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robertogreco : openengagement   3

A Bad Education | The Pedagogical Impulse
"PH: … I don’t want to make art that’s about say­ing that I did some­thing. I want to make art that does some­thing. I don’t always care whether peo­ple under­stand or not that I am doing it, but I want to know for my own sake that what I did had that impulse.

To me, that’s the enor­mous gap between art that claims to be about social change, and art that embod­ies social change. And that is why the rela­tion­ship between ped­a­gogy and art is absolutely cru­cial, because ped­a­gogy and edu­ca­tion are about empha­sis on the embod­i­ment of the process, on the dia­logue, on the exchange, on inter­sub­jec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and on human rela­tion­ships. The prod­uct may or may not be nec­es­sary or impor­tant. But it can­not hap­pen if this exchange does not take place. Art, tra­di­tion­ally, has not always been about the process. Ulti­mately in a museum when you look at a paint­ing, the process of its mak­ing is inter­est­ing to know, but it is not essen­tial to expe­ri­enc­ing the work. What mat­ters is that it’s there; that it hap­pened. In socially engaged art, that is the oppo­site: what is impor­tant is the process, and the process is inex­tri­ca­ble from the experience.

HR: What you are say­ing reminds me of some­thing that Shan­non Jack­son men­tioned in her talk at Open Engage­ment this past year. She said some­thing to the effect of what looks like inno­va­tion in one field may be old news in another field. And I’m think­ing about this in the way that some processes of edu­ca­tion are taken up in socially engaged art.

I was read­ing a bit about Reg­gio Emilia before I came to meet you, because I had learned that you have a Reg­gio Emilia com­po­nent in the show down­stairs. I found this quote by Loris Malaguzzi: “We need to pro­duce sit­u­a­tions in which chil­dren learn by them­selves, in which chil­dren can take advan­tage of their own knowl­edge and resources… We need to define the role of the adult, not as a trans­mit­ter, but as a cre­ator of rela­tion­ships — rela­tion­ships not only between peo­ple but also between things, between thoughts, with the envi­ron­ment.”[ii]

PH: Sounds a lot like socially engaged art, right?

HR: Right! But I wanted to ask you about where we diverge. It feels like we may be in a com­pro­mised posi­tion. As artists there is an imper­a­tive to par­tic­i­pate in a cycle of pro­duc­tion, to be acknowl­edged as authors, or to be thought of as pri­mary authors, and to par­tic­i­pate in an art dis­course. In what way do we have to diverge from edu­ca­tional processes?

PH: We still belong to a tra­di­tion of art mak­ing where things acquire dif­fer­ent mean­ings depend­ing on the con­text. So like Duchamp’s uri­nal, of course it’s use­ful as a uri­nal and when it becomes art it becomes use­ful in other ways as art. And like what Tom Fin­kle­pearl was say­ing, it’s time to put the uri­nal back in the bath­room[iii], because we’ve come to a point where the use­ful­ness of art as aes­thet­ics has run its course. So it’s time to go back and think about aes­thet­ics as some­thing that func­tions in the world in a dif­fer­ent way.

Which cre­ates an inter­est­ing prob­lem: why don’t we just aban­don aes­thet­ics alto­gether? Why don’t I just become a Reg­gio Emilia edu­ca­tor since their phi­los­o­phy is close to what I do? Maybe I should just move to Italy and teach lit­tle kids. There’s this ten­dency by young artists of think­ing: “maybe I’m just doing some­thing ill informed and ridicu­lous, and I might as well just become a pro­fes­sional in what­ever field I’m inter­ested in. Maybe I should become a hor­ti­cul­tur­al­ist”, or what­ever. The other side is that the artist is per­form­ing roles that are osten­si­bly per­formed bet­ter by pro­fes­sion­als of those dis­ci­plines, like in Rirkrit’s case: the edu­ca­tors do it so much bet­ter than them, so why is he get­ting the credit? And why is what edu­ca­tors are doing not con­sid­ered art? Why should a mediocre edu­ca­tion pro­gram be cel­e­brated as this won­der­ful rela­tional aes­thet­ics piece, when a won­der­ful edu­ca­tion pro­gram that really changes people’s lives can never be con­sid­ered an impor­tant artwork?

So the issue is really, what is the con­tex­tual social ter­ri­tory where this takes place? Where are you stak­ing your claims? And where are you pro­duc­ing crit­i­cal­ity? To sim­ply say that Reg­gio Emilia is a great art­work is com­pletely untrue. That’s not their goal; their goal is to cre­ate bet­ter cit­i­zens for the world, etc. As an artist, what becomes really inter­est­ing is to con­sider this think­ing within the con­text of art mak­ing, the con­text of the role of art in soci­ety. Art, for bet­ter or for worse, con­tin­ues to be this play­ing field that is defined by its capac­ity to rede­fine itself. You can­not say, “This is not art!” because tomor­row it could be, or “It can be art,” because I say it is. Art is a space, which we have cre­ated, where we can cease to sub­scribe to the demands and the rules of soci­ety; it is a space where we can pre­tend. We can play, we can rethink things, we can think about them backwards.

