Striking a Balance

photo by Toni Hafkenscheid

“Striking a Balance”: A seesaw invites a negotiation, one based on a predetermined conspiracy and an ambition to open an uncertain conversation in public.

As part of Rehearsing Disagreement with Hiba Abdallah, originally commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Toronto for the year-long program, Art in Use, which asks: Can art motivate social, political and cultural change? What meaningful role does art play in our lives? How can we use it as a tool?

The Art in Use program is supported by an adaptable set of furniture elements —“an office of useful art” designed by Adrian Blackwell. This “office” will host workshops, conversations and events that explore the utility of art.

Art in Use has been conceived in conversation with artist Tania Bruguera, the Association of Useful Art and local and international artists. An online platform of socially engaged forms of artistic practice collated by this association can be found at www.arte-util.org.

The first Art in Use project is a set of participatory works by artists Hiba Abdallah and Justin Langlois. Together they investigate ways to explore disagreement and conflict through the lens of art and within the structure of a museum. While agreement and harmony might describe an imaginary, ideal space, it also undervalues our lived experiences and the positive effects of difference.

Through this series of new works that include a seesaw and a dartboard, the artists invite moments of gathering and exchange around disagreement. They present the argument that co-existing in difference is a generative part of our civic responsibility that can be explored together.

Why Art Schools Need More Socially Engaged Art

Image: Social Practice Kitchen, a weekly student-led by-donation community kitchen at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. SPK invites students, staff, and faculty to create meals. Photo: Facebook/Arts in Society Research Network.

Canadian Art recently posted an essay I wrote over the summer, which you can read in its entirety here. I’m including an excerpt below:

Despite Canada’s history of artist-run culture and modest socialism—both productive contexts for thinking about where larger social imaginations have existed at a national scale in the past—our post-secondary institutions have yet to find meaningful ways to position socially engaged art as a practice befitting the needs of artists, students and citizens in the here and now. Post-secondary art institutions have also had very little to say so far about the significant histories of care, stewardship and collectivity embedded into the tenets of communities that blossom outside of the hegemony of white patriarchal capitalist centres. Instead, art schools relegate socially engaged art to minors, streams or one-off courses maintained as a peripheral concern to the “real work” of training emerging artists, designers and cultural producers.

Should I Be Worried?

Should I Be Worried - Neon Sign installed along False Creek in Vancouver

For 18-months, I was the City of Vancouver’s inaugural Artist-in-Residence working with the City’s Sustainability Group. Supported by staff in both Sustainability and Public Art, I contributed to planning and engagement efforts on key Sustainability projects informed by the Greenest City Action Plan.

The residency culminated in the installation of this public artwork along False Creek in Vancouver, BC. The neon sign reads, “Should I Be Worried?” and is affixed to a wooden support structure that helps to frame a number of social, environmental, and political issues facing the city at the moment.

This project was made possible with support from the City of Vancouver and an amazing group of staff in Public Art, Sustainability, and Engineering.

Float School

Collaboration with Holly Schmidt

Float School explores the form of a School through an examination of the earliest understanding of the word, drawing from the etymological base of skholē, which translates as spare time, leisure, rest, or ease.

Float School aims to undermine and interrogate the dominant narratives of public and private western education, instead looking to notions of leisure, retreat, slowness, and play as sites of productive resistance and forms through which to develop new capacity for political and social action. It embarks on collectively imagining and enacting multiple futures for the role that art, public engagement, and learning can play in Canadian society through inquiry, activity, and slow action. Float School will help us to spark the next phase of dialogue around socially engaged art, one that draws from Canada’s specific history of artist-run-culture, and generates an innovative new approach to locating art in rich and complex proximities to public, commons, the natural environment, and learning.

Float School is supported by Living Labs at Emily Carr University of Art and Design.

 

Everything is Happening Right Here

In collaboration with Hiba Abdallah, as part of ArtPrize in 2017. Sited at city hall in Calder Plaza, Grand Rapids, MI, the phrase “EVERYTHING IS HAPPENING RIGHT HERE,” is lit by laser cut LED letters affixed to a temporary aluminum scaffolding. The piece reflects on the use of plazas as both a site of communal gathering and one of protest. The text lends itself as an opportunity to add complexity to social understandings of the spatial conditions that form our understanding of “place” today.

