Agulhas Negras – A Summer Session.

On the Necessity of Discussing the Social Function of Contemporary Art.

A Project by Ellen Blumenstein and Carla Zaccagnini

October 23rd – November 19th 2008, Campos do Jordão and São Paulo (Brazil)

In Collaboration with Goethe-Institut São Paulo, Centro Cultural São Paulo (CCSP), Fundação Armando Alvares Penteado (FAAP), Forum Permanente.

Supported by Center for Icelandic Art (CIA), Danish Arts Council, International Artists Studio Program in Sweden (IASPIS).

Participating artists: Amilcar Packer (São Paulo), Annette Weisser (Los Angeles), Ducha (Rio de Janeiro), Emma Kihl (Stockholm), Jared Domicio (Fortaleza), Karina Granieri (Buenos Aires), Katharina Schlieben (Zurich), Kristina Ask (Copenhagen), Lucia Koch (São Paulo), Michael Müller (Berlin), Narda Alvarado (La Paz), Olivia Plender (London), Sophia Tabatadze (Berlin / Tiblisi), Unnar Orn (Reykjavik / Atlanta) & Fernando Montero Llorente / Víctor Pereda Chiapella (Reus).

Agulhas Negras is simultaneously a summer academy and an experimental laboratory, bringing together fourteen artists from Europe and Latin America for two weeks. The location is a farm close to the city Campos do Jordão, in the mountains of the Brazilian province São Paulo. Subsequently we will share our experiences with the interested public in São Paulo through several activities and events at CCSP, FAAP and the Goethe-Institut.

The Agulhas Negras project was initiated in order to create / offer a space for exchange between artists from Europe and Latin America, to discuss the social functions of art. This encounter is based on communication and experimentation within contemporary forms of artistic learning, teaching and production. The format of Agulhas Negras unites both an academic and an experimental structure – which neither a school nor an institutional surrounding can offer – and as such enables play with forms, related to how we perceive and experience, as well as the discursive activity that accompanies artistic creativity and production.

An important reference for Agulhas Negras is – first of all – the Black Mountain College, a secluded place in the mountains of North Carolina (USA) in which European and American students as well as teachers came together during the course of two decades (1933-57). They intended to escape the stress of metropolitan life to learn, work, and, above all, make art together. Meanwhile a second important impulse for this project has been the book „The Ignorant Schoolmaster“, published in 1987 by the French philosopher Jacques Rancière. Here he describes how the traditionally hierarchical relationship between professior and student can be broken up, in order for teaching and learning to enter a dialectical relationship towards each other.

Starting from these influences, the only pre-fixed anchor in the structure of Agulhas Negras has been the common daily dinner. The participating artists were asked to develop proposals for an activity during the stay in Campos do Jordão, the form, content and duration of which were completely open. The activities were conducted by the whole group and the only precondition was to start from one’s own artistic practice and to enter hitherto unknown territory. This way, the artist took over part of the responsibility for how he / she wanted to use the time and there was sufficient space for thinking and the development of ideas, as well as personal exchange.

Now, back in São Paulo, the participants – jointly with Sala Zero, a program of the Education Department of the CCSP – will develop interventions in public space and try out different points of departure, focussing on the problem of how to address the visitor and integrate them into the discussion. These interventions range from speed-lectures, talks, discussions and performative actions to concrete interventions in public space (Nov 12th – 14th).

An informal meeting - addressing the role of stipends, artists residencies and studio programs - will take place between the participants and both professors and students of FAAP at its residency, Edificio Lutetia, on Saturday, November 15th. The organizers will introduce Agulhas Negras’ structure and outline, and the artists, who stay at Edificio Lutetia during their time in the city, will give insight into their artistic practices.

The Goethe-Institut organizes two round table discussions on the subjects “Collaborative Practices" and "Art, Experiment and Learning" on November 17th and 18th. In addition the participants of Agulhas Negras will meet artists and curators from São Paulo, to exchange different perspectives on experiences within each other’s practices. The discussions are mediated by the two initiators of the project, Ellen Blumenstein and Carla Zaccagnini. The starting point for “Collaborative Practices” are the social dynamics, which the group has lived through during its stay in Campos do Jordão. The intention is to complement documentation of the personal experiences of the participants with the differing experiences of the other discussion partners. For the second talk about “Art, Experiment and Learning” we are especially interested in the processes and the experience of teaching and learning – outside of conventional institutional settings. Again using the historic Black Mountain College and Jacques Rancière’s theses concerning emancipated learing, we once again ask the artists for their impressions of the past weeks and intend to relate them to the experiences of the other participants in the discussion.

Together with the internet platform Forum Permanente Agulhas Negras has developed a homepage, which serves as a communication forum, a preparation and accompaniment to the academy and the activities in both Campos do Jordão and São Paulo. Here, all activities are documented by international students and collegues from Forum Permanente (audiovisually and text based) – who have been invited to participate in Agulhas Negras. Daily, new posters, images and comments are uploaded on this site, so that those who have not been to Campos do Jordão or São Paulo, can follow the events.

This documentation will successively be used to develop a four-lingual publication which not only aims to reflect the experiences with Agulhas Negras, but also to reflect on artistic production and its functions today.