ArtEZ Studium GeneraleDeep Dive Online Courses
01powertools6.jpg

Lesson 1: Subversive Affirmation

This lesson deals with subversive affirmation - art pretending to be something other than art by imitating existing social practices - as a tactic of resistance.



The questions in this lesson are based on the essay Subversive Affirmation written by Liesbeth Groot Nibbelink and Sigrid Merx. To read the essay, click here.

In this lesson you'll start by identifying and examining the various components of subversive affirmation.


In the To Do’s, by Els Cornelis and Fabiola Camuti, you will find reflection exercises and more general questions about the topic.


As extra material we have included a detailed instruction for art teachers to give a 2 hour workshop: Think with your hands, OR PROTOTYPE/ SUBVERSIVE AFFIRMATION.
01powertools5.jpg

"Subversive Affirmation: art pretending to be something other than art by imitating existing social practices, as a tactic of resistance."

To work with subversive affirmation, you could ask yourself what are the patterns, formats and systems that define your everyday-life and that you would like to change or understand better?
Liesbeth Groot Nibbelink & Sigrid Merx

To do A

Questions:
What are the patterns, formats and systems that define your everyday-life and that you would like to change or understand better?
What strategies do you need to put in place to be able to imitate and be believable?
Can you think of examples of subversive affirmation from different art disciplines that can inspire you?
Example project from Merx and Groot Nibbelink's essay: Julian Hetzel’s Schuldfabrik  </br>—Julian Hetzel, Schuldfabrik 2016. </br>Photo by: wolf silveri / steirischer herbst.
Example project from Merx and Groot Nibbelink's essay: Julian Hetzel’s Schuldfabrik
—Julian Hetzel, Schuldfabrik 2016.
Photo by: wolf silveri / steirischer herbst.
The impossibility of being an outsider has precisely inspired the practice of subversive affirmation.
Sigrid Merx & Liesbeth Groot Nibbelink

To do B

Merx and Groot Nibbelink wonder in their essay Subversive Affirmation. Imitation 2.0 why the strategy of subversive affirmation (re)appears at this moment in the (former) West.

“What are today’s ‘totalitarian’ or all-consuming systems that one seeks to escape?”. The authors continue to state “we are all swallowed by neoliberalism; we all work and live within the ubiquity of a media society; we are all responsible, each in our own way, for ecological trouble.”
Some questions to reflect on and/or to discuss:

How do you react to the statement that we are all responsible, and that it is thus impossible to be an outsider?
How and to what extent do you see the neoliberal ideology reflected in your own work, be it study, artistic or educational practice? How do you experience that, and how do you react to it?
And what about the ubiquity of a media society or the ecological crisis we are in? How does it affect your work, and your experiences?
What would you seek to escape from?
And how you could play with it, using subversive affirmation?
An example that the writers Merx and Groot Nibbelink cite in their essay:
Theatre NO99, NO75 Unified Estonia Assembly, 2010. Photo by: Anna Tuvike.
Theatre NO99, NO75 Unified Estonia Assembly, 2010. Photo by: Anna Tuvike.
Theatre NO99, NO75 Unified Estonia Assembly, 2010. Photo by: Anna Tuvike.
Theatre NO99, NO75 Unified Estonia Assembly, 2010. Photo by: Tõnu Tunnel.
Theatre NO99, NO75 Unified Estonia Assembly, 2010. Photo by: Tõnu Tunnel.

Theatre NO99 NO75 Unified Estonia Assembly

An example that the writers Merx and Groot Nibbelink cite in their essay.

"On March 24, 2010 the company Theatre NO99 announced a new political movement, named Unified Estonia. The theatre-makers not only presented a political manifesto but also instigated an elaborate press campaign and constantly sought the attention of the press."

"With this project they aimed to explore and criticise large-scale manipulation and the elitist power of political decision-makers, who often claim that politics is too complex for common citizens, thus excluding them from the democratic process."

"What does it actually take to raise a political party, the artists wondered, and if politicians do bad theatre, why can’t we do good politics?"

To do C

Institutional Critique* is a form of conceptual art in which the critical inquiry into how art institutions operate is key. Hans Haacke is a leading exponent of Institutional Critique, Andrea Fraser is another. Examples of art works belonging to Institutional Critique are not mentioned in the essay by Merx and Groot Nibbelink.

Why would that be?
To what extent could works belonging to Institutional Critique be considered as playing with subversive affirmation?
What fits, and what does not?

Andrea Fraser, From the Critique of Institutions to an Insitution of Critique, Art Forum 2005.
Fraser, A. (Sept 2005) From the Critique of Institutions to an Insitution of Critique, Art Forum, p. 100 – 106,
Andrea Fraser, The artist talks to Ràdio Web MACBA. 2016. Gemma Planell / MACBA, 2016.
Andrea Fraser, The artist talks to Ràdio Web MACBA. 2016. Gemma Planell / MACBA, 2016.
The imitation is non-cynical, non-ironic and requires the artist to act deadly serious or, as the philosopher Slavoj Žižek has put it in an essay on the Slovenian avant-garde band Laibach, almost naïvely.
Sigrid Merx & Liesbeth Groot Nibbelink

To do D

Often, we let ourselves be guided by the delusion of every day or follow what others do. In this exercise you give yourself some breathing as well as some reflecting space by mapping the patterns, formats and systems you encounter throughout your day. Perhaps that is a day you go to school to study or to teach. Perhaps that is a day you go to a festival, go shopping or are visiting family.

Make a table with three columns, with enough space to write extensively.
The first column represents your activity. This activity can be anything: You wake up by the noise of your alarm clock, you jump out of bed, eat some breakfast while you hurry to the station, are in class, have to present your artistic research or your educational plan.

The second column involves the patterns, formats and systems you encounter related to the activity. As you can notice below, this is the column to reflect on why you do what you do.

The third column shows your doubts, questions, reactions.
If desired, discuss this with a small group of colleagues or friends. How do they experience these activities? What patterns, formats, systems do they think demonstrate these activities? Do they share your doubts, questions or reactions? If you would want to change something, what would it be?

This exercise could be the starting point to practice subversive affirmation.
01powertools13.jpg
"Online presence in a live group gives a strikingly different presence. The online participant is somehow much more present with the sound via the laptop than the participants in the room. How could hybrid being together and hybrid collaboration become more equal?”(Vera Bouwens and Juriaan van Berkel, Rapid Prototyping/ Subversive Affirmation at HKU, March 4, 2022)

Workshop instructions for art teachers

Here you can find instructions to give a two-hour workshop Rapid Prototyping developed by Simona Kicurovska and Els Cornelis (June 2022)

Think with your hands, OR PROTOTYPE/ SUBVERSIVE AFFIRMATION

Thank you, for trying out this workshop and join the community of rapid prototypers As mentioned above, it would be great if you would share the outcome, the pictures suggested above and your insights, with us via studiumgenerale@artez.nl to inspire each other.

In addition, we would like to be in touch, and hear how you experienced working with this. Please feel welcome to reach us simona.kicurovska@hku.nl, evkcornelis@gmail.com.


With thanks to colleagues and students of Master of Education in Arts and Master Crossover Creativity at HKU, who tested this workshop and provided feedback on March 4th, 2022.
01powertools5.jpg

naar Lesson 2: Vulnerability

tooltip