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PLATFORM works across disciplines for social and ecological justice. It combines the transformatory power of art with the tangible goals of campaigning, the rigour of in-depth research with the vision to promote alternative futures.
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current projects
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past projects: 1989 - 2001

Freedom in the City
Vessel
Carbon Generations
Funding for a Change
Ignite
Water, Land, Fire
River Detectives
 
RENUE
Tides & Tributes
Merton IslandDelta
Still Waters
Homeland
Tree of Life

See here for information on project work between 1983 - 88.




 


Introduction

The 3rd year of the course The Body Politic: Social and Ecological Justice, Art, Activism
commences in January 2007, run by interdisciplinary group PLATFORM at Birkbeck, University of London. It has been expanded from a 12 week to a 16 week course.

The Body Politic, Jan - May 2007
There are increasing tensions in the world situation - not least the war in Iraq, increasing corporate power, terrorism, and global ecological issues such as climate change. This course discusses these, and addresses activism, in all and any of its meanings, from solo meditative acts through to mass action, from campaigning to education. The course also examines how art and cultural strategies can play a unique role. Throughout, the course considers how working collaboratively contributes to the development of the wider Body Politic.

Background
In 2004 PLATFORM ran a pilot for the course with 22 students, entitled The Body Politic, Social and Ecological Justice, Art, Education. Go to www.platformlondon.org/bodypolitic.asp for details of the pilot course and students’ responses. An article on the pilot course was published in New Practices, New Pedagogies, Editor Dr Malcolm Miles, (Routledge 2005). The Lipman-Miliband Trust supported the development of this course in year 1.


Who's it for?

1. Do you have an interest in or are you working in the arts, community activism, campaigning, environmentalism, human rights, cultural work, policy making, or education?

2. Are you concerned about the state of world politics, its power imbalances and economics, and how to further social and ecological justice?

3. Do you want to learn more about interdisciplinary working?


Course Outline

Please note that this highlights the key subjects and practitioners that will be discussed – of course there are more that we haven’t mentioned here. The outline will adapt according to students’ needs and desires. Of course there are absences and holes: we can try to address these, according to expertise within the group.

1. Introductions to PLATFORM and each other; political and artistic “epiphanies”; people involved in politics and culture who have influenced our politics/values.

2. Inner Ear: listening to ourselves as a prerequisite for any act of creation; learning to trust ourselves; under what circumstances do we stop listening?

3. Outer Ear: what’s happening now in the world – who are we listening to? Listening to places and communities, invisibilities, “others”, “othering” and ourselves. Egs. The work of bell hooks, Ziauddin Sardar, and Paulo Freire; Nigerian writer Ken Saro-Wiwa

4. Tongue: the use of silence and the use of speech; articulation of language as political danger Egs. the documentary films of Claude Lanzmann and Patricio Guzman; writings of Osip and Natasha Mandelstam, and Susan Griffin.

5. Workshop 1: student-led session on issues or activity identified from previous sessions.

6. Frontal Cortex and Solar Plexus: the limitations of using facts alone to effect change; connecting information to experience, and going beyond the rational. Egs. Austrian group Wochenklausur, the power of music as an agent of change, PLATFORM’s project Gog & Magog.

7. Hand and Fingertips: co-operation and solidarity; how do we find each other - seeking collaborators; the huge challenges of working collectively and/or through consensus; overcoming conflicts/acknowledging differences; when to stop and when to push through. Egs. Helix Arts, PLATFORM

8. Benevolent Viruses: what can collaborative practices uniquely bring to this work; and the importance of networks: Egs. Littoral’s socially engaged arts gatherings, Black Environment Network, www.moveon.org.

9. Workshop 2: student-led session on issues or activity identified from previous sessions.
Feast, and mid-course review.

10. Sex: where is the drive to do this work? What is ‘activism’ feeding off? Is there an “ecstacy of protest”? Conversely, when do we feel inert or numb? What role does sensuality, touch, pain, silence, noise and pleasure play when working on difficult and distressing issues or in extreme situations? Egs. Women in Black, clown army CIRCA and more.

11. Legs: experiencing breakthrough through walking/exploring real space; land/cityscape and dialogue - through PLATFORM projects, and writings of Rebecca Solnit.

12. Workshop 3: student-led session on issues or activity identified from previous sessions
This session takes the form of a walk.

