Two reasons that I wish I lived in the Northwest or Canada, or an East coast fan page of social practice.
Open Engagement, Art and Social Practice, May 18-20, 2012, in Portland, Oregon. Now in its fourth iteration, this free conference grew out of Portland State University’s MFA in Art and Social Practice (begun in 2007). I remember in perhaps 2010 my friend Kate who has been centrally involved with the various Feasts going on around the country—the earliest ones in Brooklyn and now Philadelphia’s Philly Stake—organized a train trip across the country with some others to go to this conference (see the project, called Empire Builder on her website). I remember her describing the trip as a functional necessity (i.e. how can we cheaply get across the country while incurring a smaller carbon footprint?) and as a perfect lead-up exercise to conferencing about social practice. Here, smart, quirky, and political people with youth and few responsibilities on their side lived somewhat communally in small quarters and passed time with apropos thinking, gaming, corrupting, and just getting by. The line-up for 2012 looks star-studded in the tiny world of social art practice fandom. Shannon Jackson, whose uh-amazing book Social Works is a must-read, will give the “keynote” address; Tania Bruguera, whose Immigrant Movement International Project is a mainstay in social practice action or discussion. Get thee to Portland by foot, train, car, bus, or plane, and I’d recommend making the voyage a practice in and of itself. Open Engagement #3 is sure to be good.
Institutions by Artists, The Convention, October 12-14, 2012, in Vancouver, Canada. A “world congress,” but really a conference (let’s not kid ourselves), about “artist-run centers, collectives, and cultures” is initiated by ARCpost—a Canadian association of artist-run centers—with some heavyweight sponsors (Andy Warhol Foundation, consulates, etc.) and will cost attendees $125 ($75 for students). Bruguera will also speak here along with, among my “favorites” (I am a fan after all), Julia Bryan-Wilson whose well-known book Art Workers addresses the moniker “worker” as adopted by minimal and conceptual artists and curators in the late 60s and early 70s and Vincent Bonin whose exhibition and catalogue Documentary Protocols (1965-1975) is perhaps the least-known and smartest book about how documentation becomes a key part of collaborative art practice (filling art history’s coffers with typed and xeroxed pages upon pages). It’s a timely topic as the creation of institutions (para-institutions) increasingly interests and occupies artists whose “work” becomes that of small-time white-collar laborers (phone calls, emails, budget sheets, etc.). An open question is whether the managerial and institutional (as far as these modes attempt to fix systems of relations) are becoming transformed by artists’ participation. Considering the hundreds of thousands spent to fly and house people from all over the world for “Institutions by Artists,” it’s unfortunate that the entry fee prohibits some artists (and students) from entering in the conversation.