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The Missing Album

By | Projects
Project Title: The Missing Album
Project Location: Lebanon
Duration: 2015 – Ongoing
  1. ABSTRACT

The Missing Album is an ongoing research project that attempts to gather an archive of photographs of Lebanese people living / hiding in their houses during the Beirut Civil War (1975-1990).  The project serves as a continuation of the research project “I did not grow up in a war ” that investigates memories through a series of audio testimonials of Lebanese peoples’ houses during the war. The importance of safety and survival within the domestic interior and its particular rooms (bathroom, entrance hall, kitchen…) was thus showcased. The individual memories merge into a collective memory questioning the state of the home and its interior during the war, especially with the absence of an equipped bomb shelter.

The Missing Album would be a tool to shape up the collective memory and open up the discussion on whether any photographic archive exists showcasing the states of these families within these rooms.

  1. BACKGROUND

The Lebanese civil war, which spanned 15 years, had a great impact on Lebanon in its entirety. The conflict involved different local and foreign political parties, all brutally fighting amongst each other for territorial power. Behind these scenes that took place on the streets of Beirut and extended onto its suburbs, families took shelter in their homes. Karl Sharro, Lebanese writer and architect, explains the importance of the house. In his article entitled “ Warspace: The City In Civil Conflict ” Sharro states: “At the next level, the smallest units of society, the family and the individual, and correspondingly, the smallest spatial unit, the house, will increase in definition and clarity at the expense of the public realm” (Sharro, 2013). Sharro, highlighted the value of the home as a safe locale, and the only remnant of the urban when all else – the public space, the space of battlefield- has been utterly destroyed.

The project thus focuses on these stories of survival when the house becomes the only space of safety.

  1. CONTEXTUALIZING THE WORK

The Missing Album was an idea that emerged due to the hours spent looking at war photographs for the research project “ I did not grow up in a war ” and the realization of a lack of documentation on the home front.

“ I did not grow up in a war ” arose from a need for a deeper understanding of what was occurring in the house, behind closed doors. Each person shared a story about a room of the house that closely relates to the war, serving as a starting point for their plot. Taking on the role of the therapist, a series of questions were posed, followed by a drawing session that led the interviewees to delve deeper into their memories giving off more of a physical account of the story. The testimonials that were registered as audio files and drawings erase the importance of the person’s identity, and focus on the similarities of the stories being accounted for. The project manifests itself through four chapters creating different interpretations of war.

The first chapter contextualized the conflict through a series of archival material from newspaper clippings and written memoirs to photographs, creating poetic associations between image and text.

The second chapter introduces the audio-recorded interviews through a collection of images of rooms drawn by the interviewees alongside their accompanying written transcripts (see fig.1).


Figure 1:  Collection of scanned sketches of interviewees, 2015, as part of I did not grow up in a war Chapter 02 presented at Piet Zwart Graduate Exhibition in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

The third chapter is solely based on audio transcripts. The recorded narratives constitute a grafted polyphony of individuals addressing the different areas of the house that have strongly marked their memories. The individual memories thus combine and describe the state of each room during the war, especially with the absence of an equipped bomb shelter (click on video below).


Video 01: The toilet series, 2015. Video, as part of I did not grow up in a war Chapter 03 presented at Piet Zwart Graduate Exhibition in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

The fourth and final chapter visualizes what the war would look like in a heightened constant state of emergency in a fictional neighbourhood based in Beirut (see fig. 2,3, &4). At its essence, the war reduced the community into programmatic families, each one providing a function not present in the other one. How then, would the negotiations of safety and survival occur? What would be the microeconomics of this hypothetical community? What would change when the only currency is the one of survival?

Figure 2: Fictional neighbourhood plan, 2015. Digital collage, as part of I did not grow up in a war Chapter 04 presented at Piet Zwart Graduate Exhibition in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.


Figure 3: Fictional neighbourhood plan with safe connections, 2015. Digital collage, as part of I did not grow up in a war Chapter 04 presented at Piet Zwart Graduate Exhibition in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Figure 4: Fictional neighbourhood plan with safe connections, 2015. 3D model, as part of I did not grow up in a war Chapter 04 presented at Piet Zwart Graduate Exhibition in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

4.THE MISSING ALBUM: RATIONALE

Karl Sharro stated in his piece entitled “ The Self-Sufficient House ”:

“Electric power, telephones, water supply, all the networked services that enable the modern city to function were being rationed. At times of severe crises, those services would become unavailable for months on end. The response that the Beirutis developed was based on self-sufficiency: they would buy small electric generators to produce their own electricity, dig wells and use mechanical pumps to distribute the water to buildings, and make their own bread at home when bakeries stop working for one reason or another ”(Sharro, 2003).

The importance of the unit of the house becomes quite evident. The interviews I conducted with the people shed light on specific rooms of the house that were recounted often such as the bathroom, the entrance hall, and the bomb shelter, due to their strategic yet accidental placement within the apartment. These safe rooms are normally placed at least between two walls, and would therefore have minimal glass facades that were dangerous in times of conflict. Additionally, through these narratives, the methods of adaptation that had to be undertaken in these times, as Sharro points out, became obvious. In some instances, people built walls out of concrete blocks in their entrance halls saving themselves from any glass breaking; in others they used sand bags to cast themselves away from any potential danger; some closed off an entire neighbourhood using their cars to protect their new-found home.

The home and the various interior changes that occurred to it become the sole witness of each family’s survival. Locked in the memories of Lebanese people’s minds, the project seeks to uncover the main protagonists, the toilet, the entrance hall, the hallways, the kitchen, the stairs, and the bedroom. Furthermore, and as pointed out in the previous section, war photographers highlighted the damage caused by the war at a strictly urban level, addressing the street and the buildings, without venturing into the interior.

The Missing Album seeks to put en relief the role of the house during wartime. It tries to gather and collect photographs of the spaces of survival from people within the house or their associated shelter. As part of the 40th anniversary of the Lebanese Civil War, journalist Soha Abou Taha, shed light in her piece entitled “ Ce qui s’est passe le 13 Avril 1975? Je n’en ai aucune idee ”, (What happened on the 13th of April 1975? I have no idea) on the ignorance of the young towards what has occured during the war (Taha, 2015). Considering the fact that the Lebanese civil war is a national taboo, whereby no agreed historical account of it has been implemented in the national educational system, and citizens would rather ignore its existence in their shared history, The Missing Album would therefore, aim at creating a different view of the war away from any political content; one that shares stories of witnesses of the war, and their survival within the home.

The collection of such photographs in The Missing Album provides the opportunity to tell stories of the house and would highlight its importance in the context of war. Moreover, it would give way to the formation of a collective memory of the war amongst the present and older generations – all set out within the home.

  1. CONSIDERATIONS & QUESTIONS

The images would help in uncovering various instances within the 15-year Lebanese Civil War and would create an archive of memories of the house during wartime. It is quite possible that no one would venture into taking a picture in a state of war, especially with the lack of digital photography in the past; which then leads to a broader hypothetical question: could the Lebanese population have no photographic evidence of their lives within their interiors between 1975 and 1990, knowing that their only safe haven was their allocated safe spaces within the domestic? If that is the case, how does this affect the identity of a nation starting from the individual photograph – as a tool for memory – to a collective archive of photographs of people in their safe spaces?

  1. LOCAL INFLUENCES

In protest against the erasure and denial of the civil war, a number of Lebanese artists produced art to reinstate what had already happened. The videos of artist Lamia Joreige entitled “Objects of War”, showcased interviews with people showing mundane objects that they used during the war. The videos clearly denote the memory behind each object, exposing how each item was used and adapted as a consequence of war. What is also interesting in the work is its durability; in fact, the series was created between 2000 and 2006 at three different instances, each time interviewing different people with different objects (Joreige, 2000).

Another prominent artist was Walid Raad who created The Atlas Group Archive in 1999, which was a fictional archive that served as a critique to the untold history of the civil war. It combined texts, films, and photographs that were fabricated and put together to build up credible stories about the war (Cotter, 2016).

Both works aimed, through their different methods, at gathering stories, whether real or fictional, to try to provide a framework for the narrative of war. The apparent amnesia towards the civil war, allows for various interpretations attempting to shape our collective memory. 

  1. METHODOLOGY

The project’s main methodology would aim primarily at gathering personal photos from people that would give a personalized outlook to the album.  Similarly to the work of Lamia Joreige presented before the project seeks to provide another version of war where the home is the main character. Starting with the 35 people I have already interviewed, the project would be open-ended and would highlight specific people’s experiences of space. The work would then extend over an undefined period of time, gathering more pictures and vocal recordings from a different set of people.

In the event of a general lack of photographs, a secondary methodology will have to be formed to showcase the gap and what is missing. For this, the project would then focus on the interior. Inspired by the work of Walid Raad and the fictional archive, it would attempt to seek photographs of rooms in which the interviewees have survived. These photos of the toilet, the entrance hall, the hallway, whether real or unreal, along with their associated voice recordings, would highlight the essence of the space of survival, and showcase the missing people and their actions. It would show the space’s present state with a voice of the past.

Therefore, the methodology would allow to 1) shed light on the absence or presence of the hypothetical archive and possible gaps of the archive of photographs of the domestic life of the civilians, 2) create subcategories related to each space of the house 3) investigate other spaces that were also considered a space of shelter; a home. Although newspapers would mostly document the latter, the project would seek personal photos of people in hiding. 

  1. THE ARCHIVAL PROCESS 

The archival process started by asking the 35 interviewees for photographs of their safe spaces. Amongst the 35, two were able to find photographical evidence of their spaces during the war. Figure 5 shows the image of a child ready to take her shower in the red bucket, with her mother huddled up around her, as well as other family members. The interviewee explained that the bedroom had to be moved to the entrance hall, since it was much safer. It was also quite normal for kids to be washed in these buckets in the entrance, as it was a shielded space.

Figure 6 shows a group of smiling youngsters cramped up around a white column.

What is not evident in the photograph is that the people were all grouped in an underground parking space because their houses were exposed from all directions and did not have any bomb shelter. Their only safe space was a 20-minute walk away to a nearby shopping centre’s underground parking.

These examples, although few in number, reflect upon the idea of the home and questions what a home is at times of war. In the first case, the entrance hall became the home where all actions occur between showering, eating, and gathering. In the second case, the home became a vast parking lot shared with strangers.


Figure 5: Mother preparing to give her daughter a shower in a red tub while family watches, 1983. Photograph, Beirut, Lebanon.

Figure 6: Group of people gathering around a column hiding in the underground parking lot, 1986. Photograph, Beirut, Lebanon. 

  1. MATERIAL OUTCOMES

– Ideally, the project would be exhibited in an apartment building in Lebanon as a start, transmitting the feeling of being confined in the various rooms of the house. Each room would have a mixture of images, and vocal recordings transporting the visitor to the everyday life of war.  The Album of photographs would then be spread out all over the house, and would consist of real images of people within their safe spaces during the war, and photographs of the present empty interiors accompanied by vocal recordings; the visitors through sound, are left to imagine the missing people and actions in each of the settings.

– The process would be repeated at interval times, and would be exhibited in different countries due to its timely nature in relation to the refugee crises.

– Digitally, an online database of photographs would start being formed and would potentially create an archive categorized according to each room within the house. 

  1. BIBLIOGRAPHY

Abou Taha, S (2015). “Ce qui s’est passe le 13 Avril 1975? Je n’en ai aucune idee”. L’Orient le Jour: p.2. Print

– Adnan, E. (2005). In the Heart of the Heart of Another Country. San Fransisco: City Lights Publishers, pp.99-101.

– Bbc.co.uk. (2014). BBC – Primary History – World War 2 – Wartime homes. [online] Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/primaryhistory/world_war2/wartime_homes[Accessed 11 Aug. 2016].

– Burnett, D. (2014). Vietnam War | Contact Press Images. [online] Contact.photoshelter.com. Available at:https://contact.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/David-Burnett-Vietnam-War/G0000q85UwEBhhq8/I0000OS33LMUrFGg [Accessed 19 Oct. 2016].

– Cooke, M. (1996). War’s other voices. Syracuse [N.Y.]: Syracuse University Press.

– Cosgrove, B. (2013). Capa’s ‘Falling Soldier’: The Modest Birth of an Iconic Picture. [online] Time.com. Available at: http://time.com/3638051/capas-falling-soldier-the-modest-birth-of-an-iconic-picture/ [Accessed 11 May 2016].

– Cotter, H. (2016). Walid Raad’s Unreality Show Spins Middle Eastern History as Art. [online] Nytimes.com. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/08/arts/design/walid-raads-unreality-show-spins-middle-eastern-history-as-art.html [Accessed 22 Nov. 2017].

– Depardon, R. (2014). LEBANON. Beirut. Civil war. 1978.Raymond Depardon. [online] Pro.magnumphotos.com Available at: https://pro.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=SearchResult&STID=2S5RYDZ1ABTQ [Accessed 11 Aug. 2016].

– Jabra, S. (n.d.). Stavrotoons – The Lebanese War photos. [online] Stavrotoons.com. Available at: http://www.stavrotoons.com/lebanese_war/main.asp?toonId=686 [Accessed 26 June. 2016].

– Joreige, L. (2000). Objects of War. [online] Lamia Joreige. Available at http://www.lamiajoreige.com/filmsDetails.php?OBJECTS-OF-WAR-9# l [Accessed 15 July. 2016].

– Mirzoeff, N. (2013). The visual culture reader. London: Routledge.

– McCullin, D. (2006). The Confession of a War Photographer. Interview by Jiang Rong for the ASX Team. [online] ASX. Available at: http://www.americansuburbx.com/2013/05/interview-don-mccullin-a-confession-of-war-2006.html [Accessed 15 July. 2016].

– Sharro, K. (2003). The Self – Sufficient House.

– Sharro, K. (2013). Warspace: Geographies of conflict in Beirut. [online] openDemocracy. Available at: https://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/karl-sharro/warspace-geographies-of-conflict-in-beirut [Accessed 4 Aug. 2016].

– Tate. (2013). ‘Palestinian Fighter Training in Beirut’, Don McCullin, 1976, printed 2013 | Tate. [online] Available at: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/mccullin-palestinian-fighter-training-in-beirut-ar01217 [Accessed 5 Aug. 2016].

From larger to the smaller islands

By | Projects

Ukulele Street 2017 (detail) Composite digital image from video

43 Island Skies 2017 (detail) Digital image

Map of UK’s tidal islands with the circuit of visits. Image: Andrew Stooke

Lindisfarne, Holy Island. Photo: Becks

Wangwen and Andrew Stooke

Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.

John Donne

Location: 43 tidal islands around the coast of the UK.

Duration: Determined by distance.

Introduction

  • He does not believe in the disaster. One cannot believe in it, whether one lives or dies. Commensurate with it there is no faith, and at the same time a sort of disinterest, detached from the disaster. Night; white, sleepless night-such is the disaster: the night lacking darkness, but brightened by no light.
  • The circle, uncurled along a straight line rigorously prolonged, reforms a circle eternally bereft of a center.
  • “False” unity, the simulacrum of unity, compromises it better than any direct challenge, which, in any case, is impossible.
  • Would writing be to become, in the book, legible for everyone, and indecipherable for oneself ?

Maurice Blanchot, The Writing of the Disaster (translated by Ann Smock), University of Nebraska Press 1986 p.2

From larger to the smaller islands is durational cross-country walking that will circumnavigate all 43 of the UK’s tidal islands. The work is cross ethnic, cross generation, and gender, involving two artists, one a UK native, the other an artist whose status in the UK is temporary. Documentation confronts the contemporary witness report, contrasting a live video stream with a temporal record that employs the convections of classical music notation. 

Tidal islands are areas of land that are connected to mainland only at low tide when a causeway rises above sea level. For the purpose of this project to qualify the islands must be accessible at least twice a month.

The British Isles has the largest number of tidal islands of any nation. In this work the island is conceived as intrinsically separate and multiple but with the potential to be one. In a very few instances the Islands, for reasons of intransigent private ownership, or, because their coastal terrains are too inhospitable to be walked, will be circumnavigated by boat. The contingency highlights the intention of the project, to address leaving and returning and to evolve ways of representing the practice of migration.

From larger to the smaller islands evolves from a body of work where artists make journeys with heroic and endurance elements, particularly where movements are impractical or flawed, either returning to their place of departure or ending in indeterminacy.

Such endpoints and defenceless crossings are the trajectory of migration. Refugees flee; they leave their homes, not knowing where they can go and if they will ever return. The project repeatedly exposes the artists to the potential of danger and separation as they make crossings that are repeatedly obliterated.

Movement and circumnavigation

There are necessary orders that are no fault of yours and there is a bridge and that bridge can be the point on which the future of the human race can turn.
Ernest Hemmingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Macmillan Collector’s Library 2016, p.25.

The flight of the experimental solar powered aeroplane, ‘Solar Impulse 2’ suggested a decelerated momentum of circumnavigation. The aircraft departed Abu Dhabi on March 9th 2015 and returned more than 16 months later on July 26th 2016. In that period the plane had many short flights and long rests, using the sun’s energy to recharge. Impractical and erratic the voyage belonged to a tradition of first gestures, including Jules Henri Giffard’s 1852 demonstration that navigable powered flight was conceivable. Possibilities emerge from unpredictability and achievement can mean returning to where you set off rather than being somewhere else.

