[-empyre-] The Commons

Cynthia Beth Rubin cbr at cbrubin.net
Wed Jun 29 01:14:41 EST 2011


I want to thank Bill Kelley for his post, and hope that others will pick up on this.  This is a much needed discussion - and a good one for Empyre, since we are a mixed group of artists, curators, theorists, and everything in-between and beyond..

As Bill pointed out, Community based projects need to start with the assumption that given time, and the incentive to be part of an interesting project, artists will embrace the challenge and produce thoughtful new work.  

This work occupies a space in-between "commissioned" work and "lone vision" - where artists are given the opportunity to share resources, ideas, and community contacts.  It is in this new space in-between that we find the stimulation to move forward, breaking the mold of the biennials, of carefully curated works by artists who have risen to the top (whatever that implies), organized by curators who identify trends after the fact (after the work is made) or who commission work without input from artists and community/audience.

Recent discussions, and my own experiences, point to the need to develop new models of how thematic works and exhibitions are developed, especially those developed for a targeted audience, or with a specific Community in mind (even if they eventually develop into an exhibit with broader interest).  Open calls for "expressions of interest" are a good way to start, because there are wonderful artists out there who may be eager to step out of the privacy of the studio and try something new.  To base invitations only on previously completed related work makes for an odd cycle skewed towards either dominant culture, or artists who have elected to work repeatedly for a specific minority culture.

Risky shows are indeed risky -- but I still believe that we need to plunge forward to break existing patterns.  

Would love to hear more about the 2011 Encuentro de Medellin.  This part from the website I find particularly encouraging and intriguing:
emphasis will be placed on creating new art works in keeping with the specific nature of the local setting


Cynthia Beth Rubin

On Jun 23, 2011, at 8:10 AM, Bill Kelley Jr. wrote:

> Greetings Empyre community,
> I'm encouraged that the commons discussion includes discussions concerning biennials.
> I'm currently curating one (although it doesn't call itself one), the 2011 Encuentro de Medellin.
> Yes, it's true, now more than ever, that there must be a reappraisal of "artistic and cultural development in a world that needs a sustainable integration of issues related to arts, environment and humanity." I think the biennial might be a place where that CAN happen. 
> The nimble and temporal nature of the biennial lets it take on risky programming that museum's won't do, while its locality-centered identity seems to attract artists focused on investigating local issues. In the best case scenario that works out well. Local artists and communities share experiences, etc etc.
> But more often than not, the biennial turns inwards and reflects the logic of the curators who organize it. And generally curatorial logic, that formed to nurture  autonomous aesthetic experiences, is the litmus test for educational/pedagogical possibilities and programming, public outreach, community partnerships (if you can call them that) and just about everything else you can think of. Everything goes to serve that logic and opportunities for the discipline of art to flex new muscles and reach new communities are gone.
> Serving that logic generally means you end up with artists being parachuted in, and local communities are counted on to pad the numbers at the hosting museum, and that's it. Pretty conventional stuff.
> But what if this notion of the commons was taken seriously and the logic, was re considered from the ground up. No curatorial legacy to uphold. Just serious considerations of what art can do locally and communally. That would mean thinking about the public in more efficient and strategic ways. 
> One way is working with artists who not only want to deal with local issues but have the desire and know-how to work with communities. This would require both curators and artists targeting, not the public at-large, but what Grant Kester calls "politically coherent communities" - nodes of interested parties, both specialized and not, that would assist in helping artists work towards creative interlocution, BEFORE the artist arrives.
> Of course, this proposal only works with museums that have these kinds of interests, and hosting cities with a richness of local organizations to balance the professional ones. And it only works if you have a committed and knowledgable curatorial team to recruit the right artists and identify the right issues and successfully frame the project within an art discourse that has historically had problems being so trans-disciplinary.
> Its what we're trying to do in Medellin. But I'd be eager to hear other opinions on this.
> Cheers,
> -Bill
> ---
> Bill Kelley Jr.
> 83 Orange Blossom
> Irvine, CA 92618
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> http://www.mde11.org
> From: Tracey M Benson <bytetime at gmail.com>
> Reply-To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
> Date: Tue, 21 Jun 2011 11:07:32 +1000
> To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
> Subject: Re: [-empyre-] The Commons
> 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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>> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
>> http://www.subtle.net/empyre
> -- 
> 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
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