THE ART CARE AND CARE ABOUT ART | Dmitry Vilensky & Janna Graham

Photo Catastrophes, performance at MUAC by Chto Delat

School of Mutation within the framework of the iteration We have a situation here. The online meeting is on Thursday July 9th at 19:00 CEST. Facilitated and composed by Dmitry Vilensky, with Janna Graham.
register here [registration open until Wednesday July 8th at 12:00 CEST]

The questions for the assembly:

  1. The practices of care do not need a critical apparatus. Aiming for good and wellbeing – they themselves become an unconditional good. Can we care critically, or can we criticize with care?
  2. How can we formulate the good of art and how will it differ from the immediate humanitarian benefit of caring for life in general – the reproductive labor?
  3. How to build relationships of equality in a situation of care?
  4. Your favorite art projects, which is based on the practices of care?
  5. Many art institutions in their recent statements speak about their priority of caring for artists in their programs. What manifestations of institutional care do we need to continue our work in art?
  6. Practices of caring can be considered as part of the practices of the participatory and community based art with their old dilemma – to do “for” or to do “with/together.” Is it possible to combine these positions?

Recently, in the announcements of cancellation of various events, postponing of the openings of the shows, the announcement of an online program, and conversations about the future of art, we hear more and more often the word care. It used to be already a very important term, but now there is a feeling that the concept of care is becoming a key notion in the new vocabulary of cultural workers and cultural institutions. This situation is a reflection of general turn to care in the politics against the backdrop of a pandemic – lives matters and we care for black, elderly, sick and the nature as any others forms of repressed life. This is a crucial turn which we need to develop.

But it makes sense not to forget that the idea of care is ambivalent. Caring can be “subordinating” – this assumes that the caretaker takes full responsibility and vision of the good for the other. Such type of care is aimed at solving the problems of society, “normalizing” the difficulties of life of some external other. It is implemented through various forms of bio-political control of the health and productivity of a population. But there are other forms of caring — they arise within communities, as caring for the common good (commons), and as a form of reproductive labor, a shared daily experience of supporting people, as a form of relationship based on love. This type of relations could be considered as care which liberates and it triggers the process of revealing the own inner concern of the others for their own understanding of their life and wellbeing.

Is it possible to translate these liberating practices of care into the practice of art? Traditional modernist art declared its autonomy, which can be interpreted as a paradoxical form of art’s care for itself. And, as in the case of self-care (Foucault), it could be understood as a form of general caring for the development of the cultural space for all people, art which creates commons useful for the liberation of everyone. That was considered as a “high” mission of the arts.
Now this convention, based on the critical practices of Western rationality, has long and rightly been called into question. Moreover, it is increasingly described as a repressive and colonial model of interaction with the world. The current situation of a pandemic and economic crisis exacerbates this trend – we hear voices that require the practice of art based on the principles of care and health.
Is the modern art system capable of change? Or does it require its complete abolition and radical revision of the foundations of art and artistic practices? What could replace it?

Recommended reading
On the Limits of Care and Knowledge: 15 Points Museums Must Understand to Dismantle Structural Injustice
By Yesomi Umolu, June 25, 2020


Dr Janna Graham runs the BA in Curating at Goldsmiths. She works at the juncture of radical pedagogy and research, Institutional Analysis and Intersectional Feminisms. She has developed exhibitions, residencies, campaigns, research and writing between art and contemporary social urgencies including the struggles around migration, anti-racism care, gentrification and education. She is author/editor of Art+Care: A Future (Koenig, 2014) ; Studies on a Road (Koenig, 2011) – based on a 6 year popular education and research project and invention of the Centre for Possible Studies in London’s Edgware Road neighbourhood, and is co-author (with Kirsten Forkert, Gargi Bhattacharyya, Federico Oliveri) of How media and conflicts make migrants (MUP, 2020). Her upcoming book The Problem with Platforms is co-authored with Valeria Graziano and Susan Kelly looks at the phenomena of public programming in the arts in light of communicative and platform capitalism. Graham is a founding member of the Another Roadmap for Arts Education International Research Network and a member of the art and political collective Ultra-red.

Dmitry Vilensky is an artist, educator and cultural environmentalist with no art degrees. He elicits situations and relationships. No one knows what he is up to right now: perhaps he is editing a new issue of Chto Delat’s newspaper, or maybe administering the Chto Delat Mutual Aid Fund, or editing a film, or talking with the participants of the School of Engaged Art, or making a set for a new play, or sitting in the assembly at Rosa’s House of Culture editing presentation for another conference. Most likely, he is doing all this and dozens of other activities at the same time, surrounded by various comradely compositions of bodies and minds in his hometown of Saint Petersburg, at Zoom and in many other places around the world. Born in Leningrad in 1964. He lives in Saint Petersburg.