Tidal islands are dependent on irrepressible change. Despite cyclical predictability incoming water is a threat that detaches and connects. The routes of the 43 circumnavigations that make up the project define their localities, following the perimeter of the island from point of arrival and back to the same place. Contained at the perimeter, the work is non-invasive, the integrity of the land described remains undisturbed. The incoming and receding tide relates to the artist’s arrival and departure. Repeated oscillation and the artist’s tenacity, prevailing over awkward difficulties, are intimations of hope—that there will be a future of reconnection and unity.

From larger to the smaller islands builds on a scaffold of works addressing circularity in different ways. For example:

Work, Made-ready, Les Baux de Provence (Mountain Bike) 2001 Simon Starling’s journey by mountain bike to collect bauxite that he then smelted using simplified industrial techniques to produce a quantity of aluminium that he then used to attempt to recreate the aluminium frame of the ‘Tassajara’ mountain bike that he had ridden to the mine.

Cane, 2012 Loo Zihan’s repeated re-enactments, based on oral recollection and press reports, of Josef Ng’s performance work Brother Cane (1993).

La Région Central 1971 Michael Snow’s structural movie, abstracting the landscape by rotating the camera in a 360˚ pan from fixed at a center.

In a world where exodus and displacement have become a constant the project will address unintentional transit, asking the question; must ‘somewhere’ be fixed and does a journey end? 

Documentation and dissemination

Performance’s only life is in the present, (it) cannot be saved, recorded, documented, or otherwise participate in the circulation of representations of representations: once it does so it becomes something other than performance

Peggy Phelan, Unmarked: The Politics of Performance, Routledge 1993, p.146.

The project responds to established conventions of presence and authenticity in the documentation of live art. The artist’s body is often staged within a defining image or as part of a narrative. Using filmed performances, Regina José Galindo deploys her body to connote a disregarded Other, for example in, Oveja negra. (Black Sheep) 2014 she spends an hour naked and curled up in a pen with a flock of sheep. Her act brings her body into correspondence with the sheep, an animal that she identifies as a species considered lesser. Film and photography was used to fix the work of Cuban, Anna Mendieta. Of works, such as, Isla, (1981/1994), a mud form suggestive of the artist’s body surrounded by water, she suggests, ‘I become an extension of nature and nature becomes an extension of my body.’ Marina Abramović and Ulay’s durational collaboration, The Lovers: the Great Wall Walk (1988), in which they travelled for 90 consecutive days from either end of the Great wall of China, to meet and part from one another in the middle, is enshrined in Murray Grigor’s 1989 movie,  ‘Lovers at the Brink’. The film concludes with the epilogue by Huang Xeng, referring to the Wall’s visibility from space, ‘ The earth is small and blue. I am a little crack in it.’

Recent documentaries, such as ‘Exodus: Our Journey’ (James Bluemel 2017) and ‘Les Sauteurs (Those Who Jump)’ (Moritz Siebert, Estephan Wagner and Abou Bakar Sidibe 2016), endeavor to express the exigent humanity of contemporary migration by handing the camera over to people living in transit and actively engaged in negotiating a passage from their original homes into Europe. The first person viewpoint and extended informal footage, shot in real time, challenges the supremacy of the decisive moment of still photography as record of a poignant truth.

From larger to the smaller islands explores the recording of live art in two contrasting ways:

  1. The score: a processed distillation of the experience, an enduring non-representational transcript in a robust physical form for further performance. The score is a portable memento, comparable to a portable codex.
  2. The live stream: an undigested total record, in this case two points of view from the feeds of body mounted action cameras shared through Facebook Live, Youtube live-streaming and the China based Youku cloud video. The broadcast is ephemeral, long-winded and episodic: witnesses to the total extended duration of the project resisting the edited spectacle of documentary.

The live archive of two viewpoints is exhaustive. It cannot easily be revisited or assimilated as a unity. The inscribed score is reflective, a prompt to future performance, deferring the journey’s end. The evidence is a corollary to the act of travel without going anywhere, arriving at the point of departure in a repeated cycle. The project’s documentation eschews the portrayal of singular biographic incidents being reactive to the spectacle of mass migration as continuous, changing and future directed.

The project exists as an on-going action until all 42 islands have been visited. Although extensive in scope it is not monumental. It is only encountered via the Internet or through occasional unpredictable field encounters and, as legacy, in the structured score.

The series of walking performances take places at locations with varying degrees of accessibility, both for performers and for any imagined witness. Some are popular tourist sites, some challenging to navigate or with restricted access. The record and dissemination strategy will explore the accuracy of a full and a mediated account, a literal and a poetic trace. Both records are temporal but without topographic or cartographic specificity.

Travelling without going anywhere

Who can control his fate? ’tis not so now.
Be not afraid, though you do see me weaponed.
Here is my journey’s end, here is my butt,
And very sea-mark of my utmost sail.
Shakespeare, Othello Act 5 Scene 2

Borders have many states between permeability and closure. From larger to the smaller islands foregrounds territorial unity/disunity as a metaphor of becoming statelessness, the systemic challenge now affecting over 10 million people in the world. Repeated acts of crossing over, walking around, and returning in this project act as a cord or sutra giving unity to 43 detached parts that are rhythmically constituted by tides. A new land gradually forms from multiple discrete and unusual arrivals and departures

Island List

  1. Isle Ristol
  2. Innis Mhor
  3. Cramond Island
  4. Holy Island of Lindisfarne
  5. St Mary’s Island
  6. Skippers Island
  7. Horsey Island
  8. Mersea Island
  9. Ray Island
  10. Osea Island
  11. Northey Island
  12. Chiswick Eyot
  13. Burrow Island Rat Island
  14. Burgh Island
  15. St Michael’s Mount
  16. Sully Island
  17. Worm’s Head
  18. Burry Holmes
  19. St Catherine’s Island
  20. Ynys Lochtyn
  21. Ynys Gifftan
  22. Cei Ballast Ballast Island
  23. Hilbre Island
  24. Little Eye
  25. Middle Eye
  26. Chapel Island
  27. Foulney Island
  28. Piel Island
  29. Sheep Island
  30. Rough Island
  31. Hestan Island
  32. Ardwall Isle
  33. Barlocco Isle
  34. Davaar Island
  35. Eilean Mhic Chrion
  36. Eilean Ighe
  37. Sandaig Islands
  38. Eilean Mor
  39. Eileanan nan Gad
  40. Eilean Tioram
  41. Eilean Shona / Shona Beag
  42. Eilean Mor Big island / Eilean a Bhealaidh The Broom Island
  43. An Caol narrow isle

Background

The project grows from a twenty-one day walk from London to the tidal island of Lindisfarne.

The walk was undertaken by a Chinese woman and a European man, the act differing the subjectivities of two, proposing a crossover, both literal and metaphoric. The work evokes circadian rhythms, causing interference patterns, gradually tuned to establish singularity, just as mainland is separated from peninsula and becomes one through the rhythm of the tides.

The invention of modern musical notation by Guido di Arezzo corresponds to the resettlement of Lindisfarne as a religious community, following a period when monastic orders were forced into a peripatetic lifestyle after the Viking aggression in 793. The means to preserve a portable archive, of material hitherto disseminated person to person, was an answer to sporadic unplanned displacement. The score is simultaneously an exact set of instructions and a free script open for new interpretation.

Ukulele Street: Crossing point on the journey
Longtang: A journey through the tangle of hidden streets in Shanghai 

Examples

The circular Mappa Mundi is an ideological representation of the world. Later cartography had the ambition to make a diagram of the earth according to physical measurements. Earlier images showed not physical extent but the organisation and the limits of knowledge. The circular form did not correspond to the opinion that the earth was round but stated that all exploration started in the centre. All journeys would reach an end, an end of what is and can be known.

In 1942 Marcel Duchamp produced His Twine for the ‘First Papers of Surrealism’ exhibition in New York. Duchamp threaded an indeterminate length of string (it is claimed to be a mile) around the exhibition space making it difficult to enter and view the other works. He also instructed 12 children to play ball and hopscotch around the exhibition, further incapacitating visitors. The exhibition itself set the work of émigré surrealist artists against examples of ‘primitive art’. It equated the work of the artists, lately displaced from Europe, with the exotic work from outside the legitimate Western cannon. Duchamp’s intervention created a physical inaccessibility, smothering the works and binding them with distraction.

Bruce Nauman withdrew to the ordered space of the studio to perform, Walking in an Exaggerated Manner Around the Perimeter of a Square 1967-8. The path, witnessed on the video document of his action, takes him nowhere. The manner of the walks execution and the charged site of its performance, intended to be presented on an endless loop, challenge the model of purpose, the getting from A to B.

Richard Long’s A Hundred Mile Walk 1971-2 echoes Nauman’s gesture in a landscape. Long’s document of his route traces the work’s extremity with a closed circle inscribed on a map. The precise form appears contrary to the seething contour lines of Dartmoor. The representation evokes the experience in the mind of the spectator while simultaneously denying access to its experiential authenticity.

In Bas Jan Adder’s Fall II 1970 the possible trajectory of the journey is cut short. The artist stages an abrupt end to the potential for forward movement by riding his bicycle into a cannel. The event, recorded in the filmed document of the action, foregrounds the incidence of a movement that is vulnerable to changed circumstances, diversions and sudden end. Just such unpredictability beset his final fatal work. In Search of the Miraculous 1975 ended in the artist’s disappearance at sea as he attempted to cross the Atlantic.

Rebecca Moss’ International Waters 2017 is an account of her experience on the container ship ‘Hanjin Geneva’. She joined the vessel for a 23 days residency but was left stranded indefinitely, drifting of the coast of Japan, when the shipping company went bankrupt. The journey’s end point shifts from its original directed conclusion. It takes her nowhere—to indeterminacy, to waiting.

Against the current background of President Trump’s border policies, Francis Alÿs, Loop 1997 seems prescient. The work was a journey from Tijuana to San Diego avoiding crossing the Mexico/US border.  Alÿs traveled on a perpendicular route eventually circumnavigating the globe to arrive at the other side of the frontier.

Many works, such as Zheng Bo’s, Left Right (106 Rue Wantz) 2015 and Li Ming’s, Movements 2014 build on the spatial record initiated in Edward Ruscha’s, Every Building on the Sunset Strip 1966. Like the alluring grid markings that act as both temporal and spatial markers in Eadweard Muybridge’s Animal Locomotion’ (1887), the linear horizontal orientation of Ruscha’s work is absolutely literal. It distorts the experience of space by subjecting it to a rigid system.

Alex Hartley’s Nowhereisland 2012, was a locomotive and prophetic landform that invited the participation of a new citizenship. The premise of the work was if a nation was born new and without prior historical preconceptions what could it be? Could its citizenship make it an ideal state? Physically the work was a stretch of land exposed by receding sea levels. The exposed material was subsequently transported by ship to various costal locations. Pieces were finally distributed to its citizens, and a remnant was also sent into earth orbit.

Robert Smithson’s  Spiral Jetty 1970 at Rozel Point, Utah, remains an enigmatic piece of Land Art. Despite its physicality it lives in the imagination. Now once more visible, for many years it was submerged, swallowed beneath the saline water of the Great Salt Lake. 

From larger to the smaller islands, draws on the character of existing geography and on natural cycles and phases. The project considers ways of thinking about leaving and belonging—returning and a new land. Its archive of experiences and its record is fugitive too. A record that is continuous, changing and open to adaptation, in harmony with the will to find ways to cherish and new possibilities for states in unsettled times.

Check back to Project Anywhere to follow the progress of the project.

’84’ by LungA School

By | Projects


Untitled, 2016, still image from video “The Finale, Fall  ‘16” by Austin Thomasson and Dæ Ja

The project has taken place twice a year in Seyðisfjörður, Iceland since 2014 and will continue for an unknown number of years. Each performance has a duration of exactly 84 days. Two performances will take place in 2018:

Winter/Spring: 7th of January – 31st of March.
Fall: 24th of September – 15th of December.
The LungA School is an entity staging its own existence.
Names of all participants will be announced during the unfolding of the performances.

Untitled, 2016, still image from video “The Finale, Fall ‘16” by Austin Thomasson and Dæ Ja

Origin

People meet and things happen. And the other way around. It is strangely heart-warming that most stories can be boiled down to this.

The LungA School was an idea that arose out of a number of circumstances and as the rather surprising result of a meeting between a place and a community.

Seyðisfjörður. It is unknown how this town got its name, partly because it is unknown what it actually means. It could mean something along the lines of ‘the mysterious mist between the mountains’, but this would just be a guess. A more qualified suggestion is that Seyðis is a word that comes from the Sami word ’Sieidis’ which means a sacred place that was worshipped as a gateway to the spirit world. A magical place, so to speak. Another suggestion is that it comes from the Old Norse word ’seid’ which is one of two words that were used to describe magic as it was carried out by the few that possessed these powers, the powers to bridge the world of the gods with the world of men. Both seem quite fitting once you know the place.

This is the place, with its unpredictable currents, where all the streams and rivers meet before they rush into the ocean. This is where we are.


03_Untitled, 2016, still image from video “The Beginning, Fall  ‘16” by Austin Thomasson and Dæ Ja

 

 

An Introduction

Three years ago we started an artistic, educational experiment here in town. An artist-led (and student-led) international art school that exist both as a school and as an ongoing act of art in itself.

Our ambition has been from the beginning to create and foster environments for artistic praxis as a conscious, social praxis of generating culture.

Ambiguous, multi-natured creations and situations that are both instruments and performers, objects and actors, everything at once.

In order for it to be a good school we must see it as a work of art, and in order for it to be a good work of art we must see it as a school.

The school has become and is still becoming. And in this process of becoming it is not only transforming itself and being transformed, it is also radically altering it’s own foundation as well as everyone involved. Seyðisfjörður is not the same. Participants do not remain the same. We are certainly not the same. And the school has never been anything other than these constant transformations, this living activity which escapes definition in order to be alive.

Currently we have 16 participants from all over the world for every iteration so it is, intentionally, a small school. Besides the participants we have a number of international artists who enter the situation as guests for shorter periods of time.

Currently the performance is 84 days and therefore simply called ’84’:


04_Untitled, 2016, still image from video “The Finale, Fall  ‘16” by Austin Thomasson and Dæ Ja

 ’84’ is the name given to a period of time which can be characterized as being something in between an act of art and a school and neither and both and more.

’84’ is a composition for a performance. The performance of a school. Or: The performance as a school. Or: The school, performed.

The score consist of both a text-based manifesto and a visual part. Two documents in one that makes up the score, but, of course, not the music.

The score informs the music which again informs the score.

In the beginning, however, there was just the music. We started a situation which now has a bit of language, a very fluid language that is still becoming and changing all the time.

The words I am writing now have grown out of this situation. The situation does not come from these words. The word was not there in the beginning. But without the words, there was just something happening.

The thing that happens here is essentially unrepresentable. Multiple layers makes it so: factors such as the number of students, the size of the area where things are happening, the timescale, the shared meaning and understanding that arises internally in the group over time with it’s own esoteric language etc.

The premise is this: Everything that takes place in those 84 days is part of it. There is no escape neither in space nor time. Therefore, everything that happens draws threads all the way through the program and is therefore not completely over until the whole thing is over. It becomes dense like a star that hurts to look at. It’s simply too much to try and grasp it all.
And even when it is over, it still exists as something else.

05_Untitled, 2017, works by Alba Liv Hansen, photo by Amal Khan

Teaching and learning as artistic practice:

A manifesto for the LungA School

The school is only there when the school is there.
And these words will only get us so far.
And that’s fine.

I
The impossibility of describing a thing fully from one perspective.

II
Four voices are not all, but are enough to create an image, an outline that is not solid, but not dissolving.

III
Four texts being read as one.
Four texts to be read simultaneously.

IV
Our futile attempts at describing this school have compelled us to write these texts. They take on various perspectives, various lenses, various languages. All of them touch upon what this place is. All of them fail to describe it completely.

School as an Act of art

I
This school is to be approached as an act of art. This school is also a fully functioning school. That, in this case, is the same thing. What we mean by that refers to the purpose of the school and how it unfolds. Teaching and learning here is a performative practice, a lived practice that unfolds unpredictably. Here the skin becomes softer, becomes thinner, becomes stronger. In a world that constantly and uncomfortably reminds us that we have forgotten how to be human, we catch glimpses of what it means to live.
Perhaps it is not a good idea to call a school an act of art. Perhaps we condemn a school to irrelevance by calling it an act of art, because Art has become so thoroughly disconnected from most people’s lives (or is it the other way around?). But perhaps by calling a school an act of art, we open it up, disclose its deeper nature, and it becomes visible and understandable.

II
An act of art is the unfolding of an artistic practice. An artistic practice is a certain way of being with materials in all their abstract forms. This way of being with materials is characterized by openness towards the potential of an interaction between you and these materials, and an awareness that this interaction has the power to transform you while you transform the material.
Experiencing an act of art is not about understanding a theoretical discourse on abstract matters, it is about engaging in an ethical and aesthetical discourse on daily life as practice.
An act of art is to be looked upon aesthetically, meaning for the sake of what it might open up when experienced. The LungA School is created for the sake of the possibility of opening up the experience of living while and through engaging in artistic practice.
There is no beginning and there is no end to this act. The purpose is life, therefore, the purpose is art.

