Fight The Power 2019/1989: We, the Ungovernable

The 5th Nida Doctoral School intensive course for DA and PhD students in art, design, architecture, humanities and the social sciences

26-31 August 2019 in Venice, Italy

Focusing on questions pertinent to their individual research, doctoral candidates worked closely with speakers & tutors from art, design, higher education & the culture sector. Talks, discussion groups, doctoral research presentations (formal, informal, performative, experimental, etc.), peer review, group & individual consultations, derives & screenings contributed to developing the students’ PhD projects.
 
This year’s NDS was held in Venice during the Biennale – at the Lithuanian Pavilion, the Research Pavilion, & additional environments in Venice.
 
Entitled ‘Fight The Power’, this year’s Nida Doctoral School was energised by the 30th anniversary of Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing and its opening credit sequence, soundtracked by Public Enemy. Convinced by the radical potentialities of research-as-praxis, NDS utilised this 30th anniversary to ask: what does it mean to do the right thing?
 
Focusing on artistic research’s potentialities, this year’s Nida Doctoral School struggled with this, and the following questions: how can we as artists, designers, historians, theorists, educators, musicians, and critics engage critically with power? Where does power reside? How is it secured, consolidated, and utilised? And to what end? If power is embedded and embodied in systems – the financial system, the educational system, the culture system, the healthcare system, the system of government and law enforcement – how can we discern, participate critically, and even transform such systems? How should we navigate our way through this quagmire of power-knowledge-control, which shapes truth, and interpolates us as subjects of and subjects to its ideology? If such governmentality is the organised and organising practices (mentalities, rationalities, and techniques) through which our society is rendered governable, why and how might we prove ourselves to be ungovernable?
 
How then to do the right thing, as we work with (and against) power’s authority and disciplining with regards to for instance: medium-specificity; language and grammar; the limits of geometry; distributed systems, ecologies, and networks; quantification and predictive analytics; the authority of a discipline or field of inquiry or profession; and even the rules and regulations of institutions such as the art school?
 
As a call to arms, Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing vibrates with our own climate of rising national populism and localism, #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo, structural racial and gender and ableist inequalities, the global immigration crisis, relentless gentrification and the demise of the high street, police brutality, civil unrest, the rise of the precariat and the gig economy, feelings of helplessness and exhaustion, and the whimsy of truth. As such, the Nida Doctoral School was an occasion to take stock of the present as it had come to be shaped by the historical-political-cultural events of and around 1989: the Revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe, the supposed demise of Communism, the so-called ‘End of History’ and the beginning of the post-Cold War period, the suppression of mass political protest in Tiananmen Square; the beating of Rodney King and the LA riots; the pre-eminence of neo-liberalism, and the advent of an ethics of planetarity. Simultaneously, the Doctoral School was an occasion to look to the future, to how we might envisage the future, and to do so in order not only to interpret the world, in various ways, but to change it.
 
Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing ends with two quotations, one from Malcolm X saying he is not against using violence in self-defence, and a second from Martin Luther King Jr. advocating nonviolence in the fight for justice. In our own search for justice, how can our research-as-praxis – our labour, our communicative bodies, our performative acts, our conversations, our commitment to communities and to our own creative practice itself – declare our resistance and dissent, our agonism and dissensus, thereby enacting our right to speak which, in turn, enables us to not so much fight the power as fight for power, and, in so doing, honour our obligation to do the right thing?
 
The curator of the 2019 NDS was Dr Marquard Smith; Programme Leader, MA Museums & Galleries in Education, UCL; Professor of Artistic Research, Vilnius Academy of Arts; Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Visual Culture; Board Member, Live Art Development Agency & Arts Catalyst.
 
The confirmed speakers and tutors came from across art, design, museums and galleries, and the public knowledge sector, with extensive experience of carrying out practice-led research, and supporting doctoral students to do likewise.
 
