The Power Plant’s Summer 2012 group exhibition, Tools for Conviviality, addresses social and individual agency in contemporary art and life. Bringing together artists and practices that create and engage tools to effect change and reconsider social behaviour, the exhibition includes works that are interactive as well as mechanisms towards self-help, political shifts, ritual devices, potential weapons, and means for critique. The exhibition takes place both inside and outside the gallery proper through a re-conquest of space, the reassessment of information acquisition and a politic of being more present in the world around us. Here, contemporary art is offered as a tool with which to propose alternate tactics.
Tools for Conviviality borrows its title from Ivan Illich’s 1973 philosophical text of the same name, using the reference as a framework to consider artists’ engagement with, and resistance to, contemporary strategies and dialogues. Citing a need to develop new instruments for the acquisition of knowledge by the individual, Illich’s treatise sought to dismantle the institutionalization of specialized knowledge and the dominance of technocratic elites in industrial society. The tools that most interested Illich, and are reflected in the works shown in the exhibition, have links to self-organization, wiki models, democratic space, and forms of communal activity. The engagement that the works in Tools for Conviviality propose has a strong grounding in the histories of the last five decades including conceptual art, performance, Actionism, relational aesthetics, utopian ideologies, and countercultural and grassroots movements. In many of these works, a methodology of looking back in order to move forward is at play.
Raymond Boisjoly’s new exterior text-based work considers The Power Plant’s location within a cultural and geographical history. Works by Abbas Akhavan and Claire Fontaine include homemade armaments, while Franz West’s interactive Adaptives reconnect viewers with their individual visual and tactile experience of objects. Geoffrey Farmer’s changing iterations of a continuous work finds an extension in a new interactive project around the half-formed figure, and Ulla von Brandenburg’s related engagement with stage and props results in a film installation that approaches the power of ritual. Kyla Mallett’s appropriated constellation-like diagrams are pulled from a self-improvement manual, Oscar Tuazon’s sculptural work brings an industrial aesthetic to utopian and playful architecture, and Swintak/Don Miller’s new work created for the exhibition grafts both an experiential and spatial location from the countryside into the gallery. Reece Terris’s new work examines the tools needed to maintain social and professional relationships.
The artists in the exhibition situate themselves within old and new strategies, using tools to ask us to look anew at the social and physical spaces around us.