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Exclusive Access: PARSE at the Research Pavilion, 57th Venice Biennale

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Platform for Artistic Research (PARSE) presents:

Exclusive Access: On the dynamics and vocabularies of co-option, care and the subaltern

Research Pavilion, 57th Venice Biennale
June 10-11, 2017
Sala del Camino Campo s. Cosmo 621, Giudecca, Venice – vaporetto Palanca

FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

This event looks at questions of how certain modes of promoting ”access” can operate as de facto modes of exclusion. It brings artists, curators, researchers, and activists together to consider the following questions: What are the politics of access? Do strategies and infrastructures of inclusion simply replicate and reinforce individualised imaginaries within broadly hierarchical social structures, particularly as artistic habits of production are increasingly exported as economised knowledge production to other parts of the world? How are the terms of access and exclusion produced, rehearsed and (re-)enacted in contemporary artistic, educational, and social practice? What is the contribution of current artistic research to debates on access, exclusion, co-option, and care in global circuits of contemporary cultural production? How can we shape new communal epistemologies, terms, institutions and practices?

The first day focuses on institutional and epistemological exclusions; colonial and master paradigms, and institutional racism. It will also address communal and collective perspectives and strategies for a new arts and humanities through rejection of modernist claims of universality and progress and the embracing of epistemic and disciplinary disobedience, non-capitalist, pluri-national institutions and modes of aesthetic management. The second day centers on forms of exclusion produced through language as well as social, embodied and discursive practices. Focusing on the terms and conditions of artistic and social work in cross-disciplinary contexts, we will explore and interrogate languages of participation, separation, inclusion, and diversity as they are produced and enacted in the present moment, in the field of cultural production and in the social arena.

SYMPOSIUM PARTICIPANTS

Danah Abdulla, PhD candidate at Goldsmiths, University of London, lecturer at the London College of Communication, University of Arts London, and member of the Decolonising Design Group
Erling Björgvinsson, Professor of Design, Academy of Design and Crafts, University of Gothenburg
Marina Cyrino, PhD candidate in musical performance, Academy of Music and Drama, University of Gothenburg
Abigail de Kosnik, Associate Professor, Berkeley Center for New Media & Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies, UC Berkeley
Ben de Kosnik, software engineer and artist
Allan deSouza, Associate Professor and Department Chair, Art Practice, UC Berkeley
Denise Ferreira da Silva, Director, Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice, University of British Columbia
Suzanne Guerlac, Professor, French Department, UC Berkeley
Kristina Hagström-Ståhl, PARSE Professor of Performative Arts, Academy of Music and Drama, University of Gothenburg
Seth Holmes, Associate Professor of Public Health and Medical Anthropology, Chair of Medical Anthropology, and Founder and Co-Chair of the Berkeley Center for Social Medicine, UC Berkeley
Shannon Jackson, Associate Vice Chancellor for the Arts and Design; Cyrus and Michelle Hadidi Chair in the Humanities; Professor, Departments of Rhetoric, and Theater, Dance and Performance Studies, UC Berkeley
Onkar Kular, Professor of Design, Academy of Design and Crafts, University of Gothenburg
Khashayar Naderehvandi, PhD candidate in literary composition, Valand Academy, University of Gothenburg
Valérie Pihet, co-founder and President of Dingdingdong (Institute of Coproduction of Knowledge on Huntington’s Disease)
Andrea Phillips PARSE Professor of Art, Valand Academy, University of Gothenburg
Luiza Prado, PhD Candidate at the University of the Arts and member of the Decolonising Design Group
Tristan Schultz, Design Lecturer & Convenor of Visual Communication Design Major Design Futures Program and PhD Candidate, Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, Australia and member of the Decolonising Design Group
Jeremy Wade, performance artist
Arkadi Zaides, independent choreographer

