You are on page 1of 41

The Aesthetic Experience of Generative Dialogue By Aaron Lish

Candidate for MFA of Fine Arts in Visual Art Art Institute of Boston Boston, Massachusetts June 2013

[Type text]

[Type text] Abstract

[Type text] 2

In March, 2013, a small group of participants and myself spent three days camped in a remote cave in the desert of South-Central Oregon discussing what the next significant threats to humanity might be and what, if anything, we can do to prepare. Derrick Cave was stocked with supplies in the 1960s by the National Civil Defense to serve as a nuclear fallout shelter in the event of an attack on the Western U.S. during the Cold War, and thus it provided an evocative setting to engage in such dialogue. The removed setting was also chosen to utilize the power of nature in inducing contemplation, and to provide a disruption from ones daily routine. The normalcy of daily life was replaced with survivalist living coupled with the joy of discovery of new knowledge. Such an experience resulted in an increased sense of subjectivity and agency over ones thoughts and actions while providing an opportunity for analysis of our culture and society. Beyond providing an opportunity for analysis of our culture and society, such conversation-based work also explores the relationship of the self to a larger whole as there must be differing points of view for generative dialogue to occur. Accordingly, each participant is integral to the generation of new knowledge that such interaction can produce, even if the discovery is made by someone else. The dialogic process therefore results in a democratizing of knowledge production and an increased sense of empowerment for those involved in the discovery,

Lish 3 while also eliciting self-reflection and a re-connecting of the self with humanity.

artists are engaging in a political project of democratizing systems of knowledge production, freeing knowledge from a top-down construct into an interactive, in situ encounter. -Ian Sutherland and Sophia Krys-Acord

Theyve moved out of the society that would have protected them, and into the dark forest, into the world of fire, [the world] of original experience. Original experience has not been interpreted for you, and so youve got to work out your life for yourself. Either you can take it or you cant. You dont have to go far off the interpreted path to find yourself in very difficult situations. The courage to face the trials and to bring a whole new body of possibilities into the field of interpreted experience for other people to experience that is the heros deed. -Joseph Campbell

[Type text]

[Type text]

[Type text] 4

1. Introduction Our world is developing at such a rapid rate that language has not been able to keep up. This means that we do not have the ability to fully grasp the world we live in because we lack the tools for such understanding1. As Wittgenstein said The limits of my language mean the limits of my world (Richter 2004). We see this lack of ability to fully understand and express our current condition manifest in the profusion of the re-mix in art and pop-culture, where ideas continue to be re-circulated in the form of images, music, etc., rather than in the generation of truly new ways of thinking. I would contend that we are a society that needs to find its voice; but to do so we must first discover the language necessary to understand the world that has evolved around us, and then we will be able to communicate more effectively about it. 1 Our thoughts are shaped by language; thus, if our language is out-of-date
our ability to understand our current condition is flawed. A possible illustration of the disconnect between what language allows us to comprehend and the actual current state of affairs is the classic progress trap of being able to catch and process larger and larger quantities of fish without recognizing that fish are a finite resource which will begin to be depleted if we harvest more than are being replaced. These advancements in fish harvesting technologies that could threaten to deplete the oceans began decades before the language of resource conservation began to enter into broader discourses, including fisheries management (Wright 2008).

Lish 5 The projects I construct are intended to provide an opportunity for critical analysis of our culture through the use of generative dialogue amongst participants. In this process the opportunity for new knowledge and understanding, possibly even new language, is created. However, as Cai Guo-Qiang uses explosives to directly manifest the pure force of energy, not to induce art but as an art form itself (Munroe 2008: 20), I provide my participants the opportunity to experience the intrinsic joy of the creative moment and of the discovery of new knowledge, not just for knowledge sake, but for the aesthetic experience itself. As art historian Grant Kester wrote: When we are no longer required to perform the onerous labor of testing each perception against an existing conceptual repertoire, we experience a unique liberatory [sic] pleasure (2004: 107); and Kant stated that in an aesthetic experience our cognitive powers are in free play (Kant in Kester 2004: 107). As a result of such experience, I suggest that a more accurate picture of contemporary culture and society will begin to emerge, both for the participants, as well as within the discourses of language and culture.

2. Field Trips My art practice has begun to take on two parallel practices, one that is involved with the creating of off-site projects, which I refer to as Field Trips, and the other that is focused on creating work within the

[Type text]

[Type text]

[Type text] 6

art institution which is informed by, and may reference, these Field Trips. My off-site work is intended to maximize the benefit of site specificity, while also providing the distance necessary for critical analysis of our culture. These projects are conducted in remote settings to utilize the power of nature in inducing contemplation and to provide a disruption from ones daily routine. In so doing, I aim to provide the critical distance needed to begin to look at ones culture from a new and different perspective. Beyond considering the benefits of unique, remote sites for their ability to add to the dialogue and contemplation, there is also a democratic element of art production that occurs with taking participatory projects out of the gallery and into public lands and other non-art spaces. Such thinking is supported by the writing of Alexandra Munroe, curator at the Guggenheim, in discussing Cia Guo-Qiangs offsite works: Cais infiltration of non-art spaces and local communities [] is infused with an idealistic socialism that aspires to claim the public realm as a site for art of democratic empowerment (2008: 22). This is important when my work is looked at through the lens of a more democratic form of knowledge production, which the sociologists Sutherland and Krys-Acord have suggested is an outcome of relational art (2007).

