vorstellen.network - an introduction

We believe that there is no substitute for mobility in the current crisis: the need for physical displacement and contact, implied by mobility, cannot be replaced. What we can do is enlighten what has been missing during and before the pandemia and to try to fill the gap. We long for a digital platform for artistic research, enabling a peer to peer exchange between artists, the "wikipedia of the arts", an interdisciplinary and relational digital meeting possibility for artists and cultural activists.

Since the 1950s, mobility has become an important vector for artistic success, creating art has been synonymous with movement, travelling and encounters. This is not the first time in history that mobility is interrupted or that it isn’t allowed. For example within the last century, artists from the communist bloc were often precluded from traveling abroad. Probably because artists never liked borders (domestic or not), they always found a way to cross them and reach out. One of them was to use the postal service: Mail Art became bigger, thousands of creatives from all around the world connected and exchanged artistic matter as a postal dialogue. Chuck Welsch describes the Mail art community as such: “Participants in the medium make their own contribution and write their own history. There is no central leadership or centralised publication. There are only people gathering together through the international postal service in concentric circles for fellowship and the desire to share art and information.” (1)

The Mail art network shows us not just how to overcome borders but also how the artistic discourse is a living matter, a performative act. We can call it artistic networking: artists think, create, share, receive, respond. This implies that there is always a performative element to an art practice: performance is much more than what we identify usually as Body Art, Live Art or Happenings. The category of performance art – in the broadest sense –, is the common thread linking all practices. The map “PERFORMANCE ART CONTEXT - Performative Approaches in Art and Science Using the Example of Performance Art” (2) designed by Gerhard Dirmoser and Boris Nieslony gives a very extensive overview of the diversity of performance art: no artwork would exist if it couldn't be located within a system of reference, and without an apparatus of interconnected activities that charges it with meaning and purpose.

Creating art is not just the production of the artwork, it is also a way of collecting and sharing knowledge. The public event to show the finished work is not just entertainment for the public, but also a way to connect to the artistic community. The classical view of the arts as the production of cultural goods to be consumed and absorbed as finished objects or events is outmoded and the need to empower the base of the art production, namely the contact, the relational and dialogical practice is compelling. Exchange is fundamental to the livability of the arts across fields.
During the shut down, it was not the artistic production that we missed, since this was still possible. Rather, it was the networking, the sparkle of possibility of meeting new people. New connections to other artists, curators, collectors and cultural activists are mostly brought along by exhibitions, residencies and public events.

We realised that there wasn't any existing online tool that could canalise artistic exchange outside of corporate interests and market driven economies. We decided to create a situation in the digital realm where the sole purpose is artistic networking by sharing knowledge in poetic forms.
The well known wikipedia was our first reference: the open source encyclopaedia is an example of how archiving facts in a democratic and relational way can work. We aim to develop a “wikipedia of the art”, where the poetry of artistic research can be shown, shared and linked by the artists themselves.

vorstellen.network is a platform for orientation, through which artists can support new modes of interaction in order to meaningfully reconfigure their field of activity. It is intended as a performative tool for community building within the artistic domain.
Hopefully vorstellen.network will show the potential of artistic thinking and its relevance in facing the many crises that have pointed so far and the ones that are still to come. We long for it to create a living network that can flourish and illuminate from one screen to the other.

November 2020, Axelle Stiefel, Elisa Storelli and Philipp Klein

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