XLt meets Multiplace (parts 1 + 2)

In April, we explored and participated in the 8th Multiplace Festival, which took place this year in 3 countries, Cz, Sk, and Pl, and a total of 9 cities. XLterrestrials landed in Praha, Brno, and Bratislava ( invited to speak at the latter 2 and jumping in on a Share Jam in the first ) where we met a wide range of active and curious participants at this pioneering festival/conference form in the midst of an increasingly dislocated cultural collider.  We are still processing loads of valuable impressions and following the discussions on the Multiplace list ( which is said to number around 50, mostly Czech and Slovak speaking cultural tinkerers ) such as a thread freshly spawned by Palo Fabus, a media theorist and editor of Umelec currently residing and teaching in Praha, and his linking of an article from ArtForum back from 2006 called “The Social Turn: Collaboration and Its Discontents” by Claire Bishop. For us it cracks open a can of worms on the difference between the art sectors and broader social engagements, but at the same time a new and necessary investigation begins along the faultlines where Multiplace collaborations perhaps struggled to find cohesion in round 8.

[ Poster from the M8 opening party in Fleda, Brno ]

Below is our initial letter to the list:

Dear Multiplacers,

Part 1: M8, Where to from here ?!!

Thank you all so much for the opportunity to participate in the M8 events. We collected a great deal of material and perspectives to further our work with the XLterrestrials, which experiments with hybrids of “psychomedia analysis” + art praxis + theater + media activism + whatever’s necessary. And more tangibly, it helped develop an expanding network through which to perform/present future works and seek new friends and collaborators, which will hopefully lead to contributing more to local culture and infrastructures. Participating in this list we hope will take steps toward that goal. We think the Multiplace group is a really potent and clever and engaged community, and would like to work with you all again sometime soon!

We were just subscribed to this list a couple weeks ago and hesitated to jump in immediately and switching the language to english… Wish we could follow more, but are fortunate that we can catch up a bit thru D.

We also resisted replying so quickly because we really wanted to analyze our experiences in order to be most constructive to a working group that we suspect has a bit of fragility at this time. Not because there is any lack of deep-thinking collaborators, but we suspect most likely because arts and culture ( and particularly festivals) in general are in a serious crisis for finding relevance in the very slippery and rapidly shifting environments and times.

To be honest, it felt apparent that the Multiplace is unsure how to proceed. So on that note, we already had a bonding theme… Where to from here ?? seems to be a very pressing question a lot of us are asking.

The last couple years we have been analyzing and critiquing “Virtual Migration”, i.e. the increasing dominance of telepresent communications and technological interactions and the over-mediated environments.  So in a sense we planned to participate in a kind of counterpoint and provide debate and friction to the directions/enthusiasms for “multiplace” experimentation.

But if we assess it correctly, M8 already showed signs of multiplace fatigue? No doubt after 8 years there’s a long list of successes and failures, and we would be intrigued to hear more about them.  We have to say we got a good laugh out of the fact that there were a couple of artists in Bratislava who apparently reacted already by creating a lo-key NO-budget Monoplace event ( last year?). Not sure how well that transpired, but, beyond the fact that there’s always an abundance of contrarians in any art circles, the about-face ( turn around ) seemed logical.

From our own experiences ranging between arts, activism and hybrids, i.e. live streaming radio (indymedia) and conferences,  collaborations with media arts and hacklabs, and also a few ‘multiplace’ music performances ( including a Radio Tesla series in 2006 using Ninjam ), which, perhaps funny to note, has only minutely improved since we first witnessed it from The Electronic Cafe in Santa Monica connecting with musicians in Germany back in 1991. And it has always seemed more of a game with tools and applications over the quality of the music and the level of meaningful communications. (note: perpetual beta is not music.)

For a long time we’ve been asking if arts + music and community require a shared locality to become something fully alive and interactive and inspiring.  From our perspective, simulated environments have been dropping like flies ( expression for a short lifespan ) but in a two?-decades-long tedious epic slow-motion, b/c the industry has so much invested in seeing orderly virtual economies become the new arena regardless of how painfully limiting they might be. And still we have very strong feelings that it’s a corporate-capitalist ( + military) trajectory, that will change little by reconceived 2.0 3.0 4.0 social participations. no no don’t believe the hype!

But coming back down to earth ( an XLt motto) , these days is like going against the tide ( or a tsunami ).  To push for the development of local communities when all the $eductive channels are constantly streaming the latest space-candy simulations is also a kind of slow motion and slow going. Places where apparently the plastic lawns look greener on the other side are still dominating the bigger picture.

Hmm, Where to from Here??!

Part 2 :

Thanx P. for bringing to our attention this article by Claire Bishop. It’s perspectives and language are ripe for artworld deconstruction. Not exactly clear how you wish to reference it for your own analysis and critique of M8, but it clearly touches on a critical nerve re: what we are all up to in our efforts to have impact. We suspect your attitude to M8 was to bring into question participatory art vs. visions realized. And we will share what it triggers for us.

