To make Camp. The Summer Camp format in artists’ residencies

[fotografía de Amor de Verano,
Valparaíso – Chile, Enero de 2010]

Sie ist ein modell, und sie sieht gut aus
ich nehme sie heut´ gerne mit zu mir nach haus
sie wirkt so kuehl, an sie kommt niemand ´ran
doch vor der kamera, da zeigt sie was sie kann.

Das Modell. Kraftwerk

[Versión en español]

Two years ago, as part of our work in contemporary art, we decided to confront a hypothesis, which now looks like as certainty: we all take part of a model.

The issue is to determine which of the available models prevails in us, why we support its goals and how the model spreads into the actions that we carry out.

This, in other words, is to affirm that we are all crisscrossed by ideology. The decisions of our daily actions have a symbolic organization that it is used and put to test when we decide what part of knowledge we use and prioritize to take any action.

This symbolic organization feeds, reaffirms, embroils or refutes itself, depending on how we understand the consequences of our intervention on everything that surrounds us.

But to take part of an ideology is not necessarily equivalent to subordinating or yielding the critical capacity that appraises, investigates and questions it. On one hand because the ideologies are based on a structural fault that organizes them (the part of reality that they do not apprehend), fault which also compounds them; and because they are contaminated by fragments of other ideologies that complement them in the points in which they put less interest.

Why all this preamble? To say that the (art) market is not a written sentence (or a promise that will be inevitably fulfilled); and that to try to understand how cultural actions related to contemporary art can as well occur in a co-dependent autonomy between the art market, the pedagogy of art and the independent micromanagement.

The first thing that we saw (already in 2008) was the development of parallel pedagogic systems (to the academy and to those which functionalize the market efforts) via the realization of art clinics, indicating that in these exist «an implicitly acknowledgment of the incomplete character of knowledge and; in that, the parallel construction of knowledge transmission systems, independent from the late-modern academic university. This is relevant because it implies an effective action on the plans and programs that shape the form in which knowledge is used by the institution to feed the need of more institution» where «the clinic comes to rescue exercise as a method».

We describe that this innovation in the pedagogic systems, together with including artistic and discursive productions ignored or obviated before, was reproducing some of the academic own vices such as -what we call- messianism and jesuitism.

It could not be another way, one cannot deny wherefrom he/she comes and the thought and action structures learned previously. In other words: the development of cognitive processes generates cognitive obliquity.

It is not possible to deny the way that we learned to learn, but it is possible to face this programmatically.

A simple spin served us to test, in our own art clinic version, the history that was preceding us: TRAMA, Antorchas, Entrecampos, etc. This turn was the passageway from the analysis of the (art) object to the argumentation of its value. This is what Sparring Tour (Argentina – Uruguay, 2009) was about.

But this did not seem to be sufficient. What we affirm on having judged our past was also valid when we analyze what we did in our intervention: the model induces the errors. Other errors, of course.

On having treated the artistic production from the perspective of its value argumentation (symbolic, economic and financial), we were discovering our confusions (and those of the participants) about the way of using the art object. And how, from there, we were reproducing a subordination system of other systems to the financial art system.

Why do we need the skills of argumentation? To demonstrate the value, to disassemble it and to structure it again to turn it communicably. It is here where the financial system has its major success: the value that prevails unifying (it) and that plunder the complexity of the artistic work, is the financial value.

What happen then with everything else that happens when art occurs? To verify this, we organized what we called the cloister Put into Practice / Puesta en Práctica (Córdoba, Argentina, November 2009). Because we think that another type of relations among the participants were possible, and that these other likely relations would allow us to approach the statute of contemporary art from other perspectives, doing justice to its complexity.

In that opportunity, we gathered 18 South American artists and cultural agents for three days, with the pretension to accede to the artistic practices more than to their surpluses (the art objects). What was it seen? The decisional system behind (and preceding) the “hands to work».

But every step induces the following one, building a range and tools for its implementation. The valuable thing that we discovered, the way that we were moving away from the prepotency of the object (turned into goods), needed -for our hypotheses- space and time of stabilization and articulation: this space and time could be the artists’ residencies.

