THE ΤΕΛΟΣ SOCIETY speaks to Elpida Karaba, Initiator of The Temporary Academy of Arts
Georgia Kotretsos: It is of great importance we start this discussion with The Temporary Art Academy (PAT) project you founded in 2014. How did this experimental para-institutional platform come to be and what space did it come to fill?
Elpida Karaba: The Temporary Academy of Arts (PAT), it was in a way existed in my mind and my practice for many years. Ιt was like informing much of my practice, before existing as an entity. My work has been relating art to systems of knowledge, pedagogy, articulations and the public, as PAT does. As an entity it came to life in 2014. PAT is a para- institution, it self an artwork, a curatorial and educational program. PAT adopts mechanisms from different systems of knowledge and artistic practices to produce and disseminate art programmes and to construct their historicity. Instead of acting as a simple educational platform or art school, PAT is a research scheme and an analytical tool dedicated to questions of labour, education and institutional critique, with the aim of exploring the boundaries, crossovers, and contradictions concealed in public discourses and spaces. The work of the Temporary Academy combines the symbolic with the tactical in order to examine art and the conditions of its productions, and to analyse the status quo and the dynamic of art in the social field, while also challenging its very own mechanisms. The Temporary Academy of Arts is part of a wider research project related to art and is systemic entanglement with systems of knowledge production. It concerns the production of research-based artwork, archival practices, performativity, urban and other multidisciplinary methodologies, and their impact on art production. PAT is a tool whose intention is to disturb the particular parameters that describe the local condition and to record a history of contemporary local art. I would say that the ambition of PAT is not to fill a gap but to produce what Haraway calls ‘situated knowledge’.
GK: Please take us through the methodologies PAT employed; the para-institutional space PAT carved and practices of Soft Power?
EK: The term “soft power” was coined by political scientist Joseph Nye in 1990 in a study of America's Cold War policies (it is now a commonplace that forms of soft power were an important tool in the outcome and victory of the Cold War). Nye describes “soft power” as the exercise of power aimed at the subjectification, normalization and “conformation of the subject” to specific requirements, using persuasion, examples, seduction and myth. In recent years, as Athens has gained international visibility as part of a “southern experiment”, as a European example of "creative viability" in times of crisis, the concept of soft power has a very ambiguous significance. When Athens is sketched as an agent of resistance that can teach and suggest survival strategies but also a new way to make art without money, with alternative economic and communalist practices, it is worth asking ourselves what problems this image creates viewed through a European landscape of precarity, cuts in culture and humanities studies and the establishment of art as an unpaid hobby, as well as the problematics raised by the emergence only of positive features such as flexibility, sustainability, performativity, resourcefulness, creativity, informality and so on, which in the previous years have been a steady reference point for both large institutions and the Athenian scene. PAT organized a series of soft power lectures, in an endeavour to reverse and appropriate this power but also to identify the “negativities” or cacophonies inherent in these technologies. The exploration of these soft regulatory practices brings to the fore contemporary technologies of power, governmentality and as Foucault would say, “conduct of conduct”, which through consensual and conciliatory practices and discourse become less perceived as such. Several challenges were attempted through performances and talks. For example, the fetishized domestic artistic object, history as dogma, the patriarchal narratives of artistic subjects, the idealization of antiquity, the cultural discourses that attempt to be incorporated as dominant and hegemonic (but also the issue of the desire to produce and establish certain other discourses as hegemonic), the dominance of an institutionalized form of cultural capital in education (qualifications, diplomas), unpaid work (volunteering) and the precarity of work in the cultural field are some of the questions that engage the soft power programme implemented by PAT. The material that was produced varies from video, recorded lectures, archival material, sound works and performances that recount the story of southern subjects (the term in which the dominant narratives are currently constructing the subjects of specific localities was adopted intentionally). This material supplies PAT’s exhibition, theoretical and editorial practice and is a collection and organization of the discourse that is produced around the exotic Athens of crisis and creativity. In addition, the Soft Power Lectures programme aimed to reposition us in the domestic professional field on different terms and to negotiate the working, living and precarious conditions of our practice. The counter Soft Power Lectures, organized by PAT, in the Actopolis programme, a project funded by the Goethe Institut and the Urbane Künste Ruhr Institute, attempted to reverse and appropriate this power. The Actopolis programme was the initiative of a strong western partner, a strong cultural player. In this context PAT attempted to perform the role of the powerful (adopting methods of over-identification, since as an Academy it has not been legitimized and does not have the institutionality that would allow it to exercise cultural policy).
GK: This quasi institution, advocating for radical pedagogy over the years has organized exhibitions, lectures, workshops and has collaborated with numerous institutions and organizations in Greece. How will PAT evolve in the next months or years given the recent restrictions imposed on traditional educational models due to the recent crisis?
EK: At the moment we are working, with Despina Zefkili, Yota Ioannidou and Vangelis Vlahos, on a research project titled Waste/d. ‘Waste/d’ is trying to define new aspects of waste/d subjects and matter (from the precarious art workers bodies, and now to the new wasted subjects produced by the hygiene norms of covid19) as well as new sophisticated methods of ‘cleaning’ (from global environmental politics in the era of climate change to state and police methods to clean the city of Athens from refugee squats and anarchists and ensure public order). The subject raises questions of freedom, justice as well as humanitarian and ethical issues which come forth in urgent, in the contemporary condition, of the refugee crisis, the pandemic, the Anthropocene, in pragmatic and existential ways. It raises questions on the role of art as a praxis which can create the symbolic as well as the actual and activist space for such existential and ethical dilemmas. PAT’s experiment is looking for spaces where new and unexpected modes of living, socializing, activating affects and powers can be proposed, discussed, thought and tried out. In July we have published a small publication in collaboration with our permanent collaborator Omblos Editions, with the support of Goethe Institute, Athens. At the end of October we are organising our first Wast/ed Live, where three guests from different fields Elena Tzelepis, Aristeidis Antonas and Sofia Mavragani will make a reading of their own perspective on Waste/d publication, each one of them will add some new content, which will be presented at Eight space, Athens. The live reading will be recorded and on the spot a video lecture performance will be produced. This new, live produced material will be part of Waste/d future different forms of presenting and exhibiting. It can take the form of a video lecture performance, the form of a second, extended edition of waste/d publication, a panel discussion on waste/d, an artwork for our forthcoming exhibition.
The abbreviation of Temporary Academy of Arts (PAT) is a mobile academy of arts and at the same time an art project of experimental education that adopts mechanisms from various systems of knowledge and art practices for the production and transmission of artistic programs and the construction of their historicity. PAT proposes the development of a para-institutional action. In each project of the Academy, different artists and theorists are invited as educators, visitors or as consultants to organize and carry out the outcome of the project while different modes of art and educational practice are used, such as workshops, discussions, interviews, performances etc. PAT has participated in and initiated various exhibitions, workshops, projects, talks and lectures including, Pisteri Art School, Neon Organisation, Informal Urbansim, The Soft Power Lectures, Goethe Institute/Urbane Kunst Ruhr, Agreement without principles. Towards a history of contemporary Greek art, ISET a.o