Please make your repertoires available ...
Please make your repertoires available ...
How is not keen about ‚dynamics '. Mechanics describes it as a concern for the "effects of forces on the motion of a body or system of bodies, especially of forces that do not originate within the system itself". I'm wondering how mechanics define borders of a "system" - what belongs to its inside, and what does not. I imagine it as a possibly unavoidable but finally arbitrary process of deciding. However, I myself, I consider dynamics connected to vitality - or let's call it breathing.
One year, six associates, three curators, several events and residencies, lots of contexts and thoughts, etc. - I think we can say, the research center was never as extensive as this new cycle. It was time for a.pass to come up to the promise of generating more publicly available content. The five associate researchers accompanied by three different curators have processed their contexts and brought them to a ripe state for publishing. Holding in, taking a breath, smelling the taste, enjoying the fill of the lungs, holding in again and softly pushing the are out - and so, the cycle can start again. What was here? What was nourished by the oxygen? What did come up by breathing the same air as five other researchers?
This block we take a breath. We are looking at what emerged. We are cleaning up, select what felt useful, archive and document, think about publishing, and try to evaluate the insights for the next cycle.
Of course, while wrapping up, the question comes, is this not what research anyway requires from us at any time? Isn't wrapping up just another word for going on? Or is wrapping up possible anyhow in a research that is at the end never ending? Sure, close looking, reflecting, evaluating and sharing are intrinsic to research. It just takes place in a different light than pondering, discovering, curiosity, surprise etc.
Nothing against ‚Research '- but 'search' comes first!
This summer I was standing in a forest, next to my child. We listened, imagined, looked in the search for bears and libels, mushrooms and orchids. There was no direction, just forest, we entered where it was possible, and continued where that forest opens vision. The structures are given but inscrutable. We learn, we wonder, we wish, we compare, and things fall into our memory to be linked to other memories. Search is big. Search is following the order of the woods - not the trees.
Research feels a bit like hide-and-seek. Everything takes place within a certain convention - the rules of the game. That's what the fun is about it. I exactly know what I'm searching for and what I have to do, I just don't know how it will happen, and when. We collect, we document, we reorganise, we create an overview, we create vision. Research is messing up the order. Research is taking perspective, so we don't see the whole woods for the trees.
The a.pass Research Center is dedicated to supporting advanced research and to collecting and making public methodologies of artistic research developed at a.pass. After being initiated as a platform for individual research trajectories, the Research Center shifted to welcoming a group of advanced researchers for a period of one year.
This winter block marks the closure and thinking back of the first cycle of the a.pass Research Center through publishing.
Cycle I - Associated Researchers
Adrijana Gvozdenović is an artist who notes, talks, writes, and collects. She is interested in anecdotal and peripheral art, the conventions of exhibition making, artists’ motivations, and responsibility in the general context of art and art-related politics.
Sina Seifee researches as an artist in the fields of narrative, performance and knowledge production. He has been working on the question of technology and storytelling in the arts and sciences of the middle ages and the past-present of material reading practices in collective life. He studied Applied Mathematics in Tehran, received his master in Media Arts in KHM Cologne and in 2017 finished an advanced research program in performance studies in a.pass.
Rob Ritzen works as a curator with a background in philosophy, museum studies, art and architectural history. His curatorial practice is focused on self-organised and co-operative formats in close association with cultural practitioners — consciously positioned on the margin of established institutions and outside of market oriented spaces, but in the middle of communities of cultural practitioners. Most recently he co-initiated That Might Be Right, an attempt to reconfigure the politics of making art and alternative forms of production and presentation.
Isabel Burr Raty is a performance artist based in Brussels interested in the ontological crack between the organic and the artificially engineered, between the unlicensed knowledge of minority groups and the official facts. Her research interweaves new media, body art, lectures, installations and participatory performance to propose hybrid narratives and bio-autonomy practices that play with synthetic magic and compose in situ Sci-Fi.
Sara Manente lives in Brussels and works as a choreographer and performance artist.
Her projects start from an understanding of dance as a performative language and exist at the limit of the choreographic: texts, dance pieces, films, workshops, experimental performances, artistic researches and collaborations.
At the a.pass Research Center she is gathering knowledge on fermentation techniques in order to consider her research from a perspective of bacterial/interspecies ethics and aesthetics.
