Research Meeting 3: Tools and Infrastructures

13-16 September 2018

Participants (from left to right):
top row: Shusha Niederberger (CC research project), Urban Sand (openki.net), Femke Snelting (constant Brussels), Felix Stalder (CC research project), Mauricio O’Brian (goteo.org), Spideralex (feminist infrastructures), Panayotis Antoniadis (mazizone.eu / nethood.org)
front row: Eva Weinmayr (AND publishing), Michael Murtaugh (constant Brussels / Etherbox), Cornelia Sollfrank (CC research project), Daphne Dragona (Berlin), Lioudmila Voropaj (HFG Karlsruhe), Alessandro Ludovico (neural magazine)

Venue: Hek (House of electronic Arts, Basel)

Report

The evening before the workshop, the talk of cultural theorist and curator Daphne Dragona opened the topic of artistic practise and infrastructure in commoning processes. She discussed the term of the commons as a means of relationship (Virno, Negri/Hart, Harney/Moten), and referred to the concept of „affective infrastructures“, as proposed by Lauren Berlant. For her, the process of commoning of infrastructures both involves the network infrastructure as a commons, and the commons (affects, desires, habits) as conceptual infrastructures. This double side of infrastructural commons means that they help building communities, while in the same time are realising a common desire. Daphne Dragona introduced several artistic positions in the field along the lines of community networks, feminist / queer technologies, and technologies of kinship. She highlighted four aspects of commoning in artistic practise: first, the importance of commoning as a practise, which is often against the logic of the artwork in its involvement of other parties, and the relations being built across difference and constraints. Second: these practises always embrace communication of knowledges, in the form of exchange, shared learning situations, workshops, etc., paying attention to both the technological and affective dimension of commoning. Third: the role of care in commoning processes, the need to care critically, to care with and for each other, and also to care for the machinic and natural environment. The fourth aspect is the role of imagination: to common is always connected to imaginaries of a different world, of different infrastructures, and different relationships.

The next two days the research group was working in the plenary and smaller groups on topics of infrastructure. The introductions of the participants’ projects showed again a wide variety of practises of working with infrastructures: activist work with communities, artist run organisation developing their own infrastructure for their formats, alternative education initiatives, publishing, housing cooperatives and neighbourhood networks, and a fundraising organisation working directly with communal government. Important points in the discussions were questions of scale, closely related to problems of sustainability, care and temporality. Another topic was the need for translations between different publics, needs, interests, agencies and institutions, which was named “promiscuous API” during the discussion. These topics were further developed in three groups around the topics of 1) desires / imaginations and symbolic dimensions, 2) sustainability and resilience, 3) limitations and temporality – how to end things?

Two inputs followed the group discussions: the first from Alessandro Ludovico, who talked about networks as distribution infrastructure from the point-of-view of a publisher, highlighting the importance of infrastructure as a site of diverse practices (from circulation, hacking, pirating, infiltration, to cooperation). The second input from theorist Lioudmila Voropai explored the relational dimensions of artistic practice in regard to institutional logic, which is often shaped by strategic political and economic discourses, and has a strong influence on artistic practices and self-understandings. In her talk, she developed a notion of aesthetics with a focus on institutions’ roles in top-down formulations of a new aesthetic paradigm, on the example of so-called “Medienkunst” (new media art). Both inputs touched upon the topic of institutions and their role as infrastructures for practices, but also desires.

After the two very intense days, it became apparent that despite the many differences in fields of practice, backgrounds, and approaches of the projects, all share an understanding that infrastructure and practices are co-constituting each other, and that this entanglement is a place for activists and/or artistic practices. This resonates some of the themes introduced by Goriunova in the first meeting. The concept of the commons is not a central reference for all of them, but especially the aspect of commoning proved to be a very fruitful concept for cross-disciplinary reflection.

Interviews conducted with participants

Forms of Ongoingness, with Femke Snelting and spideralex

The Micropolitics of Publishing, with Eva Weinmayr

Hybrid Spaces, with Panayotis Antoniadis

Ecosystems of Writing, with Michael Murtaugh

Crowd Benefits, with Mauricio O’Brian

Publishing as Commons Practice, with Alessandro Ludovico


Commoning Infrastructures. Promises, challenges, and the role of art. Lecture by Daphne Dragona

Lecture by Daphne Dragona, Thursday 13.09.2018, at HeK (House of Electronic Arts Basel)

Cultural scientist and curator Daphne Dragona talks about alternative community-based network systems and the role art can play in their development.

Practices of commoning are driven by affect, a sense of new possibilities and a desire to respond to existing asymmetries of power. In the case of network infrastructures, asymmetries usually refer to issues of access, as well as to the surveillance and commodification of circulating information. Wishing to oppose the structures of the sovereign corporate systems of communication, different examples of alternative networking have emerged in the last two decades. Initiated and built by artists, activists, and other network practitioners, these infrastructures manifest a desire for accessible, user-owned and controlled systems, that respect the needs of different territories, communities and users.