Dr Michelle Williams Gamaker, an artist working with moving image & performance; Lecturer, Goldsmiths; Chair, commissioning agency Pavilion; co-founder, Women of Colour Index (WOCI) Reading Group.
Professor Guy Julier, Design Leadership, Aalto University, Finland; researcher, activist, & consultant; publications, Economies of Design, Design & Creativity, The Culture of Design.
Elan Gamaker, screenwriter, story editor and filmmaker; Senior Lecturer in Film (Screenwriting) and BA Film Programme Convenor, University of Roehampton, London; Associate Editor, Screenworks Screen Media Practice Research Journal.
Dr Mika Elo, Professor of artistic research at the Academy of Fine Arts (University of the Arts Helsinki); curator, visual artist and researcher; co-convenor of Research Pavilion in Venice Biennale 2019.
Dr Vytautas Michelkevičius, Associated Professor at the Vilnius Academy of Arts; Artistic Director of Nida Art Colony; curator of artistic research projects in various contexts, including the Lithuanian Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale (featuring Dainius Liškevičius’ ‘Museum’); and author of Mapping Artistic Research. Towards Diagrammatic Knowing (2018).
Dr Joanne Morra, Reader in Art History and Theory; curator of the Doctoral Platform at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London; Founding Principal Editor of the Journal of Visual Culture.
Dr Sofia Pantouvaki, Professor of Costume Design at Aalto University; scenographer and exhibition curator; Founding Editor Studies in Costume and Performance; Vice-Head for Research, OISTAT Costume, Chair of Critical Costume, Co-Convener, IFTR Scenography Working Group.

List of selected participants:

Adam J B Walker, Royal College of Art (UK)
Alessandra Ferrini, University of the Arts London (UK)
Anni Laakso, University of the Arts Helsinki (FI)
Camilla Andersson, Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture (FI)
Emilia Yang, University of Southern California (US)
Freja Bäckman, Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture (FI)
Jade Montserrat, University of Central Lancashire, IBAR (UK)
Juan Duarte Regino, Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture (FI)
Laima Kreivyte, Vilnius Academy of Arts (LT)
Marcia Michael, University of the Arts London (UK)
Marloeke van der Vlugt, Utrecht University of the Arts (NL)
Onyeka Igwe, University of the Arts London (UK)
Saara Hannula, University of the Arts Helsinki (FI)
Simona Zemaityte, Vilnius Academy of Arts (LT)
Stephanie Misa, University of the Arts Helsinki (FI)
Teresa M. Carlesimo, Queen’s University (CA)
Vitalij Cerviakov, Vilnius Academy of Arts (LT)

Invited speakers & tutors

The curator of the 2019 NDS is Dr Marquard Smith; Programme Leader, MA Museums & Galleries in Education, UCL; Professor of Artistic Research, Vilnius Academy of Arts; Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Visual Culture; Board Member, Live Art Development Agency & Arts Catalyst.

The confirmed speakers and tutors come from across art, design, museums and galleries, and the public knowledge sector, with extensive experience of carrying out practice-led research, and supporting doctoral students to do likewise.

Invited speakers:

Dr Michelle Williams Gamaker, an artist working with moving image & performance; Lecturer, Goldsmiths; Chair, commissioning agency Pavilion; co-founder, Women of Colour Index (WOCI) Reading Group.
Prof Guy Julier, Design Leadership, Aalto University, Finland; researcher, activist, & consultant; publications, Economies of Design, Design & Creativity, The Culture of Design.
Elan Gamaker, screenwriter, story editor and filmmaker; Senior Lecturer in Film (Screenwriting) and BA Film Programme Convenor, University of Roehampton, London; Associate Editor, Screenworks Screen Media Practice Research Journal.

 

Tutors:

Dr Mika Elo, Professor of artistic research at the Academy of Fine Arts (University of the Arts Helsinki); curator, visual artist and researcher; co-convenor of Research Pavilion in Venice Biennale 2019.
Dr Vytautas Michelkevičius, Associated Professor at the Vilnius Academy of Arts; Artistic Director of Nida Art Colony; curator of artistic research projects in various contexts, including the Lithuanian Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale (featuring Dainius Liškevičius’ ‘Museum’); and author of Mapping Artistic Research. Towards Diagrammatic Knowing (2018).
Dr Joanne Morra, Reader in Art History and Theory; curator of the Doctoral Platform at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London; Founding Principal Editor of the Journal of Visual Culture.
Dr Sofia Pantouvaki, Professor of Costume Design at Aalto University; scenographer and exhibition curator; Founding Editor Studies in Costume and Performance; Vice-Head for Research, OISTAT Costume, Chair of Critical Costume, Co-Convener, IFTR Scenography Working Group.

Programme

Curated by Dr Marquard Smith

SUNDAY, AUGUST 25 (Morion)

6 pm intro to the course and participants (Rasa Antanavičiūtė & Marquard Smith)
8 pm welcome dinner

Introduction by Marco Baravalle on the activities of centro sociale Morion and S.a.L.E. Docks, a collective managing an independent space for visual arts, activism, and experimental theater located in what had been an abandoned salt-storage facility in Dorsoduro, Venice.

