On Tuesday 24th May 2018 I travelled to Van Abbemuseum to conclude LJMU’s participation in the L’Internationale project ‘The Uses of Art: The Legacy of 1848 and 1989’ and to discuss further plans for, and possible participation in, future research projects with both Van Abbemuseum and L’Internationale. Whilst there, I was also able to see a copy of our book ‘The Constituent Museum’ for the first time and to participate in discussion between Van Abbemuseum and visiting delegates from The Scottish Contemporary Art Network.
On Friday 16th of February I attended the seminar ‘From Translation as Erasure to Translation as Listening’ which was given by Rolando Vazquez and hosted by Nottingham Contemporary as part of their ‘Politics of Translation’ Public Research Programme. Vazquez’s intention was to address three “different orientations of translation: modernity, coloniality and decoloniality”. According to Vazques:
“To raise the question of translation requires us to address issues of power across the colonial difference: who translates, what is translated and for what, who holds the space of translation? The question of translation takes a different shape according to the type of mediation. Translation as modernity functions to affirm the supremacy of the dominant locus of enunciation. Translation as coloniality is a movement of incorporation as erasure of other worlds of meaning, of other forms of relating to the real. Both, translation as modernity and as coloniality work in tandem to enforce modernity as the total horizon of intelligibility, as the monopoly of the real…. Conversely, translation as decoloniality expresses ways in which the modern/colonial divide can be overcome. Translation as decoloniality is engaged with the generation of intercultural encounters towards pluriversal forms of understanding, sensing and doing. A condition for intercultural translation is to recognize each-others positionality in relation to the intersecting axes of oppression that structure the colonial divide. To practice translation decoloniality is to practice a form of listening that enables us to become grounded and legible in relation to the plurality of each-other’s worlds.”
The seminar itself was excellent. Vazquez acted as a generous host by initially outlining some key terms and conditions of inquiry before encouraging us to share our thoughts with each other as a means to map out our own territories of inquiry and question that he could then help us to examine. The seminar itself, and especially the notions of pluriversal forms of understanding, sensing and doing, are clearly providing new tools which, for me, will help us to critically re-think the relationships of art to use and constituency.
Here’s a You Tube link to the talk ‘decolonising, demodernising and decentralising’ that Rolando gave at the L’internationale event ‘Collecting in Transitions’ that I attended in September 2017
On 16th of November 2017 I took part in a public conversation/debate about Constituencies and ‘The Constituent Museum’, with colleagues Steven ten Thije, Aida Sanchez and Elinor Morgan, at the Museums Association Conference in Manchester. Photo courtesy of Alistair Hudson. Personally I got a lot out of the discussion, as well as the opportunity to spend some good time talking about future plans and next steps for 2018 and beyond.
From 22nd to 24th September 2017 I visited Van Abbemuseum to attended and participated in the ‘Collections in Transition’ series of talks, debates and workshop/seminars. On Friday 22nd Kuba Szreder, Meg Down and Sebastian Cichocki discussed their on going project for the ‘Deviant Practice‘ research strand at Van Abbemuseum. Also the two Keynote presentations by Rolando Vazquez (on re-thinking the necessity of ‘Decoloniality’ in his paper ‘The Museum, Decoloniality and the End of the Contemporary’) and Geeta Kapur (who reconsidered the paramaters of a Western Modernist cannon via the de-centrist model of politics – as proposed by Ghandi – in her paper ‘Demodern:Why?’) were incredible. Whilst at Van Abbemuseum we also had the opportunity to look around and discuss their two key current exhibitions ‘The Way Beyond Art‘ and ‘The Making of Modern Art‘. I was also able to spend some time making a cool Lego car with Maarten, Steven and Doreen ten Thije.
On June 29th 2017 I participated, via Skype in the Association of Arte Útil ‘Escuela de Arte Útil’ Project which at the Yerba Buena Centre for the Arts in San Francisco. The Escuela de Arte Útil, which is itself part of a collaboration/exhibition with Tania Bruguera at the Yerba Buena Centre for the Arts called ‘Talking to Power / Hablándole al Poder’ takes the form of a 3 month Arte Útil School. The full Escuela de Arte Util syllabus can be found at: https://admin.ybca.org/app/uploads/2017/06/Tania-Bruguera_Escuela-Syllabus_6-20-17.pdf
On June 5th and 6th 2017 the L’Internationale group of museums and galleries held a group meeting at SALT Galata/Istanbul to begin thinking through what the next EU bid after ‘The Uses of Art: The Legacies of 1848 and 1989’ might look like. Of particular interest was the developing Office of Useful Art at Salt and how we might begin to tie in links and constituent practice across the Association of Arte Util network (arte-util.org) between Salt and the developing The Uses of Art Lab and The Florrie.
