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EASA2014: Collaboration, Intimacy & Revolution


pARTiCI[TY]pate! Collaborative place-making between art, qualitative research and politics

Location S-422
Date and Start Time 03 August, 2014 at 09:00


Judith Laister (University of Graz) email
Anna Lipphardt (Universität Freiburg ) email
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

Focusing on urban development, the panel discusses projects of collaborative place-making on the intersection of art, research and politics which initiate the participatory involvement of local inhabitants. How do these projects navigate the diverging interests between the stakeholders involved?

Long Abstract

Since its emergence in the late 1960s, "participation" has become a key concept in various fields of social action and cultural production. Our panel focuses on urban development as a field of action, where participatory strategies have gained popularity, employed today on a regular basis - often through collaborations of stakeholders as diverse as public administrations, urban activists, artists, scientists, and local inhabitants. Critical reflections on the following issues of these prominent, yet ambivalent collaborations between art, qualitative research and politics are invited:

- What distinct methods of participation have been developed within and between the fields of politics/activism, art and qualitative research in order to involve local residents to participate in urban development processes?

- How do diverging interests and power-relations - with respect to the unequally distributed political, economic, social and cultural capital - play out between the different actors? What kind of relations are produced for whom and why?

- Who moderates the heterogeneous communication process and who decides, finally, what to do? How is representation negotiated and enacted in the final form of participatory projects?

- What visual, emotional, symbolic expressions do the different actors create or adopt to produce a feeling of belonging to a place, a group or even movement? What role does art, visual and media culture play as social glue between the often multi-located actors?

- How do anthropologists define their multiple encoded roles as "participant observers", civic participants or even activists within these contexts of both, collaboration and conflict?

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


Participate: for or against?

Author: Ivana Rumanová (Charles University in Prague)  email

Short Abstract

Participation is now becoming a key word of the artistic and social sciences discourse as well as of the grant applicatons’ language. Which connotations does it take in a post-socialist country ? In which ways can it be mis/used ? Isn’t the « lure of the real » at the origin of the participatory turn ?

Long Abstract

The paper aims at discussing the two recent examples of the participatory projects realized in Slovakia with an idea to confront the (ethical, methodological, aesthetic) approaches they represent. One would be the development project of the participatory architecture in the Roma settlements in eastern Slovakia. The project is organized by the NGO Člověk v tísni, it consists of construction of the low-cost houses and presupposes the involvement of the inhabitants in terms of financing, house planning and construction. Another project would be the artistic untervention of Tomáš Rafa into the separating walls that have been built recently between the Roma and non-Roma parts of the villages in eastern Slovakia. Artist invited the Roma inhabitants to help him painting the walls with the sport motives as they had been officially approved by the local municipalities as the "walls of sport". These two examples of projects allow us to confront the two elementary attidudes toward participation that Claire Bishop names as "the constructive" and "the critical". With all the respect towards the participation and its merit, the paper will try to raise some rather critical points and questions related to it as it may be useful in the context of participation becoming a new paradigm (both in sciences and art). Where is the border of participation being forced? By which means? Does't the forced participation mask and reproduce the calssic paternalistic patterns of the development aid? Under which circumstances does the radical artistic gesture become a cosmetical surgery?

The way art works: re-imagining the urban

Author: Julie Crawshaw (Gothenburg University )  email

Short Abstract

I trace human and non-human associations in the making of art and design features in a city centre development. In interviews practitioners talk about art as tool for delivering policy objectives. Through description I reveal how art is rather a catalyst for reflecting on professional remits anew.

Long Abstract

What is the role of anthropology in explicating the way art works in urban practice? How can descriptions of urban relationships better articulate the effects of artistic interventions? This paper draws on a two-year empirical study of the role of art and design in urban regeneration. To consider how better to articulate what is produced by art amidst urban practice, I present interviews with a range of practitioners alongside ethnographic description of the operations of an Urban Regeneration Company in the North East of England. At the company, an artist was leading on the re-development of the city centre to include artworks and design features. In interviews we hear how practitioners understand art as a tool for economic development and social renewal. Inspired by the pragmatism of John Dewey (1934), I draw on notions of 'multiplicity' to explicate the effects of art practice on its own terms. To trace associations between 'inner' (human) and 'outer' (physical) materials, I take close account of the working relationships between engineers, planners, construction workers, and artists, as well as plans and drawings, objects, materials, concepts, ideas and natural elements. Through describing the network of relationships through field notes, photography and relational drawings I present a nuanced articulation of what is produced by artistic practice as part of urban development. Rather than deliver policy objectives, we notice how art re-shapes them. Through tracing actors at the 'microscopic' scale, I account for regeneration as a relational practice and art as a conduit to those knowledge relationships.

