Exclusion Conference

Participation as Exclusion

Participation as Exclusion strand

Friday November 17, 9.30-17.30 at Valand, room 5033.

Participation as Exclusion: The “participatory turn” in cultural production, urban development, and so forth is now a dominant theme in Western art and design discourses and practices as well municipal governance, where it has moved from a marginalised area of community practice into the mainstream. But who are the
subjects of participation? How and from where are they selected? Why are certain
people seen to be in greater need of receiving participatory “support”? How, if at all, is power and decision-making redistributed?

This day is organised as an open round table discussion throughout which invited experts will be asked to make short presentations. We will be talking around a modular table system that is designed by Studio Miessen and can be reconfigured if we choose to do so at some points during the day. Participants are invited to actively intervene into conversations and bring their own experiences to the table.

Convened and organised by 
Andrea Phillips and Markus Miessen

Experts invited include
Karen Salt
Craig Wilkins
Dimitri Venkov
Nav Haq
Valérie Pihet
Darla Crispin

The day will be divided roughly into four sessions which will be thematically porous to allow us to make connections between shared concerns. The four sessions will be:

09.30-10.30 Introduction to participation as exclusion 
Andrea Pillips and Markus Miessen

10.30-13.00 Equality and social design – how the governmentalisation of inclusion should be reorganised
Craig Wilkins and Karen Salt

13.00-14.00 Lunch is served at Valand

14.00-15.30 Asylum, nationalism and the rise of the right as responses to participation
Dimitri Venkov and Nav Haq

15.30-17.30 Participation and care – speculative approaches to health
Valérie Phiet and Darla Crispin

Coffee, tea, drinks will be available throughout the day; the schedule will be flexible and we can accommodate people coming in and out of discussion.




Andrea Phillips and Markus Miessen

Drawing in their experience as writers, organisers and practitioners in contemporary art, design and architecture, Miessen and Phillips will outline the history of the development of participation as an ideological thematic within neoliberal governmentalisations of culture, the political and social implications of such, and the standardisation of power conditions within the construction of forms of pseudo-equality.


Eqality and social design

Karen Salt and Craig Wilkins

Karen will open up the following questions in relation to her ongoing research projects:

  • Who controls the ‘part’ of participation?
  • How has participation become synonymous with assumptions about empowerment?
  • In what ways can participation produce exclusion?
  • Why has participation emerged as a turn within politics and other arenas at the same time as a rise in antidemocratic movements?
  • Context: What does participation look like within exchanges between unequal entities/institutions?

Craig Wilkins and Karen will then be in conversation to initiate discussion around the table.


Asylum, nationalism and the rise of the right as responses to participation

Nav Haq and Dimitri Venkov

In discussion with Nav, 2017 curator of the Gothenburg International Biennial for Contemporary Art, Dimitri will outline his project I Wanted to be Happy in the USSR (2017), currently installed on the first floor of a well-known secondhand shop in Gothenburg. I Wanted to be Happy in the USSR follows the struggle of Guinean immigrant George Blemu, together with his Ukrainian wife Elena and their two daughters Anne and Maria in Moscow.

Blemu came to the USSR to be a medical student in 1979 under what was then the official policy of “friendships among peoples”, with the intention to settle. The dissolution of the USSR and the eventual rise of nationalist sentiments in Russia led to an increase of hate speech and violence towards non-Russians.

For Blemu and his family, violence and hostility became everyday experiences, even being stabbed by the police, or in the case of their daughter Maria, physically attacked within the care of the school. Under these unliveable circumstances, Blemu and his family have no option but to leave, and following advice, they eventually travel to Norway under a tourist visa, seeking asylum.

Blemu’s story is testimony to conditions in Russia today, where those who don’t fit the image of national monoculture, struggle to survive in the daily presence of violence. The film is a work-in-progress. The second part will be concerned with the family’s life in Norway.


‘Musician, Heal Thyself’

Darla Crispin

One of the ways in which music-training institutions have traditionally aimed at ensuring their ‘health’ is through competitive processes such as auditions. Performance auditions, alongside other methods of scrutiny such as aural testing, sight reading and historical/theoretical knowledge tested by interview, are assumed to filter out all but the ‘fittest’ at the point of entry and represent only the overture to a training regime which rewards – and thereby compounds – certain types of success and seems little troubled by the unfulfilled potential among the ‘also-rans’ of the conservatoire community.

Despite moves toward student-centred learning and an understanding that the music profession is transforming in the face of technological and social change, Western music institutions remain largely fixated upon one model of success and intolerant of, or at best uninterested in, difference. This is especially true of musicality that manifests itself in conjunction with frailty; it is as though the conservatoires’ competitive processes act as screens, as prophylaxes against the unorthodox, combining into an institutional ‘immune system’.

But what about the ‘unorthodox presences’ that do manage to gain a voice within this environment? Music institutions are increasingly becoming populated by those who work in areas of health. In a world increasingly peopled by those suffering chronic illnesses, music that speaks to them and of their condition has a correspondingly growing importance. In particular, the model of the invincible performer performing heroic acts of virtuosity with apparent effortlessness begins to feel in need of augmentation by more nuanced and frailty-admitting exemplars.

The consequence of this might turn out to be nothing less than a reconfiguring of musical ‘expertise’, whether practical or academic but, if so, how is this to be done and what early indicators may be found in today’s music institutions?


Participation and care – speculative approaches to health

Valerie Phiet

Created in France in 2012, Dingdingdong – Institute for the Coproduction of Knowledge about Huntington disease – aims to create knowledge about Huntington taking into consideration the expertise produced by sick persons, carriers at risk, families, as well as by physicians. We are a multidisciplinary group of users, visual artists, writers, clinicians, philosophers, choreographer/dancer, and social scientists.

Our objective is to apprehend an experience via those who are living it, an experience that potentially concerns us all: coping with a genetically diagnosed disorder. Such an undertaking necessitates a unique collaboration between users, researchers and artists, so that together we can succeed in our mission: to explore the disease as if it were an unknown planet, and to invent the proper narrative forms for relating this altogether new adventure. Ensuing discussion might deal with such topics/issues as:

  • co-production of knowledge – how to ‘include’ users as co-researchers?
  • groups experiments – what groups (talking groups, expert groups etc.) for which people (patients, families, partners, friends, professionals etc.) dealing with what kind of inclusion/exclusion relations?
  • knowing/not knowing (genetic status/risks/probabilities) – how to be actor of our own past/present/future?
  • art as experience – what do we miss when we insist on definition and freeze diseases in medical nosologies? The words we use, the stories we tell, the kind of knowledge we produce have a deep impact on the experience we can have of a disease and therefore the way we cope with it.
  • what disease definition for what care conditions?