[-empyre-] Exhibition Strategies (what is to be done?)

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I would like to present three groups that The Art Gallery of Knoxville
has been privileged to work with, and which represent the different
strategies we believe in - types of (as Brett Stalbaum
<stalbaum@ucsd.edu> indicated) experimental research or "practical
exploration" - or direct examples of "what is to be done" with regard
to Art and Education.

Each of these groups create a type of 'system' or 'platform' that
enables personal understanding through production, ownership and use.

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[1]  criticalartware

[2]  Superflex

[3]  The Center for Urban Pedagogy

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[1] criticalartware ----------------- http://criticalartware.net/

criticalartware (who many of you know as guests on -empyre- in May of
2004) is a Chicago based platform constructed to "examine the
pre-internet era of early phase "Video Art" and the growth of software
art in the channels of contemporary "New Media" theorypractices."
They use an online application / platform to enable an open,
distributed practice that remains specific to the needs of their
discussion.  This particular aspect of their work is an interesting
example for the development of future space.  I've often seen an
impulse online to encourage entirely open, unregulated space - but I
think it is very helpful to form particular, mediated spaces that
remain consciously open to any type of comment or contribution.
Exhibition space can be an arena for meeting and discussion around
particular cultural ideas - an opportunity to combine different views,
material and publics within a particular (inherently educational)
experience.  I believe that criticalartware facilitates this.

"Through the development of criticalartware as an online application
and platform, we will map the curve of arcs, the development of themes
and the formulation of topics. Within criticalartware, we are building
an application to map the intersections, ruptures, influences, leaks,
reinforcements and slippages between subjective histories and social
moments. We intend for our activities to facilitate further
discussions and developments of criticalartware producing a feedback
loop or multiple recursive code structures. As an application,
criticalartware will carry out your instructions, becoming
personalized to your requests, site structures modifying based on your
queries and activity. In this manner, criticalartware will become a
shared and open system of community resources. We will invite artists,
developers and cultural agents of the two afore mentioned historical
moments to join us, sharing their perspectives and contributing to
discussions of the fields they are involved in formulating. Responding
to their input, our contributions and your responses, criticalartware
will reshape and map those outcomes, providing a resource for
dynamically determining contemporary histories." - criticalartware

Likn (previously known as liken) was developed by criticalartware
member ben syverson.  Likn functions as the primary platform for
criticalartware activity.

"Liken is a path-based method of organizing, discussing and navigating
bodies of information organically." "liken departs from a hierarchical
site structure which over-categorizes information, relinquishing some
of the supremacy of "hard-coding" links between documents. part
discussion platform, part [plastic/collaborative] site structure, +
part [iterative/genetic] search engine, liken [encourages/
necessitates] a more [subjective/personalized] form of navigation.
unlike anonymous "browsing," the paths that liken users follow can be
[stored/reviewed/discussed], + affect the structure of the
[application/platform] itself, creating a [literal/cybernetic]
feedback loop in which less-used paths wither away, well-used paths
are strengthened, + entirely new paths grow + crisscross recursively
in response to discussion + new resources. Like lichen, itself a
composite meta-organism resulting from the symbiotic growth of algae +
fungus, liken's [form/structure/body] is [a/an] [product/agent] of
criticalartware's resources that grows symbiotically with related

Likn + criticalartware present a direct example of what can be done in
relation to Art and Education.  criticalartware enables a distributed
system (which is shared, open, productive, and inherently educational)
for the early video and code-based movements.  It is an appropriate
form of organization for the data they address - but it also functions
as an example for future exhibition.  They utilize an ability to
create open associations, forming an opportunity for feedback and
growth, while still encouraging a platform for particular ideas.

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[2] Superflex ----------------- http://www.superflex.net

Superflex is a Copenhagen based group that enables new systems for
Art.  They create and distribute social tools for the work of
understanding and community.

"... they devise 'tools' that create new types of encounters between
people and spark alternative projects. ... Superflex create works, or
tools, that contribute either to solving a concrete problem for a
community or increasing the communication and cooperation. Superflex
seek close collaborations with their users and each work functions as
a physical and social framework and starting point for concrete use."
- ARKEN Museum of Modern Art

The Superflex strategy (among many things) involves artworks that
function through different types of business-like models - as a
result, the projects have a viral or distributed component that is
able to become part of community, business, exhibition or 'art fair'
structures without concern.  Often this is because the projects carry
an embedded ideology that is able to self-sustain.  With this
structure they are able to encourage various types of promotion /
distribution (take advantage of cultural capitalism) because the
artwork invades the context where it is presented.

Of course this type of work is a well-established tradition - a Buren
painting invades social space with embedded meaning, consciously able
to adjust to many situations since it understands itself through a set
of relationships. ...  The power of 'Relational Art' is not that it
takes a stance as being "interactive" (all Art is already interactive)
but that it is highly conscious of its future exchange / interchange
in social space.  Good 'Relational Art' holds a solidarity of meaning
where it creates an ideological space within itself.

As types of "productive-theory" or "local theory" (mentioned by Brett
Stalbaum <stalbaum@ucsd.edu>) this approach can be of great advantage
in building new forms of Art and creating new types of educational
relationships through exhibition space.

by Nicolas Bourriaud has some excellent comments on the Superflex
relationship to social practice and (re)mediated content:


"The consumer society, and the type of stories that the capitalist
economy suggests, do not adapt well to the linear form of narration:
consumer products require a cyclical sequence, with a hint of liturgy.
The market wants Christmas Day on 25th December every year, and
Halloween, Mother's Day and Thanksgiving on the same days too. It
doesn't want changeable stories that are inevitably full of unexpected
incidents. Art desires the opposite.
The social scenario is dominated by the law of profit. Why invent
others, we are asked, when a revolution would be impossible and when
the free market economy is self-regulating anyway? Everyone is free to
produce their own film using a camcorder and to show it in their home
cinemas. All public showings must be discouraged.

