You gotta say yes to another access

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The current rhetoric of the Open Access project – as put down i.a. in the Berlin Declaration – seems to want to answer the mechanism of exclusion intrinsic to the academic system of publishing. In their article “The Political Nature of the Book” (2013) Janneke Adema and Gary Hall draw an interesting parallel with the way artists in the 1960s confronted the commodification-oriented gallery system by opposing it with a new form of experimentation – using the book as a democratic medium. Similarly, over the past decade the potential of digital publishing has been presented in the scholarly world as medium-specific possibilities to develop counter-institutional forms of dissemination. An overall academic optimism arose: open access would achieve the complete accessibility of research results and thus – in the spirit of the current state of the democracy – break down the boundaries between the academic community and the rest of society.

This optimism, however, was almost immediately framed by the rhetoric of the neoliberal agenda: research should constantly be measured by the yardstick of transparency, accountability, discoverability, usability and efficiency. The net result was the emergence of a culture of peer-reviewed journal articles. A form of publishing that neatly copied the quality control procedures and the preservation structures of the profit-driven academic publishing houses. A form of publishing also that ultimately tried to exclude any form of experimentation for the sake of maintaining the confidence of the academic community.

How should artistic research relate to this development? Should it be, in the spirit of this form of research, a critical, self-reflexive, processual, non-goal oriented way of thinking about dissemination? How can such a form of conceptual openness be peer-reviewed? Does artistic research perhaps need a recalibration or a revision of the assessment criteria (such as relevance, ground breaking, originality, ambition, risk, topicality, beyond the state of art, scientific approach, suitability of methods, feasibility, broader impact). And ultimately, does it have the ability to question the radicalism of Access anew?

Jan Kaila and Henk Slager

This text is a curators’ statement that will also be present in the Research Pavilion for visitors to read.

Word from Commissioner Anita Seppä

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Uniarts Helsinki’s Research Pavilion for artistic research opens its doors in Venice on 10 May, the same day as when the Venice Biennale opens. The Pavilion’s venue Sala del Camino, a beautiful ex-monastery located in the Island of Giudecca, is an ideal place for art exhibitions, as well as workshops, concerts, performances and artistic interventions. Just on the other side of the Canal lies Giardini, the heart of the Biennale, with its energetic art tourists and souvenir shoppers. The island of Giudecca that’s surrounding the Research Pavilion, on the other hand, has a very different atmosphere: it is characteristically domestic and quiet.

Two years ago, in this uniquely rich cultural environment we hosted the first Research Pavilion under the theme Experimentality. The Pavilion for 2017 builds off of that, but also presents a radically new concept. First of all, the Research Pavilion will be a distinctly shared project, a joint effort set up by the talented people from all the academies of Uniarts Helsinki: the Academy of Fine Arts, Sibelius Academy and Theatre Academy. As such, the Pavilion will extend its scope to cover not only fine arts, but also music, performing arts, dance and theatre.

Second, this year’s Research Pavilion has a strong Nordic presence. We have invited the central networks of artistic research in Sweden and Norway (altogether 22 arts institutions of higher education), and their representatives Ingrid Elam, Cecilie Broch Knudsen and Geir Strøm are members in our Scandinavian steering group. This group of experts serves as an advisory body in the project and will also contribute to future strategic planning. In this political climate, as new walls are built up on a daily basis to hinder free mobility and international cooperation around the globe, it feels especially important to intensify the cultural partnerships between our closest neighbours and other transnational networks.

During the summer of 2017, the Research Pavilion will host three art exhibitions, which also present new international forms of collaboration with the famed Academy of Fine Arts Vienna and Zurich University of the Arts. In addition, the tremendously interesting series of artistic research activities called Camino Events will bring over a hundred professionals and students from around the world to Venice as guests of Uniarts Helsinki.

The first exhibition in the Research Pavilion is You Gotta Say Yes to Another Access, which will give thirteen Nordic doctoral students the chance to work on this year’s theme of the Pavilion, the Utopia of Access. In July-August, Florian Dombois from Zurich University of the Arts will go to the lagoons of Venice on a boat with golden sails to collect material that he’ll use to build a wind tunnel in the Pavilion for his exhibition, Galleria del Vento. The final exhibition Hauntopia/what if features works by doctoral students from the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. They will study traces of “ghosts” of the past and their effects on both the present time and our utopias of the future.

The Research Pavilion will articulate to an international audience how contemporary artistic researchers and researchers in the arts process topical questions and utilize fresh methodologies with respect to the theme Utopia of Access.  During the summer of 2017 we’ll see how experts of fine arts, music, dance, theatre, performing arts and curating produce art, research and pop-up events in the Pavilion and the surrounding urban space. Without a doubt the outcome will surprise us, in one way or another, as is to be expected when it comes to utopias.