Text by Yuriy Kruchak
Yuri Kruchak artist, curator, founder of the Open Place platform. Studied Scenography at the Kharkiv State School of Art, and Environmental design at the Kharkiv state academy of design. Graduated from the National Academy of Fine Arts and Architecture (major in painting).
There are three key problems in the contemporary cultural context that drove us to explore in greater detail the theme Local іs the New Global: the problem of choice, conflict of interests and limited resources. To make a choice we have to decide why one idea is more valuable or important to us than another. The situation is complicated by the fact that we are surrounded by aggressive propaganda of consumption that permeates nearly every aspect of the modern world, and so we have to figure out how to reject these possibilities and which option is the wisest.
Another distinctive feature of the present is the politicization of our lives. Most political activists today use art to achieve their goals and at times art becomes an alibi for protests. On the other hand, artists apply political methods to their work and enter the area of public policy so as to get more expressive artistic results. But society is losing trust in political statements and parties. The thin line between political activism and artistic practice creates contradictions in the perception of one and the other. These contradictions polarize local communities, which leads to conflicts that, in turn, distract us from problems that need to be resolved.
The time is ripe to analyze the relationship between the production of art, public space, politics and society, to rethink the division of roles between artists, activists and communities, and to answer several other questions that we think are important to the present. How can you make the local public your allies and adherents? What resources can we find and create to support our artistic and social practices when working together on the local and international level? Should art teach, or should it learn from those populations it works with? What is more effective for social transformation and the development of artistic language – removing borders between art and reality, changing the “system” from within, or perhaps another, third way?
The project Local іs the New Global is an applied study in the format of workshops that aims to develop concepts and scenarios for art events in public places. The series of workshops develops a line of research focusing on how creating art projects with different social groups can help shape less systematized forms of individual expression, and also how individuals and groups can come together to build qualitatively new types of institutional infrastructure. Thus, the main objective is to formulate cultural policy together as a group. It should be noted that the idea for this research didn’t arise during reflection on theory or concepts, rather it’s an integral part of the practical experience of the platform Open Place in recent years. It is an applied study combining theory, practice, game and experimentation.
The field of study of this project was shaped by the contradictory relationship between art and activism. A comparison of various projects by activist and art groups over the last decade created a new space for reflection on the mutually contradictory concepts of defined and undefined. On the one side, there are activist groups with clearly defined objectives and goals whose activities are organized along the principle of horizontal links and mobile response (which is why they’re not very effective). On the other side, there are art institutions whose main objectives and goals aren’t always clearly defined, that have flexible frameworks and tend to be event-oriented structures. And on the third side there are various excluded social groups that have clearly defined needs but no idea how to realize them.
The approach developed for the workshop Local is the New Global attempts to constructively rethink and combine the notions of defined and undefined, gradually introducing an effective model that would link the capacity of different social groups with curatorial activity. The starting point in the development of this special concept was the creation of a communication strategy based on import-export principles. This strategy ensured the physical presence in a particular place of representatives of different artistic, social and activist groups, as well as created an opportunity for the exchange of different kinds of knowledge. Consequently, our project worked with defined and undefined factors.
The results of the study showed that events organized by activist and art groups that contained messages and entered the public space either changed or remained incomprehensible to the target audience – key social groups. For the structure of the workshop Local is the New Global such realities speak of the constant dialogue between the defined and undefined, which isn’t a problem or deviation from an ideal model, but rather an opportunity to develop a new type of procedural structure. A hybrid structure that includes elements of social, activist and art centers. A structure that takes existing artistic, social, economic and political conditions and uses them as starting points for new social transformations and the development of the language of art.
Paradoxically, it is still acceptable to say that a work of art should have one author. Local is the New Global explores and develops a model of collective authorship. This methodology sees collective authorship as a series of impulses that can come from different subjects and through discussion combine into a common message, strategy and tactic of action. Collective authorship is based on several lines of behavior that gradually change one another after certain goals are achieved. This methodology is also based on the action and principles of camouflage and practices used by journalists, anthropologists, psychologists and sociologists. The figure of the creator in this model becomes invisible, which makes it possible to focus on the potential of artistic and social practices in the boundary zone between visible and invisible spheres – active communities and those excluded from the field of vision. When working in the real social context, this model provides an opportunity to use tactics and strategies that can bring to the surface invisible processes that are hidden deep in today’s cultural space, with the help of which you can transform existing and create new relationships between society and the artistic process.
Based on the idea of the “construction of a work” as a cumulative and open process, the workshop builds on a succession of independent but interrelated stages. The workshop takes the format of a game that allows participants to identify relevant themes, places and groups on their own, interpret meanings together, and then decide why one thing is more important than something else. The point of the game is to put together sets from different categories of cards, like a kind of project design, and then explain your choice to others.
The aim of the workshop in Kyiv was to identify possible ways to involve local communities in the artistic and social process. There were five components to the main objective. First – identify social groups that weren’t involved in artistic processes before. Second – recognize problems that are important for the local context. Third – identify public places that could bring different social groups together. Fourth – consider possible tactics and strategies for cooperation with local communities. Fifth – develop recommendations for artists and curators interested in making the local public their allies and adherents.
The workshop participants, working in several focus groups, put together sets using three categories of cards (potential problems, places and social groups) and build relationships between the components of the set. Then representatives of each focus group explain their group’s choice to the others. Afterwards, the workshop moderators present the next two categories of cards – events (a social activity that people can rally around) and activity (“professional activity”, methods and strategies that can be used for interaction with different social groups).
The workshop Local is the New Global combines features of a communication center and creative studio. It is at once a school, a workspace and a display. The workshop becomes a platform for critical thought and enables new forms of interaction between people.