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Visible Award temporary parliament live coverage in Liverpool, Oct 31

Please join e-flux conversations for coverage of the Visible Award temporary parliament by writer Emma Sumner, live from Liverpool on Saturday, October 31st from 12pm-6pm GMT. A live stream of the event is available on the Visible Award site here.

The Visible Award is the first European award for socially engaged artistic practices in a global context. First awarded in 2011, and then again in 2013, 2015 will be the first time the award is decided through an open jury consultation in the form of a temporary parliament. A public jury format was trialled for the 2013 Award at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven, and has been further developed to seek public engagement with the assessment of existing artistic projects that are operating at the crossroads of art and other fields of society.

The jury session will take place in the grand Council Chamber of Liverpool Town Hall, and will bring together artists, experts, and users of socially engaged artistic practices in a one-day conversation that will try to merge the procedures and criteria of an evaluation process with the discursive elements that characterise panel discussions on the relationship between arts and society. The event, free and open to the public, will focus on assessing the merits of the shortlisted artistic projects (all currently operational) and on the selection of the winner of the 2015 Visible Award, through an open vote.

The 2015 Visible Award has been developed in collaboration with Chris Dercon, Director, Tate Modern, and will be chaired by Francesco Manacorda, Artistic Director, Tate Liverpool, who will coordinate the debate, together with Andrea Phillips in the role of advocate for the projects, between a group of experts operating in different fields of culture, brought together to assess the merits of the artistic projects and lead the selection of the winner of the 2015 Visible Award.

The projects that will be publicly debated by the jury have been shortlisted from a long list of 67 projects, selected from a list of 58 art projects nominated by the 2015 Visible advisory board and 98 projects received through open call.

The nine shortlisted projects are: Abounaddara by Abounaddara Collective (Syria), Conflict Kitchen by Dawn Weleski and Jon Rubin (USA), Cinema Everywhere by Waguih El laqany (Egypt), Ecoart Uganda by Ruganzu Bruno Tusingwire (Uganda), Movimento Editorial by Cráter Invertido (Mexico), New World Summit by Jonas Staal (The Netherlands), Salt by Karrabing Film Collective (Australia), Mujawara / The Tree School by Campus in Camps and Contrafilé (Palestine-Brasil), White Paper: The Law / Convention On the Use of Space by Adelita Husni Bey (The Netherlands).

From Monday 26 October, for the week leading up to the public jury session, Tate Liverpool will host a free temporary exhibition of these nine shortlisted projects, each represented by a video in the museum’s public foyer.

The jury session — live streamed on 31 October at the Visible website (www.visibleproject.org) and to audiences in Tate Liverpool’s foyer and open to interaction through social media — is not simply a dialogue between experts, in order to select an exemplary socially engaged art project, but also a moment for sharing knowledge and collective learning. In the process of assessing the winning project the jury will also offer an opportunity to deepen the debate around artistic engagement in the public domain.

Projects shortlisted for the 2015 Visible Award have been publicly announced on 11 August 2015 during the evening event, The Night Art Made the Future Visible, part of the Creative Time Summit: The Curriculum, within the 56th International Art Exhibition of la Biennale di Venezia: All the World’s Futures. The winning project will be awarded in New York City on the 13th of November 2015 on the occasion of the second installment of The Night Art Made the Future Visible at the Creative Time Summit in New York.

The invited experts part of the Temporary Parliament are Anna Colin, Ekaterina Degot, Magdalena Malm, Emily Pethick, Laura Raicovich, Nato Thompson (tbc), Charles Esche, Christine Eyene (tbc), Simon Sheikh (tbc), Beatrice Catanzaro, Marinella Senatore, Jason Bowman, Bill and Wendy Harpe (Black-E), Britt Jurgensen, Assemble, Granby Community Land Trust, Nina Edge, Janna Graham, Sophie Hope.