Antye Guenther, born in former East Germany, has a theory based visual art practice dealing with epistemological questions within the realms of technology, post-humanism, science fiction and fictionality of science. Since her fellowship at the Jan van Eyck Academy in 2015-2016, Guenther, who has a background in medicine, is investigating neuroscientific research and imaging, particularly in its entanglement with neoliberal corporate structures and ideologies.
Imagining a two-day boat trip on the Dilje-Leuven Canal:
M.M.: A brief introduction into my practice: I see performance as a practice of inhabiting a specific ecosystem. Currently, I am focusing on the oceanic ecosystem, one that can only in part be inhabited by human beings.
Concerning the ocean, the question that interests me most is: What is my relation to the ocean, and how can this relation be described? What are the affects or elements that make it up? And how can those affects be performed and thus communicated? My focus lies on creating affective (an)archives. i.e. archives that communicate relational experiences and knowledges of the ocean.
NG: What makes the ocean for you to the ideal ecosystem to be performatively inhabited?
M.M.: Well, I feel very attracted to it physically and mentally. And it also proposes a different way of thinking and being than land proposes. So I want to explore those. But it is not an "ideal" ecosystem because it is actually quite difficult to inhabit it physically. Very little is known of the ocean compared to ecosystems on land.
C.S.: For me, it is less the ocean than the water that triggers the idea of inhabiting it in a performative sense. Water is everywhere, in us, around us, we are made up of water - and the element is so common that we don't think about it much, as we live our lives. To give it a moment of special attention and to engage with it as a practice is like a process of becoming aware of something that we deal with every day, and that is so at the basis of our existence.
The ocean was extremely attractive to me when I was a child. I used to spend my entire summer holidays at the Mediterranean Sea, and I spent most of these months inside of the water. It was the experience of being submersed, totally enveloped by the salty moving body that intrigued me. The smell, the temperature, the consistency (compared with the bathtub water or the swimming pool water) of the Mediterranean became like a place where I would feel at home for me.
Today, much older, I don't have this urge anymore to submerse in the sea. I'm much more respectful of the gigantic body of water and enjoy more contemplating it by staying at its side, and not going in.
N.G.: Probably, I could see the ocean in any water. Looking deep into the glass before I take a sip of delicious spring water - e.g. at Schwarzsee in the Alps - I see the sea, I see into the history of these molecules and can follow them through my body into my pee, into the ground into the flower, into the sunray into the rain into the river into the stream into the whole flow that cyclically generates life. Of course, on these waves, we perform our lives and are performed by them. In the case of water, the conditions it creates, the landscape it carves, I'm not sure if I inhabit and perform within or if it's not the other way, the water inhabits me and performs through me.
M.M.: I think different bodies of water work differently, affect the human body in a different way. So for me, the ocean as I recently encountered it Portugal, for example, the force that it has, is very different from my own experience of the sea in the Mediterranean in Greece.
C.S.: Can you tell more about the performative aspect that intrigues you with water or the ocean?
M.M.: Performance is for me the way we choose to enter into relation with the body of water that we encounter. So for example, if you say that you want to be engulfed by the sea, the salty and continuously moving water, I am interested to know more about this sensation that you have and how it could be performed now, for example, in the conditions in this room.
C.S.: The most intriguing part that comes to mind at once is the aspect of being carried. And of course, we have this much more on the earth. The earth is solid and carries us all the time - something that we also take for granted, and forget about it, as we sit on this chair.
In the water, especially the salty - thick - water, the buoyancy is a fantastic characteristic that gives me a sense of trust inside this ever-moving deep sea.
M.M.: Yes, I recognize this feeling! What I would propose now on the trip is to explore how this sensation could be reconstructed through performance or how this sensation could influence what you are researching artistically.
C.S.: First association is STAGE DIVING!! But that is not very serious, of course!
M.M.: What is stage diving?
N.G.: The tricky thing might be, that the sensation is part of the ecosystem which should be performed. But probably that's exactly the chance. To perform WITHIN something not ON something (like a stage). If we take performance as a 'doing' not as a 'representing' it becomes very interesting, I think. Performance in an economic sense is an act of domination. To 'perform' witing a system, in respons-able relation to it, is something very different. The notion of being performed while performing is there very applicable.
C.S.: Stage diving is to let yourself be carried by the masses of listeners /audience standing in front of the stage when you dive onto their uplifted hands. It is a big test of trust!
