On Friday 21st May 12-2.15pm I will be part of Live Weekends: Futures and Pasts at the ICA, curated by Tim Etchells with Ant Hampton and Lois Keidan. I will be taking part in a discussion on pedagogy, performance and feminism, curated by Mary Paterson in the “Some of the Pasts” strand of the event, which the ICA website describes as follows:
Over three days the gallery is transformed as the site of an ongoing investigation on the power of performance, as a succession of invited artists, curators and writers linked to the field frame investigations on the exuberant and influential past of the form. Audiences can arrive anytime, stay, leave and return at any point. Conversations, interviews, slideshows, mini-performances, video-screenings and all kinds of playful hybrid interventions unfold in the gallery as different perspectives on the archive are explored. Personal recollections sit next to attempts at authoritative time lines, inexplicable images and sounds sit next to narratives and interactions of different kinds.
Mary’s shift will begin with a screening of the Performance Saga interview with Martha Rosler, before opening into a discussion with Sonia Dermience, Martin Hargreaves, Rachel Lois Clapham, and Theron Schmidt around themes and questions arising from the film. As Mary writes in brief for the session:
How is performance different to its documentation? How can you communicate about past performances? What is it about performance, that you might want to communicate? How do artists and artworks become present to audiences in the future? What roles can an artist/ art practice play in creating knowledge about the past? What kind of framework do you need in order to understand the past?
What role does writing have in taking control of the debate? What are the different relationships between performance, documentation, and different kinds of public?
My own contribution to the event is currently entitled A CURRICULUM OUT OF A CONVERSATION. I will be writing throughout the film and discussions, working towards a piece of writing that explores a boundary between documentation and curriculum.
The eventual text aims to give a sense of what was seen and said, but by presenting the material orientated to the future rather than – maybe as well as – the past or present. It will be a programme of study/ attitude/ stance (words subject to change).
This gives the session a written legacy, but maybe not what anyone intended. The writing may turn out to be at odds with or in contestation with the original event and its participants. It could include space for later re-workings or be defiant in its singularity (or some combination). I will navigate this boundary of the event for its own sake, and the event as material for something else.
Several sources have been formative in thinking through this project. The first is the notion – in the writings, of, say, Charles R. Garoian – that performance and live art (and experimental writing practices) involve methods and attitudes equivalent to radical pedagogies of, for example, Paulo Freire and Ivan Illich. Is this true? It’s certainly an assumption I’ve felt underpinning much of the work documented on this site. I would like this piece of writing to test this proposition.
The second starting point is an art-writing practice of talking, and I have been thinking through the work of John Cage and David Antin, as well as (since I saw the film yesterday) American: The Bill Hicks Story.
These – in very different ways – structured, planned, and improvised practices of talking, are of course different from how I imagine the discussions on Friday will unfold. But they unfold questions about the prompt for speech, what kind of thought it enables, and how that speech is represented (if it is) on the page. I am looking to explore these further through A CURRICULUM FOR A CONVERSATION.
A THOUGHT: Conversation – and conversation worked into writing – appears suitable for a radical pedagogy/ curriculum, because it unfolds around and about a subject, rather than pretending to define something. It does not package information that is exchanged like money for goods, but offers a model accomodating of what David Graeber has written of Bourdieu and Vygotsky:
Bourdieu has long drawn attention to the fact that – always a matter of frustration to anthropologists – a truly artful social actor is almost guaranteed not to be able to offer a clear explanation of the principles underlying her own artistry.
According to the Godelian/Piagetian perspective, it is easy to see why this should be. The logical level on which one is operating is always at least one level higher than that which one can explain or understand – what the Russian psychologist Vygotsky referred to as the ‘proximal level of development.’
Charles R. Garoian, Performing Pedagogy: Toward an Art of Politics (State University of New York Press, 1999).
Joan Retallack and Juliana Spahr, eds. Poetry and Pedagogy: The Challenge of the Contemporary (Palgrave Macmillian, 2006).