Locals Only

Image: “An incomplete glossary of sustenance” at AKA artist-run, 2017

Commissioned by AKA Artist-Run and supported by the Canada Council for the Arts’ New Chapter initiative, Locals Only is a large-scale multi-year art project that explores food security, community led resource development, and intergenerational exchange in the core Saskatoon neighbourhood of Riversdale. As one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city, Riversdale hosts some of the most diverse and culturally rich communities in the region, and yet is simultaneously facing unprecedented pressures from encroaching gentrification along with long-standing issues related to accessing locally-sourced sustenance. In response, Locals Only takes the form of a mobile food service that deploys socially engaged art, local knowledge, and long-form hospitality to cultivate a community-based exploration of reciprocity by redeploying symbolic representations of gentrification into the hands of longtime community residents.

Continue reading Locals Only

An Unregulated Public …

As part of The Foreshore, a series of 16 sequential gifs (after the jump below) presented on the web and on projection presenting an uncertain celebration and impeachment of “public.”

The Foreshore, Other Sights @ Access Gallery 2016/2017   www.theforeshore.org

The Foreshore is a collaborative pursuit and shared space between Access Gallery and Other Sights, generating questions, confluence, and aggregation inspired by the conditions of the foreshore. We ask: how do we generate conditions of emergence? How can we take up space differently? How do we support unruly practices and futures?

Funded by the British Columbia Arts Council
otherisghts.ca  accessgallery.ca

Continue reading An Unregulated Public …

Take Power / Make Power

As part of The Foreshore, a series of 500 temporary tattoos to encourage, admonish, and declare a strategy for negotiating power.

The Foreshore, Other Sights @ Access Gallery 2016/2017   www.theforeshore.org

The Foreshore is a collaborative pursuit and shared space between Access Gallery and Other Sights, generating questions, confluence, and aggregation inspired by the conditions of the foreshore. We ask: how do we generate conditions of emergence? How can we take up space differently? How do we support unruly practices and futures?

Funded by the British Columbia Arts Council
otherisghts.ca  accessgallery.ca

Neighbourhood Time Exchange

The Neighbourhood Time Exchange is an artist residency model that operates on a simple principle: for every hour an artist spends in their studio, they contribute an hour of volunteer time working with a Community Partner. This residency uses the concept of time banking, in which artists and community members work together for mutual benefit. Community Partners provide ideas, their expertise on the needs of the city, and a context for the artist. Artists provide their vision, their unique perspectives, and their specialized skills.

Designed and curated by Justin Langlois, the Neighbourhood Time Exchange was initially launched in Philadelphia in 2015-16 through Mural Arts Philadelphia and the People’s Emergency Center. In 2016-17, the Neighbourhood Time Exchange opened in Prince George through Downtown Prince George and Emily Carr University of Art & Design’s Living Labs.

Continue reading Neighbourhood Time Exchange

Decisions, Decisions

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Exhibited at the Centre Pompidou in Paris and at the Street Meet Festival in Saskatoon, Decisions, Decisionis a temporary and interactive text-based installation. The statements for Decisions, Decisions are based on exaggerations and distortions of familiar rhetoric from community consultations, urban development, campaign slogans, and protest placards. The text is ambiguous or unsettled, designed to encourage a plurality of understandings, highlighting the diversity of our own interests and affinities in a public space. However, each statement is also more complex than it might appear at first glance, aiming to offer a sense of instability or shifting priorities for the viewer. Drawing on this kind of language, the poster series also interjects other logics and potentials by encouraging participation based on either agreement, disagreement, or ambivalence, using small sticker dots normally found in asset mapping activities and based on added complications based on footnoted questions in a corresponding booklet. Decisions, Decisions aims to capture a sense of possibility and power in the language we use to describe ongoing, and yet subtle, political struggle.

The School for Eventual Vacancy

The School for Eventual Vacancy operates as an ongoing exploration of education as creative practice and political subjectivity. It tries to find the power to make itself unnecessary and vacant. It is open to anyone interested in art and design-based discourse and production. It is an art school that has no interest in the current models of the art school. It’s open occasionally and as needed.

Subtext: River Signs

With Broken City Lab, as part of the Watershed+ public art program in Calgary, distributed along the Elbow and Bow Rivers and affixed to the stormwater outfall signs, Subtext: River Signs aims to engage the public to consider a number of questions about the rivers that have come to define the City of Calgary. Playfully asking a series of questions, Subtext: River Signs encourages thousands of residents and visitors to think about the ways in which we collectively and individually experience the rivers and how these questions might cue new relations, memories, and stories of the Bow and Elbow.