Lish 7

Figure 1. Aaron Lish. Planning map; Play and Idle Creativity (A 72-hour Think-tank on Survival in the 21st Century). 2013.

My most recent, and most unique Field Trip, titled Play and Idle Creativity (A 72-hour Think-tank on Survival in the 21st Century), involved a small group of ordinary people camped in a cave in the desert of rural South-Central Oregon for three days discussing what the next big threats to humanity might be and whether there is anything that we can do to prepare. Derrick Cave is a former Civil Defense nuclear fallout shelter that was stocked with supplies for over 1200 people to survive in the event of a nuclear attack on the West Coast of the United States during the Cold War. However, by the early-1970s the reality of long-term life underground began to be questioned and eventually this cave, and others across the nation, were abandoned. By having the constant background reminder of the biggest threat to life as we know it, combined with the questionable solution of living

[Type text]

[Type text]

[Type text] 8

underground as a survival strategy, the site specificity created a unique context for discussing what might be the next big threats.

Figure 2. Aaron Lish. Documentation image; Play and Idle Creativity (A 72-hour Think-tank on Survival in the 21st Century). 2013.

Over the course of the three days at the cave each participant, including myself, gave a brief presentation that fit the topic of Survival Skills for the 21st Century, however we each chose to interpret this. The presentations served as starting points for dialogue on what the next significant threats to humanity may be. Such dialogue was designed to critically analyze our American culture, but in framing the discussion within the context of survival while living in a former nuclear fallout shelter, the topic became much more interesting and evocative.

Lish 9

Figure 3. Aaron Lish. Documentation image (creative journal entry); Play and Idle Creativity (A 72-hour Think-tank on Survival in the 21st Century). 2013.

Further, a mixture of hilarity and absolute seriousness was created from the discovery that the fallout shelter was an unimproved cave with no ventilation system and no waste disposal system that was assessed to have a capacity of over 1200 people, yet it is only approximately 140 feet long and 20-25 feet wide. This would have allowed for approximately 2.5 square feet of space per person, not factoring in room for supplies! Thus, the site provided a degree of the absurd, and yet at the same time, its intended use was of the utmost seriousness. Such a combination created an opening for dialogue that

[Type text]

[Type text]

[Type text] 10

ran separate from, but often parallel to the other conversations, with the two occasionally intersecting. The mix of the serious and the absurd also resulted in a type of profaning of the space that went beyond the profanation created by my using the site for a think-tank project rather than as a fallout shelter. Such an incongruous pairing of use and mis-use helped elicit a more playful and creative tone than may have otherwise resulted.

Figure 4. Aaron Lish. Documentation image; Play and Idle Creativity (A 72-hour Think-tank on Survival in the 21st Century). 2013.

In embracing the goal of generating new ideas or new ways of thinking, everyone had agreed to set aside the common approach to conversation in American culture to try to convince others that you are right and instead to maintain an open mind and an openness to sharing. The result was a contribution of spontaneously occurring thoughts that lead to what artists Helen and Newton Harrison refer to as conversational drift as a way to describe the natural evolution of conversation (Kester 2004). Each presenter served as the facilitator of

Lish 11 the ensuing dialogue, and it was left to him to decide how much drift would occur. However, as we had all previously agreed that the intent of the conversation was to see what new ideas would be generated, there was very little limiting of where the discussions traveled. Where we would end up was often far from where we began, and how we got from point A to point B would be difficult, if not impossible, to retrace; but the new thoughts that were generated, and the epiphanies that would happen mid-sentence were a wonderful experience!

3. Beyond the cave In his seminal text on art and experience, the late American philosopher John Dewey discussed the idea that intellectual thinking that arrives at a conclusion is an aesthetic act, or that it is intellectual art (1980: 38). The essential element for Dewey was that there be movement, or that the thinking must progress forward and reach the anticipation and cumulation [sic] that is the completion or conclusion. He further stated, the experience itself has a satisfying emotional quality because it possesses internal integration and fulfillment reached through ordered and organized movement. This artistic structure may be immediately felt. In so far, it is esthetic (1980: 38). In the cave, the process of generative dialogue resulted in this

[Type text]

[Type text]

