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The new wilderness: A practice-led model for arts based enquiry

conference contribution
posted on 2014-08-01, 00:00 authored by Cameron BishopCameron Bishop, Merinda KellyMerinda Kelly
The New Wilderness is a practice-led, multidisciplinary arts project first piloted by artists, writers, teachers and academics from Geelong, Deakin University and Courthouse ARTS Centre in 2013. In a series of workshops run by artists, and working to specific themes, the project provided a platform for participants to explore and respond creatively to change in the community; it culminated in a large-scale installation at Courthouse ARTS Centre’s main gallery. Our paper positions the project as a able to cut across convention, empowering young artists to respond to ‘big questions’ of relevance to the changing material, spatial and social relations within their communities. In questioning and seeking to transform communities into sustainable media, economic, environmental and social ecologies, this emergent model begins with a localised focus, which is designed to travel across time and place, and pedagogical frameworks. The paper positions Geelong as a community under radical transformation in its economic foundations and demographics. As artists and academics living and working in the region we see it as an experimental ground for investigations into a series of provocations that mirror the shape of the paper we intend to give. The provocations, as outlined in the workshops, might also be envisaged as new relations to:
Object – From consumable to unusable to play. In revisiting the first iteration of The New wilderness in 2013 we discuss the ‘superfictional’ (Hill, 2000) enquiry that participants were asked to engage with. Its premise described Geelong as an abandoned, post-apocalyptic site. Participants were asked to imagine themselves as a group of future explorers and excavate objects from the city’s old tip. In unearthing their choices and re-presenting the objects in the gallery the participant was prompted to analyse site, situation, object and process as phenomena for ‘being’ or ‘telling stories’, providing insights into wider realms of cultural experience (Ellis, Adams and Bochner, 2010). Parallel to this ‘autoethnographic’ reflection our paper uses the philosopher Giorgio Agamben’s analysis of consumer and material culture. He traces the subject’s relation to objects from use-value, to exchange-value and in the era of extreme capitalism, to pure exhibition-value. He searches for ways that the objects produced in our material culture can be ‘profaned’ (Agamben, 2007).
Space – From the material to the spatial to the situation. We are interested in how objects and the practices they elicit can be ‘profaned’ by their situation (Agamben, 2007; Wark, 2103). To profane, according to Agamben, is to open up the possibility that the object loses its exhibition-value to ‘a special form of negligence’ (Agamben). He uses the example of the child’s ability to insinuate any object into a new logic of play (Agamben). Like the objects excavated for The New Wilderness they could be from a variety of spheres – business, household, industry, health etc… The child, like the artist, reconstitutes, reorders and assembles new relations between things. In reflecting on the first New Wilderness project the paper correlates the creative response of the participant (student, child, artist) with the occupier. The Occupy Movement, which took up residence in many of the world’s cities’ financial districts in 2011, used a number of strategies commensurate with both Agamben’s notion of profanation and McKenzie Wark’s reading of the Situationist International’s use of détournement - as a strategy that releases objects and subjects back into the field of play (Wark, 2013). The field was taken by the occupy movement to be the space in which they occupied – capitalism, its logic and its practices, were, for a short time, redundant in the occupied field. The New Wilderness conceptualises the city as a localised field, from which its discarded objects can be ‘profaned’ or, repurposed, to reflect on shared histories, responsibilities, pedagogies and



International Society for Education through Art. World Conference (34th : 2014 : Melbourne)


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Melbourne, Vic.

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[Melbourne, Vic.]

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E3.1 Extract of paper

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2014, InSEA

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34th InSEA 2014: Diversity through Art : Proceedings of the International Society for Education through Art 2014 World Conference

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