Making Time at Human Resources: Shannon Jackson

Coinciding with the annual meeting of the College Art Association in Los Angeles, The Arts Research Center at UC Berkeley is hosting the offsite working session “Making Time at Human Resources” on February 22, 2012. Participants have been invited to post some brief thoughts on the topic in advance of the event. This guest posting is by ARC Director Shannon Jackson.

In anticipation of our working dinner–Making Time at Human Resources–let me share a few questions that have been preoccupying me.  This will be a bit disconnected–and should confirm for participants that your reflections don’t have to be eloquent. 

1) So my first question is a potential critique of my own habits of framing these discussions.  I have been trying to create fora that allow people to reflect upon the continued “disciplinarity” of so-called “interdisciplinary” art, to come clean about the fact that people who proceed from different artistic sectors have different skills, institutional habits, barometers for engaging quality, and often a different sense of what the stakes are, where innovation lies, what looks mediocre or passé.  At the same time as I think that it is important to work through some of these lingering mis-recognitions, I also realize that I am in danger of reifying the practices of each of those sectors in order to think more clearly about their assumptions and habits. How to create gatherings that expose these important differences and work through them–without over-simplifying the place from which everyone comes?

2) A second line of questioning goes toward ideas of economy and ecology, what kinds of DIY systems, temporary labor, institutional affiliations, commissions, documentation practices, teaching gigs, voice-over gigs, etc are sustaining art-making and the lives of artists? How are these systems similar but also different for artists in different fields (film, visual art, theatre, dance, community art, etc)?  When does a method of compensation look standard to one artist but look cynical to another? How do these ecologies unsettle or reinforce notions of  “individual” or “collaborative” artistic work?  How are different people thinking about the mixed economies of public sector, private sector, and non-profit sector legacies as they imagine new systems? 

3) A significant amount of conceptually oriented art-making and performance-making is skeptical about traditional artistic skills.  How are people feeling about skill these days? Are some art skills more suspicious than others? Does de-skilling in one domain mean re-skilling in another?  Can the suspicion of skill become just as cliché as its celebration? 

4) Over the last few months, several sites have provided opportunities to ask these and other interesting questions–Performa’s “interrogation” of “theatre”, Marina A/Yvonne R, and PST’s display of how West Coast artists contributed to experimental practice, even and sometimes especially when they didn’t bother worrying about categories.  I look forward to hearing more from those who have thought about these and other sites–and about questions that have been perplexing all of you the most.