The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the "state of emergency" in which we live is not the exception but the rule. We must attain to a conception of history that is in keeping with this insight. -Walter Benjamin, Illuminations (257)
OuUnPo is a pan-European research group made up of artists, curators and researchers who together look at the boundaries of performance by appropriating and stretching the language of workshops, seminars and meetings. The group travels to different cities and investigates a given problem. By collaborating with a number of local institutions on in each location (museums, art organisations, research centres, residency programs, informal groups etc.) UnUnPo collapses the local with global. This offers a particularly creative situation that allows the partners of the project to get a deeper understanding of how the local and global interacts and how the art world is dealing with the current changes. OuUnPo has therefore teamed up with the ZKM’s research program "GAM-Global Art and the Museum" in order to get a deeper critical and academic and understanding of the working methods developed by the group and their potential to be used by other institutions.
The core group of OuUnPo has been in flux since the start in 2009. They interact extensively with local institutions and creators at every location, so that the local contingency is larger than the visitors. OuUnPo has previously collaborated with Tate Britain, in London; MACRO in Rome; Serralves in Porto and Deste Foundation in Athens to mention some of the most well known. The group is usually made up of 10-15 creators who travel to each meeting and who collaborate with dozens of local players. Sessions have been held in Athens, Belgrade, Amsterdam-Nijmegen, Paris, Skopje, Stockholm, Porto and London. Meetings are planned for Japan, Lebanon, Sweden and Brazil in 2012-14.
Field of Research
The human condition is marked by continuous threats that are inscribed into a historical context. The Tsunami in Japan; the change in global climate; the shortage of fresh water, energy and base materials; the growing population of the planet all show that our (near) future will be filled with challenges. We need great ideas to go deal with these unforeseeable situations. We need variety and multiplicity.
OuUnPo has over the last years approached issues of artistic, political and economical urgency in Serbia, Portugal and Greece. As OuUnPo for the first time arranges meetings outside of Europe, with a broad European participation base, we have decided to look at how heritage and crises are linked together to offer a broader and deeper knowledge based around how the two interact. The research will be carried out in three interconnected fields.
Three Research Guidelines:
1. Catastrophe and Creation. OuUnPo will during the four sessions look at how a threat, a catastrophe or a situation of crises can offer opportunity for creation. The group will look into the potential of new thought and new ideas from a situation that at first glance appears to be negative. Or, phrased differently, is heritage always connected to successful expressions of survival instinct, problem resolution and the human capability to turn a problem into an advantage? Special emphasis will be put on temporal aspects and how destruction and rebirth are connected and how the two interact over time.
2. Temporary architecture. In a majority of countries around the world, a larger part of the population lives in temporary architecture. These are usually created as a response to a crises situation and gradually become permanent. The group is interested how emergency shelters in Japan relate to favelas (subnormal agglomerations) in Brazil, to informal architecture in Lebanon and to the relative stasis of small town Sweden.
3. Heritage. The activities in Japan, Lebanon, Sweden and Brazil will provide the group with new insights on the tensions between stasis and flux in situations marked by natural disasters, economic downturn or post-war reconstruction. The questions addressed are how to move forward, using the experiences of the past that can help and to aid the collective memory to stay awake. The research also unfolds several possible models for Europe and potential crisis-resolution. The European urban and cultural tissue is in fact woven with an old and preserved heritage that demands new ways to interpret and manage situations of crisis.
OuUnPo's methodology addresses the need for alternative forms of education and production; accommodating multiplicity and embracing invention. The strategy offers new solutions rather than updating old models and existing formulas. Central to this is an awareness of the need for personal inspiration, an endeavour to find ways to enrich our daily lives, and through that process also enrich the lives of others. In other words, this strategy reconnects art and research to the every day experience of our lives - it builds a bridge between theory and practice.
In each working session OuUnPo collaborates with a number of local institutions. These are usually in a situation of competition in their everyday practice, but by bringing in a variety of outside players who collaborate with local institutions, OnUnPo collapses the local with global. The strategy allows the partners of the project to get a deeper understanding of how the local and global interacts and how the art world is dealing with the current changes. OuUnPo has therefore teamed up with GAM/ZKM in order to get a deeper critical and academic and understanding of the working methods developed by the group and their potential to be used by other institutions.
With this in mind, OuUnPo will carry out a 5-day session in Lebanon in December 2012; a 10-day session in Japan in May 2013; a 5-day session in Sweden in September 2013 and 10-day session in Brazil in March 2014. The four sessions aim to reflect on the above questions. European participants will come from different backgrounds within art, in addition to architecture, neuroscience, design and other fields. One of the important aspects of the project lies in mixing genres, languages, allowing participants from Europe to meet peers from the different cities and vice versa.
Another strategy is the mixing of production (mainly exhibition and performance) with academic presentation, research and reflection. The OuUnPo group will therefore carry out performances, interactive events, research and public presentations in collaboration with local partners and the local public. These events will work in response to existing contemporary art exhibitions, architectural sites and social situations. OuUnPo does so with the aim of creating links between the visitors' everyday life experiences and the works of art and architecture at hand, together stimulating the formulation of new outlooks on reality and our future.
The four sessions in Japan, Lebanon, Sweden and Brazil in collaboration with the GAM Project at the ZKM in Karlsruhe will lead to the creation of a catalogue that documents the research process. The publication will offer deep insights into how globalisation affects the artistic process and local realities, offering invaluable insights into contemporary art’s potential on a global scale to develop visionary thinking, new understanding across borders, and new solutions to existing problems.
The dialogue between the pan European network of OuUnPo and local communities of artists, curators and researchers form the backbone of this research, by collapsing the boundaries between local and global. The OuUnPo members have both developed a unique working method and acquired important knowledge that will be nourished and dispersed through the meetings.
A series of seminars in academic setting in Sweden and Germany will be carried out during the research period that will allow a broad dispersion of the research results in broad European context.