10/10/2016


The Question: How (from your experience and perspective) do artistic practices create public sphere?

(…)“In what way do artistic practices contribute to creating the public sphere?” Rather than creating it, I think they transform it. The great value of art is the capacity to transform people and to see reality with another gaze. That is what is most interesting from my point of view and is why I have dedicated myself to it. Although rather than constructing, it is a question of transforming; obviously, when there is a transformation something new is constructed. So for that reason I think that artistic practices are vital in the public sphere. Understanding that the public sphere refers to this whole shared, virtual and real maelstrom. (…) I think that at the present time there is a bidirectional influence in the Azkuna Zentroa. (…) And I believe that it is precisely in that bidirectional encounter where the capacity to unite and practice art is found. I think that is what we are working for, but the fact is it’s not easy, not at all easy.

10/10/2016


The Question: How (from your experience and perspective) do artistic practices create public sphere?

Let us suppose that the point of view and experience are given. What is interesting is that this part of the question is in brackets. We will take it that that is the body of the person speaking and the brackets are its exterior configuration. We will also take it that we understand artistic practices in all their complexity and variety. What is perhaps a little more complex is the term “the public sphere”, and that is perhaps where artistic practices could have something to say. If the sphere resembles something like this (he holds up an object in the shape of a sphere), absolutely smooth, something well-finished, one could face the problem of slipping and not managing to hold on well. Perhaps what the sphere is proposing is a fall, that is, an impossibility of holding on. And also a certain obstacle to being able to get inside, because as it is something so homogeneous and so complete, it is sometimes hard to find a way in. So, the first question that is posed to the artist is: why not a public cube instead of a public sphere? Or rather than a public cube, why not a public pyramid? The public pyramid has connotations of other ages, other times in history, which could pose a problem as there is a referent that is too important behind it. So, the artist could say: perhaps instead of a public sphere there could be a public hexahedron – and why not a dodecahedron? A dodecahedron would be even better than even a tridecahedron or a tetradecahedron. A public dodecahedron could make more sense because it has edges and we could perhaps hold onto the edges. And it has faces where we could perhaps stay. Or places that we could perhaps point to and that might in some way serve as points of references. It would be a place that would not be the same all the time, where there would be different parts, where there would be positions where some could be on one side and others on another. The public dodecahedron could be a starting point for understanding the extent to which art could help to reconsider what we understand as public.

Artistic practices contribute to generating the public sphere – although I have the impression that this is a question of small spheres. Like ping-pong balls.

A big social diameter is not covered, instead each practice enters into contact with quite small areas of reality. To the extent that there are more small groups, communities, circles. To the extent that more is produced (experiences, practices, artistic projects), it would be possible to cover greater zones of social reality.

In general, the scope of artistic works is in itself limited… but it must have a public intention and it can make a defence of the public from a political point of view.

It’s not always like that, but without doubt it can be like that.

10/10/2016


The Question: How (from your experience and perspective) do artistic practices create public sphere?

I believe that all artistic practice is public because art is a form of communication and in all communication both sending and receiving by someone is fundamental. As soon as there is a public, something is being built. The separation between the private sphere and the public sphere seems to me something specific to our era, it is a somewhat artificial construction provided by how we live socially today. Precisely in art one can see that communication is the same whether it is for a small group of familiar people or for a bigger group of unknown people. Perhaps that is one of art’s particularities in constructing social fabric or relationships: that it does not differentiate so much between one sphere and another. Reflecting on the public and private spheres, we identify very specific ways of communication that are associated to each of them: the private is more affective and the public is almost exclusively discursive. In that sense, art occurs in another dimension that is between the affective and the discursive, and it is indispensable for the construction of social networks.

It is as a musician that I experience art. Music has this highly pleasurable scenic part, concerts, in which this communication is made very evident because it is perhaps less rigid than what can be found in the theatre, the cinema or other scenic arts. The public can have a more active role: it moves, dances, sings, talks… At a concert one can clearly see how something is happening that is constructive in itself: people get together in a place around a common interest and relate to it. It is not an isolated act, but instead transforms and involves people. That is something key, and can be extrapolated to the other arts. Even when it is not a case of direct communication, when you make a disc and someone listens to it at home, you are also involved in constructing a link. That is what art causes in me, not only as a musician but also as a receiver. They are moments of very pure and disinterested pleasure. It is not discourse, it is not affect, it is an exchange that flows in a different way and makes me communicate with people; it causes a movement in me.

There is a difference between art and entertainment. Artistic experiences are very constitutive experiences for me. It is not a case of going to a place so that they tell you something and then going home to get on with your things. Art transforms, and I believe that that is something fundamental for the creation of what is public, or what is social (if we do not want to differentiate public from private).

