Institute for Collective Studies
- How Theory Becomes Concrete -
5 Working Days at WELD, 13-17 May 2013

conceived by Anders Paulin and Corina Oprea

The working group:
Johanna Gustafsson – artist, Radical Pedagogy
Cecilia Germain - artist
Anders Paulin – theatre director
Corina Oprea – curator and PhD Researcher in Arts at University of Loughborough, UK.
Rasmus Nielsen – artist, co-founder of Danish group Superflex, professor – Umeå Art Academy
+
Benjamin Noys – critical thinker and researcher, University of Chichester, UK

The notion of a collective production of knowledge is the starting point of a search into temporary social structures, adopting artistic methodologies of research, presenting interactive archives, in order to produce a public arena. The practice of artistic research is an institution in itself and borrows the characteristics of the evolution of institutional forms into ”part-community-center, part-laboratory, and part-academy” (Gordon-Nesbitt, R. (2003).

Starting from the concept of artistic knowledge production five artists and researchers gathered during one week to discuss the notion of ”negativity” in relation to potential collective methods and initiatives as a form of resistance.
The week at Weld was a precarious attempt to form Institute for Collective Studies, an initiative aiming to generate various modes of knowledge production which questions artistic research in a public context. The aim is a forum for collective knowledge, where participants from different fields meet and define pedagogical structures and strategies for an emancipated, collective educational platform where the notions of participant vs. moderator are understood as flexible and ambulant positions. The objective would be to develop methods where theoretical studies through continuous laboratory-based events can be applied in a collective practice.

A central objective of The Institute for Collective Studies is to develop a trans-organizational platform connecting academies, art institutions and professionals, allowing questions and activities in a collective context, which for different structural concerns would not be possible within an institutional framework.

Through these conjunctions, various projects, programs and interventions would test a possible framework for theoretical refection, artistic activity and research in quest for methods of collective knowledge production. We understand artistic knowledge not as analysis and interpretation, but as something produced through practice, but also believe in the necessity of using theory as a tool to define objectives for practical research that respond to a contemporary context.

In the context of an accelerated institutionalization and commodification of knowledge and artistic research, ICS intends to reclaim a portion of research practice within the artistic field, which does not have to compel entirely to the institutional framework, but can function as a parallel platform.

Institute for Collective Studies refers to a series of initiatives such as the Institute für Raumexperimente by Olafur Elliasson and projects by Marion von Osten. Writings on collaboration and collectivity in education and artistic research by Bojana Kunst, Florian Schneider and Bojana Cveijc as well as the critical perspective brought by Dieter Lesage and Tom Holert are inspirational.

Negativity & Benjamin Noys

Since the intention with ICS is to counter-discuss the problematics related to the institutionalization of artistic knowledge and searching for a way of destabilizing or proposing a parallel platform, we encountered the texts of Benjamin Noys on “The persistence of the negative” inspiring. Furthermore, Noys has also looked into questions of communization, which relates to the ICS’s intention of focusing on collectivity rather than an individual approach towards knowledge. Focusing on the process of collective work is a form of negation towards the cult for results, for commodified outcome. Rather than depending on the result’s success, ICS tries to focus on the act and process of “making”.

The structure of the week based itself on a few precarious acts such as: a digital-free Tuesday, one day collective reading of one text, cooking meals in five and a sleep-over. During the week three main questions arose on which I would like to develop shortly :

- Who is the “we”?
- What is the “event”?
- How do we define “ production” in a non-result oriented format?

Who is the “we”?
Having the notion of collectivity at the core of the process, the “we” question comes naturally, from the intention of identification with a particular community in which the members are to become co-existing parts of this certain “we”. In other working contexts, the “we” can be formed temporarily for specific collaborative events. However, the question of the formation of the “we” is vital in relation to structural principles, which pertain on the responsibility of roles and a dramaturgy of the process. Here I would like to go back to J-L. Nancy, who claims that we have forgotten the importance of “ being together”, “being – in – common” and “belonging”. In order to re-appropriate this knowledge, Nancy suggests that it is important to understand that “we” is not a subject of self-identification and that one should concentrate on the praxis of “we” in the making, of an intersubjectivity. In order for a process-based project, which involves a certain community, to start functioning, the “we” needs to be created. This imaginary “we” exists, as most of the times, only for the duration of a particular event. In the case of ICS, the intention was a long-lasting self-sustainable project with the week at Weld being an attempt to test a certain format and structure. Again, being inspired by Nancy and his fear of communitarian work and the relation to totalitarianism, I would suggest that “inoperative communities” that refuse predictable decisions for participation or clear identification with the other members based on social or political commonalities, might be a way to re-think the question of community. Nancy writes that community cannot arise from the domain of work, but through the withdrawal from work, from “unworking” (“desoeuvrement”) – a term from Blanchot. Interruption, fragmentation, suspension: this is where community happens for Nancy. 1Therefore, can a suspended given time and space allow a formation of the “we” in the absence of result-oriented “work”?

