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Commitment issues

October 9th, 2010 by Clare Butcher

*the usual sneak-peek intro from the upcoming Your-space newspaper edition #4 and what will be happening in Your-space in the last months of this year. As always, open to comments and feedback. The questions raised issue from a valuably, ongoing conversation between myself and Steven. We’d gladly invite more contributors to this.

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“The beauty of commitment” Nice title huh? Sounds compelling. It was in fact the theme of a discussion panel at the Liverpool Biennial which opened just some weeks ago. The panel consisted of a number of artists whose work takes place mostly in the “public domain”, as well as the biennial curator, Lorenzo Fusi. While I was not aware that it was possible for art to take place outside of at least some shape or form of public domain, there ensued a heated discussion about the way that art “should” be mediated when it occurs beyond the white walls of formal art spaces and the responsibility of the artist in all of that. Why only the artist? I asked. What about the myriad others within the network of artistic production, framing and circulation – that is to say, the arts educators, writers, cultural policy makers, politicians, not least curators? Is it an artist’s job to stand in front of their work and justify their decisions? Prove their commitment to their choices? The curator on the panel was suspiciously quiet during the entire debate. It made me wonder, whether it’s making an “artwork”, installing an exhibition or writing a press release, when do we commit, how do we show that sincerity and who is this “public” making up the public domain? There are as many different answers to this as there are art practitioners and some of those you will find in the projects presented in this edition of the Your-space newsletter.

During the last months and in the coming weeks Your-space has been, and will be, privileged to develop a series of ‘commitments’ not only to aesthetics, not only to a certain social/moral vision, or economic viability, but ones which commit to a complex composition of all of the above. These projects draw into the fray the various actors and issues inextricably linked with any contemporary artistic action within an urban context such as ours. And by that, each exposes another side of working in/with/upon/around the public domain in its multiple forms.

Plan V (Toos Nijssen and Ron Eijkman) have been working for months now, together with Your-space and as part of the Van Abbemuseum’s public programme, in Woensel West where they are also living. The project, ‘Collectie van de Wijk’ starts with the ideas of long-term engagement, trust and intimacy and from here, Plan V and myself are attempting to “collect” the neighbourhood of Woensel West in terms of its stories, the relationships happening there all the time as well as the material artefacts making up the area’s history, present and future. A research-in-progress exhibition can be found on the B-1 floor of the Van Abbemuseum, inviting those interested to keep in touch as the ‘Collectie van de Wijk’ grows.

Next to Plan V’s “living room” installation in the museum is Inass Yassin’s ‘Projection. Edition 1.01/Screening Failed’ – made up of a poster campaign developed by the artist in response to the demolition of a popular cinema in Ramallah, Palestine. Like Plan V, Inass Yassin looks at the changing space of an urban context and the ways this affects and is affected by social relationships and politics. As part of this edition of the project, Inass Yassin presented a poetic projection of the almost completely destroyed Ramallah cinema onto the side of an Eindhoven building set for demolition. This building was the site of many artists’ studios, including until recently Plan V. Yassin’s projection reflected on the ghostliness of the now empty studio block and what its eventual disappearance will mean for the area and those artists who had to vacate it.

These shifts in Eindhoven’s public domain(s) will then be taken up by Juul Sadée in her ‘The Gardener’s Last Song, 2×15 minutes’, opening in the Studio, Van Abbemuseum in mid-November. Juul Sadée’s playful, large scale, multi-media installation in fact conducts a very serious investigation of the drastic losses and substitutions of culture and identity in the city’s history – be it agricultural, rural, industrial, technological, creative. With a host of invited guests, discussions, tea parties and scripted monologues, the artist weaves together the threads connecting each of living in the city.

The ‘Instatements’ project by Uri Ben-Ari with Your-space, which opened on the Dag van de Architectuur in June, 2010, has now grown to include a much broader network of contributors. Uri Ben-Ari will be coordinating an exciting series of workshops and lectures during Dutch Design Week, at the end of October, 2010 – which will also include a presentation of the forthcoming publication documenting the activities and projects exhibited in June and a number of newly commissioned texts and interviews.

And finally, as a moment to reflect on the many assemblages and meeting points between projects, people, and spheres making up the Your-space programme this year, there comes a ‘Gathering Gathering’ in early November. For one night a small group of projects by invited contributors will appear around the museum. Through a series of subtle, surprising interventions, Alejandra Salinas and Aeron Bergman, Eshan Fardjadniya and Cindy Moorman explore what brings us together, when, why and what are the other ways we can imagine of gathering around one another.

A friend reminded me recently of the similarity between the situation in the contemporary art world and the social relations presented in the children’s story The Emperor’s New Clothes. Are we all dressing up our activities with see-through concepts, appreciated only by an elite few and in danger of indecent exposure? Or are we the ones, like the little boy in the story, who are committed to calling out the bull****, pointing out the truths, questioning unquestioned cultural assumptions and ideas about “quality”?

I invite you to commit with us to a last, sincere moment of gathering together what we’ve seen this year, and to showing more clearly what we think is already obvious and what might perhaps remain invisible.

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