  • museum mindset = more open; how to expand?
  • after projects happen, bring together key constituents for discussion on what happened
  • push edges of things we allow to happen - direct experience
  • goal = keep creative process open (allow for various experiences to come into it)
  • "It's Not Black and White": values that emerge from thoughtful consideration of the justice system; re-appropriation of symbols (stripes - take the charge out)
  • components of a project: frame with artistic gestures, direct experience, open bookings

eL Seed - Tunisian-French calligraffiti artist

Beautiful! Robert_Ransick (talk) 18:00, 26 October 2014 (UTC)

Doris Salcedo: "1550 Chairs Stacked Between Two City Buildings"

Mary Lum: "Sixteen Collages"

Pejac: Spanish street artist

Gaia: Recent MICA graduate; artist who travels the world painting murals

"The Foreigner (Palestine)" by Conflict Kitchen -- "'The Foreigner' presents an uncanny circumstance where the separation between self and other, local and foreign, is collapsed and confused, and the geopolitical distance the United States and Palestine is made personal and local."

Tandem - "TANDEM is an exchange programme that assists cultural organisations in developing long-term working relationships, knowledge development and networking opportunities with project partners from Europe and beyond. The aim of the programme is to connect and inspire cultural managers by supporting the sharing of knowledge and experience across geographical and cultural borders."