This is a really great article in RealTime about how the ethics process at universities impinges on creative research. It is super pertinent to participatory practices. I’ve been seriously limited in what I can do during my Master Of Fine Art studies at VCA, and it begins to make you question why you would study under the umbrella of an academy at all. It’s really exciting to see it discussed here.
"Increasing regulation of the creative arts impacts on not only what we are able to view and experience, but more specifically on what artists can actually do. Thus a pressing question for artists working across the disciplines is: how does ethical regulation affect the creative process?"
It needs to be declared: I really enjoy Claire Bishop’s criticism of socially engaged and participatory art. It’s refreshing, often cutting, fabulously “snarky” and fearsomely smart. Her insights are a necessary antidote to all the bleeding-heart, good intentions of the genre. However it really does grate and offend a lot of artists:
"Bishop bemoans the "clichés" used by the conference participants then invokes one of the most shopworn of them all by criticizing the way that they fail to "problematize" their own practices. She just can’t shake the old vanguardist intellectualism that places her in a privileged relationship to culture. I think it is the epitome of snarkiness to criticize someone for being earnest or sentimental. Sure, a purely congratulatory climate can be unproductive, stifling even, but the joy she seems to take in mocking even hints of affirmation or sentimentality seem very much like someone more concerned with being cool than human(e). Bishop’s vicious cynicism appears to be a critical affect employed merely to denigrate rather than clarify the nature of Fletcher or Muniz’s work. She complains of "soulless language" yet offers "Tears of joy!" in dismissal - it is clear whose soul is lacking. I find myself as bored with her self-important criticality and apparent obsession with agonism as the only path to political progress as she was with the scandalous notion that like minded people might gather to "cheer and whoop" rather than "problematize" or dissect each other."
I have been having lots of conversations with friends/artists about what is wrong with good intentions and sentimentality in art. As I write my thesis I am trying to get to the bottom of this, because I know there are friendly urges in my work and in some of the art I like.
I think it comes down to problematising it. To not let conviviality and niceness settle so easily as a device in participatory art. As my friend Charlie Sofo says, it comes down to “the problems”. Interesting work raises problems - it may sit uncomfortably within you, or destabilise your normal habits of thinking - even as it buffets you with kindness.
Performa’s The Collaborative City is an online project that brings together the Performa Consortium to create a visual portrait of collaborative practice and the experimental culture of downtown New York - past, present, and as inspiration for the future. Like the city itself, it is live and dynamic and will evolve over time, leading up to Performa 11 (November 1-21, 2011).
A question that begged to be asked was precisely to do with the issue of art; what is it about the ‘art’ element to a project that might make it socially unique and useful, rather than a community garden or youth outreach scheme like any other? What, for instance, makes the Baltimore Development Cooperative’s project to turn an area of wasteland in their city into an urban vegetable allotment any different to hundreds of similar, non art-related projects across the United States and Europe? Because it is run by artists? Are artists that special? Are they to be afforded more socio-political latitude or leverage as citizens than, say, gardeners or social workers? Is the label ‘art’ just an excuse for tapping into a broader range of funding streams? An impressive answer to that question came from artist Laurie Jo Reynolds, who spoke frankly in her talk about how she has used the label ‘art’ where it seemed most useful in order to support her admirably successful campaign to instigate reform of conditions for prisoners at the Tamms Super Maximum Security Prison, Illinois. Here was an artist taking serious political responsibility rather than just associating herself with it.
It assumed (along with many of the positions presented) that art as a discipline can and should be marshaled toward social justice. I would have liked to see more pondering of the specifically artistic competences that can be deployed toward these ends. The range of positions wheeled onstage clearly indicated that there are artistic innovators in this field who stand leagues ahead of those who laboriously rework worthy clichés. Sorting out the former from the merely well intended takes more than a pecha kucha, but at least this was a start.
Does there exist a pleasure in writing? I don’t know. One thing is certain, that there is, I think, a very strong obligation to write. I don’t really know where this obligation to write comes from… You are made aware of it in a number of different ways. For example, by the fact that you feel extremely anxious and tense when you haven’t done your daily page of writing. In writing this page you give yourself and your existence a kind of absolution. This absolution is indispensable for the happiness of the day… How is it that that this gesture which is so vain, so fictitious, so narcissistic, so turned in on itself and which consists of sitting down every morning at one’s desk and scrawling over a certain number of blank pages can have this effect of benediction on the rest of the day?
You write so that the life you have around you, and outside, far from the sheet of paper, this life which is not much fun, but annoying and full of worries, exposed to others, can melt into the little rectangle before you and of which you are the master. But this absorption of swarming life into the immobile swarming of letters never happens.
Behind every front door is a story. But do the neighbours know? Often we don’t really know the people who live in our street. Who are they and what is happening in their lives? When you take a closer look, you might just bump into a very special person with a very interesting story. Every episode of Behind the Front Door visits two random streets in neighbourhoods throughout the country.