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  • We are part of the system but not so much

    How did you decide to become an artist?/ What next?
    We are part of the system, but not so much

    October- December 2009, Det Fynske Kunstakademi, Odense, Denmark

    During our residency at Det Fynske Kunstakademi in Odense, Denmark, we proposed to the students a workshop titled How did you decide to become an artist? / What next?
    This was the open call for the workshop:

    How did you decide to become an artist? We would like to discuss this very general and in the same time very intimate question. Talking about our stories around our decision to become artists not only means to reflect on our own personal convictions, hopes and reasons, but also to get into broader topics such as art education, how is the art system working, what is the status of the artist in society, etc. And besides all these, besides our hopes and expectations of art and its potential power to produce change (in ourselves and in the broader context), besides our initial decision (which can be a clearly recalled moment, or just a diffuse memory), what next?

    Why do we do art? In all the dystopian scenarios that unfold around us (global warming, global economic crisis, etc) why do art anymore? Are the times we are living really post-political, can we talk of post-feminism, of post-racism? What is the situation of immigrants in Denmark? What about women?

    And also: What are the living conditions of someone studying art in Denmark? What sorts of jobs do you do? Where do you live? What jobs do you expect to have after graduating? What would it be your dream situation? What is the nightmare?
    Do you imagine your life collectively or by yourself? When you think of yourself in the future, do you imagine that you will rely on someone else beside yourself? On whom? The state, your family, friends…?
    What are the scenarios of success (of a successful artist, of a successful life)? And also, what about failure, a failure that can open up new possibilities?

    Capitalism is about mobility. Mobility of the workforce, flexibility, the new “precariat”, seemed sometimes as having a potential power. How do see your future life in this context? What are the tensions between a mobile life an artist is supposed to have by default and your personal life scenarios? Is there freedom or constraint in the always provisory character of this sort of mobile life? Where is the thin line between these two aspects, between the freedom to be different, to have a different life from the lives of the big majority and the neo-liberal concept of mobility, where your precarious life counts as freedom?

    How would you define freedom (for yourself and also for the broader society)?

    We would like to invite you to meet and discuss in a cosy, informal atmosphere things about art, decisions, future scenarios, etc. We would record our conversations and than, together with you, we would like to use these recordings in order to produce collective artwork/s, giving a more concrete form to our ephemeral conversations.

    As a result of the workshop, we realized together an exhibition titled We are part of the system but not so much.
    This is a fragment from the press release for the exhibition:

    We are part of the system, but not so much

    By: Johanne Aarup Hansen, h.arta, Heidi-Anett Haugen, Maj Horn-Petersen, Diana Jensen, Lena Johansen, Niklas C. Majland Bruhn, Johannes Sivertsen

    How did you decide to become an artist? Why do we do art? In all the dystopian scenarios that unfold around us (global warming, global economic crisis, etc) why do art anymore?

    During a workshop titled “How did you decide to become an artist? / What next?” we gave each other possible answers to these questions, reflecting on our own personal convictions, hopes and reasons and also on the broader contexts of art education and art system. During our meetings, which we recorded in the form of audio material, we used this questions and answers as pretexts for trying to put into practice ideas related to the potentialities contained in the group work. These ideas refer to the possibilities of learning together and from each other in a group situation, in a situation were we are aware of the hierarchies inherently created in any group, of the relations of power that are conditioning us according to our social position, gender, temperament, etc and we use our awareness in order to counteract these relations of power.
    Further on, listening to the audio recordings, we decided that we would like to give a public form to these discussions. There are several reasons for conceptualising the present exhibition:

    I want to continue this discussion, to open it up for other people also.
    I am curious where these discussions could go, how can we deepen our understanding, our thoughts if we are put in the situation to make them more public.
    For me, it is interesting to develop further the practice of group work when also a practical aspect is involved and to see what are the possibilities for a democratic and efficient process of common conceptualisation and decision taking.
    I think that the decision to make an artwork out of our conversations determines an even more personal way of relating to these conversations and it is also an occasion to step back and reflect on my own thoughts and position.
    I was afraid that the energy of the discussions would just vanish if we break up and go our different ways without trying to give the conversation a somehow more stable form. I think our conversation deserves an exhibition.
    It is interesting the process of working together to give a relevant form to something that started as a discussion among ourselves.
    I just want to tell also to other people what I thought and what I felt!

    This exhibition is a reflection of our common voices. It is the result of our common work and thinking, but also the result of other inputs, too, as long as other people, that were part of the discussions and that shared with us their thoughts, contributed in this way to its conceptualisation.