Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Living Time: Art and Life After 'Art-Into-Life': Andre Lepecki

On February 20 and February 21 The Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley is hosting the symposium “Living Time: Art and Life After 'Art-Into-Life'. We've asked participants from three sessions to post some brief thoughts on the topic in advance of the event. This guest posting is by André Lepecki (Associate Professor, Performance Studies, New York University), who is delivering Thursday’s keynote presentation entitled “Temporality and the Question of Life: Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Clark”.

My aim is to investigate how the works and writings of Hélio Oiticia and Lygia Clark re-articulate the problem of temporality and the problem of “life.” I am proposing that there is both a rigor and a novelty in their definitions of both terms, one that bypasses accepted notions that the privileged temporality of performance and dance is the ephemeral, and that the life element in performance and dance is the living presence of bodies in participation. I see their quest as a particular empiricism involving materials, matters, bodies, modes of living, and modes of moving (or not moving), offering renewed definitions of both “time” and “life” to performance theory and art history. As both artists work on form, color, objects, non-objects, participation, bodies, and subjectivities they also engage in a parallel, and yet deeply inter-related, theoretical-philosophical work.

Living Time: Art and Life After 'Art-Into-Life': Karin Sanders

On February 20 and February 21 The Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley is hosting the symposium “Living Time: Art and Life After 'Art-Into-Life'. We've asked participants from three sessions to post some brief thoughts on the topic in advance of the event. This guest posting is by Karin Sanders (Professor, Department of Scandinavian, UC Berkeley), who is presenting in the session Regional Check-in: Nordic Time Zones: Time-based art in the High North.

At Living Time, I want to contemplate recent questions raised by museum theorists about permanency and the perils of musealization by considering the use of a particular and rather mundane substance: ice.  How does this transient material function in the form of sculpture? Can institutional walls regulate the fickleness of Ice Art? Can Ice Art be placed somewhere between museumphobia and museumania? If sculptures made of ice are placed within museum walls do they inevitably challenge fixed institutional parameters and deep-rooted assumption about temporality?  Said differently, how can Ice Art negotiate questions of disappearance and reproducibility, fluidity and solidity? And how does it relate to the human body? Can the evocative materiality of ice allow the viewers a possibility of contemplating the fall of museum walls or their reinforcement? To answer these questions I have selected several Ice Art pieces from three Danish artists, sculptor Kirsten Justesen, (Icelandic-Danish) sculptor Olafur Eliasson and sculptor Troels Sandegård.  All, as I hope to show, operate with frozen material and concepts of frozen time that allow us to contemplate the human condition as physical reality but through a transformative lens of destabilization: melting, liquefying, evaporating.

Living Time: Art and Life After 'Art-Into-Life': Bojana Cvejic

On February 20 and February 21 The Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley is hosting the symposium “Living Time: Art and Life After 'Art-Into-Life'. We've asked participants from three sessions to post some brief thoughts on the topic in advance of the event. This guest posting is by Bojana Cvejic (Performance Scholar, TkH Walking Theory editorial collective), who is presenting in the session Regional Check-in: Politics, Dance, Aesthetics in Eastern Europe and Beyond.

A Parallel Slalom from Southeastern Europe, or how to make haste slowly

The point of departure are a few problems – conditions and terms, as well – that surface in the accounts of the experimental praxis in performance and visual arts in former Yugoslavia. Parallelism describes a peculiarly intensive engagement of theoretical discourses and art praxis among artists, cultural workers, theorists, and “editors”, a swift sloping ride that underlines parallel connections between the conceptual imagination of artists and the critical insight into history as the agency of the political unconscious; a kind of thought that arises from within, or close to, artistic practice, yet doesn’t keep its self-referential autonomy, but in turn becomes an instrument of looking past art, learning how to look through and from art rather than learning how to create art. Non-alignment defines the position of being in-between, neither under the grip of the Soviet type of social realism nor unproblematically subsumable under postcolonial studies and other Western-centric cultaralist approaches; it is bound up with self-organized collectivity as a mode of production and a way of living within the independent scenes of Ljubljana, Zagreb, Belgrade, Skoplje.