13. Knee & Heel: Facing the other direction, the path less travelled, courage in difference; invisible histories and untold stories; the acupuncturist’s needle and the rhinoceros’s hoof – Egs. the work of artist Joseph Beuys and writers WG Sebald and Ernst Neizvestny.

14. Lungs: endurance and stamina; how can you keep focused, evolving and working over time without burning out/becoming cynical; reflective practice. Egs. writers Suzi Gablik and John Berger, filmmaker Ken Loach, Argentinian artists Ala Plastica

15. Workshop 4: student-led session on issues or activity identified from previous sessions

16. REFLECTION: summing up and feeding back. What have we learnt?
And final Feast.


Assessment for this accredited course

1. Engagement: as well as in-class discussion, every week some reading or research will be set, or, students will be asked for a response to ideas that have come up, through writing, drawing, music, performance (whichever you choose). This work will be monitored and form part of the overall assessment of engagement with the course.

2. Formal assessment: 1 major or two smaller creative projects will be set, which will form the essential work for formal assessment. This work could be collaborative or done alone. Your proposals will be discussed with your tutors.


“It’s not an ego trip, it’s serious, it’s politics, it’s economics, it’s everything. And art in that instance becomes so meaningful both to the artist and to the consumers of that art”

Nigerian writer and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, interviewed 1994; executed 1995



Body Politic bibliography

Achebe, Chinua, (1958, 2001) Things Fall Apart, Penguin
Arendt, Hannah, (1994) Eichmann in Jerusalem, London: Penguin
Becker, Carol, (1994) The Subversive Imagination, New York: Routledge
Berger, John - particularly: And our faces, my heart, brief as photos, London: Writers and Readers (1984); Pig Earth, London: Chatto and Windus (1985); Selected Writings, London: Bloomsbury (2002)
Beuys, Joseph - all writings but particularly: Kuoni, Carin, ed. (1990); Energy Plan for the Western Man: Writings by and Interviews with the Artist, New York: Four Walls Eight Windows
Boal, Augusto, (1979) The Theatre of the Oppressed. New York: Urizen Books. Reprint Routledge Press, New York/London, 1982.
Brecht, Bertolt, (1994) Poems 1913-1956, London: Minerva
Brook, Peter, (1968) The Empty Space, London: McGibbon & Kee
Conrad, Joseph, (1902, reprint 1995) Heart of Darkness, London: Penguin
Davis, Mike, (2001) Late Victorian Holocausts, Verso
Deutscher, Isaac, (1987) The Prophet Trilogy: Trotsky, Oxford: OUP
Fanon, Frantz (1967) Black Skin, White Mask,
Felshin, Nina, (ed) (1995) But is it Art ? The Spirit of Art as Activism, Seattle: Bay Press
Freire, Paolo, (1970) Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Penguin
Gablik, Suzi, (1995) Conversations before the end of time, Dialogues on Art, Life and Spiritual Renewal, London and New York: Thames and Hudson
Griffin, Susan, (1993) A Chorus of Stones, New York: Anchor Books
hooks, bell, (1994) Teaching to transgress, Education as the Practice of Freedom, London and New York: Routledge
Hampton, Christopher, (ed) (1984) A Radical Reader, London: Penguin
Illich, Ivan, (1973) Tools for Conviviality, Fontana
Ishiguro, Kazuo, (1991) An Artist of the Floating World, London: Faber & Faber
Itzen, Catherine, (1980) Stages in the Revolution, Political Theatre in Britain since 1968, Methuen
Jarman, Derek, (1992) Modern Nature, London: Vintage
Jennings, Humphrey, (1985) Pandaemonium, The coming of the machine as seen by contemporary observers, Andre Deutsch
Kastner, Jeffrey, (1998) Land and Environmental Art, London: Phaidon
Kester, Grant (1998) Art, Activism and Oppositionality: Essays from Afterimage, Duke University Press
Kundera, Milan, (1984) The Book of Laughter & Forgetting, London: Penguin
Lacy, Suzanne, (ed) (1995) Mapping the Terrain, Seattle: Bay Press
Levi, Primo, (1994) The Drowned and the Saved, London: Abacus
Levi, Primo, (1979) If This Is A Man/ The Truce, London: Penguin
Lindqvist, Sven, (1997) Exterminate all the Brutes, London: Granta
Mandelstam, Nadezhda (1971) Hope Against Hope/Hope Abandoned, London: Collins & Harvill Press
Mandelstam, Osip, (1991) Selected Poems, London: Penguin
McKay, George, (1996) Senseless Acts of Beauty: Cultures of Resistance Since the Sixties, London: Verso
Mies, Maria and Shiva, Vandana. (1993) Ecofeminism, London: Zed Books
Morrison, Toni, (1993) Playing the in the Dark, Whiteness and the Literary Imagination, Picador
Orwell, George, (2001) Political Writings, London: Penguin
Orwell, George, (1979), The Road to Wigan Pier, London: Penguin
Papanek, Victor, (1995) The Green Imperative: Ecology and Ethics in Design and Architecture, London/New York: Thames and Hudson
Ross, Christopher, (2002) Tunnel Visions, London: 4th Estate
Said, Edward W (1993) Culture and Imperialism, Vintage (UK)
Sampson, Anthony, (1995) Company Man, London: Harper Collins
Sardar, Ziauddin, (2004) Desperately Seeking Paradise, Journeys of a Sceptical Muslim, Granta
Saro-Wiwa, Ken, (1995) A Month & A Day, London: Penguin
Sebald, WG, (2002) Austerlitz, London: Penguin
Sebald, WG, (2003) On The Natural History of Destruction, London: Penguin
Semprun, Jorge, (1998) Literature or Life, London: Penguin
Sereny, Gitta, (1998) Albert Speer - his battle with truth, London: Phoenix
Sereny, Gitta, (1995) Into That Darkness, London: Random House
Solnit, Rebecca, (2000) Wanderlust, a history of walking, London and New York: Penguin
Solnit, Rebecca, (2004) Hope in the Dark, Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities, Penguin
Steiner, George, (1979) Language and Silence, London: Peregrine Books
Steiner, George, (1978) In Bluebeard’s Castle, London: Faber & Faber
Trotsky, Leon, (1930) My Life, New York, Charles Scribner
Wolfe, Tom, (1987) Bonfire of the Vanities, New York: Bantam
Yergin, Daniel, (1991) The Prize, The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power, Simon and Schuster
Zeldin, Theodore, (1994) An Intimate History of Humanity, London: Sinclair-Stevenson


