Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Thinking About Public Culture: Teddy Cruz

I think that while there is the need to figure out this mission statement / gentle manifesto, in a succinct manner, we also need to figure out its ‘operational’ dimension within the university’s structures and protocols of power, its politics and economics of development. The “how are we going to make this functional?” in terms of generating visibility, producing opportunities for development and gathering resources in the short and long term. So the fragments below oscillate between broad ‘content’ related intentions and specific procedures for action…

-Public Culture as a conceptual ‘framework’ to mediate across fragmented domains of expertise, institutions and sources of funding, bringing together new modes of inter-disciplinary research and strategies for development, in and out of the University.

-A ‘communicational system’ for the Visual Arts department to re-conceptualizing its internal conversation and its relationship to other departments, divisions and the broader public, institutions and agencies external to the university.
(To intensify our conversation with the world ‘out there,’ beyond the autonomy of our art studios, the gallery, the museum, and become more effective in generating change: producing new agencies, institutions, policies, models of possibility, primarily within current conditions of crisis.)

-Public Culture conceived as an instrument to produce new categories that are currently homeless in our curriculum and off the radar from institutions of representation and culture.

-New categories of practice and research that can re-define ‘community outreach’ as a tactical tool for intervention, making ‘research’ a tool not only for other researches, as is usually the case within academia, but primarily a political tool for community activists to transform social service and public culture into a practice of intervention. (Communities of practice)

-This suggests an intensified relationship between UCSD and the region it occupies. This promotes the possibility to bring the University to the community and the community to the University, transforming the globe, territory, city and neighborhood into research laboratories that take us beyond the local-global polarity. The ultimate potential here is to produce new critical interfaces between localities and the world. To USE our own border region (the radicalization of the local to produce new readings of the global) as experimental artistic laboratory remains our missed opportunity. Public Culture can be a way to problematize this polarization and negotiate new spaces of intervention between the local and the global, the high and the low, scholarly work and the public)

-As Grant Kester has written: Global warming is always seen exclusively as an environmental crisis… but it is primarily a CULTURAL crisis) This points at the need to establish a more radical and effective rapport with the public, to produce new cultural agency. Public Culture can be an instrument to produce critical interfaces between artistic specialization and the public… this suggest also intervention into the debate of the public and public debate. (No wonder technology and science get the big bucks in campus: because ‘they’ are actually ‘solving’ environmental crisis through their specialized research… ‘we’ artists are seen as flaky, dispensable, and superfluous in this context… Public Culture should legitimized the essential role of art practice and research in producing the critical link with the public that can allow the transformation of cultural paradigms… through pedagogy, collaboration, and mediation?)

-This includes Public Culture as the engine to generate new collaborations with bottom up neighborhood and community based social agencies, as well as top down political and economic institutions and structures. (To produce critical research into the complex range of forces that ‘make’ the public at different scales, across the city and the territory, and the policies and economies that shape them).

-An instrument to recruit practitioners and researchers that operate outside some of the main sectors of specialization of art and its normative institutions, in order to produce new connections and relationships inside and outside established academic categories.( New categories and spaces of intervention that problematize the relationship between fixed distinctions between ‘social life,’ ‘the public ’ and ‘artistic products.’

-A tool for producing new critical interfaces between art and urban and environmental policy and the creative re-organization of socio-political, economic and cultural forces shaping the contemporary city

-Enabling works and research that sees artistic production as way of producing social systems, interested in the mapping and production of conditions that can promote the intensification of social relations and public culture at the different scales of the territory, the city and the neighborhood.

-To promote a very different notion of public space, one that emerges at the intersection of the collaboration between a large research-based academic institution and a small community based, grass-roots project

-To frame current renewed, collective, inter-disciplinary desire to re-engage, redefine, and challenge the boundaries that simultaneously delimit and blur the diverse socio-cultural geographies of contemporary life by appropriating and recycling its fragmented histories and identities, spaces and situations.

FINALLY (for now): a more functional aspect about the Public Culture agenda, in terms of a short term, immediate plan of action… It can be conceived as a series of ‘pieces,’ as Steve put it… the pieces of cheese that incrementally will fuse into the pizza… an informal, loose aggregate of tactical projects… conceived as an ‘infrastructural umbrella’ that can ‘frame,’ support and advance many existing, on the ground, efforts that are currently in the department but lack the cohesive visibility to maximize their potential… and that can intensify the conversation across those efforts (projects, centers, institutes…) that, in turn, can produce new pedagogical projects, courses, collaborations, development, funding? Some of these pieces of cheese, efforts could include:

1. Producing a really hot website / media campaign that brings together all the projects currently on the ground… under one overarching ‘façade,’ allowing them to keep their autonomy but framing them as public culture… Among the many compelling projects and centers at work right now, I can add that Kyong and I are in the process of founding a think tank / laboratory on critical urbanism (too long to include here)… This will immediately allow us to have the level of visibility that we need to project ourselves more effectively across campus and for development efforts. This website would of course have the language we need to frame the public culture definition, etc…

2. Review the undergrad curriculum for new spaces of opportunity to produce new courses and clusters, etc…

3. The InSite archive possibility!

4. The PHD program on art practice, as an excuse to specifically recruit two ‘targeted’ characters that can also have visibility… and networks of connectivity…

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