[-empyre-] The Commons

Jennifer Brody jennifer.brody at duke.edu
Wed Jun 22 03:02:12 EST 2011

 Dear Colleagues,

I too like the concepts articulated below.  I wonder how questions about the "flexible" commons work with ideas about site-specific art and space (I am thinking here of work by Miwon Kwon for example).   There is a wonderful work that addresses sustainability by the artist Lisa D'Amour.  You can check out press about the work described as follows:

our shows


June 17-26 @ The Kitchen – 512 West 19th Street, NYC
An 8 hour event: A forest evolves and disappears each day …
Created with New Orleans visual artist Shawn Hall.

Part visual art installation, part theater performance, How to Build a Forest unfolds over 8 hours, from 2pm-10pm each day. Beginning on an empty stage each performance day, the forest comes together in ways that range from surprisingly intimate to large-scale and spectacular; ultimately, it will fill the Kitchen’s black box from wall to wall and floor to ceiling (30’x 40’ x 20’).   You are invited to come at any point during the build and stay for as long as you like until 10pm each day, when the forest has disappeared once more.  The forest will be “complete” for a brief 30 minutes, around 8pm.
We’ve decided to make the show free, so tickets necessary. However!  We expect the hours between 8 and 10 to be quite busy, and only 155 people will be let into the theater at a time, so do make your plans to come.  We suggest getting there early and staying awhile.  The early cycles make the later cycles even more satisfying. Details can be found HERE on the Kitchen’s website.
Some process photos:

And a longer description:
How to Build a Forest is a hybrid project: part visual art installation, part theater performance that unfolds over an extended interval. Beginning on an empty stage, the forest comes together in ways that range from surprisingly intimate to large-scale and spectacular; ultimately, it will fill the Kitchen’s black box from wall to wall and floor to ceiling (30’x 40’ x 20’). The work features sound design by composers and sound artists Brendan Connelly and Christopher DeLaurenti and lighting design by Miranda Hardy and Peter Ksander.

Hall’s intricate installation emphasizes weightlessness, translucence and transformation; the environment will feel like an old growth forest at one moment and a deep-sea landscape the next. Her primary materials are fabric, wire, small-gauge steel, and repurposed found objects. To be sure, sheer grandeur is a considerable part of the work’s appeal, but there is also striking beauty in its small details, such as a grove of delicate fabric trees featuring exquisite hand-sewn detail that can only be seen from inside the installation.

The construction process demands constant activity and unrelenting focus from the artists and workers. For the mere 30 minutes the forest is complete, they make an inevitably futile effort to animate it. When they fail, they take the installation down.

While the choreography of the build is the core of the performance, other events punctuate and expand it. The audience can choose to take a self-guided tour that leads them through the installation and out on to the High Line. Once each day, Todd Shalom of the conceptual walks organization Elastic City will lead a small group through the forest. These walks will be approximately forty-five minutes each and occur daily at a different, to-be-determined time. Furthermore, new short texts by Lisa D’Amour weave through each hour of the build. An extensive “source guide” tracks the lineage of every material used to build the forest: where it came from in the earth, where it will go once the artists are finished using it. Together, these elements invite contemplation about the audience’s relationship with the natural world: How they live in it, rely on it, use it, and use it up.

How to Build a Forest is being developed, designed and built in New Orleans, where D’Amour, Hall and the build team are based. The work is inspired in part by 100 trees that were uprooted during Hurricane Katrina on a property owned by D’Amour’s family and was been further informed by the BP oil spill."

Finally, the discussion about sustainability below made me also think about the experimental documentary film, "Il Capo" which shows the amount of skill, energy and creative destruction needed to "harvest" Carrera marble from the mountains.   

I am off to Venice today and hope to write again once I have spent a few days immersed in the Biennale.   