What can we learn from the recent history of alternative and radical networking? What are the promises and challenges of the commoning of infrastructures in times of increasing socio-politcal divides and conflicts? When does commoning need to be readdressed and which forms of learning and doing might be of help? Turning to examples coming from the fields of art, this presentation will examine how the poetics and imaginaries of counter-infrastructures can assist in re-imagining the way we relate to each other and to the world itself.

Daphne Dragona is a Berlin-based theorist and curator. Since 2015 she has been part of the curatorial team of transmediale festival. She has worked with different institutions for exhibitions, conferences, workshops and other events. Dragona has been working in the field of digital and urban commons since 2009, having curated Esse Nosse Posse: Common Wealth for Common People (EMST 2009), Mapping the Commons, Athens (EMST 2010), Off-the-cloud zone (Transmediale, 2016) and “… An Archaeology of Silence in the Digital Age”, solo exhibition of Christoph Wachter and Mathias Jud (Aksioma, 2017). She holds a Ph.D. from the Faculty of Communication and Media Studies of the University of Athens.

 
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Laurence Rassel: Rethinking the Art School

Institution, instituted, instituting, common, commoning.

Talk by Laurence Rassel
Thursday, 1 March 2018, 18.30, HeK (House of Electronic Arts Basel)

A school of art is a zone of convergence studded with a multiplicity of individuals, things and flows, stories, fictions, and stagings, with social, cultural, material, singular and interacting asperities. And it is also a common territory by default: if we choose to come there to work or to study, we do not choose those with whom we will share this ephemeral biotope.

Taking her current position as head of the Brussels-based art school e.r.g (Ecole de Recherche Graphique) as a starting point, Laurence Rassel reflects in her talk about how the art school as an institution can be conceived as an environment for developing a sense of collectivity. Assuming the double definition of the word “institution” as a potential to be developed as well as an established form, Rassel identifies alienation where the “instituted” takes precedence over the “instituting.”

In her work, the common is thought and will be constructed as the result of an action composed of the differences in presence. The common will not erase these differences, and it will not only be composed by them. The common is always the result of a “common doing” rather than a fixed group and or an “institution.” The paradoxical task then is to sustain the collective, the common, while preserving heterogeneity and the singularities in place.

For the participants, workers, collaborators related to the institution, however, it is a real instituting movement that is at stake. The inspirations for Rassel’s models for work processes come from open source/free software culture, but also from institutional psychotherapy. The school is a place full of hierarchies, governed by texts, decrees but also by consciences that reveal themselves there as brutal, feverish, urgent, generating a desire to reach a “whole” and a desire to question “the whole,” and nevertheless build a common. By opening up this layer from “read-only” to “read, write and execute,” the very structure of the school can be turned inside out – to serve new purposes. People can get involved and affect the structure by their history to be made. The process is the collective development of the “how.”

Laurence Rassel is a cultural worker who can act as curator, teacher, organizer. She is currently based in Brussels. From 2008 to 2015 she was Director of Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona, an institution created in 1984 by the artist Antoni Tàpies to promote the study and knowledge of modern and contemporary art (http://www.fundaciotapies). From 1997 to 2008, Rassel was a founding member of Constant, a non-profit association and interdisciplinary arts-lab based and active in Brussels in the fields of art, media and technology. Currently, she is Director of erg (école de recherche graphique – école supérieure des arts) in Brussels.

 
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Olga Goriunova: Next few years of art and commons: on idiosyncratic learners and radical lurkers

Cultural theorist, philosopher, and curator Olga Goriunova focus in her talk on the radical differences between the first 15 years of the World Wide Web (1990 -2005) and the next 15. To speak about artist-run platforms (such as the hub for software art, runme.org) and other experimental projects thriving in these first 15 years, I developed the term “organizational aesthetics”, which was concerned with specific forms of artistic and cultural movements within technological networks.

Typical for such projects was that they incorporate many different, flexible roles through which they are developed and maintained, and which provide models of contribution and use. These roles reflect a specific form of knowledge, and they coalesce around certain figures: learners and lurkers, to start with. (The term lurker comes from online forum culture and stands for a kind of participation, where the lurker is part of the forum, but not actively contributing to. The lurker is a reader who could but chooses not to, write.) With time, the classical knowledge of the learner gave way to the local knowledge of the lurker. 

Now, the question is, what kind of knowledge – and with it: what kind of technology – will be created and sustained in the next 15 years? Are projects of at the intersection of the art and commons (that is, freely available resources produced and maintained by a community) developing new figures and with them, new infrastructural aesthetics?

Dr. Olga Goriunova (1977, Ulan-Ude, UdSSR) is a cultural theorist, philosopher, and curator with a focus on digital art and culture. She is Reader and Director of Graduate Research at Royal Holloway University London.

 
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. For any other use please contact us.