news calendar manifesto action cooperation contact publications mailinglist database search

multilingual webjournal
 artists as producers
 real public spaces
 space of empire
 art sabotage
 kunst 2.0

exemplary art projects
calendrier | calendar | kalender
13.-14.2.2003 Goldsmiths College | London, UK

Symbolic versus Real

Workshop on the Aspirations and Outcomes in Site-Specific and Socially-Engaged Contemporary Art
organised by Anna Harding, Programme Director M.A. Creative Curating/Goldsmiths College and John Reardon


13-14 FEBRUARY, 10.00 - 17.00
>> Schedule

Participants: Victor Burgin, Adrian Little, Chantal Mouffe, Irit Rogoff, Kendell Geers, Nils Norman, Michael Hirsch, Chin-Tao Wu, Tracey B. Strong, Andrea Phillips, Kathrin Böhm, Graeme Millar, John Russell and Christian Philipp Mueller, Suhail Malik

Participants are asked to reflect on the following questions:
What is the condition of the political within contemporary art?
At what moment does contemporary art become politics/political?
How is the political articulated in contemporary art?
What are the real versus symbolic 'weight' and intended
ambitions of participatory public art practices?


Kathrin Böhm:
Informalities and lasting encounters

Working as part of an art/architecture team together with Andreas Lang and Stefan Saffer we're generally interested in the existing dynamics between formal and informal structures that are imminent to our everyday life; where individual interests collide with institutionalized structures.

Informal encounters and moments as part of our social and professional life are crucial in regards to how we understand context and how we influence it. The nature of public organizations often contradicts the individual desire for informalities: the official versus the personnel, the corporate versus the individual, the objective versus the subjective.

Recent and current projects are placed between the users and the governing bodies of public sites, trying to create new overlaps between different and differing interests and expectations. The wish to apply our practice to concrete situations meets an interest in generating new spaces for engagement and development.

Fitting, a 6 months consultation and design project with the fireman of Feuerwache 10 in Munich, developing and implementing permanent changes to the new build Firestation, where architectural formalisms meets daily life. Layout Gasworks, a research and feasibility study for Gasworks Gallery, which examined how the institution is known, perceived and used by its audiences and how its programs act/interact within a local context, exploring various strategies for the development of the organization in the short, medium and longer term. Mobile Porch, a multifunctional mobile space, designed for roaming the public sphere, engaging with the users and the governing bodies of public spaces. Spacemakers, a public space design project with a group of teenagers for the Hartcliffe Area in Bristol.

Following aspects and questions are part of all projects:
Creating a transparent and accessible decision making process/ program during projects. Incorporating the particular knowledge form informal encounters into longer-term changes and proposals. Finding ways of bridging the gap between consultation/participation and "professional" solution-making. Remaining curious and open to how the intention of a project is moved on and changed during its own development. More Hanging Out!!!!!

Chin-tao Wu:
Memory under Surveillance: at the Intersection of Art and Politics

Just as politics inform and affect each and every facet of the Holocaust phenomenon, so politics surround Rachel Whiteread?s Holocaust Memorial in Vienna in a tangible and very real way. Like other Holocaust-related endeavours which have provoked fierce controversy, Whiteread?s Memorial cuts through the many different threads of politics, from local, through national, to the politics of power, and the far wider issue of who has the right, the privilege perhaps, to represent historical events and thereby determine and define relevance for the future. This paper looks at the political environment of Whiteread's Memorial, of the Judenplatz (Jews' Square) and of the Judenplatz Museum. In particular it investigates how the efforts to commemorate the tragedy of the Jews in Vienna are compromised by the omni-present security systems installed as precautions against the threat of anti-semitic violence and terrorist attack.

Kendell Geers:

the work of art cannot be extricated from its context. in the final instance this translates as the exhibition, audience, invitation, cv, critics, magazines and so forth. In the state of production this translates as the artist as much as his or her ideological construction, their value system, memory, experiences and so forth. the object retains this history and context in both its form and its materials. for me as an artist my method is to reveal that process of construction whereby the viewer is invited or better still implicated in patricipating in the construction of value and meaning where the viewers own moral and ideological system is as much part of the work of art as the artist. for me politics in art is not about announcing who the artist voted for as much as taking a position in relation to an object, image or situation. the process of viewing art is neither neutral nor without context. i try with my work to create an intersection and overlap of histories, moralities and ideologies where the object, the artist and the viewer are all implicated.

