We (Laurie Beth Clark and Michael Peterson) are artists and scholars who make work independently and collaboratively.
In our joint projects, under the group name Spatula&Barcode, we are interested in conviviality, criticality, and geography. There is always food. We’ve staged bicycle tours, Skype conversations, dinners, and coffee dates in Canada, Croatia, Morocco, the Netherlands, and the United States.
Our individual projects explore identity, memory, trauma, and materiality. Peterson is doing work on torture and performance. Clark currently has a project installed in Wisconsin that brings together into one installation 113 art works that use bones thematically or materially. This Ossuary will grow between iterations and you are all invited to contribute to it.
We’re interested in discussing what it means to make a creative practice of collating/bundling/collecting/hosting/presenting/installing or devising with other artists’ (and non-artists’) creative work. How is this activity like and unlike curating? What are the important ethical questions that need to be addressed as this particular way of making work becomes more widespread? As hosts, to what extent do we give something to or take something from the participating artists? How do these projects create new hierarchies or reproduce existing ones—between hosts, participating artists, support staff, venues, volunteers, and audience members? Is it important that audience members are able to identify the creative roles of the “host” as artistic practice?
Lately, we are also preoccupied with generosity. Are Lewis Hyde’s 1979 reflections on gift economies still relevant? If not, what newer theories might replace them? Are the new relational projects more “generous” than conventional art making? To what extent is generosity structurally central to all artmaking? Are there meaningful differences in degrees of selfishness between the arts? What are the antecedents of contemporary relational projects, both in and out of an arts context?
We’re also interested in canonization. Which kinds of relational projects are getting a lot of attention and why? Which are rarely written about and why not? Are there unique concerns that arise when critical acclaim is given to art works that profess populism? Are works from or produced in certain parts of the world being given special attention? How should be think about privilege as artists from one part of the world create relational projects for communities in other parts of the world?
Finally, we’d be interested in discussing the similarities and differences between the kinds of activities that are being developed under the rubric of relational aesthetics and those events that have characterized the Occupy Movements (and last year’s protests in Madison Wisconsin). What do we privilege when we call the work art and what do we lose? What do we privilege when we call the work political action and what do we lose?.