THE ARTIST AS "GLOBAL NOMAD" Parameters and Conditions of Teaching in Weimar and Beyond Lisa Glauer and Anke Hannemann in: Tracing the Public In times of omnipresent social and political (protest-) movements that keep rising on the streets around the world, expectations concerning the bond between aesthetics, politics, and the commercial (institutional) art market, between the artists and their public deserve a closer look. A question art producers today, especially when working in the public sphere, might research is not merely, “what good is (my) art”, as it is no longer about the final product, but rather, what are the parameters and conditions, the potentialities and limitations that determine and regulate the development of the work, and place these in relation to what the work does in public space.
One of the most interesting and productive challenges for us at the MFA-program “Public Art and New Artistic Strategies” is teaching, as artists, in a program with a very heterogeneous group of young postgraduate artists from all over the world, bringing with them different canonic knowledge, about working in public space and with the ‘particular publics’ in and beyond the small town of Weimar as a place with a historical overhead that has often been described as ‘too big’ for such a small city. Typically, artists working in pub- lic space operate in many different places where they are sometimes for only a short while, sometimes for a period of up to a few years. Usually, the artists studying in Weimar will be seeking to confront themselves with to them, new environments, new local interests; often, during their future careers as artists, they will write proposals, hoping to be invited specifically as ‘international artists’. Finding a way to work as artists in this complex environment o en involves referring back to their own biographies and backgrounds in relation to an awareness of repeatedly dealing with and being in, but not really part of a specific public (space). One could even argue, that the artists, as international voyagers, constitute their own artistic category that constantly shifts between the assimilation within a certain public (space) and creation of a prospective (counter-) public.
In ‘problem oriented learning’, artistic work is reformulated as a problem or a singular situation in public space to be addressed and worked through in dialogue. When these documented experiences are summarized, analyzed and conceptualized, they become: ‘practice based research’. So, how can we understand the parameters and conditions of working in public space and what can be done? The curator and author Simon Sheikh states: “It is necessary to establish networks, to compare and mediate practices as well as theories. Art matters, certainly, but art is not enough.” (Sheikh 2004) For us as teachers and artists ourselves in the post- graduate MFA program “Public Art and New Artistic Strategies” it is important to acknowledge that we are not merely practitioners, but furthermore contextualizing ‘new artistic strategies’ by primarily taking on roles of active observer, mirror, connector, moderator, networker, problem shooter, enabler, finder of loop-holes and dialogical partner rather than taking on a more directive position, or the position of a critic.
Entanglements of Teaching “Protests” as Commodity
Sheikh points to a precise viewing of a potential public that it is not only deemed as subjective space, but that the artist as a public intellectual, who, as he states, is already situated within certain interconnected practices and accordingly subject to determined functions, has to, in a way, bring out the following in a multifaceted way: “So if we are to understand the artist as a public intellectual we also have to understand how this potential public is constructed and reconfigured through the historical and contingent placing or function of the artist through his or her specific public sphere, which is also termed the apparatus through which the artist is threaded. [...]” (Ibid.). Sheikh argues that the artist him- or herself functions as a particular public figure, is given a defined and specific role and is, consequently, bound to commercial ways of communication instituted by a cultural industry that plays out its own mechanisms. “For the cultural industry, the notion of ‘the public’, with its contingent modes of access and articulation, is replaced by the notion of ‘the market’, implying commodity-exchange and consumption as modes of access and interaction. is also means that the idea of the Enlightenment, rational-critical subjects and a disciplinary social order, is replaced by the notion of entertainment as communication, as the mechanism of social control and producer of subjectivity.” (Ibid.) It is important to unpack these mechanisms: themes addressed in this statement as “entertainment as communication, as mechanism of social control” have been discussed, for example, under the heading of “Festivalization” 1 in Weimar as a town positioned between the Buchenwald Memorial, the former concentration camp a few kilometers outside the city itself, and the Goethe-Schiller monument representing German Classicism, with its current heavy investment and economic dependence on (cultural) tourism and international cultural education that has its forerunners in the Goethe era.2 Since then, numerous travelers, interested tourists, and resident artists, intellectuals, musicians and people connected to the theater have regularly visited Weimar, some staying for