WITNAS #9 2012
WITNAS : Patrik Haggren Laura Hatfield Chris Johnsen Sara Lindeborg Matthew Rana Adrien Siberchicot
WITNAS #9 Ikumi Aihara, Ingrid Cogne, Kristian B Johansson, Paul Nulty, Lucy Lippard, Matthew Rana http://witnas.org
As an invitation to a workshop that we held on October 13 2012 at Index - The Swedish Contemporary Art Foundation in Stockholm, we had sent out the following words: A shack can be a place for strangers to come together when they a need a roof over their heads. These makeshift structures, often made of random bits and pieces, can provide insight into methods for finding intimacy and trust. Can a shack be a publication and if so how can you build the trust necessary for it to survive? WITNAS offers a workshop using the idea of the shack as a conceptual and methodological starting point for considerations on the editorial process as collective effort. We are seeking collaborators to build this temporary roof, to establish some common ground, for the next issue of our journal, which is forever in a state of construction. Using what is at hand, either gathered on-site or brought in by participants, our shack will form a bridge between the concept of a writing workshop and our method of publication. Together, we will combine collage tactics with chance texts and materials into a makeshift structure, in order to examine more closely the editorial concept of â€˜picking and choosing.â€™ Following WITNAS#8, the shack that our workshop collaborators helped us build that day, here comes the ninth issue that we have made from image documentation of the event mingled with texts contributed since by the participants.
I’m Trying to recollect a recent experience of building a shack. My memory is patchy. It took place a few weeks ago with a group of people that i had just met while at Index gallery in stockholm. The event was a workshop with WITNAS as part of the publish and be dammed independent publishing symposium. The theme of the meeting was ‘Shack’. We were a group of people gathered around an empty gallery. There was not much talking at ﬁrst. There was some polite introductions "where do you come from? oh ok i studied in Glasgow too" or “I'm an exchange student from Japan”. “Did you bring anything with you?” “mmm. No.” “No, neither did I.” Once organised in a circle we began describing our understanding of shack "A friggebod", "A shanty town construction", "shacks, they don’t exist in Sweden!", "They do in the forest! You can shoot moose from them!". "I built one when i was a child." Its a bit like the word for chess in Swedish! ‘Schack’ “wasn’t there some TV series from the 70s called shack?” We made some steps in agreeing what a shack actually is. We didn’t really have instructions, but we did have a time limit. We had 30 minutes to build a shack in the gallery space. The shack should not exceed the size of the tables used for the Book and publishing fair. Our shack would become the WITNAS table in the fair later in the day. We were provided with some found objects and materials from the building site nearby. Looking back at this event I am wondering what rules or process we used. How did we gather together our skills and build. I am reminded of Emanuel Almborgs recent exhibition at Konsthall C. The exhibition was the Presentation of two works that employed some strict rules as its starting point . An idea where a collective group of people built a ‘structure’ together. The exhibition ‘That which follows’ showed a project from the 1970s where a group of residents in the London borough of Hackney decided to build on a derelict site. Uncertain of what to build they made some rules “firstly not only would they build without any plan or blueprint, they would not discuss the direction of the project at all. Second, when they were on the building site, no one was allowed to speak — at all. Third, the building would never be completed, because anyone at any point could decide to take it in a new direction. The structure was continually built under these conditions for thirty years." Jacinta Emilia Cosas Almborg took this premise forward in the creation of a 2010 project where a group of people who did not know each other built a structure on Gotland under the strict rules of not being allowed to plan the structure or to talk about its direction during the entire process. This group of individuals would also live together for the duration of the project. Cooking and cleaning was also done in silence. The resulting project was presented in the gallery as a floor to celling video projection. The silent workers appear very concentrated. They are posed in the idyllic backdrop of the Gotland landscape. A group of artists pictured in sober mood, stiff faced and silent in a rural setting. But for their cloths they appear like the farmers of rural Norfolk in The staged images of the romantic landscape photographer PH Emerson from the 1880s. Not much is given away to how they reach their goal in the sporadic constructions. This concept of collective making in silence and having no sketched plan avoids the possibility for argument, disagreement and so for a potential halt in the construction process. Silence perhaps allows for a flow. The working process becomes harmonic. The shack construction for WITNAS was in some way made with some strict rules. We have half an hour. It must be no bigger than the size of this table. Use this material found here or other stuff you can find outside the gallery and “eat theses nuts and chocolate” you need to keep up some energy.” Nothing was recorded or visually documented as far as I remember. No agreement was made for a plan and no restrictions were placed upon us. The general consensus was we built our shack without conflict and in a fairly democratic way, no fuss. Time was short. Maybe the polite unfamiliarity towards each other was the key to the hassle free production. Does this fluency occur in real life desperate situations when people need shelter and are thrown together? There was however some dialog among the participants to get to the point of an agreed structure. But how did we get there? what did we say. Is there a blueprint or a method that can be reflected on? I remember sound bites that were made during the construction. I am not sure I can trust my memory though. Perhaps I have invented or misunderstood or even completed other peoples sentences or thoughts. But these sound bites could be pieced together as a transcript like minutes from a construction site meeting? Perhaps it would be more like a family conversation during the building of a garden shed? Or a poem about a shack? So the following words about the building of a shack could be worthwhile. It could after all be used as an instruction template for someone to follow and build or re enact a similar shack sometime somewhere else in the future. like the instructions for a Sol LeWitt wall drawing or an Ikea instruction sheet. Like for example the billy shelf. It of course would be called just SHACK.