III
Do schools today have more transformative potential than art? If any sort of transformative potential rests partly on the openness of the person who experiences, then, we have to ask whether there is more aesthetic openness when engaging in education than when engaging with art.

Even though most schools can hardly be considered as places for education anymore, but rather, as instruments in a system of production, there is still a philosophical foundation for understanding education as being a process wherein an individual’s spiritual and cultural sensibilities, as well as personal and social abilities and attitudes, are in a process of continous expansion and growth. This notion of the goodness of education in and for itself serves as a reason for the openness that still exists towards schools from the general public. An openness that does not, in the same way, exist towards art.

However, this argument does not mean that we cannot consider a school an act of art, merely that, when doing so, we run the risk of changing the disposition that the students have towards the place when they enter a program. But it seems that there are essential parts of the school’s nature that can only be explained through this logic and discourse, and not using it would mean a loss of aesthetic potential.

Even the act of using this kind of language to describe the school partly reveals its nature, as the nature of anything is best understood by considering it’s actions.

IV
If an act of art is considered that which is performed for the sake of aesthetic appraisal, then making decisions becomes subject to aesthetic consideration; what kind of decision can be regarded as aesthetically interesting, and thus, potentially open up for a broader understanding that enriches experience?

A decision does not have to be logical to be good.

As we consider artistic transformative practice as that which charges into unknown territories, it cannot rely on established knowledge. It must follow the sense of truth that comes from a connection with the accumulated wisdom of a lived life manifested as intuition and will. And this is something that can be cultivated and refined.
Another element is the consideration towards the manner in which things are done. If we consider the work of art as not merely an artifact that is something in itself, but also as the accumulation of decisions and actions, it becomes clear that any work of art is simultaneously it’s own process. Similarly, if the school is considered an act of art, it too is engaged in a process of constantly becoming.

So we are not just faced with the questions of what a good decision or action might be, but also the question of what way to go about performing an action, or which way to talk about a situation. Art is not a charade; therefore, our decisions and actions cannot be either.
If art is to be connected to daily life, we must relate appropriately to the actual things that occur.

What we are inviting everyone into is, essentially, circumstances where things can occur and, what then occurs determines where we go next.

V
A program here is a composition, a set of arranged circumstances, notes on a string. Each note is in its right place, which could be any place, but then again, it could not. It is where it is. These circumstances have a beginning, but each of them unfold in largely unpredictable ways, filling out the empty space between the notes, creating a totality in the performance of a composition. And each performance is different from the other, though it is easy to recognize the composition as being a particular composition and not some other.

We are conscious while we surrender to unfamiliar logics.

VI
We abandon the formal qualities of artistic practice and let it sieve through our bodies, into all aspects of our lives, so our ‘practice’ becomes something more than where our works of art are created. Our practice reveals the blurred lines between our making and life.

School, an act of art.
Teaching, an act of art
Learning, an act of art.
Lives, acts of art.

School as Anarchist Practice

Anarchism: the name given to a principle or theory of life and conduct under which society is conceived without government—harmony in such a society being obtained, not by submission to law, or by obedience to any authority, but by free agreements concluded between the various groups and individuals, freely constituted for the sake of generating culture that serves the pursuit of the multitude of purposes that exist within the range of humanity.

 

I
When talking about anarchist practices in relation to a school, we are talking about those ethical practices that relate to daily life, to a life where decisions are taken amongst members of a community relating to the particular instances within which they are being taken. These are related to practices that are not governed by universal ideas but by what we will call particularist ethics.

We are against rigid policy as ‘the way’ things must be done and instead insist on looking at every instance, every situation, every relation as something new, while naturally considering experiences through time. Relating to situations in this way does not mean forgetting history, but rather embracing past and present history and embracing the uniqueness of every situation.

II
We are searching for ways of living that make sense. And this we have to find out for ourselves, all of us. Our thinking on the matter can only take us so far, so we will have to figure out what it looks like and what it feels like by engaging in it, by engaging in life.

We are trying and failing and trying and failing.

We will never succeed in finding ‘A Way’. The way changes along the way. So, we will let go of our longing for eternal answers to what makes a good life, and instead we will live and keep going ‘till we get it right and then continue, knowing that it will have to be created anew every instant.

We do not try to create theories to live by, but we do try to theorize our actions so as to understand them properly. Not in order to reproduce them and to frame our lives by them, but in order to have them visible, so we can move with them when it makes sense, and move beyond them when that is called for.

III
These kinds of anarchist practices belong to communities of human scale.
Therefore, we are and will always be a small school, a small community. In order to properly, radically engage in a lived inquiry into the question of how to live together.

IV
Can we imagine a liquid terminology?

We are trapped by our own language and the lenses through which we feed our imagination. Perhaps only by dissolving our “truths” and sustaining them in a liquid state will we reimagine new ways for experiencing and existing.
There are terms that take on different meanings under different circumstances and situations, but in a particular field, their meaning is locked and holds everything in a state of pretense-equilibrium.
What we are suggesting here is not meaninglessness, and certainly not relativism, but the acceptance of the impossibility of universality in terminology and understanding. We pursue a way of looking at the world that sees every situation as truly it’s own, requiring consideration upon consideration without letting any universals establish themselves.
It is within the particular that we experience, that we feel, that we sense; and it must be here where we also make sense.

Uncertainty requires a collapse of understanding. A collapse that seems to be happening all around us, whether we want it or not. We can embrace this collapse and start listening and doing attentively, which includes both risks and possibilities. Risk of doubt and uncertainty, and possibilities for opening up to otherness within and without.

V
Anarchist practices create distance from established practices, but do not remove themselves completely from existing frames, rather they exist within them. We do not try to establish a utopian life outside the world, but strive to make a good life in the world.

Anarchism is the kind of practice that both allows and nurtures the individual in assuming the responsibility that comes with being alive as a being amongst other beings. Therefore, the most revolutionary practice must be engaged with making this existence visible and felt, with creating ways through which it can be acted upon.

VI
Our aim is to enable a community to pursue the multitude of purposes that exist within the range of humanity. A community in which the possibility exists to live out various conceptions of a good life is not a community that is held together by compromises. Rather, it is a community in which all members take into consideration all the others as well as themselves, and where ones actions are guided by the total understanding of ones situation. As a starting point we assume each others’ consideration and humbly accept that one can never grasp the full consequence of ones own actions.

The Art School

I
Studying art means surrounding yourself with art and artists, and a conversation on art making and artistic practice. Materials and mediums are everywhere around us, as we live our lives. All situations are simultaneously their form and their potential forms.

Studying art is developing an interest in everything around you.

Studying art is not an academic venture.

Studying art is a sustained activity no different from doing art. It is the cultivation of an artistic sensibility, an artistic language (language understood here as a way of engaging with our surroundings) that becomes part of one’s being.

Our foundation for art making is exactly this cultivated language that allows artists to engage in conversation with all the visible and invisible materials that make up their inner and outer life, that make up the experience of life.

II
Artistic life is a life of creation. It is a life in which we are constantly in the process of collecting, conversing, and experimenting. Artistic life is this process and not the works that come from it. The works are snapshots released during this process. They are creations that carry this process within them, while also being things in their own right, to be experienced for their own sake.
Every activity is a conversation.

In artistic life, you never know what to do before doing it. Knowing what to do before starting amounts to a muting of the conversation, an estrangement from the world. Artistic life is a way of being in the world that is in itself an opening up to the world while creating it.

III
Art is not about expression either of oneself or of an idea. Art is not about something.
Art is something. It is not a discourse about abstractions; it is the giving of form to, and living out of, particulars.

IV
Art can only be when it insists on its own uselessness and meaninglessness. Only then can it become meaningful and useful. Only when it reflects and emphasizes (not through process, form, or content but as a whole) the immediate existence of the observer in the world does it point towards assuming the responsibility that comes with being in the world.
The responsibility of artists is to insist on being useless, to simply insist on the realization of their art.

 

V
Contemporary art education must become an integrated, conscious, social practice of creating environments of experimentation while at the same time dissolving the boundaries of the institution. Art is not a spectacle removed from the viewer, but an integrated experience of the lives we live.

The artist serves a purpose in society not merely by what they produce, but by the way they practice and exist. In this way, the artistic practice is blurring the lines between life and art and breaks down the barriers of the art institutions and transform them into truly cultural institutions that works with the conscious creation of culture through artistic practice.

Here, teaching and learning becomes performative practices that calls for aesthetic appreciation, consideration and alteration.

VI
Studying art weaves a web of questions that forces us to remain conscious.

Studying art does not provide any answers.

On an Art of Living

I
As a human being you need to make a living (not to be confused with making money) which means that you have to engage in activities that sustain your own life as well as the people around and the ones dependent on you. However, logically, the question of making a living only makes sense after the question of ‘why’ has been addressed. Naturally, we have to be alive to even ask that question so chronologically we have to make a living before addressing the question of why.
Ultimately, and practically, this means that these two questions, how to make a living? and why even live?, exist simultaneously and we realize that the questions are very much related, though not entirely the same thing.

Sustaining one’s life must be put in service of living the kind of life that makes sense to live and can never be a purpose in itself.

School is a space outside of the system of production and instrumentalization. A place constituted for the sake of wondering about ways of living, about reasons for living and a place for abstract experimentation on these questions, seeking ways that make sense. And the path of experimentation is neither linear nor logical.

In a sense, schools are preparation for life, but in the same breath it needs to be said that schools do not take place outside of life and therefore must also, in themselves, constitute a way of life. They must serve as examples and everyone involved as exemplars of living consciously with these questions.

II
The school must be an interplay between structure and anti-structure, not meaning the opposite of structure but that which, when coming in contact with structure, dissolves both. The structure is concerned with cultivating perception and actions while anti-structure comes from an attitude of openness and attention towards the particular moments. The tension between the two reveals the potentials that exist in any given situation.

The larger aim of schools must be to enable students to carry forward this interplay between structure and anti-structure and their art of living after leaving the school.

III
An art of living is concerned with altering the questions we normally ask and address the life you live as the fundamental practice of any artist, the foundation upon which everything you do takes place. It is upon this foundation that one’s life can be structured in accordance with those things that are worth striving for.

Life being in service of art while art (the conscious curation and production of culture) being the way of, and purpose for, life.

How can one make a living through living artistically?

IV
When we look around us we see the dominating instrumental and economic logic and discourse turning everything into means. The ends we seek are abstractions we look for in the mirror. But you can never be the purpose of you own life without turning everything and everyone else into instruments.

Introspection and cultivation of oneself can only take place for the sake of qualifying one’s presence and devotion to something that is outside of oneself.
Who and what are we something for?

V
Living is an activity to be felt. Only if things matter can they be felt. An art of living is a surrendering of cynicism, irony and the prejudices of modernity in favor of letting things matter in themselves and for their own sake.

VI
An art of living, being concerned partly with making a living, should be treated with the same artistic attention as any process of making. Our thoughts are bend from the object and back onto ourselves.

Structure

And so we get to the problem of structure.

The program ’84’ moves through different stages. These are characterized by a difference in language, a difference in content and a difference in focus, but also by a similarity which allows for several cycles to occur during the program and several opportunities to revisit an idea or a medium in order to experience the changes in perception that occurs over time.

The stages occur chronologically, but are overlapping and seamlessly woven together so that the journey through them becomes one continuous movement.

The problem of engaging with the multiple levels of consideration that lies in each little detail of the program led us to the decision of creating the program as composition.
What follows is a graphic score detailing this particular program. The score has been created from a basis of six structural spaces:

the collective
the individual
the active/effective
the reflective
the invasive/disruptive
the formally informal

These six spaces constitute the programmed space. The empty space in between is where everything slowly becomes something. The structure exists for the sake of the uncontrollable and unpredictable life that unfolds in between it’s elements.

The graphic score speaks multiple languages simultaneously. The elements of the composition reflects the particular content while the graphic expression speaks to the nature of the intention.

(06_Paragraph 1, 2016, from “Teaching and learning as artistic practice: A manifesto for the LungA School)

07_Paragraph 2, 2016, from “Teaching and learning as artistic practice: A manifesto for the LungA School

08_Paragraph 3, 2016, from “Teaching and learning as artistic practice: A manifesto for the LungA School

09_Paragraph 4, 2016, from “Teaching and learning as artistic practice: A manifesto for the LungA School

10_Paragraph 5, 2016, from “Teaching and learning as artistic practice: A manifesto for the LungA School

11_Paragraph 6, 2016, from “Teaching and learning as artistic practice: A manifesto for the LungA School

12_Paragraph 7, 2016, from “Teaching and learning as artistic practice: A manifesto for the LungA School

13_Paragraph 8, 2016, from “Teaching and learning as artistic practice: A manifesto for the LungA School

14_Paragraph 9, 2016, from “Teaching and learning as artistic practice: A manifesto for the LungA School

15_Paragraph 10, 2016, from “Teaching and learning as artistic practice: A manifesto for the LungA School

16_Paragraph 11, 2016, from “Teaching and learning as artistic practice: A manifesto for the LungA School

17_Paragraph 12, 2016, from “Teaching and learning as artistic practice: A manifesto for the LungA School

Notes

’84’ is a creature that aims to make everything visible. It is, at its core, an aesthetic and ethical ambition, a world-opening and life-affirming ambition. It is also the form given to an attempt to live our way into some answers that cannot be found in any other way than by the passing of time, the unfolding of events and the thoughtful consideration and contemplation upon it all.


18_Untitled, 2016, image by Shan Turner-Carroll

Or rather: it is the form given to a way of living with the questions.

The project operates in a number of fields and on a number of levels regarding the kind of inquiries undertaken.
There is an ‘inside’ to the project which holds the topics that we find a lot of the conversations and experiments during the 84 days are about. The number of simultaneously ongoing projects and questions is a list of topics that is close to endless. However, the categories of topics could be formulated as this:

We are questioning while practicing the following:

  1. Our familiarity with a range of mediums, tools and ideas through the experimentation with these in our work.
  2. Our ability to navigate and act in settings and times characterized by uncertainty as well as the ability to act without fully knowing what will come of those actions.
  3. To open, unravel and discuss the lenses through which we understand, and act in, the world.
  4. Our applied understanding and the ability to practice good judgment in any given situation, knowing that this means an ongoing re-negotiation with the situation.
  5. A broadening of our conception of the kind of lives that we can choose to live and our pursuit of these. What are the innumerable purposes that can constitute a good reason for living and which are the innumerable ways in which such a life can take form?
  6. Our use of language, understood as our ability to live and interact with all material and immaterial aspects of our surroundings.
  7. Our ability to form meaningful relations and to engage in a community.
  8. Our ability to live artistically, to live fully and to live like it matters

19_Untitled, 2016, still image from video “The Finale, Fall  ‘16” by Austin Thomasson and Dæ Ja

But underlying this is an effort that is central to the project and which ties threads through all the differences that are in each iteration of ‘84’.

A question of organization

We can consider it an effort of pushing an idea of exploring fundamental organizing principles for human activities and it holds both the considerations that directly influence the decisions on the form of the particular performance as well as the considerations, beliefs and assumptions that make up the very foundation for how we perceive and interact with our surroundings on multiple levels.

Here we are engaged with creating new language and methods for what characterizes the responsibilities and relations, not only in a clearly stated educational setting, but also as elements of a more general social practice. Pedagogy is not tied to a situation of teaching, but becomes a name for how to practically operate social life in a way where collaborative praxis / praxis as ensemble is not tied to a particular temporal or physical space, but becomes organizing principle for human behavior.
The educational institution is far from the only, nor the most interesting, place for the creation and formulation of knowledge and we attempt to create language and forms that highlight the potential of all situations to inform understanding and praxis.

The ad-hocratic nature of our structure is also an attempt to experiment with a general question in relation to structure: When is something too much, making the situation rigid? And when is something not enough, making the situation dissolve? These are fairly basic question, nonetheless the answers are not straightforward.



20_Untitled, 2016, photo from exhibition 

A question of being

In relation to this is also an ontological consideration of being.
(Does the school exist?)
The school, as collective identity emerging from the coming together of individuals that over time, with all their actions, words and thoughts move back and forth on the spectrum of reinforcing or dissolving the school as collective social identity. While at the same time, physical structures and spaces exist that play into this process of territorializing, of making the school exist, and ties this existence to a place.

Parts of this formation of identity is material, is tied to place, and people in this place, while another aspect of the existence has to do with an immaterial aspect of language and stories. The multiple languages developed in the manifesto, as well as the abstract nature of all material that finds it way beyond the mountains in both digital and analogue forms, plays into a process of one identity disrupting the other, thereby countering the process of territorializing and coding, not by specifically de-territorializing, but by territorializing somewhere else. If we understand territorializing literally, then through becoming we are also becoming more confusing in that we exist in multiple territories. Not over time, but at once. We are not one thing after the other, but all things at once, all the time.

A question of knowledge and darkness

When considering the kinds of knowledge (and questions) that derives from this situation where an entity emerges and is brought into existence, our attention goes into the investigation of all the elements of interactions that brings about the school. The school is not more or greater than the sum of all the material and immaterial parts that it consists of, but it is different from these and properties emerge that are particular to the school.

