Esther Polak on Wed, 20 Apr 2011 08:51:24 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: [Nettime-nl] [spectre] The Juxtaposium / open letter to event organisers

Op 29 Maart hebben Baruch Gottlieb, Brian Holmes, Alessandro Ludovico, Edward Shanken, Ivar van Bekkum en ik een open brief gepost over het Symposium Format „Juxtaposium". De discussie is opgestart op Spectre, alwaar hij hopelijk voortgaat. 
Bij deze een eenmalige up-date op Nettime-NL. 
Wie verder wil reageren graag op Spectre. Daar zijn ook de eerdere reacties te vinden 

Esther Polak 

Dear all, Andreas, Susanne, Josephine and Darko, 

Thank you all for your reactions to the Juxtaposium proposal that we did post on March 29. 
I did read them with great interest. 

Firstly i like to react to Josephine Bosma’s plea for more contexts: 

> Where does this come from? How was it created? How did the writers come together?

We strongly felt that it is not important where and when we met. We all know each other from the field of new media and are invited for symposia and workshops regularly. And there seemed to be a common feeling about how we dealt with that.

> There have however been plenty of experimental formats going around in the past 15 years if not more. What bothers me a little about the juxtaposium proposal is that this is completely ignored. It does not help to negate one's own history. 

Josephine also pointed out that there is a history of experiments that has been taken place, but apparently I missed that to often, and the experiments that took place have not resulted in a general change of approach. I  really liked to read about the Tesla examples Andreas mentioned, and Darko’s examples so if Josephine could describe the  events she feels that stand out in this respect, i would be very happy to read about it and be inspired. 

The examples that Andreas and Darko gave, no matter how great they sound, do not offer per se what we had in mind: a format that would be reflective and interesting and function well in a public setting.  We did not want to invite artists to express their own insecurities, nor did we want to make the presentation an artwork in itself. We did envision a public situation where artist reflect on other artists work (and theorist the like) with respect, but especially with an unexpected outcome and a new angle that everybody could win and grow from.  We envisioned a very serious contemplation of artist on each others work, (and theorists) by presenting it almost as if it was almost their own, from out of connoisseurship, enthusiasm, and most importantly coming up with new (art historical, contextual) angles.  For me personally the Juxtaposium idea and open letter is fuelled by a strong disinterest I start to feel more and more by my own lectures: being invited to talk about my own work, a story I heard myself tell already so many times.

Susanne Jaschko gave some relevant comments here: 

> There are a number of reasons why this is so. Lousy speakers' fees don't explain everything. Laziness might be one of the factors. Laziness of the organisers to find speakers who actually – in theory – have something to say to each other, laziness to take the effort to communicate with all participants in the panel about their individual contribution in advance and making them understand what the context is in which they speak. But also laziness of the speakers to think of something different than the usual presentation. In all those years that I am organising these kind of events, I was rarely surprised by someone making the effort to come up with something fresh, something extraordinary, although there the space for it was there.

Presenting ones own work has its inbuilt limitations
I can only speak from my own experience as an artist-presenter. I think in order to make me give an interesting unexpected lecture I would perform best if given a specific briefing to do smth special. I would need a very clear direction given by the event organiser and a test presentation with personal feedback from the event organiser. What definitely would NOT work is make me talk to the other presenters and let us figure out by ourselves what our common ground is and how to incorporate this in the presentations. Probably the event-organizer has a outspoken view on this, but unless he or she articulates this very clearly we would never guess. We are no mind readers. And although bringing us together will in the mind of the event organiser have a very obvious meaning, we as participants will not see this by ourselves. 

But still: If I am invited to speak about our/my work, this will always be kind off the same, as our/my work already expresses itself, and we have been discussing the context and the history of its development in our studio already many times. This story is part of the process, and cannot be changed so easily by ourselves. We have to be consistent here, as an artist, but that does not mean that I disapprove of other stories: I just cannot deliver them myself. SO I am very open for different interpretations of our work, as long as others construct them. 

Artist presenting each others work 
I would be most happy to get the opportunity to publicly reflect on an other artists work, preferably if I admire it and/or if there is a relation to my own work. I would be very motivated to contact him/her on forehand, to ask for text, images, search for common ground and come up with new examples of context, order, hierarchy and relevance. I think it would work well if all artists involved are present and are open for each others fresh interpretation or contextualisation.

Probably I would also criticise, but I would know that one of the next presenters would talk about our/my work, so I would be very playful, precise and careful. If I would be offered to present on work I do not feel any enthusiasm for, I would negotiate another artist with the event-organiser. 

In New Media Art the usage of doing symposia is very important en developed. In this NMA context the exhibition regularly seems like taking place in the slipstream of the symposium and artists talks instead of the other way around. In Mainstream Contemporary Art for example this is totally inversed. I cannot explain this phenomenon, but I think it is a relevant fact to bring about. This makes both the symposium, and subsequently the event organizer, and the organisation and concept of the event, very important. I get the impression that event-organisers sometimes are not totally aware of their own importance.

The fact that our open letter criticizes their common approach does not necessarily mean that I think we (as artist and theorist) can or even should try to do better ourselves. To be an event organizer is a special position, and it needs a special eye, attitude and perspective. I respect that deeply. But I think that, as a regular contributor to symposia, I should be open about my feelings and criticisms and articulate this in public; as I indented to start a fruitful discussion and a more engaged practice.

Best, Esther Polak 

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