PARAGRAPHS ON LITTORAL ART
By Bruce Barber
Suzanne Lacy http://www.suzannelacy.com/1990sauto.htm
Suzanne Lacy and collaborators listed by project (Multiple cities throughout the US, 1993-94)
This art project on family violence, spanning two years and several sites across the country, involved wrecked cars in sculptural installations. The cars were reconfigured by women and children who suffered violence at the hands of loved ones. Linked to each other through common experience, women from a domestic violence shelter in Pittsburgh, a family violence program at Bedford Hills Prison, children from shelters in Niagara Falls and Cleveland teenage girls in Oakland, and politicians on Staten Island all collaborated in making the cars. At each site a domestic violence prevention group presented community outreach programs and advised on issues.
Civil Defense Drill Arrests in the 1950s
Describes the arrests that resulted form acts of civil disobedience during air raid drills of the period. These acts were part of a growing protest movement against nuclear bomb testing and militarization of American society.
Artist: Jody Wright
Stock Market Crashes
Placed in front of the New York Stock Exchange, this sign challenges the myths of the free market economy and that stockbrokers jumped out of windows along Wall Street after the 1929 stock market crash. The sign documents that government deregulation and fraud led to market crashes and depressions at the turn of the 20th century, the 1920 and the 1980s.
Artist: Jim Costanzo.
Intervention to Aid Homeless
Intervention in Community Development "From Place to Place" A team of scientists drove through Austria in a mobile lab, always spending four days in each town where they stopped. During this period, ideas for community development were elaborated and then presented to the town council and the populace at a concluding event.
Several littoral artists have written to me that they are in favor of avoiding the notion that "the artist activist is some kind of primitive animal that has to be explained by the civilized politician or sociologist." This should be good news for both artists who engage in oppositional art practice and the politicians and sociologists who wish to understand them. With this in mind we could explore the question further with an urban geography and game metaphor. One activist artist wanted to play within the field perimeter, say the museum, dealer gallery/museum nexus as it exists, and another wanted to work outside of this system and in the community at large. I'm grateful once again for the opportunity in this forum to raise these issues for myself and others to debate.
I will refer to the type of art in which I am involved as littoral art. In littoral art political engagement (praxis) is arguably the most important aspect of the work. When an artist engages in politics, it means that all the planning and decisions may be undertaken in the process of engagement and/or dialogue with the site, whether this is an institution, a geopolitical, ecological or community context. The terms of dialogue and levels of engagement with the site may determine the form and duration of the work. This type of art practice is not necessarily theoretical or illustrative of theoretical positions; although it may be deeply philosophical and engage its subjects in a multiplicity of intellectual pursuits. Littoral art is dependent upon the skills of many actors and agents both within and outside the perimeter of the work. One of the objectives of littoral art is to stimulate both active and less active participants to engage with the work in process. There is no reason to presume that the littoral artist is out to alienate his/her subjects. It is only the expectation of the reproduction of various modernist practices that would deter viewers from actively engaging with this work on a multiplicity of levels.
Littoral Art is not necessarily interventionist in character. The politics of a littoral event/action may transcend the means and suspend its potential for social change. Interventionist strategies may be used to camouflage the real intentions of the artist which are to lull the viewers into the belief that s/he understands the work in its paradoxical
entirety. The field(s) of discourse need not be complex. Most dialogical processes are disarmingly straightforward. Successful communication is not inevitable. In terms of the dialogue the artist is free to even surprise him/herself.
Most littoral projects that are successful are dialogical and communicative in form. Littoral artists may be surprised by the final outcomes of the processes they have set in motion. Political praxis is often arrived at dialogically. Once set in motion, the communicative or dialogical process is open to the participation of all, including the artist(s) whose critical apperceptions may have been the original stimulus.
What the littoral work looks like isn't too important. The work and/or process do not have to assume a physical form and may actually be invisible. No matter what forms it may ultimately take, the littoral art work must begin from an acknowledgement of (political) potentiality; even of necessity; of means without ends. The artist is initially concerned with the process of social engagement. Once the process is begun, the work is open to interrogation by all, including the artist. I use the word interrogation here to mean the negotiation of the terms of and for the work, whether this results in qualitative and/or quantitative analysis or various hermeneutic (interpretive) procedures. The littoral art work may be perceived as incomplete; in a process of becoming - im potentia -, even at a recognized termination point of the process. Duration is privileged.
Some projects are orthodox in their original articulation and others are paradoxical in performance. What various elements of the littoral art project look like isn't too important. It may require visual elements if it has some material existence in the lifeworld. Not matter what forms of processes result from an intervention it may result in a concrete presence. Littoral art that is not overtly concerned with visual representation is social not simply post-visual. This would include many so-called political art forms: interventionist, oppositional and/or littoral art projects.
Israel - Ein Shemer / since 1980
Since more than 20 years Avital Geva has concentrated on the Greenhouse Project. Geva activates dozens of young people from the Kibbutzim in the vicinity, who cooperate with the best scientists from agricultural and industrial research institutions in Israel.