The Artist in Residency program is part of The City of Calgary’s innovative and groundbreaking Watershed+ public art program, hosted by the Utilities and Environmental Protection (UEP) department. Watershed+ creatively renews the relationship between Calgarians and the Bow River watershed, embedding artists, and more specifically, their creative process within UEP core activities and the Calgary watershed.

Motivations & Intentions

Justin A. Langlois paints

Photo: Project preparation for Broken City Lab’s The Letter Library at CIVIC Space

This post originally appeared on Open Engagement‘s 2014 blog, 100 Questions / 100 Days

To ask the question, “what motivates us?” is to ask for some core reason or rationale that can explain our decisions and our actions.

In the context of social practice, it seems that we often act in response to a set of tensions distributed throughout the world we encounter. These tensions might be experienced as a series of failures, disappointments, and losses, met with glimpses of potential, side doors, and alternative routes. In this way, tensions are a constantly fluctuating intensity produced by a sense of antagonism with the world we encounter being met with an iterative negotiation with the world we can imagine.

However, the precise moment and location at which these intensities and antagonisms become motivation is difficult to pin down, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Without an exact moment or location, we can find a range of affirmative resonances (rather than total alignment) with one another’s intensities and antagonisms. This range of affirmative resonances gives us the space to appreciate motivation as not only a reaction to a specific set of circumstances, but the potential for an instance of shared affect and built capacity. It provides us with the scaffolding to imagine a different way to be in the world, together.

Intention presents a clearer set of actions and assertions, likely already tested, debated, and secured. Intention protects our motivation through its relative clarity (where motivation is a messy constellation of tensions, intention is a clear trajectory of action), but it is not infallible. It directs us to actions at the scale of everyday life, art, and ultimately professionalized circumstances, but it also threatens to cloud the recollection of our motivation. The danger is that without the recollection of our motivation, we cease to be able to act towards the imagining of a different way to be in the world, and ultimately, we diminish intention to a series of empty gestures — still legible, but now vacant of that shared affect (the very stuff that helps us to work together).

If we can ask about our intentions, we might provide ourselves with an occasion to check on who exactly our intentions are serving. Have our intentions lost their capacity to do the work of discreetly translating our motivations into action for the world we encounter? Have they become subsumed and organized by the power structures of that world? If intention loses its capacity to foster a distance and an intimacy by virtue this subsumption and organization, then what good is it?

Motivation, then, must resolve itself to be the ongoing and incalculable sum of the experiences we have with an antagonism pointed towards the power structures, mechanisms of control, and practices of injustice we encounter. In short, motivation is the thing we have all felt in our gut that something isn’t right. Intention becomes the framework for the set of actions that we attempt to realize in order to address those hegemonic realities, and simultaneously provides a cover that is more legible, coherent, and instructive for our motivation, which is messy, unresolved, and perhaps misguided (though deeply urgent).

We hope to check our intentions against a set of politics that are just and true based on our experiences and education, but we risk conflating motivation with intention the longer we work. The violence of that conflation presents itself most clearly in the moments where we have assumed that we need to act on behalf of other people, or in the moments that we find ourselves repeating the things we have already done too many times before, or in the moments where we find ourselves in situations that are financially or politically interesting but ethically and aesthetically jeopardized.

If we are to act on the motivation of wanting to imagine a different way to be in the world, together, then we must configure our motivation as a site of potential and our intentions as the instruments of action. In this way, asking about our motivation can aid us in our recollection of what antagonism can urgently provide and asking about our intentions can aid us in fostering an urgent set of actions.

 

Glossed Over

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Glossed Over appears as a large-scale sampled text in white gloss finish vinyl that explores critical understandings and framings of the roles of power, participation, and ethics in relation to art and its institutional contingencies. Sentences drawn from a series of writers including Judith Butler, Jacques Ranciere, Chantal Mouffe, and Sol Lewitt, among others, are stitched together to create a winding statement on the embedded challenges in which contemporary gallery spaces (and the art contained within them) are necessarily implicated, while the emphases added to the texts creates a secondary entry point into the work. The text could be read as a caption, response, critique, or commentary on the context and potentially hidden frameworks of support, antagonism, or compromise within which the gallery space exists. The books from which these texts are drawn will be catalogued and available for reference at MOCCA.

This work appeared in the exhibition, TBD, curated by Su-Ying Lee.