Additional material:

Schedule of the day
11.00 - 12.00 - Registration and brunch
12:00 - 12.15 - Welcome by Francesco Manacorda and Chris Dercon (via video)
12:15 - 12:30 - Introduction to the jury by Matteo Lucchetti and Judith Wielander
12:30 - 13:30 - Presentations of the 9 shortlisted projects and videos, with Andrea Phillips
13:30 - 14:30 - First round of debate (among criteria)
14:30 - 14:45 - coffee break
14:45 - 17:30 - Second round of debate
17:30 - 17:45 - Voting (coffee break)
17:45 – Announcement of the winner of 2015 Visible Award
17:45 - 17:50 - Skype with the winner
17:50 - 18:00 - Closing remarks

Live from Liverpool Town Hall on a beautiful autumn day, the third visible award opens. Set in the grand Council Chamber of Liverpool Town Hall, the live audience - who we must remember are today’s jury - are welcomed by Francesco Manacorda, Artistic Director Tate Liverpool. Taking the time to explain to the audience the what the Visible Award is and how, as a member of the audience everybody here today is part of an experimental jury, Manacorda explains how everyone is invited to join in today’s debate and will be part of the collective decision making in the final vote.

Today is about promoting a different type of decision making which looks towards a model of equality not of so-called expert opinion and with a prize of 25,000 Euro at stake Francesco reminds the audience of their collective responsibility.

A second introduction is provided over live video stream from Chris Dercon who joins us from the balcony of Tate Modern where he is the Artistic Director. Thanking the founders of the Visible Award, Dercon explains how important it is that art looks to new directions and that a new kind of art is produced. Highlighting how those who embrace art as a social practice are key in helping to bridge the relationship between art and politics, are helping to make art an important tool in helping create social change, Dercon closes with the statement, “ethics and social engagement cannot be luxury for art organisations”.

Its then the turn of Matteo Lucchetti and Judith Wielander to speak who, as the founders of the Visible Award, explain that they see themselves as facilitators in crossing boundaries between art and society. By naming the project Visible, Lucchetti explains how he and Judith aim to make innovative artistic projects visible in the public domain, and, with a large financial prize at stake, as a symbolic gesture of how socially engaged projects don’t usually have the access to such large amounts of funds.

All of the nine nominated projects (who we will be introduced shortly) are those that need support and have a long-term legacy, but by opening up nominations to an Open Call, Visible is able to reach a much larger audience of younger and emerging projects. Of course, although the live audience are the jury, we must not forget that there are a number of invited guests amongst us who have been invited for their involvement and expertise in the area of social practice.

Introduced by Andrea Phillips who reiterates how important and instrumental today’s audience will be in the voting process, explaining that there will be no ‘FIFA type’ decision making in todays programme.

So who’s up for the prize …

Abounaddara (Syria)

Abounaddara aims to empower civil society to produce its own image independently of all power systems. An artistic project that employs the aesthetics of cinema in a spirit of do-it-yourself and disorientation, they produce films and distribute them as public artistic goods.

Conflict Kitchen (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA)

Conflict Kitchen is a public artwork in the form of a restaurant that serves cuisine from countries with which the United States is in conflict. Each Conflict Kitchen iteration is augmented by events, performances, publications, and discussions that seek to expand the engagement the public has with the culture, politics, and issues at stake within the focus region. The restaurant rotates identities in relation to current geopolitical events.

Cinema Everywhere (Alexandria, Egypt) - nomination received through the open call

Started in 2013 by Waguih El laqany, an independent actor and culture manager, Cinema Everywhere introduces new types of movies to Egyptian society, types they know nothing about (independent, alternative, young filmmakers’ movies, and movies made in countries Egyptians are not used to seeing or following). Cinema Everywhere holds screenings in Egypt’s districts and cities because its target is to construct an audience for this kind of cinema so that in the near future this audience will go to traditional movie theatres to watch these movies.

