Critical Kits and How We Use Them

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In the here and now, our approach to kits differs to those using instructional guides and cookbooks to explore speculative responses to social and technological change. Much as we take huge inspiration from projects like the Additivists Cookbook,4 what we are doing is different, our approach to kits is not speculative, we make kits to be used. We agree with Bruguera5 that the time for speculation is over, we want people outside of the art world to use our kits in the mix of their everyday lives. Learning from previous radical attempts to involve the public with experimental art practice such as Arte Povera,6 we are aware that the barrier to active engagement with art is not just access to materials, but also time, education and support networks. While we are excited by the possibility of distributing participatory art7 experiences without the presence of the artist, we focus on embedding the co-creation and use of kits in communities through socially engaged art practice.

development of an artwork. Some of these concerns remind me of the complaints of the folkies when Dylan went electric, but a better analogy might be Socrates famous criticism of written culture. As Greek culture started to privilege the written word over the spoken word, Socrates claimed that this led to forgetfulness and miscommunication. And every word, when once it is written, is bandied about, alike among those who understand and those who have no interest in it, and it knows not to whom to speak or not to speak; when ill-treated or unjustly reviled it always needs its father to help it; for it has no power to protect or help itself.8

As a relatively new art form, maker kits have huge possibilities, but also dangers. When people start talking about scaling up art projects, many artists and producers start to get twitchy, and often rightly so. There is a real risk that the kitification of participatory art practice could be used by institutions to roll out art engagement on the cheap, losing the nuance that emerges when artists are present with communities to negotiate the

Inflatocookbook 4 5  Bruguera, T. (2012). Reflexions on Arte Útil (Useful Art). 6  Cullinan, N. (2008). From Vietnam to Fiat-nam : The Politics of Arte Povera *. October 124, 8–30. 7  Bishop, C. (2012). Artificial Hells. October-Cambridge Massachusetts-, 390. 6

Critical Kit Symposium : Genelogy of kits workshop 8  Greene, W. (1951). The Spoken and the Written Word. Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, 60, 23-59. doi:10.2307/310884 7