• Unknown Society

General Statement
Milicsa Tomic and Branimir Stojanovic

The Workshop Artist as a Curator, within the Time and Space Department, posited two parallel planes to students and postgraduates of the Helsinki Fine Art Academy, two sets of circumstances. The first one was to curate their own works, that is to say, to analyze their work, as well as works of other workshop participants from the perspective of a curator, as a mediator between the production and the actual exhibiting of the work, thus defining their own artistic position. The second situation was to analyze local art and market system through research. This meant conducting interviews with structural representatives of Helsinki art market and system, as well as compiling a video archive.

The workshop thus conceived has the aim of articulating an unavoidable but dramatic moment, located at the juncture of completing one's own course of study, and entering into and finding one's place within the art system. This is about taking over a symbolic mandate of an artist; the passage from "I study art" into "I am an artist." This important period does not normally find itself within the Art schools education programs.

The aim of this workshop is to prepare students who found themselves in the traumatic situation of leaving the educational system of art studies, for participating in the art system and market. Through the process of analysis of art system, production process, and the exhibition process, students open and reflect issues of the local production system and art display. Neuralgic points of the local art system detected through this process, become constitutive part of the contents and form of the works created through the workshop.

The initial presupposition of the whole Artist as a Curator workshop is that each work of art has an absolutely specific way of display, that is to say, that each one anticipates a singular way of expressing itself through a production process. The workshop developed through discussions on the suggested concepts of works, according to what the workshop conveners already expressed in the starting propositions in a simplified way: A single work of art - a unique "museum," or a single work of art - a unique theory. This particular way of strategies and politics of expression demanded from students/artists that each and every work of art should reproduce an autonomous space that arose at the site of the problem of the local system of art exhibiting. Therefore, workshop participants understood the exhibiting space as a social and political one, which, through the work's production, became a constitutive part of the work's content. At the same time, the artwork's form opens the question of the exhibiting strategy, and resolves itself and finds its final frame in confrontation with that issue.

The analysis of the Helsinki system of art and market detected that the existence of the art system is controlled by the state, and that the art market is undeveloped and completely dependent on state's investments in art. An artist's position in this system turns out to be the one of a "vanishing mediator" between the state and the art market agents. Therefore, a specific "parallel convergence" of the state and private art market agents has been detected. In such a system, an artist actually dispenses state money to the art system, and the art system dispenses the money to art market agents, without any possibility of creating terms of production and exhibiting. Using the state money, an artist rents the existing, given, art production infrastructure, without any creative and acive investment in the conditions of art production and exhibiting.

Many artists subordinate their work to creating an art system by becoming curators, directors of art galleries, or art directors of big exhibitions. However, this workshop produces strategies where artists integrate their participation in creating the art system, into their own artistic work, and reflect issues they encounter in their local environments. They do not abandon their art practice, but still actively take part in creating an art system.

This is the very concept of the workshop Artist as a Curator and the forthcoming exhibition, under the working title Unknown Society: how to produce a space that is part of the system, but whose role is not to bridge the gaps in the existing art system, but to create them?