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The Sami Art Festival as a Temporary Position - published in the book, Hotel Polar, by Sami Art Festival

The Sami Art Festival as a Temporary Position - published in the book, Hotel Polar, by Sami Art Festival

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Published by Thomas Kintel
In this text i will explore The Sami Art Festival as an aesthetic format that articulates temporary positions in specific discourses, thus intervening in social life in a productive way. Specifically, in the light of this, I will take a look at Snåsa Language Symposium, an exhibition and a seminar in the South Sámi linguistic area, and discuss whether SKF has succeeded in its efforts at resistance and creating nuances in the discursive landscape.
In this text i will explore The Sami Art Festival as an aesthetic format that articulates temporary positions in specific discourses, thus intervening in social life in a productive way. Specifically, in the light of this, I will take a look at Snåsa Language Symposium, an exhibition and a seminar in the South Sámi linguistic area, and discuss whether SKF has succeeded in its efforts at resistance and creating nuances in the discursive landscape.

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Published by: Thomas Kintel on Aug 18, 2011
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TheSámiArtFestivalasaTemporaryPosition
ThomasKintel
TheSámiArtFestival(SKF)isaseriesofevents,suchasexhibitions,seminars,publishingofliterature,workshopsandstudytripstodifferentplacesintheBarentsregionand/orSápmi,duringthecourseofthethreeyears,from2008to2011.Thematically,TheSámiArtFestivalisconcernedwithanumberofemotionallychargedconcepts,likeautonomy,trauma,marketing,neoliberalism,ethnicity,gender,indigenouspeople,rights,post-colonialism,neo-colonialism,andsolidarity.AssumingSKFhasanagenda,itconsistsoftwoinitially,simpleconcepts:resistanceandnuance.ThethemescoveredbyTheSámiArtFestivalarenotlefttochance.Theymovewithinadiscursivefield,characterizedbycontrastsandambivalence.Wearetalkingaboutculturalandsocialdomainsexhibitingfraughtrelationsanddiversity.Thesediscoursesarecreatedandmaintainedincontradictory,pluralisticandhegemonicways;hence,itisdifficulttopinpointwhatSKFactuallyiscomparedtowhatitdoes,where,whenandwhy.Inordertooperateproductivelyinthischargeddiscursivefield,SKFitselfmusttakeonaformthateludesdefinition,steersclearofconventionalframe-worksandavoidspoliticalandsocialinstrumentalization.SKFisnotsufficientlywelldefinedwithrespecttolocality,shapeorthematicstobepigeonholed.Rather,thefestivalfunctionsasasetofmutuallycontingent,linkedandself-contradictorycomponentsthataresimultaneouslyarticulated.Thisshapelessness,whichisduetoanunwillingnesstobejustonething,takestheformofresistancetotheconventionalartfestivalformat.ThespatialisnotwhatmakesTheSámiArtFestivalinteresting,butratherthecommunicativeaspectasitoriginatesinthetemporarylocalities withinthetwilightzonebetweenthematicallydelimitedsocialdiscourses.Afterthree yearsofvariedproductionsandinnumerablestrandsinmanydifferentplacesandatdifferenttimes,SKFmustbedescribedasadiscursiveformatshapedsoastofunctiontemporarilywithindifferentsocialcon-texts,ratherthanasonecompositeproject.So,ratherthanthinkingofSKFas‘something’,weshoulddescribeitthroughwhatitdoes.Inthefollowingaccount,IwillexploreSKFasanaestheticformatthatarticulatestemporarypositionsinspecificdiscourses,thusinterveninginsociallifeinaproductive way.Specifically,inthelightofthis,IwilltakealookatSnåsaLanguageSymposium,anexhibitionandaseminarintheSouthSámilinguisticarea,anddiscusswhetherSKFhassucceededinitseffortsatresistanceandcreatingnuancesinthediscursivelandscape.
NEGOTIATIONSANDLIMITSINOPINIONFORMATION
Myuseoftheworddiscourse,simplyrepresentsacommunicativecommunitywherecertainideasaremanagedandwheretherearecertainrulesgoverningthemanagementandcommunicationofideas.Somewhatstylized,onemightsaythatadiscourserepresentsathematicdelimitationinsociety,thethemeservingasthecoreorcentralobjectofthediscourse.Discoursesinpublicspacesoftenappearcongruent,inthatpositionsaregiven,opinionsaregiven,truthsaregiven,etc.Forexample,inadiscourseabouttheSouthSámilanguage,‘SouthSámi’willbethecentralobjectofthediscourse,whilethediscourseisactuallyconstitutedbythearticulationofavarietyofdistinctiveelements.Asthereareactuallynosetprinciplesorfundamentalsofarticulation,theseelementsmayberearticulatedoverandoveragainindifferentways.Consequently,politicsortrutharetemporarydomainsofmeaningthatcanandmostcommonlywillberenegotiatedandaltered.Duetotheirpositioninthediscourse,eachindividualandcommunitywillbe
 
