2015.7 – on Embedded Residency, #II

Todd Lester writes a monthly blog post on RU’s Dialogues detailing the preparation and implementation of, a 5-year residency project in Sao Paulo.

View all Lanchonete posts here.

Last month I started a three-part series on the theme of ‘Embedded Residency’ in order to share our early experiences co-hosting or embedding artists with partner organizations and communities that we work with in the Center of São Paulo.  On his second visit, Polish architect Jakub Szczęsny continued the work he started with the São João Occupation where he lived in March 2014 for his preliminary research, a process and series of discussions that demonstrated the São João community’s desire to construct a small garden in a courtyard area in the Occupation’s first-floor cultural center.  In this interview by the World Policy Institute’s Arts-Policy Nexus, Jakub describes the experience of working with the community to design and build its garden, which is situated in a hybrid space that is both contested due to being ‘occupied’ and simultaneously open to the public given its first-floor access.  The interview begins to answer the questions posed—and focused on in the series—in Jakub’s own words:

What do you mean by embedded residency?

Why a Polish architect?

What is the role of an international cultural agent in such processes?

Raquel Rolnik, UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing and professor in the architecture faculty at the University of São Paulo told me that one new development she sees is the role of cultural agents active in the social movements.  As a corollary to her insight, I observe that cultural agents — a loose category that may include artist, architect, urbanist, student, professor, activist, community organizer and concerned citizen — give shape to (as the actors on or animators of) the progressive, urban, cultural platform.

While the notion of a ‘platform’ is also loosely defined, it is helpful to frame it with some specificity.  Generally, a platform is defined by its characteristics (spacially or using a network lens) and is a process that has an exponential range of outcomes.  A progressive platform, or device that builds on pre-existing social movements in a specific context, defies traditional funding streams that originate within the capitalist system because these streams are silo-ed (often single topic)—among other limitations—whereas the platform is a ‘durable container’ for the mixing of a range of ideas and issues from a community, which cut across and connect areas of daily life, and cannot be fully defined (with all topics) before it opens itself as an accessible process that citizens can enter, join, modify, and define.  The platform does not become an ‘expert’ or constitute expertise on all issues placed atop it; however there will be all range of depths—from expertise to lay knowledge—present on the platform on any given topic at any given time.  This is where local community members, citizen groups and social movements (artists among them) play a role alongside international visitors who learn the city and begin to relate it to other places and situations.  And, when speaking of ‘platform’ in the art context, there is a relation to the gesture.  A gesture is a catalytic device or approach employed by some artists, yet is also hard to define.  However, a gesture is not wholly utilitarian or literal.


In Part III, I will continue discussing our thoughts on the forging of an urban, cultural platform as well as the role of the cultural center inside a housing occupation.  Please stay tuned!


Source: Residency Unlimited

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