Continue reading Glossed Over

10 Things You Will Always Need to Know About This City (Lethbridge)

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10 Things You Will Always Need to Know About This City (hereafter 10 Things) invited members of the community to contribute to a series of time capsules that will be embedded throughout the city of Lethbridge for periods of time ranging from next year to 1000 years from now. The time capsules asked for intimate and essential understandings about the city through the inclusion of urgent and important items from today alongside more reflective or speculative items that can describe people or places that have already been lost, or inventions, architectures or dreams that should exist.

The project aimed to create an opportunity to consider time through the lenses of legacy and burden as practices of everyday life, forms of resistance, and forward-looking records for the city of Lethbridge. Contributions of small artefacts, stories, and documents formed the basis of the official entries to the series of 10 time capsules.

Each time capsule will be themed around a prompt or question about Lethbridge, and each entry will, in turn, aim to provide a response. Accompanying these object-based responses will be a small publication featuring written responses from interviews with the project participants, copies of which will be made available online and in print to help document the project. The time capsules themselves will be laser-engraved stainless steel containers of various sizes and will be buried, embedded, and otherwise stored in various locations throughout the city. Upon completion, a plaque will be created with the GPS coordinates and opening dates of the time capsules, hosted in perpetuity at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery.

Commissioned by the Southern Alberta Art Gallery in 2014.

Continue reading 10 Things You Will Always Need to Know About This City (Lethbridge)

The Academy of Tactical Resistance

Originally as part of Manif D’art 7Resistance: And Then, We Built New Forms / Résistance – Et puis, nous avons construit de nouvelles formes, curated by Vicky Chainey Gagnon, and then presented at the Centre Pompidou in Paris as part of Hors Pistes in 2016, I created The Academy of Tactical Resistance, an installation and project space featuring a series of booklets, photographs, workshops, ephemera, videos, exercises, and demonstrations aimed at exploring and distributing the tactical capacity for small-scale resistance.

Through the heightening of everyday concerns to disruptive emergencies, ATR offers a toolkit aimed at carving out new forms of agency in our daily lives, working to enable everyday citizens to remount their own resistive practices in the places they live.

Crucially, ATR imagines itself as a pop-up education zone for the radicalization of everyday practices and adjustments. It forgoes the assumption that dramatic revolutionary change is imminent, and instead relies upon de Certeau’s analysis of everyday tactics and Hardt’s and Negri’s discussion of affective labour to develop an academy that can support the resistance of the small, the porous, the invisible, and the routine.

ATR finds the emergency embedded in the banal and aims to mobilize the affects of the ordinary. It blends glimpses of violence, utopian practices, critical theory, and DIY aesthetics to offer viewers an opportunity to not only explore tactics of resistance, but also the prompts to construct their own responses to the everyday emergencies they encounter.

This project is generously supported by the Canada Council for the Arts.

Where is Power? A Field Guide to Resistance Tactics or Everyday Life

Running Time: 1:52:00 / Excerpt Above: 2:30 (click to watch)

This video features raw footage from the Associated Press (AP) online archive of resistance activities from around the world. These short clips are collected from the top five results returned by searching the AP online archive in March 2014 for the following keywords: protesters, riots, resistance movements, activists, strike, freedom fighters, tactical, rebels, guerrilla, uprising.

This footage is often used as b-roll in news broadcasts to help contextualize the story, but when collected from the archive, it exists as an unedited stream of supporting images detached from summarizing narratives.

This work has been shown at Manif D’Art (2014) and the Centre Pompidou (2016) as part of the Academy of Tactical Resistance.

The Aesthetics of Intention

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Above: the unintentional aftermath of a car being driven slowly into a building.


The Aesthetics of Intention

The artist brings to each and every occasion an intimacy and a distance.

Both of these things are important to the artist and ultimately to the occasion, as they inscribe an intention.

Intimacy is an intentional form of living, a way of paying attention to a detail within a particular occasion. It is nuance, weighted just so.

Distance is the intent to find an appropriate measure of temporal and spatial logics for a given occasion. It is study, without violence.

The artist recognizes conversation as an occasion, and in so doing, instills a value that might otherwise go unvalued.

The aesthetics of intention could be illegible, invisible, or indiscernible, and yet it remains as form in its patience, its slowness, and its lethargic affect.

The artist who brings intimacy and distance to each and every occasion practices the aesthetics of intention and ultimately fails to produce, with intention.

The artist hosts an occasion at undetermined intervals.


Download a PDF of this statement.

On Support: the Foreverness of Contingencies

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This text was originally presented at Homework II: Long Forms / Short Utopias in November 2013 on a panel organized by the Department of Unusual Certainties entitled, “Support Someone Else’s Revolution”. There are a couple of changes from that original presentation, but it remains unresolved.