PROGRAM

June 10
10.00-10.15 Opening remarks by PARSE professors
10.15 -11.15 Keynote: Denise Ferreira da Silva
11.30-12.15 Decolonising Design Group (Danah Abdulla, Luiza Prado, and Tristan Schultz)
12.15-13.45 Lunch
13.45-14.30 Arkadi Zaides
14.45-15.15 Allan de Souza
15.15-15.45 Abigail de Kosnik and Ben de Kosnik
16.00-17.30 Roundtable discussion with presenters and members of PARSE team

June 11
10.00-10.15 Opening remarks by PARSE professors
10.15-11.15 Keynote, Shannon Jackson
11.30-12.15 Valérie Pihet
12.15-13.45 Lunch
13.45-14.15 Seth Holmes and Jeremy Wade
14.15-14.45 Suzanne Guerlac
15.00-16.30 Roundtable discussion with presenters and members of PARSE team
16.30 Cocktails and closing remarks by PARSE professors

ABSTRACTS (in order of presentation): 

Decolonising Design Group: Decolonising Design Education
Decolonising design education may seem like a futile exercise if our sheer existence as a species is under threat—not least from climate change and technocentric utopian dogma—yet it is precisely the act of decolonising design that is one option, among others, that might afford breaking free of the shackles of the matrix of coloniality threatening human existence. In this presentation, the Decolonising Design group discuss the nature of this caveat proposition and their perspectives on the challenge of educating designers not to provide a service, but to imagine options beyond the suite of knowledge acquired through their education under the rubric of the ‘modern/colonial world-system’ – as pointed out by decolonial theorist Walter Mignolo.

Arkadi Zaides: Choreographies of Exclusion
In this talk choreographer Arkadi Zaides will discuss two of his recent works. Both, focus on borders as spaces that generate movement and provoke ethics. With the use of documentary materials, a specific choreography is identified in the proximity of borders. As a performer Zaides positions himself with the ones who are in the position of power. In Archive (2014) he embodies the gestures of Israeli settlers in the West Bank and in TALOS (2017) he becomes a spokesman of an EU funded project that aims to replace human border guards with robots. Questions of participation and responsibility arise as the stage mirrors the reality at the border. 

Allan deSouza: Critique as Radical Prototype
My paper will focus on critique of student work as the primary mode of discursive art pedagogy. The typical art school critique tends to follow European-modernist procedures that are outdated, structurally hierarchical, and routinely discriminatory. How do schools define, pursue and evaluate “good” art? In what ways are evaluations of “quality” discriminatory? How do schools balance “quality” with equality? I examine how encounters with art are evaluated through language, and examine this “art speech” as active processes that not only produce meaning, particularly around identifications of inclusivity and exclusivity, but that lay the discursive foundations from which art is produced and valued.

Despite modernist “freedoms of expression,” which do not sufficiently attend to equality, difference, and dissent, is there a radical potential for critique, and what is it to be radical? First, critique seeks to actively dismantle the building bricks of what may otherwise lead to fundamentalist principles. Second, it is not a call for newness, which is a typical demand of the radical. If anything, critique examines and readdresses what is already in place, or imagined to have been in place. Critique’s partial aim, through discontinuities and interruptions, is to reveal the ingrained patterns through which art (in this case) is experienced and evaluated, to detach it from its foundations and transformations, and to make it differently operational in the present/future.

Critique can be situated more broadly in relation to performance and as an art practice in itself, closely related to social practice. As rehearsal, staging, or prototype for social behavior, critique is a participatory event and an adaptive system, which requires participation in order to be adaptive and critical. The critique is also the strategy, labor, and practice of thinking together. To paraphrase Edouard Glissant, critique is a criticality in relation, “in which each and every identity is extended through a relationship with the Other.” The critique is not in search of uncovering truths, but in developing different relations, or rather, relations across difference, founded in mutual inquiry.

These functions of critique take on increased urgency in how individuals and collectives act in/with the world, and to how art becomes a site and discourse of experience, consent, dissent, and interrogation of historicized contemporaneity.