Two concerns feature the radically critical and experimental segment of contemporary dance in this region, whose condition of possibility for institutional development emerged only recently, after the process of transition from fake socialism into wild capitalism has been completed. The first involves the temporality of production, of historicity and of (the right to) contemporaneity, which I will examine through Janes Janša’s reconstruction of the 1969 Slovene performance Pupilija, Papa Pupilo and Pupilčeks, where dance “pierced through” the site where it wasn’t expected, in order to indicate in 2006 the unconscious of Slovene democracy today. The second is the concern with the contemporary (post-Fordist) forms of labor and life, juxtaposed with the notions of laziness, radical amateurism and delay. The choreography of Changes (2007) by the Croatian collective BADco will showcase an intricate play of allegory between labor and non-labor, work and nonwork, that is life, host and parasite, message and noise.

[In a slightly polemical tone to spark off debate, I quote here an excerpt from a stream-like text from Changes:
It is said that one of our artists was lately led by his observation and knowledge of Western art to a conclusion that art cannot exist anymore in the West. This is not to say that there isn’t any. Why cannot art exist anymore in the West? The answer is simple. Artists in the West are not lazy. Artists from the East are lazy; whether they will stay lazy now when they are no longer Eastern artists, remains to be seen. That artist sees laziness as the absence of movement and thought, dumb time—total amnesia. It is also indifference, staring at nothing, non-activity, impotence. It is sheer stupidity, a time of pain, futile concentration. Those virtues of laziness are important factors in art. Knowing about laziness is not enough; it must be practiced and perfected.
A paraphrase of Mladen Stilinović’s 1993 manifesto “Praise of Laziness” (Pohvala lijenosti)]

I suggest that the performance’s discussion of these notions is through posing problems in, through and for dancing. What does it look like to grapple with bodily movement as a way of posing a problem? And how can dance instrumentalize its own medium to forward a discussion on labor in the neoliberal regime of immateriality and temporality? How does the persistence of a problem materialize within the very syntax of motion? And what is the advantage (or false luxury) of precariousness, of “making haste slowly” in the times of economic austerity?

Living Time: Art and Life After 'Art-Into-Life': Knut Ove Arntzen

On February 20 and February 21 The Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley is hosting the symposium “Living Time: Art and Life After 'Art-Into-Life'. We've asked participants from three sessions to post some brief thoughts on the topic in advance of the event. This guest posting is by Knut Ove Arntzen (Professor, University of Bergen), who is presenting in the session Regional Check-in: Nordic Times Zones: Time-based art in the High North.

Arctic Conditions for the Arts: Landscapes of Non-Orientable Surfaces – Ecology and Gender

In my contribution I want to point out some views on arctic conditions for the arts, a perspective which I later has expanded on by using the term of non-orientable surface, a term or philosophical  concept coined by the Polish architect and philosopher Lech Tomaszweski, that can be used to describe the arctic as an ice desert with non orientable surface,as can be compared to the sea understood as seascapes. Arctic expeditions as well as discovery travels at sea have to my mind been stirred the fascination for non-orientable surfaces. This fascination can be considered as an attraction of a vitalist kind, that has influenced arctic flaneurs or ”dandy vagabonds” among the polar heroes like August André and John Franklin. Likewisely it has inspired visual artists and writers from Caspar David Friedrich to Knut Hamsun and dramaturg Ulla Ryum has developed the idea of a spiral dramaturgy, which can be conceived of as a wide-screen landscape dramaturgy. It is a landscape not captured by logics or symmetric understanding, at close resemblance to Gertrude Stein´s idea of a landscape drama, which also can  be described in terms of non-orientable surfaces. Ecology and gender as well as the mythical is reflected in this approach and is expressed by visual art, theatre and drama or time-based art in general, reflecting the non-orientability of ice deserts or seascape. I will exemplify by works of Carole Nadeau, Québec, and her Chaos K.O. Chaos, Beaivvás Sámi Teáhter and their production of Swedish play Kayak Woman, Norwegian Verdenstearet´s installation art performance Konsert for Grønland (Concert for Greenland) and Swiss director Christopher Marthalers Geenland-production +-0.

Living Time: Art and Life After 'Art-Into-Life': Claudia Calirman

On February 20 and February 21 The Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley is hosting the symposium “Living Time: Art and Life After 'Art-Into-Life'. We've asked participants from three sessions to post some brief thoughts on the topic in advance of the event. This guest posting is by Claudia Calirman (Assistant Professor at John Jay College (CUNY)), who is presenting in the session "Life" and Transnational Curating.

