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programon the spot

introduction : temporary lounge : academy on the spot : collaborative practice : jump into cold water
contributions : summer academy

Practice as Research

Sønke Gau and Katharina Schlieben

June 3 - July 30, 2006
Opening: 2 June, 19.00
Summer Academy: July 12 - 16, 2006

Jump into Cold Water is a project addressing questions of artistic education, and the artistic knowledge production and was developed in dialogue with students and lecturers of the F+F School for Art and Media Design. The point of departure was the consideration of their own practice: what are the motivations for becoming an artist? What contribution can art provide to a socially relevant knowledge production? Is art maybe a practice that is able to demonstrate the concept of transdisciplinary thought in a performative way as well as actively help shape it? Who learns from whom, and what, and how? The focus of the analysis is not so much on art itself as its manner or its approaches – such as “practice and research” – that lead to an artistic assertion.

In a preliminary seminar the imagination of an “ideal school” was juxtaposed to the consideration of own conditions for learning and teaching with reference to Jacques Derrida’s utopian model of the “unconditional university”, which is supposed to be unconditionally free from any restricting requirements. An unavoidable point of departure for this discussion is the critical scrutiny of the so-called “Bologna Process”. In the course of striving to harmonize the higher education landscape in Europe, uniform sets of criteria for the teaching of art are also to be introduced. Opposite the evident advantages to creating a European area of higher education in which change and exchange between the various national colleges would be facilitated are fears regarding the reduction and homogenization of teaching content and the strengthening of criteria applicable to the economy/market. This area of conflict calls for, on the one hand, an analysis of the conceptions art schools/colleges/academies have of themselves and where they locate themselves, and poses, on the other hand, once again, the fundamental question regarding the extent to which art can be taught or learned.

The project, however, by no means intends to exclusively address the current political questions and discussions regarding higher education, but rather would like to start from contemporary artistic practice. In connection with this it is thus essential to examine projects concerned with alternative ways of imparting knowledge and ideas for self-organized education situations, workshops, and schools. Artistic practice itself has investigated and made use of teaching and mediation and again and moreover devised proposals that are under consideration and discussion in this project, and with which we seek to begin our own examination.

To what extent is aesthetic practice itself a model for the production of knowledge, how do theory formation and aesthetic production behave toward one another? If one is concerned with the production of knowledge the question cannot be to what extent theoretical models of thought reveal themselves in aesthetic practice – for that would be illustration and art would be functionalized as an auxiliary medium – but rather to what extent aesthetic practice itself participates in producing knowledge. Does artistic practice offer something like a model/an idea for the production of knowledge? When it is at its more interesting, art will frequently behave dispositively by reacting to current debates, reinterpreting them, and provoking position changing and shifts in function. Artistic interventions do not so much only indicate an analysis of discourse but rather examine the conditions for a manifestation of discourse and deconstruct the perception and reception of normative hegemonic discourses.

Artistic practice frequently operates with, so to speak, “borrowed” scientific methods. For example, the model of the “case study”, the “interview”, or the principle of “mapping” were adapted from ethnology and anthropology. The archivist-like approach already belongs to the tradition of artistic practice. However, the process is not a matter of a one-to-one adoption of the methods – the methods are of course borrowed or adapted, but are demonstrated, reflected, modified and/or expanded through the process of practice. The close cooperation with “experts” from other fields of knowledge and production is frequently the basis for a dialogic practice that seeks to test another form of production of knowledge in the transdisciplinary sense and wants to react dispositively. In connection with this, autodidactic approaches to learning that negate a standardized canon of rules regarding knowledge or are frequently motivated by the questioning of the conditions of institutionalized learning are also to be examined. In addition, however, the project Jump into Cold Water poses just as many questions regarding the lack of platforms and distribution possibilities for self-organized strategies for the imparting of knowledge that can be seen as alternatives to those provided by the state and the economy and thus also the art market.

The subject “artistic education/production of knowledge” has been under investigation for quite some time: university research approaches debate the “investigation of artistic practices” and the question as to which methodological approaches (for example, “artistic research” or “practice as research”) will be used to proceed. Students of art schools/colleges/academies have tested the model of self-organized learning in “Freie Klassen” (“open classes”) and a multitude of newly conceived courses of study seeking to provoke a different kind of artistic practice try to incorporate the discussion of these investigations into their curricula. A strong interest is also emerging on the part of cultural producers as well, be it prominent examples, such as Manifesta 6, for instance, which proposes a Manifesta School instead of an exhibition project, or self-organized projects like the Copenhagen Free University or the project School of Missing Studies to name just a few.

Jump into Cold Water picks up on some of the approaches to these ideas through projects that grapple, in a discursive, interactive, associative, and documentary way, with the question of artistic teaching and education, or with creative processes for the production of knowledge, and combining them with a summer academy. The exhibition project assumes the procedural form of a workshop. And the workshop character is also found in the summer academy as well as in many approaches of the works shown in the exhibition. The summer academy itself is limited to a period of five days (July 12 - 16) during which a concentrated program will be offered continuously from the afternoon until late in the evening. In addition to workshops, there will be lectures, screenings of selected films, DJ sets, a bar, and discussion forums that are open also for spontaneous visitors, to enable a productive atmosphere of social exchange and facilitate a link-up between students at Swiss art schools. The sought after temporary campus-like environment for encounters comes from asking what an “ideal (art) school” could look like.

Together with the students a spatial setting was developed that tries to make use of the institution for certain functions necessary for artistic production and mediation, and which opens up the institution at the same time. At the forefront is the claim of permanent reinvention, or of the unfinishedness and the transparency of the courses of events that is to avoid institutionalization. In order to put this claim of opening up into practice, a wooden board walk is to be built through the Shedhalle leading over the grounds behind the Rote Fabrik directly to the adjacent lake (the metaphorical title of the project Jump into Cold Water refers to the curiosity required and the risk during and following artistic education). It is to be – both its interior as well as its exterior space – a social platform for events as well as a reference to the transitory situation, a metaphor for the balancing act. A set consisting of flexible functional units (kitchen, office, etc.) structure and supplement the setting. In addition a modular system of walls suggests rooms that can be made smaller or larger depending on use by means of mobile partition walls. The resulting spatial zones are then taken over by artistic and documentary works and commentaries, both subtly – as footnotes, for example – or offensive. Thanks to the different dynamics – opening, summer academy, events – various traces emerge in a scenario that the visitors and participants can discover for themselves.

Denise Altermatt; Johanna Billing; Annatina Caprez; Szuper Gallery (Susanne Clausen and Pawlo Kerestey); Copenhagen Free University; René Fahrni; Lilian Frei; Gruppo parole e immagini / Luca Frei; Christoph Giradet / Volker Schreiner; Liam Gillick; David Goldenberg; Ane Hjort Guttu; Saskia Holmkvist; IGZ (Mia Diener and Jana Vanecek); Mary Leidescher / Matthias Käser / Claude Treptow; Kinoapparatom (Simone Schardt und Wolf Schmelter); Jan Kopp; Maria Pask; Edith Pfister; RELAX (chiarenza & hauser & co); Hinrich Sachs; Angela Sanders; Gregor Schmoll; Miro Schawalder; Magda Stanova; THYLACINE (Mischa Düblin and Fabian Hachen); Carey Young

Summer Academy
Summer Academy: 12. - 16. July 2006