Michael Hirsch
Politics of Sovereignty. 'The Political' inside Contemporary Art

1) I situate our question in the general context of the relation between the political and the cultural superstructure of modern society. I want to expose the problematic of the attribution of political functions to artworks and ask what concept of the political is hereby involved. Against the "foundation on politics" (Benjamin) I will propose another model of´the interpretation of advanced contemporary artworks, and deconstruct the false alternative between aesthetic autonomy and political function.
2) I define art as the exposition of the distinction between real reality and fictional reality and want to explore this distinction (a distinction exhibited as such in contemporary art) for a theory of "Verfremdung" (distanciation, exhibition, appropriation, montage etc.). A look at the tradition of this phenomenon shows its extreme ambiguity: wavering between art and non-art, between a critical and an affirmative relation to real reality. The sur-realist principle has invented methods for de-realizing, de-creating our presumably normal, ordinary reality. "Verfremdung" creates unclear meanings and political effects.
3) Ambitious political or public art displays the desire to guarantee a clear, "realistic" political value to artworks inside society. At thecentre of many practices we find self-descriptions, discourses of legitimation through which artists, curators, and institutions justify themselves in front of the public. They are using a tactical concept of
art and attributing themselves a social function: a social use-value instead of a merely inner-artistic exchange-value. The hybrid character of many works point at the phenomenon of "the political".
4) An ontology of community, identity, and the public sphere is contained in the enlarged concept of "the political". It is an empty signifier which has taken the place formerly inhabited by religion. It has the function to ritually present the symbolic order and unity of society. "Political" in this understanding is not the struggle for the means of domination (the means to affect a society's material infrastructure) but the struggle for the means of identification (the means to affect a society's cultural superstructure).
5) In this context different artistic models of participation, praxis, and the public sphere can be analyzed. What is the meaning of many phenomenons questioning the boundaries between different social and cultural realms? Thomas Hirschhorn's "Bataille Monument" at documenta 11 serves to discuss this question. The particular utopia of community shown in this work raises an important question for participatory and site-specific art: is the artist's "intervention" to be understood as a political act; as social magic in the tradition of Beuys; or as montage, as an interruption of real reality and its usual meanings and constraints? In order to answer this question, I propose a differentiation between politics and ethics, between political and ethical autonomy.

Adrian Little
Community, Conflict and the Politics of Representation

This paper examines discourses of community that have emerged in contemporary political theory and their implications for the representation of communities and cultures in public life. The concept of community has been shrouded in obscurity in political theory and this has been replicated in the usage of the idea of community in everyday political discourses. The difficulty in pinning down the meaning of community has facilitated its appropriation by political commentators who want to evoke nostalgia about traditional, face-to-face communities that supposedly characterised less complex societal formations than those of contemporary liberal democracies. This conservative usage of the term aspires to the re-establishment of homogeneous communities, primarily held together by informal bonds of co-operation and voluntarism rather than the formal strictures of the state
and the law. Implicit in this construction of community is the peaceful co-existence of different groups in society who enjoy their cultural diversity in the private sphere.

In The Politics of Community: Theory and Practice I have rebutted this appropriation of community by analysing the concept from the angle of radical democratic theories such as those of Chantal Mouffe and William Connolly. The argument of the book is that communities are important sources of support and identity formation for individuals but, at the same time, that membership of communities should not be seen as prescriptive of identity. Thus we need to recognise the internal diversification of communities and their variegated impact on social and cultural identities. Rather than seeing communities as purely local or geographical entities, a radical democratic approach implies the existence of a much wider range of cross-cutting sources of identity. The question then for democratic theorists is not a simple one of getting a relatively small group of homogeneous (primarily cultural) communities to live alongside one another. Instead the radical democratic approach identifies considerable social complexity, the corollary of which is the impossibility of seeing communities as bounded and internally coherent. For radical democrats these groups define themselves not in terms of who they are but also who they are not. As such they always contain exclusions but also complicated internal diversity. The point for democratic politics, then, is the containment of a multiplicity of cross-cutting communal formations. My argument is that this entails a highly complex democratic process of managing a multiplicity of conflicts and antagonisms.

My most recent research is focused on the applications of radical democratic theory to Northern Ireland to establish whether its politics lie beyond the liberal paradigm. The main focus has been on the rather simplistic view of community membership in Northern Ireland that has permeated mainstream politics and documents such as the 1998 Belfast Agreement. The hegemony of the ?two traditions? model demonstrates the ways in which politics in Northern Ireland has been predicated upon an understanding of the conflictual nature of communities. However, by discussing the most overt forms of community representation in Northern Ireland, namely murals, I argue that the ?two traditions? model relies upon orthodox and often highly romanticised models of community. Thus, even though Northern Ireland is an example of a society that understands the centrality of conflict to communal formations, it is still bound within orthodox definitions of community. The contention of the paper is that a radical democratic politics must comprehend and build upon not only conflict between communities, but also the tensions and diversity within them.

