Addressing the recent engagement of contemporary artists with folklore content, we investigate this trend in terms of its utopic pedagogical, relational and activist goals. To exemplify, guest artist Hedinger presents BLOCH, a project that takes an old regional Swiss forest regeneration rite and moves it into global context.
As part of my ongoing interest in ephemerality, performance and tradition, I have loosely tracked the recent engagement of contemporary post-modern artists—most are under 40--with folklore content. While there are precedents, the past decade has seen an acceleration of artists investigating and presenting folklore as a kind of utopia within their larger concerns, such as the critique of capitalism, awareness of climate change, and a return to affective modes. Much of this falls under the rubric of what French curator Nicholas Bourriaud in the 1990s termed "relational art," to underscore burgeoning interest in both the content and reception of art making practices. Of course the performance of folklore in face-to-face, strategic settings fits this bill, whether it is acknowledged or not. The Swiss artist Johannes Hedinger is among these artists. His project BLOCH takes a very old regional Swiss forest regeneration rite and moves it into global context. Every year at the end of timber cutting season in the Appenzell region, a final spruce is felled and the gigantic log (Bloch) cut from that tree is celebrated in a procession, dragging it between two villages. Then the log is auctioned off, eventually to be cut for shingles or furniture. Songs are sung about, and to the log and various festivities surround its celebration insuring a good timber season the following year. A few years back Hedinger won the Bloch. He and his associate, artist Marcus Gossolt, (known collectively as Com&Com) then began traveling it around the world, sometimes bringing with them (e.g. Berlin) the local farmers who sing the traditional Bloch songs. In 2014 BLOCH had its American debut in North Dakota (USA) with the help of state folklorist, Troyd Geist. The log was happily received and celebrated by farmers, ranchers, Native Americans and others at local festivals throughout the summer. Our SIEF workshop consists in my introduction and a brief overview of folklore in contemporary art highlighting a few other artists such as Ann Liv Young and Sun Xun. Then Mr. Hedinger will present the BLOCH project, including video clips. We then invite engaged discussion about the utopic pedagogical, relational and activist, as well as the dystopic appropriation and fragmentation aspects of art practices making new use of folklore content in the 21st century.