11 days left until the exhibition opening! Today it is American artist Dave Hullfish Bailey who reveals some thoughts on his way of working with documentary and fictional material. Plus we get to know what the presentation of his Kirunatopia-project has to do with “remote learning” classrooms. Enjoy reading!
Your work often deals with the intersection of very different narratives and stories, and blends documentary material with fiction and speculation. Could you say something about your approach and research process for this project?
My research process started with our visit to Kiruna in December 2010. Beyond the many interesting histories and situations, the thing that struck me most was the particular cadence of time during those dark winter days. That sense of Kiruna existing in an altered temporality was much more palpable than its spatial marginality. My subsequent research focused on the multiple rhythms and time scales that are going on in Kiruna simultaneously: the imagined future of the planning projections; the reindeer-based peregrinations of the Sami herders; the speed of light and the unfathomable eons that underwrite the calculations of European Space Agency scientists; and the multiple labour shifts at the mine, punctuated by nightly explosions. Different kinds of speculation seem already embedded in each of these activities, and with it different relations to the regularity and modularity of time we have grown accustomed to under modernism in more temperate zones. LKAB does its best to project that kind of regularity, predictability and continuous agency into its operations, but, as the situation of the town makes clear, the present, let alone the future, remains a much more contingent proposition in Kiruna than elsewhere. Speculation and fiction - thought processes I have used to open critical distance to the status quo in other contexts - are here shifted by their unusually strong correlates in what we might call the 'projective tendencies' of Kiruna. That these are debased forms of knowledge within the modern technological worldview points to, I think, aspects of the deeper cultural conflict going on in Kiruna.
Your project will be presented as a slide show in an installation that is reminiscent of the classrooms at Umeå University in Kiruna where they normally host video conferences. You have also been thinking of continuing your project in Kiruna with workshops for teenagers in the city. Could you say something about how you play with pedagogical and participatory approaches in your work?
My typical work process starts from on-the-ground research, then follows up with more traditional book-, map- and archive-based kinds of study. So there is a dialectic between empirical and remote learning. I then recombine the myriad observations and information through experimental sense-making operations to generate some of the more speculative trajectories you mentioned above. But I return those ideas back to the social field, as a set of critical horizons attached to concrete interventions. I try to put them in a real feedback loop between the given and the possible, rather than let them simply detach and unfold on their own terms. (This may be where my method has a critical engagement with some of the methodologies attached to more utopian forms of planning.) Pedagogical and participatory elements are contexts for completing these kinds of circuits. First, they provide contexts for concretising some of the specific proposals that come out of my research - for taking it out of the purely speculative realm and letting the world 'talk back'. But more generally, and ultimately more importantly than any given proposal, they are critical sites for alternate kinds of learning. The 'remote learning' classrooms of Umeå University's Kiruna campus are interesting sites in that they privilege indirect learning of institutionally sanctioned knowledge. In working with teenagers in Kiruna, I'd want to place that model in conversation with more direct forms of generating knowledge and with less officially sanctioned kinds of thinking, especially concerning lived places and how we know them.
Coming up: Agneta Andersson, who grew up in Kiruna, about being a tourist in her own town…
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