SPRING MEETING 20-29 APRIL 2019 - It is hard to be art

It is hard to be art

On the Advantages and Disavantages of Art for Life

In 2019, it might be easier to agree about the problems we have with art than to band together under a common cause or passion. Adorno’s oft-cited predicament from 1970 that “nothing concerning art is self-evident anymore, not its inner life, not its relation to the world, not even its right to exist,” echoes in the diagnosis of art’s multifaceted crisis today, at least as it concerns the global outreach of art’s Western legacy and market economy. Reeling from budget cuts, closures of production sites and venues where nothing will be seen, next door a blockbuster attraction inflates popular participation and we ask: What should we do when society loses interest for the experiments, speculative thought, useless imaginaries and problems, which art poses? What is art capable of – in distinction from political activism, social practice or philosophy - now? If the artist and the political activist-entrepreneur use the same speech to different ends, what is the work of the artist and why should we care? What is the work of the researcher and activist that the artist should care about?

For SpringMeeting 2019, we have invited researchers and activists, living and dead artists, whose fields of engagement include poetry, writing and orature, visual arts, performance and dance, research architecture, decolonial and queer activism. We situate their work on the spectrum between two opposite views regarding the question of advantages or disadvantages of art for our concerns today.

On the one hand, making an artwork is about creating an object, something literally thrown into or put against this world, which enjoys a relative autonomy from all other purposes. It isn’t there to mend social relations, inform and resolve political conflicts, psychologically reassure troubled souls, or morally absolve people from guilt. Yet, despite its indifference to social and political concerns, the work of art can be an object from which we can imagine another world in aesthetic terms. A test for every work of art: what would society be like after this choreography, film, exhibition (and so on)?

On the other hand, the site of art can be hijacked and its competences deployed as instruments to show, prove and speak truth to those places that ignore or prohibit it. Some contemporary art proclaims to use the space of art, however compromised it might be, to do work which can no longer be accommodated by classical sites of power. In such cases, art’s means turn out to be useful beyond its autonomy and aesthetic indifference.

Is art something we can think and act upon together? This presupposes we exert a power on the thing discussed in order to be constructive or destructive. Which registers of ‘we’ can we imagine? How to use our power and not to fear responsibility? How to not reproduce the modes of domination which to a large extent determine what is recognised as valid subjectivity, art or habitus? How to (re)produce and distribute non-dominative subjectivity without abolishing the position of the subject?

We would like to spend eight and a half days studying and working with the invited artists, but also with a few invited artworks (minus their authors), while experimenting with modes of collaboration with all participants.

Houria Bouteldja is a founding member of decolonial political organisation Parti des Indigènes de la République (PIR), based in France. She has written numerous theoretical and strategic articles on decolonial feminism, racism, autonomy and political alliances, as well as articles on Zionism and state philosemitism. She is the author of Whites, Jews, and Us: Toward a Politics of Revolutionary Love (Semiotext2017) and of Nous Sommes les Indigènes de la République (Éditions Amsterdam 2012), with Sadri Khiari. For SpringMeeting, Bouteldja will present her work as writer and activist. She elaborates her process through the writing and activism of three French writers (Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre, Jean Genet), as well as that of the American James Baldwin. In Whites, Jews, and Us the Frenchmen of letters are used to exemplify three variations of French colonialism (and, in the case of Genet, decolonialism) and its consequences for the white intellectual left. Baldwin’s writing on love and duty, decolonial forces, is used to exemplify what Bouteldja understands as “revolutionary love”, which in this presentation comes to parallel her own writing and activism. [In French with English translation.]

