The question: From your point of view and experience in what way do artistic practices contribute to creating the public sphere?

Adapted transcription: In my opinion, certain things can be observed with special attention from contemporary artistic practices and then, starting from there, the public sphere can be created. Or, at least, it is possible to influence that public sphere. Later, it is up to us whether or not we continue with those debates. The practice of Jeremy Deller is a good example of how artistic projects are developed. I am going to speak to you about the example he carried out in Donostia at the opening of Manifesta in 2004. Deller decided that in such a politically active city, where many things were asserted, there were certain collectives that never had a voice. He therefore decided to carry out a parade with different collectives: people with functional diversity, surfers, blood donors, etc. He focused on certain collectives that were distant from politics and in a certain way he gave them a voice. That happened in 2004, in the city of Donostia, where demonstrations were normally political and in that way he took the debate into other fields. On the other hand, we have the Nuevos Comanditarios (New Silent Partners) project, where voice is given to diverse publics and communities of society. After launching a call in Tabakalera, the first project was the request by a collective of women. They wanted to change the name of a street named in honour of a man and they wanted to call it Andrekale (Street of Women). The project was carried out with that collective from Hernani together with Haizea Barcenilla and Mrs. Polaroiska. By means of that project an attempt was made to give visibility to the fact that male names are generally used in the public space, and that the presence of women, in both history and the public space, is incredibly scarce. The project was a way of giving visibility to all of that and also to give it an echo in other forums. Finally, with respect to artistic practices, apart from certain artistic projects, I believe that there are many other forums. For example, there are exhibitions, biennials and other types of meetings. In the exhibition field, it is worth mentioning the exhibition we have at Tabakalera at the moment: Anarchivo Sida (AIDS Anarchive). This is an exhibition resulting from research carried out by Equipo re, which is also curating the exhibition. This exhibition deals with the influence that Aids has had on cultural production and society, from the point of view of culture. Therefore, we can say that artistic practices influence the public sphere, but it depends on us whether these debates will continue in time, so they can thus have more influence on the public sphere.


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

The first thing we must do to answer this question is situate the concept of public sphere. If we understand it as the original Habermasian concept, we encounter the problem that it is a singular, homogeneous, unified public sphere linked to communication and that it transcends concrete particularities to seek a rational consensus. While this perspective is always disputable, at a time like the present – which is one of crisis and change of era, in which there are constant modifications taking place with the irruption of social media or new systems of social communication – this vision ceases to make sense because the possibility opens up for debate from different interpretative options. Conflict is not denied and we find ourselves facing a compartmentalised, fragmented public sphere that depends on different experiences of everyday life.

In itself, the concept has been so altered that we should perhaps cease to use that term and look for alternatives that respond to that fragmented and rhizomized character of this new public sphere. How is this rhizomatic public sphere generated? From my point of view, by means of two elements: on the one hand, there is the nuclear element of the Habermasian vision, which is communication as something discursive, propositional and rational. At the same time there is what we could call “expression”, which is related to desires, sensibility, mutual recognition, experience, affections… This is where artistic practices have a prominent and fundamental role. Communication and expression, although separate, are in constant interrelation. Expression, the natural place of artistic practices, affects a new sensibility that favours shared practices and meanings and that in the first instance goes beyond the discursive. Later it takes shape as something more rational, more linked to communication and, in the final instance, comes to form part of the political and the management of social organisation.

To try and respond to the initial question, I would like to take up an idea of José Luis Brea’s and adapt it to this issue. Brea said that there has been a transformation in the culture of the present. We could say that there has been a transformation in the rhizomatic public sphere of the present. He indicated that the residual times of the past do not allow that event that has already occurred to take place. And precisely so that it should take place, we could say that artistic practices take responsibility for generating a new sensibility that opens the way to critical thinking to help dismantle those residual forces and allow us to consciously inhabit that future that Brea said has already come.