Ecoart Uganda (Kampala, Uganda)

Ecoart Uganda is an environmental awareness art platform that goes beyond activism to create positive social change within communities by turning waste (garbage) into useful things. Founded in 2010 they use materials—such as plastics and tyres— which are harmful to nature and do not decompose, transforming them into such things as playgrounds for children who live in slums and cannot otherwise access play by and beautifying city spaces in Kampala—especially orphanages.

Editorial Movement (Mexico City, Mexico)

Editorial Movement, started in 2013, is a self-educational project about the potentialities that printed matter has in the construction of a community through self-production and knowledge sharing. It’s a platform of self-publication that allows the socialisation of processes, research and tools. The social struggles that inspire us, that have created living alternatives, give account to the fact that the strength of their resistance relies in re-acknowledging themselves as a community, reconfiguring their identity and making tools for autonomy of those processes. These activities converge in a common printing machine from which they share tools and knowledge, as well as participating in the creation of an independent editorial network in Mexico.

New World Summit (Amsterdam, the Netherlands)

New World Summit was founded in 2012 by artist Jonas Staal, and consists of artists, architects, designers, philosophers and diplomats. New World Summit is an artistic and political organisation that creates ‘parliaments’ for stateless and blacklisted political groups that are banned from democracy and collaborates with art and cultural institutions but also with organisations from the field of transformative law and diplomacy. In 2013, the New World Academy was created: an educational platform that invites artists, students and stateless organisations to explore the role of art at the heart of political struggle.

Salt (Belyuen, Australia)

The Karrabing Film Collective is a grassroots media group. Salt comprises five ten minute films. Shot by Karrabing members on iphones, Salt will appear in three formats—multiscreen; web series; and film. Filmmaking provides a technique of self-organisation and social analysis and, through screenings and publications, a means for them to articulate themselves within epistemologies of contemporary art and audiences, allowing us to understand the Karrabing as a new form of collective agency in late neoliberal modernity.

The Tree School / Mujawara (Started in Brazil and continued in Palestine, Lebanon, Colombia, India, Turkey.)

Contrafilé, a Brazilian-based art collective, and Campus in Camps, an experimental educational platform based in Dheisheh refugee camp, Palestine, share a common interest in decolonising knowledge and in the creation of trans-generational learning environments that are not confined within the traditional walls of academia, but which cut across different forms of knowledge, integrating aspects of life and dialogue with the larger community. They formed the first The Tree School in Southern Bahia with thinkers, artists, and activists from the quilombola movement, the Landless Workers’ Movement and Palestinian refugees in order to activate community-based discussions around exile, right of return, identity construction and subjectivity building, and for reflecting and understanding the role of education as a liberating and democratising tool.

Convention on the Use of Space-White Paper: The Law (The Netherlands)

The criminalization of squatting, gentrification, real estate speculation, rising rent-wage ratios and the sale of public assets to private investors are facets of an ideological shift which sees the millennial apparatus of private property reign over any other kind of stipulation. White Paper: The Law is holding public meetings to write a functioning, legally-binding convention on the use-value of housing with a focus on squatting, while problematizing the manner in which law functions in relation to citizenship, democracy and precarity.

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And now for the audience and the carefully placed experts dotted throughout the audience to speak up … what are you thoughts so far?
Who do you think deserves the 2015 Visible Award?

It takes a little while, but before long the conversation is bouncing from one side of the room to the other. One audience member speaks up about the issue of making such a big decision:

“Should we be awarding a prize to an organisation because they need it the most or because we like what they do or should we be looking at who can make the biggest difference with an award of 25,000 Euros”

Another audience member speaks up:
“Why don’t you just split the money between all of the nine nominees, as my vote is not for one of them but for all of them"

"Surely each one of these projects needs this award? Each one of them is a very strong socially engaged project doing great work so each one of them gets my vote”

“Why can’t we just define each one of the nominees winners, split the money and use the time to get to know each other a little better”

Francesco Manacorda, chairing the debate, invites Matteo to step in and explain Visible’s giving of one prize instead of splitting it into nine smaller awards. Challenged with this way of thinking, Matteo explained that each one of the organisations who didn’t ‘win’ the prize in previous years then went on to get other types of funding from trusts, foundations or other awards. The symbolic value of being part of the shortlist is something which can have a lasting legacy for the organisations involved.