Jerusalem-born and London-based artist Ariel Caine is a researcher and project coordinator at the Forensic Architecture research agency. He holds a BFA and MFA from the Bezalel Academy of Art & Design, Israel and is currently a PhD candidate of Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London, United Kingdom. Caine’s practice focuses on the intersection between spatial (three-dimensional) photography, modelling and survey technologies and their role in the production of cultural memory and national narratives. The central concern of his recent work has been the construction of a collaborative practice of photography as an act of aesthetic-political resistance on behalf of civil society. Caine’s contribution to SpringMeeting will be twofold. First, through a series of working examples, he will discuss research methodologies, technical developments, collaborations and the thinking processes behind Forensic Architecture (FA). As a multi-disciplinary team of researchers, FA doesn’t define itself as an artists’ collective. The way FA approaches aesthetic media differs within the art world and when they produce evidence for legal, journalistic or academic forums. What is significant in FA’s quest for “what can art do” are art histories and contemporary discourses, rather than “what, when or where art is.” Second, Caine will conduct a workshop about the use of Photogrammetry and Structure through Motion 3D photographic scanning, in two ongoing investigations: Ground Truth, since 2015, and the project documenting The Destruction of Yazidi Heritage, since 2018.

Dora García is a visual artist, who draws on interactivity and performance. Blurring the boundaries between reality and fiction, her work often implicates the audience as protagonists, either in the construction of a collective fiction or questioning of empirical constructions - sometimes knowingly and sometimes not. She has always been interested in anti-heroic and marginal personas as a prototype to study the status of the artist, as well as in narratives of resistance and counterculture. Her real-time theatre project in public space The Beggar’s Opera (2007), the TV-show Die Klau Mich Show(2012) and the film The Joycean Society (2013), amongst many other projects, have been invited to Münster Sculpture Projects, Documenta and Biennale of Sydney. García will talk about Red Love, the work she is developing based on a book of the same title by the Russian revolutionary Alexandra Kollontai. She will also hold collective reading sessions of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (1939) and a text by Jeff Wall.

The recent work of Alex Martinis Roe (born Melbourne 1982, lives and works Berlin and Canberra) stems from her ongoing engagement with international feminist communities and their political practices. Her current projects focus on feminist genealogies and seek to foster specific and productive relations between different generations as a way of participating in the construction of feminist histories and futures. This involves developing research and storytelling methodologies, which employ non-linear understandings of time, respond to the specific practices of different communities, experiment with the dispositives of discursive encounter, and imagine how these entanglements can inform new political practices. Across six films, the project To Become Two traces the story of six different, yet connected, histories of feminist groups from the 1970s to the present who have built communities in Europe and Australia. The feature length film Our Future Network uses the knowledge gathered and produced through this research since 2014. It involved the staging of a four-day meeting in a country house outside Berlin. Twenty-two contributors, from different communities in Europe, were involved in the enactment of twenty “propositions for feminist collective practice”. These propositions were developed by Martinis Roe and each contributor in the months leading up to the meeting. The central questions addressed to this new network are: What can we learn from the political, theoretical and aesthetic practices developed within and among the historical feminist collectives in the To Become Two project, and how can we adapt these practices to our own needs, desires and contexts? The film also acts as a toolbox to be used as a resource during workshops and events such as SpringMeeting. Martinis Roe’s films will be presented, along with an aftertalk with the artist via digital video call.

Dana Michel is a choreographer and performance artist based in Montreal. In 2005, in her late twenties, she graduated from the BFA program in Contemporary Dance at Concordia University, Montreal. Prior to this, she was a marketing executive, competitive runner and football player. Her two solos, Yellow Towel (2014) and Mercurial George (2016) have earned her several awards in North America and Europe. In June 2017, Venice Biennale awarded Dana Michel the Silver Lion for innovation in Dance. For this SpringMeeting, Dana chooses conversation as a porous medium for improvised thoughts on her poetics and examples of her previous work:

I work with notions of performative alchemy and lucid dreaming – using personal history, current preoccupations, future desires and live moments to create an empathetic centrifuge of experience between myself and witnesses. […] It is a metaphor of humans as mathematical proofs that helps me understand the world around me. I consider myself, and others, to be like proofs – complex entities made up of billions of equations. The topics that I explore in my work, such as intersectionality and marginalised existences, are intimate parts of my personal equation.