Perhaps this is an attempt to dissolve hierarchical differentiation between parts and wholes, and hold considerations of both at once, but If I say so, then I also have to say that it isn’t. The quality of the understanding that comes forth lies not in it’s relation to building systems of knowledge, but to constantly, relentlessly point to the not-knowing by insisting on a fluidity, sometimes through ambiguity, sometimes through negation, sometimes by affirmation, sometimes by being silent.

These are in some respects meta-considerations, but in each unfolding of ’84’ they become very particular as the experiments must be lived out, performed. And all of it lives both here (locally, poetically) as well as everywhere through tiny openings that allow us to be watched and heard. Radio waves and bits of data are sent out in all directions, available to be picked up by anyone.
Performing ‘84’ is in all respects a collaborative practice. The composition is made and performed to form a situation with tension and potential that takes everyone involved in surprising directions.
We are interested in addressing and developing understanding in relation to all of the above, but as an artistic experiment that calls itself a school we are naturally also simply concerned with how this understanding (and non-understanding) turns into our lives.


21_Untitled, 2016, still image from video “The Finale, Fall  ‘16” by Austin Thomasson and Dæ Ja

 

 

The unfolding of events

Can be followed here:
INSTAGRAM : @lungaschool
FACEBOOK : facebook.com/LungA.School
VIDEO MATERIAL : http://vimeo.com/user35363969
PHOTOS : http://lungaschool.tumblr.com
RADIO BROADCASTS : http://soundcloud.com/user-56177927 AND http://mixlr.com/seydisfjordur-community-radio/

And more

www.lunga.is/school


22_Untitled, 2017, photo by Amal Khan

 

An incomplete list of relevant sources

Relevant reading material

Friere, Paolo – Pedagogy of the oppressed
(originally published in 1968)

Illich, Ivan – Deschooling Society
Calder and Boyars, 1971

Illich, Ivan – The cultivation of Conspiracy
speech by Ivan Illich, Bremen, 1998

Madoff, Steven – ‘Art School (Propositions for the 21st century)’, (edited by Steven Henry Madoff)
MIT Press, 2009

Cage, John – Silence
Wesleyan Univerity Press – 1961

Bishop, Claire – Artifcial Hells (Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship)
Versobooks, 2012

Filliou, Robert – Teaching and learning as performance arts
Gebr. Koeing, 1970

Weitz, Morris – The role of theory in Aesthetics
essay from ‘The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism’, XV (1956), 27-35.

Graeber, David – Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology
Prickly Paradigm Press, 2004

Taggart, Andrew – How an Artist can hack a living
self-published, 2015


Relevant projects and works:

Copenhagen Free University (2001 – 2007) – http://www.copenhagenfreeuniversity.dk

Mountain School of Art (2005 – ) – http://www.themountainschoolofarts.org

Unitednationsplaza (by Anton Vidokle) (2006 – 2009) – http://www.unitednationsplaza.org

BAUHAUS (1919-1933) – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bauhaus

School of the Damned (2014 – ) – http://schoolofthedamned.tumblr.com

– ‘Having never written a note for Percussion’, James Tenney, 1971

– ‘Appearances’, Collective Actions Group, 1976

– ‘Treatise’, Cornelius Cardew, 1963-67

 

Elsewhere Tomorrow

By | Projects

Elsewhere – Tomorrow 01, 2017, Collage, 1000 x 750, © 11/2017, Kaspar Stöbe + Nicolò Krättli

Two Skies

A proposal for an artwork placed as an LCD screen on the front facade of a children‘s hospital. Parallel to the progress of time, the sky image moves and shows 24 hours in advance. The real sky contrasts with the future sky. It is a dialogue between the present and the future. The image is calculated from a range of data collected worldwide. It is intended to captivate with its affinity to the natural model.

This simple idea is the distillate of a conceptual analysis of the identity of the hospital. It stems form the desire to redefine the identity of the entire institution by means of a contemporary work of art, a dialogue of technology with poetry and a study of placing anticipated reality within reality.

Here and Elsewhere

The project Sky Of Tomorrow was a study commissioned by the hospital organization in Datteln, Germany.

Our application to projectanywhere.net endeavors to show the project‘s potential for other places and other contexts.

Our aim is to liberate the idea of the artwork from a specific location. The Sky Of Tomorrow can be installed anywhere on the planet. A change of the coordinates takes this screen from one place to any other. We call this art work: Elsewhere Tomorrow

Starting Point – the mosaik of the present, 2017, 1000 x 750, © 12/2017, Kaspar Stöbe + Nicolò Krättli

The commission to make a proposal for an art piece for the facade of a children‘s hospital positioned at the main entrance of the building has been the starting point for a research project about how to represent the spirit of the institution on the main facade. 

A medium for representing identity on a facade is the mosaic. The mosaic stores a static moment in time and material (i.e. glass stones reflecting the color pigments). In contrast, a screen has the ability to be in the moment without storing any data in material form. 

Since identity is something stable, but manifests itself in the present, we want to combine the durability of the mosaic – to store the institutional spirit in time – and the capacity of the screen – to be in the present. 

We are looking for a mosaic to depict the present.

Mosaic of the Contemporary

A mosaic stores a picture for eternity. Such an eternal image can depict an ephemeral subject and keep it for the future. We equally strive to create an image of an ephemeral entity that of the eternally changing sky, as a symbol of a constantly changing world.

In a similar sense, the identity of a person adapts continually to the world: new clues are found and old ones are repelled. The identity of a human being is conceived as something ever-nascent and not as something static as Nietzsche pointed out.¹ Thus the Mosaic of the Present also becomes a symbol of the nature of man.

Weather in Conservation

What is the weather going to be like tomorrow? This question is asked by everyone, everywhere, all the time.

This simple question will be the starting point for long intense discussions of the artists among doctors, patients, engineers, physicists, meteorologists, IT-specialists, interaction and game designers.


Hypothesis – present and future, 2017, 1000 x 750,
© 12/2017, Kaspar Stöbe + Nicolò Krättli

The oldest mosaic is the sky. It always looks different, but is the same as centuries ago. 

We want to show the present, by making an image of tomorrow. 

Therefore, we will install a large daylight LED screen which shows calculated predictions of how the sky will look in 24 hours. The image is calculated from various sets of data and changes constantly. 

Fascination

The screen shows a picture that is older than any rock on this planet. The sky has existed since the earth has had an atmosphere. And since then, the sun‘s rays have broken into the atmosphere‘s water drops, which have absorbed the blue light. The heat of the sun, beating down on the world‘s oceans and the humid continents, makes the water evaporate, and rise, and turn into clouds. This spectacle has accompanied life on earth since the first hour.

Scientific Logarithm

The project is a calculated ‚painting’ from the large source of big data available from the global worldwide network: meteorological data, aircraft movements, mathematical calculations of the movement of the orb, data of migratory birds, which are collected to protect them from flying into wind parks. Everything is joined together to form a digital vision of the future. This simple idea – a humble statement – is an invitation for the observer to raise important questions about today‘s reality.

Symbol

The aspect of the sky is unique at any place at any time. And yet everyone is familiar with it and can see it from every place on earth.

The complexity of today‘s global information network, the Internet, is reflected in the complex genesis of this celestial image. It is a portrait of our digital era. When asked how to create the digital ‚painting’, people have suggested to simply record the existing weather over a year and replay a recorded segment of it according to the weather forecast of the following day. This technique would show the future with playbacks from the past. But since we want to make a mosaic of the contemporary, we want to stay connected to the present as closely as possible. The past is not acceptable.

Eternal fascination – the sky, 2017, 1000 x 750, © 12/2017, Kaspar Stöbe + Nicolò Krättli

The sky has always been the canvas for the structure of society, religion and other hierachical structures. 

In contrast, the shepherd boy painted by Franz von Lembach (fig. 5) is looking up at the sky and loses himself by projecting his own dreams and visions onto that blue canvas. Looking at the sky can liberate a human from his earthly connections and constrictions.  

The sky over time is not only a representation of social and civic structures but also a mirror of our individual way of life. The first pictures of our planet from space (fig. 4) have changed our perception of Earth completely. From this moment in time, we started looking at the Earth from the outside. Man not only possesses the land but has also conquered space. 

Every single movement is traceable, all human affairs have become transparent. With the acquired data, we can make innumerable predictions. 

Our technological age is becoming more and more complex. In this age, we would like to look at the sky like the shepherd boy and linger in a moment of contemplation, to gain a new understanding of our times. 

Crossing the Uncanny Valley

The aim, however, remains to be as close as possible to nature, if possible to cross the uncanny valley.² The professor for robotics, Masahiro Mori, used this sentence in 1970 to state the trust of the people in robots. „In aesthetics, the uncanny valley is the hypothesis that human replicas which appear almost, but not exactly, like real human beings elicit feelings of eeriness and revulsion (or uncanniness) among some observers. Valley denotes a dip in the human observer‘s affinity for the replica, a relation that otherwise increases with the replica‘s human likeness.“ (source Wikipedia)

Future Outlook

Hannah Arendt stated in 1958 after the astronauts had flown out into space, that whatever they explored out there, the most important discovery was the planet earth itself.³ The globe as an object, with a finite expansion (fig. 4).

The look up into the sky is a different one than the one down to the earth. This elevation to the sky (this digital painting) has a view to the top. The look up is the perspective of the human. The human condition on earth.

This is unlike the perspective of the world maps, the baroque divine perspective, the perspective of the satellites, the perspective of surveillance.

With this artwork we require people to think about what our time and our networking is all about. We take the perspective of a child in a meadow, who looks high up into the sky, a child that asks the questions, what do I want to do with my contemporary possibilities? What is my potential and what do I have to heed?

Composition – the sky, a painting, 2017, 1000 x 750, © 12/2017, Kaspar Stöbe + Nicolò Krättli

Aside from the philosophical aspect of topics such as: power, dreams, order, territory, forecasting, algorithms, ephemeral, Anthropocene, big data, surveillance and spirituality, the sky also has a picturesque side. 

By looking at the outcome as a painting, the project assumes another layer of meaning. 

In order to make the image, a camera is positioned vertically, facing the sky. 

Weather elements, such as clouds, fog, sunrays and rain are only one feature of the sky. It furthermore consists of birds, planes, satellites and planets. 

Many of the latter features and their positions are known 24 hours in advance and partly even available publicly. 

On the basis of this data, it is possible to make an prognosis for the following day. 

Weather Forecast – A National Institution

The search for the best data-source for weather modeling always led to national institutes which provide the weather forecast. The reason for this is: In order to provide the most precise forecast, one needs a super computer to calculate the forecast from a less precise, world-spanning model into a more precise national model, (ICON (World, grid 13 km) -> COSMO EU (Europe, grid 7 km)-> COSMO DE (Germany, grid 2.7km)). In the end it’s a matter of national wealth if a country is able to run its own institute of meteorology.

Territory vs. Borderless

Unlike a map, the sky can not be divided by borders. The weather map shows the weather within borders. The maps can be divided into very small pieces. And on each of these pieces you will find at least one person, who demands the right of property. Jean Jaques Rousseau stated once that the fruit of the earth belong to all of us, and the earth itself to nobody.⁴  The earth, as we know it, is still a divided place. The sky is unified. We do not want to propose a future identity based upon territorial or national divisions. Free and boundless must be the gaze of a child when it looks into the sky, like the one in the painting of Franz von Lembach, The Shepherd Boy (fig. 5). It represents the wish of liberation in thinking and speech in the time of Biedermeier. Back then, revolutionary people had to flee into privacy to escape the constrictions of the nobility who relaunched the old system in the Age of Restoration after Napoleon’s banishment. This boy, looking up into the sky, sees no divine assembly of angels and popes ruling the world. He can simply follow his dreams and hopes.

Circuit Diagram – calculation of the image, 2017, 1000 x 750, © 12/2017, Kaspar Stöbe + Nicolò Krättli

The image of the sky of tomorrow is created in three steps: 

In the first step, all data needed are downloaded from various real time sources via Internet. The most important part of this data, the weather parameters, are taken from international weather models. These models are run every three hours and the data is valid for the next 27 hours. Aside from the weather data, the positions of the planets,  planes and other flying objects are downloaded from various sources. 

The second step is the translation of the imported numbers into 3D objects in accordance with time and position. 

In the third step, the three-dimensional model is run through a rendering engine to create the final image. This image is then sent to the screen.

To Everyone

Hans Haacke‘s work of art, DER BEVÖLKERUNG, in a courtyard of the German Reichstag building is an homage to all the people who live in this country⁵, regardless of where they were born or what passport they possess. Today, identity can no longer be understood in the collective, it is neither homogeneous nor national. The children in the hospital near Dortmund, Germany, are both: children of Germany and Europe, but they might also be rooted in Africa, Asia or America. This artwork suggests identity as something boundless and omnipresent.

The Monochrome

Yves Klein was the artist who sat under the bright blue sky and willfully put his signature on the lower edge.⁶ He did not invent the sky, but he established monochrome blue as art, as his art. In this respect, the void space seems to be a consequence of his thinking. At a later date, he exhibited the empty space of a gallery: ‚Le Vide‘, the void space.⁷ He placed himself in the room and told the people: „First there is nothing, then there is a deep nothing, then a blue depth.“. Here Yves Klein uses the void space – so to say the blank canvas – to evoke his imaginary and immaterial and even invisible blue sky in the visitor‘s head. The sky becomes a deep nothing while it is being contemplated. In fact, it mirrors endless potentiality.

Vanishing

The artwork will not produce any deposits in the future. There will be no digital sedimentation of past states. This work of art will not contribute to the collection of big data. We want to prevent a digital Anthropocene. Showing the present without digital storage is a manifesto against the trend of our digital age.

Data import – load information, 2017, 1000 x 750, © 12/2017, Kaspar Stöbe + Nicolò Krättli

To be able to calculate the sky of tomorrow, a large number of different data sets are necessary. These data are downloaded live from the Internet. Since these data will be in different formats, they will have to be translated in order to fit into our system. 

For the visualization of the planes, we need information about flight level, speed, plane type, and also a 3D model of that specific plane. 

The weather information is calculated in different models with certain model boundaries and resolutions. Since very high-performance computers are needed to run these weather models, the resolution is dependent on model size. The best resolution in Datteln is provided by the Cosmo-DE model, which is a section of the Cosmo-EU model which is again a section of the ICON global model. The Cosmo-DE model gives information in a grid size of 2,7 km with 50 layers superimposed. 

The different models are based on each other; the boundary conditions are researched in academic institutions.

Vilém Flusser states: „We have a different concept of time than our parents. For our parents, time was a stream that flowed from the past into the future, did not stay in the present and tore everything with it. Of course, this dramatic term is insane. First of all, time does not come from the past, but from the future, and secondly, the present is what matters. If we leave the historical picture of time and resort to the new concept of time, according to which time arrives from all directions, from the future, and the things that come from the future realize themselves in the present, according to which the present in these things is then transformed into two kinds of past are transformed, processed, on the one hand into retrievable, that is to say in memory, and on the other hand into non-retrievable, that is to say oblivion.“ ⁹

Modelling – translating data into 3D objects, 2017, 1000 x 750, © 12/2017, Kaspar Stöbe + Nicolò Krättli

In order to generate an image from the various sorts of data, it is necessary to translate the numbers into three-dimensional geometry. The geo-referenced data sets are positioned at the respective spot in the virtual model. The data imported from the COSMO model are translated into small blocks and generate fine waterdrops, which form a cloud. 

The planets are imported and move according to time in the model. 

Planes and their contrails are taken from information about position, speed, flight level, in combination with the imported 3D models of the different planes.  The contrails are calculated in accordance with flight levels and humidity, at the respective height being taken from the weather information. 

Apart from these moving objects, a camera is positioned according to the coordinates of the screen. 

¹ Friedrich Nietzsche – Ecce Homo, Werde der du bist, (engl. How One Becomes What One Is)

² The uncanny valley, Masahiro Mori, 1970

Quote form Wikipedia:

„Mori‘s original hypothesis states that as the appearance of a robot is made more human, some observers‘ emotional response to the robot become increasingly positive and empathetic, until it reaches a point beyond which the response quickly becomes strong revulsion. However, as the robot‘s appearance continues to become less distinguishable from a human being, the emotional response becomes positive once again and approaches human-to-human empathy levels.

This area of repulsive response aroused by a robot with appearance and motion between a „barely human“ and „fully human“ entity is the uncanny valley. The name captures the idea that an almost human-looking robot seems overly „strange“ to some human beings, produces a feeling of uncanniness, and thus fails to evoke the empathic response required for productive human–robot interaction.“

³ Hannah Arendt, in the prologue of „The Human Condition“ 1958

⁴ Jean Jacques Rousseau (1754), On the Origin of the Inequality of Mankind

„The first man who, having enclosed a piece of ground, bethought himself of saying This is mine, and found people simple enough to believe him, was the real founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows, „Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.“

⁵ Hans Haacke – „Der Bevölkerung“ (engl. to the people)

⁶ Yves Klein about the sky:

„Just an adolescent in 1946, I went to sign my name on the underside of the sky during a fantastic realistico-imaginary journey. That day, as I lay stretched on the beach at Nice, I began to feel hatred for birds which flew back and forth across my blue sky, because they tried to bore holes in my greatest and most beautiful work.“

Alors que j’étais encore un adolescent, en 1946, j’allais signer mon nom de l’autre côté du ciel durant une fantastique voyage „réalistico-imaginaire“. Ce jour-là, alors que j’étais étendu sur la plage de Nice, je me mis à éprouver de la haine pour les oiseaux qui volaient de-ci de-là dans mon beau ciel bleu sans nuage, parce qu’ils essayaient de faire des trous dans la plus belle et la plus grande de mes œuvres.

