The Laboratory of Dissent at the Winchester Gallery is an exhibition with a difference. The artists are working on-site inviting visitors to observe the process of collaboration. By making our practice public, I hope that the work will be a thought provoking exhibition that not only evolves organically but develops a deeper understanding of how artists relate to the social realm.
During this project the CAS artists will be exploring the tension that arises between the collective and the individual, the collective practice and the autonomous artist. I anticipate that personal identification with certain roles and power structures will emerge, as will group consensus and moments of conflict. With this in mind I am interested in the following questions.
How will we navigate the conflicts that emerge from the presence of multiple viewpoints?
It is through the presence of multiple viewpoints that tension and opportunities for dissent arise. Choices will emerge throughout the creative and collaborative process. Where the choice is between two contradictory alternatives I intend to pay special attention. Whose viewpoint asserts itself and will it become accepted or subsumed?
What roles do I identify with, and to what effect?
Mouffe states that ‘identity is not pre-given but a process of identification’. By paying attention the roles that I adopt consciously or unconsciously I will gain personal awareness, and an opportunity to respond. Symbols and props may add a level of performance, acting as signifiers for the roles I adopt consciously. This is an opportunity to gain heightened awareness of my responses and participation as part of a group. What roles and behaviours are less comfortable and what is it like to adopt one of those as an alternative identity?
Can I encourage the ‘production’ of subjectivity?
Mouffe states the ‘production of subjectivity is the terrain of the central conflict’. I understand that subjectivity creates multiple interpretations. Meaning is not inherent, there is no singular truth. For me, this is empowering: transforming the world into a place for active participation where our interpretation and consequent actions literally shape the world as we know it.
I wonder, how might an artist highlight the participatory role of the viewer/reader/audience? How can we make people aware of their active role in making meaning? To become aware, one must first understand that the accepted or assumed interpretation is one of many potential readings. Discussion with others is a surefire way to uncover alternative viewpoints and reveal your own as one of many. I expect that Practicing Dissent as a working methodology will also reveal alternatives to any accepted or default norm.
For me, Dissent as a practice, is a process of reflective questioning or creative experimentation that reveals alternatives. This, argues Mouffe, is the moment where art can ‘make visible what the dominant consensus tends to obscure and obliterate‘ and becomes critical art (in the agonistic tradition) by rousing dissensus.
Maija is collaborating with Kirsty Smith and Isaac Whitcombe during Week 3 of the Laboratory of Dissent project, a new exhibition at The Winchester Gallery. Week 3 ‘Are we in or out?’ takes place from Monday 7th – Friday 14th September 2015.