Speculations is a two day Shift/Workshop. Speculations will be collectively composed and play-tested at Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop on the 3rd and 4th of March 2017, a participatory action-research workshop ordained to fabricate speculative artistic research methods.
We will compose a workshop in which participants develop, learn and apply speculative artistic research methods. It is crucial that the genesis of this workshop is, in its own right, speculative. Our speculative process encourages artistic practices that cannot be held, observed or enacted without taking risks or experiencing their consequences. To this end, Shift/Work: Speculations will be collectively composed.
Speculative methods may include, but are not limited to: abduction, syncretism, forecasting, futurism, divination, becoming-rites, probing (making and employing actants), paradisciplinarity, ‘pataphysics, hyperstition, theory-fiction, mythopoesis, fabulation, fictioning, (mis)management, gaming / playing, versioning, licensing, servicizing, technés / technoetics, extended cognition (ExC), imaginative propositions, paper architecture, thought experiments, proposing, lateral thinking/feeling/knowing, weird-ing, speculative realism, mangle-practice….
Who are the Shift/Workers?
A compagon of ‘composers’ – comprising artists, curators, designers, musicians, producers, educationalists, social anthropologists, philosophers and futurists – will join us at Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop in March 2017 to scribe and audition Speculations. Working in three groups, participants will compose three iterative workshops. The three groups will then rotate, each participating in the workshops composed by their peers. Our post-workshop re-calibration of the three workshops will translate them into one workshop. Shift/Work will direct this ‘calibrated’ workshop at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale at the end of March 2017.
At the time of writing, we may only speculate on the form Speculations will take. We speculate that the workshop will enable participants to compose, experience and evaluate an iterative, action-based, peer-to-peer learning experience that is both theoretical and practical. We expect they will learn how their speculations (and their attendant risks and uncertainties) are co-affective upon the experiences of their peers. Like previous Shift/Workshops, Speculations will enact relevant discourses, practices and models of artistic paragogy to enable and inspire participants to adopt speculative methods and implement their own workshops.
We hope that you can come to ESW to take part in the composition phase of this workshop.
“It was immediately apparent to us that unlearning presented a paradox. Unlearning is an anti-foundational foundation from which to proceed. This makes it a provocative starting point for a workshop, given that workshops are so often predicated on ‘active learning’. Our question, therefore, was what would happen if participants (who we call Shift/Workers) were encouraged to reverse engineer the process of active learning?”
Artists: Thomas Aitchison, Antonia Banados, Tessa Berring, Kirsty Boutle, Kate Bowe O’Brien, Emma Bowen, Carolyn Burchell, The Confraternity of Neoflagellants, Anna Danielewicz, Tim Dodds, Soosan Danesh, Mark Doyle, Micha Eden, Joe Etchell, James Findlay, Brittonie Fletcher, Greg Fullerton, Andrew Gannon, Richa Goel, Keith Guy, Lydia Honeybone, Rebecca Horne, Irvine and Noble, Daisy Lafarge, Suzanne van der Lingen, Kate Livingstone, Stephen Kavanagh, Morgan Kinne, Mirja Koponen, Elizaveta Maltseva, Michele Marcroux, Alessandro di Massimo, Lara MacLeod + Peter Amoore, Angela McClanahan, Scott McCracken, Lesley McDermot, Magaret McGovern, Eilidh McPherson, Dylan Meade, Phoebe Mitchell, Kyle Noble, Anna Oberfeld, Robby Ogilvie, Ortonandon, Santiago Paulos Wood, Matthew Poland, Emma Potterill, Jordan Pilling, David Reid, Sat With Fruit, Cate Smith, Nectarious Stamatopoulos, Tara Stewart, Willem Venter, Devin Wallace, Gosia Walton, Susana Wessling
Art today tends to lodge in spaces. ‘Nice space’ all intone in unison when encountering yet another opening in the great white indoors. Such spaces are significantly devoid of detail – they take little time to consume and are non-confrontational in their uniformity. They are contracted, omnipresent, rootless and dynamic – they exist in similar forms in every town and city in every nation. Art experienced in such prefabricated contexts is always something comparable and measurable. Open for public consumption, it is everywhere and has no centre. Experienced without circumferences, without place, art is at once internationally accessible and perpetually in danger of being diluted by its anodyne surroundings. This is a dilemma of sorts. What can be gained in terms of polydiverse frission is often lost in terms of the unique promise of spatial eccentricities.