[Type text] 12

aesthetic that Dewey wrote of; the process, and the experiences that accompanied the process, were the art. The being present, the active listening, the open sharing, the respect given, the epiphanies had, etc. were all a part of the aesthetic experience shared amongst the participants, myself included. As such, I can share about the project, about the design and about the presentation topics, about the setting, and about the open dialogue; but as I was only one of the participants, I can only share from my perspective what the experience was like. Further, to try to represent the work to a secondary audience and to recreate the aesthetic would be futile as without actually being in the cave, and being a part of the group engaged in the conversation, there is no way to actually experience the work. Like with Allan Kaprows Happenings, the aesthetic of the work was in the original experience, which could not be captured through documentation. In fact, Kaprow thought that documentation would actually undermine the intent of the work (Kaprow 2003). That said, for the work to have an impact on more than the few people who were with me in the cave, the work must live on in some way, and must provoke thought in a secondary audience; there is even the hope that exposure to the work may serve to draw others into their own generative dialogue, for if dialogue about society and culture can take place in a cave in the middle of the desert, very much removed

Lish 13 from society and culture, then couldnt it take place anywhere 2? As a way for the project to continue, and not just for a secondary audience to be exposed to the work, but for the original participants to continue to live the experience that was begun in the cave, I have created a Facebook page for the project (titled Play and Idle Creativity) where each of us on the trip can share stories and photos about the trip. But more important than what happened at the cave, the Facebook page will also serve to share what we have done since returning home and how we have responded to the challenges we set for ourselves while in the cave3.

2 Although the setting of the cave was very effective in creating an

environment conducive of generative dialogue, such dialogue also takes place over coffee every day. The generative dialogues over coffee, however, are typically within the capitalist sphere and are what have lead to innovations in science, technology, media, etc. rather than critically analyzing society and culture. 3 See Appendix A for a list of challenges that were created by the participants during our time at Derrick Cave.

[Type text]

[Type text]

[Type text] 14

Figure 4. Chris Burden. Documentation image; Shoot. 1971.

The use of social media will bring the project to the general public, but to bring my Field Trips into the art world, and to broaden the audience so as to enter the work into the discourses of language and culture, I will utilize two strategies typical of the art institution. One is to create work within the institution that is informed by, and references my Field Trips, but which is done in a way that does not force the participant in the new work to try to make connections to the field work or that would cause them to feel alienated. The second strategy is through the use of artist talks; for as with works like Chris Burdens Shoot (1971), the art lives on in the stories. By sharing

Lish 15 stories about the time in the fallout shelter in ways that provoke the new audience to think about how they would have responded if they were there in the cave, I may provide an opportunity for an aesthetic moment to occur. However, as it is directly experiencing the joy that can come from the generating of new ideas in the midst of open sharing that is the aesthetic I strive for, creating the opportunity for gallery visitors to experience their own aesthetic moment through generative dialogue may be much more effective in bringing my work into the art world. As such, I will be producing a dialogic event, A Survival Kit for the 21st Century (see Appendix B for project description), for the evening of the June 2013 graduation ceremony and gallery reception at the Art Institute of Boston.

4. A glimpse at the theory behind the work Beyond the aesthetic of the moment of discovery, which is a very important part of my personal philosophy behind creating participatory art, and which is supported by the writings of John Dewey, Gregory Bateson, and Gustaf Almenberg to name a few, there is also a philosophical basis for the use of dialogue as art-form that is about the relationship between the individual and society. This can be explored in the writings of Hegel, Freire, Habermas, and Kester, among others.

[Type text]

[Type text]

[Type text] 16

Hegels dialectic suggests that for a given hypothesis there must be a contradictory antithesis, which when resolved leads to a higher level of understanding (synthesis) (Spencer 1996). Such a dialectic not only explains how dialogue can work to generate new knowledge, but it also brings to bear that for dialogue to have such a result there must be two opposing points of view. As such, each participant involved in a generative discussion is an active contributor to the outcome, and thus, is integral to the process of discovery even if the discovery is made by someone else; and as long as the breakthrough is then shared with the others involved, each participant is able to have their own ah ha moment as they too make their own cognitive connections. Consequently, whether or not a participant is the initial beholder of a discovery, he or she is still responsible for its occurrence, for without the right combination of dialogical elements the discovery would not have occurred. As a result, generative dialogue creates a democratization of knowledge production. It must be noted, however, that Hegels writings present conversation as an in-between-space, with the space defined by the individuals involved, but the conversation itself being outside of each individual. My interpretation, above, using the Hegelian dialectic in support of relational interactions, in some ways goes against Hegels thinking and is more aligned with the writings of Lacan. For Lacan conversation cannot be completely separate from the contributing

Lish 17 members of dialogue because it is they who define the conversation with their own language and personal subjectivities (Frie 1997). Thus, generative dialogue is a bringing together of differing points of view into a shared space that is outside of each contributor, and that is free to be explored by each member of the conversation; yet this space is also created by each participants contributions and is entwined with each individuals own subjectivities. As artist Tino Sehgal states about his constructed situations, each individual is continually confronted with himself or herself, his or her own presence in the situation, as something that matters, as something that influences and shapes the situation (Griffin 2005: para. 26). When this occurs, it is possible that dialogue creates a process of rediscovering a sense of subjectivity and agency on the part of the beholders.