Sure we’ve noticed how collaborative process, socially engaged and participatory art will often struggle. They struggle to find a community to go along for the challenges. And they will often appear raw and flailing, dirty, unpolished, and far from entertaining beside the aesthetical ‘mastery’ or showmanship of say a Damien Hirst, a Bjork, a David Lynch, or even a James Cameron (haha). Hmm could go in many directions with this sort of crude list. [ Btw, we love Cameron as an example of Follywood culture, and use it in our presentations often. re: media activism, we emphasize that the culture is in crisis b/c we are all encouraged to believe that making dramatic and 'clever' documents/art/symbolic representations of tear-jerking stories of sinking ships ( and/or paradise islands inc. featuring the plastic palace avatars, etc. ) might help us evolve, when what is urgently required is to simply get off the fucking ship... and why not art itself as the exit strategy? manifest our own ships ( minus the overweight lunacy and flawed social navigations) ?  art + function.? still brainstorming on those. ]

But anyway perhaps our point would be that after having worked with a number of art collectives and one very special community arts center in San Francisco for a number of years, it was predictable that many people would walk away from a show unmoved , annoyed even, because, well… it just doesn’t register on their Show-Biz-indoctrinated measuring sticks. And then, other times the pure-grade reality of artistic expression and emotional explosions from say a 17 year-old MC during one of the hosted hiphop “battles” would simply just flatten the irrelevant slick art world instantly… or a few of the DIY circus troupes we hosted would have such a wild party, and it made every club you ever dropped $10bucks and 20more for drinks look like the utter culture vacuum/vampires they so often are.

[ Btw, Bubenec ( an old sewage treatment plant turned into a technical museum ) with a pitched circus tent and all, was probably the most well-poised spot on the prague map to have an amazing party/event/gathering... amazing space! where was the participatory audience ? where the fuk were u praha ?? probably twiddling their thumbs in Cross Club listening to obnoxious ego-trips turned up to 11 on the sound system and drinking another overpriced beer like eternal tourists in their own town ... anyway old story, off-the-grid gigs are hard to promote and audiences/communitites everywhere need to be cultivated ]

We would have to read into this article, interview, feedback, etc. a bit further to fully analyze, and believe us we Tried for a couple days now, but our 1st impression is that Bishop falls immediately off the appropriate Page, into a category ( and conversation ) of standing on the side of the fence of galerie/museum ‘beauticians’,  those who would rather find aesthetical contests, percepetual carnival rides, commodifiable objects and career platforms in the arts than to seek and experiment with both wild and bold potentials + realtime engagement to transform society. F+ck Art , Long Live the Artist Communities !

But even that’s ‘an old hat’ cause… “to transform”… Clearly now’s the time to delve into the logical ( and illogical) upgrades in the current social upheaval: either art takes on the notions of community survival, self-defense and poetic reconstruction and resistance and realtime autonomy… or just surrender now to hanging tourist postcards on the walls of the Spectacle’s butcher shop.

(thx D. for the printouts) Her article reminded us that, one, we were reading something postable in ArtForum… of course she’s on the wrong Frickin page!! And we were reminded of some friends in L.A., desperate to restore sanity to discussions of art (and action) in our times. [ Btw Los Angeles has been noted as having one of the highest quotients of resident PHds and is simultaneously one of the stupidest cities on earth. Quite a lot of hard lessons there. ] They initiated “The Journal For Aesthetics and Protest” and at times it manages to provide the necessary rocket fuel to come back HOme … to the Hood… This article still brings tears to the eyes… and when the f+ck does academic art journalism and/or galerie art do That ??..

” Deserting the Culture Bunker ”
[ note: for us the anti-capitalist stance may already ring a bit dated, and could go off on a dozen hybrid-thinking tangents, but we'll have to come back to that theme another time ]

ok, sure we’ve digressed far off from the M8 topic by now…

But lastly, the exciting thing on that front of arts and praxis is where collaborations and participation are ready to get really DIRTY!  : )  Failures are definitely going to be a part of that. But failures from the sidelines are the most boring! But right there in the midst of our community planting deeper seeds, that’s where the harvest-ables of culture happen !

Jam On multiplacers !

stay tune for Part 3 : I.U.C.

While spending some meditative time on the Vltava river after M8 we began brainstorming on a mobile arts center concept called the I.U.C. ( institute for unchartered* cultures )… a pirate no-nation no-border flagship, of course flowing thru the canals from bratislava to praha to berlin to ?? …featuring workshops, hostel?, concerts , meetings, theater, residencies, etc. A tangible temporary autonomous, interventionist vessel… in permanently multi-cultural waters!

* re: charters, i.e. the corporate charter ( laws which give a corporation the same rights as a human being )
and the history of colonial charters are perhaps one of the prime reasons for our current social dilemmas, and as one can see in the copyright wars, this is playing out on many levels , and will cont. to be a key
turning pt. for grounding new social platforms.

anybody have a good-sized canal ship to donate to the cause ??

: )

thx for reading all this, we didn’t expect to make such a long initial entry, oops…
deep respex,

( with contributions from Podrescu and Podopolog )

arts + praxis organisms

p.s. On a very practical note, i don’t think we ever read a call for applications to M8 or previous versions, and only aware of it happening thru D. and colleagues… so if it was striving to be “multiplace”, was it effectively reaching out to draw participants ahead of time ??

AND SPECIAL THX to ALL the M8 organizers !!!
especially B., D., S., and all at A4 !!!

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