I have to begin by saying that I don’t believe in revolution, at least in the ways that we’ve commonly come to understand it. The systems of oppression and instrumentalization are everywhere and contagious. There is no switch to flip, no one to kick out of office, no position to occupy, and no stable state to destabilize. There is no revolution. There is only a measure of distance between where we are and where we want to be. That measurement takes many forms. Sometimes it’s measurement as destruction of property. Sometimes it’s measurement as marching. Sometimes it’s measurement as self-immolition. Sometimes it’s measurement as civil war. Sometimes it’s measurement as shoplifting. The measurement of distance between where we are and where we want to be is simply shorthand for possibility. That possibility has the potential to create a space for affinities to coalesce and, in turn, to become misconstrued as a kind of indefinite support, or worse, a revolution. You see, a decision to smash this window here with you rather than that window over there cannot be ratified as support, or at least tacit support. It is rather the ability to see my own interests in the ends you appear to be trying to achieve. My support is contingent on this action being legible as a conduit through which I can enact my own politics. Support is quite selfish, though it attempts to masquerade as something much different. The idea of supporting someone else’s revolution is really a tidy way to draw out these contingencies as either a given or somehow an admission of my own failure towards the collective.

And yet, the idea of support, in general, does provide a useful frame to read the limits of the idea of revolution. In the idea of support, we can find a sense of benevolence by virtue of its ability to be asserted in discrete care objects. We can feed one another without committing to the revolution of ending starvation. We can house one another without committing to the revolution of ending homelessness. We can teach one another without committing to revolutionary pedagogy. Support removes us from the need to commit to a revolution, as support offers a trajectory towards some other thing and revolution signals an ending of one thing in light of a new thing. Support can span politics, capitalism, and revolution because it doesn’t require of itself to do anything outside of its action. It offers a glimpse of affinity without a whole-hearted conversion. I can support you in doing this one thing, while ignoring you when you’re doing this other thing. I can also make my values and politics more clear without fear of reprisal. I can support you wanting to getting a new apartment provided you don’t start manufacturing Methamphetamines out of it.

Support is inherently time-based and fleeting. Our recognition of these attributes provide us with the flexibility to mark beginning and end points for our own engagement. I can support you until the new year, but then you’re on your own. A revolution insists on a new beginning. A revolution doesn’t ask you to momentarily be on-side, it suggests that from here on out, there is a new side that everyone will be on, forever. The idea of a before and an after revolution would suggest that my commitment now exists in absence of my politics before. To address forms of support in a stable state, we might unfold everyday activities. We agree not to crash our cars into one another and in turn support a stable state. We decide to not burn down our own house so as not to accidentally burn down our neighbour’s houses and in turn support a stable state. We are complicit in failing to support someone else’s revolution by following the rules and guidelines that are requested by a stable state, and generally, we are well-served in this decision. In attempting to animate the possibility for someone else to dream up a revolution, we might offer particular interstices as projects. We could create heavily-curated gaps in our own ideas to try to elicit others to fill them. We could even try to generate interstices that could quickly become much larger gaps, and holes, and absences that might allow our original conceptions of interstices to be overruled. However, there is always someone who has the capacity to renegotiate that interstice on their terms. Someone who can pick up their toys and leave. Someone who can always lock the doors. Someone who can always cut funding. Someone who can always point to a contingency and note that their support ends by virtue of that contingency being breached. So, even when we pretend to be able to support someone else’s revolution, we are really only creating a veneer of support.

Until a revolution takes place, we have the luxury of contingent support. That I doubt the possibility of a revolution is not to suggest that I doubt revolutionary practice. Practices are also temporal, rather than discrete time objects. A revolution is a time object insofar as there is a moment at which the revolution has occurred and in the moment before it had not. Practices are across time. They are a system of unfolding time towards a particular direction, but never an end. There is no limit to the number of times a basketball player needs to practice his dribbling, free-throws, or passing. The practice is in the ongoing and infinite rehearsal. Techniques may shift, and the particular emphasis may change over time, but there is no arrival of a practice, there is only a continuance.

The idea of supporting someone else’s revolution might also impart that revolution is inherently toward a politic that we can support. Perhaps the details are forthcoming, but we could generally assume that there is value in a broad revolutionary idea. We have to wonder though about the revolution that we cannot support. If we truly cannot support it, then are we simply in opposition to the revolution or can we consider a way in which we might we make room for these politics to be exercised, or practiced?