Christian Philipp Mueller:

I plan to talk about the inclusion or exclusion of communities and your topic symbolic vs real. The role of the artist and curator within these collaborations is worth looking at. I also plan to include examples of the strict rules US-foundations apply in giving out grants to public art projects.

Andrea Phillips:

In an attempt to describe an alternative subjectivity - one that lies, ambivalently, below a 'threshold' of representation within civic space - Michel de Certeau gives (literal) pride of place to walkers, who are able to move, speak, interact in a non-declamatory fashion; who are able to intervene without occupation, signify without visualisation. What is this agency ascribed to the walker who, in other circumstances, might be economically, socially and environmentally destructive? It seems to me that de Certeau's vision is a civic dream, a dream that results from a necessity to assign positive attributes to a radically fragmented subjecthood in order to construct it metonymically. It also seems to me that this figure, this invisible, non-marking interventionist, is an idealised contemporary public artist, a figure who might move freely but subversively amongst fellow sub-civilians, secreting agency in small-scale gestures and careful speech acts.

Passing through yet knowing the city intimately, engaging in primordial acts that resemble processes of democratic urgency and yet refraining from any ensuing systematisation, the artist/walker comes and goes, does no harm. The artist loves the city and the city loves the artist. The artist-as-pedestrian walks through the city, an ordinary mover, only made special by his desire to hide any specialism, avoid any 'illustrative seeing' that might complicate a position that is, strategically, blind.

De Certeau's figure does not aspire to common or shared ground with all its problems of political, aesthetic and moral coagulation. Instead, it prefigures accountable participation in the city's political structures with ongoing processes: doing, moving, walking. This seems similar to the aspirations of much contemporary public art, in which monuments have been replaced with performances and moveable structures, and in which aesthetic criteria are replaced with participatory activity. In this sense, contemporary public art does not account for the political but instead relies on the ongoing ability of the polis to speak, to be animated by the movement of an artist through it, to be politics for art. Thus, superficially sociological, structurally anthropological, participatory public art has no basis for an encounter with the political as it carries out its fieldwork, for it relies on the inscribed surface of the city to perform civility for it.

Michel de Certeau, 'Walking in the City' in The Practice of Everyday Life
Walter Benjamin, 'The Flaneur' [M2,2] in The Arcades Project

John Russell:
Text from press release to THE COLLAGIST, a solo exhibition at the TRADE APPARTMENT, London, May 2002

And so ... and so, once you have cut up the bodies ? once you have hacked up the LIMBS and CRIED TEARS OVER THE BODY OF YOUR GRANDMOTHER within the context of your TRANSWORLD IDENTITY2 ? Or conversely, in consideration of your WORLD BOUND IDENTITY3 ? And, taking into account the basic humdrum violence of your reality: the violence of your birth and of course of your death. [NB: coughing up phlegm and blood in an OAP home].
Thrown into this world of base MATERIALITY and BRUTE CONTINGENCY there is no other solution. 3Aesthetics is for the ornithologists2 they scream camply ? the screaming Zombie, undead, clapped-out, bloody eyed sycophants whose fingers reach up to us through the grill of language. We look down and we see them. We see the red and the black, and the flames, the screaming mouths - black - and the swollen, bleeding gums, crying out at their own PATHETIC, CONTINGENT OBSOLESCENCE. And up above only a black sky ... only a black sky! Black ? with lightning ? and you raise your stubby hands and scream with your bloody gums: 3Oh God forgive us! Oh God forgive me. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Please. Please. Please.2 And lying ? lying on the floor with your brain smashed out ? watching your brains mix with the dogshit on the pavement. As some stinking retch staggers over to you and waves his bloody stumps in your face and says: 3My MOTHER is out there. Lying face down in the mud, soaked with TEARS and BLOOD and MUCUS and PISS and SEMEN and VAGINAL FLUID and TEARS and BLOOD. OH GOD! OH GOD!2 With a red sky, a wasteland, a red horizon, screaming figures run towards us but they will not be saved. 3I'm not ashamed. I'm proud. I'm proud S that I'm not ashamed.23 OH GOD I AM PROUD I AM NOT ASHAMED! Even now ... YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED ? YOU GOBLIN-SHAPED VERMINITES! You walk abroad consuming human entrails and laughing hysterically at the AAAAGONY. SPECTRES OF OUR UNCONSCIOUS. Concretions of our repressed desires walk abroad and inflict these desires on ourselves ? we don't know whether to laugh or cry.
And, as the POETIC-LIZARD-ARTISTS scuttle across the ceiling, drawing random chalk lines and STRANGELY ENIGMATIC RANDOM NARRATIVES, SUDDENLY the lizard is captured by an OVERLY MUSCULAR DWARF who crunches off its head. As we look at a picture of HUMBLE FOOD-STUFFS covered in cockroaches. As the neon art piece fizzes off and on: RED to BLUE: GOOD BOY; BAD BOY; GOOD BOY BAD BOY: EAT:SHIT, SHIT:EAT. The neon flashes: YES:NO, YES:NO, YES/NO, YES. NO. OO GOSH! No! NO! NO! YE:NO YES.NO. STOP. STOP PLEASE. NO! NO! ITS TOO MUCH!

