Open Engagement 2010

by whitewirestudio

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We just returned from visiting Portland for the Open Engagement conference, which was organized by Jen Delos Reyes and the rest of the folks at PSU’s Art and Social Practice program—and sponsored well enough so that thankfully meant it was free for everyone. Heath and his collaborator Katie Hargrave were chatting about their latest reader (22 Readings on Research, Activism, the Academy and Conduct) as part of the panel Some Forms of Availability.

While the best part of the five days there was getting to meet and drink and talk with a lot of new people, (and of course seeing H + K speak!) some presenter highlights for me included:

Matthew Sadler on Publication Studio

Publication Studio is a laboratory for publication in its fullest sense — not just the production of books, but the production of a public. This public, which is more than a market, is created through deliberate acts: the circulation of texts; discussions and gatherings in physical space; and the maintenance of a digital commons. Together these construct a space of conversation, a public space, which beckons a public into being.

Amy Franceschini…

Amy Franceschini is a pollinator who creates formats for exchange and production that question and challenge the social, cultural and environmental systems that surround her. An overarching theme in her work is a perceived conflict between humans and nature. Her projects reveal the ways that local politics are affected by globalization. In 1995, Amy founded Futurefarmers, an international collective of artists. In 2004, Amy co-founded Free Soil, an international collective of artists, activists, researchers, and gardeners who work together to propose alternatives to the social, political and environmental organization of space.

The National Bitter Melon Council

The National Bitter Melon Council (NBMC) is an organization run by an artist collective that is devoted to the cultivation of a vibrant, diverse community through the promotion and distribution of Bitter Melon. Supporting the use of Bitter Melon for its myriad health benefits and culinary possibilities, the NBMC celebrates this underappreciated vegetable through the production of creative and stimulating food-focused projects that highlight the foreignness of Bitter Melon, instigating situations that, through bitterness, create an alternative basis for community. Bitter Melon is a truly unique and bitter ingredient that is not yet well known in the United States. Advocating the appreciation of this vegetable across cultures and cuisines, the NBMC believes that these Bitter Melon focused- events can bring whole communities together through a single shared experience — that of bitterness.

Nils Norman…

The concept of Utopia is a tool that I use to critique existing structures and situations. I have referred to and incorporated it into many of my past projects over the years and it has become an integral part of my methodology. … I have found that reading Utopia gives you a better understanding of various contemporary political problems, possible solutions and the possibility of possibilities. I think Utopia was and is about clearing a critical space in order to discuss and potentialise possibilities.

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