Perhaps agonism creates a contingent support, or perhaps a meta support for the idea of support. It allows us to support this or that idea by virtue of this moment’s alignment with my own politics. It creates the capacity for us to generally think something should happen, even if we don’t want to take part directly. It allows us to believe in the gesture of support without lending our support to every cause we encounter. My support is towards the capacity to choose to support you, or not. My support is contingent.

Limits & Possibilities: A Pamphlet on Gestures of Art, Education, & Civic Life

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This work was presented as a lecture and self-published 20-page pamphlet discussing a series of proposals, provocations, and trajectories for socially-engaged art practices interweaving with everyday civic life, education, and critical theory. Each page of the pamphlet was used as a starting point for discussion with the audience and included footnotes and an index of self-critiques for further reading, consideration, or problematizing. It was presented at the Contemporary Art Gallery’s Field House Studio, as part of their “Artists in Public” series, which invites creative and cultural producers to share their theories, thoughts, and experiences of developing projects in the public realm.

Download the PDF of the pamphlet here.

Included in the pamphlet were the propositions written below (please note that these propositions should be considered incomplete without their footnotes and critical responses, which are included in the PDF of the pamphlet):

Local realities should be a driver for all activity.

An education should not be designed to help you solve problems.

More participation resolves nothing.

A social practice is not about doing things for other people.

Working on behalf of other people is probably more violent than we’re ready to admit.

Engagement should be inextricable from commitment and duration.

Agonism is a thoughtful response to the world we encounter.

Being reasonable is a matter of class. Identifying a way forward is a measure of power.

Value practices are meeting points. Social practices are often not.

Priorities allow us to mask urgencies.

There is value to be found in our infinite complaints.

Forever, and ever, and ever. I’ve been so happy loving you.

Loss, when disguised as everyday life, marks a powerful turning point for tactical action.

Avoid building communities in exclusion of building publics.

Scalability concerns those with the means to scale.

Producing steals moments, re-producing steals a lifetime.

Drift (a psychogeographic app for iOS)

Drift: a tool for getting lost in familiar places from brokencitylab on Vimeo.

Drift helps you get lost in familiar places by guiding you on a walk using randomly assembled instructions. Each instruction will ask you to move in a specific direction and, using the compass, look for something normally hidden or unnoticed in our everyday experiences. Drift was designed and developed by Justin Langlois in collaboration with Broken City Lab. This project was generously supported by the Ontario Arts Council Media Arts Grant for Emerging Artists.

all we are is all we were

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all we are is all we were (2013), hand-shaped LED neon light

A new public art work located on the Sandwich Windmill at Mill Park in Windsor, Ontario, commissioned by the City of Windsor and Windsor Community Foundation 1812 Legacy Project.

This work was also made possible with the assistance of Danielle Sabelli and Hiba Abdallah. Special thanks to Cathy Masterson, Heidi Baillargeon, and Tucker Electric.

 

Methodologies of Failure: Evaluation Practices for Socially Engaged Art


A set of questions:

  1. Did your artwork involve other people?
  2. Are you uncomfortable with calling your artwork an artwork?
  3. Would you rather discuss it as a project?
  4. Did you refer to the other people involved in your project as a community?
  5. Have you tried to explain at length the ways in which you are defining the terms ‘involved’ and ‘other people’ and ‘community’?
  6. Are you painfully aware that there are unavoidable power imbalances at play in your project?
  7. Did you document the results or process of your project using a digital SLR, a camera phone, or Instagram?
  8. Are there obvious formal possibilities for exhibiting this documentation?
  9. Did you wonder if it would it be inappropriate to sell this documentation?
  10. Are there power struggles immediately evident when viewing this documentation?
  11. Have you considered trying to present your project as a book, documentary, or play?
  12. How much pressure did you feel to defend the work as tackling political change?
  13. Did you assume that your project needed to continue indefinitely towards achieving some political end in order for it to be successful?
  14. Were you asked about success, measurable outcomes, attendance levels, or evidence of change?
  15. Did you expect there to be answers to those questions?
  16. Did your research for this project lead you to briefly attend a series of parallel community meetings at which you felt the need to excuse a comment or thought as coming from the perspective of an artist?
  17. Did your project dissolve after a public presentation / workshop / town hall meeting / charette / or screening?
  18. Did you have any unresolved guilt around its dissolution?
  19. Can your project be critiqued by a painter?
  20. Do you feel belittled when approached by a visual artist, theoretician, or architect?
  21. Have there been discussions of ‘radical’ theory offered from a great distance to the project?
  22. If your project were a math equation, would the sum always end up as a critique of capitalism?
  23. Is your project illegible enough to likely never be printed in Artforum or your local newspaper?
  24. Can you imagine yourself being awarded a large-scale prize some years after the launch of your project, which you didn’t necessarily define as an art project in the first place?
  25. Could your project easily be mistaken for a project found in surveys of Fluxus, Conceptual Art, or Dada?
  26. Did your project align itself to a set of political goals that have already been articulated?
  27. Is there form evident in the project that would allow it to most easily fit into an identified granting opportunity?
  28. Could your project be mistaken for a restaurant, social service, after-school program, or a guerrilla marketing campaign?
  29. Could your role in the project be defined as that of a facilitator, organizer, or teacher?
  30. Were you asked to explain the reason you think your project is art?

