As part of the ongoing campus initiative Global Urban Humanities: Engaging the Humanities and Environmental Design, the Arts Research Center co-sponsored the Reimagining the Urban: Bay Area Connections Across the Arts and Public Space on September 30, 2013. Participants have been asked to submit a blog post “on a keyword you see debated in the Bay Area arts, policy, and planning landscape.” This posting is by Megan Hoetger, a second year PhD student in Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies at UC Berkeley.
The long-term is a durational temporality. If I set this against the continuous present of the participle, ‘re-imagining’–the keyword which leads the title of the symposium–what kind of time do I find myself in? The call for the long-term engagement is a particularly fraught one for the field of visual art practice forcing the surface a series of questions, like: how long is enough for an artist to engage a community? How long should the dialogue be? How long does the project go? How long should the artist *be* in that space, or need she be there at all? What point, if ever, should/can she dis-engage and move on to the next community, city, country? When I shift these questions to arts organizations we might similarly ask: how long is long enough? And, coming more sharply in focus at this level, if long-term is the desired time, where is funding to sustain that continuous present coming from? How might that conflict with the very conceptual root of the continuous present action, to re-imagine? What costs must we / are we / should we be willing to pay to secure that duration temporality? And what do we imagine to be the relationship between the artist / the arts and communities across the long term?
Radical Connectivity — Joel Slayton, director of the Zero 1 biennial in San Jose, delivered a presentation on the topic of digital public art practices, which is the focus of the biennial. Slayton proposed two forthcoming changes (which a consensus has agreed are forthcoming, although whose consensus I am not quite sure): the first, radical connectivity; the second, infinite data. The former brought ‘the radical’ to bear on the ways in which Cloud will revolutionize our connections, shifting us into a culture of reciprocity; that is, a culture of give and take. What Slayton’s proposition, as great as it sounds, seems to ignore is the basic issue of access that surfaces as soon as we begin to talk about Cloud and infinite data.
Radical parasite– Raquel Gutierrez’s presentation on her work with the new program YBCA in Community brought ‘the radical’ to bear in a fundamentally different way, directly taking up issues of access. Gutierrez’s deployment of the term was paired to with a relation based on reciprocity but with a self-recognized leechlike relation. Gutierrez is from Los Angeles and only recently relocated to the Bay Area for this job at YBCA; here with within the communities in San Francisco, as a result, is as that of an itinerant outsider. What she proposed though, was not to try to overcome that status as outsider, but the possibility of operating as a radical parasite and working within the realities of uneven power relations and precarious duration to create space for youth outreach.
Slayton and Gutierrez proposed seemingly opposing visions of a radical long-term relationship, so what do we make of the viability of the extended duration as a mode of artistic engagement? Can the relationship be both reciprocal and parasitic?