Till then the artists’ residencies were, mainly, the relocation of the workshop of one or two artists to an exotic environment where the effective experience that was carried out was that of cultural animation or cultural tourism.

This continues, to our understanding, reproducing a structure of privileges, which is impermeable to local experiences and people visited, being for these ones a highly valued accident but irrelevant in the long-term.

How might we conceptually restructure the artists’ residencies as a way of making possible relations among equals and with the environment? How could we redefine them from a real interest for the difference, from a vulnerable conceptual and diagrammatic structure more than an enforcing one, from a desire to really inhabit that different place?

At the end of 2009, we had already finished our art clinics and decreed their death; we had carried out a confabulation with South American independent art agents and artists, had surveyed certain recurrences in the artistic production and in the claims and initiatives which were deriving from them as a way of solutions or failings repair.

Principally, we knew what was what we did not want to do.

The artists’ residence -that we had imagined like a summer camp- would be an instance where it would be possible to occur for what we were expecting:

  • To gather a heterogeneous group of artists and independent art agents qualified in their occupation and in different degrees of development of their artwork corpus and of their careers.

  • To propitiate among them an opened and specialized debate that -based on their experiences and skills- would focus on diagnosis and definitions of actions and not on the presentation or exhibition of their curricula and portfolios. We do not need royal turkeys.

  • The plan and development of effective strategies truly to involve with the local imaginary and with the people, related or not the contemporary art.

An artists’ residence -like a summer camp- is a spread out collective intelligence formed in the understanding and -at the same time- their questioning.

Spread out on what? On the particularities of the hosting environment, and also recognizing and trying to start a relationship within equals.

An artists’ residence as a summer camp is not a workshop extended in time because it nor has pre-define objective, neither schedules nor goals that to fulfill. There is not “at the end of this program the student will be capable of»¦» because we do not know of what we will be capable afterwards.

How is it possible to face what it is known, the mechanisms of knowing and the difference between one thing and another? Propitiating cognitive dissonance, a tension between two knowledge systems, that generates a (seemingly) incompatibility between them. How is, for people, this incompatibility solved? Re-defining concepts without affecting the system (or the model) being used, or modifying or subverting it.

This could be done from a wide range of options: from a strictly discursive rationality (where an argumentative logic prevails and fallacy is condemned) up to fantasy (where there is no need to explicate these structures).

This is why its efficiency is -for almost everyone- difficult to see, because the main result is to generate an available competence to be accomplished with others for all. For this, the art market does not have any parameters, only receives some news. As this is not making an inventory.

This is why there are substitutes that are nothing else but appalling falsifications and vulgar facsimiles. Because relations are understood as objects, producing a symbolic economization (that allows to present them as an achieved goal in the logic of brand- market-prestige) which turns the difference into more of the same. Because the narrative density needed does not happen spontaneously nor is (only) a discursive capacity.

Nevertheless, an artists’ residence like a summer camp is not antagonistic to the financial art system; it is complementary, but it requires the recognition of the diversity of research, production and analysis procedures.

The summer camp format is also an annotation to the current condition of art pedagogy, moving the priority from “we want to teach» to “we want to learn».

Francisco Varela pointed out that pedagogy locks knowledge up. This has a double meaning: on one hand, it delimits it to turn it communicable, transferable, transportable; but on the other, it closes it, turns it into a definitive (shut off) object. Depending on the position that we take before this closing, it is the type of pedagogy that we are exercising.

Up to this point is where we have come in the journey that we have taken with 180 participants in the Sparring Tour; 18 that took part in the cloister; 23 residents of Summer Love and Social Summer Camp and more than 110 participants in the Procrastination Tour. And all this soon will be, again, put into trial with 33 residents In the day of the Virgin and Social Summer Camp (I know what you did last summer).

This path has been a way of researching the possibilities, desires and skills of those who take part -sporadic or recursively- in these initiatives and it has been also knowledge that we have been unlearning and a procedure that we have been developing.

We do not know what comes next, we only feel the intrigue that moves us and that asks urgently for the novel to have flesh.

Jorge Sepúlveda T.
Independent Curator

Ilze Petroni
Art Researcher

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