Figure 5. Tino Sehgal. Documentation image; This Progress. 2010.

[Type text]

[Type text]

[Type text] 18

While in the fallout shelter there was a heightened sense of self, but there were also personal relations that were formed. As Habermas wrote of participants in discursive dialogue, each becomes intimately linked in an inter-subjectively shared form of life (1989: 47). In the cave each participant directly influenced everyones experiences, both through dialogue, as well as through the processes of daily life. As a result, there were unspoken negotiations that occurred in individuals minds when each decided how an action might influence the others. For example, if only one person had his headlamp on, by turning off the light the group would be put into total darkness would this be acceptable?

Figure 6. Aaron Lish. Documentation image; Play and Idle Creativity (A 72-hour Think-tank on Survival in the 21st Century). 2013.

This resulted in an individual within a social context with a heightened sense of how he would impact the group, and with an increased awareness of how the others may perceive him as a result of

Lish 19 his actions. Such an occurrence is echoed in Rirkrit Tiravanija's work, as described for Theanyspacewhatever catalogue from the 2008 show at the Guggenheim:
...what is at stake here is the specific and concrete experience of a beholder who is now addressed as an individual situated in a social present, and whose perceptions and range of interactions will vary depending on his or her social affiliations, roots, and gender identity. Such differences between individual perceptions may in some circumstances lead to beholders becoming aware of their own individual differences resulting in experiences that are more than commonly at variance. (Foll 110)

Beyond the benefit of dialogue forming a social sphere or community, Paulo Freire saw dialogue as a process whereby the individual can cultivate his [or her] own growth through situations from his [or her] own life (Pedagogy of the Oppressed An Analysis). However, in his text Pedagogy of the Oppressed (2005), Freire suggested that rather than simply use the language that exists, to become aware of ones own reality she should create her own words to be able to adequately express her thoughts. Without creating ones own language, she is only partially aware of her unique situation, and the situation will seem normal. By creating ones own vocabulary, the beholder becomes aware of her struggle in life and transforms reality from that of struggle being normal to recognizing the oppressed life that she has lived. Such ideas, although slightly more revolutionary than my own, do support the thinking that language lags behind ones

[Type text]

[Type text]

[Type text] 20

current condition, and therefore hinders full understanding of said condition; it also supports my philosophy that the use of dialogue can help to create new language and to generate a fuller understanding of the world we live in, while also empowering those who have contributed to the generative process. Additional support for the aesthetic of dialogue and the relationship of the self to society can be found by re-visiting Hegels dialectic coupled with Lacans and Habermass position that the self is also an integral part of the conversational space. For, if as Hegel suggests, to fully understand ones hypothesis, the counter, or antithesis must also be understood, it could be said that in analyzing culture and society one must also analyze the self, and vice verso. Further, it is human nature to try to understand new or abstract concepts in terms of lived experience; thus in the process of using dialogue to analyze culture (culture being an abstract concept), one will naturally attempt to make meaning of the abstract thoughts being discussed by connecting them to personal experiences. Thus, the process of analyzing culture also results in an analysis of the self. In gaining a better understanding of the self, we may also gain a better understanding of the other as well. As Kester states: In attempting to present our views to others, we [] internalize our interlocutors responses. In this way we are lead to see ourselves from the others point of view and are thus, at least potentially, able to be

Lish 21 more critical and self-aware (2004: 110). Kester also suggests in the very act of enjoying the unconstrained and harmonious operation of our mental faculties we recognize their implicit universality (2004: 107). In other words, through the aesthetic experience of the cognitive process of exploration and discovery of thought there is a recognition that all humans are the same we all perceive the world through the same basic cognitive process (2004: 107), albeit through very different filters informed by different life experiences. Thus, dialogue can affect a deeper understanding of the self, while also re-connecting the self to the rest of humanity. And as Sutherland and Krys-Acord have written: Through this embodied relationship to the artwork, the visitor exits the traditional activity of trying to figure out what the artwork means, and instead wonders if they have encountered the work correctly [] It is through selfexamination that the artwork unlocks a subjective process of knowledge production (2007: 132).

[Type text]

[Type text]

[Type text] 22

Figure 7. Yoko Ono. Documentation image; Cut Piece. 1964.