M.M.: Aaaaahh yes, the rockstar thing. We could try it.
CS: Now, I have to think of VariousArtists - whose performance often has to do with experimenting with what he eats, drinks, how much he sleeps, or exercises. So a 40-day water fast could be a very embodied experience of what water does. And very cleansing, as well. Another important aspect of water, of course - the CLEANING!
In that sense, Trudo makes his body the ecosystem and the stage at the same time.
M.M.: We can make a list of those aspects here, during this conversation? I was planning to do this also on the boat trip. Now we can imagine the ocean and that we are travelling on it. What sensation does it give us?
1. Being engulfed/ buoyancy
2. Sense of cleansing
C.S.: There is something that happens to the sinuses, also. And to the sense of smell that I find very interesting. In the ocean, of course, you smell the salt and the "sea" - like algae and dead fish and live fish and all the rest of it. But there is also something happening to the nose, in my case. It gets full of water and clogged, and at the same time, it cleans itself.
What aspect of sensation is that?!
M.M.: How would you name it? If you had to use one word? Smell? Or salt-smell?
N.G.: For this, it would have been perfect to be on the boat. I'm sure we would find another answer than here!
C.S.: There is something that is inside and outside at the same time. It is as if the ocean gets INSIDE of my body through the nose. It is the one opening that lets the water in. So, it is not the smell, I think - it is more the permeability of my body to the body of water.
Of course, also the skin gets wrinkled and like a prune, that it keeps the water out. On the contrary, it may even lose a bit of my body water instead of letting the ocean in, because I always get very thirsty when I spend a long time in the water.
M.M.: Permeability is a wonderful word for it! There is this concept of the Hypersea, that was put forth by two biologists, Mark and Dianna McMenamin. They understand all living organisms on land as "lakes" that communicate with each other by on the one hand keeping the water in and on the other being permeable and passing water from one organism to the other. It's as if all organisms on land form a deterritorialized sea that they carry in their bodies.
N.G.: The inside/outside is actually rather a human perspective. Nothing wrong with this, but from the water perspective we are simply a tunnel! A place of passage, and probably of transformation. Perhaps that's the most real performance we do. Being a catalyst for waters. WE ARE THE CANAL!!
C.S.: Now, I have to think of homoeopathic medicine, somehow. The transformation of the water inside our body tunnel.
N.G.: btw. What do you think is the boat a stage ? or rather an ecosystem within an ecosystem?
C.S.: the boat is a very artificial object for me that allows us to traverse the body of water, to be on it without getting wet, to not engage with the water but only with the surface of the water, and there is an aspect of dominance in boats also. You are always (unless you are going under) on top of the water and you don't get wet. It is an object that divides you from the water. You feel it but indirectly only. The most stringent aspect of water - that it is WET - is lost. You don't get wet.
M.M.: You can get very wet on a boat! Have you ever been on a boat when there are strong wind and big waves? You get soaked.
For me, the boat is a machine that allows us to enter into relation with the vastness of the sea, that otherwise, we would not be able to approach. But yes, it also has an aspect of domination. Without boats, no "discoveries", no colonization, but also no communication, no fishing, no trade. It's a complex place to be, the boat. It also makes for a very specific surface on which to move and urges a particular behaviour regarding the human bodies that inhabit it.
N.G.: We have this image of the sailors, that try to master the waters with their boat, fighting against the waves and storms, overcoming the overwhelming forces of nature. Like Ishmael fighting Moby-Dick the wale.
C.S.: I have an aunt who cannot swim. She would go on a boat, though. But she would not go directly into the water. Only where it is very shallow.
And Jonas who found himself inside the whale. How did he end up there again? That was an ecosystem inside of the water, and then he was inside the belly, and that was a bit like land again. Like a membrane that allowed him to be inside the water for a long time, but without touching the water. Was it so?
M.M: So you would prefer a whale belly to a boat?
C.S.: that is difficult to answer. I don't have a clear image of a whale belly...
N.G.: Of course! Even in this nutshell, I dream of the big monsters.
M.M.: So we add 3. permeability, 4. whale-belly...
N.G.: Or let's say permea-belly.
C.S.: And now, the ice. What about ice. Is this ocean? But solid, you can walk on it. And it totally changes the experience of being in/on the water.
Or under it...?