Understanding urban social movements: between participatory research and reflexive ethnography

Author: Marion Hamm (University of Graz)  email

Short Abstract

With the rise of a neoliberalism, the concept of participation is often used to draw subjects into the process of economic production. This has implications for participatory research methods. This paper argues that reflexive ethnography provides the tools to retain its emancipatory character.

Long Abstract

Participation has long been a demand of social movements.With the rise of a neoliberal "participation imperative", the concept of participation is often used to draw subjects, their creativity and imagination into the process of economic production. This has implications for participatory research methods: Involving actors into research process is not necessarily an empowering approach. Based on research in the urban Euromayday Movement of the Precarious, this paper argues that reflexive ethnography goes a long way in providing the tools to retain the emancipatory character of participatory research.

Topographies of the possible: creating situations and spaces of a city's counter narrative

Author: Laila Huber (University Salzburg)  email

Short Abstract

Looking at the city as a collage and bricolage of situations and spaces, I am researching its topography of the possible between the poles and at the margins of the artsfield and the political field. At the margins is where according to Pierre Bourdieu the transformative potentials are located.

Long Abstract

Relying on Jacques Rancière's claim that arts and politics are the social fields where the conditions of partaking are negotiated and allocated, I am interested in the creation of temporary communicative situations and permanent spaces of a counter imaginary and narrative of the city. This creating of structures, situations, spaces and the imaginary by the inhabitants of a city and stakeholders of the cultural field, could be called with Ranciere the "topography of the possible".

Looking at the city as a collage and bricolage of situations and spaces of social action and cultural production and building on Ina-Maria Greverus' concept of collage of new and old, of one's self and the other we can find out more about the cultural tissue of a city, its cracks, fissures and the constantly selfrenewing patch-work of old and new constituting the cities topography of the possible. Referring to Claude Levi-Strauss' term of bricolage I would like to point to the inherent logic of places with the collective imaginary as a crucial element in partaking and sharing. Bricolage includes the using of existing structures, objects, and their arbitrary assembly and transformation. Applied to the city context it can be understood as creating newly compounded and shaped social spaces and collective imaginaries.

Which is the local bricolage of common grounds and differences of local stakeholders and their practices challenging the dominant narrative of a city? Discussed with empirical data from the city of Salzburg/Austria.

Finnish visual artists in Berlin: (unwanted) walking gentrificators or (wanted) creative participants in shaping the city?

Author: Laura Hirvi (University of Helsinki)  email

Short Abstract

In this presentation, I examine the daily and artistic practices of contemporary Finnish visual artists in Berlin to highlight the dynamics that inform the complex interplay and power relations between the various local actors who participate in the process of producing and shaping Berlin’s urban space.

Long Abstract

Berlin is a European city that throughout history has played an important role in global politics. In addition, it constitutes a significant cultural center that draws artists from all over the world. Also artists from Finland have in the past decade in increasing numbers adopted Germany’s capital as their urban atelier.

In this presentation, I examine the everyday lives and artistic practices of contemporary Finnish visual artists who have lived in Berlin for at least two months. Drawing on data gathered by means of ethnographic fieldwork, including 17 interviews, I intend to tackle the following research questions: How do Finnish artists participate through their daily as well as artistic practices in the development of Berlin’s socio-cultural space? In how far does the discourse of gentrification, which is omnipresent in today’s Berlin, influence their creative and daily actions and their position in the city? What role does their “Finnishness” play in this context?

By looking at these three questions, I seek to highlight the dynamics that inform the complex interplay and power relations between various local actors who are involved in the process of producing and shaping Berlin’s urban space.

Rhythms of global urbanization: an actor and an anthropologist explore cosmopolitan citizenships

Author: Cassis Kilian (Johannes Gutenberg-Universität)  email

Short Abstract

The paper presents a project that will link performing art and anthropology to explore various bodily aspects of cosmopolitan citizenship. Emil Abossolo-Mbo is an actor who was born in Yaoundé and now lives in Paris. I work as an anthropologist in Mainz. Rhythm is in the centre of this experiment in sensuous scholarship.

