Nearly a whole year since our plans to launch a physical space and a public programme ground to a halt. Instead of rushing to put our programme online, we chose to take a step back to ask:
How can we shift our thinking to be able to continue to serve ourselves and our artists without relying on the space of the exhibition both online and offline?
For now, the exhibition as we know it has eroded. The infrastructure of that particular space, time and action has been stripped away - but what does it reveal?
Over the last few months, we have dedicated time to thinking through the position we have found ourselves in. A strange state of limbo that is half launched and half not, but despite these uncertain conditions, the strength of the research remains the same. This period of research has seen us take on the question of what possibilities might emerge from this space of inoperavtity.
Defined as not functioning or having no effect or force, inoperativity is a state usually discussed in terms of “unworking” or “worklessness”. We decided to use the term inoperativity as a critical lens through which to consider this moment of ‘not being able to do something’ - positioning ourselves within this complex space of thinking about, with and beyond the limitations set by the pandemic.
This led us to ask:
How can a consideration of inoperativity help us to facilitate and test-out new ideas and modes of curatorial practice?
Prior to the pandemic, the idea of being inoperative was not something we aspired to. When we were offered this opportunity to take up residence in the space of 86 Princess Street, our immediate thoughts turned to how can we do as much as possible in the time that we have. A desperate scrabble to do things, because who knows when the next opportunity will come along. When lockdown hit we were forced to stop, taking the need and the ability to do out of our hands. It was uncomfortable, uncertain and all-round anxiety inducing - but we didn’t realise how much we needed this time and space to think, to reflect and most importantly to breathe.
Thoughts quickly turned into action and in June 2020 we began exploring the question of how a consideration of inoperativity could help us to form and ferment a research space ahead of the launch of a physical programme.
Whilst conducting research, we stumbled across the quote: “inoperative use gives way to operative play”, and with this came sort of eureka moment. Our focus quickly turned to the ways we could explore this mode of inoperativity as a contributor to the development of meaningful relations with our growing artistic community - seeking to approach inoperativity in a productive and complementary way.
We embarked on a search for some sort of ‘useful’ curatorial infrastructure. Something that would enable us to continue to build and stay connected to an artistic community, whilst also fermenting research and finding new ways to produce during this strange and uncertain time. But questions quickly turned to how were we to make material these thoughts, interests and questions brought forward by this inoperative state? Creating a space that would allow it to radiate outwards and, into new artistic and critical territories.
We were invested in deepening our understanding of this moment and its potential in developing a unique space for sharing, support and solidarity. One way we set about doing this was through the creation of a series of unique propositions that sought to explore an experimental encounter with the thoughts, works and research of PINK and those in our curatorial constellation. Taking this state of inoperativity, and restructuring it so as to give way to operative play; opening ourselves up to new spaces, uses and experiences during this time.
Defined as a suggested scheme or plan of action, the propositions were a way of making sense of the ideas, research and critical questions that we were trying to handle. A way to explore and integrate different modes of production, dissemination and engagement during a time of perceived inoperativeness. With each proposition comes new situations and models for working together, subverting the spaces of the curatorial - pushing through this state of inoperativity to traverse new realms; new spaces for thinking, making, supporting, structuring, listening, learning and performing.
So far, we have devised and developed three propositions, each one built from an open, articulate brief that we send as an invitation to a focused list of creatives across different disciplines. The intent of these invitations is to be able to welcome more people into the space of PINK. Inviting people, projects and practices on a local, national and international scale. An intentional and purposeful welcoming of others to join and contribute to an evolving discourse - whilst also opening up a useful space for us to consider the ‘invitation’ as a mode of curatorial hospitality. A subject that we will take the time to explore over the coming year, with our Associate Curator, Jessica Bennett.