“Just because there is one winner, that doesn’t deem the rest of the nominees losers”

Other audience members explain how they have seen the Visible Award act as an icebreaker in helping organisations get the publicity and public profile they need to help their work expand and grow.

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Hmm, was there some sort of insinuation that giving one large award to one organization is self-serving on the part of Visible Award?

As the conversation expands, it becomes clear that the audience are taking on their role of responsibility as the jury with great pride and caution:

“At this moment we have a responsibility to award this award to an artist collective which is about a political reality which will help us see what art is in a different way”

As Chair, Francesco Manacorda takes the time to sum up the conversation before the coffee break, it seems to be emerging that its no coincidence that we are here in Liverpool’s Council Chamber where there is a long history of political debate as we will be making a political decision today which will have an influence on the participants involved in the nominated projects.

“After coffee, we need to take on the responsibility we have in making this decision, particularly as during the coffee break is usually when the best conversations take place”

Manacroda even suggests the audience form their own lobby groups.

In case you were not already aware there is a live stream of the debate which you can link into on the Visible Projects Homepage.

A quick check with the AV team keeping a track of the live stream reveals that there are over 100 people across the world currently watching the debate in locations including America, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Norway, Sweden, France, Italy, Turkey, Greece, Egypt, Uganda, Japan and Malaysia.

Not sure if I agree with the idea that Abounaddara shouldn’t win the award because they already earned exposure through the Venice Biennale and Vera List…

A quick headcount over coffee reveals there are over seventy people in the audience today, all of who, given the flurry of chatter coming from queue for coffee have continued to zealously debate who of the nine nominees deserves to this year’s Visible Award.

The second half of the debate opens with Francesco Manacorda asking the audience to divulge the reasons why they think a particular project should be voted. The second half will take the format of each nominated project being given an allotted discussion time for the members of the jury (audience) to speak up and explain their support.

Why Abounaddara …

“there is a particular amount of urgency with the project given the current political situation in Syria”

“choosing this project would be a statement for the jury”

“Question to Andrea: are they interested in training and expanding their outreach of the project …”

“the artists are challenging the issues of authorship and producing films which show us that there is everyday life in Syria”

“Question to Andrea: What is the logistics of getting funding to this group given that the current situation in Syria …”

Why Conflict Kitchen …

“it’s important to give the same amount of leverage to projects which have a more whimsical side as something that has a sense of urgency to them”

“it’s a project which could be easily re-modelled to be used in other societies to promote change and debate”

“they create local employment and work with schools”

“they are the perfect example of a social enterprise who don’t need any funding and raise their own income thus making them sustainable”

Why Cinema Everywhere …

“I’m worried about giving people the money because if they show political films they would be dead … ”

“has he done the research into what people need to see …”

“is he working as a team or as a ‘one-man-band’ …”

“he is using this as a system of distribution, we need to make sure that people see a lot more things, no matter what their topic”

“the fact he is doing this on his own shouldn’t be an issue, its the fact he is doing this at all which matters”

“its clear that there is a huge amount of affection for the work he is doing within the streets of Alexandria”

Why Ecoart Uganda …

“its a project that creates environmental awareness in a place which isn’t often seen as being worried about these issues”

“its a project that could be developed in other countries”

“it’s not about innovation but more about the impact the project has on the local community”

“its the idea of using waste as material to develop an array of artistic outcomes”

“Question to Andrea: have they received any other funding”

“this project is about children and transferring skills and although it might not be innovative, giving the award to this project might also help bring attention to other projects working in similar ways”

“who are we to judge what’s innovative in different contexts, a moveable playground, that’s super Copenhagen driven stuff; right?”