M.M.: Yes definitely, ice is also ocean. Just in a different form. With a whole different set of conditions. I talked to a glaciologist recently, and he said there is the category of sea ice and the ice shelf, that are both ice formations on the sea, which differ from the big glaciers that are usually land formations.
N.G.: For an ice bear it might be something different than for a penguin, or for the wind. For the ice bear it is (more and more ) a boat!
C.S.: With ice I find it confusing. Do I remember right that for a long time it was not known if the North Pole is solid or if the South Pole is solid - land or sea. Ice confuses things a bit, I find...
M.M.: Then lets end in this confusion? I think its quite appropriate.
The primary soil of questions for our investigations in the a.pass block 2019/II is to experience us as an ecosystem in ecosystems. We take this fertile ground as an incentive to generate ideas for a 'we' that relates differently to the planes, stays differently in trouble with the damages we induce, and rather becomes-with then cares-for the life on it. Donna Haraway proposes for the generate this other "we" by makeing kin with multiple things, species and other ‚companions‘. In her book „Staying With The Trouble. Making Kin in the Chthulucene“, an essential (tentacular) body of references for this block, she offers a meshwork of indicators what 'making kin' could mean.
"Think we must. We must think"
(Stengers, Despret, refering to Harraway).
To put it into practice is at stake. My intuitive response to this is a practice that I started developing some years before I read her text: mutual adoption of specific aspects of each other’s research seems to be a good motor to train the response-ability Donna Haraway claims as one of the needs for making kin. To ‚adopt‘ objects, practices, behaviours or ways of thinking etc. of someone else’s research means taking care of it as it would be your own! In an ecosystem, all aspects are at the same time ‚other' - and part of one and the ‚same‘ space of resonance. The complex relational web of this 'same-other', can be explored by mutual and temporal adoption of aspects of each other' research and make it part of kin.
I propose a joint exercise, whereby every one of us
1.) prepares to put aspects up for adoption, then
2.) to leave them as ejects of our research aside, to
3.) be found by others and
4.) to adopt ourselves ejected aspect from someone else into our own practice.
- On a regular base, we will need to swap and continue the cycle.
Btw. did you know that works are acting in swarms, and take common decisions by communicating through touch?
During the opening week, we will develop our adopt-ability and will exchange our 'baskets' and get ready for the impact an adopted aspect on our researches.
The first cycle of adoption starts in the opening week, will continues with a swap in the HWD’s and will end by handing it back in the end week.
The earth faces troubles of kind humanity never experienced before: climatic changes induced by humankind are dramatically destructive and - meanwhile unavoidable. Therefore we can register a shift in the environmental movement from an understanding of trying to prevent the planet from a catastrophe to mere dealing with life within the consequences of climate changes. This perspective fundamentally shifts our culturally abstracted understanding of nature - and therefore it poses big questions to the arts as a source of cultural knowledge for that great deal of life. The catastrophe might mirror the impossibility of hierarchical understandings of the relation between nature and culture, but it also forces us to the obvious insight that all vital cycles - whether social, ecological, technological, cultural, mental, emotional, economic etc.- are inseparably connected ecosystems.
Knowing about their sensitivity and complexity, I’m asking myself, how does my artistic practice and research act within the disturbedness of these ecosystems? How can I understand myself and my research as transformative part of their troubles - knowing, that I’m a troubled and troubling ecosystem myself?
After having curated two blocks at a.pass with regards to the conditions which, and in which we create - the block 2017/II about the commons, as an alternative economy, and the block 2018/I about the making of conditions and Institutional Critique - I see the need to look beyond our cultural boundaries and understand the meshwork of diverse conditions we are living in together with other species, elements and time zones.
The aim of this block is to challenge our individual research aims as living creatures and companions in and as ecosystems. Hyper related, affecting, and never singular, our researches are - however - in resonance with their surrounding. We can not ignore the influence of these aspects, but we are also hardly aware of the performance of these influences on our practice.
Taking this ‚ecosystem-perspective‘ as the main tool for our investigations, this block shall give you the possibility to reflect your research as a relational field within a ‚terrestrial‘ landscape. On the other side, it will unavoidably put our researches in relation to the ecological crisis and catastrophes surrounding us and will help us to develop tools and understanding for a post-anthropocentric, post-atopocenic, probably post-artropocentric relational practice with your research.