 viewingthemselvesandtheoutsideworldthrougha‘filter’.Everydiscourseisconstitutedbypeoplecommunicatingwitheachother,andisconcernedwiththeshapingofacommunityofmeaning;hence,everydiscourseispoliticallyconstituted.However,adiscoursemightbemoreorlessapoliticalifitishegemonicallycontrolledthroughmakingdifferencesanaturalthingandbyexcludingordepoliticizingcriticalvoices.Ontheotherhand,adiscoursemaybecomeverypoliticizedwhentheparticipantstakeverylittleforgranted.Thus,discoursesaboutimportantsocialsubjectswillultimatelydependonpeople’sopportunitiesandlimitationsofthoughtandaction,andhowthesearemanaged.Inthesameway,artmayfunction‘politically’whenartists,curatorsorothersenterintodiscourseswheremeaningiscontinuallybeingcreated,challengedandrefined.Forexample,criticalvoiceswhichusedtobeexcludedmaybebroughtintoadiscourse,oronemightpinpointdifferenceswhichusedtobeinvisible,thuspoliticizingadiscoursewhichhaspreviouslybeenapolitical.ThisiswheretheSKFformatisrelevant.Butbeforewecanappreciatehowthisformatinfluencesthecommunicativelandscapewherediscoursesareconstituted,weneedtounderstandhowthelimitsofadiscourseareformed.Thelimitsofanydiscourseareincontinualflux,dependingonwhichotherdiscoursesarebeingarticulatedintheareaatanygiventime.Thenegotiations,whichcomeininnumerableshapesandforms,aresharpestinthegrayareaswheretheoverlapismostobvious.Thisis wherethelimitstoanydiscoursearecontinuallybeingmaintainedandrenegotiated.Thismaybeillustratedbyadiscourseflower(seesketch),amethodical-analyticaltoolintendedtodelimitadiscourse.
THEDISCURSIVEFLOWER
Thisexampleillustrateshowanumberofdifferent,complementaryandsomewhatcontradictorydiscoursesmakeuptheareaofbordernegotiationsbetweentheSouthSámilanguageandsurroundingdiscourses.Thediscursiveflowerpointstothesocialasbasically pluralistic,whereahostofthematicdiscoursesexistontopofandaroundeachotherinsociety,andwhereconflictsareraging,possiblywithouteverbeingunderstoodrationally.Wearetalkingaboutunstableconstructsthatoriginate,developandchangeduetothecomplexinterplayofsocialandculturalprocessesofdelimitation.ThesketchpointstosomeamongstthemostcentraloverlappingdiscoursesconstitutingcommunicativecommunitiesintheSamisocieties.AdiscourseaboutSamiartorSouthSámilanguagedoesnotexistasa
 