⁷ Yves Klein, exhibition „Le Vide“, in Iris Clert Gallery, 1958

James Turrell, Grey Dawn, 1991, 92, 2015 at the K21 in Düsseldorf

⁹ Vilém Flusser, Informationsgesellschaft als Regenwurm, (in „Kultur und Technik im 21. Jahrhundert“), 1991, p.77

Rendering – the image, 2017, 1000 x 750, © 12/2017, Kaspar Stöbe + Nicolò Krättli

With a rendering engine, it is possible to calculate a two-dimensional, photo-realistic image from a three-dimensional model. In our case, we want to take an image from the site camera perspective of the calculated 3D objects in the different positions. The sun is the lighting source of the scene. 

The rendering engine will then calculate color values for every single pixel of the set resolution.

These color values are stored in the 2D matrix of light points of the screen. Whenever the engine calculates a value, the old value is overwritten and deleted. By storing this information in the primitive storage of the screen, the screen itself turns into a mosaic again, where the information is no longer stored with glass stones but with light. 

Screen as memory – conception and construction, 2017, 1000 x 750, © 12/2017, Kaspar Stöbe + Nicolò Krättli

The screen constantly shows the live prefiguration of the sky in 24 hours. The screen is a temporary storage medium of the information. Whenever a pixel changes, the old information is overwritten and lost. 

The screen thereby turns into a mosaic. 

The screen consists of small elements (960 mm x 960 mm, 96 x 96 Pixel, 42 kg) and can be any size depending on space and budget. These elements are mounted onto a sub-structure. This sub-structure can be installed onto a facade or driven around on a truck.

The Grid

By | Projects

“Chongqing London #1”, 2017. Photography, Digital Media, Morrad+McArthu

“London Sydney #1”, 2017. Photography, Digital Media, Morrad+McArthur

“London Sydney #2”, 2017. Photography, Digital Media, Morrad+McArthur

Artists:

Annie Morrad: Artist/Senior Lecturer, University of Lincoln, School of Film and Media, Lincoln, UK
AMorrad@lincoln.ac.uk

Dr Ian McArthur: Hybrid Practitioner/Senior Lecturer, UNSW Art & Design, UNSW Australia, Sydney, Australia
ian.mcarthur@unsw.edu.au

Annie Morrad is a London-based artist and musician and senior lecturer at the University of Lincoln, UK. Dr Ian McArthur is a Sydney-based hybrid practitioner, working in the domains of interdisciplinary design and sound art. These two musicians work together in a telematic digital structure formed from open source and proprietary software platforms.

Project Locations(s):

London (continuous), Sydney (various months), Chongqing (various months), New York (via monthly Wave Farm Radio broadcast).

Dates:

2018

Duration:

12 months

Aims:

The Grid is a preliminary study exploring sound and cities to forge a triangulated performative and intermittently participatory digital space linking London, Sydney, Chongqing, and New York through experimental composition and telematic improvisation using live and recorded saxophones, coding, field recordings, found sounds, electronics, processed guitars, and piano. The project’s construction of “city-ness” (Sassen, 2005) through the building of structured assemblages of experimental sound and music involving the artists Morrad+McArthur, collaborators and participants underpins the ongoing testing of telematic ecologies of improvisation and collaborative composition as a means to generate newness and new sonic spaces. The cities in “The Grid” are chosen for their specific experiential, personal, and professional links to the participating practitioners. The project addresses the lack of comprehensive understanding about the potential of telematic digital spaces as performative and generative. Within the project we aim to:

  1. describe these cities through a juxtaposition of sonic interpretations of the grid.
  2. interpose experimental and interpreted grid structures on the selected cities (chosen for their connection to the artists).
  3. generate composed and improvised sonic structures that offer potential for new performative and participatory forms of urban sound and musicality drawing on philosophical and theoretical ideas of rhythm through polyrhythms and view of society, rhythm (Lefebvre, 2004) and social space (Lefebvre, 1991) together with the understanding of ‘time’ as instantaneous moments (Bachelard, 2000).
  4. weave interpretive and intersectional structures that break these structures using music theory influenced by Prevost’s notion of the “search for sound” to challenge accepted notions of latency held by performance artists working in distributed and networked contexts (Pévost, 1995).
  5. produce collaborative improvised and site-specific performances, experimental radio broadcasts, an interactive/responsive installation, comprised of sound, video, photographic and drawn material.
  6. develop and apply site-specific strategies to each city (1) London via ordinance survey maps and staves) (2) Sydney via structured sound, drones, (3) Chongqing via participatory urban media design and New York via our monthly live improvisation and experimental radio broadcasts (Wave Farm Radio: Morrad+McArthur https://wavefarm.org/ta/artists/x8grjs).

Research Contribution:

The sonic, performative, and musical improvisations produced in “The Grid” by Morrad+McArthur address questions in the discourse of telematics and live performance and the challenge latency presents to performers working in distributed and networked contexts. Although the focus of the work is the nature of telematic improvisation and not the “glitch” itself, inevitably, interference, frozen screens, delays, echoes repeating back and environmental sound sent from the original source are typically seen as negative elements of the listening experience. However, in the live improvisations of telematic (Oliveros,) collaborators Morrad+Mcarthur these otherwise undesirable and unpredictable ‘accidents’ and interruptions are all utilised. In doing so the work reformulates accepted approaches to musical and performative creativity in telematic communication and artistic contexts.

Hypothesis:

This collaboration rethinks improvisation as an emergent networked, telematic art practice, simultaneously leveraging traditions of instrumentation (eg. sax, piano) but embracing generative and digital networks to forge a new globally dispersed affect. The study tests the theoretical assumption that artists working in diverse global cities brought together in a distributed digital space via simple accessible technologies, can produce a new, textural, transcultural, sonic language through a combination of disruption, composed, improvised, recorded and broadcast sounds augmented with imagery. The study will demonstrate how this dynamic real time interaction can emerge from collective, collaborative engagement in a complex weaving of sound, urban environments, new technologies, and performance when investigated within the context of regular experimental radio broadcasts, installations and performances, and participatory workshops conducted “in-the wild”, in the form of a program of experimental explorations presented simultaneously from diverse networked global urban sites. The use of the grid in the title of this proposal refers to the underlying structures of audio software and its inherent timelines, the layout of cities and urban and spaces (particularly in London, Sydney and New York, and the role of hierarchy, arrangement, and structure in visual communications. In the context of this project ‘the grid’ should not be construed as pertaining to the nodal, networked relationships and vectors of the distributed sites across which the work connects and manifests.

Research Significance:

The significance of this research is its’ contribution to knowledge about distributed, networked, and participative performance practice and the positive deployment of interruptive processes that examine and exploit its virtues to expose productive insights that go beyond abstract theorization (Campbell, 2016). The applied practice-led nature of this research reveals the relevance of the networked sonic realm to a wider interdisciplinary context where our respective and different creative practices reveal trajectories that link public art, experimental radio, architecture, urban mapping, digital design, and visual art.

Research Method:

These particular cities have been chosen for their tangible connections to the participants; London (Morrad) and Sydney (McArthur) are native cities, Chongqing (McArthur) is a work place, and NYC is where each month Morrad+McArthur have an hour long program on Wave Farm Radio https://wavefarm.org/ta/artists/x8grjs 

“The Grid” utilises experimental approaches to investigating creative engagement with notions of underlying grids, generative sound, music, improvisation, and cities. The method of practice-led research applied within this study interposes grid structures on (1) London: via an ordinance survey map with an overlaid hand drawn stave creating a ‘music’ score based on various intersections. This includes the boroughs of Hackney, Camden and Islington, also providing images still and moving from which to generate a video; (2) on Sydney via structured sound drones rendered in open source and proprietary software platforms where underpinning time-based grids predominate and influence perceptions of time and modes of composition; (3) Chongqing, China via field recordings where the grid is implied through duration; and (4) on NYC via live improvisation, on Wave Farm Radio, where the durational format using an interwoven network of noise, saxophones (alto, tenor and soprano), creates structures that offer pretention for new and efferent forms of sound. Although NYC is not visited physically in this work, this is the location where the sound elements are presented either with live improvisation or pre-recorded. Should this project be chosen, a dedicated piece will be devised and performed at the Project Anywhere conference in November 2018.

This methodology draws on philosophical and theoretical ideas on rhythm structures that include polyrhythms (Coleman, 2010), Lefebvre’s society and rhythm (Lefebvre, 2004), and the understanding of ‘time’ as instantaneous moments (Bachelard, 2000).  This facilitates performative, ‘liveness’ (Auslander, 2008), and experiential (Merleau-Ponty, 2002) improvised practice that is based within an understanding of ‘western music theory’. The initial concept and idea are the main focus; the practice within western music theory is disregarded (Prévost, 1995) when it is felt that ‘sound’, incorporating field recordings (Demers, 2010) or noise (Thompson, 2017) reflects and relates to the city in a more creative or conversant way. This is informed by its embrace of defective elements; some of which arise through playing live saxophone, the use of deficient internet connections, software that changes patterns, and the playing location, that provide effective responses.

The aim of this project:

This project interweaves sounds that are located or inspired from the three main cities, London, Sydney and Chongqing. The aim is to produce a number of sound pieces that utilise diverse sounds from different disciplines, including field recordings, noise, traditional music theory, improvisation, (Peters, 2011) (Bailey, 1992) (Toop, 2016), the digital and electronic. This is to create soundscapes that explore ‘the city’ from two practitioners who live at opposite ends of the planet, only producing work via a digital space.

Dissemination of the results:

Live and recorded outputs documenting the research outputs will be regularly broadcast on ‘Itinerant Mind’ our long-standing monthly experimental radio broadcast on Wave Farm 90.7 FM New York. In addition to co-work either through file sharing or live improvisations performed and played each month on NYC’s Wave Farm Radio station: https://wavefarm.org/ta/artists/x8grjs will be published through blogs, social media, and online links to repositories at the University of New South Wales, Australia and the University of Lincoln, UK. Students from these universities will be invited to contribute to the blogs, sound and image gathering. In particular, fieldwork in Chongqing (2018) involving art, design, computational design and architecture students in collaborative experimental urban and mapping studies (cf. mad.lab https://vimeo.com/190416240) will generate and exhibit research outcomes related to the participatory components of this experimental study.

Installations of the research outputs will be exhibited in Australia (UNSW Galleries, Sydney), UK (Documents, Alternatives (# 1) touring group exhibition: Morrad+McArthur work titled ‘Lack of Chairs’, Airspace Gallery (Stoke on Trent): 17 November – 16 December 2017, B-Side Gallery (Bath Spa University): 20April – 11 May 2018 and ONCA Gallery (Brighton) as part of Brighton Digital Festival: 21September – 8 October 2018), and China (mad.lab showcase, Chongqing, and at the Media Architecture Biennale, Beijing 2018). The work will be disseminated via a dedicated web links with video and sound files through the online Research Catalogue www.researchcatalogue.net

 

References:
Auslander, P., (2008)  Liveness.  Routledge, London
Bachelard, G., (2000). The Instant.  (Edited: Durie, R. Time and the Instant)  Clinamen Press, Manchester.
Bailey, D.,  (1992)  Improvisation. De Capo Press .
BBC Radio 3 Documentary: Sunday Feature, (2017) ‘Grid’
Campbell, L. (2016). Lee Campbell’s Tactics of Interruption
Toynbee Studios, 28 Commercial Street, London t E1 6AB.
Coleman, S., (2010) Regarding the Sonic Symbolism of Where and When. Hips Road, NYC
Demers, J., (2010) Listening through the Noise, Oxford University Press
Lefebvre, H., (2004). Rhythmanalysis: Space, time and everyday life. A&C Black.
Lefebvre, H., (1991), The production of Space, Blackwell, Oxford.
Merleau-Ponty, M., (2002) Phenomenology of Perception. Routledge, London
Oliveros, P., Deep Listening Project
Peters, G., (2011) The Philosophy of Improvisation. University of Chicago Press
Pévost, E., (1995).  No Sound is Innocent. Copula, Harlow
Sassen, S., (2005). City-ness in the Urban Age. In Urban Age, Bulletin 2, 2005.
Thompson, M., (2017) Beyond Unwanted Sound, Bloomsbury Academic
Thompson M. and Biddle, I.,  (2013) Sound Music Affect, Bloomsbury
Toop, D., (2016)  Into the Maelstrom: Music, Improvisation and the Dream of Freedom. Bloomsbury

Morrad+McArthur links:
https://wavefarm.org/ta/artists/x8grjs
https://morradandmcarthur.bandcamp.com/
https://soundcloud.com/morrad_mcarthur
https://soundcloud.com/jardin-des-oiseaux
http://annie-morrad-soudandimage.com/

Putting Out

By | Projects

Putting Out: Georgia Banks

Putting Out will employ the relationship between reperformance and performance by proxy as a platform for creating a microcosmic set on which particular scenes from the Australian performance art world can be enacted. This project is developed (in part) as a critical response to the precedent set by exhibitions such as 2013 Sydney exhibition 13 Rooms, in which a proxy performer is used as a stand in for the ‘real artist’. In reperformances such as these, the performer’s name is not important and is not credited as an artist or collaborator. Putting Out will harness the neutral state of the proxy performer as a vehicle with which to explore issues surrounding identity and place on both a personal and a national scale. The project will map what Australia has ‘put out’ into the world over the past sixty years or so. It will also explore more intimate identities; how much is each participant willing to ‘put out’ for this project? How much of myself can I ‘put out’ on behalf of other peoples practices? These are all issues that will be unpacked through the undertaking of this project.

In a similar vein to Australian artist Agatha Goethe-Snape’s 2009-2011 performance, Every Artist is Remembered, this work offers a snapshot of the contemporary art scene, and explores new ways remembering, visualising, and reactivating our recent history. Through this series of reenactments, an overview of key junctures within Australian history may unfold; as much of art engages with the world around it, this project will also reflect what was happening at the time each of the works was made. Something as simple as the clothes worn, or the colour paint a participant used to paint the wall behind them can reflect cultural trends. I also expect the works of some artists will actively commentate a political history, particularly with the inclusion of well-known socially engaged practices. This project has the potential to map a trajectory of not only the performance art world over the past sixty or so years, but also of key movements and moments within Australian history.

www.georgiabanks.net

 

 

Naked Banquet (with oyster and song), 2017, Performed at Trocadero Art Space for ‘One Night in Footscray Festival’, 4 hours

Brand, 2017, Performed at Kings Artist Run for ‘On Parr’, 03/03/2017 – 24/03/2017 12pm – 6pm

Fixed, 2017, Performed in Broken Hill, 7 minutes

Cups of nun chai

By | Projects

The eighty-ninth cup of nun chai from Cups of nun chai, 2010-present, Alana Hunt. Image courtesy the artist.

Cups of nun chai serialised in Kashmir Reader, 2017, Alana Hunt. Image by Faisal Khan.

Cups of nun chai, installation view, Alana Hunt. Image courtesy the artist.

a participatory memorial by Alana Hunt
2010-present
www.cupsofnunchai.com

Artist Statement

Cups of nun chai is at once a search for meaning in the face of something so brutal it appears absurd and an absurd gesture when meaning itself becomes too much to bear.

This work is a participatory memorial that emerged from the summer of 2010 in Kashmir when 118 civilians died in pro-freedom protests against India’s military occupation. Over the course of two years artist Alana Hunt shared 118 cups of nun chai (a Kashmiri salt tea) with 118 people across Australia, in Brussels and Bangkok, across different parts of India and finally in Kashmir. She took a photo of each person holding their cup of nun chai and wrote from memory about each conversation, which connected Kashmir’s story and the summer of 2010 to countless other places and people around the world. Cups of nun chai began as a gentle yet challenging refusal to allow this loss of life to simply pass. It is an exploration of how we encounter, respond to, and remember political violence.

Since 2010 the work has accumulated progressively online, where it was able to reach audiences in Kashmir and beyond. In June 2016 Cups of nun chai began its life as a newspaper serial, appearing three times a week in the Srinagar-based Kashmir Reader and reaching tens of thousands of people on a weekly basis. These 100+ newspapers are now bound into three volumes with accompany essays by Kashmiri author Arif Ayaz Parrey, the former editor of Kashmir Reader Hilal Mir, and artist Alana Hunt. These volumes quite literally, take Kashmir’s own media out into the world, into the heart of India’s political capital and also well beyond, enabling those outside of Kashmir to glimpse Kashmir’s own story, and the creative centre of this participatory memorial to continue indefinitely…

Through personal conversation and public media intervention Cups of nun chai explores some of the most challenging areas of contemporary life including the failures of democracy, state violence, armed struggle, the inherent fragility of the nation state, and the power of the media. Cups of nun chai embodies the literal collision of memory and news, of subjectivity and event, of absurdity and urgency, and of fury and sensitivity.