But just to clar­ify: when I say that Reg­gio Emilia is not real art, I don’t think it’s enough to make art with “pre­tend” edu­ca­tion. I don’t think one should jus­tify the use of any sem­blance in edu­ca­tion for the sake of art, as was the case of that children’s activ­ity by Rirkrit I described, unless if you are just meant to be jok­ing or play­ing (which is not very inter­est­ing to begin with). My point is that when you are mak­ing cer­tain claims, or even gen­er­at­ing cer­tain impres­sions about what you are doing, you need to do them in an effec­tive way in order to really affect the world, oth­er­wise your artis­tic inter­ven­tion in the social realm is no dif­fer­ent from mak­ing a paint­ing in the stu­dio. And there is a dif­fer­ence between sym­bolic and actual intervention."

"PH: Why is it that we can be very crit­i­cal of stan­dard art­works that we under­stand the para­me­ters of? We can be very crit­i­cal of this work because we are very famil­iar with for­mal­ism and with abstrac­tion, and there are a slew of the­o­ret­i­cal approaches. When­ever you do an abstract paint­ing that looks exactly like Mon­drian, peo­ple will tell you that your work is not very rel­e­vant because you’re just copy­ing Mon­drian. And yet, you’re com­pletely home free if you do this con­cep­tual project of a school that doesn’t teach any­body and where nobody learns any­thing, but it looks really great in the press release.

HR: So by “abstract edu­ca­tion” you meant projects that use the lan­guage and frame­work of edu­ca­tion, but don’t func­tion as education?

PH: It’s com­pli­cated. Because I don’t want to say that it’s bad to do that. Some­times you just want to do a project that’s about the idea of this or that. You want to do a project that’s about dance; it doesn’t mean that you have to dance. It’s very dif­fer­ent to do a paint­ing about war, than to par­tic­i­pate in a war.

That’s why in my book, Edu­ca­tion for Socially Engaged Art, I tried to address this prob­lem by mak­ing a dis­tinc­tion between what I under­stand as sym­bolic ver­sus actual prac­tice. What I tried to argue in the book is that in art, the strongest, more long­stand­ing tra­di­tion is art as sym­bolic act; art that’s a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the world. You make an art­work that is a thing on its own, but it addresses the world. Guer­nica is a sym­bolic act. It tells you about the hor­rors of Guer­nica, the mass killings.

In the 60s that starts to change, artists don’t want to do things about the world; they want to do things that are acts in the world. That’s why per­for­mance art emerges. I’m not going to make a the­atre piece where I pre­tend to be x, y or z. I’m going do a real live action where I am Pablo Helguera and I’m talk­ing to you, Helen. And we’re going to have this expe­ri­ence, and this expe­ri­ence can only pos­si­bly exist in this moment in time and never again, any­where else. And that’s what this art­work is about. That’s what Fluxus was about, that’s what John Cage talked about, and that’s what Alan Kaprow’s hap­pen­ings were about; it’s a very Zen idea. Suzanne Lacy’s per­for­mances, for exam­ple, they were about these women at this moment. It might be art his­tory later. It might later become a prod­uct. But the fact of the mat­ter is that what it is at that moment can never be repeated.

So, to me, socially engaged art emerges from that tra­di­tion of the here-and-now. What the “here-and-now” means, in my view, is that the artis­tic act is inex­tri­ca­ble from the time/place con­text, but that it also affects it in a very direct way. The work needs to be under­stood, described, and pos­si­bly eval­u­ated and cri­tiqued in terms of what those actual events were. When­ever you don’t have that infor­ma­tion, which is unfor­tu­nately most of the time, there is no way to know whether it hap­pened or not. Those projects that you know are really cre­at­ing an impact, that they have a pres­ence; it’s almost self-evident. I mean what­ever you want to say about Tania Bruguera’s Immi­grant Move­ment Inter­na­tional, you can go there today and see it. It’s hap­pen­ing right now. She isn’t mak­ing it up.

HR: Can you talk about the ten­sion between use­ful­ness, ambi­gu­ity, and learn­ing out­comes? You men­tion that we eval­u­ate things all the time any­way. How do you eval­u­ate art ped­a­gogy projects?