What is the “event”?
The precarity of the format proposed concentrated on the act of reading a 4000 words text, deconstructing a theory on paper, reading through, attempting to decipher words, notions, intentions. It is a process of translation, reflection and making connections to practices of our own or others. In the current post-spectacle context, we tend to search for the fragment, the moment, which can become the event. Since even processual works become commodities, presented as spectacle, the “event” as the presence becomes important. One could say that the event ICS created was the public lecture of Benjamin Noys. I would argue, though, that the event was the act of reading and the transformation of a theory into a concrete act. The question of valorization is rather important. For what are we working? What do we consider being an outcome? In times when we tend to consume critique and theory, allowing that suspended space of digesting a text becomes the “event”.

How can we define production in a non-result oriented format?
Recently in the artistic field key words such as ”knowledge production” have become frequently used in discribing discoursive and process-based practices. This terms confrunt us with the mere frame of opposing a commodified neo-liberal logic. Late capitalism stands on knowledge as the main ressource for surplus-value gain. And has the capacity of absorbing and appropriating any form of creative, critical, alternative, new form of knowledge. The risk of being complicit and the impossibility of a pure form of resistance is present. So, what do we actually produce? I would like here to suggest that what temporary formations can test is a transversal perspective over the structure of producing knowledge, which tends to institutionalize, aka legitimize a certain form of knowledge, with a set of values and critierias. Artistic research should remain articulated within the sphere of social movement and exercise the capacity of cutting through boundaries between academia and the non-disciplined actions outside. Therefore, I would address the capacity of artistic research of producing emancipatory structural change in relation to knowledge.

text by Corina Oprea

Institute for Collective Studies
- How Theory Becomes Concrete -
5 Working Days at WELD, 13-17 May 2013

conceived by Anders Paulin and Corina Oprea

The working group:
Johanna Gustafsson – artist, Radical Pedagogy
Cecilia Germain - artist
Anders Paulin – theatre director
Corina Oprea – curator and PhD Researcher in Arts at University of Loughborough, UK.
Rasmus Nielsen – artist, co-founder of Danish group Superflex, professor – Umeå Art Academy
+
Benjamin Noys – critical thinker and researcher, University of Chichester, UK

The notion of a collective production of knowledge is the starting point of a search into temporary social structures, adopting artistic methodologies of research, presenting interactive archives, in order to produce a public arena. The practice of artistic research is an institution in itself and borrows the characteristics of the evolution of institutional forms into ”part-community-center, part-laboratory, and part-academy” (Gordon-Nesbitt, R. (2003).

Starting from the concept of artistic knowledge production five artists and researchers gathered during one week to discuss the notion of ”negativity” in relation to potential collective methods and initiatives as a form of resistance.
The week at Weld was a precarious attempt to form Institute for Collective Studies, an initiative aiming to generate various modes of knowledge production which questions artistic research in a public context. The aim is a forum for collective knowledge, where participants from different fields meet and define pedagogical structures and strategies for an emancipated, collective educational platform where the notions of participant vs. moderator are understood as flexible and ambulant positions. The objective would be to develop methods where theoretical studies through continuous laboratory-based events can be applied in a collective practice.

A central objective of The Institute for Collective Studies is to develop a trans-organizational platform connecting academies, art institutions and professionals, allowing questions and activities in a collective context, which for different structural concerns would not be possible within an institutional framework.

Through these conjunctions, various projects, programs and interventions would test a possible framework for theoretical refection, artistic activity and research in quest for methods of collective knowledge production. We understand artistic knowledge not as analysis and interpretation, but as something produced through practice, but also believe in the necessity of using theory as a tool to define objectives for practical research that respond to a contemporary context.

In the context of an accelerated institutionalization and commodification of knowledge and artistic research, ICS intends to reclaim a portion of research practice within the artistic field, which does not have to compel entirely to the institutional framework, but can function as a parallel platform.