“Art and Violence in Latin America Today”

I would argue that the most interesting artistic practices coming out of Latin America today dealing with the interplay of art and life address harsh aspects of reality by reenacting and even exaggerating them. The artistic outcomes can reasonably be labeled perverse, as they, in many instances, cross the line between what is acceptable and what is intolerable. These artists overstress the violence embedded in everyday life in major cities in Latin America, creating a kind of hyperrealism.

In order to expose existing mechanisms of injustice, violence, and inequality, artists such as Santiago Sierra, Anibal Lopes, Reginda Galindo, and Teresa Margolles among others, mimic society’s authoritarianism and lack of ethical values, exposing in radical ways diverse forms of brutal violence and exploitation. They are not looking for a meaningful or constructive way to engage with society. On the contrary, by blurring the lines between legality and illegality, ethics and lack of values, they push their artistic practices to the limits.

These artists are not promoting violence, but rather enacting and aestheticizing it to raise public awareness. In a world bombarded by images of poverty, tragedy, and exploitation, it is easy to be numbed and indifferent to violence. Riveting works of art today have the capacity to wake up the viewer, to create a sense of discomfort, to undo the numbing and the saturation created by the daily assault of images of violence. What would be a responsible, committed approach to representing such violent conditions in Latin America? Where do artists cross the line to the point that their practices are considered unacceptable? When does the socially redeeming shock value of their works exceed its moral turpitude?

By engaging the audience in strategies involving illegal actions and disturbing performances that include hired killers, abducted passersby, prostitutes, drug addicts, illegal immigrants, and marginalized figures, these artistic practices today are radical and extreme.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Recap: Impact in the Arts Think Tank

Triangle Lab Wall at Cal Shakes' Bruns Ampitheater
On January 17, the Arts Research Center brought together Bay Area leaders in the arts and culture and UC Berkeley arts, humanities, and social science professors to address social and economic ‘impact’ in different artistic models. This daylong think tank discussion kicked off a series of related but differentiated activities we are plotting this term to explore a variety of research and art practices that address social and economic questions in the arts.

Our conversation began with reflection on a broad collection of readings about impact in the arts, setting the scene for all of our participants and offering a platform to think through the larger themes of the texts, which ranged from the NEA’s How Art Works and François Matarasso’s Use or Ornament? The Social Impact of Participation in the Art to The Urban Institute’s Cultural Vitality in Communities: Interpretation and Indicators.

The day continued with an exploration into ‘measuring differently,’ led by arts consultants Sarah Lee (Vice President for Arts & Culture, Slover Linett Audience Research) and Rebecca Ratzkin (Consultant, WolfBrown). Both researchers helped the group explore methods and values of defining and measuring effects that are often intangible, non-linear, social, psychic, and sometimes ambiguous in the arts and culture sectors.

During our “Inside Art Projects, Organizations, and Initiatives” segment, we talked through the inherent issues cultural organizations face. We examined the challenges encountered by A Blade of Grass, a New York arts nonprofit that funds socially engaged art, with Founding Director Deborah Fisher. We also discussed The Exploratorium Arts program with Marina McDougall (Director, Center for Art & Inquiry) and Paul Ramirez Jonas (Artist & Associate Professor, Department of Art & Art History, Hunter College, CUNY). Other participants, such as Beth Rubenstein (Founder, Out of Site Youth Arts Center, Arts & Community Development), Joanna Haigood (Artistic Director, Zaccho Dance Theatre), Rebecca Novick (Director of Artistic Engagement, California Shakespeare Theater), Judy Nemzoff (Program Director, San Francisco Arts Commission), Berit Ashla (Executive Director, The Brower Center), Arthur Combs (Interim Executive Director, Intersection For The Arts), and Ebony McKinney (Founder, Emerging Arts Professionals/SFBA), offered key examples, and concerns, from their respective organizations.   

The day concluded with a passionate and frank conversation on “Cultural Economies, Cultural Labor, Cultural Policies” led by Michael O’Hare (Professor of Public Policy, UC Berkeley), Courtney Fink (Director, Southern Exposure), and Rob Bailis (Director of External Relations and Artistic Initiatives, Cal Performances, UC Berkeley), allowing the think tank to close on thoughts of the labor of culture, among other cultural economic/policy issues.