Websites: interdisciplinary collaborative practices
A sample of artist-led groups working on issues of social and ecological justice*.

Ala Plastica (Argentina) http://orbita.starmedia.com/alaplastica
Apsolutno (Serbia/Voyvodina) www.apsolutno.org
Art not Oil www.artnotoil.org.uk
Common Ground (UK) www.commonground.org.uk
Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army www.clownarmy.org
Critical Art Ensemble (USA) www.critical-art.net
Ground Zero (USA) www.gzpgh.com
Grupo Escombros (Argentina) www.puppo.com/Escombros
Helix Arts (UK) www.helixarts.com
Institute for Applied Autonomy (USA) www.appliedautonomy.com
Kuda (Serbia/Voyvodina) www.kuda.org/e_o_kuda_info.htm
Littoral (UK) www.littoral.org.uk
Mongrel www.mongrelx.org
Ne Pas Plier (France) www.peripheries.net/i-npp.htm
Social Sculpture Research Unit, Oxford Brookes University (UK) www.brookes.ac.uk/schools/apm/social_sculpture
UHC Collective (UK) www.uhc-collective.org.uk
Sarai (India) www.sarai.net
3 Rivers 2nd Nature (USA) http://3r2n.cfa.cmu.edu
Virtual Migrants www.virtualmigrants.com
Welfare State International (UK) www.welfare-state.org
Wochenklausur (Austria) http://wochenklausur.t0.or.at/

* The main focus in this list is artist-led groups using visual arts, design or live art/performance methods, working on social justice and/or environmental issues in collaboration with practices and people who have knowledge/skills/experience in those fields.

LIMITATIONS: This website list has been compiled from organisations and groups that PLATFORM has met through practice, networks or conferences and who we feel a political/artistic overlap with. This is already a limitation on the breadth and depth of the list. The website list is by no means aiming to be comprehensive, and could never be, not only due to the way it is compiled (as stated), but also due to the plethora of practices happening locally, nationally and globally without internet/media coverage and the inequality of access to digital technology/website design for many artist-campaigners-activists globally. This is illustrated by the relatively poor coverage from groups and practices from the global south. It is also not strong on covering music, dance and theatre-based initiatives, due to PLATFORM’s arts contact and context mostly being with visual art or performance/live art practitioners.

If you are aware of other practices (from any artform!) whose websites should be on this list, please contact: info@platformlondon.org


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