Friday, July 7, 2017

[Yasmin_discussions] Leveling the Contemporary Art Field by Antagonizing Top-Down Processes

Hey Yasminers!

First time posting anything here. Been receiving discussion posts ever
since a friend in Beirut subscribed me to the discussions back in 2011 when
we were planning an action at the Venice Biennial. At that time, I was
finishing up my second book about an artist's project dealing with implicit
racial bias, and the idea hit me that the final frontier, and quite frankly
the first place to start, when engaging in contemporary art, is the
unchecked positive bias towards the established artist. Implicit cognitive
bias can be of course measured using functional brain imaging.

My working hypothesis was: the functional mapping of positive or negative
bias can definitely be construed as an artwork, which not only has an
aesthetic dimension, art conceptual dimension, but also and more
importantly an informative dimension that can hopefully lead to a leveling
of the playing field in contemporary art. Speculative art bubbles, and the
whole art pricing dynamics is based on positive bias towards a group of
contemporary artists, making them hot commodities, but emptying all the
while the political value of their artworks.

I did not see however how to go about doing art but asking art collectors
and art professionals to willfully go into a fMRI machine while we do
primed sessions of Artworks allegedly associated to famous or non famous
artists and map the brain activity. Not practical, not constructive. The
only thing I could do was to create a thought experiment by creating a
negative bias situation towards myself. That way, I'm not taking advantage
of anyone, and I ending up paying the price of being ostracized.

I wanted to see whether I could still be able to keep doing art, against
all odds, while I was being actively ostracized by the local art community.
You can call it performative research. At any rate, a project that was
bound for Venice with 11 artists to represent a country like Lebanon, ended
up with no artists, but as we had previously reserved space smack in the
middle of the Arsenale, Lebanon and its art community was represented
non-mediately, by their very bias, through void.

I went on to get some recognition through mentions in collective
publications (as the one of the initiative) and institutional
commissions such as the United Nations Information Center in Beirut,
notwithstanding the continued domestic blindness from the local art
community. As I move to Europe to launch community building participative
art projects, I definitely intend to go on exploring negative bias from the
art establishment in Europe and the discrepancies one might observe with
respect to the recognition coming from social activists and
non-professionals using contemporary art for social and political change;
like the colleagues occupying Cavallerizza Reale in Turin, since 2015, and
with whom I had initiated a movie project.

I would really like to get feedback and suggestions from anyone who finds
this initiative worthwhile, and I'm adding some links below pertinent to
the discussion. And it would definitely be great to be part of a research
network in Europe invested in similar problematics.

Kind regards to all.

G.H. Rabbath Ph.D.

Some Links:

- A recent piece about 'flipper' Simchowitz:

- The book I did about Iraqi artist Mahmoud Obaidy and his racial profiling
in Houston airport:

- My personal account of the road to Venice:

- The performance/conference I gave at the Sharjah March meeting, right
before the 2011 Venice Biennial:

G.H. Rabbath Ph.D.
writer | videographer | artist
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