‘something’;itshouldbeconsideredadelimitationcarriedoutwithaviewtocapturingsocial processesofthisnature.Thedelimitationagainstotherdiscoursesandsocialfieldswillvary,dependingonwhichdiscoursesandfieldssurroundorseemtooverlapwiththeSámiartworldatanygiventime.
Further,thethematizationof,inthisexampletheSouthSámilanguage,willbebasedonthevaluethelanguagehasforindividuals.Thediscourseisconstitutedbyallsmallandlargepatternsofaction,ideasandthoughts,fearsandworries,joysandwishesexpressedbetweenpeople.Thescopeofthediscoursemaybelimitedtohowwidelyandhowfarfromthecentreofthediscoursethereiscommunicationbasedoncommonvaluesthataredominantatthecentre.Attheperipheryofthediscourse,therewillof-tenbeundefinedlandscapeswherearticulationbetweenelementsfindsnoclearordefinedplace.Theoretically,anypointintheeternallyoverlappinglandscapeofdiscoursesmaybethoughtofassituated,andinprincipleconstitutedbyanumberofmoreorlessarbitraryelementsthatarearticulatedtogetheratthegivenpointintime.Inadiscourse,hegemonicstructuresandpracticesservetoexcludeorinclude,sharingopportunitiesandlimitations.Existingbelowthesurfaceofideasaboutacommonpublicsphereorconsensualforms,suchstructuresandpracticeslimitormakeinvisible,bothindividualsandgroups.Pub-licspacesaremadeupoftemporaryandstrategicalliancesconsistingofanumberofdiscursivelyconstructedsubjectsandinterestgroups whichtrytoframeanddefinewhatshouldbeconsiderednaturalorgiven.Thefunctionofideologiesandhegemonicpracticesmaybetermedanattemptatorderingdifferences,thatis,framingunstableorundefinedmeaningsinthediscursivefieldsoastostabilizethediscourse.Thus,existinghegemonies,whateverconsciousnesstellsusisnaturalandunproblematic,arealwaystheoutcomeofpreviousnegotiations.Inthatsense,astableorhegemonicallystructureddiscourseisacommunicativecommunitythatisrelativelydefinedbyathemewhereopportunitiesandlimitationshavealreadybeenshared,aswellasbywhatshouldbetakenforgranted.Inthiscontext,aestheticsprovidenotonlyanopportunitytosupportorcriticizehegemonies;artwillalwaysbepoliticalinthesenseatitexistsinthepublicspacewherepeoplecommunicatewitheachotherandwheresocialtruthsarecreatedandchallenged.Ontheotherhand,asthehegemonicpracticesofadiscoursealwayswilldrawuponwhatistakenforgrantedandgivenatanytime,artisticinterventionwillbelikelytoitselfbeinstrumentalizedintheprocess.
DOUBLEINSTRUMENTALITY
ForSKF,theaimistoclassifydifferences,rights,whoisinside/outside,whatmaybesaidanddonewhereandwhen,etc.Thesocialdeterminationtriestodelimitandcreateaformofstablemeaninginabasicallypluralisticandotherwiseintangiblesocialreality.Thisisinstrumentalismintheshapeofdemandsforsocialconformityandexpectationsofformandcontentinconnectionwithdiscursivelyconstitutedconventionsthatcausethesituatingprocesstomovetowardssetrepresentationsofwhatisconsideredmostimportantandnatural.Attheotherextremeisthepoliticalinstrumentalizationofart,ideologicallyoverridingandinstitutionallydirectingitscourse,whatisusuallydescribedasinstrumentalart,oftentiedtoprinciplesofpublicservice,formsofcensorshipintheshapeofrequirementsanddemandsattachedtoeconomicsupport,politicalrepresentationandthelike.RelativetothediscourseabouttheSámilanguage,thismightbethoughtofasinfluencestryingtoopenupforwhatitmeanstospeakSámi,maybeopeningupfordifferentdialects,whomaylearnSámi,reducingrequirementsandexpectationsabouttheuseandlearningofthelanguage.Inthiscontext,itisimportantthatsymbols,suchasconceptsandwordsdescribingwhatthelanguageis,whocanspeak,howwellyoumustspeakit,etc.,isnotelaboratedontoomuchinthepublicrealm,asanagreedthematizationofcontrastscreatesanimpressionofdisagreement.Thereversesideofthe

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