10/10/2016


The Question: How (from your experience and perspective) do artistic practices create public sphere?

MAX: We have been going around in circles trying to figure out how to approach this question. It is a very general question and we tend to work more from a micro-perspective. I guess the simple but unhelpful answer would be: it depends on many things! We are not artists so it makes us feel a little uncomfortable to in essence speak from that perspective, but there must be millions of ways that an artist could reflect such a question, each of which would entirely depend on their sensibility or, for example, where they are working. The practices might be something very direct and engaging in the manner of an activist, or comprise something more reflective and narrated that deals in a more poetic way within a context. There are many kinds of levels of intentionality and sensibility coming to play.

MARIANA: I think there is no one simple answer that any artist would be able to give. Different artists would have entirely different answers depending on the context. One artist could have a specific line of research that had been defined in their previous careers, but maybe then respond in a very different way given another context. So I think it would depend on many factors. Obviously the geographical context is fundamental, as well as the financial context that would make a particular project possible. The multiple agents that are in play within that, the manner of the invitation to the artist, the timescales that the artist is able to work with, the structure of resources that are available – not just financial but also informative resources, social resources – all create a kind of “big umbrella” under which the particular dynamic of an art project takes place. And obviously different countries would have very different impacts on this. Likewise, a project that is taking place in a rural context is not the same as compared to one taking place in a city context. That is a very obvious example, but also different countries would have different politics about what public space is, and understand politics and traditions differently. In Colombia, let’s say, the climate would allow for a kind of public space to be possible that in Finland, just because of very obviously different climate conditions, would make an artist approach their project in a completely different way. Sometimes art would have to take a very specific approach to the public sphere just because of how people in a particular society occupy public space. MAX: I guess also the question suggests a kind of ontological framework in the sense that “creation” would suggest something which wasn’t there before – a kind of coming into being of public sphere. We would be more of the opinion that public space already exists to one degree or another. The question is which public sphere? Which sphere would an artist be interested in investigating? It could be a very small community of specialist knowledge or a much more open discourse. There are different scales at play and that is also very much a matter of the approach and the interests of any artist.

MARIANA: Another way of answering would be from our perspective and our own experience. We have worked with several artists over the last ten years, and I guess that one could perceived a certain “Latitudes sensibility”: artists who work in a process-based way, and that are especially aware of context, of the time in history that they are in, or are looking at a legacy of practices such as Land Art, or microhistory, as Max mentioned at the beginning. That kind of artistic practice is attractive to us – “slow research” and context-specific practices that relate to particular instances in time or something specific about a geographical situation. Something that we are more and more attracted by is artists who work slowly. Slow is good!

10/10/2016


The Question: How (from your experience and perspective) do artistic practices create public sphere?

In one of my first year classes, which deals with the systems of contemporary art, we pose the relationship between art and politics. It was very difficult for me to break the mental block that the students had about the possibility of intervening in the present and in the future. We had a structural blockage, as one way of putting it. I did everything possible to convince them and give them examples of how artistic practices had the potentiality of unblocking the imagination, of making perceptible the possibility of a reconfiguration of the state of things and, above all, of making evident our individual and collective role in this reconfiguration that is the basis of the public sphere.

We talked and they immediately felt encouraged. Together we found some rare occasions when those artistic practices had constituted a “real” change. At times on a minimal scale, as an event, but even so they were living evidence of that possibility of reconfiguration. On the majority of occasions, the works in which we localised a relation between artistic practice and the public sphere were those in which we were appealed to because we occupy a different space – as subjects of a community that doesn’t yet have a name, that is under construction, and in whose construction we could play a role.

In today’s discredit of the institutions (specifically but not exclusively the artistic one) it seems that those events that consisted in a real change in order to be plausible can no longer happen within, or at the centre of, the artistic institution as such. We find them in unsuspected spaces and, besides, they are not even named as artistic practices. It even seemed to the students easier that they should occur in those unforeseen spaces than in the institution. An institution in which they felt themselves to be enormously disempowered and incapable. They imagined that that possibility of constructing a public sphere could happen, perhaps, at the margins of the institution.

It could be said that that artistic practice which makes us sense or put into practice the construction of a public sphere is the one that clearly reveals the obsolescence of the existing institutional models. This is the impasse we found and in which the students and I started to think about not only what practices could exemplify this process, but also what those other models of a public sphere might be. The very hypothesis of an artistic practice that helps us to reconfigure it was in itself sufficiently powerful for us to start to imagine it together.