But what would have occurred if such knowledge production did not occur, if a community did not evolve within the cave, and if such open dialogue did not result? Would the work have failed? Or would it just mean that the work was manifest in a different way. It could be said that open work like this, which is left to the participants to complete, is a true reflection, and product, of the culture that the work is produced in. Yoko Onos participatory performance Cut Piece (1964) is a wonderful example of this. If no one had cut her dress would the work have been a failure? Or is it that how the audience chooses to participate in a work results in it becoming a mirror for society, and what is created through their participation is as much the work as the artists construction? And with this in mind, what does it mean that the dialogue in the fallout shelter did develop so freely, and that a sense of community did develop so rapidly? Could this fact also be a

Lish 23 reflection of the society in which we live?

5. Relational Art or Social Practice; or an In-between Space? As the projects I construct explore the relationship between the individual and society, and employ the use of social interaction, they are often analyzed through the lens established either by the writing of Nicolas Bourriaud in his book Relational Aesthetics (2002), or Claire Bishops response to Bourriaud in her essay Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics (2004) and her follow-up article The Social Turn: Collaboration and Its Discontents (2006). However, as my work is more about the aesthetic of generative dialogue, I see it as building upon the works of artists like Rirkrit Tiravanija, one of Bourriauds cadre of relational artists, but going in a different direction. My projects are not just focused on creating a space to be used for socializing (and as a result illuminating the gap between public and private space), as is much of Tiravanijas work (Performance Anxiety), but rather they are intended to provoke thought about our culture and society through direct dialogue. Further, as I am interested in creating the opportunity for generative discussion, there is benefit in creating situations in which the participants are comfortable enough to fully engage themselves in the conversation; thus, some of Bishops theorizing on antagonism as a vital element in relational art is less applicable to my work as well. I do

[Type text]

[Type text]

[Type text] 24

employ the use of contradiction and profanation, in addition to mild degrees of shock, in my project designs, but this is done very cautiously so as to not allow it to preclude participants involvement in the discussion. Rather, these strategies are employed as subtle ways to provoke the participant and cause her to re-think her perceptions of the way things should be, but in a way that it will add to the generative discussion rather than detract from it.

Figure 8. Rirkrit Tiravanija. Documentation image; Fear Eats the Soul. 2011.

As previously mentioned, one outcome of the dialogues I organize which does share a similarity with Tiravanijas events and spaces is that the participant is able to observe herself within the work while also recognizing herself as part of a larger whole. I see the quote by Heike-Karin Foll about Tiravanija's work ...what is at stake here is the specific and concrete experience of a beholder who is now addressed as an individual situated in a social present (2008: 110) as

Lish 25 beautifully describing how the performative and participatory elements of these experiences collaborate to impact the participants, for they too end up in a performative role, resulting in the opportunity to see oneself as both participant and audience at the same time. The alternating, yet simultaneous roles create a gap in which there is a possibility for new discoveries to be made. In writing about Actor Network Theory, theorist John Law suggests that it is the in-between spaces that should be explored to gain a fuller understanding of our world (1999). This idea of the gap is echoed by the artist Allan Wexler, who stated: exploring the gap between two different things is where the sparks happen (2012). In the cave, in the midst of conversation we discovered our own sparks or found thoughts. As such, although my work is relational, it is not about creating microtopias for convivial social relations as Bourriaud and Tiravanija would support, even though such relations do indeed occur. And Bourriaud even states that without the What for? relational art only creates personal relationships for their own sake without addressing the political component (Bourriaud in Bishop 2004: 68). In my projects, through the forming of these personal relationships a type of safety is hopefully created, which consequently will allow for the process of open sharing and generative dialogue to ensue. And although there is a minor degree of antagonism through the profanation of the spaces and / or concepts I use for these projects, it is not at a level that would

[Type text]

[Type text]

[Type text] 26

be disruptive of, but rather is intended to be additive to the process of generating new ideas. In this way, I do, however, agree with Bishop that some degree of provocation or confusion is beneficial to the generative thought process as it creates an opening for new ways of thinking. Where I disagree with Bishop is in the underlying philosophy and in how the antagonism is employed. Bishop comes to the conclusion that antagonism is necessary in relational art from the writings of Rancier, as well as from Laclau and Mouffes discussion of antagonism and democracy in Hegemony and Socialist Strategy (Bishop 2004). Her interpretation of antagonism leads to an embracing of an aesthetic of conflict that is created for a secondary audience. On the other hand, I come to my conclusion about the use of provocation from the writings of Agamben on profanation 4, as well as from contemporary brain science on the use of distractors5. In the design of my projects, what could be considered as mildly antagonistic elements are incorporated to enhance the dialogue and 4 Contemporary Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben writes that to profane is
to play with or to put to new use (2007: 87). Agamben suggests that such mis-use creates an opening for new ways of thinking. For more on the use of profanation in art see The Use of Contradiction and Profanation in Contemporary Art (Lish 2012). 5 Milton Erickson was a renowned American psychiatrist and hypnotherapist noted for his approach to the unconscious mind as creative and solutiongenerating. Erickson believed that when the conscious mind is distracted we draw upon the cognitive unconscious to make sense of things (Erickson et al. 1976). More recent brain research on creativity and the cognitive unconscious has further proven Ericksons postulates (McNerney 2012; Andreasen 2011).