The first proposition we created was DIALOGUES, an open discussion format for sharing knowledge, experience and thoughts. Hosted via Skype on a monthly basis, it’s a space for communicating and offering ideas, being open to accepting and exploring new ideas; whilst using this space to pause, to articulate and to assemble around the spaces and conditions we operate in. The aim was to create space for a series of open-ended discussions that are structured to serve as a potential future; fermenting a research process by entering into an open, collective and collaborative dialogue with others.
Each discussion is centred around a set of themes set either by PINK or the DIALOGUES participants, charting the questions raised and thoughts provoked; working towards the collective authoring of a working Google Doc, bringing our collective thinking together as something tangible - something that we can offer as a research resource.
This process of collective thinking continued with the creation of OFF_CENTRE. This saw us produce a proposition centred on the development of an artistic research journal that sought to nurture an interdisciplinary dialogue on a chosen subject - working to understand how multiple perspectives on a local, national and international scale might be productively combined to explore the potential for future discussions and collaborations.
Then we wondered how this act of bringing together could be returned to questions of programming. Asking how we could build a working space that played host to the thinking and practices of our invited collaborators. A space that could operate as a structure where our curatorial thinking and visions are set out, and where it is possible to enter into a discussion with individual and collective methodologies - building an intimate connection with the ideas behind the productions to come - which led us to create MATERIALS.
MATERIALS will be an exploration in the idea of an active archive; a space to think, work and put fragments together in order to create new connections, collisions and overlaps; facilitating an exchange of knowledge and the emergence of a collective discussion through the process of thinking alongside one another. The outcome will be an accumulation of material that will be significant for the shaping of an open and plural future for PINK, and will support our interests in nurturing research relationships that will be key to the development of PINK as it begins to unfold.
As the project(s) planned for Season #1 begin to unfold and expand, so will the research material and we want to make this process as visible as possible as we work to construct a constellation of interrelated material; understanding this curatorial archive as an instrument for the generation of research, as much as it is a space for documentation.
Our response to the conditions and limitations of the pandemic was to create forms and structures that we could operate in, whilst also being, an indeterminate space. Building a unique context formed out of the inoperative space and structure of the exhibition. Creating multiple sites of open enquiry; rather than trying to reconfigure a programme, making it a question of identifying the conditions, materialities, potentialities that we already have and what interesting things are possible within them.
What all these propositions have in common is that they have worked to create relations. They are built as supporting structures to give ground to our immediate ideas and research, but also welcome the generation of long frameworks; interlinking things that can go on to exist beyond this current moment of inoperativity. Analysing these elements as different conditions to work in, developing structures to maintain direct engagement with artists and their work during a time when we can’t physically build exhibitions.
Inoperativity has welcomed a unique research position for us. Inviting a considered positioning of research within the space and site of practice; whilst setting up the stage for us to continue to have these kinds of conversations as PINK unfolds. Exploring a curatorial act of bringing together; working to develop a conversation between the people and parts that constitute PINK. A collection of interrelated ideas that would enable a conversation to develop. Offering an alternative exhibition space; an evolving research site that can be made public, and shared. Thinking through different curatorial methods and how they can be applied. Interested in the different possibilities of different assemblages and what actions or gestures are needed to trigger them. What might it look like to play with form in such a way that it invites engagement?
So what now? Where do we see these propositions going and how will they interact and interchange when we are no longer inoperative? Will it change to a question of what we are in proximity to, how different modes and formats come into contact with each other, questioning what spaces are made, and what can be found in between.
The answers to all these questions will come in time, as will more questions. All we know for now is that this mode of working - this way of structuring and producing - has led to an active and dynamic conversation between all involved. It has enabled us to explore ways of creating a ‘public’ early on in the project - using the working processes of each proposition to find synergetic connections. Facilitating a purposeful bringing together of people, practices and material to generate a unique context of inquiry that can offer a space for productive discussion and exchange and we are excited to see where this goes next.
Thinking in Constellations
Between People, Practice & Research.
It’s been a strange time. We have had to navigate 2-3 attempts at opening during 2020 ~ and this is still on-going ~ but what this has given us is the space and time we needed to think through the form and structure of PINK and outwardly share the ideas and research that have emerged during this process.
