The project that you are curating at Kunsthall Stavanger, titled Mobilizing Citizenship, is a semester long series of workshops centered around three themes: locality, visual surroundings and technology, and is geared towards future adults ages 12-16. Can you tell us a bit more about the methodology behind the series? What is the impetus behind the project as a whole?
For this project I wanted to work with the understanding of the workshop format as a place to come together and to create and explore questions. At the same time, it has been continuously important to challenge the idea of future adults as an audience group that should come into an art institution and replicate the format or process of an artist or designer, as is often seen in art meditation projects today. The main question instead being how we can work with different tools and strategies to encourage the future adults to use their voices in different sets of public forums.
In terms of intention, there is a need to readdress how we meet future adults in the setting of the art field and specifically the institution.
Through this project, I am trying to question how we understand collaboration as something that is not necessarily the same as participation - and especially how we work with these situations in the hierarchies of professional artists and future adults. It's a difficult question, but one I hope we can explore further through this project, and examine through several entry points; the Kunsthall as an institution, myself as a curator, the artists participating and the future adults.
A total democratization of the art institution is a utopia at this present moment, but this also means that we can approach the art institution as a structure we can hijack, intervene into, and in the spur of the moment, take over.
This questioning of the entire premise of how we approach this age group in the institution is interesting – the assumption that they should copy the style or process of a current artist or exhibition. Can you give some concrete examples of other possibilities for engaging young adults?
I think there are many ways to get around this. In Norway, Gerd Elise Mørland at the Munch Museum is exploring interesting possibilities, such as inviting in a contemporary artist who, together with children, uses dance movements to approach or talk about art works. Tate Modern is another good example, where educational initiatives concern themselves with allowing different groups to take up space in the institution and explore issues that are relevant for them. Same goes for a new programme at MOMA PS1 where LGBTQ teens with an interest in art can come to the institution and make art in a programme facilitated by artists.
If our aim is to open up the doors of the museum, it has to accompany the interest and issues relevant for the people we open them for. The idea of the museum as a place to educate the general public is an idea I would like to see retired. Instead, the art institution should be a place where we encourage the fundamentals of art; free speech, freedom of expression and a variety of modes of creation and a breadth of voices. That doesn't mean we can't talk about specific artists or the way they work. But if the main aim of so-called educational initiatives is to promote a specific art practice or artwork related to current exhibits, I think we quickly run into problems.
The project is welcoming to participants with no prior exposure to art mediation or formal art education. What is the reasoning behind this decision, and do you have any specific desired outcomes for the project – both short and long term?
There are several platforms available for future adults in Norway today. However, they usually need to be sought out of custodians of the future adults or the school they attend. Alternatively they usually require a previous knowledge or interest in the arts, either by the future adults or the custodians.
For this project I wanted to open up and encourage future adults who are not privy to this type of discourse to attend, and to explore how art can be approachable and affect us in every facet of life, not only as artists, but also as people who are part of a society.
The goal of this project is not to transform future adults into future artists, but rather that they are exposed to different ways of thinking about communication and how we categorise modes of expressions.
A participants in the last semester told me that after the workshops he argues with his mom about what art is on a daily basis; his argument being that "art can be anything", while she disagrees. One of the pilar of this project is to encourage dissensus, while endorsing solidarity and seeing the two as intertwined in any fruitful path forward. I want the future adults to develop their voice and to dare stand up for themselves and speak out. The methods we are offering are the same used by the people who have been commentating society for centuries:f artists and designers.
In your previous answer you mentioned caregivers and school systems deciding / mediating how young adults should engage with the arts. I'm wondering how one might engage future adults outside of these expected channels?
This is a difficult question, and I think it question also depends on the venue or institution that is trying to reach young adults. We have tried to recruit by going through different youth clubs in the areas where the future adults live. The authority figures they deal with in the youth clubs are not teachers or custodians, rather they are people who know them and support them in their daily life. In addition, the youths involvement in the clubs are not dependent on any entry requirements apart from just showing up. I think this flatter structure is a good starting point for recruitment and a reason why we have chosen to go through the youth clubs.
Typically the youth who come from homes where custodians have time and energy to encourage them, seek out things such as educational initiatives. This can in some cases contribute to an increase in class divides and also sets in place a structure of privilege. Because of this I believe active recruitment is essential for programmes such as Mobilizing Citizenship
For Mobilizing Citizenship, you are working as an independent curator in collaboration with Kunsthall Stavanger. How does Mobilizing Citizenship fit in with the rest of your curatorial practice?
Apart from curating I also work as a writer, editor and educator. What unites these modes is a general interest in social justice, intersectionality and finding new ways of being in conversation. For me its not so much about how you do something, but why, and partaking in making an idea fruitful and constructive.
Recently I interviewed David Reinfurt, who has been part of authoring the new monograph about the legendary graphic designer Muriel Cooper (2017, MIT Press). He spoke about how Cooper helped ideas be formed – together with a team – and put into the world. I think that is an apt description for what someone working with communication could also strive for, be it curation, editing, education or writing.
Subsequently, collaboration and conversation is at the core of everything I do.
As mentioned previously, Mobilizing Citizenship is a semester-long series of workshops, and this is the second iteration of the project. Can you tell us a bit about what workshops and events will be coming up, as well as how this semester's series will differ from the last?
Last semester we focused on acts of activism as artistic practice, taking over physical, public space and claiming a room for our voices. For this semester we are focusing specifically on digital platforms, which means that the future adults will be working with questions of how public realms are not confined to physical space, but also structured in the setting of the web. This is done in different ways, depending on the artists we are working with for this semester.
The first workshop with Clara Balaguer explored ideas of visibility and invisibility both in the physical aspect as well as the digital realms. The second workshop this semester was with Laurel Schwulst. Laurel works with questions of how nature, art and the internet intersects, and for our workshop we looked at how things live online, the life of objects and how we move and express ourselves online. Through the workshop we made an online newspaper: Made in a Day, with the tagline: Don't Sleep on Sundays.
Through the rest of the semester we'll welcome Eglè Kulbokaité and Dorota Gawęda as workshop organisers. They'll be giving a talk on their practice and their work with the project Young Girl Reading Group, a communal performance where they explore different sets of networks, while at the same time deciphering and making meaning.
For our final workshop, Andreas Knag Danielsen and David Lamignan Larsen will join us. Andreas will also give a public talk on his performative project B3IG3, where he appears as an avatar figure guiding hotel visitors through a series of interventions and meetings between the human and the technological. For the workshop he will be working with local artist David Lamignan Larsen, who explores questions of identity and belonging in his practice, often through video format. I'm excited to see how their practice will meet and conjunct with the future adults.
Their workshop will also lead up to a public event on the 2nd of December. Here, the work the future adults have been making for this semester will culminate in a public presentation, open to the public. I hope it will be yet another opportunity to explore how public forums can be a place for challenging assumptions, speaking out and to be in conversation.
Kristina Ketola Bore is a design critic, curator and educator based in Oslo. She holds an MA in Design Writing Criticism and a BA in Fashion Journalism. Kristina is a co-founder of the platform The Ventriloquist Summerschool, a subeditor of the art journal Periskop, and lectures internationally at universities and cultural institutions. Her work investigates the social structures within and outside of design, in addition to participation and the role intersectionality and feminisms can play in the design field. These perspectives are also deployed in the act of curation, which has resulted in series of educational art programming for both youth and adults.