(speech given for the opening of the exhibition ’Your Revolution Begins at Home’ USF Verftet, 4.-14. September 2014)
DEAR ALL DEAR MICHELLE
As convenient in an academic setting as this, I will start with a quote. A quote from from the online music-journal Pitchfork. On july 23rd, 2014, music critic Stephen Deussner wrote:
”On the title track to Luluc’s second album Zoe Randell laments whats she calls ’the passerby life’. The song recounts several friends who have come and gone, some human some not: a beared guy named Mike Brown, an old man she knew as Mr. Finnegan, ’a young dying baby lamb’ that she fed by hand, ’ a tiny christmas island bird’ with a broken wing. They’re lovely images and poignant remembranches, especially sung in Randell’s robustly ruminative voice and set to Steve Hassett’s gentle acoustic strums. As befits a duo that moved around the world to soft-start their carreer, the song dispels any romanticized notions of connection and memory: everyone is a passerby in your life, and you’re merely a passerby in theirs.
And then Luluc ruin it. Randell ends she song with a blah couplet – ’and as you go, know I love you so’ – that brings the song to a rousing conclusion, completely undercutting the though-minded verses. What begins as a world-wear reverie finishes as a Nicholas Sparks (sentimental) epilogue, as Luluc choose to state the obvious in the most obvious way possible. It’s not that those lines are wholly unnessecary , but that they carelessly cordon off the song’s emotions to deliever par catharsis.”
First of all I would like to remind you of the complexity of this event:
It is an event that has to fullfill a range of institutional functions: it is to be an exhibition, an overview of Michelle’s research and a kind of examination of this research. In Michelles lay-out this event is multilayered and complex as well: It is an exhibition, containing a film and several performances. It is also a reading-room, a stage-set, an archive and some kind of storage.
Lets take a short walk-thru of the project as a whole. The initial proposal this stipendiat-project, Future Guides of Cities, states:
”Future Guides for Cities is a research project that proposes alternative ways to navigate through urban space. It investigates the relationship between online video archives and urban space and examines notions of guide, as a person, map or a method.”
Later, in the text from ‘The Little Yellow House’ this statement:
”Hi. My name is Michelle Teran, and I’m a stalker. No, I haven’t boiled any bunny rabbits lately. My particular brand of stalking has nothing to do with my romantic life, although it is all about desire. You see, I don’t stalk ex-boyfriends or old high school friends – at least not that often, and never without a few glasses of wine in me first. I do, however, regularly stalk strangers. And by strangers, I specifically mean people I consider to be mentors. Even though I’m not personally in touch with most of these mentors, I do maintain a strong personal relationship with them. Their successes are inspiration for my future successes. Their failures are lessons I learn for myself. And, their blogs, tweets and posts about these topics are the conversations that keep me learning and growing from their example – however one-sided that conversation may be.
email@example.com wants to follow.
Is firstname.lastname@example.org your friend? Yes. No.
Michelle Teran, You have a new follower in Twitter.
The notion of following is formalized in social media, giving everyone the potential of becoming online stalkers. I consider myself a stalker but with good intentions. It is curiosity that drives me. ”
This is the method in this project. Following, Guiding and Stalking.
In this project Michelle is following a group a strangers in Berlin via their online video-archives. Michelle is stalking these people, but in the same act she is mapping the city of Berlin. They are her guides, and she is our guide.
THE LITTLE YELLOW HOUSE
Here Michelle is following a single person. First online via the blog and the videos that the person has published online. Then, later Michelle embarks on a real-time journey to the little yellow house, where the person is living. Somewhere outside of the suburbs of Copenhagen. Arriving at the house Michelle finds herself standing on the treshold of another persons life. Should she cross that treshold? Or should she stay on the distance? Thats what she chooses: Staying at that specific distance. What kind of lives are we living thru this distance?
Back to the song. We are all passerby’s. Michelle don’t slip into sentimentality – she keeps us hanging there, on the treshold, on a certain distance, gazing into a persons life, but not entering. She stays on the distance, researches the distance.
Then the crisis. Michelle takes a leave from the program. Travels to Madrid. Gets invovled in the anti-eviction-movement, PAH (Platforma de Afectados pro la Hipoteca)
This is the turning point: Finding herself on that treshold in front of the little yellow house. Then escaping to Madrid. Then realising that its no escape: Her research method can be applicated to activism inside of PAH. What evolves are various collaborations within PAH. Michelle is invited to participate in the ongoing work of a group of young activist-psycologists, where her documentation of various sessions plays a specific function. She also engages in the translation of a book by two of the central figures of PAH: Ada Colau and Adriá Alemany, resulting in the english version of their book: Mortaged Lives, From the housing bubble to the right to housing.
ONE MORE THING ABOUT THE TURNING POINT
The turning point happened exactly at the moment when Michelle had taken a temporary leave from the program. This doent mean that every fellow should take a leave from the program, BUT it suggets that the program should be aware of keeping a necessesary flexibility in the guidelines of the program. Every project is different and will stray away from the norms of the program in individual ways.
POTENTIAL IN GENERAL
Embedded in the concept of artistic research is the hope that the artist and her artistic work can somehow take part in society – in the debates and discussions of society in a different manner than art normally does. Wishfull thinking maybe. But still this an underlying goal.
POTENTIAL IN THIS PROJECT
In the proposal ’future guides’ a unrealised potential exists. If this potential was known, if it was possible to foresee the result of the research process, it wouldn’t be an artistic process, it wouldn’t be a research process neither. Both kind of processes implies that the result is not known – it only exists as an yet to be realised potential.
In ’Folgen’ and in ’The Little Yellow House’ everything goes according to the plan. Michelle follows her strategy as an online-stalker and the method brings her to peek into the lives of various people. But something is missing. She has detected the problem, she has described the situation, but she is yet to react upon in. It is only when she by accident arrives at being an activist in the eviction movement PAH in Madrid that she discovers a possibility. A possibility to use her research and knowledge in a direct answer to the problems at hand. Here her research is being used by the psycologist-activist-group as a very direct part of their work with evicted women. The artistic research becomes embedded in the wider research of the psycologist group. This is the moment when the potential is realised. This the potential emerging in Michelles project. Her works is being uses by the movement.
This is actually an achivement. Not only for Michelle – it is one of the few instances I know about, where artistic research actually becomes part of larger field of thought. A larger field of action. Out there – in society. So it is also the potential of the program as a whole there is realised here.
YOUR REVOLUTION BEGINS AT HOME
This is a slogan appropriated from Ikea. Watching Michelles engaging film last night – Mortaged Lives – it dawned on me: The revolution is not something to come. The revolution has already begun.
Ada Colau & Adriá Alemany: Mortaged Lives, From the housing bubble to the right to housing. (Los Angeles/Leipzig/London: Journal of Aesthetics & Protest Press 2014)(translated by Michelle Teran)