Lish 27 increase the opportunity for new discoveries to be made by the participants (my primary audience), but are done through the use of play and humor rather than humiliation or pain as used by some of the artists whom Bishop applauds. In fact, Bishops interpretation of the use of antagonism includes a setting aside of ethics (2006), and what I would consider a using of participants as actors in pre-scripted ways designed to create discomfort in the secondary audience (and possibly in the participants as well)6. Such a tactic goes against my ideology of participation as a way to create a positive aesthetic through generative dialogue, and an empowering of the participants through awakening their subjectivities. Thus, although my project designs are strongly informed by the writings of Bourriaud and of Bishop, as well as by various relational artists, I feel that my work is, in some ways, more closely aligned with the aesthetic of the social practice projects presented by Kester in his book Conversation Pieces (2004). These works are designed around the ideology of creating opportunities for seeing the world differently through the exchange of ideas and by experiencing the empowering effects that participating in open dialogue can have, as well as how being a part of local change can 6 Phil Collinss work They Shoot Horses (2004), Artur Zmijewskis works Them
(2007) and Singing Lesson II (2002), and Santiago Sierras Polyurethane Sprayed on the Backs of Ten Workers (2004) are examples of work that Bishop lauds (Bishop 2006) and that I feel violates my principles of participation as a way to empower people.

[Type text]

[Type text]

[Type text] 28

connect a person to her community in a new and stronger way. One such example of a community project that utilized dialogue in an attempt to achieve this type of aesthetic is Code 33 (1999) by Suzanne Lacy, Julio Morales and Unique Holland. This collaborative project involved 100 Oakland cops and 150 minority teens sitting in cars on top of a parking structure discussing issues of stereotyping, both with regards to race, as well as with regards to how police are viewed by the youth. A more recent community-based dialogic project is one curated by Mary Jane Jacob, who brought together artists, members of the Phillips Community in South Carolina, urban planners and traffic engineers, among others, to explore creative solutions to traffic and land-use issues impacting this 150 year-old community founded by freedmen (part of Places with a Future, an ongoing project begun in 2005).

Figure 9. Suzanne Lacy, Julio Morales and Unique Holland. Documentation image; Code 33. 1999.

However, unlike these social practice projects, the work that I

Lish 29 create is much more open-ended and does not have a specific goal for local change. In a way my works could be referred to as being gestures, and from the position of social practice, could be criticized for not having any clear purpose. This is an intentional consideration in my project designs, though. The intent is that by creating such open work it will allow access for a secondary audience, who upon hearing about a project is invited, possibly even impelled, to think how he or she would have responded as a participant. But rather than create a sense of discomfort in this audience as Bishop would suggest, it is my intent to create a sense of curiosity and wonder as a way to elicit contemplation. This is done through the use of compelling, but unanswerable questions combined with the use of challenging sites in challenging ways.

6. Conclusion As I continue to develop projects based in the aesthetic of generative dialogue, it will be with a cautious optimism that, as Timotheus Vermeulen recently wrote about trends in contemporary thinking in Frieze magazine, is firmly grounded in Postmodern scepticism [sic] (2011: para. 6). Although I do approach my work with a modernist idealism in that I believe my work can make a difference, I also realize how large and complex the world has become since that notion was first attached to art. I will not fool myself with thoughts of

[Type text]

[Type text]

[Type text] 30

my work being able to reach the masses for that is not the nature of my projects; and I will not fool myself with thoughts of my work creating a global utopia, as that way of thinking is dead. I also understand how powerful culture is in shaping the way we think, but that is where my work comes in it provides an opportunity to discover new ways of thinking outside of the cultural norms, and to possibly even create new language in the process. This creative sharing of language is engaged in for the pure joy of discovery, and allows for, as Kester writes, [] creating an open space where individuals can break free from preexisting roles and obligations, reacting and interacting in new and unforeseeable ways. (2004: 6). And in this process, there

is a hope that we may begin to better understand our society and culture through the removed position of the aesthetic experience of generative dialogue.

Lish 31

Works Cited Agamben, Giorgio. Profanations. New York: Zone Books, 2007. Print. Andreasen, Nancy C. A Journey into Chaos: Creativity and the Unconscious. Mens Sana Monograph, Vol. 9, No. 1: 42-53, 2011. Print. Bishop, Claire. The Social Turn: Collaboration and Its Discontents. Artforum ( Feb 2006). Print. Bishop, Claire. Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics. October 110 (2004): 51-79. Print. Bishop, Claire, ed. Viewers as Producers. Participation. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2006. 10-17. Print. Bourriaud, Nicolas. Relational Aesthetics. 1998. Translated by Simon Pleasenace and Fronza Woods with Mathieu Copeland. Paris: Les Presses du Reel, 2002. Print. Dewey, John. Art as Experience. 1934. New York: Perigee Books and Putnam Publishing, 1980. Print. Erickson, Milton H. , Ernest L. Rossi, and Sheila I. Rossi. Hypnotic Realities. New York: Irvington Publishers, Inc., 1976. Print. Excerpts from Joseph Campbell The Power of Myth, with Bill Moyers. Derek Parrott. Web. 28

[Type text] September 2012.

