Communication-Based Practices

Possibly this comes from a bias of working FT and a half in Arts Administration over the past few years, but beyond this, I have noticed that my work as an artist has often gravitated towards communications-based practices and media. Perhaps this in my nature to begin with, but it’s almost as if I have slipped into it subconsciously. I understand that arguably all media is a communication device, what I am talking about here is the more direct forms such as radio, printed matter, video and performance.

A few years ago I participated in a conference in Regina, SK called Open Engagement: Art After Aesthetic Distance. This was a conference on socially engaged art practices as its foundation and incorporated elements including workshops, exhibitions, residencies, pedagogy, curatorial practice and collaboration. At the exact same time, there was a conference in Vancouver being held called Live in Public: The Art of Engagement, ‘artists working in the public realm and engaging communities within their art practices’.  Both of these conferences addressed topics of relational art practices, or ‘relational aesthetics’ asking questions on the social role responsibilities of the artist the impact of our connections with the broader community.

Open Engagement: http://jendelosreyes.com/openengagement/about.html
The Art of Engagement: http://www.grunt.ca/engage/

While talking to a friend of mine who was attending the conference in Vancouver, we were both intrigued not so much by the parallel themes between the two of these as we were both aware that in this world where we share so many aesthetic qualities with one another universally, our physical relationship with these qualities and how we respond to them is often synchronized. Many of these aesthetics and value judgements within the art world, and especially within artists educated in Canada can be surprisingly similar. Anyone working as an artist here for more than a few years knows that and soon recognizes work that comes from a particular school, institution, or mentor that we are familiar with. To the point though, the many similarities of these two conferences did not surprise us as I think we would both agree that we do not believe so much in the coincidence of the situation as we have become so accustomed to familiar schools of thought being presented in multiple places at once.

It did come to surprise to us both though the difference in age groups invited to these two very similar themed conferences. Almost exclusively, the conference in Regina consisted of participants under 35 and the opposite goes for the one in Vancouver. This spoke to us both that there were distinctly two communities of artists in this small country operating within their means on a very similar subject matter. Nothing at all against either conference, mostly what I am saying is that it struck us that there is still (probably unintentional) segregation between generations even within a very small and like-minded political and conceptual theme. This segregation was noticed moreso amongst a medium that itself selves a purpose to explore social boundaries and their implications our role as artists communicating to the public.

I think this is really what I find attractive about working with communications based media, is the people working with it have a sense of generosity in their distribution of information that seems to flow second nature to them. When applying academic and formal conceptual practices to practical communications media, there is an intersection between two very different schools of thought that bring together so many possibilities. There is also an important inter-generational relationship and mentorship that of course depends so closely on their media being used to continue their work. This is the intersection that I would like to stop and observe for a while, and maybe find myself talking to someone and learning about how it all works. There are plenty of delegates around these days, and here I am blogging instead of soldering because it’s what I know how to do. I look forward to doing and listening for a while.

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