Therefore, this block IN-vites you OUT. Where to investigate and experience a behaviour as ecosystem better then in the outside - an outside, that immediately takes us in, makes us being a part of it! ‚Outdoor‘ - at places with-out-doors - might be the right term. Where weather and biosphere meet industrial (side-)performance, migrant activities, walls, traffic, sun - and state power, written and unwritten laws etc. interact with each other.
This block takes you out into the systemically ‚wild‘. What allows structure? I don’t know - at the moment, before having taken up theses c/glasses any curated structure feels violent towards the tenderness of the ecosystems. Handling the idea ‚ecosystem as research as ecosystem‘ with care is as crucial as to care with the greatest sensitivity for the ecosystems we are about to enter by stepping out of the door.
This in mind, I throw out my tentacles to propose a path to step into our ‚worlding‘ experience and to trace the stories we will tell on that way.
In the last couple of months a.pass was investigating the impact of economic and institutional conditions onto artistic research practices and the possibilities to impact those conditions through the very same artistic practices. Institutional critique and alternative economic concepts are strongly related when it comes to the creation of differing conditions.
SOTA, state of the arts, is engaging since several years in influencing cultural policy in Belgium. Now SOTA proposes a yearly summer camp as a gathering of all workers in the cultural sector to discuss the notion of fair practice and the creation of an Almanac as an evolving political instrument.
For the evening of March 16 a.pass has invited together with SOTA Alberto Cossu to meet with Ronny Heiremans, who both engage with their practices in different ways of discussing and changing the conditions for artistic practices.
In the Project CAVEAT Ronny Herremans and Katleen Vermeir take contracts used in the Belgium art context as a starting point for a reconfiguration of the position of the artist in society. In their investigation they look into the legal, social and artistic consequences of the structuring framework a contract provides and use it as a lens to look at questions of authorship, labour situation, price politics or political solidarity.
As sociologist and activist, Alberto Cossu in contrast, is situated in the conditions of an occupied space in Italy – the MACAO in Milano that he joined since its inception in 2012. MACAO is an independent center for art, culture and research. Rejecting the creative industry paradigm, and innovating the idea of cultural institutions, MACAO considers art production as a viable process for changing social, political and economic conditions. MACAO developed its own crypto-currency, provides a context for the research on innovative governance and discusses the labour conditions in the cultural sector.
Ronny Heiremans and Alberto Cossu are meeting each other this evening the first time to discuss principles of self-organisation and the creation of condition under which artistic practice can unfold a reclaimed economy that serves the common livelihood.
This post gives a short overview of the organisation and agenda of the block.
Plenums are gatherings of a.pass as a whole. All participants of the block program take part in each of the 3 plenums to share the state and development of their researches, as do the mentors, the research centre, the daily team and the core members as far as possible.
Plenums are gatherings to exchange about individual researches and practices, and are used to discuss how we, as a group of researchers, and the structure of a.pass can best support them.
The plenum doesn't start until everyone announced is present.
Forums are timeframes to discuss and work on the topics of MAKING/CONDITIONS, to develop and exchange knowledge or to practice the making of research.
A forum can be a physical gathering from 1 hour to 5 days. Forums can be internal a.pass work gatherings, held publicly in presence of invited guests, or even take place in collaboration with other institutions.
Forums start at the announced time, wether the participants are present or not.
8. - 17. January: Displaying Conditions (opening week)
10.-11. January: participation in U-Ghent seminar 'What are we training for?'
18.-19. January: 'How do we do the things that we do?'
26. January; 2., 9., 17. February; 1., 8., 16., March: Pattern Language
30. January - 3. February: Critical Administration; or Shaking down the Enterpreneur
19. February - 23. February: Making Conditions (HWD's)
26. February - 2. March: 'How do we do the things that we do?' with Florian Feigl
9. March: Performing Knowledge
16. March: Alternatives to Economy (the Macao Model)
19. - 23. March: Pattern Testing
26. March - 1. April: Reflecting Conditions (end week)
The block MAKING/CONDITIONS is made of patterns. Here is the first pattern of an unfolding language of patterns that shall be created during the next three months. In a weekly meeting we will look at the emergence of common patterns in or between our investigations of possible conditions for our researches.
A pattern is a description of a specific practice, thought or approach that can help to develop a shared understanding of a certain field of knowledge. In this case the field of institutional critique and performance as an economic, sozial and artistic category. It discusses the relationship between an artistic research practice and its supporting conditional structures – the institutional in its broadest sense.