This paper will pay particular attention to the terms commonly used to discuss art. My emphasis is less on defining terms and their proper usage, and more on investigating their social values and artistic truth claims. I emphasize ways that pedagogical language and practices can meet the demands of the contemporary, and the social, economic, and political conditions of globalization, including mass displacement, diverse student bodies, and xenophobia. By examining the encounter between artworks and viewers, I also seek to provide a critical language for how artworks can be rethought and re-experienced.

Abigail De Kosnik and Ben de Kosnik: alpha60
The theme of this year’s Venice Research Pavilion, “Exclusive Access: On the Dynamics and Vocabularies of Co-Option, Care, and the Subaltern” resonates with my current research on peer-to-peer file sharing of media content, which is labeled “piracy” by the media industries.  I propose that Benjamin De Kosnik and I will participate in the Research Pavilion to present our project alpha60, which is an investigation into global media piracy using a data science tool that we have developed, with funding from a BCNM Faculty Seed Grant.

The media industries constantly characterize media piracy as “theft” that robs creative workers of their rightful income; however, scholars from postcolonial and critical legal studies, such as Lawrence Liang (2005), Kavita Philip (2005), and Ramon Lobato (2012), argue that unauthorized file sharing is how millions of Internet users in the Global South access the cultural output of the Global North and achieve full participation and fluency in the media literacies of technological modernity.  While media corporations have established strict “windows” of content distribution, which typically result in the U.S., Canada, and Western European nations accessing new content months or years earlier than those in “developing” nations, piracy enables people around the world to access and experience content (including films, television series, software, books, music, and videogames) in a synchronous way.  Lobato writes that many users understand media piracy not as an immoral act, but as a “banal, quotidian activity practiced in a context where legal alternatives do not exist” (82).

Our research shows that piracy is rampant in the Global South, but also reveals that the Global North is not exempt from illegal downloading. While U.S. copyright defense organizations such as the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) point to Russia and China as the major perpetrators of piracy, alpha60 maps show that piracy takes place in every region of the U.S. as well as throughout Canada and Western Europe.  A recent investigation of the scientific paper piracy site Sci-hub showed the same preponderance of piracy in the countries where the majority of content originates (Bohannon 2016).  Institutional barriers to access of media content, such as the rising cost of cable subscriptions and paywalls on online portals, adversely affect users all over the world, not only those in impoverished zones.  Piracy therefore can be said to operate as a universal, rather than localized, “hack” for access.

In our talk, we will show data visualizations from our alpha60 project and will discuss how our findings underscore what Liang calls the “porousness” of seemingly rigid structures such national boundaries, income levels, language differences, and corporate contracts that seek to restrict how far and how fast cultural content travels.

Works Cited
Bohannon, John.  2016.  “Who’s Downloading Pirated Papers?  Everyone.”  Science, April 28.  http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/04/whos-downloading-pirated-papers-everyone.
Liang, Lawrence.  2005.  “Porous Legalities and Avenues of Participation.”  Sarai Reader 05 (Delhi: Sarai).
Lobato, Ramon.  2012.  Shadow Economies of Cinema: Mapping Informal Film Distribution.  London: British Film Institute/Palgrave Macmillan.
Philip, Kavita.  2005.  “What Is a Technological Author?  The Pirate Function and Intellectual Property.”  Postcolonial Studies, Vol. 8, No. 2, pp. 199-218.

Seth Holmes and Jeremy Wade: CRITICAL CARE
CRITICAL CARE focuses on the ways in which care in the fields of health and art can include, foster and reproduce exclusion, inequality, and hierarchy.  We are interested first in understanding care as complicated, mixed and dependent on context and social position.  Within our analysis and practice, we analyze forms of care as they are produced by exclusionary social, economic and political structures.  We explore forms of exclusion and hierarchies of deservingness in health care especially in relation to im/migrant and refugee people, racialized individuals, and non-normative bodies in terms of gender and ability.  At the same time, we explore and analyze alternative practices of care in biomedicine and in performance.