The End of Participation

In Nato Thompson’s essay, Participation and Spectacle: Where are We Now in Living as Form, he discussions Ranciére’s essay, “The Uses of Democracy” from 1992. He explains that “Ranciére notes that participation in what we normally refer to as democratic regimes is usually reduced to a question of filling up the spaces left empty by power.”

While Thompson further summarizes Ranciére, “Genuine participation […] is somthing different: the invention of an ‘unpredicatble subject’ who momentarily occupies the street, the factory, or the museum — rather than a fixed space of allocated participation whose count-power is dependent on the dominant order.”

Homework I & II (conferences on social practice)

With Broken City Lab, Homework: Infrastructures & Collaboration in Social Practices was a four-day residency and two-day conference featuring 19 artists in residence and keynote presentations from Gregory Sholette, Marisa Jahn, and Temporary Services. This conference was supported by the Ontario Arts Council, the University of Windsor’s School of Visual Arts, and the Art Gallery of Windsor.

Homework II: Long Forms / Short Utopias was a three-day conference aimed at unfolding the ways in which we construct, articulate, and practice ideas of micro-utopias, pop-up ideals, collaboration, and long-term social engagement in Ontario, across Canada, and abroad. Keynotes included Steve Lambert, Jeanne van Heeswijk, and Darren O’Donnell. The conference built on our previous conference, bringing together multidisciplinary artists and creative practitioners enacting and articulating the complexities of working in practices driven by curiosities about utopian collaboration, community, infrastructures, locality, and long-form social practice. This conference was made possible with support from the Ontario Arts Council and Ontario Trillium Foundation.

MITx 6.002

MITx 6.002

      – MITx will offer a portfolio of MIT courses for free to a virtual community of learners around the world. It will also enhance the educational experience of its on-campus students, offering them online tools that supplement and enrich their classroom and laboratory experiences.

The first MITx course, 6.002x (Circuits and Electronics), will be launched in an experimental prototype form. Watch this space for further upcoming courses, which will become available in Fall 2012.

A Declaration of Principles (for artists, cultural workers, & supporters thereof)

By posting this page, we submit that we are an artist, cultural worker, or a supporter thereof and declare the following: we are no longer interested in participating in consultancies, asset maps, or activities that offer us “promotional opportunities” in absence of clear financial or strategic gain. We will not support the exploitation of artists or other cultural workers or their works for the sole purpose of further municipal or economic planning, fundraising, or marketing. We refuse to acknowledge the existence of the politically-invented term, creative economy, which lumps together practicing artists with video cassette duplication services. We can no longer participate in activities that knowingly disadvantage artists with less experience and we vow to make accessible opportunities that we have to these same artists. We hereby decide to stop playing prescribed games and to start making it up for ourselves. Henceforth, we will support one another by adhering to this declaration.

Also available as a PDF, or high-res jpeg.

The London Apartments

Below is a new demo song from The London Apartments, entitled, “Almost the New Year,” recorded between December 29, 2011 and January 1, 2012. You can stream it with flash, or download the file. This song is part of a new album I’m writing and hoping to release in the summer or fall of 2012.

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Almost the New Year (mp3)

Beginning as a bedroom recording project by Justin Langlois in 2003, The London Apartments have since released numerous EPs and singles on netlabels around the world, a debut album, “Romanticism Aside” on Sound of Pop Records in 2005 and an E.P., “Logistics & Navigation” on Beggars Banquet in 2006, and an online album, “Signals & Cities Are Forever” in 2009, available for download here.