“this should be appraised as an artistic project, not as a charity case”

As the debate on the shortlisted projects continues the topic of previous funding keeps arising. Will it be detrimental to the nominees chances if they have already received funding or will their solvency sway the jury in their favour.

Why Editorial Movement …

“I would like to live there, they look like they are having a lot of fun … but, I’m not sure what the projects outreach is and what their purpose is … I’m also not sure the project has a very inclusive approach”

“they are too small at the moment, they need the money to open out the project to a wider audience as they have been around a long time and need to get a wider audience”

“I don’t think having a small reach means it’s not making enough of an impact”

“the project is highly political and so the distribution of material is a direct intervention into the capitalist system inherent in Mexico City”

“there are politics in their distribution …”

“they are creating alternative methods of discussion … their work is an alternative political formation”

Why New World Summit …

“it reinvents notions of democracy in communities which have been denied it …”

“this is the most insane project which is changing politics, its deserves a prize from somewhere …”

“I admire the rigour of this project”

“they spend a lot of budget on bringing people into the temporary parliament to represent and properly debate the issues under discussion”

Why Salt …

“I don’t think that the discussion so far actually portrays the sense of urgency this project has …”

“this project seems like it doesn’t have a sense of urgency, but actually the rural Indigenous communities in Australia has a history of being erased which we need to pay attention to”

“if we just talk about urgency are we going to be missing out on other important issues which we need to be looking at when making our decision”

“everything within this project is negotiated collectively …”

“this project goes beyond the boundaries of reality, but they have a messy aesthetic which this award could help them to resolve”

During the on going debate, Matteo is challenged by a member of the jury (audience) as to what evidence Visible has that this award helps bring visibility to the projects have been nominated. Feeling it would be hypocritical to say that the buzz created by the award didn’t bring attention to the projects nominated, Matteo admits that there is a possibility that previously nominated projects might still have received funding or other prizes even if they hadn’t been nominated for the award.

Visible is still a small and young organisation, are they really that visible yet?

Continuing the debate, the jury discuss why The Tree School might deserve the award …

“the project has seeded to different communities as other tree schools are constantly emerging and the group are consistently getting contact from numerous other communities who want to set up their own tree schools”

“it’s a reminder that there are other forms of education”

“what will be the impact on the current community by an expansion”

Why Convention on the Use of Space-White Paper: The Law …

“I think this is how law should be made … I’m encouraged by this process as although I sign petitions against law I’m not involved in the making of law which makes this project super exciting”

“this project isn’t yet established and hasn’t gained a vintage which is why we should support it”

“its a consortium of groups which are focusing on the issues of housing whilst looking at the issues of wider social injustices”

“this is an amazing project that we need, but it feels that they could keep going without the money”

It feels the jury (audience) are concerned about the issue of their own self-serving by being part of this decision making process with numerous audience members questioning what their autonomy is to make the decision of who should be given this award.

As the open debate comes to a close, the jury’s issue with their autonomy to make the decision of who should be granted this award is causing numerous attendees to have personal ethical issues which many of them voice.

But what will this mean to the final decision that’s made … is this a lottery or will it be a consensus.

Interestingly this sparks a debate over how the voting should be conducted, which leads to Francesco Manacorda to make a change to the voting system with which the jury appear much happier. Now, instead of everyone voting on their cards and the project with the most votes winning, each person will now place an initial vote using their voting cards. Then, the two projects with the highest votes will be given a further 15 minutes of open discussion before the jury (audience) make their final vote by a show of hands.

So, after a quick turn around and the votes being counted there are three organisations which have come in top. Abounaddara (Syria), Ecoart Uganda (Uganda) and Salt (Australia) who actually received the most votes out of all three.

With three finalists, the jury are asked to place their second vote by placing their hands in the air … first up Salt. A number of people raise their hands which are hurriedly counted by the event organisers, then its Ecoart Uganda turn and finally Abounaddara.