Exposition

From 'Highbrow Art' to Participatory Culture – A Potential for Change (2016)

Barbara Lueneburg

About this exposition

Through the arts research project TransCoding (funded by the Austrian Science Fund as PEEK AR 259-G21) we wish to encourage participation in the development of a musical-multimedia show and an audiovisual installation by offering participatory culture via the web 2.0. Since February 2014, the TransCoding team has built a network of various social media channels around a main hub, the WordPress site what-ifblog.net. Here we introduce our topics of multimedia art and contemporary (art) music, community participation, and the ongoing creation of our show under the categories "Art we love", "You, us and the project", and "Making of", respectively. In a fourth category we choose "identity" as our main topic for the content of the show and the blog. The concept of identity offers a framework for the project that is universally relevant and unites our otherwise diverse international community members. The blog is our main contact point with our community, currently at more than 1000 members, and affords them the opportunity to participate in our project. Via calls for entries we encourage our visitors to contribute images, sounds, and texts that we incorporate in our artwork. Through our social media channels we invite to speak out, share discourse and take influence on the creation of our artwork, thus empowering our followers to express their own identities and participate in the creative process. We afford our community members authority in shaping our work and offer them a platform to meet and make their interest clear. As we invite contributors to exercise influence in the joint artwork, we look at change as viewed through the power relationship between artist and community. The (commonly) hierarchic relationship between the artist and audience/followers is being changed into one of permeability and mutual influence. Consequently we explore not only how the artist as researcher can engender social change, but also how the participating community can do so through their contributions to the project. By delving into the participants' motivations, we learn more about their interests as well as about their reasons for creating and for wanting to be a part of our participatory community. The romantic principle of the individual composer-genius working beyond established rules or external controls is obsolete for us; we investigate the role of the artist within this community and ask how granting creative influence to our community alters traditional (power) models of artist-audience relation and if the interaction consequently adds meaning to both. TransCoding is located at the University of Music and Performing Arts, Graz/Austria. Contents: 1. Introduction: Introduction to TransCoding-From 'Highbrow Art' to Participatory Culture: what is it about and who is involved? 2. Methodology: Positioning ourselves as researchers and artists in the respective fields and introducing the central artworks and the strategies employed in our research project. 3. Case studies: Detailed investigation on the level and the area in which we grant authority in decision-making to our community. Outline of areas of success and conflict our project yields. 4. Conclusion: Demonstration of how TransCoding engenders social and/or artistic change.
typeresearch exposition
keywordsparticipatory art, authority, community, collaboration, permeability, artist-community relationship, social change, artistic change, power relation artist community, contemporary music
date21/02/2016
statuspublished
affiliationTransCoding is located at the University of Music and Performing Arts, Graz/Austria.
urlhttps://www.researchcatalogue.net/view/253119/253120
doihttps://doi.org/10.22501/ruu.253119
published inRuukku
external linkhttp://transcoding.info, http://what-ifblog.net

Ruukku portal comments: 2
nimetön/anonym/anonymous 20/09/2016 at 13:00

The exposition connects in an appropriate manner to the theme of change, addressing the topics of changing roles and their dynamics in a participatory online art project.

 

The most interesting sections of the exposition are case study passages where the author describes the ”frictions” and ”ruptures” that occurred in the process. These sections touch and highlight some of the essential questions and concerns in collaborative and participatory art making.

 

The role of the artworks in the research project is clearly articulated, as is the chosen

methodological approach. The later case studies could become more substantiated through a deeper reflexion and analysis on the chosen method and the different role functions described in it. 

 

Collaborative art making, with the ethical, practical and political repercussions it causes, is extremely topical. Being in the position of artist/curator/community member, the author has a fascinating firsthand point of view to the events she is describing. The way she positions herself in the different roles of the brought self, situational self and research-based self, makes sense and offers and interesting point of departure.

 

Nevertheless, it would have been interesting to read about the centrally described case studies in more elaborated, deeper dialogue with theory. This way answers to the research question would also have become more substantiated.

 

In the core section of the exposition the author brings up the 1) aesthetic frictions between the author and the community member (mentioned in 3.1.1) and 2) major conflicts within the artistic group (described in 3.2), which both offer themselves as the main findings of the research. The reflection of these accounts, which in itself makes great and fascinating reading, largely stays on a reflexive level of depicting events. How do these accounts reinforce existing theory, and/or how do the findings contradict or question existing theory? How are they forming new theory?

 

For example, it would have been interesting to read a summarizing analysis on how the frictions and conflicts observed relate to the concept of ”multiplier” (in 3.3.), not only in the case of community members who changed their status, but also in relation to the artists who felt unease and discomfort when they felt unable to be as participatory as the artwork would have demanded (3.2.) - why was the role function of ”multiplier” a threat to them?

 

In addition, some of the exposition comes across like it is in the form of process writing, as notes of things to remember. This results in a feeling that the text is too long and lacking structural coherence.

