Programme and expectations: RESHAPE forum Lublin 1-3 April 2019

RESHAPE is an initiative that offers the time and space to imagine an alternative to the European arts ecosystem by rethinking its instruments and collaborative models, placing them in line with artistic and social innovation and the principles of fairness, solidarity, geographic balance and sustainability. The meet-ups across Europe and the forum in Lublin, Poland are organised by a coalition of European initiatives operating within a field that could best be described as the broadest understanding of public engagement in the Arts. As RESHAPE describes them: these initiatives are the weak signals that indicate the possible future of the European cultural climate and are examples for future models of artistic production.

-click here to skip my personal rant-

The idea that locally invested initiatives from diverse countries, collaboratively engender the conversation about transnational cultural production really comforts me. When starting to produce in the cultural field after my Bachelor education, a common assumption was that one could not possibly be serious about an art career if your investment wasn’t at least directed towards an international audience. In Amsterdam, an international hyper-connected city, local community engagement programmes coming from the cultural institutions themselves, have much fewer feet on the ground than in Scotland, where I’m currently based, and organisations that primarily focus on creating community art strategies are even more unheard of in the Netherlands as a whole. Most of the initiatives I knew to actively engage local people are artist-led, and often not of the organised UK-type, but the more unsustainable flares that get one-time funding after which they disintegrate. Let me be clear, I’m not against artists and producers working internationally sharing the knowledge they obtained, what I’m not a fan off, is the assumption that ‘international art’ equals ‘good art’, showcasing a curator’s biennials shopping list or lazy inclusivity policies without any fundamental reason for an artist to go to that oversaturated location which neither benefits the institution and its publics or the artist themselves [1]. The well-connectedness of Amsterdam and large cities in the Netherlands give them the practical privilege, over peripheral or less funded regions in Europe, that any organisation can fly in an Irrit Rogoff or a Bruno Latour effectively every week for less than the cost of a train ticket in the UK (as my £389/€450 ticket from Glasgow-Munich-Warshaw-Lublin, back via Brussels-Edinburgh can only illustrate –Thanks, British Council). Could it be, that this accessibility might be the principle through which some institutions lose sight of what is urgent to their local public, out of watered-down accountability because of their own international renown gained by the invited artists? It should also be possible, right, that everybody can equally benefit from the cultural wealth produced within Europe.

Last month I was selected to be one of the visitors to the forum in Lublin, supported by RESHAPE. As an emerging artist and curator, freelancer, self-initiator, non-academic, regulations on a European level seldom have a direct retractable impact on what I produce. Moreover, I actively search for ways to create spaces that differ from those offered by institutions – I prefer the self-directed spheres.
However, whenever walking into an institution in Europe, especially those with direct European funding, the heavily directed policies that are required for that funding, easily reveal themselves[2]; they either come as structural funding for institutions/charities/PBO’s with a strong requirement to produce social capital or as tenders for very specific cultural (research) projects. [3] Personally, I wonder where RESHAPE sits in this divide.

-click here to skip the part about the RESHAPE directories and read about the forum-

RESHAPE has defined five directories [4] they will focus on for the coming two years and which will also mainly make up the programme for the second day of the forum:

  • Value of art in the social fabric
  • Art and Citizenship
  • Fair Governance Models
  • Transnational/Postnational artistic practices
  • Solidarity Funding

My main interest goes out to the Fair Governance Models trajectory, I primarily direct this perspective towards my expectations for this topic, with some cross-overs into Art in the social fabric and Transnational/postnational artistic practices and possibly also Art and Citizenship, because to my experience they have a large overlap. RESHAPE observes the trend in governance models as follows:

“Collectives, informal and/or temporary partnerships, self-organization / self-management and inclusive governance are different organizational trends which abandon hierarchical organizational models and methods.”

