Propositions for Inoperative Life

March 2021.

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.