Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday, March 21, 2011

007 by carlacruz

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

The Ethics of Encounter Research Workshop

Thursday 3 March & Friday 4 March 2011

As an increasing number of artists site their practice within the social fabric of everyday life, the encounter has been placed at the heart of a newly defined aesthetic experience. Participatory, collaborative, community-based and documentary methodologies which engage directly with interpersonal relations and social realities now proliferate both within and beyond the institution. This move away from traditional forms of representation into the territories of use and action has endowed art’s latest ‘social turn’ with a renewed and expanded ethical significance. In parallel with these developments, it is claimed that ethics has triumphed in the public debate to reign over culture and displace politics.

This research workshop will examine the complex interfaces which have emerged between aesthetics, politics and ethics in the 21st century. Taking into account their historical imbrications in art discourse together with the so-called ‘ethical turn’ of contemporary politics, we aim to develop a critical understanding of their most recent forms and configurations across the diverse terrains of socially-engaged art. The ethical valence of artworks has dominated debates to date – whether interventions into the social fabric can be considered productively ‘good’ or transgressive, ‘bad’ and yet, ultimately, revealing. If the ethical is now a common route for artists seeking to broach the political and provide a site for critique, is it possible to move beyond this dichotomy and map the potential and limits of ethical engagements in art?

The Ethics of Encounter research workshop has been devised as part of a programme of exhibitions, events and residencies of the same name presented at Stills between November 2010 and March 2011. Consecutive exhibitions included lens-based documentary works by The Atlas Group (Lebanon / USA), François Bucher (Columbia / Germany), Renzo Martens (Belgium), Dani Marti (Scotland), Frederick Wiseman (USA) and Artur Żmijewski (Poland). The workshop has been designed to expand the parameters of this curatorial investigation and situate these works in relation to parallel developments within other reality-driven practices. For more information about The Ethics of Encounter programme please visit

Speakers and interlocutors include Carla Cruz (Goldsmiths University of London), Gail Day (University of Leeds), Angela Dimitrakaki (The University of Edinburgh), Anthony Downey (Sotheby’s Institute of Art), Alana Jelinek (University of Cambridge), Kirsten Lloyd (Stills / The University of Edinburgh), Tracy Mackenna (Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design) & Ken Neil (Glasgow School of Art), Mark Miller (Tate Britain) & Victoria Walsh (Tate Britain), Dominic Paterson (University of Glasgow), Michaela Ross (Chelsea College of Art and Design), Harry Weeks (The University of Edinburgh), Stephen Wright (European School of Visual Arts)

‘Mutirão’ or the Importance of a New Extended Solidarity
This paper draws upon empirical research undertaken within a small community in Brazil. It examines the reclaiming of tools from artistic practice for sustainable development projects.

In 1993 the Brazilian government decided to eradicate Chagas disease in Pernambuco’s State, a disease transmitted to humans by an insect that nests in the local rammed earth houses. With the eviction of the insect, began the history of Vila União (Union Village). Though the government provided the materials, the construction of the new buildings was left to the local population. The women organised themselves into mutirão (collectives) and worked together to build 25 family houses. Since then, the community has grown and the mutirão continues to function in terms of agricultural work and in brick making. However, clean water has not yet arrived, subsistence agriculture is still their main resource, the land remains in the hands of a couple of colonels and education is difficult to access. Under these circumstances several local, national and international organisations have coordinated an ambitious project involving a group of local and foreign artists, filmmakers, NGO workers and residents. In the Summer of 2011 they will come together to renovate the now 72 homes in Vila União, painting and plastering the buildings before going on tp collectively create a visual identity for the village which celebrates the community’s singularity.

The Portuguese Intercultural Movement IDENTIDADES has been working with the region of Conceição das Crioulas, where the community is based, since 2003, and on this project since 2009. Despite the fact that the movement is mainly composed of visual artists, art is never directly mentioned. Vila União Project does not have the support of art institutions; it is not an artwork of an individual or collective, it is not even an art project. Nonetheless we claim to be applying knowledge gained through art practice and believe we will harvest new knowledge for our individual practices. Why then is Vila União Project still relevant for artistic discourse? Why is it not mere politics and social practice? Does positioning such activity within contemporary art discourse jeopardize not only its political effects but also its ethical stance? How does the project sit within the intricate relations between politics and aesthetics? What is its potential for instituting and fostering democracy?


Born - Vila Real – Portugal 1977.

Currently researching for an MPhil/PhD in art practice at Goldsmiths University of London (since 2009). MFA at the Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, 2003. Degree in Sculpture from the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Porto, Portugal 2001.

Member of several national and international art collectives, such as ZOiNA, Caldeira 213, ROOM, CLANITICA, Ateliers Mentol, Switch Metaphors, Identidades, Palindromes and AC.

Manages the blog and exhibition project All My Independent Women on art and gender and the critical blog Porto Público on participation, public space and politics.

“Her work, sometimes strikingly visible, sometimes no more than a rumor, is concerned with the social constructions that we make and reassert every day in the attempt to question and even undermine these constructions, whether these constructions are gender related, about European Identity or even the privatization of the public sphere and the notion of citizenship. The viewer, participant or passer-by is trapped by the anodyne visuals and forms of her work, which usually disguise less innocent content, and pushed to reconsider his values and pre-conceptions with what is presented by her work.”

This statement, written many years ago by my friend Suzanne van Rossenberg, is still the best rendering of my practice.

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