To build your SHACK follow the instructions below. Do you have some string? Its like a shrine, Is it? For what? Does your head fit In there? Have you seen the tape that was here? No, don’t kill it. I’m trying to save it. He stood on it Who? Him? This really smells. Turn it over. I have to put it out of its misery. Its really beautiful. Its like the inside of some ones apartment. Yeah it’s the reverse. I already put two spiders out the window. You can see the a print of the floorboards. Should these be inside or outside? Are you using this? We had that in a previous edition The pomegranate? Thanks I’m not sure. Ah ha, that’s a good idea. This is a platform Stand on it Like a shelter You can go in and eat here. And you can read in it. Oh it covers you head I really need to wash my hands Your Shack should be complete within 30 minutes
Was time a pressure on the workshop? Why calling it a worksho immaterial? Why writing/contributing with a materialized form to (an event?)? Why contributing to the assemblage of immaterial
to production? What about ʻourʼ? Who was there? Was the mom
using the signature of the publication (rabbits, carrots...)? Was t
the minimum of time required/needed to stay in ʻwhat is a works
workshop was supporting the movement of exploitation of imma
acknowledged? Valued? By whom? Who gained from that mom
been critical while doing what we did? What did we do? Have w
the creation of a context of procrastination? Why doing a publica
a publication in order to do not produce a publication? Was the m
moment? Did /do that moment had/has a cause? An effect? Wh
Who were ʻweʼ? Did what we did change the representation of p
the commerce and consumption of creativity? Was what we did:
critical toward what we did? What is the souvenir of what we did
statement with what we did? Does everything need to necessar
self behind the ʻweʼ? Does the esthetic of what we did match the
productions and collaborations? Who cares? Do we care of wha
the responsibility of it? Did we discuss that? Have we been talki
rewinding? Why? Did we feel at home in that context? Ingrid Co
op? Who called it a workshop? Can a publication be a publication that is already published in an immaterial form traces by gathering material? What was our relation
ment a win-win situation? Who gains from this moment? Why
that moment a workshop? What is a workshop? What would be
shopʼ and not entering in a production? How much the so-called
aterial labor? Was the efficiency of the present participants
ment? Who earned from that workshop? And what? Have we
we been as effective as we could? Was the proposal
ation when the intention was to propose a workshop as
moment enough great? Was the effort greater than the
hat did we do? What have we been doing? What are we doing?
presentation in a book fair? Why entering, participating
: cool, in, nice ... mainstream, déjà vu? Is it interesting to be
d? Did we edit enough? Did we conceptually develop a specific
ry be a statement? Do we need to care? Can we excuse the
e criteria of quality I would require in my own processes,
at we did? What happened to what we did? Who had
ing together? Would we like to do it again? What about
ogne Nov. 2012
Approaching the problem of critique, much is said about publics, but what gets said about art? We often forget that a public is made up of things as much as people; things that circulate, like art objects, iPhones, racing forms, postcards, trail mix, books and periodicals, but also less obvious things which perhaps aren’t as easily moved: trees, walls, flooring, the unconscious. These things affect us and organize our activity. But they are rarely considered as being part of the public that we write for. Art, like rabbits, proliferates. Not only do we focus on what we produce, but on what we reproduce as well. So what is being perpetuated? Some say Eurocentrism or bourgeois culture. Others say that it’s ways of creating value for others, or a false belief in meaning that are the problem. Others still claim that there is no future. Whatever way you look at it, the conclusions often sound the same: we’re dominated, stupid, sold-out. All of this is probably true. Accusations of intellectual dishonesty or even of complicity become part of a well-rehearsed repertoire. Facts are never real enough when ideology rules. Cynical attitudes persist even though they too are denounced. Judgment is forgotten and no one is beyond reproach. But is this all that connects us? Caught between nature on the one side and culture on the other, where can we make our appeal? Common Sense? Are we trapped, or is there another way in which we can be together (publicly, critically)? Latour offers us an idea of critique as a way of assembling, of assessing what has happened and adding to it. Taken literally, we can use what already exists and put it into new relations. If visualized, this might look something like a collage, a fool’s motley or a shack. As a structure, it may not stand for long; it could fall down around us. But perhaps this situation is better than we think. Returning to Latour, it’s in this space that matters of fact become matters of concern. It could even be a group.
I could write a big book about this shack, the area around it and the factory nearby. But I will do this briefly and maybe write the book another time.
My friend Christian and I build a shack some years ago. It is located in a small forest near a 138 year old paper factory in Odense, which is the third largest city in Denmark. We both grew up in Odense and have always been exploring the site of the factory but never together. We built the shack as an experiment and as a place to sleep and hang out. It was build 30cm over the ground because of the water rising during the wintertime. It was 9 sq. meter and 1-1,5 meters tall inside. We used it on various occasions for things like sleepovers, guesthouse, mushroom expeditions, hiding from authorities, my first date with my girlfriend, fishing trips and as a place to relax. It was only 50 meters from the train tracks so you could hear the trains go by. Around the shack the forest is rather dense and deer and other animals visited the place too. After one or two years of using it we forgot about it. Then one day I came back and the door was broken, because someone had found the shack, but that was okay. When I visited the place afterwards, new traces appeared from people using it like candles, candy paper and cooking gear. After attending the workshop in Stockholm I visited the place again. It was one year since I had been there and the shack had been taken over by wild nature and something else had happened to the shack. Someone had turned it over so it was laying on the side.