Inspired by the Pattern Theory of Christopher Alexander we will develop a language that shall emerge from practicing our individual researches be shareable with a larger audience.
According to Alexander, patterns are building blocks for transformation and follow an evolutionary structure: a pattern is repeatable, connective to other patterns and changes according to the needs of a situation.
Patterns can take shape in any material or immaterial form, but should, if possible, be accompanied by a descriptive. The patterns will be gathered in a library and should be presented in a way that anyone can interpret and appropriate them in a actual situation.
Building a pattern language means to create a common context of a specific set of patterns. The singular patterns can be composed to syntax-like structures. Like in a spoken language, design patterns follow certain grammatical structures and can be combined in different orders – but most likely not in any orders. The Language we create will evolve out of the context of our artistic research practices and will have to comply to it in its very specific way.
The patterns shall be assembled and discussed in a library. This library shall be hosted in a shelter that shall be build in the big space of a.pass during Plenum I. It shall act as a center of the pattern language practice. The library of patterns shall be a living archive of practical thought, methods, acts, performances, approaches etc.
Users of the library can experiment with the growing variety of patterns, can patch them together to sentences that make sense to their situation, can alter and amend patterns and add new ones. This is how the language fill find its form.
Every artistic practice is contained in a context and relates at the same time to a multitude of contexts. Yet, it is an intrinsic character of artistic practice to act beyond boundaries and in the grey-zones between contexts. For that the arts often needs to think and go beyond their conditions and rather start creating and intervening their own. This however might be difficult in situations where the overall structure is too big to leave. This might or might not be the case if we think of todays capitalist economy.
However it seems that institutional critique enters a new phase where systems are changed not only from within, but by experimentally exploiting their structures. Authors like Gerhard Raunig talk in this context of new instituting practices. Through the construction of a pattern language we explore these practices and try to understand what they could mean in relation to our own researches.
''Can artistic practices still play a critical role in a society where the difference between art and economy have become blurred and where artists and cultural workers have become a necessary part of capitalist production.''
What is the position of the arts in a completely economized society? What kind of answers do we find towards the increasing entrepreneurial demands? How to keep a discourse about values apart from finances? How to create conditions and institutions that allow us to continue asking these questions with view to a greater societal picture?
This block combines institutional critique with a fundamental unravling of Performance in its various interpretations in economy, administration, performing art, and sociology. To put performance as a term into the centre between art and economy, is pointing at the fundamental misunderstandings and simultaneous interdependence between these two fields.
Performance stands for productivity and efficiency as much as for doing, being present, representation, and the transformative power of speech. In between the different interpretations one question appeares very clearly: What are we doing? Beyond the Leninist version of this proverb (What is to be done?), this question not only points to a future productivity (What are we creating?) or a struggle against/for the institution (Under what conditions are we doing and making?). It points to the creation of the framework in which this question can be posed with regard to the basic values of life (How do we live?). In this way all the different understandings of performance aim at transformation or even change.
In the last decades economy became more and more the overarching concept that incorporates all aspects of life and channels all living efforts. The Arts contributed to this development in multiple ways and acted - consciously or not - as a role model in the process of this economization in many ways.
For a big majority of the population the economization and finanzialisation of their life means to loose access to common resources and with that the control over the self-creation of their living conditions. At the same time the neoliberal doctrine turned the full responsibility for these conditions onto the individual and diminishes solidarity and democratic processes.
Being critical and self-critical of this development, the arts must take the performative power inherent in its role model serious and needs to devise new instruments for concrete change and new institutional formats to respond to this development in order to keep the creation of societally viable living and working conditions in their hands.
Searching for the relationship between the artistic research practice and the creation of its own legal, economic, administrative condition, we try to detect common working patterns that enable us to create our own conditions. Using the concept of Pattern Language developed by Christopher Alexander in late 1970’s we try to come up with practical building blocks to think a radical artistic research practice within, and in response to, the contemporary economic and political constraints.
Close Encounters @ a.pass End-Communications
This month, two Close Encounters take place during the a.pass End-Communication event, an event dedicated to a.pass researchers presenting their research at the end of the post-masters program.
