THE SCHOOL OF BARTERED KNOWLEDGE
Over the course of the last few years, I have taken on an aesthetic examination of participation as a medium. Numerous artists in the last couple of decades have become recognized for employing participatory methodologies, contributing to the legitimization of collaborative aesthetic practices in contemporary art. Some critical writers have even suggested that participatory works have transformative and even emancipatory effects. Unlike artists who are the sole creators of their work, participatory practices rely heavily on the engagement of collaborators, co-authors, participants and audiences. The question then becomes, can collaborative creative strategies be employed in order to re-imagine alternatives to systems of value production and the frameworks that produce and maintain them? I have spent the past few years experimenting with various methodologies of participation in order to better grasp the possibilities for engagement in works that create spaces for negotiation, dialogue, healing and empowerment.
“The School of Bartered Knowledge” is a performance/installation that utilizes an open-ended framework for the circulation of knowledge and information. The school is an identifiable structure, designed for the democratic negotiation of knowledge. A self-contained school and archive, this structure acts as the building, furniture and library. Housed in the top of the structure are shelves that contain the collected epistemologies of various community interactions. Interactions are initiated on the street level through an engagement between myself as an artist and passers-by.
The encounter is intended to restructure the power relations of knowledge production through critical negotiation and ephemeral exchange. What kinds of knowledge are worth trading? What kind of value do we give them? The distinctions that constitute the gap between valued and illegitimate knowledge become the central topic of discussion. Passersby are encouraged to barter knowledge. Those that agree to participate in the work are asked to provide knowledge they are willing to trade. I then try to match their trade with an offer that is of fair and equal value. The participant decides if my offer is “fair.” Once a “fair trade” is reached, the transaction of knowledge is documented on index cards and archived into an accessible library. Over the course of four weeks, “The School of Bartered Knowledge” collected over three-hundred traded pieces of knowledge from the College/Lansdowne community. My goal for this project is to take it to as many communities as possible, building on the collective knowledge of the people that make up our greater social fabric.