Vladimir Miller is researching and developing a spatial strategy for shared production of work, which he calls «settlement». This strategy asks the participants to occupy one space together for a given time and build structures, modules, stations, spots, etc, suitable to their work and collective requirements in that shared space.
By finding a spatial manifestation and localisation for their work the settlers enter a growing and evolving network of objects, spaces, ideas, events and encounters in the shared space. As the emphasis of the work-process and the activity of the individual and of the group change from day to day, the settlement stays a dynamic structure, ready to be reformed according to the present requirements for production and presentation.
The settlement as a proposal is asking its participants to come and practice their work in a shared environment. The method is to build everything from scratch on location that is required to work and communicate a practice to other participants. This can be anything from an improvised table to hold a laptop to an elaborate, secluded structure; from temporal impromptu arrangements to specific spaces that last for the whole work period. Settlement allows for a re-negotiation of the specific conditions of each practice. As it manifests itself in the workspace, a loop of condition and production is created in that shared space: in the course of the three weeks the settlement lets a particular method of production and sharing find its own intrinsic spatial conditions, free from the sets of rules and behaviours usually provided by ready-made spaces such as “table”, “studio”, “meeting”, “gallery”, “venue”, “library”, etc.
Along with the set of metaphors that the word «settlement» suggests, structures emerge in the space, habit settles in, artistic territory is established, shared and challenged through the non-verbal negotiation of building and sensing the margins of «mine» and «ours». The political questions inherent in claiming one’s own space, inviting or excluding the outside, the formation of groups and production of locality and culture, constantly question the structures inherent in the concept of settlement itself. Between anarchy and the rule of majority the settlement practice actively searches for a spatialised production of a contributive dis-agreement by giving space to a literal heterotopia of work processes.
* object-oriented practice
With its attention to space and spatial manifestation the settlement is also a proposal towards an object oriented collaborative practice. The word «object» here means any kind of material or immaterial assemblage of things, thoughts and actions. “Object-oriented” is emphasized to point out a difference to the methods of collaborative work where the artist (as the respective «subject») is the main source of knowledge, representative and entry point into a specific artistic know-how. It is furthermore not to be understood as “product-oriented”, as it understands the manifested praxis itself as an object.
I would like to actively shift the sentence/gesture of «this is my practice» towards «this is the practice I am using» as far as possible, in order to challenge the territorial tendencies in production of art and knowledge and to provide an actual entry point for the other participants to learn, influence and evolve a given practice contributively. The dichotomy of «what I do» – «the other» (the artist/work and its audience) can shift towards a triangle of «I»–»what is done»– «the other», providing the “outsider” with an independent connection to a praxis and the means to evolve it. In the settlement the practice of building and thus situating oneself in the collective space evolves through the question of «how can what I assemble become the entry point to the practice-knowledge that I use in such a way that anybody can invest in learning it, resuming the work where I have left it off and evolving it further?» What then develops can be compared to a wiki, where the practice evolves not unlike an article of a wiki-encyclopedia, yet with the difference that new developments do not erase other/previous version of the practice, but add to it as to an ever growing file or folder. This “file/folder” becomes thus, as the settlement is itself, an autonomous space of contributive dis-agreement.
An object oriented practice proposes to work as much on the artistic practice itself as on the means of how to communicate and make it available besides/beyond the known strategies of the artist assuming a teachers position towards his work or creating products to represent it.
* openness and invitation
The settlement is a structure that is open to visitors. The invitations to the visitors that may come to the settlement during the course of the works is made on the same grounds as the invitations made to the initial group of artists. The settlement does not invite audience as an event, all invitations are personal and the emphasis of their purpose is on collaboration and mutual influence rather then on presentation and display. There is no centralised mechanism of invitation, the responsibilities of hospitality are individual and not institutional. Being a visitor in the settlement can be a gradual process of «sticking around». Settlers are welcome to invite visitors, and the visitors are welcome to become settlers themselves. In fact the very act of individual invitation makes any kind of role-naming obsolete in this case. The particularities of how to deal with an «outside» are part of the individual practice and depend on group- and individual decisions during the settlement.
Openness as a structural model strives to provide the outsider with the means and the tools to influence, evolve, modify and even to destroy it. (see also education*). Following a politics of hospitality, an openness does not delineate roles or modes of participation – does not distinguish between the artist and the viewer, the producer and the visitor, etc., but allows for a gradation/continuum of involvement and influence for any participant. This openness cannot be achieved by merely inviting spectators into the space, because inviting someone “as a spectator” produces a limiting trajectory for his or hers possible involvement in the present practice. This initial hierarchy of contribution is what participatory concepts try to subsequently eliminate, after establishing it in the first place.
An individual invitation establishes a non-hierarchical mode of hospitality to every new visitor. Any visitor can become a tourist, a frequent visitor, a collaborator, a critic, a settler himself, even if his/hers choice of involvement is that of a spectator. The practices resulting out an invitation (hospitality, responsibility, information, etc) and the limitations (how many visitors can the settlement “handle” if it really takes the work of inclusion upon itself?) confront the individual praxis with the possibility to re-negotiate its relationship to communication outside of institutional requirements.
The attempt to invite everybody as a possible settler is taking every encounter as an opportunity to evolve the settlement. The praxis of invitation is at the same time open and limited to the actual possibilities of an individual dialogue.
– The sum of actions required to provide the initial outsider with the structural knowledge and the tools to step into, influence and evolve an existing or developing structure.
– The sum of actions required to release and pass on artistic ownership.
– The sum of actions to bridge a gap in knowledge and know how.
– The work of translation.
Every structure, be it the settlem