Saturday January 27th, 15:00-18:00 @ Manchesterstraat, 17 - 1080 Brussels
A DIALOGUE ON ACTIVE ARCHIVES WITH NICOLAS MALEVE AND FEMKE SNELTING
“Within Active Archives, we aim to set up multi-directional communication channels, and are interested in making information circulate back and forth. We would like to give material away and receive it transformed: enriched by different connections, contexts and contradictions.”
(Manifesto for an Active Archive, 2006)
As a young institute for artistic research, a.pass currently reflects on modes of documenting, archiving, publishing and sharing. These modes should mirror its criticality, singular modes of operation, agonistic environment and ongoing reformulation of tools, practices and research. Moreover, the institute is concerned with a complex equation: how to develop an attitude towards archiving and dissemination that combine a critique of the usual institutional ‘archival reason’, while producing and sharing readable (structured) 'forms of knowledge'? Or, how to avoid and/or assume commodification, reification and authority while documenting and archiving polymorph artistic research practices and discourses? Ultimately a.pass wants to engage with documenting, archiving and disseminating -independent and experimental artistic research practices- to produce an ecology of text critique and to find inventive modes of co-operation and fair technological practices interlacing politically in non-innocent and least toxic ways. In the context of these current reflections and within the series Close Encounters, Nicolas Malevé and Femke Snelting both invited by a.pass researcher Pierre Rubio will discuss the long history of Active Archive, as a case study and exemplary project/practice.
Active Archives started in 2006 as a Constant project, out of concern with the digital archiving and publishing practices within, and between cultural institutions. The project functions as a context for the development of tools and practices that provide a real possibility for sharing. It creates environments where ‘letting go’ is acknowledged as a necessary and desirable gesture. Active Archives has evolved through different projects/forms, and is currently activated by Michael Murtaugh and Nicolas Malevé in the context of the Scandinavian Institute for Computational Vandalism .
What can the different iterations of Active Archives tell us about the condition of engaged artists-researchers-archivists? What were the historical conditions that stimulated its genesis? And after all these years -punctuated by profound technological, cultural and institutional changes- how is its evolution, topicality and relevance today?
Visual artist, computer programmer and data activist, who lives and works between Brussels and London. Nicolas Malevé is currently working on a Phd thesis on the algorithms of vision at the London South Bank University. He is a member of Constant and the Scandinavian Institute for Computational Vandalism. In the Active Archives project, with Michael Murtaugh, he is experimenting with techniques to engage with large collections of visual materials and explore different ways to navigate and question them. Nicolas studies the mutation of the archive in a digital context. How the evolution of machine learning influences computer vision when these techniques are applied on large collections of images. And in this context, how it affects the relationship between training data and the design of algorithms. Nicolas researches how these elements question the supremacy of the human eye in the visual field and how the redefinition of the archive implies to take into account a larger amount of agents, human and non-human for the circulation of visual content. These last five years, Nicolas contributed to exhibitions (documenta12, Kassel; Kiasma, Helsinki), research events (“Archive in Motion”, University of Oslo; Document, Fiction et Droit, Fine Arts Academy, Brussels), and has published in publications by MIT Press and Presses Universitaires de Provence.
Femke Snelting works as artist and designer, developing projects at the intersection of design, feminism and free software. In various constellations she has been exploring how digital tools and practices might co-construct each other. She is member of Constant, a non-profit, artist-run association for art and media based in Brussels. Since 1997, Constant generates performative publishing, curatorial processes, poetic software, experimental research and educational prototypes in local and international contexts. With Jara Rocha she activates Possible Bodies, a collective research project that interrogates the concrete and at the same time fictional entities of “bodies” in the context of 3D tracking, modelling and scanning. She co-initiated the design/research team Open Source Publishing (OSP) and formed De Geuzen (a foundation for multi-visual research) with Renée Turner and Riek Sijbring. Femke teaches at the Piet Zwart Institute (experimental publishing, Rotterdam) and is currently curator of the Research Centre at a.pass.
Every Friday of this block – from 16th September till the Common Conference – we will come together for a concentrated commoning session. In order to concretely practice and practically inquire the general question of the block – what is created in common? – we try to establish an open space practice that allows pursuing the individual research interests while focussing at the same time on interrelations amongst these researches and the common interests. Training the simultaneity and interdependency of individual and common interests not only puts our commons economy at work but also let’s us investigate the personal and collective effects of structural shifts.
We will work with the elements provided and commonized during the opening week workshop.