 

The theme is very topical and the case studies are interesting and strong personal accounts and that offer valuable insight into the process.

 

The exposition appears to call for an ”umbrella layer” of analysis that brings all the accounts, case studies and personal, reflexive accounts together. It appears as if the chosen theoretical references are referred to as a means to justify the artwork and choices made in it, rather than as tools for dialogue, where the observations made would be juxtaposed with the theory to formulate new theory that resonates with the findings, making results grow out of analytically orchestrated conflicts.

Maiju Loukola 20/09/2016 at 13:01

The exposition "From 'Highbrow Art' to Participatory Culture – A Potential for Change"  meets very well the challenges set by the RUUKKU vol 6 call, thematized around "Change and Artistic Research".

 

Digitalisation has been proven to be a powerful and transfomative political tool of decentralization – of distributing information and knowledge in a democratizing way, regardless of social, economic or ethnic statuses and/or restrictions or political conditions (unless restricted by sensorship policies). The exposition deals with the creation of new kinds of 'e-participatory means' and communities that occupy novel kinds of political spaces in the sphere of 'web 2.0'. The contribution highlights the artistic tactics specifically developed for the co-op uses in the networked environment. One of the key aspects being the unraveling of the conventional hierarchies regarding authorship, identity and artist's role, and the formation of unstable positions in a wider societal perspective.

 

The exposition brings together the participatory 'e-tactics' available for any digi-native. It explores what kinds of (simultaneously imaginary and real) communities and identities are formed via open process of sharing and distributing 'e-art-material' in a frame of a curated web platform.

 

The questions served for the participants include e.g. the following: "What if our body, our gender wasn’t our limit? What if we took the freedom to be who we want to be and how can we express this in our art?" The set-up is clever and brings along novel perspectives regarding (digital) authorship, form/figure, 'where/when does art happen', and so on. In this case the community is as fluid and vast as it in the never-ending e-space can be, yet the identities that construct along these processes are formed as 'double-exposures' – as if seen through many transparent images/texts/other material simultaneously against a moving light.

 

The exposition cleverly uses the means of everyday mediation in creating and researching the contemporary 'techniques of identity and meaning construction'. The participatory community of the "What if?" -site highlights the core of our networking society and keeps art in its absolute focus. The participants may contribute any way they wish – and have their e-art items incorporated as part of the community's joint artworks whenever the editorial criteria are met. This kind of transformative strategy interestingly alters the hierarchic relationships between artist and audience/followers 'into one of permeability and mutual influence', as formulated by the author.

 

The contribution opens up as an extremely timely and relevant object of research. It highlights the participatory cultures/practices in art from a fresh perspective. It mixes the material and immaterial aspects of digitalism and (tactile) art work in an intriguing manner that gets manifested as an exciting research path through the artist-author's own contribution and her role as part of the community. The conclusions thoroughly indicate the 'results' or findings that the artist-reseacher has accomplished. 

 

I consider the exposition as a relevant study/case of novel views on participatory tactics operating in the web 2.0 environment. It brings meaningful insights to practitioners and scholars operating in the fields of visual arts, performing arts, media arts – especially with their participatory, hybrid forms.

 

The research questions are clearly stated/formulated. For example, the term 'participatory tacticts' is used in a variety of contexts and needs situation-specific elaboration. The exposition is contextualized in a well-balanced measure. It is composed as to be read 'from top to bottom'. The form is somewhat conventional or 'less exploratory'. Nevertheless, the audio clips, videos and other visual material create such a rich collection of 'sensory texture' to the whole, that I do not see this as a limiting aspect. Moreover, the actual website "What if?" invites the reader to browse its content aside with the exposition anyhow, so the simplistic form and logicistics of navigation most likely supports the readability.

 

Another aspect related to the 'readability': the clips and visual content of the exposition are quite economically selected; the visual minimalism works quite well in contrast to the richness of the 'imaginary space of endless possibilities of e-identities'. The content and form on one hand are definitely not identical. And on the other hand this is exactly what forms an interesting 'seemingly minimalistic, but imaginably abundant and multifold' composition.

 

The exposition makes a well-framed example of artistic research that approaches (immaterial) web environment through combining tactile artistic means and processes with digi-savvy participatory means. The exposition elaborates well the characteristics of artistic research as a constellation, in which the role(s) of the artist-researcher are not one but many – as the author writes, following Reinharz's articulation of possessing "three roles that are not always separable from each other: the role of the 'brought self', the 'situational self' and the 'researcher self'." In this case the artist-researcher operates as artist-curator-editor, a member of community, a reflective-observing-analysing researcher, and 'artist self'.

 

The case studies are extremely valuable 'practitioner's/artist's' knowledge, with all the detailed descriptions and commentaries from the participants. The audio clips not only complement the written text, but also open another kind of space for the reader to find connections between the read and the lived, experienced.

 

The critical points and challenges related to participatory working modes are made visible through presenting several concrete examples. These are highly informative and as such valuable outcomes/observations of reflectory practice-based exploration processes.

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