Difference between revisions of "Introduction"

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> wiki as open access archive. Shared bibliography.

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> Knowledges: explain why plural. > wiki as open access archive. Shared bibliography.

This text provides an overview account of a doctoral research project, provisionally entitled "Why Publish?" that is an exploration of the politics of publishing practices. The research project asks about the social and political agency of publishing by exploring the micro-politics of production, dissemination and consumption of knowledge. In practical terms, the research process comprises a range of different activities (art-making, workshopping, publishing, editorial work, collaborative practices, conferencing, exhibition etc.) and a portfolio of different outputs (books, chapters, ephemera, artworks, events, pedagogical interventions, reading rooms, etc.). The enquiry that is described here is situated at the intersection of contemporary art, radical education and institutional analysis.[1]

'Publishing practices' is an expanded term that refers us to the process of publication in the widest sense. Publication (in print or code) may be understood as a means of sharing, of disclosing, of passing on, or of 'making public' texts, images, ideas or what we may summarily call"knowledges". One way of understanding the product of publication is as an instance of temporarily stabilised knowledge. Such temporary stabilised knowledge - the publication - is subject to modification as it circulates: it can be used, built upon by others and therefore proliferate and spread into different regions and contexts. While publication can enable the one to speak to the many, and as such can be seen as a mode of address that constructs patterns of dominance (footnote maybe insert reference st ideas of print culture as part of homogenising and creating the nation etc.) the act of publication can also be seen as a tool to give voice to bodies and experiences, which are not already recognised within the immediate accessible field of knowledge. Therefore publication can be seen as a process that invites both assent and dissent, and that produces countervailing views and alternative readings, something that has fuelled much debate on "the public sphere". These are themes that have been widely discussed in respect of the rise of print culture (Eisenstein, 1982; Johns, 1998). However, the specific focus of this research is not the global or historical claims for the impact of print culture, but rather the micro-politics of publishing practices at the intersection of contemporary art, radical education and institutional analysis. Drawing upon Gabriel Tarde’s proposition that knowledge is a mode of socialisation and “social communication” (1928) I will investigate publication as a social and pedagogical – and as such a political process – that catalyses dialogue and generates proposals to intervene in social processes and structures.

While there is much discussion of the political agency of the book, what arguably constructs 'the political nature of the book' (Adema and Hall, 2014; Thoburn, 2014) is not necessarily the book as a discrete container for radical content alone. Instead, what is of interest in this particular inquiry is the book's assumed capacity as a conceptual and material means to practically intervene and disrupt and change existing systems of production, distribution and consumption of knowledge.

Take the early conceptual artists' book in the specific context of 1960s and 1970s counterculture for example, which has been described as 'a means of democratising and subverting existing institutions by distributing an increasingly cheap and accessible medium (the book),[...] in order to re-imagine what art is and how it can be accessed and viewed.' [2]

For the field of scholarly publishing we can observe in the last decade how new material conditions of academic book production, organisation and consumption allow for experimentation with form and concept of academic publishing. Digital publishing and open access for example allow for both 'circumventing and placing in question the very print-based system of scholarly communication - complete with its ideas of quality, stability and authority - on which so much of the academic institution rests.'[3] Of course within the field of scholarly publishing there is some variability, for instance the role of the monograph in parts of the humanities in contrast to the role of the double-blind peer review article in some of the medical sciences, or the role for the critical edition in the humanities as against say the meta-research analysis paper in the social sciences, in short, there are different scholarly publishing hierarchies and protocols across the disciplines but the overarching claim is still viable in spite of this.

We also observe a broad challenge under way whereby publicly funded research is being subject to the demand that it is freely made available. These challenges are addressed by academic activists, such as the 'Radical Open Access Collective' asking 'how should we set about reclaiming open access from its corporate take-over, evident not least in the rise of A/BPC models based on the charging of exorbitant, unaffordable and unsustainable publishing fees from scholars and their institutions?' and calling for 'the creation of new forms of communality, designed to support the building of commons-based open access publishing infrastructures, and promote a more diverse, not-for-profit eco-system of scholarly communication.'[4]

Mayfly Books describes the situation as 'it seems today that scholarly publishing is drawn in two directions: On the one hand, this is a time of the most exciting theoretical, political and artistic projects that respond to and seek to move beyond global administered society. On the other hand, the publishing industries are vying for total control of the ever-lucrative arena of scholarly publication, creating a situation in which the means of distribution of books grounded in research and in radical interrogation of the present are increasingly restricted.' [5]

Claim: Biases and inequality of what is legitimised and valued by mainstream, commercial, institutional infrastructures. Publication merely understood as object, as product commodity or in academia as research output, ticks the boxes of audit and metrification. In academia this arguably leads to a problematic trend that values output (the product) over practices. In other words how can we develop values such as equity, openness, collegiality, quality, and community into academic practices.[6]

The overall inquiry to investigate publication as a social and pedagogical – and as such a political – process is based on my long-term individual and collective publishing practice. Publication as an artistic means became early on a main field of my practice. Partly because I could set the terms and conditions of production and distribution myself and could act without being authorised by galleries, curators, collectors, etc.).[7] Having published with big mainstream commercial publishing houses (Hatje Cantz) as well as small independent presses (Temporary Services, Half-Letter Press, Occasional Papers and BookWorks in London) I got more and more interested in exploring and setting up own publishing infrastructures and subsequently co-founded (with American artist Lynn Harris) AND publishing in London.