What is created while working together? With this basic question in mind, we will establish our own specific common working economy. The critical practice of this economy will be our contribution to the Common Conference at the end of the block.
The Fridays Open Space follow a strict protocol: preparing, diving, reflecting, adjusting.
At 10am we gather for a preparatory hour including a body warm-up, check up of the material and the situation, and a short recap of the previous Friday’s session. Contributions for this preparation can be proposed by everyone taking part.
At 11am we dive into the open. Everything is in common responsibility and has to be taken care of to be activated, nourished, cultivated, played with, questioned, put in context, etc.
Throughout these sessions, the attention lies – similar to improvisation – on the contextual relationality of the individual trajectories towards the commons.
At 1pm we eat soup and reflect upon our experience in the open session. Based on this reflection we commonly decide on adjustments as a starting point for the next Friday Open Space.
The sessions will end around 3pm.
This commoning workshop radicalizes the usual focus of the opening week: we share our researches! Sharing this time, is not only a means to update each other about the actual state of our projects, but literally aims to make them a common issue.
Our individual researches are the basic material to set to work during a block. 'Working’ is a specific economy of related energies, knowledge, motivation, intend, emotions, of objects and humans, documents and processes.
The opening workshop forms the basis of a block-specific economy that will be developed further in the Fridays Open Session.
You are invited to carefully select parts of your individual research that will then be declared as common good for the duration of the block. The collection of these parts is the base of our commons. The collection will be under constant transformation and observation, and shall be our indicator of how our researches develop under the influence of the care by ‘everyone‘.
We will present our individual researches synthesized through three specific filters :
Beside the opening week workshop, we will take time to discuss the concept and the practicalities of a.pass in general.
To open this block we start with bricolage. The bricoleur never starts - he is continuously working on 'whatever is at hand'.
Diving into this concept, described in Claude Levi-Strauss' 'The Savage Mind', we develop a practice to present, discuss and discover the momentary objectives of our researches. With the help of found and constructed objects, objects of personal importance and desire, daily objects and precious ones, or objects of thought and discourse, we will try to define the actual quality of each one's research model and methodology.
The bricolage technique may be very close to many of our practices. The artist researcher is commonly acknowledge, as the bricoleur-scientist. He crafts the object of knowledge. Levi-Strauss describes the the bricoleur in opposition to the engineer: the bricoleur’s tools and materials are heterogeneous but - working only with what is there - his/her universe of instruments is finite. The understanding of the world is assembled and constructed on the go. The material "is the contingent result of all the occasions there have been to renew or enrich the stock or to maintain it with the remains of previous constructions or destructions."
The engineer instead, tries - in the most rational manner - to overcome the constraints of his current reality and works under the basic assumption of infinite possibilities. The engineer as much as the scientist creates events (changing the world) by means of structures and the 'bricoleur' creating structures by means of events.
Living and acting as an artist researcher in-between these two methodologies is a choice of political dimension, which we want to discuss at the beginning of the block.
In the course of this week we will present the current state of our research case from various perspectives. ‘Bricolaging’ the 'objects' of your research, turning them upside down, looking at them through the other's eyes and assembling the elements in play, we want to understand the complex horizon of your research target.
For this we will use a variety of objects (and their relations, materials and relations to those materials, tools and relation to them.) Fixing and recycling will be as much part of the practice of understanding as destroying, dismantling and dissecting.
As a preparation to this opening workshop we would like you to search for three objects with different characteristics:
All of these objects should have a more or less tight connection to the research discourse or field you’re working on.
How do you position yourself to your art?
How tight is the bond between you and the issues or ideas you are working with?
What if you would release this bond and adopt out parts of your research temporally to someone else?
The Adoption Project takes on the bonds and habits between you and your artistic practice. It challenges the perspectives and positions you engage with in your artistic process and takes them away from your personal involvement by handing them over to a different look, practice, or routine for a certain period of time. A clear defined section of your project shall be packed in a 'box' and given up for adoption, while you will take a section of someone else's research temporally under your 'protection'.
In this sense the Adoption Project aims to facilitate you with tools to put your proper work in a public sphere long before it is 'completed'. We understand this process as an effective instrument of research.
Introduction to the project during the opening week in January. First working phase during the Half-way-days, February 18th and 19th. Second phase Workshop, March 18th to 22nd. Third phase in Pa-f, March 30th to April 5th.