[keg and I present at the final round-table discussion]
Keg and have been attending Artivistic here in Montreal. It’s a DIY kinda conference about the junctions between art and activism, and this particular edition seems to be about occupation and space and nature. Big topics and sometimes the delegates struggle with large theoretical issues – the best sessions are grounded and case-study based. See a few pictures from the conference here.
Some of my favourites from the conference:
Mushon Zer-Aviv from the group You are not here. They do these interesting map overlays of two grids creating a new “walk” where an experience of another city is carried out. Eg, you can walk through Baghdad in NYC, or through Gaza in Tel Aviv. It’s a pretty thorough and sophisticated result, by the sounds of it. Mushon has worked with the Conflux psychogeography festival in New York.
Bob TheBuilder who is part of a group called au travail/at work, which regards an artist’s employment as a kind of unofficial “artist in residence” project:
The workplace is considered as a field for experimentation and discovery wherein are deployed the conflictual relations arising between private Utopias, collective necessities, and economic realities.
We also met the Think Tank That Has Yet to be Named, who are heavily involved with innovative organising and action in their hometown of Philadelphia. Particularly interesting was their concept of Metaphorical Agency as a way of thinking about solving difficult problems. I am sure we will stay in touch and exchange some resources and tactics. They’ve compiled some amazing readers about participation and gentrification which look very useful.
It was something of a reunion for Andrew Gryf Paterson and I. Andrew came to Sydney in 2005 and ran a workshop on using mobile phones as a tool for art practice. At artivistic, he presented a moving story about a community-run greenhouse in Helsinki which he got involved with. He co-ordinated workshops, learnt to sing Finnish folk songs, and also helped organise for its meaningful dismantling when the contested city space it was located in meant its days were numbered.
Keg and I attended a session by Katerie Gladdys, who is involved with a thing called “Ground Truthing”. It’s where you physically walk the land to test whether satellite “photos” (which are actually digitally produced confections based on light-spectrum data) are telling the truth (about for example, the particular mix of vegetation on an area of land). She drew from de Certeau and Mircea Eliade in terms of theoretical thinking about human relationships to land and space.
Speaking of human relationships to space, Barcelona-based artists Anja Steidinger and Gerard Cuartero-Betriu did a comparative study of two residential building projects: Walden 7 (Barcelona) and Habitat 67 (Montreal). They asserted that although the two residential buildings are similar in form, Walden 7 offers a much richer environment for community activity and unplanned human intervention. Habitat 67, they found, was hampered by restrictive codes on what kinds of activity can be carried out in the spaces, and was therefore “utopian” only in aesthetic and not in lived experience. Read more about their project here.
We were fed a delicious dinner of weeds (burdock root and red clover, mainly) by Nicole Fournier, who cooked ‘em right in the empty field where she’d picked ‘em (out the back of the artivistic industrial building hq). I got her details as I figured she would be a good contact for our own WeedyConnection agent NoBody, who is also fascinated with weeds…
Along those lines, another link for NoBody is the food for free edible weed mapping project by Bristol’s Duo Irrational.
Oh and at the risk of making this blog post unusably long, here is another link: Ryan Griffis and the Temporary Travel Office. They organise unusual city tours (have a look at some of them here) and are based in Chicago. I missed their presentation at Artivistic, but Ryan and I agreed to exchange some ideas for tours and how to run ‘em.