MONDAY, AUGUST 26 (Research Pavilion) 

9 am breakfast
10 am introductio to the course by the curator Dr Marquard Smith
10.40 am self-introductions by tutors (Joanne Morra, Michelle Williams Gamaker) & doctoral candidates presenting on Thursday
1 pm lunch

Introduction by Hamed Ahmadi on Orient Experience, restaurant and catering that involves residents from the Venice’s refugee centers in general management, concept and organization.

2 pm Mika Elo & Henk Slager, Visiting the Research Pavilion
3.20 pm coffee break
4 pm presentations by 3 doctoral candidates*

TUESDAY, AUGUST 27 (Research Pavilion) 

9 am breakfast
10 am Guy Julier What Are We Up Against? Design Activism in the Age of Neoliberalisation

It is hard to imagine life before the 2008 economic crash. Successive developments in economic practices from the 1980s have provided amazing stimulants for design business. However, in the last 10 years, these orthodoxies have come into question: the ‘business as usual’ assumptions of design being tied to economic growth have come under serious scrutiny. So, what possibilities exist for such a precarious profession to engage with, or even lead, alternative economic models to the story that currently dominates design? What potential is there to create new forms of value and systems of exchange or establish design practices that address pressing economic and societal challenges?

It seems that vast swathes of what is called design activism actually fall short of proposing, let alone enacting, new economic and environmental arrangements, however. They become mere gestures that ultimately collude in mainstream ideological ambitions.

Where design activism has taken shape amongst such cultural intermediaries still provides hope, though. This talk moves from a critique of both orthodox and activist modes of design to then propose three related approaches in design — speculative, prefigurative and collaborative — through which new economic and social modes might be developed.

11 am post-presentation discussion
12 am presentation by a doctoral candidate*
1 pm lunch
2 pm presentations by 2 doctoral candidates*
3.20 pm coffee break
4 pm presentations by 2 doctoral candidates*
5.20 pm individual consultation

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 28 (Research Pavilion) 

9 am breakfast
10 am presentations by 4 doctoral candidates*
1 pm lunch
2 pm Lucia Pietroiusti Curating Ecology 

Facing complex, unfathomable crises calls for complex, multivocal and multifaceted responses. What is the role of art in the environmental context? How to understand ecology both as a set of concerns and as a methodological model? How can institutional, curatorial contexts be re-framed to take into account climate justice, climate peace and the interconnection between the disciplines? Through the experience of creating and developing the General Ecology project, as well as the learnings from curating Sun & Sea (Marina), my presentation will begin to propose a multipliable prototype, moving from the curatorial into the infrastructural, for the transformation of institutions ‘from the inside out’ in the midst of trouble.

2.40 pm post-presentation discussion
3.20 pm coffee break
4 pm Visit to the Lithuanian Pavilion, meeting the artist Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė

THURSDAY, AUGUST 29 (Morion) 

9 am breakfast
10 am presentations by 3 doctoral candidates*
12 am individual consultations
1 pm lunch
2 pm presentations by 2 doctoral candidates*
3.20 pm coffee break
4 pm individual consultations

FRIDAY, AUGUST 30 (Morion) 

9 am breakfast
10 am Michelle Williams Gamaker Fictional Activism: A Claim For Acts of Fictional Treachery (visit to Giardini (1 hour) + performative walk back (30 mins))

The presentation is dedicated to different aspects of the very gesture of exposing. How does exposing relate to other processes that involve an outward gesture, such as explaining, explicating and exhibiting? What kind of inner space do these outward gestures imply? How does an exposition negotiate its framing conditions? The presenter will touch upon this seemingly abstract and philosophically complex issue through a series of concrete examples.

12 am post-presentation discussion
1 pm lunch
2 pm individual consultations
4 pm workshop and long table led by Joanna Morra

SATURDAY, AUGUST 31 (Morion) 

9 am breakfast
10 am wrap up (results, findings, unanswered questions; summary; feedback)
1 pm lunch
2 pm individual consultations
6 pm Tour of the library and monastery, boat trip to St. Erasmo and dinner.

* 20 min presentation + 20 min Q&A

Tuition, funding & costs

There is no tuition fee. Free accommodation in Venice, breakfasts and lunches are provided for selected applicants from Aalto, UniArts Helsinki, UAL, and VAA. Participants from Aalto, UniArts Helsinki, UAL and VAA will cover their travel and dinner expenses in accordance with the guidelines.

Other participants are expected to cover accommodation & partial catering costs, which amount to 400€ per person, and travel costs. UK applicants can benefit from financial assistance via CHASE and TECHNE.