PH: Cre­at­ing an … [more]
via:ablerism  2015  art  education  helenreed  pablohelguera  socialpracticeart  pedagogy  reggioemilia  informal  accountability  relationships  arteducation  artschools  learning  howwelearn  teaching  howweteach  institutions  revolution  resistance  stabilization  socialengagement  conversation  critique  criticism  alternative  altgdp  museums  museumeducation  schoolofpanamericanunrest  usefulness  ambiguity  outcomes  evaluation  happenings  performance  performanceart  fluxus  hereandnow  taniabruguera  johncage  suzannelacy  context  socialchange  experience  everyday  openengagement  shannonjackson  aesthetics  buckminsterfuller  power  artschool 
february 2015 by robertogreco
Rethink What Can Happen in a Museum: Portland Art Museum’s Shine a Light | Art Museum Teaching
"“Art is a space, which we have created, where we can cease to subscribe to the demands and the rules of society; it is a space where we can pretend. We can play, we can rethink things, we can think about them backwards.” —Pablo Helguera

As museums face the current challenges to drive relevance through becoming more active, participatory, responsive, and community-based, projects such as the ones explored in this past week’s posts indicate a potentially transformative role for artists to play. Whether rethinking a museum’s visitor experience, reinventing the public spaces of and around museums, drawing on creative practice to break museums’ ‘old habits,’ or interrogating the internal culture and working of the museum, artists are effectively exploring museum institutions as sites with a distinct “possibility for evolution,” to reconnect with the powerful words from Joseph Beuys that opened this series of posts (and from which the title of my paper came).

As the second International Museum Forum wraps up here in Yeongwol County, South Korea, I wanted to post this final excerpt from my paper, discussing the artist-driven program I am directly involved in here at the Portland Art Museum. In addition, I’m concluding this post with some of the “core, burning questions” that institutions involved in this work are addressing — especially as many of these projects are in a current phase of reflection and rethinking."

"Inspired by the Machine Project’s Field Guide to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art one-day event in November 2008 as well as the broader approach and process of social practice art, the team at the Portland Art Museum and PSU launched the first Shine a Light event in September 2009. For six hours, the museum was a space in which sixteen artists enacted projects that offered visitors new, unanticipated, playful and provocative ways to experience the museum.  The goals established during this first event—which have remained the core goals for this project up through the most recent Shine a Light event in 2013—included:

• Situate art (producing, interpreting, enjoying, puzzling over) as a living activity that everyone can participate in.
• Encourage an atmosphere of participation between the museum, its visitors, and artists.
• Make the museum a “site” of artistic production and practice.
• Inspire inquiry into the connection between art and everyday life.
• Have fun!

Artist-led projects that have been part of Shine a Light since 2009 have ranged from live Greco-Roman nude wrestling, a museum cookbook, dead artist seances, and haircuts inspired by artworks in the collection to inviting visitors to have a work of art tattooed onto their body, to sing songs about a work of art, or to display their personal cell phone photos within the museum’s photography collection."

"At the Open Engagement panel discussion, the top questions were revealed and discussed, and I think perhaps it is an appropriate way to end this paper by simply presenting these and other questions that are now sparking some open thinking in the field across institutions.

• Are we doing this work to broaden our audiences or to serve existing audiences?
• What’s the difference between an artist doing this work versus a public engagement or education department doing it?
• What does success look like? How do we measure success?
• What happens when institutions collaborate with artists? How can the questions artists ask reshape us as practitioners and reshape the museum itself?

Many of the answers to these and other questions are localized to each project and institution (some have even been addressed above by existing projects), yet certainly some common responses will emerge as institutions push ahead with experimental, participatory practices that open the spaces of museums to the work of social practice and socially-engaged artists, as well as museum staff that have been gaining a tremendous level of creative capacity through this type of work. Overall, many of these core questions bring the conversation back to the ability of these socially-engaged, participatory projects to effect change — whether that is shifting the ‘mindset’ for museum visitors as well as the communities that engage with museums, or a more broad social change felt in the community."

[See also:

Possibilities for Evolution: Artists Experimenting in Art Museums

Blurring the Lines: Walker Art Center’s Open Field

Getting a Better Sense of the Terrain: Machine Project at the Hammer Museum ]
mikemurawski  art  artmuseums  museums  arteducation  participatory  2013  openengagement  pablohelguera  josephbeuys  machineproject  markallen  hammermuseum  lacma  everyday  portlandartmuseum 
july 2014 by robertogreco
Open Engagement | Art + Social Practice
"Open Engagement is an international conference that sets out to explore various perspectives on art and social practice and expand the dialogue around socially engaged art making. The Open Engagement conference is an initiative of Portland State University’s Art and Social Practice MFA concentration."
openengagement  2013  porltand  oregon  art  socialpractice  togo  portlandstateuniversity  glvo 
january 2013 by robertogreco

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