Over this last year, we have launched our website with a dedicated online space for research resources, founded and created the artistic research journal OFF_CENTRE, brought together multiple artists in our monthly discussion group DIALOGUES, and most importantly secured a future for ourselves and our artists with a successful Arts Council Application…finally!
It’s all been an attempt to ground and build a project that oscillates between a space, an infrastructure and a resource. A space to unfold experimental practices in close collaboration with artists, curators, writers, poets and many more; crossing knowledge fields to practice a critical fascination.
PINK was established as a means of reflecting upon performative modes of exhibition-making and collective acts of thinking and making. As PINK develops, it enters into an experimental research-led position, weaving between artistic research and discursive curatorial approaches – initiating methods for the production of knowledge that engages with a particular set of questions and ideas.
Our task over the next year is to create space, so that things can happen rather than just be shown; be researched instead of represented ~ held within the space of a constructed constellation.
[ CONSTELLATION AS MOTIF & METHOD ]
Constellation is defined as: ___ “a configuration of phenomena under specific spatial and temporal circumstances…”
The constellation is a starting point for an examination of the curatorial, adopting the definition of a constellation as a structural metaphor to frame the development of PINK’s research. We are using it to create a basic starting point that over time can become more complicated, as we build an understanding and interest in the constellation as a method for curatorial research.
Some questions to start with: ___How can we create a space whereby we can co-exist; within the space of each other's work and process? ___How do we cultivate a space of interconnectedness, whereby the constellation develops into a plethora of interventions spanning various lines of enquiry? ___How do we ferment a research process; using the resources that we have access to? ___How do we enter a place of research and ground it as an important space for thinking / learning; whilst considering research as an important extension of the curatorial process?
In order to explore this idea further, we have worked to devise a productive structure in the form of research residencies.
Departing from an understanding of the curatorial as an “event of knowledge unfolding”, these residencies take their form as dedicated space and time to develop a significant new body of research.
This will be done in proximity to PINK, it’s planned programme and on-going research, with the consequential research project(s) forming a solid basis of PINK’s public facing event(s) and endeavours to explore a notion of research-led programming that promotes longitudinal lines of enquiry.
Over the last few months, we have worked to write a programme that holds open a space for new interrelations, connections and collaborative processes of enquiry. One that activates structures of support; finding a sense of community and dialogue that is slow and attentive.
The research residencies represent an attempt at founding such slow and complex spaces; removing an attachment to production, exhibition and formal aesthetics as the measure of value, instead opting for an open space for thinking, listening and learning.
PINK wants to explore the residency as a site for indeterminacy, thinking-making and continued experimentation - filtered through a critical understanding of the research situation. To be in a situation, is to be enmeshed in a particular set of conditions and relations, both in time and in space. Within this situation, any and every gesture creates further situations to be considered; little temporal structures that create, and momentarily are, situations that are situated.
The research residencies therefore serve to enact situated enquiries that construct multi-layered moments for questioning. By ‘situated’, references are made to those artistic practices for which the situation or context is often the starting point, and this is a notion that is intrinsic to the performative and process-led residency framework(s) that we are presenting and allowing the chosen artists to operate in. Offering a space that is fluid, processual, active and performative within the space of PINK’s constellation.
The term, research residency, is productive in helping us to understand the positions and proximity of art and research; practice and theory. Beyond providing a space for considered, collaborative production – it also offers a platform for the consideration of methods to best support artistic knowledge production – contributing to an understanding of artistic research and its place within current contemporary art practice.
The research residencies will coalesce around a set of departing questions ~ working to ferment a process of research that evolves into a complex constellation of thoughts, ideas and productions. We will work to create a space to be used, worked upon, added to ~ exploring the parameters, the spaces in between, the interactions, and overlaps; staging a particular situation in which certain conditions and potential outcomes can occur.