The work of Superflex could moreover be defined as the production of
tools. Its formal strategy is to provide (initially) these tools
within the context of the art world. The editing suite must be shared
by the greatest number of people in order to prove its necessity and
its definite effectiveness. All the important works of the 20th
Century can also function as tools, to different degrees of
operational urgency.
Reality, wrote Karl Marx, is merely the transitory result of what we
do together. The 90s saw the emergence of collective intelligence and
the 'network' trend in the art world. The artists are searching for
representatives: since the public remains an unreal entity, they are
obliged to include this symbolic representative in the production
process itself. The meaning of a work of art is thus going to be born
out of a movement which links the signs expressed by the artist, but
also out of the collaboration of individuals in the exhibition area.
This is what I have called relational aesthetics. The Superflex group,
evidently, perceives the interhuman sphere as the production area and
the area where its activities appear.
Superflex ask the question of the Internet in terms of democracy, but
in the context of an extremely important problem - distribution. Thus
Superchannel presents itself as a democratic tool, because it
distributes words and the format in which to broadcast them at the
same time. From installing telephones, through to distributing power,
and on to providing the artwork for a local authority, Superflex work
in terms of distribution and equipment. Superflex recognised that
distribution represented the dominant plastic form of commercial

Superchannel By Nicolas Bourriaud, 2002

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[3] The Center for Urban Pedagogy ----------------- http://www.anothercupdevelopment.org

The Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) is a Brooklyn, NY based group that
"makes educational projects about places and how they change."  CUP is
interested in enacting a civics education that associates our spaces
with our ideas.  The audience they address is the local community -
the exhibits (which are educational programs, media projects, and
community partnerships) examine the built environment and public
decision-making.  This is both an Art practice directly - and a
practice that cannot be separated from other Art concerns.

CUP: "Our projects bring together art and design professionals -
artists, graphic designers, architects, urban planners - with
community-based advocates and researchers - organizers, government
officials, academics, service-providers and policymakers.  These
partners work with CUP staff to create projects ranging from high
school curricula to educational exhibitions."

We asked CUP to collaborate on our November 2006 exhibition to help
examine development and change in Knoxville.  The exhibition enabled
us to better understand our surroundings - and become directly
involved with the role of history and change in Knoxville.

The structure of a CUP project involves many people working on a
community level.  Although the resulting project creates a broad
educational exhibition, CUP enables a micro-education through the
direct involvement of the researchers and community participants.
(Our Gallery participants were able to create new associations with
our community, the development of that community and our relationship
as a community space by developing this exhibition.)  The information
researched is culled down and used to create graphic material for
display.  The project result - most often an exhibition of images,
text, and dimensional models - uses the tactics of presentation found
in educational contexts like Science or Children's Museums (simple,
personal, interactive relationships to complex ideas).

It was remarkable to see how interested (and excited) people were to
learn about the history of their community.  The use of humor and
concise visual relationships made the information easy to navigate.
Our exhibition immediately allowed people to become involved with the
ideas that made their surroundings and understand the city in a
different way.  It was clear through the exhibition experience that
people were excited and willing to discuss a civics education through
an Art context - it is very easy for our cultural surroundings to
relate through the open action of a cultural space.

CUP: "Our work grows from a belief that the power of imagination is
central to the practice of democracy, and that the work of governing
must engage the dreams and visions of citizens. CUP believes in the
legibility of the world around us. What can we learn by investigation?
By learning how to investigate, we train ourselves to change what we

Educational Services

"CUP works with youth to create collaborative projects that explore
the urban environment. Our educational projects build on the everyday
experiences of young people to ask questions about democracy, civic
participation and social justice. We believe that civic engagement
requires a new kind of civic education, one that explains how
important decisions actually get made, what is at stake, and how
residents can be involved. Our projects use art, design, and
technology to draw the connections between everyday life and the
decisions that give it form."

"CUP creates project-based learning experiences that bring youth
face-to-face with the people who make decisions that affect their
lives: community advocates, government officials, and businesspeople.
Students then work with CUP staff to create educational projects to
solidify and spread their knowledge and understanding to the general

"At City-as-School High School, an alternative public school in lower
Manhattan, CUP organized a semester-long investigation into how New
York City deals with its garbage. Students visited significant garbage
sites and conducted interviews with garbage experts, community
activists, and government officials. Finally, the class created a
30-minute documentary and a series of educational posters to
communicate what they learned to the broader community."

"CUP works in-school, after-school, and outside of school to reach
students where they're at. Our programs range from single-session
workshops to semester-long projects."

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In what other ways can we create a 'system' or 'platform' that enables
personal understanding through production, ownership and use?

I am interested in replicating the strategies seen in blogs,
libraries, warehouses, and soft "common" areas - all these spaces
imply types of open relationships, which are inherently social, and
still can remain specific to a particular subject.  Exhibition should
involve a self-aware combination of the already well regarded (which
is a strategy for the distribution of ideas), new experiments (not
local) and regional work.  It is better if we disregard the idea of
exhibition as 'History' and instead use the exhibition form as a
variable venue for public gathering where new associations can be

The feed from digital media (as a physical experience, because we are
always experiencing the information in some form of social space ...
the Internet is an excellent enabler for Art because it inherently
creates the private space necessary for personal ownership over ideas)
can be an important tool for exhibition.

I think of exhibition structure in terms of acoustic space - how
multiple objects create a separate (third) resonant space (this could
be called the 'conclusion' or the 'question') that exists only through
their relationship.

We can enable the changes we need through the creation of personal
space dedicated to the independent exchange, understanding, and
production of culture.

Chris Molinski

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