During March and April 2016 a series of meetings took place between ‘The Uses of Art Lab‘, LJMU, mima (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art), The Association of Arte Útil www.arte-util.org and ‘The Florrie’ in Toxteth, Liverpool. The purpose of these meetings was to begin an on-going conversation about developing the work of the Uses of Art Lab in direct partnership with the Florrie. A strong link already exists between the Florrie and LJMU/L’internationale – in March 2016 delegates of the Glossary of Common Knowledge ‘Constituencies’ seminar visited the Florrie as part of their discussions. The relationship between ‘The Uses of Art Lab’ and the ‘Florrie’, and their broader relationships within the context of mima, The Association of Arte Útil and L’internationale, mark a significant platform for the development of local, national and international research into constituencies and the development of ground-up and open-access educational resources for the Uses of Art.
From December 12th to 14th 2016 the L’Internationale Project Team for ‘The Uses of Art: The Legacies of 1848 and 1989’ met at Macba (Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona) for their penultimate project meeting. Discussions included a set of themes for the final ‘L’Internationale Dialogues’ project, which will see a range of curators, artists, activists and thinkers discuss issues of ‘Use’. During our time at Macba the first of these dialogues ‘Art, Museums and Democracy’ – a discussion between Manuel Borja-Villel, Director of Museo Reina Sofía (Madrid), Bart De Baere, General and artistic Direoctor of M HKA (Antwerp) and Charles Esche, Director of the Van Abbemuseum (Eindhoven) – took place on December 12th.
These dialogues will uploaded to the L’Internationale online platform at www.internationaleonle.org. There will be four ‘threads’ to the L’Internationale dialogues programme, these are:
- Who is speaking?
- What is true?
- What needs to change?
- Where is South?
The L’Internationale Dialogues can be found online at:
On December 8th 2016 Alessandra Saviotti and Gemma Medina, who run the ‘Broadcasting the Archive’ Project for The Association of Arte Útil, together with a group of constituents from mima http://www.visitmima.com/?home=true (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art) visited the Granby 4 Streets area in Toxteth, Liverpool. After looking around the area, and also seeing the work being done by the Granby 4 Streets Community Land Trust and Turner Prize winning group Assemble, discussions took place in the Granby Office of Useful Art around archiving, knowledge exchange, future practice and the potential of the Association of Arte Útil as a ground-up and constituent platform for developing open-source forms of education and use-based collaboration. You can find a reflection of Alessandra and Gemma’s visit to Middlesbrough and Liverpool in ‘Broadcasting the Archive 9# – Reflections on Participation on the Association of Arte Útil website at http://www.arte-util.org/broadcasting-the-archive9-reflexions-on-participation/
My most recent article on art, use value, and the work (or labour) of art ‘Social Autonomy and the Use Value of Art’ has been published in the Autumn/Winter 2016 volume of Afterall. Many thanks to editor David Morris for working so closely and collaboratively on this with me and to Afterall – for allowing myself and others included in the Journal to contribute toward this growing debate. Please find a link to the Journal here on Afterall Autumn/Winter Information 2016 webpage
I have also copied, below, the first two paragraphs of the Editorial which outline the scope of this Journal – and which also provide a clear framework for the job that has to be done in challenging our established, outmoded, outdated, limiting and (unfortunately) most cherished and comforting notions of what art was or could be.
“Recently a group of artists, academics, curators and activists gathered in the north of England at the Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (mima) to discuss the possible futures of Arte Útil.1 A concept and set of working practices initiated by the artist Tania Bruguera, Arte Útil proposes that art can be directly useful as a tool for social and political change. One moment from this summit feels especially relevant to this issue of Afterall. It occurred during a discussion of the Arte Útil archive, itself an evolving compendium of global projects that fall within the concept’s rubric. To date, the archive has taken various forms, from an online database to physical presentations within museum exhibitions – fairly effective ways to convey the purpose and potential of Arte Útil to a dispersed audience, but nonetheless fraught. Unlike other forms of art, even other forms of socially engaged or political art, Arte Útil is always meant to move beyond the realm of the symbolic and into the space of action. This, of course, poses an explicit challenge to the inherited conventions of art institutions. Addressing this, at one point mima director Alistair Hudson noted that ‘whenever the Arte Útil archive becomes a display mechanism or orthodoxy it dies. We lose the argument.
This tension, between art’s established modes of engagement and an impetus towards alternative forms of action, appears repeatedly across the coming pages. Walter Benjamin, in conversation with David Morris, goes so far as to claim that ‘art’, as we know it, is obsolete, which chimes with Bruguera’s emphasis on social transformation over more traditional artistic concerns. In a wide-ranging conversation with W.J.T. Mitchell, Bruguera discusses the development of Arte Útil; and John Byrne offers an astute analysis of the broader movement around it, from grass-roots community organising to international art museums, and the issues Arte Útil must grapple with as it continues to evolve”.