In this cooperative project various organic-agricultural processes are studied: solaric methods of growing, sophisticated methods of cycling water, alternative substrata for soil and more: all these are being tried - together with advanced cybernetic technology - under the guidance of the artist.
Avital Geva, now, activates a complete organic cosmos, which unites nature and culture, and constitutes as a real proposal. The Greenhouse, as an inter-disciplinary environment, refuses all metaphoricity: This is a unit of reality. Its concern is to re-arouse thoughts on questions about the borders between art and life or art and nature. After all that has been claimed during the postmodern decade, the option of the artist as an ideologist, a human of ideas and bearer of a utopian social mission, returns.
Wochenklausur Intervention to Set up Language Schools in Macedonia
To the 48th Biennale in Venice WochenKlausur established a network of language schools in Macedonia and Kosovo. In view of the catastrophic effects of the war in the Balkans and the precarious situation of hundreds of thousands of Kosovarian refugees WochenKlausur has set up language schools in Macedonia and Kosovo.
Projects Environment http://www.littoral.org.uk/
The ROUTES programme consisted of:
1. A photographic exhibition, and a publication, about the experiences of bus workers (Ulsterbus and Citybus) and trade union officials in Northern Ireland over the past 30 years. This provided a historical and contemporary record of the contribution made by bus transport workers to the cause of peace, improved community relations, and economic stability in the region.
2. Educational resource materials and a travelling exhibition based on the bus workers' excellent record of dealing with sectarianism and intimidation in the workplace. Links were forged with bus workers and artists working in situations of conflict in other parts of the world (Israel, Palestine, South Africa, and Kosovo).
3. Video, digital media and film projects about the bus workers, based on interviews with past and present members of the bus industry (drivers, shop stewards, cleaners, inspectors) about their memories and experiences of working with the bus service and the travelling public over the past 30 years. A web site and collaborative digital art on-line projects were developed by bus workers and artists.
4. An oral history/audio arts recording project with current and retired bus workers, many of whom have great stories to tell about their experiences of the Troubles, and memories of happier days in the bus service. These provide a valuable record of working peoples' history, and as many interviews as possible were collected for a sound archive devoted to the Northern Ireland bus workers .
5. A region-wide public celebration of the bus workers of Northern Ireland, consisting of a week of ROUTES exhibitions, public art projects, and educational and conference programmes, in May 2002.
Ala Plastica http://www.ecoportal.net/content/view/full/29437
Alternativa a los Alimentos Transgénicos: Auge de la Agricultura Sustentable
Por Carmelo Ruiz Marrero *
Por mera arrogancia, la lógica cartesiana impide que el conocimiento milenario de diversos pueblos del mundo se incorpore al corpus de la ciencia. Desconoce que las culturas indígenas y rurales, a quienes califica de supersticiosas e ignorantes, han practicado durante miles de años la agricultura sustentable, la nueva tendencia a la que Occidente vuelve la vista en busca de alternativas a los alimentos transgénicos
The Hirsch farm project http://www.kipnuk.com/kickapoo/
Hirsch Farm Project is probably the purist example of communicative action in action. Based in a rural context in Northbrook, Illinois, the HFP is described as "an arts based think tank concerned with public art, the environment and community" that brings together individuals from a wide range of disciplines to meet in camera for a period of a week to discuss specific topics and sub-topics. Their project titled "Non-spectacle and the Limitations of Popular Opinion" expanded upon results obtained from a 1991 (MUD) and 1992 Pressure on the Public programmes which examined "the dynamics of how artists and other professionals communicate with a specified audience or community, and how these intentions are received" Each participant in HFP `focus groups' develops a proposal or essay that reflects or responds to the conversations generated during the week long discussion sessions, and this results in a publication that is distributed to individuals and organisations in the arts, sciences and humanities. According to Laurie Winter, a co-ordinator the goals of HFP are to "stimulate dialogue and elevate the standards of conversation between different communities and disciplines whose paths would normally not cross."
Planning a littoral project is always the result of intensive research prior to an introduction to the site. The subjectivity of the artist is subordinated to the overall participation of the group. The more collaborative decisions within the group of participants the better as this will optimize the potential for communicative action. The distinction between actions that are oriented toward success and those toward understanding is crucial. Communicative actions occur when "social interactions are co-ordinated not through the egocentric calculations of success of every individual but through co-operative achievements of understanding among participants."
If there is a mathematical paradigm applicable to littoral art practice it would be set theory. The multiple 'without one' - every multiple being in its turn nothing other than a multiple of multiples - which is the law of being…with the only stopping point infinity…the void. The infinite is the reality of every situation, not the predicate of transcendence. For Georg Cantor who invented set theory in the 1870's the infinite is actually only the most general form of multiple being. In fact every situation in as much as it exists, is a multiple. The philosophy of the typical littoral project is implicit in the process and is not necessarily the result of the social interactions stimulated by a littoral actions or an intervention.