The back garden is, in contrast, a unique place, one carefully tended to and composed by the gardener. It’s a private place, accessed by invitation only. It is a relatively settled point in a world of unfettered circulation and virtuality. It is the antithesis of the purpose built art space, that ghost of internationalist avant-garde bohemia. It signifies suburban comfort, a substantial personal investment, a hardy perennial in a culture of flux. The back garden’s perfect pollinated light makes it the nemesis of the unmanaged creativity of the dimly lit city street. It is an aspirational place, the modern equivalent of the aristocratic estate, its powerful displays of material wealth scaled down to fit the bourgeois pocket. Like the large estates of imperial Europe, the back garden is a manicured aestheticised response to nature, and, by extension, a metaphor for control of the lawlessness perceived to lie beyond its walls and fences. It is also, in many respects, alien to Scottish urban life, the shared tenement drying green being more commonplace in Scottish towns and cities.
All of these factors serve to make back gardens unfashionable; they do not square with contemporary global pressures to reorganise places into more economically flexible spaces, nor do they significantly enable or extend our right to public recreation. Place is out of style – subsumed by all embracing space. This doesn’t mean that place isn’t desirable. On the contrary, place, being in such short supply, has never been in greater demand. Perhaps this is what makes place-making such a prerogative for city planners and citizens alike. Place rarity is related to it being so difficult to nurture. Unlike space, place can’t simply be planned into existence – it has to be given time and the resources to take root and grow organically. To invite artists to work in a place, as opposed to a space, challenges many of the urbanite / internationalist assumptions that underlie contemporary art practice. It also encourages artists to directly confront what has been developing within the mass culture of our time.
The back garden has been at the epicentre of the cultural revolution of the past ten years – a political process wherein the adoption of middle-class lifestyle has been ceaselessly promoted as a one-size-fits-all solution to all socio-economic woes. The roll out of ‘how-to’ via TV cooking, fashion and gardening programmes and websites such as VideoJug has become symptomatic of early 21st century mass culture – an atomised culture of domestic improvement presented as universally accessible and desirable. There is a parallel here with moral justifications of unstructured time, leisure and land ownership from an aristocratic past. Today, in mainstream UK culture, place-making and domestica (often seen as synonymous) are moral prerogatives.
The message that today’s Percy Throwers and Fanny Craddocks send us with incessant regularity is that to place-make is not merely conducive to economic health, it is to cultivate a more hospitable environment for the consumer-self. It is the key to happiness and success for all. The logic is circular and, like some plant life, auto generative. Cultivated improvement is cultivated by the cult of improvement. Moss covered urns toppled by cascading floods of whispering rococo vine for all. ‘Art’ is equally subject to this craze for pro-amateur DIY demystification. Art 4All. And so – the enculturalisation of domestica and the presage of autodidactic self-organisation are ideal bedfellows.
D-I-why? Despite its shortcomings, if the logic of ‘how-to’ has germinated the seeds of place-making en masse; its healthiest shoots can be trained to the worthwhile end of communitarian recovery. In this light, the garden relates to an Epicurean etymology: a place of contentment. It represents the antithesis of The Academy – it is an unsanctioned and potentially subversive arena. Withdrawing temporarily from public spaces officially endorsed by both business and the state into a sheltered Atlantis of like-minded people ruled by friendship, the back garden can be transformed into a place in which public space can be rethought and rebuilt from the ground up by the public. Summer days of splendour slow things down and allow them to be experienced in real time. Culture grows best in the fruitful’st soil. This garden’s sickle needs no hammer. The Back-Garden Biennale has more in common with Reggie Perrin’s commune for middle-class neurotics than with William Blake’s anarcho-symbolist garden. It need make no extravagant claims to transcendent moral and aesthetic value or to wider social justification. It is simply a place for learned leisure and the cultivation of cultivation – a place for art practices rather than a space for an art careers. The seeds were sown some time ago, let’s see what grows this year.