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Re: <nettime> The Messy, Dirty, Silly Interplay of Art and Activis Artiv
lotu5 on Wed, 14 Nov 2007 14:16:51 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> The Messy, Dirty, Silly Interplay of Art and Activis Artivistic 2007

tobias c. van Veen wrote:

>For my part, I saw the question "What is natural space?" reduced
>to its whatness because a question like "What is our relationship
>to natural space?" already projects a kind of natural space
>'out-there', an externalized 'nature', romantic or resource, to
>which a 'relationship' would be or has been established. This takes
>the human out of nature and nature out of the human. The idea was
>to complexify this a bit at the UpgradeMTL panel 'What is natural
>space?'. The artists present at the panel already undermined the
>nature-human relation in various ways and the q&a led to some
>vigorous discussion along these lines. Their practices already create
>worlds or intervention within worlds that are alien, interrogative,
>hybrid or otherwise indeterminate between the familiar categories of
>'nature' and its multitude of usual opposites....

I agree that a question about relationship can imply that natural
space exists, which is what we seemed to be trying to get beyond in
that panel, and I threw out those questions out as examples. But the
relationship might be nostalgia or fantasy, which doesn't necessarily
mean that natural space exists. I guess I felt that the work shown
on the panel demonstrated a number of ways of making our conception
of the natural more complex or undermine the concept of natural, but
it seemed like the discussion didn't go far beyond the consensus we
probably started with, that the concept of a transcendent nature is
romantic and unrealistic. What I was getting at with the relationship
question was my question of how to "complexify" the issue, how can
we conceive of a natural space that is contaminated, fractured, in
surprising places, improvisational, insurrectional, but still natural?
I'm specifically thinking here of the way that Food for Free by
irational.org or In the Fall We Plant Bulbs both point out the spaces
around us which we might not see as natural, but which we may be able
to see as outside of human planning.

>gathering. Of course the criticism is always that if a framework
>becomes too oriented, it overdetermines the interpretation and issues
>at stake that arise when everyone gets together, so it's always a bit
>of a catch-22 between general questions ('what is...x?') and oriented
>questions. I really

You're totally right that more specific questions may have had the
negative effect of having too much influence over the dialog, but
I personally see a conflict between definition and revolt, where
definition has been used throughout history as a tool of division and
domination, and indigenous communities, migrant people, queer people,
who were all in attendance have been resisting external definitions
for centuries. Maybe reclaiming the process of definition is possible,
but I'd prefer to slip out of the definer/defined dichotomy and
explore how these concepts can be seen as processes, in movement, in
flux, temporary, fragmented, and how we can still work with concepts
like those as a basis for theory, art, activism, life...

>like the question "how is indigenousness produced and maintained?"
>although you have to realise that such a question would already be
>quite contentious -- and perhaps even overstepping certain bounds --
>in establishing dialogue with First Nations in Canada. Presuming that
>indigenous is 'produced or maintained' to those who claim indigenuous
>status by birthright and historical priority is perhaps not the first
>foot to put forward, though it may lead to more constructive (or
>not?) avenues for collective action.I remain hesitant about assuming
>a constructivist stance in this manner. First, we need to meet each
>other. Thus questions of 'how' or process have to take into account
>the specificity of the process under question...

I can definitely see how that question could be contentious or even
offensive and may preclude involvement from indigenous communities,
which I wouldn't want. But, from the first night's round table, I felt
that Kary-Ann and Kevin both said that they consider indigenous-ness
to be their own lives and the practices of their communities. So maybe
the conversation led exactly where I'm saying it should've gone. But,
were the indigenous speakers part of asking those questions? Some
people present felt that the question "what is indigenous" itself
was contentious and possibly alienating to the indigenous community.
Having worked a bit with indigenous communities in San Diego and
Mexico like the EZLN and the other campaign, I know that one of
their main struggles is to maintain their culture or to keep their
indigenous culture alive, so maybe a different wording is all that's
necessary. I also appreciate the symmetry or the simplicity of having
the three guiding questions being formed in the same way. I'm just
proposing some thoughts on directions I thought might be useful for
future events.

>I am curious as to yr point on 'more local involvement'. What kind of
>local involvement would you have liked to have seen? This is always
>an issue (everyone is always busy), but with Artivistic there are
>simply, it seems, some 'activist' groups who show little interest
>in gatherings that do not automatically brand themselves under a
>political ideology. I only do mention this as Artivistic had a
>broader range of 'community involvement' from the Montreal, Toronto
>and surrounding regions than I have perhaps yet seen.

It's true that there were lots of community organizers involved,
especially on the last night. I was specificaly talking about
NOII's lack of involvement, which I understand was partly due to
misunderstandings on both sides. I just felt their absence a lot
because I'm doing a lot of work around borders and felt like the input
from local organizers was mostly absent from the 3 day Imaginary
Border Academy workshop.

I think its too easy to say that activists are not interested
in events that don't profess a particular ideology. It seems to
me that at a conference on art and activism, having the goal of
inspiring local actions to take place at the conference, that serious
involvement from local communities and organizers is essential.
Still, I have organized events myself where I tried to involve
groups who ended up not being involved and I know that the work of
bridging distinct communities like artists, activists and indigenous
communities is difficult, delicate work that can require lots of

Thanks for your reply! I'm lookin forward to the next artivistic and
hopefully will be in town and involved by that point!




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