C Words: “Not the usual”….

16 Oct 2009 jane

What is PLATFORM doing in Arnolfini's programme? And why did Arnolfini invite PLATFORM?

Over and over again during C Words, I'm hearing a combination of the words: "not the usual".
It might be me, Jane from PLATFORM, saying "this is not the way we usually…", "not the place we usually…", "not the audiences we usually…" Or it might be colleagues at Arnolfini saying "we don't usually…", "these aren't our usual…", "usually we aren't…" There's clearly a lot of feeling around that no-one is on tried and tested ground. Nobody quite knows what is being attempted. As Nav Haq (Curator, Arnolfini) memorably said a few months back of C Words, "We're all on trial here." (But who are the jurors?)

It occurs to me that in this experiment where we have programmed an exhibition on climate change (acting as curators), as well as a full-on season of over 40 events, and moved to Bristol for the duration, and all in the context of Arnolfini, nothing is as usual for anyone here. PLATFORM, Arnolfini, artists, activists, NGOs and audiences.

Sometimes "not the usual" is spoken calmly and assertively, sometimes nervously or defensively, sometimes proudly, but what I'm pondering on is why such experiments and accompanying nervousnesses are a surprise?

The history of contemporary art is studded with disruptions of the usual. That's been part of the point, is it not?

Yet for all of us there are more acceptable disruptions, more acceptable risks and less…

What are the risks for Arnolfini? Reputation, backing the wrong/right horse in terms of "art"? Being seen to step outside "usual" programming, being experimental, belying any perception of a predictable trend? (But who are the jurors?)

What are the risks for PLATFORM and our collaborators? Reputation, backing the wrong/right horse in terms of "art" and "activism", deluding ourselves that we can effect any change from within? Damp Squib. Sharing a well-resourced platform with our networks; giving voice within cultural sector to a way of seeing, a way of acting… (But who are the jurors)

A phrase from Henry Giroux comes to mind, on the role of cultural workers and liberatory practices

"make the familiar strange, and the given problematic"

The jury is still out, but will return in a few weeks, and again in a few months…

Read here for the full programme:

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