[Type text]

[Type text] 32

Fll , Heike-Karin. Rirkrit Tiravanija - Building as frame: Rirkrit Tiravanijas Architectural Impulse. Theanyspacewhatever. Catalogue. Ed. Nancy Spector. NY: Guggenheim Museum Publications, 2008. 110. Print. Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. 1970. Translated by Myra Bergman Ramos. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2005. Print. Frie, Roger. Subjectivity and Intersubjectivity in Modern Philosophy and Psychoanalysis: A Study of Sartre, Binswanger, Lacan, and Habermas. New York: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 1997. Print. Griffin, Tim. Tino Sehgal an interview. Art Forum, 1 May 2005. Web. 17 Aug 2011. Habermas, Jurgen. Justice and Solidarity. Philosophical Forum 21 (1989-90): 47. Print. Jacob, Mary Jane. Social Practice and Public Art. Portland State University. Shattuck Hall Annex; Portland, OR. 14 May 2012. Artist Talk. Kaprow, Allan. Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life. Ed. Jeff Kelley. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 2003. Print. Kester, Grant H. Conversation Pieces. Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 2004. Print. Krupka, Robert A. An Evaluation of the Shelter Potential in Mines, Caves and Tunnels; Appendices I, II, III. Harmon-on-Hudson, NY: Hudson Institute, 1965. Print. Law, John. After ANT: complexity, naming and topology. Actor Network Theory and after. Eds. John Law and John Hassard.

Lish 33 Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1999. Print. Lish, Aaron. The Use of Contradiction and Profanation in Contemporary Art. Scribd, 27 Feb 2012. Web. 15 April 2013. McNerney, Sam. Unconscious Creativity: Step Back to Step Forward., 24 May 2012. Web. 3 Dec 2012. Munroe, Alexandra. Cai Guo-Qiang: I Want to Believe. Cai GuoQiang. Eds. David Joselit, Miwon Kwon, Alexandra Munroe, and Cai Guo-Qiang. New York: Guggenheim Museum, 2008. 20-41. Print.

Pedagogy of the Oppressed An Analysis. Democracy and Governance, 3 Jan 2003. Web. 12 March 2013. Performance Anxiety. Catalog. Chicago: Museum of Contemporary Art, 1997. Print. Richtern, Duncan J. Ludwig Wittgenstein. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 30 Aug 2004. Web. 11 March 2013. Spencer, Lloyd. Hegel for Beginners. Ed. Richard Appignanesi. London: Icon Books Ltd., 1996. Print. Sutherland, Ian and Sophia Krzys-Acord. Thinking with art: from situated knowledge to experiential knowing. Journal of Visual Practice 6 (2007): 125-140. Print. Vermeulen, Timotheus. Now and Beyond. Frieze, Sept 2011. Print. Wexler, Allan. Cocktail Party Answers. Pacific Northwest College of Art. Bison Building, Portland, OR. 14 March 2012. Artist Talk.

[Type text]

[Type text]

[Type text] 34

Wright, Ronald. What is America? A Short History of the New World Order. Boston, MA: Da Capo Press, 2008. Print.

Appendix A

While at the cave, in the midst of various conversations, the following ideas were generated for how to bring the experiences home with us, both for each of us to continue to benefit from the experience, as well as for the work to reach a broader audience: 1) in our daily lives challenge ourselves to come up with creative responses to the question What do you do? as a way to reclaim our identity from our work; 2) once a week do something childlike and carefree that we normally wouldnt do (due to what others might think); such new actions will serve as a way to maintain our sense of self while also creating a happiness that is truly intrinsic to the experience and not

Lish 35 externally motivated by work or culture; and 3) to incorporate meaningful dialogue into our lives on a more regular basis to continue to create the aesthetic experience had in the cave.

Appendix B A Survival Kit for the 21st Century. I will host a dinner event which will be designed as a seminar class, and which will be held in one of the AIB classrooms. An in-class assignment will be given which will provide context for the dialogue. The materials on the following pages explain further how the project will unfold.

[Type text]

[Type text]

[Type text] 36

Lish 37

Figure 1. Aaron Lish. Sample invitation postcard; A Survival Kit for the 21st Century. 2013.