a few years of study. e population of local residents, by contrast, appears comparatively more homogeneous and sedentary.3 If we consider the artist as a public intellectual, who understands the implications between politics and culture, moving inside multifaceted publics, “we can no longer talk of homogeneous categories in the singular, but rather of several political spheres and several cultural fields that sometimes connect and/or over- lap and sometimes strives towards autonomy and/or isolation. Both arenas imply a large subdivision of networks, agents and institutions.” (Sheikh 2004) Clearly, artists themselves are a part of it all. However, this relationship between an apparently relatively more mobile population of cultural workers and more sedentary local population may be reconsidered in terms of Bourriaud’s discussion of the figure of the radicant 4. It opens up the discussion because it is no longer about being either rooted or not, but instead, it becomes about different forms of rootedness, embeddedness, overlapping and connecting. Though Bourriaud does address different forms of mobility, distinguishing those forced to move from those who choose to, he does not address one of the more interesting facets of this phenomenon – the interaction between cultural workers and artists perceived as increasingly mobile ‘global nomads’5 and the cultural specifics of a location, the local, or ‘glocal’.But why do artists become ‘global nomads’ as physical travelers in the first place? Is it the only way to make a living as an artist, or to gain visibility, to ‘communicate entertainingly’, in order to become subjects, to become public intellectuals? This is an intriguing question, considering the increasing virtual interconnectivity between artists. One might be tempted to imagine that actual physical mobility becomes less important for artists, who can today view a cityscape or an exhibition space online with the help of technical visualization, communicate to any number of people about all aspects of the production and installation of a possible work of art via skype, so that the mere shipping of object based work or the transmission of a documentary film might be sufficient for a work of art to be shown elsewhere. The development of e-learning makes it likely that teaching will increasingly take place online, so that physical classrooms, and congruent physical travel become obsolete, and travel costs are spared – and no-one need ever deal with potentially uncomfortable situations of physically being in an unfamiliar space, with unfamiliar mannerisms. It is even conceivable that some administrators might see online international teaching environments as a perfect way to cut costs, since no bodies need to be moved, no classrooms maintained.
1 Suzanne Frank discusses the public rejection of a commissioned public artwork by Daniel Buren. Buren was commissioned fo work in Weimar via a normal, democratically agreed upon process: he won a competition to place a piece on the so-called “Rollplatz”, in Weimar. But residents decided to mobilize public opinion to such an extent that in the end it was never built. Frank analyses the process by applying a distinction between what local residents perceive as ‘our space’ – more ‘behind the scenes’ and not as representative as for example places of major tourist interest. Spaces of public interest, by contrast, are places local residents agree upon as deserving the interest of visitors and are proud to share with tourists and artists. It is a distinction used to a empt to explain the seemingly arbitrary rejection by the public of certain works of publicly commissioned art. (Frank, 2003)
2 Weimar, with its approximately 60 000 residents currently draws between 600 000 and one million visitors per year. School classes from all over Germany are traditionally shu ed through the town, to view the Goethe memorial, the National eater as site of the public proclamation of the constitution of the Weimar Republic in 1919, the founding place of the first Bauhaus, and the Buchenwald memorial – all within a few days: “Get an overview of the formation of German identity - the best and the worst - in just one short weekend”, could be an imaginary ‘entertaining’ advertising slogan disclosing a mechanism to socially control collective memory about Germany by making it a commoditized tourist experience.
3 e relationship between a relatively sedentary, more ‘rooted’ population and a more mobile cultural elite has shaped Weimar as a city for hundreds of years. It is not a new phenomenon in Weimar, though it was completely interrupted during the Nazi era, when, for example, the original Bauhaus was expelled by the National Socialists, and ‘not from here’ became a dangerous position to find oneself in.
4 The figure of the radicant replaces the figure of the rhizome (Deleuze and Guattari) for Bourriaud (2009): in an era in which, as he says, the most prominent figure is the tourist, the traveler and the migrant, ‘where you are from’ has become less important than ‘where you are going’, identities have become fluid and less determinant - it is possible to create new roots in new places, to re-root oneself, to change and learn to adapt.
5 http://www. gt.org/global_nomads: e standard definition is ‘a person of any age or nationality who has lived a signi cant part of his or her developmental years in one or more countries outside his or her passport country because of a parent’s occupation.’ e term is generally used interchangeably with that of TCK