So while until recently I would have said - without hesitation, that publishing, that ‘making public’ is an outright positive and constructive act, a tool of giving voice and developing emancipatory agency, I am much more cautious today, because as will argue, publishing has become an asset in the knowledge and cultural capital industry. As I will argue in the following, we are facing an growing imperative to ‘publish or perish’, which has problematic consequences on many different levels.

Artists have used publication to further their ideas since the turn of the last century, and in recent years there has been a sharp increase in this practice. While the current academic drive to publish for Research Excellence Framework (UK) might be considered part of this expansion, arguably this institutional pressure erodes artistic practice based on agency, creativity, criticality, experimentation and collective knowledge making. Publishing (and writing) in such contexts has been arguably reduced from a process of communication, discovery and exploration, to a system for the assembly of more and more new products. (Fitzpatrick, 2011) What are possible publishing strategies of artists, academic and activists that contest these dominant paradigms of creation and dissemination of knowledge? I will ask what is the relationship between “making” and “making public”? Between experience and articulation? How does the “outside space” (distribution) shapes the “inside space” of publication (content). How can publishing create spaces, in the figurative and physical sense, for better mutual understanding and rethinking relations between people? How can publishing develop our capacities to establish the grounds for more lasting and emancipated forms of cultural production, education, and research? The starting point is my own artistic practice which investigates the politics of production and dissemination based on concepts found in feminist theory, feminist pedagogy, social science, philosophy, media theory and radical pedagogy.

To explore these problems addressed above and their implications on emancipatory, political art practice is one strand of my research. To experiment with and develop social, emancipatory, critical, intersectional feminist and de-colonial models of knowledge making and disseminating is another.

Here questions of collectivity, authorship and ownership are at stake. To be more specific: I will set out to explore the complex and coercive reciprocity between authorship, authorisation and authority. This inquiry seeks to get to an insight, to make a discovery by moving from a vague apprehension of these three terms' mutual interactions to a clearer framing of their "coercive reciprocation”. So the result, the outcome of this enquiry could be described the development of an insight. The majority of this work was conducted between 2010 in the United Kingdom and Sweden. And a lot of policy context references is specifically UK policy context, for example the REF, however this might be taken as indicative of general tendencies in higher education and research elsewhere.

The format I choose for this PhD inquiry is a compilation thesis, comprising a distinct set of practical experiments and the "kappa" (Swedish, translated to English "coat"). The kappa is what you are reading here on this wiki. It can be understood as a coat, a cape, a wrapper that bundles, points to, connects, discusses and reflects on the range of experiments I have carried out. The function of the kappa is to disclose the range of elements without turning them into a single integral entity, allowing the components to retain their discrete self-contained identities, but joining them in a coherent way as elements of a larger construction. The purpose of the kappa is to disclose the contribution made by the research project and to locate that contribution with reference to existing knowledge-practices.

The decision that a kappa is more generative, than a traditional monograph is based on several arguments:

1. My artistic practice consists of long-term projects. There is not one distinct ‘work / outcome / result’, which can be circulated, exhibited and audited, but a growing string of practices.
2. Most of these long-term practices are collaborations with people inside and outside academia. Two points here: Things/practices feeding back into this range of communities, requiring a variety of outcomes, formats, and languages, in order to make meaning. (see Charlotte Cooper Research Justice Diagram) While this working method has clearly political implications by attempting to resist systems of subjectivation and individualisation, it also poses a distinct set of problems, when collective practice is being assessed and audited – in the framework of a PhD for example. The syllabus for doctoral education at GU requests, that roles in teamwork can be defined and specific accomplishments credited [8] . However, all collective work, as I will argue, is based on a dialogical process where ideas flow freely back and forth. And more, sometimes it is impossible or even counterproductive to assess “who did what?” trying to separate distinct roles in collaborations. (Deleuze/Parnett "DialoguesII", "See Red Women Collective)

