Conversational Settings as a Method for Recuperative Memories

Sabine Gebhardt Fink

For the «studiolog» conversation setting on site, after working for several years and in changing concepts in a BLOG form (http://studiolog.ch), it was important that the «dialogues» in the real space connect artists, participants and art theorists in the form of shared actions and ephemeral artistic productions of discourse. My aim was to create a form of exchange that follows the concept of Elke Krasny’s “conversational complex” (Krasny, PhD Thesis The Conversational Complex, University of Reading 2016). Through an ongoing exchange in dialoguing teams, through discussions on texts and statements in the open classroom every afternoon, we developed as a group, during this week, a kind of fabric that I define here as “recuperative, redemptive memory”. It is not about the products of the workshops, the didactic strategies or the knowledge production, what I am interested in. I am interested in building a platform, together with the studiolog members, which enables everyone to, potentially, “construct radical identities, images of ourselves that transcend the limits of the colonizing eye”, as bell hooks has formulated the effects of feminist storytelling and memory construction, which is cited by Cherry Smiley in her text “Our Stories are our Live Blood: Indigenous Feminist Memory and Storytelling as Strategy for Social Change (in: Victoria Horne/ Lara Perry, Feminism and Art History Now, London/New York 2017, p 63-81, 66):

I see this as a form of politicized memory and an instrument for theoretical struggle to transform the present, and create a shared space, as an activist strategy of care. This allows the participants – potentially – which means if they want to engage – to situate and define themselves against the “hostile territories and occupied spaces we move in today” (Smiley: 66). Even an art school and university spaces are not excluded of the demands of the cultural imperative (Senett) of globalisation capital’s attack on labour – artistic and curatorial labour- which affects, after Angela Dimitrakaki and Lara Perry, especially women massively (Angela Dimitrakaki/Lara Perry, This moment, A Dialogue on Participation, Refusal and History Making, in Horne/Perry 2017: p 124-141, p 133). Because “Art has been a hub of ideological legitimation of precarious, flexibilised labor (137).

For the first three days of studiolog conversations I kept one or two hours a day to write a protocol of my reflections and impressions of the day. I want to finish this short text with the problematization of group constellations, I was working on during the first day. Coming back to Elke Krasny’s text “the salon model – the conversational complex” (in: Horne/Perry: 2017: 147-163) says, that the crucial points of the conversational complex are, the ephemeral art production, discussions as an artform and non-hierarchal encounters. But what holds groups together in non-hierarchical settings as dialogues – the institutional framework, the invisible labour of the artists/curators, the special design we had the luck that Elia Malevez and Lena Eriksson set up for the week? It was clear that open situations focusing on the processes worked so well in creating this feminist memory and identity models (Jerome Ming/Marc Gerber). For sure, friendship could be a bond, but if you have to build up trust first, where will you start? And what if a dialogue group or a participant changes to connections based on control, violence and delegated-responsibilites outside him/herself? In the worst case, you will be confronted with a phenomenon Siegfried Kracauer described as the “mass ornament” in his text (…. Here is something following).