This immediately explains why I applied for this trajectory, while it is one of my personal interests, I also believe that in my current position as a young, self-directed producer, this is the topic I can actually contribute to in the collective dialogue.
From this position, the above observation immediately sparks some questions: “What scale of self-management, collectives and temporary partnerships are we talking about? Are these institutional collectives or transnational artist collectives? The European Union often doesn’t set a scale for an organisation to apply for project funding, as long as the project produces ‘enough’ social capital. Could this mean that smaller cultural producers, like the ones more common in peripheral areas who would be helped by this proposal, suddenly may have to deal with European bodies, or will this be mediated by local bodies that collaborate on a European Scale, as RESHAPE’s shape itself seems to propose? Self-organisation and self-management self-evidently do not coincide with the current EU framework of tenders and structural support for organisations, would this whole structure not need to be reshaped in order to effectively support those models if there would even exist such a structure? – The classic case and dilemma of how to measure ‘impact’.
And in terms of the non-hierarchical organisation models, will the European Union come up with a ‘Good Practice Handbook’ on the topic of non-hierarchical organisation models? That could be a proposal that I would principally be positive about, as in practice the claims of being a non-hierarchical organisation seem to fly around quite aimlessly sometimes, but would that mean that this handbook is a tool, a suggestion or a measurement? All of them still sound quite hierarchical to a more or lesser extent, don’t they?
-I’ll stop here for now “

The forum itself consists of three days with the first day primarily filled with introductory lectures to the two-year project. The second day is taken up by long-table conversations held according to the five pathways in the project (see above). The last and third day is a workshop day for who the project calls ‘reshapers’, people that will be part of the 2-year programme through workshops – with a yet to be revealed outcome.

People from contries on both sides of the European border. (Balkan countries and south Mediterranean. )

  • Topics such as
  • Programme: Joris Janssens (Flanders Arts Institute) and Milica Ilić (Onda), 2 representatives of the association of European arts-orginisations that organise reshape collectively: under whom also the British Council who supports my stay in Lublin.
  • Panel discussion moderated by Barbara van Lindt (if I read this correctly).
    Barbara van Lindt: DAS art institute in the Netherlands. An institution for Art education that I appreciate a lot. The educational methodologies under which their Feedback method (featured on this blog: ). and the way they do their applications: not in the intrusive interview-style application (the artworld should do away with those all together but that’s a different blog post). The institution also recently started a cultural producers programme (MA) which I can only assume she still had a large part in in developing.

    • The members of the panel discussion: very diverse and together representing the five topics of Reshape:
  • So far Reshape’s organisation is very efficient and aware of current developments in the cultural field. (apart from some slow travel agents) This seems to be not only on an institutional level but also on a micropolitical scale. This is understansable considering that the organising party of this forum is a coalition of European institutions for artistic engagement. collaboratively sharing the load to organise this event.

Read more about RESHAPE on their website
Follow RESHAPE on Facebook

[1] I’m also not claiming that every Dutch institution always operates this way. These conclusions should be made on an institution to institution and show to show basis. I’m speaking of a larger sentiment that is reinforced in Dutch art education and experiences shared with my peers.

[2]Just skim through the European Union’s Strategic Framework for the Cultural Agenda or open up one of the European Union’s ‘Good Practice Manuals

[3]Quite overgeneralised as I still have a hard time finding all opportunities on the EU’s vast network of organisational bodies. I also leave Erasmus+ out if this for now because it is focused on supporting education.

[4]Read more about them here: reshape.network/activities 

The Following doesn’t exist at The Occult Turn – insights

Earlier this year I was involved in the seminar The Occult Turn. Working from my project The Following doesn’t exist I supplied the seminar with a free and open WiFi by facilitating and allowing people to connect together through the WiFi spots, the project intends to practice generosity and to form an idiorhythmic community of ‘followers’ that, from this digital point of departure, are free to trail off wherever and whenever they wish.

The framework of the podcast platform is modelled after a study into the philosophy of fourth-century desert hermit mystics known as the Ammas or Desert Mothers and after dominant thinking in contemporary feminist methodology[1]. The reason to combine these streams of thinking and put them to use in a curatorial framework was to seek other ways of producing by problematising the universalising inclination of curating itself.  In doing so, committing to not only account for curatorial work through language but insisting on a situated and embodied understanding – such as a mystic ‘understanding’.

