Marteinn Sindri Jónsson studied philosophy (BA/MA) at the University of Iceland, comprising two year-long study exchanges in Germany. Since 2009 he has contributed as a cultural journalist and producer for Iceland National Broadcasting and between 2015 and 2019, he lectured at the Iceland University of the Arts. Furthermore, he is active across a variety of artistic and cultural fields in his native Iceland through practice, collaborations, publishing, and research. Since January 2021, he works on his PhD as an early-stage researcher within the FEINART research network at the Chair of Art Theory and Curation, focusing on socially engaged independent art spaces in Germany.
Ecologies of the Public Sphere
The Curatorial Function of Independent Art Spaces in Germany
Direct social and political engagement in the arts leads Oliver Marchart to reframe the role of the curator away from empirical individuals towards a curatorial function, which he suggests “lies in the organization of the public sphere”, conceived as a space of antagonistic conflict and debate. Drawing on Antonio Gramsci’s hegemony theory, Marchart suggests that those performing the curatorial function “take their stand in [social and political] contexts outside the field of art [...], beyond the art institution, and [...] connect them to the field of art.”
Departing from the notion of a curatorial function, this PhD project surveys and assesses the programs and resources of several independent art spaces (labs/hubs) in Germany. It combines critical art and cultural theory with field research inspired by Tim Ingold’s ecological understanding of artistic skill and his notion of an anthropology with art. The primary focus is on the distribution of authorship in ecological, urban, and rural development projects with focus on ‘rights to place’ (rather than exclusively ‘rights to the city’). Central to the project is social, political, and public engagement of independent art spaces and how their programs and resources are affected by this engagement. Furthermore, how situated art practices relate to the places and ecosystems in which they are located while navigating a regional, national, and global art discourse.
Marchart’s strategic move away from the empirical individual is suggestive of the ecological perspective that is at stake in the research, emphasizing the intertwined agency of human and non-human actors, the emergent character of social interaction, and the interplay between environments, communities, institutions, ideologies, cultures etc. However, ecological metaphors denote a certain ideology of our times, positive moral values and life-affirming forces, a world beyond hierarchies and conflict. Any analytical application of the term demands that one problematizes the notion and its wide use, which will be done with particular attention to ecologically engaged art practices, as well as critical, postcolonial, and feminist ecologies.