Institute for Collective Studies refers to a series of initiatives such as the Institute für Raumexperimente by Olafur Elliasson and projects by Marion von Osten. Writings on collaboration and collectivity in education and artistic research by Bojana Kunst, Florian Schneider and Bojana Cveijc as well as the critical perspective brought by Dieter Lesage and Tom Holert are inspirational.

Negativity & Benjamin Noys

Since the intention with ICS is to counter-discuss the problematics related to the institutionalization of artistic knowledge and searching for a way of destabilizing or proposing a parallel platform, we encountered the texts of Benjamin Noys on “The persistence of the negative” inspiring. Furthermore, Noys has also looked into questions of communization, which relates to the ICS’s intention of focusing on collectivity rather than an individual approach towards knowledge. Focusing on the process of collective work is a form of negation towards the cult for results, for commodified outcome. Rather than depending on the result’s success, ICS tries to focus on the act and process of “making”.

The structure of the week based itself on a few precarious acts such as: a digital-free Tuesday, one day collective reading of one text, cooking meals in five and a sleep-over. During the week three main questions arose on which I would like to develop shortly :

- Who is the “we”?
- What is the “event”?
- How do we define “ production” in a non-result oriented format?

Who is the “we”?
Having the notion of collectivity at the core of the process, the “we” question comes naturally, from the intention of identification with a particular community in which the members are to become co-existing parts of this certain “we”. In other working contexts, the “we” can be formed temporarily for specific collaborative events. However, the question of the formation of the “we” is vital in relation to structural principles, which pertain on the responsibility of roles and a dramaturgy of the process. Here I would like to go back to J-L. Nancy, who claims that we have forgotten the importance of “ being together”, “being – in – common” and “belonging”. In order to re-appropriate this knowledge, Nancy suggests that it is important to understand that “we” is not a subject of self-identification and that one should concentrate on the praxis of “we” in the making, of an intersubjectivity. In order for a process-based project, which involves a certain community, to start functioning, the “we” needs to be created. This imaginary “we” exists, as most of the times, only for the duration of a particular event. In the case of ICS, the intention was a long-lasting self-sustainable project with the week at Weld being an attempt to test a certain format and structure. Again, being inspired by Nancy and his fear of communitarian work and the relation to totalitarianism, I would suggest that “inoperative communities” that refuse predictable decisions for participation or clear identification with the other members based on social or political commonalities, might be a way to re-think the question of community. Nancy writes that community cannot arise from the domain of work, but through the withdrawal from work, from “unworking” (“desoeuvrement”) – a term from Blanchot. Interruption, fragmentation, suspension: this is where community happens for Nancy. 1Therefore, can a suspended given time and space allow a formation of the “we” in the absence of result-oriented “work”?

What is the “event”?
The precarity of the format proposed concentrated on the act of reading a 4000 words text, deconstructing a theory on paper, reading through, attempting to decipher words, notions, intentions. It is a process of translation, reflection and making connections to practices of our own or others. In the current post-spectacle context, we tend to search for the fragment, the moment, which can become the event. Since even processual works become commodities, presented as spectacle, the “event” as the presence becomes important. One could say that the event ICS created was the public lecture of Benjamin Noys. I would argue, though, that the event was the act of reading and the transformation of a theory into a concrete act. The question of valorization is rather important. For what are we working? What do we consider being an outcome? In times when we tend to consume critique and theory, allowing that suspended space of digesting a text becomes the “event”.

How can we define production in a non-result oriented format?
Recently in the artistic field key words such as ”knowledge production” have become frequently used in discribing discoursive and process-based practices. This terms confrunt us with the mere frame of opposing a commodified neo-liberal logic. Late capitalism stands on knowledge as the main ressource for surplus-value gain. And has the capacity of absorbing and appropriating any form of creative, critical, alternative, new form of knowledge. The risk of being complicit and the impossibility of a pure form of resistance is present. So, what do we actually produce? I would like here to suggest that what temporary formations can test is a transversal perspective over the structure of producing knowledge, which tends to institutionalize, aka legitimize a certain form of knowledge, with a set of values and critierias. Artistic research should remain articulated within the sphere of social movement and exercise the capacity of cutting through boundaries between academia and the non-disciplined actions outside. Therefore, I would address the capacity of artistic research of producing emancipatory structural change in relation to knowledge.

text by Corina Oprea