Kashmir is the most densely militarized place in the world. There is little to no space in the public sphere for art and critical cultural discourse. By utilizing newspapers as a means of ‘exhibition’ Cups of nun chai was able to circulate in Kashmir to places and people it would never otherwise reach. Furthermore, the juxtaposition of the memory of 2010 beside the news of ‘today’ worked to highlight points of historical change and repetition.

 

Almost a month after this media intervention began the death of a popular rebel commander set off a wave of violence not seen in Kashmir since 2010. Hundreds of thousands of people across Kashmir came out to mark the martyrdom of Burhan Wani and his companions. Protests unfolded. Mourning continued. And the state responded with ever-greater force. Once again in Kashmir people were dying and suffering serious injuries on a daily basis. Over one thousand people were blinded by the use of pellet guns. Over ten thousand were imprisoned. Kashmir Reader, the newspaper carrying Cups of nun chai, was itself banned for three uncertain months. In the public imagination of Kashmir, and in the press, the news of ‘today’ collided with the memory of 2010 in momentous ways.

Cups of nun chai sits in the middle of a venn diagram between personal quietly subversive acts and large mass media visibility. Exploring radical acts of the personal and political across and within cultures, privately and publicly, this body of work has resulted in an archive of experiences, memory, public intervention and print, that moves beyond the India/Pakistan story that dominates Kashmir’s popular narrative to give space to a nuanced and unusual exploration of Kashmir’s reality with relevance to the world as a community we all share.

Artist bio

Alana Hunt makes contemporary art, writes, and produces experiments with media forms. Her work is grounded in the capacity of art and ideas to intervene in the public sphere and shape the social space between people. Influenced by the (post) colonial worlds of Australia and South Asia the politics of nation-making and the fabric of community run through her work in quiet yet consistent ways.

Since 2009 Alana has orchestrated participatory art and publishing projects that have activated different media to shed light on the military occupation of Kashmir and the divided region’s struggle for self-determination. Paper txt msgs from Kashmir (2009-2011) emerged from a ban on pre-paid mobile phones in the region, and prompted the media in India and Pakistan to discuss the phone ban, which they had previously been silent on. From mid-2016 the 7-year participatory memorial Cups of nun chai (2010-17) circulated as a newspaper serial in Kashmir reaching thousands of people on a weekly basis during a period of civilian uprising and severe state oppression. This work won the 2017 Incinerator Art Award. Alana’s article A mere drop in the sea of what is, published by 4A Papers, explores the art circulating on the ‘streets of social media’ in Kashmir. Portions of this paper made it into the Hansard Report of the Australian Parliament; evidence we are not working in isolated echo chambers but massive cultural ecosystems with porous borders.

Alana lives on Miriwoong country in the remote north-west of Australia. She exhibits and publishes regularly, both in Australia and internationally, and is particularly passionate about cultural practices unfolding outside of city centres. She is currently exhibiting a new body of work for the exhibition Landing Points at Penrith Regional Gallery to coincide with the twentieth anniversary of Tracey Moffatt’s seminal photographic series Up in the Sky.

www.alanahunt.net
www.cupsofnunchai.com

 

Urban Folk Project

By | Projects

Contents

  1. Overview for Urban Folk Project – Description, Vision and Mission
  2. Team Profiles
  3. Descriptions of smaller projects done so far
  4. Links to Social Media
  5. Links to shared folders with images
  6. List of captions for images

 

  1. Overview for Urban Folk Project – Description, Vision and Mission

Urban Folk Project (UFP) is an initiative to archive Folk art forms in Karnataka. We want to use elements of these forms to build bodies of works that engage an urban audience with folk art practices. UFP has a vision to bring forgotten, in the process of being forgotten, rare and known but different forms to urban spaces and to contemporary artists. We imagine that this space we are beginning to create will be used by artists across the globe and become a source for new work as well as a way to show what once was. While preserving traditional folk forms is important, it is also important to remember that the folk is always contemporary. This initiative began as a means to bring lesser known folk forms and artists to the fore.  But more than that it will show songs and words of artists who are no longer in the popular imaginary. There have been many cases of musical forms and performance being appropriated by contemporary artists and also many cases of certain forms becoming preserved by their own communities because of promotion and display of their work in different spaces. This initiative is perhaps a simpler way to ensure that people hear and see such work. Our belief system is anchored around a collaboration and the creative commons. We feel that the way to create art is to use what we know and explore the connections that can be made by making the folk and so called contemporary collide.  In this light, Karnataka offers up a rich tapestry of knowledge, which we hope to archive and showcase in a way that respects the form and its practitioners. We have been fortunate to meet inspiring and experienced practitioners across Karnataka. We hope to make it up to our past and future mentors by making folk a part of the contemporary. How can we, as aware and educated public help establish a stronger connection with the older and alien? What happens when the lines are blurred between familiar and older, gender and nature, etc? These are some key questions that anchor our work.

  1. Team Profiles

Shilpa Mudbi Kothakota is a filmmaker, theatre practitioner and Vocalist born and brought up in Bangalore. She completed her Masters in Filmmaking from the University of Technology Sydney in 2008 and returned to Bangalore to make films on agriculture, rural development and women’s empowerment for the Karnataka State Department of Agriculture, the University of Agricultural Sciences and Karnataka Mahila Smakhya.   In November 2014, she worked as the program coordinator of the 10th Annual RangaShankara Theatre Festival. She worked as a manager/actor/singer/songwriter for Indianostrum Theatre: a Contemporary French-Tamil troupe and represented them at the SMART (Strategic Management of the Arts) forum, 2015

Sumitra Sunder is an independent researcher and curator working on a doctorate in contemporary art practice from

Manipal University, in Karnataka, India. Her PhD project locates the past 40 years of curating and resistance in art practice in South India, focusing on collectives in Bangalore, Karnataka and the Students’Biennale at Kochi, Kerala. Sumitra also co-curated the Neralu festival in Bangalore in 2014, dedicated to the trees of Bangalore and a reflection on the ecology of the city. Beyond curating shows, she has beenco-developing plays for local theatre collectives. Sumitra also works as a consultant for art and culture organizations.

Adithya Kothakota is currently managing the operations of Urban Folk Project. He is an accounting professional and has worked with one of the Big 4 accounting firms. He also briefly worked for a technology start-up as a project manager. He completed his CPA from CPA Australia and Masters in Accounting from Macquarie University, Sydney. As a couple, Adithya and Shilpa have shared their passion for travel and the arts. In May 2017, they made their first trip around Karnataka to locate and document Folk forms of those regions. The uniqueness of this project has drawn him to join and assist with the administrative and organizational aspects of Urban Folk Project.

  1. Descriptions of smaller projects done so far

Performing Yellammanaata Mela at the Gender Bender Festival

Introduction:

Yellammanaata is a ritualistic overnight play hosted mostly during festivals by lower caste Hindus around most parts of Hyderabad, Karnataka and the Southern Maharashtra. It is the story of how Parashurama’s[1] mother Renuka, a Kshatriya woman, comes to be known as the Goddess Yellamma – a powerful deity of the lower caste Hindu, Devadasi and Jogathi communities. The play is performed mainly by Jogathis who are the transgender disciples of Saundatti Yellamma. It is an unwritten rule in the ritual performance, that the role of Yellamma, if not all characters has to be enacted by a Jogathi. The plot of the story varies between regions and sub-castes. The myth is believed to have originated from Yellammana Gudda, outside Saundatti located in Belgaum district, Karnataka.

The following is one account of the origin story of Yellamma:

The goddess we come to know as Yellamma, was a princess called Renuka, the wife of Jamadagni – a powerful, ill-tempered sage. One day he falsely accuses his devout wife of adultery, and curses her with a skin disease and banishes her to the forest. Exiled, Renuka builds a temple to the god Shiva and begs for alms in the neighbouring villages. She spends years this way, praying for a cure. When Shiva finally appears before her, he not only cures her but also grants her a wish. Renuka asks for a son, even after the warning that this child would end her life Renuka gives birth to Parashurama, who brings joy and a sense of purpose to her life. However, as he gets older he begins questioning her about his father’s identity and grows increasingly agitated over the years with Renuka’s excuses about his father’s whereabouts. Renuka is forced to reveal her past and the reason behind his divine birth. Parashurama then seeks out his father Jamadagni, who is still embittered over Renuka’s supposed adultery. Ill-tempered and irrational Jamadagni, who is also known to be possessed with a Krodha Devathe (Goddess of Anger), asks Parushurama to behead his mother. Young Parashurama obeys his father’s orders. One of the other gifts that Renuka receives due to her devout worship of Shiva, was the boon of immortality. This was in the form of a Kalasha (sacred pot) that rested within her chest. Every time Parashurama behead his mother, a new head would emerge. Several heads were severed before Parashurama is informed by Jamadagni about the Kalasha in her chest. Parashurama completes the task of killing his mother by extracting the Kalasha. Jamadagni is pleased with Parashurama and willingly accepts him as his son. Overcome by the guilt of killing his own mother, who he loved and respected dearly, Parashurama requests his father to resurrect her. When his request is denied, he threatens to kill Jamadagni if Renuka is not brought back to life. Jamadagni helps his son bring Renuka back to life. Renuka rises from the dead and becomes the all powerful Yellamma. As legend has it, when Yellamma’s spirit consumed Renuka’s body, she orders Parashurama to disperse her severed heads as incarnations of Yellamma. These incarnations are known to us today in the form of hundreds of goddesses such as Huligyamma, Kaallamma, Durgamma, Maragamma, Mariamma to name a few. She then leaves both son and husband to their plight and descends on Saundatti where she spends her remaining days on earth.

Deciphering the Myth for the contemporary play

The play is the brainchild of Shilpa, the founder member of the Urban Folk Project. She has been seeing the ritual performance since she was a young girl. This performance is around six hours long, and were comical, informal, intimate and melodramatic presentations of Yellamma’s story told through a series of songs and improvised scenes. The play is usually hosted as an auspicious follow up ritual at naming ceremonies, house warming and festivals (mainly Dussera, Deepavali and Nagara Panchami).  The idea of bringing the story of yellamma to an urban audience evolved during the production of a play called the Land of Ashes and Diamonds. This was a production with Koumarane Valavane (Artistic Director of Indianostrum). It was at this point that Shilpa truly revisited Yellamma.

Koumarane’s play depicted the stories of war victims; from the ruins of post-war Europe to the remote villages of India and the war-torn shores of Sri Lanka. Yellamma as a character was introduced into the play as an abstract metaphor. She was interpreted as the mother of all victims in the context of war. The central plot of the play showcased a mock Yellammanaata enacted by two folk artists – Dasappa played by Shilpa and Yellamma played by Siddhanth Sundar. Drawing from numerous Yellammanaatas that she had witnessed in Mudbi, her native town. She used her knowledge of Bidari Kannada to devise and compose songs, while attempting to depict the entire six-hour play in under 30 minutes. She resumed research on the Goddess in 2016 and since has collected a substantial number o fsongs and stories surrounding this epic.

  1. Links to shared folders with images and videos
    1. Video of the Play performed at the Gender Bender festival earlier this year: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B0YXqAn_TwzUYW5kZzliX2FUcGM
    2. Video that was made to showcase the beginning of Urban Folk Project’s work: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B0YXqAn_TwzUWGUxRVpNRFU5TVE
    3. Short Clip of one of the practitioners UFP is working with: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B0YXqAn_TwzUY3ZkNXNKRDBYWDA
    4. Images: https://photos.google.com/u/3/share/AF1QipNcEejxYPO0QHyh8EPef8zP6BEJstq8dVHoqCcHALqr5lOii8VJRGqHx7ABtskWuQ?key=WWM2UDVJcmE0UUJHbmh2S3BRdW9hdVRMTi1iSkN3
  1. List of links to Social Media and Website
    1. https://www.instagram.com/urbanfolkproject/
    2. https://www.facebook.com/ufpbangalore/
    3. https://ufpbangalore.com
  2. List of Captions for Images

  • 01_Last Remaining Colours of Yellamma, 2017. Main temple to the Goddess Yellamma in Saundatti, Karnataka, India. Image Courtesy Xavier Santosh, 2017
  • 02_Singers of Saundatti, 2017. A group of Jogathis who perform Image Courtesy Xavier Santosh, 2017
  • 03_Awaiting to bless, 2017. This image is part of a field visit to Saundatti in Karnataka. Image Courtesy Xavier Santosh, 2017
  • 04_Finding the right pitch, 2017. One of the mentors of this project Radhaa Bai Madaar demonstrates how to play the instruments. Image Courtesy Xavier Santosh, 2017
  • 05_A perfect long lasting pair: Shruti and Chowdki, 2017. These are the two instruments that are integral to the performance of yellammanaata. It is these that form the infrastructure of this performance. Image Courtesy Aditya Kothakota 2017
  • 06_Yellammanaata characters in the play ‘Land of Ashes, 2015. This perfroamnce is where the work of Urban Folk Project began. The play led to the unpacking of what Yellamma means to communities in Karnataka. Image Courtesy Adithya Kothakota 2015.
  • 07_A ‘jogathi’ plays Yellamma, 2015. This image is perhaps one of the earliest ones taken in the imagination of this project. Image Courtesy Adithya Kothakota 2015.
  • 08_’The’ chowdki player Radhaa Bai, 2017. Radha Bai Madaar, one of the mentors to the Urban Folk Project speaks about her songs. Image Courtesy Adithya Kothakota 2017.
  • 09_The overnight ritual performance has been condensed to under an hour, part of which was performed in Bangalore earlier this year. Image Courtesy Adithya Kothakota 2017.
  • 10_Recite a tale, sing a song, 2017. Following the performance of Yellammanaata, the collective decided to take research to an urban audience. What ensued was a two-day set of performances that spoke of the stories and songs from the regions visited. Image Courtesy Aditya Kothakota 2017
  • 11_In the city of Meeraj looking for instruments, 2017. A field visit to this town in Maharashtra revealed a street full of makers of varied instruments both classical and folk. Image Courtesy Adithya Kothakota, 2017.

[1] Parasurama is part of Hindu Mythology and is said to be an avatar of the god Vishnu. He is depicted wielding an axe. He is a sage and a teacher of martial arts.

SOIL SERIES: A Social Drawing

By | Projects

Francesca Fiore and Hillary Wagner
Bethel, OH / Established June 2017 and ongoing

SOIL SERIES: A Social Drawing, 2017. Installation shot, archive of objects found on the Empower Youth Ranch during SOIL SERIES’s Community Studio Program, Bethel, OH. (Photo by Francesca Fiore)

SOIL SERIES: A Social Drawing is an ongoing organic collaboration between artists Francesca Fiore and Hillary Wagner and the rural Appalachian community of Bethel, Ohio. Establishing social drawing as a methodology for community-centered socially engaged artistic practice, SOIL SERIES is a dynamic set of relationships between artists, community members, local organizations, academics, and policy-makers. These dialogic networks aim to address community crises through the generative juncture of community resources and artistic practice.

Bethel, OH

Located in rural Southwestern Ohio, the village of Bethel has a population of around 3,000. Like many Appalachian communities, Bethel suffers from widespread disinvestment and the erosion of economic opportunity. Bethel was historically home to small family-operated subsistence farms, but shifting cultural values and mounting financial pressures have driven many agricultural producers to cede their lands to larger operations. Increasingly, Bethel residents find employment outside the village in low-wage retail and service occupations. While many storefronts on Bethel’s Main Street remain empty, a perimeter of fast food restaurants and dollar stores thrives. Climbing poverty and unemployment rates, coupled with a breakdown of the ecosystem of intimate relationships once necessitated by life in an agricultural community, have fueled cultural and economic disenfranchisement and a staggering opioid epidemic. [1]

These crises manifested themselves more tangibly during the fall of 2016. As the presidential election caused tensions to flare across the country, Bethel residents experienced further strain within their own community in the form of an emergency operating levy on the ballot for the local school district. Finding itself in a precarious financial situation, the Bethel-Tate district was forced to confront the possibility of deep budget cuts if the increase in tax funding was not passed. The proposed cuts threatened arts programming, gifted education, and student transportation, among other services. Wagner, a Bethel native, was alarmed by the situation. She communicated her concerns to Fiore, a fellow MFA candidate at Parsons School of Design. Sharing a belief in art’s capacity to promote empathy and engender new possibilities, the two began discussing ways in which a community like Bethel might use thoughtful artistic practice to navigate through its mounting crises. Although the levy narrowly passed by 28 votes, sustaining the district at least until 2022 [2], Fiore and Wagner felt this stopgap measure was insufficient and relocated to Bethel in June of 2017.

Hillary Wagner, SOIL SERIES: A Social Drawing, 2017. An early map of the SOIL SERIES social drawing in process.

