ps/o6 public education | school of echoes | pedagogy of the ear
Cultural Practice and the Organization of Participation
Vermont College MFA, Union Institute & University
As artists, we have at our disposal a wealth of examples in artworks, critical writings and entire art movements that emphasize the active role of the spectator. From the Happenings of the '60s, conceptualism in the wake of the author's "death," to contemporary forms of "relational art," it has been a distinctive feature of contemporary art to conceive of reception as the site of meaning and the audience as participants. While critics debate the aesthetic and ethical bases of that participation, there exists a wealth of discourses on the forms and procedures of its organization. Social movement scholarship written by activists and sociologists approaches participatory cultural practices as a central object for interrogation. But in much of the art world's discussions of participatory art, names like Saul Alinsky, Paulo Freire as well as traditions around participatory-action research, popular education and participatory-democracy remain largely absent.
The purpose of this workshop is to introduce some of those terms and histories for reflection by artists. It is my contention, that as long as critical discussions of "relational art" (as in the relation between artist and audience, between audiences, and between imaginary and symbolic knowledge as mediated by the art object) ignore the struggles for organizing participation as a political practice, the question of art and politics will continue to presume the absolute incommensurability of those terms. In other words, if the relational in aesthetics has nothing to do with the political organization of participation, then art remains irreducibly outside the actual practice of our politics in the cultural field.
A. WORKSHOP SESSION ONE: TUESDAY, 6 FEBRUARY 2007
13.30 - 13.45 INTRODUCTION
13.45 - 14.15 SMALL GROUPS
The six readings are as follows:
Brian Wallis, ed, "Town Meeting: Cultural Participation," Democracy: A Project By Group Material (Seattle, WA: Bay Press, 1990): 215 - 230.
Sarah Pierce, "Roundtable Discussion, Participants: Vaari Claffey, Louise Walsh, Declan Long, Susan Kelly, Willie McKeown, Grant Watson, and Sarah Pierce," Metropolitan Complex 6 (2004): www.themetropolitancomplex.com.
Saul D. Alinsky, Rules For Radicals [excerpt] (NY: Vintage Books, 1971/1989): 113 - 125.
Paulo Freire, The Pedagogy Of The Oppressed [excerpt], trans. Myra Bergman Ramos (NY: The Seabury Press, 1968/1970): 119 - 126.
Francesca Polletta, "Democracy In Relationship: Community Organizing And Direct Action Today" [excerpt], Freedom Is An Endless Meeting (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2002): 176 - 189.
Muhammad Anisur Rahman, "The Theory And Practice Of Participatory Action Research" [excerpt] The Challenge of Social Change, ed. Orlando Fals Borda (Beverly Hills, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc, 1985): 107 - 117.
14.15 - 15.00 REPORTS FROM SMALL GROUPS
10.45 - 11.15 REVIEW NOTES FROM SESSION ONE
11.15 - 11.45 SMALL GROUPS
Two small groups should be formed for students to develop ideas for how the basic principles from the readings might inform curatorial/exhibition projects, social art, community-based art, activist art, and other forms of production. The groups can use the following questions to guide their discussion:
11.45 - 12.15 REPORTS FROM SMALL GROUPS
Dont Rhine would like to thank the two co-chairs of the MFA program, Miwon Kwon and Sharon Hayes for inviting him to participate in the February 2007 residency at Vermont College. Thanks to Jessica Lutz, the MFA Administrator, for making the arrangements and for enthusiastically supporting the workshop. Special thanks to the faculty for their warm reception to the project and for making Dont feel at home for the week. Thanks to the incredible students whose excitement and commitment to the workshops generated important insights and analysis.
"In the event, however, that men perceive reality as dense, impenetrable, and enveloping, it is indispensable to proceed with the investigation by means of abstraction. This method does not involve reducing the concrete to the abstract (which would signify the negation of its dialectical nature), but rather maintaining both elements as opposites which interrelate dialectically in the act of reflection." (Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 1968: 95).