The first nexus of our work comes from the collaborative development of a new international framework for biomedical care, “structural competency”.  This framework takes attention away from individualized understandings of risk and responsibility and biomedical foci on biology and behavior.  Instead, this new framework involves an analysis of social, political and economic structures of exclusion and hierarchy as well as the development of an imagination toward alternative practices confronting structural inequalities in collaboration with patient populations.  The Berkeley Center for Social Medicine, Founded and Co-Chaired by Seth Holmes, has collaboratively developed this framework and put on a conference this fall, “Structural Competency: New Responses to Discrimination and Inequity in Health and Welfare”, with over 600 people registered and has published recent articles proposing this framework to health and social science audiences.

The second nexus of our work derives from a social science and artistic exploration of alternative practices of care intending inclusionary access.  This stream of our work is tentatively titled, “The Battlefield Nurse.”  This metaphor serves to allow us to explore the ways in which care in the fields of performance and health might confront the battlefield of hierarchy and exclusion by enacting what john powell has termed “structural inclusion.”  Here, we highlight and analyze the practices of care enacted by performance artists in the Americas and Europe.  We hope this aspect of our collaborative work will build further imaginations of future possibilities for care, inclusion and equity.

Suzanne Guerlac: Livingness
Writers, thinkers, and artists can’t fail to notice that our words are not lining up very well with reality today. A number of key concepts – life, death, attention, money and democracy, to name a few — are proving inadequate to the world we live in. In previous work [“Time of Emergence/Emergence of Time”] I have explored how the term “life” has become compromised by technological and economic pressures. No longer clearly distinguishable from the artificial (in genetic engineering, synthetic biology, artificial life and computer generated life) life has become monetized (you can trade in it on global markets and order DNA starter kits on line) and politicized, not only  in discussions of a “right to life” but also in practices of environmental injustice and expulsion from conditions that support living [Sassen, Expulsions]. The economic capture of life is enabled by a fantasy of infinite growth, which, given environmental impact, renders conditions of life on the planet more and more precarious and to this extent threatens to exclude us (starting with the most vulnerable ) from the very possibility of life.

Instead of thinking and speaking about “life” I propose we shift to a notion of livingness; this entails a grammatical slide from the nominal form (which gives us individual things that can be measured, counted, exchanged or neglected) to the gerund, which refers us to the act of living, which it characterizes as a state of being, or a process. Livingness cannot be captured, monetized or exchanged. It does not hierarchize lives (setting them up to be bought, enslaved, tortured or rendered extinct) and is not susceptible to distinctions between lives we mourn and lives that we don’t [Butler]. Livingness implies an ecological model that is also an ontological model of concrete, situated interactions across levels from the most simple beings to the most complex ones. A shared exposure to time and place, livingness happens with respect to a totality [Bergson on duration] of which any given region is a dynamic part. At once an ecological model and an ontological one, livingness proposes a political model as well, one that resists ideologies of individualism and stipulates both interdependence and diversity toward the ends of sustainability and vitality. We are now witnessing a violent denial of climate change and environmental damage motivated by political and economic interests, combined with a felt precarity that finds expression in a nationalist politics which limits the stakeholders of the nation along racial, religious and economic lines. Only certain lives matter. To speak of livingness is to acknowledge that we are all in this together – not only all human beings but all living beings – and that it is the very conditions of livingness that are at stake.

This event is part of the Research Pavilion’s Camino Events series, a cross-artistic program which consists of screenings, concerts, seminars, artist talks, performances and interventions from over 100 artists and artistic-researchers from art universities of Northern Europe.
 
The Research Pavilion is a platform for art and research that will be open in Venice from May – October in the context of the 57th Venice Biennale. The Research Pavilion is created and hosted by Uniarts Helsinki and its partners.