3. Questions of dissemination are therefore crucial, and an integral part of my research. Both characteristics of my work – that it is (1) long-term and (2) collaborative – mean, that the format of the individually authored monograph is not suitable. I publish and communicate “on the go” and in many different contexts. That implies, that I expand our understanding of the word “publishing”: Publishing as a time-based and contextual practice. To understand publishing as a “verb” (a process) instead of a “noun” (verb). Here I wonder whether I can make the case for practice itself as a form of publishing, and ask how much public and particularly which “publics” a process of publishing requires. So for example: Is a teaching situation a form of publishing? A workshop, where knowledge is collectively produced and disseminated at the same time? When we think of the collaborative as a situation, scene, process, dynamic, method, or mode, can we frame such a situation as “publishing”? What is ‘contextual publishing?’ Is publishing necessarily based on a document? What IS a document? The French librarian and documentalist Suzanne Briet (Bibliothèque Nationale de France) proposed in Qu’est- ce que la documantation? (1951), that an antelope running wild is regarded as an animal, however the antelope caged and exhibited in the zoo is arguably turned into document, analysed, described, categorised, classified, framed and exhibited. This thought seems relevant for my inquiry and needs more exploration.


The kappa is structured in seven sections. It is important to note that the kappa is not the final or only form of disclosure. It is a device being used to disclose the practice for the purpose of meeting the terms of an doctoral exam process – the work does circulate more widely in the world in other wrappers and on other terms.

(2) The 'Introduction' gives an overview what the inquiry is about and lays out its context by describing the problem. It describes the basic research task, agenda and purpose.

(3) The 'State of the art in this domain' presents and discusses a set of examples that have been proposed by others in the field.

(4) The 'List of the submitted material' provides a selection of practice based experiments, published articles, chapters, papers and ephemera in order to make explicit the material through which the contribution has been made.

(5) The section 'Reflection, theorisation of projects and submitted material' discusses and theorises the projects and practice-based experiments I have carried out and texts I have (co-)written and published in different contexts. This is provided so as to disclose the significance and importance of the contribution made by the research project.

(6) The section 'Analysis' crystallizes specific topics addressed - all in different ways – in the various practice experiments and connects these experiments.

(7) The section 'Observations and Findings' is currently in a 'note' stage and provides an tentative outlook for research to come.

Notes (Introduction)
  1. It may help to briefly explain how these three intersecting terms are employed here by way of locating the enquiry. Contemporary art here refers to the broad terrain of art production from 1960s onward. However, rather than a period designation, it is used here to refer to a broad domain of practice that may be termed "post-conceptualist” (Osborne, 2010) or "relational" (Bishop, 2006). “Radical education” here refers to several distinct traditions of educational practice that is explicitly framed with revolutionary or politically transformative intentions and objectives. These traditions include for example Paolo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed and bell hooks writings on intersectional feminist pedagogy, such as Teaching to transgress: education as the practice of freedom (1994). Radical pedagogy has been practiced and tested by collectives such as the Anti-University in London, the artist collective Ultra Red, Malmö Free University for Women and have been theorised for example in the field of art and curating (Curating and the educational turn, O'Neill, Wilson, eds., 2010) and in the field of higher education by Piya Chatterjee and Sunaina Maira (eds.) in The Imperial University (2014). By "institutional analysis” I am intending not to describe a sub-domain of sociology, organisational studies or political science but rather the intellectual and practical traditions of institutional critique from within the contemporary art field as this intersects with feminist and intersectional analyses of power – which is of course informed by elements drawn from these other disciplines, but manifests a different tendency and a different literature. For more on this see Institutions by Artists (Vancouver 2012), How Institutions Think, (O'Neill, Steeds and Wilson (eds.), 2017), Creating Commons, University of the Arts Zürich, 2016-19).
  2. Janneke Adema and Gary Hall, 'The Political Nature Of The Book: On Artists’ Books And Radical Open Access', in New Formations, vol 78, issue 1, 2014, pp. 138-156, p.140, DOI:10.3898/NEWF.78.07.2013
  3. Ibid., p.139.
  4. See for example Radical Open Access in 2015 [[1]] Radical Open Access and the Ethics of Care in 2018 at Disruptive Media Lab at Coventry University, [[2]]
  5. See Mayfly Books [[3]]
  6. See HuMetricsHSS, an initiative funded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation setting out to develop a values-based framework for understanding and evaluating all aspects of the scholarly life well-lived and for promoting the nurturing of these values in scholarly practice. http://humetricshss.org/about/
  7. I took copies of my first two independently published publications, (Lery - a story of facts and faxes, 1998 and Mexico, 1997, with Vera Büchlmann and Joachim Melf) on my first trip to New York, walked into Printed Matter art book shop and sold them 10 copies each on consignment. What an empowering moment, which was more exciting than any exhibition opportunity I ever had.
  8. The syllabus for doctoral education at Gothenburg University states: ’In certain cases, dissertation work can be pursued as team work. This shall then be organised in such a way that the individual efforts can be specified and assessed on the same grounds as for individual pieces of work.’
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