I want to write about redistributing power – cultural power. I want to explore cultural democracy and how it could be possible to intervene in and redirect the flow of power to, from, and inbetween; institutions, communities, networks, artists, curators, producers and the art market. I have many questions about what this power, culture and democracy might be. This blog includes photographs of pages from my notebook.
Culture is plural. I imagine myself as part of and connected to, a vast cultural quilt that is constantly being stitched, over sewn, patched, edited, changed, added to, repaired and reinvented. It is an overlapping, interconnected ecology, with a few dominant cultures taking up the most thread and defining the structure of rest of the quilt. Some areas are totally overlapped or not recognised as valid, skilful or relevant. When standing back from the quilt, these hidden or overlapped areas are camouflaged or not visible. They are full of intense stitching, freestyled patterns and designs held together by stealth and an embodied knowledge of the materials and their relationships with each other. Some of this work is intentional camouflage, whereas other parts of it use camouflage as a defensive tactic. It has to be hidden. There is power in every kind of stitcher and stitch, but differences in how that power is dispensed, passed on, chosen, felt, seen, valued and given space. This makes intervening in and making structural changes to the prevailing systems of power, incredibly frustrating and difficult.
At present I am thinking about power in terms of self-determination, agency and autonomy. In order to enable this power to be redistributed we need to think and operate back and forth between the modalities of radical, feral activists and institutionalised policy makers. Someone darning and factory sewing machinists. We need to redefine who holds the threads and how decisions are made about how the quilt can be made, viewed, respected and used. I am curious about how digital culture can contribute to creating space for holding this cultural quilt and making visible the histories and possible futures of each interconnected segment as they evolve.
All of this is set against the backdrop of mining Arnolfini's Education archive with all it's stories, easy nostalgia, plots, covert radicalism, unrealised desires and ambitions, connections, assumptions, massive voids and partiality. I want to understand how I can use this PhD in order to create space from the university for conversations and dialogue between institutions, communities, networks, artists, curators, producers and the art market.
I want to offer alternative ways of making the cultural quilt and holding power.
I have more questions than answers.