Ephemeral, transformational and collaborative: Ethnographies of art events 
Iza Kavedzija (University of Exeter)
Brunei Gallery - B211
Sunday 3 June, 15:30-17:00 (UTC+0)

Short Abstract:

Contemporary art is often presented in the context of art event; sometimes art itself takes a form of an event, focusing on the encounter. This panel explores the role of events in contemporary art production and themes of temporality, materiality and collaboration in art events.

Long Abstract

Art as a mode of action is increasingly taking a form of an event - a performance, an exhibition, a festival. Events therefore, at the very least, frame some of the artistic processes - by providing themes, requiring applications and justification, or fostering collaborations. In some cases, the artwork itself is evental - it stages and frames interactions and social relationships. In contemporary art associated with the 'social turn' the artwork is focused on the event of encounter, creating novel experiences or unforeseen relations. If event is understood as a moment of transformation, whereby something new and surprising emerges, the artwork can also be seen as an event in itself. Event can therefore be seen as a part of the everyday flow, just as art events are a part of the current art scene; or as a moment of transformation and even radical rupture. This panel explores the role of events in the context of contemporary art. We therefore particularly welcome contributions exploring the effects events have on the art process, particularly the relationships and collaborations that they precipitate, and the way they frames the creative process (e.g. working towards the deadline, or with a given event theme in mind); exploring the temporality and meaning of event (as either the part of the everyday flow or transformative); or focusing on ephemeral and material aspects of artworks associated with the event and the evental qualities of artworks.

Accepted papers:


Isla Griffin (Massey University, New Zealand.)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the feedback loops that occur within an artists process and intent for the work produced, regardless of medium or underlying concepts, when faced with providing meaningful encounters for strangers. Immersive events, engaging the entire sensorium, may offer solace to all.

Paper long abstract:

How can immersivity within the context of an event, capture both artist and participant in a mutually rewarding outcome? In the beginning is a grand idea, one where an artist may want to go beyond the personal gratification of making, to create work that sets in motion a shift in the viewer, maybe a change in the world. This could be an original intent for the particular work or it could emerge as the idea develops momentum. Often the grand idea is beyond the skill set of the artist so collaborations and technical support are sought that shift again the parameters of the idea, expanding it, altering its threads. Immersive environments, those deliberately constructed to engage more than just sight in experiencing an artwork, are designed from the outset to capture an audience for long enough to provoke them into deeper levels of transformation. In the context of my own experience in transitioning from a painter/sculptor to an artist using digital platforms and audio-visual projection I am interested in how by creating immersive environments, rolling out a grand idea, collaborating, being flexible but staying true to the original intent for the work the feedback mechanism is as much self appreciating as it is audience response. The impact of an immersive event has fed into the collective synapses and that experience in itself maybe all that is needed to spark up an expanded awareness beyond the daily input flow of life's encounters.


Louise Sonido (University of the Philippines)
Roselle Pineda (University of the Philippines )

Paper short abstract:

Con.Currents: Points of Sublation was an exhibit-performance marking the culmination of a five-year collaborative/inter-creative curatorial project. An interrogation of creative practices and critical spectatorships, it proposes new modes of community engagement through creative cultural work.

Paper long abstract:

Con.Currents: Points of Sublation (2017) is a performance curatorial project that aims to interrogate notions and practices of performance-making in general, and of creative processes and critical spectatorships in particular, through a series of conversations conveyed in multiple modalities of collaborative and intermedial expressions: choreo-cinematographic experimentations, curated performances, and community engagements. Deeply invested in how inter-creative productions transform and are transformed by interrelations of bodies, histories, technologies, and different communities of spectatorship, the project calls attention to the transformations of ideas in light of changing contexts and social provocations, and seeks emancipatory spaces of cultural practice in the mutual inscriptions of meaning in these collaborative productions.

This presentation is thus an articulation of how the exhibit-performance Con.Currents: Points of Sublation, as an event/experience, reinscribes meaning in the processes of engagement between and among the collaborating artists and participating audiences within the specific conditions afforded by the technologies co-curating the experience, such that viewing the exhibit-performance becomes both an experience of the performance and a moment in the performance's unfolding.

Experimental in its form but fundamental in its resolve, Con.Currents: Points of Sublation attempts to return the ritual consumption of performance events back to the radical vitality of critical dialogue and conversation. Such a process engenders a powerful and potentially radical mutual consciousness between and among the collaborators, materials, sites, bodies, technologies, and spectators implicated in the work, thereby proposing possibilities for building new, more emancipatory modes and cultures of creative and critical production.


Caitlin Spangler-Bickell (Museo delle Culture, Milan / Maastricht University)

Paper short abstract:

The challenge of conserving ephemeral artworks defined by material or experiential exchange can be addressed with a 'biographical approach to conservation.' This paper discusses the use of ethnographic methods to document the lives of artworks in the contemporary art exhibition Take Me (I'm Yours).

Paper long abstract:

The conservation of contemporary art has evolved from traditional aims of resisting physical decay and stabilizing materials to managing change and documenting ephemeral events. A 'biographical approach' to conservation (Van de Vall et al., 2011) attempts to record the variability of artworks through significant life stages while preserving their artistic integrity over time. Many organizations document the creation of artworks through artist interviews and collaborative documentation projects, as well as ensure their retrospective presence in collections through innovative archival practices; but the life stage of artworks during exhibition is under-represented in documentation that informs the writing of their biographies. This problem is particularly urgent for works that are relational in nature, meaning they fully exist only in the event of encounter in exhibitions where the accumulation of real-time developments between people, places and things constitute the work's very identity.

This paper argues that ethnographic methods are ideally suited to study and document such complex art works. It outlines the use of participant observation for conservation purposes during the exhibition Take Me (I'm Yours) at the contemporary art space Pirelli HangarBicocca in Milan, Italy. From November 2017 to January 2018, the author studied how artworks behaved in the exhibition space at varying moments with different publics, tracked institutional practices which adapted to this behaviour over time, and personally engaged with each artwork as an invested participant. These methods yielded greater material understanding of the works and a sharpened sense of the factors necessary for their successful preservation.