Script for the opening power point presentation: Welcome to this special session of the HD 499 Seminar class at Lesley University and AIB. For tonights class I have a little game for you. I suggest that this is a game because 1) there is no right or wrong answer; 2 you get to use your imagination; and 3) the dialogue you enter into could be considered to take place in a world we dont actually understand. Let me expand: language is the basis of our thoughts. As such, it has been suggested that we may not actually be able to fully comprehend our lives at the present because language is the result of what those who came before us deemed important. Thus, if language is not current, we would not have the tools necessary to fully understand our present condition. A possible illustration of this: in the early 1960s the National Civil Defense surveyed 661 caves across the country (hundreds of tunnels

[Type text]

[Type text]

[Type text] 38

and over a thousand mines were also surveyed) as nuclear fallout shelters. The caves alone were estimated to have a capacity for over 566,000 people and were stocked with supplies for over 127,000 people (how this was determined, and how long the supplies were calculated to last were on pages not included in the scans of the 1965 document I was able to get access). However, by the mid-1970s such thinking began to be seriously questioned. I recently held a think tank project at one of these caves in the desert of rural South-Central Oregon and the absurdity of living in this space long-term, combined with how serious the nuclear threat was during the time of the Cuban missile crisis, resulted in some very interesting conversation about understanding the human predicament and what might be the next big threats to humanity. What really added to the conversation was that this particular cave had been surveyed and supplied at a capacity of over1200 people. However, the cave is only about 140 feet long and around 22 feet wide, meaning that there would have been approximately 2.5 square feet of space per person (and that doesnt take into account room for the supplies, a bathroom space, etc.). We decided one possible, but slightly ludicrous solution to the space issue was that the supplies could have included steel framed bunk beds like those used in the military tent camps in Korea, and the plan could have been to drill and bolt them to the walls of the cave; this would have provided bunk space for to 1/3 of the occupants, meaning that everyone else would have been left standing or sitting. Every six to eight hours a new group would occupy the bunks. One benefit of the crowded space, though, is that it would have helped to heat the cave, since it was approximately 35 degrees inside when we were there! Living underground fell out of favor as a strategy to survive a nuclear attack by the mid-1970s, and the shelters were abandoned as the full ramifications of long-term life in a cave or mine shaft began to be better understood, and as the political policies of the time began to be looked at more critically. Could it be that the advancement of language played a role in better understanding the challenges that living underground as a survival strategy presented? Einstein wrote: We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. And Wittgenstein wrote: The limits

Lish 39 of my language are the limits of my world. Is our current understanding of our world limited by our language? With that, lets explore the next big threats to humanity with this little game I have created for you! . Closing comments: In the spirit of everyones a winner, everyone gets full participation points for this evening! Thank you for engaging in such great dialogue! Have a wonderful rest of your evening, and please feel free to take your menu as a souvenir of the experience!

Sample menu and in-class assignment illustrated on the pages below:

[Type text]

[Type text]

[Type text] 40

HD 499 SEMINAR for June 29: A Survival Kit for the 21st Century
(A Social Learning Experiment)

Gulf Shrimp with Sweet and Spicy Micro-greens

Sauted in garlic and red chili, served on a bed of home-grown popcorn shoots with radish leaflets and a touch of lime

West Lake Fish (A Chinese delicacy)

Poached bass* in sake, ginger and scallion; served with steamed rice and baby bok choy (*farmed in Veta La Palma, Spain)

Fresh Corn Salad

Garden corn with fresh basil and red onion in a light vinaigrette

Nectar of the Gods

Honey in the comb* with fresh lavender (*from Carlisle, MA)

Solar Distilled Water

Figure 2. Aaron Lish. Sample menu; A Survival Kit for the 21st Century. 2013.

Lish 41

HD 499 SEMINAR for June 29

Description: Tonights seminar topic is on the next big threats to humanity, and what, if anything, we can do about them. To explore this topic you will be playing a game in small groups of three to four individuals per group. Each group will be answering a set of questions as a survival kit for the 21st Century of sorts. Over the next 55 minutes you and your group at each table will need to discuss each of the questions, and agree on which question, or questions, go with each of the food items. Each group has an extra copy of the menu on which you will write the number of the question next to each menu item. Feel free to make notes on the paper table covers thats what they are there for!

Assignment: As a table, match the question to the food item (there may be more than one question per menu item) 1) Is time, with nothing else attached, priceless or worthless? 2) If you had to choose, right now, between either success or happiness, which would it be? 3) Do you have kids? In terms of the health of the human race, is that a good thing, or a bad thing? 4) Which is better for the long-term health of the planet: that everyone be exposed to more risk or to less risk? 5) Do you think locally, or globally? 6) Youre rolling down the highway of life, whos at the wheel? 7) Youve just returned from a round-the-world trip. What one emotion do you feel? 8) Would you say that you lean more toward an ideal form of government being a benevolent dictatorship, or a capitalist run democracy?
Figure 3. Aaron Lish. Reverse of sample menu; A Survival Kit for the 21st Century. 2013.