Social Drawing

Fiore and Wagner developed social drawing as a methodology for community-based praxis rooted in a deep understanding of place. Drawing on Joseph Beuys’s theory of social sculpture and modifying it to operate at the scale of a community such as Bethel, social drawing builds upon existing community networks to identify and develop new pathways toward health, knowledge, resources, and support. Where social sculpture imagines a utopian work of art to which all of humanity contributes, social drawing emerges from within a community, taking into account its specific needs and concerns and prioritizing the cultivation of trust between artist(s) and community members through horizontal partnerships. The act of drawing in this context becomes the act of connecting. Lines emerge as linkages between significant sites and actors, with each new line following the logic of pre-existing community relationships and building upon extant networks. The result is an organically cultivated web of self-sustaining community nourishment. As in Beuys’s social sculpture, contributors to the drawing need not identify as artists, nor is the path of the drawing dictated by artists. Rather, artists act as facilitators, asking new questions, imagining new possibilities, and creating the conditions necessary to weave and maintain an intricate and expansive web of relationships.

SOIL SERIES: A Social Drawing, 2017. Bethel, OH. (Photo by Francesca Fiore)

Partnership with Empower Youth

Fiore and Wagner established the initial lines of the SOIL SERIES social drawing through their partnership with the local non-profit organization Empower Youth. Founded in February of 2015 in response to rising concerns over food insecurity and opioid addiction, Empower Youth aims to provide some relief to overburdened schools, government agencies, and centers of worship in Bethel. Taking as its mission a partnership with children “in hopes of instilling in them the confidence and resources needed to break through the chains of generational poverty,” [3] Empower Youth has become a vital resource for at-risk Bethel students through its food bags and mentorship programming.

In April of 2017, a local bank, Community Savings, gifted Empower Youth a foreclosed 15-acre ranch to aid in the organization’s expansion. The Empower Youth Ranch, or EY Ranch, has since become the home of Empower Youth’s operations and an active community hub. Recognizing the ranch as an organic, pre-existing site of intracommunal relationship-building, Fiore and Wagner felt it was a natural entrypoint into Bethel for SOIL SERIES. They approached Empower Youth’s directors, Lori and Scott Conley, to propose running SOIL SERIES programming as an extension of Empower Youth’s mission.

To house SOIL SERIES’s operations and create a space for public artmaking, Fiore and Wagner took on a renovation project on the EY Ranch alongside Empower Youth’s volunteers and interns. The property’s original Depression-era barn became a site of collective community action, and the disused structure was transformed over the course of two months into the Barn Studio.

SOIL SERIES: A Social Drawing, 2017. Before and after comparison of the Barn Studio at the Empower Youth Ranch, Bethel, OH. (Photos by Hillary Wagner)

Community Studio Program

From July to November of 2017, SOIL SERIES’s Community Studio Program met weekly in the Barn Studio, offering free arts programming to the public that utilized pedagogy of place [4] to foster a deep engagement with Bethel through making. In alignment with Beuys’s assertion that “everyone is an artist” (paraphrasing Novalis), Community Studio participants were encouraged to consider themselves artists regardless of their background or training. Per the ethos of social drawing, the Community Studio Program became a means of connecting Bethel’s residents to one another through a shared history. Fiore and Wagner proposed each project as an investigation of place while taking inspiration from relevant examples of contemporary art practice. Participating artists carried out their investigations mainly using materials found on the ranch, and each resulting work contributes to a nuanced composite portrait of both the Empower Youth Ranch and Bethel.

SOIL SERIES: A Social Drawing, 2017. Documentation of Community Studio artists collaboratively painting a map of Bethel earth pigments sourced from the soil on the Empower Youth Ranch, Bethel, OH. (Photo by Hillary Wagner)

Seasonal changes determined a natural end to the first phase of the project, as the Barn Studio became too cold for programming. The culminating endeavor of the Community Studio Program was a comprehensive exhibition that took place on October 27th, 2017, curated and installed with the help of local high school students. The exhibition made use of a large portion of the ranch, as viewers wound through three different barns to experience the work on display. The event celebrated the efforts and perspectives of the Community Studio artists while unearthing latent histories, honoring local traditions, and offering new insights and possibilities for the future.

SOIL SERIES: A Social Drawing, 2017. Viewers gather in the Barn Studio during the SOIL SERIES inaugural exhibition at the Empower Youth Ranch, Bethel, OH. (Photo by Francesca Fiore)

The Future of SOIL SERIES

The work of SOIL SERIES is constantly evolving in accordance with Fiore and Wagner’s code of ethics, which outlines a commitment to active listening to ensure a truly horizontal partnership with the community of Bethel. Over the past six months, the SOIL SERIES relational network has grown, and the social drawing now extends to include organizations, businesses, students, artists, activists, and academics both local and in cities and universities across the country.

In the coming year, Fiore and Wagner look forward to a second session of the Community Studio program, further collaboration with Empower Youth in transforming the EY Ranch, and a deeper engagement with local students. Initially established during the renovation of the Barn Studio, the lines of the social drawing connecting the artists with Empower Youth’s high school interns, have become SOIL SERIES’s greatest strength and most crucial resource. These relationships are the impetus for many upcoming projects and initiatives.

Fiore and Wagner plan to work with the high school students to further explore Appalachian traditions of creative ingenuity and resourcefulness as means to address growing poverty, food insecurity, and opioid addiction. Fiore, Wagner, and the students aim to foster a collective imagination that yields images of Bethel’s possible future, one of holistic social, cultural, and economic health.

 

Online Presence

All SOIL SERIES activity is chronicled on the project’s blog and social media pages. Fiore and Wagner view SOIL SERIES’s online presence as a living document, a pedagogical tool, and a medium through which to extend the social drawing.

Blog: www.soilseriesbethel.wordpress.com
Instagram: soilseriesbethel
Facebook: www.facebook.com/soilseriesbethel

 

Notes

[1] Information on Bethel trends and demographics was obtained through conversations with residents and verified at “Demographics | Clermont County.” Economic Development, www.clermontcountyohio.biz/site-selection/demographics/.

[2] Vilvens, Sheila. “Final Count: Bethel-Tate School Levy Wins by 28.” Cincinnati.com, 22 Nov. 2016, www.cincinnati.com/story/news/local/community-news/2016/11/22/betheltateschools/94288566/.

[3] “About Empower Youth.” Empower Youth, 14 Nov. 2017, www.empoweryouth.me/about/.

[4] Gruenewald, David A. “The Best of Both Worlds: A Critical Pedagogy of Place.” Educational Researcher, vol. 32, no. 4, 2003, pp. 3–12. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3700002.

References

A Place in Europe (Cecilia Parsberg, Erik Pauser, Anna Westberg and Detail Group)

By | archived

The House is a mobile cinematic sculpture temporarily installed in public places throughout the city with a view to making the living situations of migrants (both inside and outside Europe) more visible. Although an increasingly common phenomenon, the living situations of migrants are routinely hidden from public view. Moving images of urban places in Stockholm are projected onto the walls and ceilings of The House. 

A Place in Europe, Sketch by Detail Group of The House, Medborgarplatsen, Stockholm, 2016.

A Place in Europe was initiated by artist Cecilia Parsberg[1], who then invited filmmaker Erik Pauser[2], dancer Anna Westberg[3] and the architects in Detail Group[4] to collaborate.

  1. Synopsis
  2. Artist’s intention and rationale
  3. Background – how the project A Place in Europe starts
  4. Phase 1, method
  5. Phase 2, the staged work to be developed and realized

A Place in Europe, Stockholm, 2016.

  1. Synopsis

A Place in Europe, Stockholm, 2016.

The place is demarcated by a highway, a large new development,[5] and some rocky hills with a grove of trees. Above are elevated subway tracks. The place is relatively low in the context of the surrounding urban landscape, and therefore not easily visible to passers by.  The surrounding borders of the built environment create a triangle within which a sort of state of exception seems to be in effect — at least for some of those who live there. Of the three five-story buildings here, two are empty and sealed up. Although the buildings are apparently slated for demolition, the timing (according to the city planners office) remains unclear. It is a place in central Stockholm where a few hundred people live, work, and circulate. Some people come from various countries in and outside Europe, some are Swedish citizens. They’ve come here for different reasons, albeit united in the hope of a more successful life. Some are doing short-term work in accordance the convention of free movement of persons in the EU, others are simply  sleeping here temporarily. It is a place in transition. There are many similar places in Europe. Moreover, they are becoming increasingly common. But it’s also a place we’ve seen at earlier points in Swedish history during large waves of migration. It is for this reason that this investigation touches down in a place like this, in this place.

In December 2015 Cecilia Parsberg got financial support for a pilot study for A Place in Europe (Phase 1). The idea was to find other competences within the arts to collaborate with in order to find ways to approach the inherent complexity of this issue.[6] Dancer Anna Westberg and film maker Erik Pauser both joined, and over a period of four months documented what was happening, and made interviews and a series of performances at the site. In the fall 2016, the architects Detail Group joined the team of A Place in Europe. Subsequently, a strategy for screening the films was developed with a view to including this urban space in the city with The House. Consequently, Detail Group made 3D sketches suitable for various public places.

A Place in Europe, Sketch by Detail Group of The House, Stureplan, Stockholm, 2016.

Our cinematic sculpture is perhaps best imagined as a re-creation of the emptied buildings in this place. A house that no longer has a function, that will be demolished or rebuilt,  corresponding with The House tilting into the ground. Like some of the boats containing migrants in the Mediterranean that are manifestly ill-equipped to actually carry people, the Swedish regulatory system is incapable of taking care of people who come here (let alone the EU regulatory system).  European societies appear incapable of transforming existing structures to meet the need. The moving images projected onto the walls and roof of The House will be edited rhythmically with words and statistics, and the audio  processed with music elements. A place in Europe can be set up anywhere. And we will be there responding to public reactions to the project.

 

  1. Artist’s intention and rationale

This is not conceived as an exclusive work but rather a demonstrably inclusive (albeit resistant to the logic of circular reproduction). Within the process of artistic research and a developing practice, new methods might constitute another form of art. The project is centered upon the idea of a round table at which a number of competences might productively collaborate to build the project. The divergent competences that make up the project team should all contribute to the development of A Place in Europe, and moreover, work to challenge respective practices and forms of knowledge in order to foster a spirit of experimentation and novelty. Comment from Anna: “In this project I have initially discussed how the concept social choreography can be used, both in social structures and within social interaction. In addition, and as a reflection of the general thoughts that have risen when spending time at this place, I have developed some different short performances in front of the camera.” For Erik: ”I have approached the project and the collaboration based on my experience as a producer and director for the last ten years of documentary films for international TV channels such as ZDF, Arte, BBC, DR, NRK, YLE, IKON, NHK, SABC, SBS, PBS and others, this collaboration has especially opened up for a rethinking of communications around how social issues can be presented in a work of art in a direct meeting in this kind of screening – with an audience that is ‘temporary’”. From the perspective of Detail Group: ”We are architects not just whose task is to find solutions, but also artists and want to be part of making visible and reflect on what is happening when society changes.” The key point of departure for all collaborators is the value of approaching the topic from a creative base, and in doing so strive to productively exchange ideas with those both at the site and within the process of developing the project and presentation. We are also collectively mindful of the potentially asymmetrical power relations at play in any process during which ”we film and interact with them”. We don’t seek to speak for ”them” but rather use our collective desire to explore a more inclusive society.

A Place in Europe has assumed a political form right through from conception to realization. The artistic research is responsive to current policy. The motivation of the project team is to participate in the discourse on migration and the city as a space for (in)justice. With The House, we seek to trigger discussions that might culminate in workshops, seminars and other forms of open discussions with a broad public, and by extension, with different fields of knowledge. Accordingly, we seek to think together. Much research on urbanity concerns how the city changes in response to social life.[7] In visualizing what is happening in this between-space, and by extension that which is not functioning, we seek to open up a space for action.

 

  1. Background – A Place in Europe [8]

There are three five-story buildings, two of them are empty and sealed up. When I search the city planners office for plans I find that the buildings are slated for demolition, but it doesn’t say when. I visit the place at the bottom the bottom of the slope that leads down to the middle house there are two campers, but there are no people visible nearby. I ask a construction worker passing by if he knows if anyone lives there. We speak English, each with our own accent. Yes, he’s seen people come out of them around six o’clock in the morning, he doesn’t know where they’re from because he’s never spoken with them. He tells me there are several other similar encampments around here.

A Place in Europe, Photos by Cecilia Parsberg, 2016.

“A few live over there.” He points behind him.

“Where are you from?” I ask.

“From Portugal, I work there,” he says and nods down the road to where a biomass power plant is being built. I go where he pointed. On the far end of the third five-story building there are two steel doors. The left door leads to a temporary shelter in the basement with about thirty beds, operated by the City Mission. I meet a few thirty-something men from Guinea.

“Wow, there are a lot of you living here”

We go and look for work in the morning then we come back here. They gesture behind them and I see seven men exit a basement door to go smoke. One sits down, there’s only one chair. Several of them have come here through the convention of free movement of persons in the EU, others are from countries outside of Europe.

The two of us have residency permits in Portugal.

“How long have you been here?”

“Two months”

They’re happy to talk to me but don’t want me to photograph them, say where they live, or give their names.

The steel door to the right leads to Convictus shelter for the homeless. Nina, who is the director at Convictus Bryggan tells me that during the coldest half of the year they only accept women at night and men in the daytime. Most of the women are from Romania and Bulgaria and have come here to beg. The men spend their evenings and nights recycling cans or doing various kinds of day labor. Just ten years ago middle-aged Swedish men with addiction issues were the biggest group at the shelter, today most are “third country nationals,” usually from North and West Africa.[9] A similar number are from Eastern Europe, mainly Romania.[10] Those who stay here have “fallen through the cracks” between the structural exclusion and inclusion mechanisms of the system.

A Place in Europe, ”Womens night” at Convictus, Photos by Cecilia Parsberg. 2016.

Every morning at half past six the doors open and a long trail of humans wander off with their belongings in blue Ikea bags. They’re going to the city to seek work, beg, and perhaps look for a different place to sleep, there is a lot of pressure on the shelters. At the same time about a hundred construction workers arrive at another entrance to the same building. They soon emerge again, wearing bright green and yellow vests, orange or red helmets. Those who haven’t gotten work stand around smoking, waiting their turn.

A Place in Europe, Filmstills by Erik Pauser, 2016.

On the way back I see a van, the side door has been taken off it and is leaned up against it. After ascertaining that nobody’s there I raise my camera above the door and shoot. I look at the image; people are sleeping here too.[11] I ask a worker locking up the car next to me if he knows anything, but no, he has no idea what country the owners of the car are from, he says in a neutral tone. He’s from Poland.

A Place in Europe, Photos by Cecilia Parsberg. 2016

The transformation of the space

In and around the middle one of the three shuttered buildings, there is artistic activity – a self-organized cluster of artists have intervened in the environment with their art. A new overpass has been built behind the buildings, far too close. There’s a loading dock along the back of the House. With the arrival of the overpass there’s no longer enough space to drive vehicles up to it for loading. But the overpass provides shelter to some. Next to the concrete wall they’ve made themselves sleeping places out of wooden pallets. They make their beds there every night. The location is secluded and they can sleep there relatively unbothered, a few security guards on patrol are the only people with a view of their open bedroom, and the guards appear to accept their presence. I’ve seen many similarly furnished, organized sleeping places in central Stockholm. There are about ten sections under the loading dock and I can glimpse rolled-up mattresses, clothes, and blankets under most of them. In one of these encampments several shoes are lined up.

A Place in Europe, Photos by Cecilia Parsberg, 206.

In the five-story building next to the loading dock there are about thirty rooms on each floor. In here, as well as outside, artists have created a series of pieces. If they’d wanted and tried to get in, the homeless people might have found the ladder that the artists had hidden and seen that the window on the second floor can be opened. But they don’t seem to think along those lines. The begging people I’ve previously spoken with say that they don’t want to bother anyone, they want to live an orderly life, they don’t want to break rules and ordinances they want a home and a job. And the same is probably true of most of those who come here looking for work. They don’t want to be out there, but they don’t want to be in there either.

Outside the buildings a kind of bare life is underway[12] and inside one of the buildings as well as outside there’s a kind of artistic activity. The transformation of the space is giving rise to both these activities. Urban spaces – that aren’t included in urban planning, and are still constituted in the city by people, such as the places, sleeping places, closets of begging – are not a representation of something, they are a political form in and of themselves. What forces are at work in this liminal space?

A Place in Europe, “Because it never ends” Paintings by AKAY and KlisterPeter, Photos by Cecilia Parsberg, 2016.

When structures change voids – anomies – can emerge, fictions are created in anomies. For whom, for what, is this art made? How is this art connected to the (transmission of) meaning and content?[13] Two of the artists, claim when we talk about their art that they give without expecting anything in return. It seems to me that their idea of what art is unites them; with friendship, trust, they make art alone and together with other artists that come there.

The method is performative.[14] “Performance resists the balanced calculations of finance. It saves nothing, it only spends,”[15] writes Peggy Phelan. But this isn’t a wasteful resistance, not consumption with the ulterior motive of accumulation, but a lusty transgression.[16] Another thing that makes this art interesting is that the artists don’t work alone, other artists are active here, nor do they work as a group. “Individual genius is not the origin of culture,” as Rasmus Fleischer and Samira Ariadad write in their essay “Att göra gemensamma rum” [Creating common spaces].[17] They describe a system that has embraced the liberal idea that the private and the public are opposites, and that income for sustenance is won and communities found through a dialectical struggle. But what’s in between, in the act of giving without getting anything in return; these artists are well aware that they won’t make a livelihood off their work. “The aesthetic economy is always dependent on a border between the internal and the external (the frame as an on the side of, outer-work, parergon) that neither belongs to the internal nor the external, and that can be understood as a framing effect that always remains unstable: the frame is always about to crack, at the same time as it can never completely fall away, and de-framing and framing are like two vectors, the interplay of which constitutes the dynamics of the aesthetic field, and where one will always refer to the other,”[18] as Sven-Olof Wallenstein puts it.

