On Representational Production in Social Practice
Techniques of Art and Protest, Kings College
18 September 2015
Image: Tania Bruguera, Immigrant Movement International
'Techniques of Art and Protest' was a one-day conference organised by the PLANK network, a group concerned with art and activism, and coordinated by several early career academics in London. I spoke on a panel entitled 'Art, Politics and Labour' with Btihaj Ajana and Emanuele Braga.
This was one of several public presentations I prepared in late 2015 on the subject of 'representation production' in visual art social practice, motivated by a concern that the ways in which projects are sometime mediated are often entirely at odds with the political and aesthetic force of the projects themselves.
You can read the script for the presentation here.
The series of presentations this was part of bore consequences for two major projects that followed shortly afterwards.
In The Growth Point, 2016, in collaboration with Margareta Kern, I was invited onto a research residency to explore the new town of Cranbrook that is currently under construction. The invitation brought with it obvious pressures towards exactly those forms of mediation I am critical of in this presentation, on account of some of the political agencies in and around Cranbrook. This is one reason Margareta and I chose to focus on the infrastructure of Cranbrook during the residency. In the culminating symposium Living Together we were able to construct a complex and urgent representation of the town through the points in its physical infrastructure where the strain between insoluble utopianisms, political interests and demands on the landscape have become manifest; a social project that all but sidesteps the social.
Own De Beauvoir!, 2014-2016, is a major publication that marked the culmination of an extended, collaborative research period that preceded it, which drew contributions from radical archive and historical organisations, as well as former activists and residents of the neighbourhood of De Beauvoir Town, east London. The publication is divided into two parts. The first constitutes the first two thirds of the book. It is semi-fictional, incorporating, through various, tangential narrative means, many of the ideas and experiences that emerged during the research period. This fictional structure, and the publication more broadly, is one proposition for an alternative representation of a project that is predominantly 'social' and accessible to most only indirectly.