Art, Culture, Education, & P.S.1010
Concord’s P.S. 1010 is a new collaborative project brought forth by Eirik Schmertmann, Erin Schneider, Arjuna Neuman, Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal, Clifford Pun, Annie Danis and Marco Di Domenico. It’s a “school bus that will function as a “mobile laboratory, gallery, and gathering place, where community organizers, teachers, and artists can connect and create.” Click here to view their full proposal in relation to the following interview.
Stacy Elaine Dacheux: What do you love about people engaging with art?
Concord Space: What we love is the opportunity art affords for insight and discovery. Art de-contextualizes information and re-contextualizes it in spaces where the familiar becomes strange and the strange becomes familiar, where meaning-making is both valued and studied.
Stacy: How do you think art shapes communities (or the other way around)? How does rebellion historically fit in here?
Concord: Concord is a collective and a community. We are a group of practicing artists who both make art together and think of our space as an ongoing art project. This art project encompasses the relationships built here, and the communities formed here, communities which emerge out of discussion and participation.
Stacy: On that note, how do you think the role of art should function in relation to activism?
Concord: We don’t feel art should do anything. Socially-engaged practices, first, recognize the multiplicity of the social and know that art can make an intervention into the social on multiple levels. Whether aesthetic, sensory, affective, relational, collective, etc., the experiences art structures are always already social.
Concord’s two main interests have been collectivity—both as a process and an object of inquiry—and usership—our audiences engage and interact rather than witness or view. We don’t have agenda that we align with activism. We do have a mission to create encounters and experiences and to offer an environment for consideration and criticality.
Stacy: I really like what you are saying here about how you don’t feel that art “should” do anything– how your project is agenda free as far as morality or activism as rebellion is concerned. You are not plowing into communities to “teach” or “preach” about art– instead, you will be a presence that will move organically with the community and its own needs/wants. Correct me, if I am wrong about this. Can you tell me, on a personal level, what you are looking for on this journey in relation to your own craft– what are your own curiosities?
Concord: Our collective consists of a wide variety of disciplines and practices – one of our continuing concerns is where do our practices overlap and diverge? What this means is we are always thinking about how to make work as a group and negotiate our individual interests and mediums. How does a depth psychologist and operatic choreographer collaborate with a poet and a theoretical archaeologist; and how can one project contain all of their disparate activities?
Stacy: Are there some artists who you feel use art in this manner with great success? Tell me who and how.
Concord: First five we thought of: Ghana Think Tank (explores cross-cultural interactions, assumptions, and inequalities by establishing think tanks in Ghana, Cuba, El Salvador, Mexico, Serbia, Kosovo, and Iran, to source solutions to “first world” problems, or “develop the first world.”), Ultra Red (takes up sound as a cite of social relations and activates listening as a strategy to solve community problems), Rafael Lozano-Hemmer (creates large scale, interactive installations that engage the performativity of architecture and the built environment), and Adiran Piper (philosopher-artist who uses covert performances and critical writing to tease out the disturbed intersections of race and gender in the public sphere).
Stacy: I really love your philosophy of how art is a social discovery or exchange of equal value. There is an egalitarian aspect to this approach. Nothing is on a pedestal to be admired or viewed. Art is not aggressive. The teaching is in the doing or making and the art is beautifully tangled in the social relationships and the environments we build with one another as this occurs. In the same way that art is intrinsically tied to anthropology, it is also embedded in sociology– cultivating relationships. If possible, could you each share a personal moment of wonder from your childhood or adolescence that might pertain to this philosophy? When did you start to recognize art as something more than just what we view on the wall in a home or gallery?
Concord: Its difficult to identify a single childhood moment of wonder since there are at least 8 of us in the collective. We might say that Cal Arts played a partially instrumental role in shaping our creative interests. In particular the CalArts tendency towards unconventional practices of art making and critical thinking. Although once we had a depth psychologist in residence, and one night we all had the same dream.
Stacy: What inspired this new project P.S.1010?
Concord: Concord is a space where learning happens. Here, we learn through exploration, collaboration, and experience. What is learned is both embodied and intellectual, immersive and discursive. How might we best explore the connection between art, sociality, and education? What is the relationship between the emancipated spectator and the empowered student? If activity and engagement distinguish both critical aesthetics and critical pedagogy, what happens when these contexts not only intersect but merge?
Stacy: How do you see the bus activating or functioning within the communities it visits?
Concord: The bus is an aesthetic object and a platform: a conversation starter and a mediator of experience, a figure for horizontal learning. We are interested in both the symbolic and spatial potentials of the bus. Our mobility makes literal the emphasis this project puts on process, mutability, and discovery. We will use the bus as a venue for curating, inviting local artists, teachers, and thinkers, to board and lecture, perform, install, and exhibit. We will also use the bus as an open forum for discussion, giving free entry to our onboard gallery, library, and archive. Most importantly, perhaps, the bus is a connector: it can transport communities between spaces, and ideas between communities. The crucial question we are asking about the relationship between art and pedagogy requires us to traverse multiple communities, spaces, rhetorics, and to connect them.
Stacy: Why do you think art and music are, generally speaking, the first classes to get shorted due to budget cuts in standard education? How do you think this effects our view of art and how it functions or could function in society? How might the bus work in relation to these communities?
Concord: We bet that the problematic relationship between art and use or uselessness is to blame. Often, the discourse that comes to art’s defense is based in use-value — in this view, art is necessary to better educate individuals to be “creative” exploited laborers. This tends to beg the question, already presupposing a link between the “value” of art and its literal market “value.” On the other hand, there is more to usefulness than use-values, including practices that risk being, or are simply, useless.
The bus will not help bankers make interior design decisions for a more efficient working environment. Guaranteed.
Stacy: How might organizations, scholars, or artists get in touch with you regarding possible involvement with your project? Are there some people you are already working with? Do you have a route set or is the route flexible?
Concord: The route or un-route question has been an ongoing issue of contention – where half the collective wants to establish a fixed itinerary, while the other half advocates a free-form approach. This probably means some combination of the two approaches will happen. Yes we have started to talk with various artists and groups, both locally for an upcoming weekend workshop on critical pedagogy (such as Dont Rhine from Ultra Red, and Sara Robert from Cal Arts), and more nationally.
We are social media friendly. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook… and we love fan mail. We also plan to develop a website, database and archive to contain gathered research, contact details of partners and more.