Long Abstract

One of the most important features of global urbanization is the increasing intensity of transnational complexities and unbalanced power relations. To deal with this situation, Kwame Anthony Appiah suggests an education in “cosmopolitan citizenship” and advises watching at least one movie with subtitles per month. Emil Abossolo-Mbo is a polyglot actor, who categorically dismisses synchronization. He is convinced that it distorts the specific musicality of a film, which can offer access to various possibilities of being in the world. Since Abossolo-Mbo crossed Paris by taxi in Jim Jarmusch’s “Night on Earth” in 1990, he has worked in cities all over the globe. In countless roles, he has explored bodily and emotional aspects of transnational complexities as existential dimensions of globalization, that are difficult for anthropologists to grasp. Abossolo-Mbo is a cosmopolitan actor par excellence and his approach could be described, in Paul Stoller's words, as ‘sensuous scholarship’. George E. Marcus has noted that while artists’ investigations in theatre and film might appear superficial from a scholarly perspective, these are in fact deeply embedded in the working processes of the performing artists. In reference to Marcus’ shift from participant observation to collaboration, I will work with Emil Abossolo-Mbo to expand anthropological concepts, methods and forms of representation. We take our cue in a holistic understanding of various cosmopolitan citizenships from rhythm because it allows us to explore preverbal aspects of transnational complexities. The aim is to challenge epistemological hierarchies that refer to established north south power relations that are still operative in academia.

Stop and go: nodes of transformation and transition

Authors: Michael Zinganel (Academy of Fine Arts Vienna)  email
Michael Hieslmair (Academy of Fine Arts Vienna)  email

Short Abstract

Nodes and hubs alongside major traffic corridors - where traffic comes to halt and exchange between actors happens -represent new forms of urbanity and public space where both individual's routes, routines and rituals, political transitions and urban transformations can be explored.

Long Abstract

When increasing numbers of people are obliged to spend increasing amounts of time in transit then transition nodes along their primary route - where exchange between the actors en route happens - acquire ever-greater significance. If we follow Henry Lefebvre's thesis that urbanity is no more defined by density but by the degree of difference performed at specific places then these nodes paradigmatically represent new forms of urbanity and public space. What remained largely unexplored so far was emphasising at these nodes as polyrhythmic ensembles, linked to their temporal adaptability - reacting on daily, weekly and seasonal rhythms of traffic flows - as well as their interdependence of one another.

The authors will present the theoretical framework and the methods developed during preceding art based research projects emphasizing on nodes of mobility and migration as well as the concept of their current project comparing three nodes arranged in a triangle Vienna (AT) - Rouse (BG) - Tallinn (EST). Using a transporter van, that also serves as a mobile laboratory storing artistic artefacts, comics, and maps, each of which representations of preliminary research that serve as a trigger for episodic in-situ interviews they will generate forms of knowledge that will later be transformed into large scale art installations on site (and in art institutions nearby). The goal will be to develop a networked "cartography" of hubs and routes that displays both supranational developments and individual experiences of mobile actors as well as the impact of both on urban transformations.

The 1980s and today in Maribor: creativity and déjà vu

Author: Meta Kordiš (Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana)  email

Short Abstract

Focusing on the art museum exhibition, I show how heritage can be compiled in collaboration with the artist and museums audience in the context of today’s social dissent and urban development in Maribor, Slovenia.

Long Abstract

Many of Maribor’s urban problems and issues that occurred in the 1980s are still present. Interesting alternative creative practices that developed than in different areas of the arts were all highly important for the further development of the city and different artistic practices. The difficulties that the autonomous non-governmental cultural production faces today are no less acute than in the past. The importance of the non-profit and alternative creative production for the city’s cultural and urban development is purposefully ignored.

The emphasis of the exhibition Us, You, Them. Fragments of the 1980s Alternative Practices in Maribor (Maribor Art Gallery) was on the creative production and its role in the collaboration of individuals and groups with similar interests in increasing the urban heartbeat of the city. On the case of the exhibition I reflect on the meaning of an art museum as a collaborative place-making between the artists, artefacts owners and audience. Can different exhibited legacies from private collections, ideas and practices be negotiated into a local cultural heritage through museum’s public, people of Maribor and media? Can the exhibition and its programme participate in the encouragement to make people rethink the vision and future of the city and the region? 

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.