A Place in Europe, Photos by Cecilia Parsberg, 2016.

The question remains, what kind of place is this? The fact that the area is under surveillance means that the area is a place in some sense. It’s not an obvious non-place, since the surveillance makes it a place in some sense. Those I’ll speak to half a year later – the cleaning firm that participates in evictions – calls places like this X-places, but the people who work at the shelters don’t like that, the situation here is their existence, their reality. That’s also why it isn’t a “non-place” in anthropologist Marc Agué’s sense where the place is contracted and the person becomes anonymous through the nature of the place.[19] This place is also populated by people, the shelters, the encampments; people who use it in various ways, the workers’ locker- and break-rooms. Thomas and Samuel have lived under the loading dock for two and a half years. It’s something between a place and a non-place. It’s a liminal space that could be described as “vague terrain” – a designation for unproductive, undefined places that have been abandoned, often placed between exploited productive places in a city.[20] But that’s not quite right either, this area isn’t abandoned and will be populated, it is populated and activated. It’s not a place in transition but a place that is waiting – a waiting place – the condition of the place creates the conditions for art because perhaps this is exactly what makes it attractive for artists to claim. They encroach on such places.[21] The artists ponder the place while they create – with their images they reflect upon what’s going on here and in that way they also indirectly relate to the migrants and guest workers that populate the place. (And perhaps the condition of the place even dictates the practice of an [unknown] number of artists.)

  1. Phase 1 –  method

I too encroach on it together with the filmmaker Erik Pauser and the dancer and choreographer Anna Westberg with funding from Kulturbryggan. We want to make visible this place, the people and their living conditions. But our work emerges in a different way, we have a different method, but we plug into the art of the other artists since it will appear in images and recordings. We too create activity in this place, which demands that we connect to the people who live and work here, and negotiate which images should be made visible. In this sense the place is a space for negotiation. When different realities meet negotiations arise between different parties that inhabit a place, the homeless, artists, workers, guards, property owners, when abandoned or soon to be demolished houses are used in ways other than those planned or expected. The place as political form poses questions of when and between which logics and parties negotiations will be initiated, how and over what. Which parties will participate? It’s a place waiting to be made visible.

A Place in Europe, Photo by Cecilia Parsberg, 2016.

We begin with talking to the people and keep going here during spring 2016. We film the area and meet people, and make a series of performances which we film.

A Place in Europe,  Photo by Cecilia Parsberg, 2016.

Where the docks used to be there are now two shacks. Two men walk toward me. We greet and strike up a conversation; they’re from Algeria. One of them, who I speak English with, shows his residency card from Spain, he can live there for twelve years. His family is there and they live in a house, but he lost his job and came here a few weeks ago to try to find a livelihood and now lives in a shack that he’s built himself.

“It’s not human to live like this,” he says and shows.

“It’s getting cold.”

“Yes, I’m going to Spain soon, I give up, you can’t get work here without a personal identification number and I don’t want to do what the Romanians do – they beg, I’d never do that.”

A Place in Europe, Photos by Cecilia Parsberg, 2016.

The need and necessity is visible and raw.

A Place in EuropeRobert from Rumania, Photo by Cecilia Parsberg, 2016

It takes time to build trust, we spend a lot of time and slowly we get to the various meetings. The project takes shape through the places and the people who are here to show the way. We speak to among others Thomas, 45, who has a residency permit and two jobs but is homeless and living under loading dock of the House. Samuel, 35, does too. He is homeless and undocumented from Ghana/Togo. And Albert, from Nigeria who has a residency permit and a job. Leonas from Lithuania has lost his passport and his cellphone and is living in the yard. Mohamed is from Libya and has had a residency permit for eight years, he can only find temporary work, usually off the books and lives in one of the shacks under the freeway. Said, 38, from Morocco, who’s just gotten his personal identification number and begun taking Swedish classes for immigrants lives in the shack across the way. Maria, a begging person from Romania who sleeps at the shelter sometimes. We speak with Arne who has had homes and been homeless and now manages daytime activities at Convictus, and with Michaela from Romania who works with the women’s night operations, as well as Nina from Finland (the director at Convictus). We also speak to a few workers from Poland and from Ireland, and one foreman from Sweden. But neither the management company for the House, the cleaning company, nor the owners of the alarm company – all established businesses in Sweden want to talk to us.

A Place in Europe, Eviction of those who live under the House’s loading dock. Stockholm, June, 9, Filmstill by Cecilia Parsberg, 2016.

It is an afternoon in June, A truck, dumpsters, the cleaning company, the alarm company, the House management, and the police arrive. They clear all encampments on the property, including those under the loading dock behind the House and Leonas’ home under the bike shack. But not the other shacks around, because they’re on land that belongs to the transportation authorities and the City of Stockholm. Those who tear out and throw away other people’s personal effects don’t want to be filmed and try to stop us, but since we are standing on ground owned by the City of Stockholm we can film what’s going on. Those who are doing the cleaning especially don’t like us filming, even after we’ve explained that we are not focusing on faces, but what they’re doing. They react strongly and emotionally. Two policemen are emotional too and want to stop me, while another policeman comes up and asks why and wants to listen. The homeless whose temporary homes are being put in the dumpster want us to film and they tell their stories in front of the camera.

A Place in Europe, Photo by Anna Westberg, 2016.

Lives that have been separated – by an imagined structure – can also be connected – by a lived structure – but not without hope of something else.

This is how Hannah Arendt describes the phenomenon of houses: “It implies ‘housing somebody’ and being ‘dwelt in’ as no tent could house or serve as a dwelling place which is put up today and taken down tomorrow. The word house, Solon’s ‘unseen measure,’ ‘holds the limit of all things’ pertaining to dwelling; it is a word that could not exist unless one presupposes thinking about being housed, dwelling, having a home. As a word house is a shorthand for all these things.”[22] Hannah Arendt writes of thinking that a meaning can be reclaimed by contemplating a word: “The word house is something like a frozen thought that thinking must unfreeze, defrost as it were, whenever it wants to find its original meaning.”[23] And this place waiting for transformation is a frozen thought in the middle of Stockholm. In some ways disconnected from, but still linked to, the prevailing social structure.

In this place waiting for transformation, there are hopes.[24] In those who come to seek work in Sweden and try to get residency permits and personal identification numbers, in the homeless who build themselves temporary shacks, in those who come to beg, in those who come to work at Sweden’s largest biomass power plant, in those who work for the aid organizations – civil society’s organized support for the homeless and others who “fall through the cracks”, in the older couple in one of the campers whose son got a job in Stockholm, in the construction company that has gotten a demolition permit for the buildings, but no permit for a new building, in the artists to continue creating, in the person who with a repetitive motion reaches out a hand waiting for a response and hopes that this response will mark the start of a negotiation.

A Place in Europe, Photo by Cecilia Parsberg, 2016

The films produced in Phase 1 are based on dialogue with the people at site during a month spread over four months. It is usually a time demanding process to connect with people—especially with those who are in a vulnerable situation. We provided a clear statement as to why we wanted to film them and their situation and why we sought to do so through art. We said: ”We want to visualize this place because people don’t know about this life situation of yours. This is a place which we can find anywhere in Europe. In Sweden it represents a paradigm shift; less than a decade ago the Swedish homeless fell outside the social welfare program because of substance abuse and mental health problems and today poor European migrants, overseas migrants and refugees is a dominant part. Temporary camps, like at this place, have sprung up. Migration processes are present almost daily in the media and in the political debate. However, it’s often based on theories about what is going on, it needs to be shown because it’s invisible to people, they have to see it. Would you like to be part of making this visualised?” We filmed only those who agreed.

  1. Phase 2, the staged work to be developed and realized[25]:
  • The House. From thinking ”film-installation” together with architects we – the project team – have developed sketches of a ”cinematic sculpture”. The films are backprojected from inside the house on to the plexi-plastic walls and roof. We see The House as a mobile social image, the house is turned over, dives into the ground. The House will make visible the urban place and the hidden situation. It will be set up temporarily, with or without authorization. The House can also be placed indoors in an exhibition or outside an institution during a period.
  • An essay on the research subject and context. As well as work method: if we are to be able to discuss the ethical – which is necessitated by the political – the process needs to be made visible as well as the result, that is to say the method that is developed.[26]
  • A workshop to catch up the audience, those who want to engage further, and this can be combined with public seminars with participants from different fields such as politicians, activists, researchers. An intensive housing construction is underway in Sweden – for whom are the houses built and which are considered in this process?

 

A Place in Europe, Sketch by Detail Group of The House, The Swedish Parliament, Stockholm, 2016.

Contact: Cecilia Parsberg, Doctor of Philosophy in Fine Arts in Visual Arts, Lund Univeristy.

 

Supported by  www.kulturbryggan.se

Birgit and Gad Rausings Stiftelse för Humanistisk Forskning

 

 

Notes

[1] www.ceciliaparsberg.se. In 2015 I wrote the last chapter – Chapter 9: A place in Europe – in my doctoral thesis in Fine Arts digitally published on www.beggingandgiving.se. In the spring 2015 I applied for support to start up an art project based on this research.

[2] www.erikpauser.com

[3] ask for separate CV

[4] www.detailgroup.se

[5] A new biomass power plant is being built. Fortum is investing five billion Swedish Kronor, which is the largest industrial investment in Sweden, it will be fueled using byproducts from the logging industry.
“Tillsammans skapar vi en grönare stad”. www.fortum.com/countries/se/kampanjer/biobransle-vartan/pages/default.aspx. Accessed July 26, 2016.

[6] Kulturbryggan startstöd omgång 11, SS11 – 5601, nov 2015. Kulturbyggan is administrated by Swedish Arts Grants Committee to support innovative art and development of methodology in Fine Arts.

[7] Which in part is what concerns Cecilia Parsberg’s doctoral thesis: www.beggingandgiving.se.

[8] A full length version can be read and viewed in Chapter 9 of www.beggingandgiving.se. Direct link http://beggingandgiving.se/kapitel-9/#chap9-1

[9] One of them is Thomas from Ghana, he is a former soldier, who moved to Italy and got work and a residency permit — but when the situation became too difficult he came to Sweden where he now has a residency permit. He’s been living outside, under the loading dock behind the House for two and a half years. Thomas distributes advertising between two a.m. and nine a.m. then goes to Convictus, eats, takes a shower, sometimes he does laundry there. He is one of those who wants to tell his story for the camera and comes up to us when he’s seen that we’ve been back every week or so for the past three months, to film the area and try to talk to people.

[10] “Convictus Bryggan Hjorthagen”. Accessed July 26, 2016,  www.convictus.org/hemloshet/bryggan_ostermalm.html.

[11] I don’t think it’s okay to photograph other people’s bedrooms without their permission, but in this situation my assessment is that it’s more important to show how people live here. The photograph is an example of one of the ethics-aesthetics negotiations that constantly arise – decisions that must be made quickly and on site. When I include this photo with my shadow I also want to show a transgression of a limit in which I am putting the viewer’s trust in my images at risk. At times I misjudge, I encourage reflection on the part of the reader and viewer. The discussion about the ethical must be kept open.

[12] “But in every judicial order there is an exception from order that in a kind of paradox regulates what applies when no order applies, in the state of exception. There the sovereign becomes precisely a sovereign again – and accordingly the citizen is reduced to a bare life. Agamben’s thesis is that this is ‘ultimate foundation of political power’ and thus the political essence that precedes every social contract.” writes Ola Sigurdson, professor of religious studies and systemic theology at the University of Gothenburg, in an article about philosopher Giorgio Agamben’s book Homo Sacer.
Ola Sigurdson, “Agamben visar hur kulturen inkräktar på livet”, Svenska Dagbladet, August 23, 2010. Accessed July 26, 2016, http://www.svd.se/agamben-visar-hur-politiken-inkraktar-pa-livet/om/kultur:under-strecket.

[13] Art critic Fredrik Svensk expresses the importance of constantly trying to understand in the face of what images art is made and can be made: “Because aren’t mechanisms of exclusion and inclusion that take place mainly on a sensual basis far more important to understand today than those that happen through a conventional politics of selection and representation?” A review of the Nordic pavilion in Venice 2015.
Frederik Svensk, “Paviljongen som exklusiv symfoniorkester”, Kunstkritikk, May 14, 2015. Accessed July 26, 2016, www.kunstkritikk.se/kritikk/paviljongen-som-exklusiv-symfoniorkester/?d=se.

[14] “Thus while performance can be understood as a deliberate ‘act’ such as in theatre production, performance art or painting by a subject or subjects, performativity must be understood as the iterative and citational practice that brings into being that what it names.” writes Barbara Bolt, on page 134, referring to Judith Butler. “Butler is very clear that performativity involves repetition rather than singularity. Performativity is ‘not a singular act for it is always a reiteration of a norm or set of norm, and to the extent that it acquires an act-like status in the present, it conceals or dissimulates the conventions of which it is a repetition.’” Barbara Bolt, “Artistic Research: A performative paradigm?” PARSE, No. 3 (2016). Accessed August 6, 2016, http://www.parsejournal.com/article/artistic-research-a-performative-paradigm/.

[15] Phelan, Peggy, Unmarked: the politics of performance, New York: Routledge, 1993, 148.

[16] Michael Richardson writes, in his interpretation of philosopher George Bataille:
“If we stick to facts capitalism doesn’t escape the dialectical logic of Bataille: It consumes, and consumes just as meaninglessly, just as wastefully as any other society. What capitalism is lacking isn’t the consumption but every kind of lusty transgression. When we waste we do it grudgingly, all the time and with an ulterior motive of ultimately accumulating.” Michael Richardson, Georges Bataille. (New York: Routledge, 2005), 79.

[17] “Individual genius is not the origin of culture, as the tenacious myth of the originator without communities would have it. These communities too need to happen, especially in the gray areas, like rehearsal spaces. According to a liberal view on culture, ‘culture’ is something free floating – culture doesn’t need to happen and it doesn’t need community.” Samira Ariadad and Rasmus Fleischer, “Att göra gemensamma rum”, Brand, No. 1 (2010), 44–6. Accessed July 7, 2016, www.samhallsentreprenor.glokala.se/wp-content/uploads/Att_gora_gemensamma_rum.pdf.

[18] Ibid., 59.

[19] Marc Augé, Non-Places: An Introduction to Anthropology of Supermodernity, (New York: Verso, 1995), 101. Accessed July 26, 2016, www.acsu.buffalo.edu/~jread2/Auge%20Non%20places.pdf.

[20] Ignasi de Solà-Morales, Catalan architect, historian and philosopher, coined the term terrain vague, applied to abandoned, obsolete and unproductive areas, with no clear definitions and limits. See: “Ignasi de Solà-Morales”, Wikipedia. Accessed July 26, 2016, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ignasi_de_Solà-Morales. Accessed November 6, 2016.

“With the coining of the term Terrain Vague, Ignasi de Solà-Morales is interested in the form of absence in the contemporary metropolis. This interest focuses on abandoned areas, on obsolete and unproductive spaces and buildings, often undefined and without specific limits, places to which he applies the French term terrain vague. Regarding the generalized tendency to ‘reincorporate’ these places to the productive logic of the city by transforming them into reconstructed spaces, Solà-Morales insists on the value of their state of ruin and lack of productivity. Only in this way can these strange urban spaces manifest themselves as spaces of freedom that are an alternative to the lucrative reality prevailing in the late capitalist city. They represent an anonymous reality.”

“Terrain Vague”, Atributos Urbanos. Accessed July 26, 2016, http://atributosurbanos.es/en/terms/terrain-vague. Accessed November 6, 2016.

[21] “A gradual advance beyond usual or acceptable limits: urban encroachment of habitat.” “Encroachment”, Oxford Dictionaries. Accessed July 26, 2016, www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/encroachment. Accessed November 6, 2016.

[22] Hannah Arendt, “Thinking and Moral Considerations: A Lecture”, Social Research, Vol. 38, No. 3, (Autumn 1971), 430–1. Accessed July 29, 2016, http://www.jstor.org/stable/40970929

[23] The sentence continues “In medieval philosophy this kind of thinking was called meditation, and the word should be heard as different from, even opposed to, contemplation.” Ibid, 431.

[24] Every year the Stockholm region grows by 35,000 inhabitants. The number comes from information about Värta and Hjorthagen where this place-non-place is located. “Vi bygger om Värtahamnen”. Accessed July 26, 2016, www.stockholmshamnar.se/stockholm/vi-bygger-om-vartahamnen.

[25]  Finances yet to be covered. To be part of financing this project, please contact: c.parsberg@gmail.com

[26] The essay is engaged from, and a continuation of, Cecilia Parsbergs’s last chapter – Chapter 9. A Place in Europe – in her doctoral thesis www.beggingandgiving.se.