What we normally understand by art practice is a kind of production and experience that remains, to a great extent, dependant on the notion of “social welfare”. In the era of maximum relevance of the myth of the “welfare state”, artists went as far as thinking about extending art practice to all citizens. But, how do artists position themselves after the collapse of that myth?
What happens when “welfare” is not only not a reality, but isn’t even on the horizon? And what to do about those that are excluded?
What to do if artists themselves start to also be excluded?
The “welfare state”, a locus for the realisation of “human rights”, has been replaced by the “precarious state”, where those rights are no longer fundamental. Segregation and war are no longer negative values: they are part of the project of a hierarchical society, complicit with neoliberal capitalism. The internal precariousness of developed or developing societies has a matching narrative in the accepting of misery and terror in less-developed societies. And, in between, migrations are no longer voyages in search of growth and welfare, but dramatic and repressed exoduses. The “state of exception” has become a fact of everyday life, and a norm. (>> Historical context)
Art practices exhibit the consequences of these violent adjustments, and they respond to them seismographically, but they can also intervene in this space of tension, producing places for experimenting with dissidence.
On the one hand, the gradual conversion of culture into an object of consumption after World War II is evident. In an increasingly spectacular manner, in the context of the contemporary “city brands”, art is presented as a tourist attraction, as an ostentatious collector’s item for the elites, and as inane entertainment for everyday life. In any case, art appears, in this context, as a practice bereft of conflict.
At the same time, a full repertoire of strategies of resistance and intervention has been developed throughout the Twentieth Century: from Dadá and the diverse productivist movements, including Situationist, feminist, and post-colonial practices, all the way to Latin-American conceptualisms, institutional critique, and the activisms of the last few decades. In resonance with these strategies of resistance and intervention, critical practices, both individual and collective, set in the scenario of different manifestations of social conflicts, continue to be developed.
Finally, taking into account the spectacular and mercantile displacement of social values, emphasised by the imposition of the neoliberal model, art practice itself appears as a practice of resistance. The “uselessness” of art, or, rather, of poetic activity, is, in itself, a counter-hegemonic value that artists can reclaim. Not only to defend a position of resistance, but also as a potential for imagining new horizons and the institutions of new fictions that can allow the development of commons-based practices.
What we propose is to manifest, share, and debate art practices that dispute this normalised “state of exception”. On the one hand, we want to inquire into how its social context has been re-framed, what strategies of resistance and survival have been developed, and what alternative horizons can be deployed from there. Also, obviously, to highlight how art practices have been directly involved with social movements that have attempted to resist and to elaborate escape routes from the violent impositions of the “state of exception”.
Therefore, we propose an articulation of the debate along three axes, which will be materialised in discussion tables during each of the three days of development of La Situación 2016 These three axes will also be matched up with projects, workshops and presentations of art works throughout the conference.
- ART PRACTICE, PRECARIOUSNESS, AND VIOLENCE.
In this first axis, we will engage the more direct implications for art practices. It is not only a case of inquiring about the transformations in the status of art production, and in its spaces of action, but also to manifest how said practices have positioned themselves in relation to the social and political consequences of the crisis.
1.1 How is the “state of exception” manifested in art practice, and how does this state condition practice?
Out of place: perplexity and loss of the social inscription of the artist. Diasporas: the de-localisation of art practice. Irregular market and precariousness. The artist’s economy: multi-functionality (the multitasking artist): the redefinition of the artistic realm as a cultural-social-educational realm.
1.2. How do artists relate to the social and political consequences of the crisis?
Representations, witness accounts and accompaniments of violence: shock, dispossession, trauma, the state of fear, the disintegration of the social fabric, sexist violence, state violence, non-state violence; migrations, ecological catastrophes. Activist art practices.
- EXISTENCES AND RESISTANCES: OTHER MODES OF ORGANISATION.
In the face of the uncritical and precarious insertion of art practices in the production modes of the “creative industries”, or the persistence of subjectivist imaginaries that serve little purpose other than feeding the elitist art market, we propose to present and debate the art and collaborative strategies with other agents that have developed to respond to the devastating social and economic implications of the “state of exception”.
2.1. The re-politization of collaboration.
Collaborative, trans-disciplinary practices, dissolution of individual authorship, new forms of association. The defence of disciplines as anthropological conservationism. Negotiations with the remains of the public: modes of relationship with the art system and with the cultural agents (curators, critics, etc.). Contemporary relevance of feminist practices. Gender activisms. De-colonial practices. Expansion of artistic media: the redefinition of artistic autonomy.
2.2 How to survive in the state of exception?
Social, affective, and digital acts of solidarity. Emerging organisations. Working in community. Cooperative initiatives. Public space interventions. Practice as resistance. Social platforms and movements. How does art operate outside the inbred realm of art? What is its contribution in this context?
- REBUILDING FROM THE COMMONS.
It is urgent to open up a discussion in order to imagine a longer-term art practice intervention modes, which can allow us to revert the apparent inexorability of the “state of exception”. We are facing the task of imagining and collectively setting in circulation new institutive fictions – as was the case with the very idea of “welfare state” – and to reflect on them publicly. It is particularly relevant to do so in the context which was constituted as a bastion of the currently devastated Social Democracy: the University. What can we rescue of it in relation to the art practices we nowadays find relevant for inventing a common future?
3.1. New institutive fictions.
Other modes of organisation and/or coexistence. Proposals for the empowerment and recuperation of the commons. What is the function of the poetic in work premised on the commons? How can we imagine art action without subscribing to old-style emancipatory political projects? What role can the reclamation of the practice of the commons play when imagining a different future? What fictions can be invoked in order to institute a different, fairer and more inclusive order of social practices?
3.2. The function of public institutions: the role of university and of artistic research.
What demands need to be articulated regarding the role of the university in this “state of exception”? What is, specifically, the role of art education in the processes unleashed in these last decades? How should we understand the rise of “artistic research” in the last few years: as a response or as an adaptation to this state?