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Performative Objects

The project explores what potentials can be released through an artistic practice that empowers recipients to autonomous aesthetic action. It develops a system of freely usable sculptural elements that serve as catalysts and analytical instruments of creative situations, and uses a praxeological inventory of methods to investigate the collaborative production of aesthetic meaning.

The notion that an artwork is only completed in the gaze of the viewer is a well-known topos of aesthetics. The authoritarian figure of the artist who creates a materially unchangeable work, however, is not fundamentally affected by this idea. My project is guided by the conviction that art can increase its capacities for innovation and enrich itself with complexity if it offers artistic forms that break open this mode and shift the participation of the recipients towards an actual co-production visible in the work itself. For this, the project uses the term ‘political form’. It aims to demonstrate empirically and to analyse theoretically how and with which aesthetic, epistemological and social consequences such a joint creation of meaning can succeed.

To this end, it develops, in a first phase, an extensive set of ‘performative objects’: three-dimensional, modular elements that might freely be copied, used, moved, combined, and rearranged without any directives. In a second, collaborative phase, this potential will be practically tested and documented in workshops with partners from different disciplines such as fine arts, design, dance, architecture, or social sciences who are invited to interact, in their individual approach, with the performative material I provide for. Participatory observation and qualitative in-depth interviews will reflect on the question: How do ‘performative objects’ function as catalysts for sculptural acts, and which parameters guide the aesthetic decisions in this process?

The project operates from a praxeological perspective. Important impulses are given by theoretical proposals which discuss aesthetic meaning as the result of practical processes and emphasise the embodiment of aesthetic experience, as well as by concepts that situate objects as social agents in an interdependent network of actions, like the actor-network theory, the idea of quasi-objects, boundary objects, or the affordance of things.

In combining theoretical framing, artistic practice, and empirical control, the project pursues three complementary objectives: (1) It develops and tests an innovative object-based methodology for instigating and analysing creative action. (2) It provides fundamental insights into the process of a collaborative production of aesthetic meaning and (3) poses programmatic questions on an alternative economy of art and on the emancipative potential, but also the possibly exclusive mechanisms of participatory practice.

The project unfolds in three interrelated modules: The artistic work on ‘performative objects’ (STUDIO) and the corresponding theoretical analyses (SENSOR), which will be documented on the website icaros.org in the form of an (object) index and a (text) archive; and, as the centre of the study, a series of explorative workshops with invited participants, the results of which will be made public, if possible, as exhibitions, performances, or lectures (LABORATORIES).

→ Complete research programme (EN, PDF)


Christian Hartard
Donnersbergerstraße 43, D-80634 Munich (München)

hartard@icaros.org / www.icaros.org

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