One of the speakers at the symposium, Kirsty Pattison, specifically addresses the links of ‘intelligent magic’ to Greek Theurgy, the religious ritual element of mid-platonic and neo-platonic philosophy. Theurgy is the practice through which one aims to establish a mystical union with God (‘the one’, or read: that which is bigger than us).

The Amma’s mystical practice grounded for a large part in neo-platonic philosophy – a popular philoshpy in Alexandria in the 5th and 6th century – sought this unification through a life of solitude and ritual in the deserts around Alexandria.

Slide from Kirsty’s presentation.

 

 

 

Although most of the research for The Following doesn’t exist focused on the Amma’s methods of living together, as both a small society and as individuals (idiorhythmic) and their ideas about silence and listening, theurgy has formed an important reason to look into the philosophy in the first place.

For the majority in today’s western society, a unification with ‘the one’ is not directly on top-priority on the list of things to do on a daily basis, exactly because God’s death[2] made our daily lives more important to us than our promised afterlives. But as I noted above, ‘the one’ might also be read as ‘that which is bigger than us’ – and there is a whole lot of that still; climate change, the rise of big data and geopolitical turmoil.

 

Then, the turn to the occult is a combination of embodied forms of understanding while being a way of letting ‘the other’ speak.
(Federici)

 

“Escape happens”, as Eugene Thacker notes in his first volume of the horror philosophy series.

[1] A simple read about the Amma’s can, of course, be found on Wikipedia

[2]  That’s Nietzsche obvs.

Nancy Adajania and Ranjit Hoskote – Chapter Thirteen, Glasgow

On the 23th of November Chapter Thirteen hosted a lecture by Nancy Adajania and Ranjit Hoskote. Benjamin Fallon, part of Chapter Thirteen, introduces the intention of inviting these speakers to Glasgow with an explanation on why Chapter Thirteen was founded in the first place, to counter the perfunctory institutional methods and to include new voices in this process. Nancy Adajania and Ranjit Hoskote research exactly these processes in what they call the nth field, the non-static complex transcultural exchange.[1]

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Radical Pedagogies – Ana S. Gonzalez Rueda

On the 28th of October, I attended a workshop by Ana S. Gonzalez Rueda titled: ‘Unknowing and other ways of learning with art’. The workshop brought the material of her PhD thesis (Radical Pedagogies and Curating) to a practical environment in the form of a workshop at the CCA. Gonzalez’s main focus was on how the pedagogical is inherent in the exhibition space rather than something imposed on it. The aim Gonzalez defined for her PhD was to supply the tools from ‘the educational’ for people operating in the exhibition space (curators and artists), functioning as the mediator between pedagogical theory and the theory and praxis of exhibition making. This process is specifically interesting to approach within the CCA (Glasgow), as this institution doesn’t have an ‘educational department’ (or another organ with a different name but similar mediating activities). Gonzalez’s approach to the outline of this research, by using the workshop-form, gave way to others in the process of defining and testing the line of thinking which is daring for a PhD research but an inseparable practice when researching the educational.

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Sarah Pierce – University of Glasgow (History of Art Research Seminar)

Attended: Wednesday 8th of November

Sarah Pierce (b. 1968) Lives and works in Dublin. Since 2003, Sarah Pierce has used the term The Metropolitan Complex to describe her art. Despite its institutional resonance, this title does not signify an organisation. Instead, it demonstrates Pierce’s broad understanding of cultural work, articulated through methods that open up to the personal and incidental. Characterised as a way to play with a shared neuroses of finding one’s place (read complex in the Freudian sense), whether a specific locality or a wider set of circumstances that frame interaction, her art considers forms of gathering, both historical examples and those she initiates. (…) The processes of research and presentation that Pierce undertakes highlight a continual renegotiation of the terms for making art: the potential for dissent and self-determination, the slippages between individual work and institution, and the proximity of past artworks. (…) Pierce has described her work as part of a feminist legacy, “deeply committed to a radical turn away from the cult of the artist and individual achievements towards the signs and symbols of a system of art making.”

Text from her website

 

My reaction to Sarah Pierce’s Lecture:
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