Tracy B. Strong:
The Nature and Components of Public Space

I am interested in the qualities a space must have in order to be designated as 'public space' and how one can bring about such spaces. Spaces may be thought of along two axes. One has to do with the criteria which determine that space. Those criteria stretch from the human to the natural or divine. The other axis is that of ownership: space may be either open or owned. Thus we have four ideal types of space: human and owned, which is private space or property; divine and owner, which is sacred space (a church or a sanctuary); open and divine, which is common space (cf Locke: 'God gave the world to men in common'); and finally human and open: which is public space. Public space is thus a human construct, experienced as such, but open to all. It is furthermore ?theatrical? in the sense that what is done there witnessed. (Sight is thus the preeminent faculty of public space). As such interaction between individuals in public space may be either transitive, where humans are both in the presence of each other and present to each other; or it may be intransitive where individuals are in each others presence but not present to each other, as is thus in the realm of the aesthetic. The first may be associated with thinkers like Habermas; the second with thinkers like Augustine or Nietzsche. I argue that the intransitive relation is an important part of a democratic public space and has generally been slighted in contemporary theory.



Symbolic versus Real
Aspirations and Outcomes in Site-Specific and Socially-Engaged
Contemporary Art

A two day exploration of socially-engaged and site-specific art practices, in terms of their ambitions and actual outcomes.

@ Limehouse Town Hall, 13th and 14th February

Thursday 13th February

10.00 Welcome Introduction: Anna Harding

10.15 Victor Burgin: A historical view: the Russian revolutionaries

10.30 John Reardon chair, Kendell Geers, Nils Norman and John Russell talk about their own art practices in relation to the real versus symbolic political aspirations in their practices

11.30 COFFEE

11.45 open discussion with questions to Victor Burgin, Kendell Geersand Nils Norman

1.00 LUNCH

2.15 Irit Rogoff chair: creating monuments with and for people: 3 approaches, 3 projects: How are art works politicised? How effectively can artworks engage with political issues?

- Michael Hirsch on Thomas Hirschhorn's "Monument to Bataille"
- Chin-tao Wu on Rachel Whiteread's Holocaust Memorial, Vienna.
- Christian Philipp Mueller on his Hudson Valley project

3.00 open discussion

3.30 Tea

4.00 Anna Harding chair:
responses to the day's presentations from Suhail Malik and Chantal Mouffe
followed by open discussion

5.30 Close


FRIDAY 14th February

10.00 Introduction by Anna Harding

10.15 Tracey B. Strong The Conditions of Public Space: what makes a space public?

10.30-10.45 Adrian Little, The Politics of Community - an introduction

John Reardon: how can these theories be useful in examining participatory art practices?

10.45 coffee

11-1.00 Andrea Phillips chair: What ethical questions are raised by practices which invite participation? Who benefits? Whose voice is being foregrounded? The nature of participation: is it symbolic or real? What are we participating in?

Kathrin Bohm, Graeme Millar and John Russell presentations, other artists in the audience are invited to contribute.

open discussion with questions to Graeme Miller, Kathrin Bohm, John Russell, Adrian Little and Tracey B. Strong

1.00- 2.15 LUNCH

2.15-3.00 Round-up: each speaker from the 2 days to highlight key points of interest for further investigation. Kendell Geers, Nils Norman,Michael Hirsch, Chin-Tao Wu, Tracey B. Strong, Adrian Little, Andrea Phillips, Suhail Malik, Kathrin Bohm, Graeme Millar, John Russell and Christian Philipp Mueller

3.00-4.00 TEA and split into small group discussions

4.00-5.00 Re-group, each group to offer CONCLUSIONS




<< archive

culture 2000  

All Contents with indicated Authors © by the Authors,
all other Contents © 2002-2004 by www.republicart.net
contact @eipcp.net I www.eipcp.net
EIPCP multilingual webjournal ISSN 1811 - 1696