All best to everyone,

Jennifer Brody
Duke University 

On Jun 20, 2011, at 9:07 PM, Tracey M Benson wrote:

> Hi Linda,
> Thanks for your insightful views considering the role of the biennial. 
> Your three key themes of 'Recovery and Regeneration', 'From Emergency to Emergence', and 'The Commons' all have serious implications for artistic and cultural development in a world that needs a sustainable integration of issues related to arts, environment and humanity.  Cultural tourism may have economic benefits on a local level and on an organisational level but at what cost? I have certainly not felt all that comfortable attending festivals interstate and overseas because of my carbon footprint and I think this is a crucial issue to consider as part of designing the biennial/festival model.
> The example of  the Prospect Biennial in New Orleans, is inspiring example for cultural regeneration and I think the dialogue between artists and community needs to flow not just through the spectacle of the 'biennial' but in a way that can inspire and invigorate culture on a day-to-day level.
> Also agree about how the typical hieracrchical strucutre of the curated structure of festivals does not allow for much innovation and 'risk', which is why I prefer the 'unconference' model used by fo.am and THATcamp as it is more inclusive and representative as well as a great way of brainstorming ideas.
> Cheers
> Tracey
> On Sat, Jun 18, 2011 at 6:06 AM, linda carroli <lcarroli at optusnet.com.au> wrote:
> Final text. All texts available online starting from here:
> http://placing.wordpress.com/2011/06/16/discussion-biennials-plus-and-minus/
> The Commons
> Taking cues from the examples and critics cited here, the idea of the
> commons has emerged as a networked space of creative and generative
> possibility and risk. To recover is to reclaim. In shaping the commons, Jay
> Walljasper states that we "recognise some forms of wealth belong to all of
> us, and that these community resources must be actively protected and
> managed for the good of all. The commons are the things that we inherit and
> create jointly, and that will (hopefully) last for generations to come. The
> commons consists of gifts of nature such as air, oceans and wildlife as well
> as shared social creations such as libraries, public spaces, scientific
> research and creative works." http://www.onthecommons.org However, there's
> never just one commons - the commons itself is multiple and complex, in
> process and becoming. Artists actively keep the commons alive in the face of
> all kinds of opposition, censorship and antagonism.
> So what kind of art and art event is integral to this becoming or emergence?
> Several essays in Empires, Ruins + Networks: The Transcultural Agenda in
> Art, edited by Scott McQuire and Nikos Papastergiadis, also explore the
> possibility of a new network of global cultural dialogue and the
> construction of a global common. What I see happening in post-disaster work
> of the three examples cited earlier is a sense of the 'becoming commons'
> emerging from ruins and loss in a situation of what Ross Gibson might
> describe as 'changefulness'. It's what I am inclined to think of as practice
> based, as 'changescaping' (work in progress at
> http://placing.wordpress.com/changescaping).
> How do we reconcile the sometimes exclusive and exclusionary cultural
> practices with this call for 'the commons' and emergence? Whose
> responsibility is it to do the bridging (politics, art or, as Papastergiadis
> proposes, the "politics of art"), generating those relationships or draw
> those connections? What should we risk? The very idea - the possibility, the
> assumption - of the Biennial itself. Ultimately, there's a question of
> governance and stewardship. As Brenson says, "we have to talk about art in
> ways in which everyone has something to lose". If critical art, as McQuire
> and Papastergiadis write, "increasingly take an active role in constituting
> new social relationships" - or as Richard Rorty proposes, "speaks
> differently" - curators have a pivotal role to play in cultivation and
> caring (curare), politics and poetics. We all have a role to play in the
> poiesis of the commons.
> Thanks so much ... look forward to your comments.
> Cheers
> Linda
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> -- 
> Dr Tracey Meziane Benson (aka bytetime)
> Adjunct Postdoctoral Fellow || The Australian National University || School of Music
> Visiting Scholar || The Australian University || School of Cultural Inquiry
> You can find bytetime on twitter, delicious, scribd, flickr, linkedin, identica, slideshare and facebook.
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