Disclosures

Thu 27 Mar – Sun 18 May 2008

Disclosures seeks to scrutinise the notion of openness across fields of cultural production at large. A first reading of openness refers to situations in which the viewer, reader, listener or internet user becomes emancipated through egalitarian participation, diffuse collaborative authorship and/or the breaking down of hierarchical and social boundaries. Such scenarios have recurred in the writing and practice of numerous avant-gardists throughout the 20th Century whose legacy, perhaps more so now than ever before, largely informs contemporary practitioners: from Bertolt Brecht’s early claims over media as a two-way communication apparatus (1932) (1), to Walter Benjamin’s “The Author as Producer” (1934); from Roland Barthes’ “The Death of The Author” (1967), to the Italian Autonomists’ use of the airwaves as a space for self-organisation and vehicle for popular participation (Radio Alice, 1976-1977 being one example); or from Peter Watkins’ participatory film-documentary La Commune (Paris, 1871) (2000) to the televised re-enactment of the Battle of Orgreave orchestrated by Jeremy Deller (2001), to cite but a few.

If the production of non-hierarchical social models, as approach and ethos, is neither new nor uncommon, and is observable from one cultural field to another, it has to be noted that it matches certain systems and economies (e.g. internet-based or media practices) far better than others (e.g. the artworld or the film and music industries). Issues around Intellectual Property and copyright – and the question of whether or not diffuse authorship and unrestrictive distribution are financially viable – come immediately to mind. Likewise, the notions of innovation and authorship – two concepts resolutely attached to old art forms (from art and music, to literature and even film) – also crop up when the possibility of openness as a more widespread working method is raised. Meanwhile, media art more frequently takes its cues from discussions that re-cast plagiarism (as an umbrella term for modes of borrowing, inheriting, influence and archiving) as a more accurate descriptor for the history of cultural production. These factors have contributed to the separation between media art and visual art.

From a generalist point of view, visual art practice is often perceived as a predominantly bourgeois activity while media art practice has a contrasting association with real life applications, an economy of means, and self-sufficiency as its dominant economic model. Within the broad areas of media art and visual art, the practices that are of specific interest to Disclosures are those working critically, thus acting in response to – or securing a place outside of – the market economy and the main socio-cultural circuits.

Despite often sharing similar drives, critical media practice and socially-collaborative work in the visual art field remain divided by their divergent history, literature, discourses, circuits of production, diffusion and representation; they also seek separate sources of funding and have disconnected curricula. The consistent ignorance and lack of acknowledgement of each other’s aspirations, achievements and debates is evidenced in the recent publication “Art and Social Change” (2), which includes hardly any reference to critical media practice. The mutual suspicion already described in 2003 by writer, artist and curator Armin Medosch (3) lingers:

“Media artists are ‘considered to have no awareness of their relation to art history or theory – they are perceived as being concerned only with the "newness" of technology.’ (4) In turn, the art world is accused of being technologically ignorant and of clinging to archaic notions of individualism, originality and authorship.”


Phase 1 – Common Language

Taking up from discussions developed in such initiatives as node.London (2006) and Open Congress (2005), the first phase of Disclosures endeavours to investigate and compare the approaches, methodologies and ends of these two interrelated areas of practice...

Presentations, interventions, keynote lectures and workshops compose this first part and are to be followed by discussions addressing a range of issues.

Phase 2 – Blue Skies, Grey Skies

The second phase is concerned with the socio-economical, political and cultural conditions for the technological underpinning of openness – Free/Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) – to exist and become widespread...

Presentations, screenings and other forms of participation will alternate with group discussions.


Phase 3 – Captain Pouch (6): History and Disclosure

After openness as an organisational principle (as distinguished in the first paragraph of this text), a second reading of openness revealing equally strong links to the public sphere revolves around the idea of transparency and of availability of information. Of relevance here are practices which address censorship and are committed to releasing public information and resources that have been out of civic reach for political, economic or bureaucratic reasons...

The contributions range from visual essays to guest-curated discussions, presentations of current projects and screenings of short films. Some of these will take place during the two-day seminar, while others will happen at a later time as a sequence of events.


Phase 4 – From Pierre Menard: Author of the Quixote to The Sluts (7)

The final chapter looks at experiments with the blurring of authorship in the fields of literature and music. From Pierre Menard: Author of the Quixote to The Sluts consists of public readings, a live music event, a performance and lectures, some of which will be spread across time and venues.


Endnotes

(1) “The Radio as an Apparatus of Communication”, 1932.
(2) Co-published by Afterall and Tate Publishing in 2007.
(3) In ‘LONDON.ZIP, Digital Media Art In London mapped and compressed by Armin Medosch’, 2003.
(4) Simon Pope, email to the author, 06/10/03.
(5) Before considering programming languages, the issue of English language is also at stake. See Eric S. Raymond’s ‘How To Become A Hacker’, which unapologetically emphasises the necessity of English fluency in hacker culture. http://catb.org/~esr/faqs/hacker-howto.html 2001
(6) 17th century English rebel John Reynolds, who led one of the most successful revolts against the enclosure movement and one of the last physical conflicts between the peasantry and the gentry in England. He was nick-named Captain Pouch, 'because of a great leather pouch which he wore by his side, in which purse he affirmed to his company there was sufficient matter to defend them against all comers, but afterwards when he was apprehended, his Pouch was searched, and therein was only a piece of green cheese'.
(7) ‘Written between 1994 and 2002, The Sluts is a black sheep cousin to Dennis Cooper's internationally acclaimed George Miles Cycle. Set largely on the pages of a website where gay male escorts are reviewed by their clients, and told through the postings, emails, and conversations of several dozen unreliable narrators, The Sluts chronicles the evolution of one young escort's date with a satisfied client into a metafiction of pornography, lies, half-truths, and myth.’ (www.denniscooper.net)

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Disclosures Launch: Thu 27 Mar, 8pm – 1am
At Mother/333, 333 Old Street, London EC1V 9LE.

Sat 29 - Sun 30 Mar 2008
Sat 29: at Toynbee Hall, Lecture Hall, 28 Commercial Street, London E1 6LS
Sun 30: at Middlesex Street Estate Common Room, Middlesex Street, London E1 7AW. Free but booking essential: moira@gasworks.org.uk

Disclosures View-on-demand Film and Reading Library: Fri 11 Apr – Sun 18 May 2008
Preview: Thu 10 Apr, 6.30-8.30pm
At Gasworks, 155 Vauxhall Street, London SE11 5RH.

Disclosures Floating Events: Thu 10 Apr – Sun 18 May 2008
Screenings, workshops and discussions. For details see the Gasworks website.

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Disclosures is facilitated and organised by Gasworks’ residencies and exhibitions programmes in collaboration with interlocutors, advisers and partners involved at different levels. Disclosures is part of Node.London, Spring 08.

Collaborators include Critical Practice, a self-governing cluster of artists, researchers and academics, hosted by Chelsea College of Art And Design; and Goldin+Senneby. Much credit is also owed to Armin Medosch who has been giving invaluable advice and support to this project.
Disclosures


Event Title: Disclosures
Further Details:
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Contact Email: moira@gasworks.org.uk