The funding we received from Arts Council England will support the development of these residencies. We will be offering 4 research residencies over the next 12-months (pandemic permitting) ~ they will be:
1x Local Graduate Residency; 1x Local Residency; 1x National Residency and 1x International Residency each of which will be for a period of a month.
We will also be working to expand and explore our proximity to the research and practice of others through an extended Associate Curator role. This creative curatorial role will operate in the same way as the research residencies - taking up space and place within the framework and structure of PINK - but will explore what might happen if we give someone the space of a year to unfold their ideas in proximity to a project space. Using time and space as the supporting structure. The Associate Curator will work to produce a research-led project over the space of the year. This will depart from initial research questions and will grow organically as it comes into contact with PINK, its structure, concept(s) and programme - but more on this soon.
Each residency will be an intensive sharing of ideas; aiming to capture discussions but also working to ferment and publicise a process of working together. This is an experimental approach that will see us work with artists to develop new lines of enquiry that will hopefully go on to produce meaningful research, and lasting relationships.
Updated: Nov 15, 2020
[ Unfolding Thoughts within a Collective Space ]
A journal is defined as a magazine or newspaper that deals with a particular subject or activity. It acts as a record of events; a recording of a process.
Using this definition as a structure upon which to hang our concepts, we worked to position this structure within the space of the curatorial; the programming, the producing, the exhibition - that which we deem central to the curatorial complex. Within this space of thinking through, we found ourselves on the periphery; isolated both by the COVID crisis and my fractured, exhausted thoughts as we worked to navigate the crisis and stay mentally and financially afloat.
I found myself always not quite in the centre, always slightly off; never fully there - but instead of continuing the battle with this mental position; I worked over lockdown to explore the thoughts, process and outputs that I encountered on these peripheries and wondered what might happen here if payed more attention to this kind of space and positioning.
I quickly realised that I wanted to use this time to create a flexible, discursive space for thinking whilst promoting conversations, cross dialogue and supporting our artists and networks.
Asking ourselves (something like):
How can we build temporary models or methods of working together?
We have always wanted to do a research journal; in fact it was going to be something we did at the end of the first year of PINK as a way of bringing all our thoughts together ~ but as timelines and dates become ever more uncertain, we figured it might be time to explore this right now.
Enter . . . OFF_CENTRE
If the exhibition takes a central position in the curatorial complex,
then what might we find if we go slightly off-centre?
This is a working title, a concept and a structure to be explored. A productive space for the thinking through of research. Research has always been a central element to PINK but as I work to build something that has multiple entry points and spaces for thinking, it’s become more important than ever. Research to me is the unfolding of a living idea; something to occupy, to embody and it’s exciting that I can begin to be ambitious with this and the ways in which we include others in the process.
As such, we wanted OFF_CENTRE to become a space to consider the discursive, the written, the textual and other forms as a way of researching, archiving, resourcing, documenting but also allowing the interconnections of theory and practice to collide; an active investigation; a living archive.
The aim of the journal is to develop an interdisciplinary dialogue on a chosen subject to understand how multiple perspectives on a local, national and international scale might be productively combined to explore the potential for future discussions and collaborations.
The journal has become an apparatus; creating a collaborative and generative approach, with the aim of opening up processes of thinking through a theme. We wanted to collect material to use, react to and interfere with; seeing this as a performing format. Investigating a subject through the process of gathering material; providing multiple entry points into a subject; inspiring collective discussion, whilst informing the individual research process.
A space to share, accept, process, and respond abstractly to the fermentation of research. What we seek is a multiplicity of viewpoints, thoughts and approaches on the theme of performativity; with its multiple contexts and references. Creating a collection of different voices, intended to facilitate informal exchange of ideas between PINK and its collaborators, as we use this time to develop our connections and research.
Using performativty as a lens, we are interested in opening up new ways of knowing, communicating and understanding artistic research in its many forms. We want to explore an expansive approach to collaboration that might help us to find new ways of thinking, acting, relating, and writing as we try and come to terms with the notion of performativity - as the thematic framework of PINK’s first year of activity.
