Hello everyone and thanks for inviting me into this discussion.
I’ll just give you some personal background which might be pertinent to this conversation: I was born in the UK, in Birmingham and I migrated to Perth, Western Australia when I was 13. As you may know, Perth is one of the most isolated major cities on earth – a fact often proudly proclaimed by its inhabitants. I think that my growing up into Perth’s rather small but complex contemporary arts context had a profound effect on my thinking about location in relation to art making, art ‘worlds’ (so many of them!) and curatorial practice. Living the 'tyranny of distance' and the 'centre & periphery' theory at once!
We are all of us remote and distanced from most artists, most forms of art-making, practices and cultural contexts all of the time. I am here at my computer in Sydney with access to Youtubed documents of performance art from New York in the 1970s and surrounded by books filled with representations of art made across so many times and places. There is always a distancing, as many of you have already discussed in this thread.
My main questions in relation to the topic are: For whom do we make the dispersed or rural work we are doing digitally accessible and why? Is it important that we digitally mediate these projects, now that we are technologically able to do so, and is this intrinsic to the work? For whom is the work or the art experience not regional at all, but local? Whose space or culture are we regionalising?
Turning to a more practical, hands-on, recent experience, I’d like to reflect on the laboratory program Time_Place_Space: Nomad, which I co-curated with Angharad Wynne-Jones (Artshouse, Melbourne) last year and which is an ongoing program between Performance Space, Artshouse and the Australia Council for the Arts. Angharad and I are working towards its second iteration for November 2015 and we really want to get the social media and distributed or publicly accessible part of the laboratory right this time. Not that we got it wrong per se, but I certainly made presumptions about technological and human capacity, and the willingness or ability of participants to engage with social media and other digital platforms throughout the program.
As background for TPS: Nomad, I’m pasting text I’ve edited from our initial call for participants, which was distributed last year:
Time_Place_Space: Nomad.A travelling laboratory program for interdisciplinary and experimental artists.
Time_Place_Space: Nomad is a national initiative that aims to challenge, invigorate and strengthen interdisciplinary and experimental arts practice in Australia, with an emphasis on collaborative performance-making, site-specificity and artistic resilience, following on from the original versions of the Time_Place_Space program (TPS 1-6) that were produced by Performance Space from 2002-2009, and curated collaboratively by Fiona Winning (Performance Space), Sarah Miller (PICA), Julianne Pierce (ANAT) and Teresa Crea (New Media Arts Fellow, founding Director Para//elo).This original program sought to seed new artistic collaborations and productions with the capacity to tour nationally and internationally; build new networks for artists, curators and presenters; broaden and diversify audiences; and establish an international reputation for artists working in this field.
The original laboratory programs were set in institutional, university and technically well-resourced urban contexts. This new iteration of TPS goes camping on the road, from city to countryside and asks artists to consider economic issues, scarcity and transience, urban life and remoteness, nationhood, the bare necessities of life and art-making in an unfixed and ever-changing environment. This program is collaboratively curated by Bec Dean (Performance Space) and Angharad Wynne-Jones (Artshouse, City of Melbourne).Key questions stimulated by this model include:– What resources do you really need to make your work?– What is your understanding of time, place and space in an Australian context?– In what ways is your work or your working process experimental and can this be challenged?– Do you factor any green or sustainment thinking into your performance making?– Do you have the capacity to live and work with others in communal and personally limiting circumstances?– Who is and where is your audience or participants for your work? How do they encounter and engage with your work?
So we went on the road, for 17 days, with 20 artists, 2 technicians, a video blogger, 2 curators and an assistant. We had lots of portable technologies, gadgets and materials on hand. We camped outdoors in places with no internet signal, and then later in small rural community contexts where we had more flexible access to laptops, power and internet platforms.
We employed a videographer to make short works about artist collaborations and experiments on the hop, and to document the lab in progress. It was our intention that some of this material could be uploaded to a Tumblr we had made for the program, and other material deemed non-public or for documentation purposes only would be uploaded to our password protected artist site.
TPS: Nomad was a new version of a program, Time_Place_Space which Performance Space had curated and managed with the Australia Council for many years – 6 programs in total. One of the things that struck me about the program and its legacy was its invisibility in terms of publicly available documentation and information. Many of the artists that have participated in the TPS laboratories talk about how formative, crucial and important they were in terms of their practice and I thought that this was something we might be able to address with our new version. We had a plethora of small, portable and handheld technologies at our disposal as well as new solar packs for recharging all of our devices. We had access to portable wifi through Australia’s major telco. Collectively we created a lot of potential and ‘content’ for such a platform.
There were a few practical, ethical and IP hurdles to this idea of embracing social media and other digital forms for TPS Nomad which I will list here:
2. We ran the program through a democratic, Open Space process and the artists completely exceeded our expectations in terms of the volume and abundance of workshops, conversations, collaborative making projects and performances etc. produced over the time. It was difficult for our single videographer to capture everything that was happening, then edit the material and then drive to a place where we could get enough bandwidth to upload it.
3. In spite of being contracted to engage with social media and to make some aspects of their participation publicly available, a number of artists objected to certain elements of documentation during the laboratory, or even to the presence of the videographer. With the benefit of hindsight, the documentation and distribution process should have been mutually agreed-upon within a group dynamic, or at least very explicitly detailed in the artist contract. We eventually negotiated a position on public availability of images, text and video as a group a few days into the program – putting the IP responsibility and the submission/uploading of material firmly and respectfully in the hands of the artists.
We always understood that deciding what content to make ‘public’ from the context of an ostensibly non-public, artist laboratory would be challenging. We had some aspiration that we could somehow reflect the ‘liveness’ or ‘nowness’ of what was happening as it happened in this incredibly rich artistic space. It felt like such an important thing us to have achieved prior to leaving for the program, but now I am not so sure. I’m still trying to figure out whether adding more videographers and editors to the program will be an improvement or whether it is even necessary to be ‘present’ in that live, digital space? Always pushing digital content into the ‘now’. For whom? How will this increased documentation and documenters affect how/what work is made? How will it affect the artists' relationships to the sites they are inhabiting and making work in? As participants we are still all discussing this aspect of the program, as for me it was really the single most unresolved/problematic issue of the program.
Here is a piece by one of the participants, just to give you an idea an experience of the program:http://www.realtimearts.net/article/issue124/11785
Perhaps later on in the month or further along in the conversation I can contribute by discussing the rationale behind some of Performance Space’s located and site-specific programming and its strategies for documentation, interaction, digital mediation and dissemination over the last eight years. Particularly where digital distribution/broadcasting is an essential PART of the work. I really enjoyed Michael Schwab’s response in this thread and I look forward engaging with JAR.