It matters if the participants understand the components of the negotiation or engagement established at the outset of the littoral project. The active participants may be borne along by the events the littoral artist(s) set in motion. Different individuals will understand the complexity and multi-layered features of the project in different ways.
Recently there has been much written about neo-conceptual art but I have not discovered anyone who admits to doing this kind of practice. There are other art forms around called donative, axcessional, medial interactive, femactive, multijective and maxialart. No artist I know will own up to these either. I conclude that this is part of a secret language that art critics use to communicate with one another through the medium of journals, magazines and the internet. Donative art may be best because it reminds us that, today the practice of giving seems to have become more readily appreciated as a modus operandi for producing ethical, socially responsive and politically efficacious art.
Some successful littoral projects may begin from a position of naivete but once the social context has been established and the means of dialogue initiated all of the prior research undertaken will have a part to play in the potential results of the communicative process. The process may be more important than any anticipated outcomes. Differences may be all the only result. And with this in mind the one/other; same/ other dialectics may not have any explanatory and hence therefore, any ethical use value. Littoral practice may indict both objectivist and relativist conceptions of ethics.
The temporal and spatial location(s) of the work may be multilateral if not infinite. The participants in a littoral project may work over the course of several days, months or even years to successfully develop their projects.
Cooperations Luxembourg http://www.cooperations.lu/
1983 - 85 Jardin de Wiltz
Der Erfolg des Projekts stimuliert alle Beteiligten zu einer weiteren Zuammenarbeit, die auf Wunscht der KünstlerInnen im öffentlichen Raum und mit Landschaft stattfinden soll. Die Gemeinde Wiltz stellt ein 2,5 ha großes Grundstück zur Verfügung. Die am Grundstück gelegenen, leerstehenden Gebäude einer stillgelegten Braurei können als Projektunterkunft und Arbeitsräume genutzt werden.
Alljährlich arbeiten während sechs Monaten KünstlerInnen aus mehreren Länder an der Realisiation einer öffentlichen Gartenanlage in Zusammenarbeit mit geistig behinderten Menschen und mit Unterstützung der Wiltzer Gemeinde.
Der Projektrahmen stimuliert weiterhin Skulptur-, Text - oder Video - projekte. Wochenweises Zusammenleben von behinderten und nicht behinderten ProjektteilnehmerInnen fördert intensive Beziehungen zwischen KünstlerInnen und behinderten MitarbeiterInnen, die sich in den entstehenden Arbeiten ausdrücken.
Der Jardin de Wiltz wird ein Teilprojekt des europäischen Distriktprojekts, das zwischen 1985 und 1987 intergrationsfördernde Initiativen in Europa ko-finanziert.
Träger des Projekts: Ligue H.M.C.
Littoral projects may engage directly with an institution. The institutional architecture may provide an integral aspect of the research and or space for the littoral participants to work. The renovation or dissembling of old structures or the building of new architecture may be a result of the littoral process. This may enhance the political power and durability of the process without sacrificing the social efficacy.
Once the immediate objectives of the project are established, the course of events should be allowed to unfold organically. There may be many side effects that the artist cannot imagine or control. These may be used to stimulate and/or assist the development of new work. The process is social and should not be tampered with. It should run its course.
There are many elements involved in a littoralist project. The most important may not be the most obvious.
These paragraphs are not intended as political imperatives but the issues explored are as close as possible to my thinking at this time.* These paragraphs are the result of my work as an artist and a critical observer of the contemporary art world as it is presently constituted and are subject to change as my experience changes. I have attempted to articulate my positions with as much clarity as possible. If the statements I have made are unclear it does not mean the thinking is unclear.
I do not advocate a littoral practice for all artists. I have found that it has worked well for me while other ways have not. It is one way of making art and participating in social and cultural change; other ways of acting in the world may suit other artists. Nor do I think littoral art merits the reader's attention. Littoral art is only as good as the social processes it sets into motion.
With thanks and apologies to Sol Lewitt "Paragraphs on Conceptual Art," Artforum 5, no. 10 (June 1967), pp. 79-83, reprinted in Garrels, ed., Sol LeWitt: A Retrospective, p. 369.
Agamben, Giorgio, Vincenzo Binetti and Cesare Casarino (Translation). Means Without End: Notes on Politics. Univ of Minnesota Press. Theory Out of Bounds, V. 20. Minneapolis, October 2000
Thompson, J.B and Held , D., (eds) Habermas Critical Debates (including a reply to my critics by Jurgen Habermas) Cambridge Mass., MIT Press 1982 and see Habermas, J. Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action trans. Christian Lenhardt, Shierry Weber Nicholsen with introduction by Thomas McCarthy, cambridge Mass, MIT Press 1990
Badiou, Alain. Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil Verso Books. New York, 2001
There are many historical prototypes of Littoralist art practice in evidence both within western modernism and cross culturally throughout various epochs.