Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Meet the robot!

Last night a philosophical inquiry took place to discuss the concepts of 'agency' and 'intention' in relation to A Journey with 'The Waste Land'.  

As well as this project being about the links between 'The Waste Land', the visual arts and Margate's cultural heritage, another key area of research concerns the participatory methodology for developing the exhibition: What does it mean for Turner Contemporary to open up an exhibition in this way and share power and trust with members of the community?

A few weeks ago Emma Braso, Curator at the Herbert Read Gallery, UCA approached me about doing something which connected her upcoming exhibition  ‘Agency without Intention’ to A Journey with 'The Waste Land'. She was interested in participatory practice and what the concepts 'agency' and 'intention' might mean for a group of people with shared interests.

We decided to host a conversation with members of The Waste Land Research Forum and opted for this to be a philosophical inquiry, an established method used byTurner Contemporary. Last night's event was facilitated by Practical Philosopher Ayisha de Lanerolle, and started with people responding to a robot designed by Abdulbari Kutb, one of the other artworks in the exhibition. The conversation moved from questions of agency and intentionality relating to the robot; its creation and movement, to a discussion of 'The Waste Land' project. In particular we discussed the shifting and relational nature of both these concepts.

In starting to develop a vocabulary around the participatory process a number of issues came up: In researching 'The Waste Land' who has agency? What’s Turner Contemporary’s intention in opening up an exhibition in this way? What are individual motivations for being involved? Where does power lie? Where might power lie in the future? What conditions going forward will create empowerment?

The discussion was filmed and an edited version will be presented at 'Agency without intention' opening at UCA on the 15th October.

Photo: Abdulbari Kutbi

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