Dana will also perform something she refers to as “a wrangling”. She is in the wrestling ring with all of the roles she plays in life and she is trying to retrieve a one-body-one-person:

so if i want to truly truly have full access to all of myself and this potential sexual self? i gotta learn to swim, swim to the middle of the ocean, dive down deep, get the rocks off of my body, and haul myself on a boat. dry myself out in some sun. see if i can get some kind of celestial pulse that i can alchemically turn into a real-blood-body-sensation pulse.

Ogutu Muraya is a writer and theatre-maker whose work is embedded in the practice of orature. He engages the sociopolitical with the belief that art is an important catalyst for advocacy, for questioning our certainties, and for preserving stories often mistold or suppressed in the mainstream. His storytelling and performances, amongst which Fractured Memory (2016) and Because I Always Feel Like Running (2017), have featured in theatres and festivals including La Mama (NYC), The Hay Festival (Wales), HIFA (Harare), NuVo Arts Festival (Kampala), Spoken Wor:l:ds (Berlin), Globe to Globe Festival (London), Ranga Shankara (Bangalore), Afrovibes Festival (Amsterdam), Art in Resistance: Spielart (Munich) and within East Africa. He recently exchanged Amsterdam for Nairobi as his base. Muraya will present the book he is working on, reflecting on his personal experiences moving back and forth between continents. He will also propose a collective reading and analysis of a story by science fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin. The dilemma with which the story confronts the reader will serve as the basis for a series of group discussions.

Lisa Robertson is a poet and essayist. She began writing in Vancouver in the early 90s, publishing and collaborating in a community of artists and poets that included Artspeak Gallery, The Western Front and The Kootenay School of Writing. She has continued these activities for 30 years, most recently in France, publishing books, leaflets and posters, translating poetry and linguistics from French, lecturing and teaching internationally (including Cambridge University, Piet Zwart, Princeton, UC Berkeley and Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics), and diversifying her ongoing study into the political constitution of lyric voice. In 2018, the Foundation for the Contemporary Arts in NY awarded her the inaugural CD Wright Award in Poetry. Books of poetry include 3 Summers (2016), Cinema of the Present(2014) and Debbie: An Epic (1997). The collection of essays Nilling: Prosewas published in 2011. Robertson will read from her own work in progress and will present the talk “The Preparation of the Poem” in which she will approach the question – What does a poem do in the world? – by means of other forms or media (film (Pedro Costa); prose (Roland Barthes); linguistics (Emile Benveniste); and translation (Kate Briggs)).

Terre Thaemlitz is a musician, public speaker, and owner of the record label Comatonse Recordings. Thaemlitz works on the audio-visual deconstruction of identity politics: including gender, sexuality, class, linguistics, ethnicity and race – with an ongoing critique of the socio-economics of commercial media production. Thaemlitz’s production styles include electroacoustic computer music, club-oriented deep house, digital jazz, ambient, and computer-composed neo-expressionist piano solos. In addition to those media, Thaemlitz’s work combines graphic design, photography, illustration, text and video. We will show Thaemlitz’s film SOULNESSLESS (neologism, distinct from soullessness or an absence of soul) – an attempted deconstruction of soul music, that is, of notions of spirituality, meditation, superstition, and religiosity perpetuated through audio marketplaces that insist upon judging audio in relation to ‘authenticity’ and ‘soul’. Gender, electronic audio production and spirituality form the various parts’ tenuous points of connection. The artist will not be present.


The fees are as usual: 18€ per night for accommodation and 12€ for yearly membership.

Two chefs will guide the kitchen with a hand from participants, at a cost of 12€ per day, for three meals a day.

We can only accept payments in cash or French cheques, so please bring one or the other along (there is an ATM in the village).

PAF gets very full these days, sometimes overly so. As such, please book early, and in the event that the building fills up we give preferences to bookings from those who wish to stay for the whole 8.5 day period. The first session will begin on the 20th at 6pm. The 29th will be a day for departure.

Reservations at contactpaf@gmail.com

This year’s edition has been prepared by Bojana Cvejić, Stefan Govaart, Sébastien Hendrickx, Nicolas Siepen and Eleanor Ivory Weber.