You Can’t Have It Both Ways

Helvetica Bold stencil, black acrylic paint, cold-pressed paper, red masking tape

A series of 25 hand-painted posters created to provide a starting place for complicating the ideas and concerns informing an art practice based on locality, infrastructures, and social practice. Underlines in red masking tape allow for a shift in emphasis should the occasion arise.

Toward a New School of Art: How Social Practice, Radical Locality, and Antagonism Should Shape Art Education in the 21st Century

wall-ecuad.001

The following is based on ideas that must certainly exist in other contexts, books, and agendas. While not necessarily referential to any of these particular sources, the following knowingly exists within a continually evolving matrix of art and studio-based pedagogy. The following also attempts to address what I believe is the only option for art schools to stay relevant in the coming decades—a time that will demand holistic and constantly shifting attempts to unfold the complexities of everyday life, founded on a commitment towards the local and the small.

Art education should be framed around the following realities and situations:
‣ place
‣ social-engagement
‣ antagonism towards existing infrastructures of all kinds

Faculty in this New School will be a mix of semi-permanent locally-committed professional artists and visiting artists from abroad; both groups of faculty will maintain the following:
‣ an artistic practice that requires mutually-beneficial collaboration from students
‣ a record of creative activity that is not exclusively tethered to art galleries or art infrastructures
‣ an active and evolving interest in pedagogy
‣ a lack of fear of the uncharted
‣ an insatiable interest in collaboration
‣ an open studio / work / office space
‣ a quarterly public presentation on their research
‣ a commitment to the local
‣ an aggressive stance on the importance of the idea of the ignorant school master
‣ an appreciation of affective vs. effective

A New School of Art will not hinge on a new art school, instead it will occupy spaces that require formal partnerships with other institutions within a given geography such as:
‣ buses
‣ bus stations
‣ storefronts
‣ libraries
‣ living rooms
‣ backyards
‣ parks
‣ bars
‣ malls
‣ rooftops
‣ interrogation rooms
‣ tree houses
‣ theatres
‣ chemistry departments
‣ office space
‣ high schools
‣ gymnasiums
‣ the occasional space previously assigned to old art schools

Students in this New School of Art will apply to enroll with the following understandings and interests:
‣ there will be no instructions
‣ writing is a foundational skill
‣ reading is necessary for understanding the world
‣ there is a never-ending supply of potential in any given place
‣ learning is constant
‣ the transference of employable skills is abundant if you pay attention, but you should not pay attention to that part
‣ using social media is not being social
‣ questions are not optional
‣ critiques can take many forms
‣ your instructor will not always have the answer
‣ you will not be asked to make anything specific
‣ everyone will need your help at some point, as will you their’s
‣ an art practice does not equate to making an art object every day
‣ collaboration is not optional

These realities and situations will appear as the following in the New School of Art:
‣ an underlying agreement to develop art practices, not art objects
‣ no medium-based classes
‣ medium-specific workshops
‣ relentless collaboration
‣ an ongoing curiosity about community and its possibilities
‣ learning opportunities organized around themes
‣ projects that occur beyond and outside of institutional schedules
‣ ignorant co-teaching
‣ classes that only take place over dinner with local food
‣ demonstrative occasions of what art can do outside of a gallery
‣ truly preparatory instances for young artists working in a world beyond the “art world”
‣ no private studios
‣ no classrooms as we might normally recognize them
‣ ongoing discussions with neighbours and explorations of neighbourhoods
‣ a rigourous and continual investigation of how place shapes you and how you shape place
‣ an embedded understanding that not every experience in life is art, but that every experience in life informs an art practice

And then the city (billboard series)

Image: …and then the city (Calgary), made possible with support from Truck ARC.

With Broken City Lab, a series of billboards creating a landing point in what seems to be the cyclical nature of cities — hope, failure, bad decisions, nostalgia, construction, sprawl, gentrification, isolation, devotion, etc. The billboards suggested the end of one part of a conversation and the beginning of another, and a way of looking at problems and solutions as a kind of continuum of ideas, rather than points from which to react. As part of Save the City in Windsor, this project was generously supported by the Ontario Arts Council.

Cross-Border Communication

With Broken City Lab, in November 2009, we projected a series of messages from Windsor that were visible across the border in Detroit, as an interventionist performance series based on the desperate need to communicate between these two cities. This project was made possible by the University of Windsor Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Research Leadership Chair and Spectrodata, and was designed with the Vincent Massey Secondary School Junior Physics Club.