This two-day international conference in Amsterdam about participatory art in education and culture featured keynote presentations of cutting edge initiatives, panel discussions, workshops, sharing of challenging practice and peer-to-peer exchange.
With Renzo Martens, Patricia Kaersenhout, Pierluigi Sacco e.a.
The conference Living as Form followed up on the previous conferences "Participation on Trial" (Amsterdam, October 2014) and "European Academy of Participation" (Dublin, October 2016). It concluded the 2nd year of the EU project European Academy of Participation.
Living as Form brought together international and national initiatives to foster synergies: How is internationalisation of education taking shape? What good practice can we share of border crossing artistic and community work? How to match the international and the local in cultural programmes?
Living as Form discussed the relations of the cultural and social field and education and the possibilities of a formalised educational offer for artists that involves all these areas.
Artists, curators, producers, community and institutional leaders, teachers, researchers and critics, from the Netherlands and internationally.
The conference critically discussed the embeddedness of participatory practice in an international framework that has rapidly changed in the last two years. Before that participatory art has largely been perceived through the historical lens of what happed since the fall of the Berlin wall. The ‘end of history’-feeling has led to the long prevailing paradigm of neoliberalism, our current political order of free trade and open markets. In this paradigm the private sector takes the lead and the role of the public and that of the state supporting the public is pushed to the background. Simultaneously, alongside the positive effects of participation in and through art and culture, the term participation has been appropriated by the neoliberal policies to stress the fact that individuals need to take their own responsibility versus a withdrawing welfare state. Political support focussed on the economy and the financial market, not the citizen. In turn, and quite ironically, citizens and artists were expected to compensate for austerity politics, being manoeuvred into roles that would ‘art wash’ a misery that should have actually been solved by other professionals: care takers, city planners, social workers etc..
Meanwhile the world has changed. One could believe that in countries like the USA, Britain, Poland, the Netherlands and Hungary, the revolutionary potential of people and their representatives, long considered to be the domain of the left, is now with populist and nationalist movements that battle principles of enlightenment such as human rights, equality and solidarity. In the fake and factless news their representatives produce, expertise, high end culture and, consequently, artists are framed as the enemies of the ‘people’. Nevertheless, the basic question stays the same: How can artists engage with communities in a mutual beneficial way, towards progress and more culturally and economically inclusive societies?
Nato Thompson, from whom we borrowed the title of this conference, asks whether it is time at the beginning of the 21st century to return Duchamps urinal from the museum to the real world. But the question arises whether it would be accepted by the ‘real world’ today, where one is suspicious towards arts and the artists in their elite bubble. Art keeps engaging with life, trying to find new forms of expression and impact. What is the artistic form of live today, or should we rather talk about art as resistance? And how does education prepare the artists of the future for their role in these new realities?
In the period October 2015 – February 2016 all partners of the EAP project have collaboratively developed a Tuning Document about Participatory Art Practice and the respective graduate profile of a Creative Producer. The document is intended as a reference document that reflects the diversity of the field in Europe and at the same time serves as a benchmark for curriculum builders, teachers, employers and all those academics and practitioners that want to enhance educational and practical development. It sets out to establish a MA level standard and contribute to enhancing pedagogy in this field of practice. It is published at www.academyofparticipation.org.
The documents competences inform an intensive Higher Education Course Module that EAP has piloted in London in July 2017 with 30 international students (art graduates and mid-career artists) and 12 international teachers.
The conference was embedded in the projects activities and discussions so far and invited the Dutch and international field to contribute with expertise and experiences and use the event as a networking and sharing possibility.
Doopsgezinde Kerk, Singel 452, Amsterdam; Castrum Peregrini, Herengracht 401, Amsterdam; Goethe Institut, Herengracht 470, Amsterdam.