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 (https://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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Die Performativität des Archivs

An der Veranstaltung zum Launch der online-Plattform des Archivs der Shedhalle Zürich sprach die Slavistin Sylvia Sasse über ihre Erfahrungen mit Archiven in ihrer Forschung. Dabei sprach sie zwei wichtige Punkte an: einerseits warfs sie die Frage auf: “was macht das Archiv mit mir?”, andererseits sprach sie von der Perspektivität von Archiven am Beispiel der “Dokumentation” von Performancekunst durch die Staatssicherheits-Dienste im ehemalingen Ostblock.

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Das Archiv in der künstlerischen Forschung

Brunner/Hiltbrunner beziehen sich einerseits auf das Anarchiv, als “dichte, komplexe und wertvolle Arbeits- und Projektarchive”, andererseits auf das Archiv als kreative Kulturtechnik. Ihre Hypothese: Kunstpraxis ist forschend, wenn sie archivarische Züge annimmt.
Dieses “kulturelle Paradigma” wird historisch verortet in der Geschichte der alternativen Archiven wie dem Knastarchiv (bis 1988 betrieben vom Autonomen Knasbüro Bochum) oder der Frauengesundheitsbewegung um 1970, und kulturwissenschaftlich mit Foucault als wissens- und machtkritische politische Praxis verortet (demgegenüber stehen laut Brunner/Hiltbrunner die strikte Praxisorientiertheit der Archivwissenschaften).

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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, 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.

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