So, it all began with a curiosity to consider:
A journal as a meeting point, a space to think and as an instrument for research and discussion.
We hoped to trigger this by asking our contributors:
What is your relationship and/or understanding of performativity as a practice, method or concept?
There were no limitations to what their response/contribution could be, or what form it could take, what language it would be in etc. All we required was for it to be worked into a PDF document.
We gathered people together through invitation to local, national and international creatives. Some of whom we had worked with before, others were those we have admired from afar and wanted to be in proximity to. The invitation they received was an enticement to think through the same question together. Generating a relational approach that offered new opportunities for a collective thinking; spanning different disciplines and inviting dialogue that works across and between to explore an inclusive curatorial approach.
The contributions are filtered through an understanding of constellation and assemblage, as presented in the works of Deleuze and Guattari. Understanding the contributions as a myriad of elements productively combined; OFF_CENTRE works to frame and present these new relations and the artistic complexities that might emerge from such activity. This becomes a space for the connection of people, practices and ideas; organised and presented within the aforementioned definition and framework of a journal.
Drawing on the constellation as a metaphor, we are questioning how we might present new constellations and connections; expanding modes of engagement with our ideas but also expanding the amount of people that we can be in proximity to at any given moment. As we enter into this constellation, we bear witness to multiple positions, voices and perspectives. A polyphonic experience; creating new, productive links between artists, curators and researchers.
We are stepping into a living idea and watching it unfold.
This finished version of draft #1 of OFF_CENTRE has provided us with several overlapping sites of thinking and production that go some way to exploring the recursivity of the curatorial. Considering the journal as an on-going structure to explore these questions, ideas and issues.
As OFF_CENTRE develops, we hope to continue our approach to research as a phenomena; working to explore possible connections and relations between different disciplines and practices.
What remains important, at least for now, is the continual questioning of how we bring together and configure these practices, positions and perspectives, whilst exploring the impact of these practices on artistic research.
A commitment to creating space to support the different positions and voices of others. Fostering spaces of conversation, whilst asking who do these conversations need to happen with.
OFF_CENTRE will exist as a space of shared reflexivity; a way of allowing multiple artists to be together, forming relevant and meaningful research procedures and an open space to wonder what sorts of frameworks might engage with, and extend, the practices of curation.
For now, draft #1 serves to purposefully broaden our understanding of performativity as a theme, as a concept and as a framework for thinking through our approach to curatorial research and practice.
~ How might it contribute to our understanding of artistic research and its practice?
~ What sorts of critical engagement with the spaces of artistic research and production might this kind of work generate?
~ What lessons can be learnt about the possibilities that such works generate for creatives?
~ How do we record processes of thinking and engaging with ideas?
~ What resource material can we generate to engage people in our ideas more?
~ How do we create useful links between creatives?
~ How can we expand the curatorial to include more opportunities for connection and collaboration?
~ How can we accommodate multiple people and practices so as to not close off potential dialogue and collaboration?
We are looking forward to being able to begin plans for draft #2, but for now please download, share and enjoy draft #1.
Contributors for Draft #1: Jordan Hayward, Jas Lucas, Joshua Leon, Rafal Zajko, Rosana Antoli, Lorenzo Sandoval, Kara Chin, Amba Sayal Bennett, Mel Galley, James Schofield, Matthew De Kersaint Giraudeau, Andrea Kerstens, Maisie Pritchard, Harriet Morley, Ella Mottram, John Carney, Emily Tilzey, Publib, Evelina Tracuma, Bryony Dawson. Design by bruï studio OFF_CENTRE: Draft #1 is supported by Arts Council England, but we want to be able to continue growing this project, as a resource and a space for on-going opportunities to think through ideas together. To achieve this, all proceeds from the sales of Draft #1 will go back into the project ensuring we can deliver the aims and ambitions of OFF_CENTRE as best we can.