amaCollective is a curatorial collaboration comprised of the three of us: Alejandro Ball, Amy E. Brown and Miriam La Rosa. We are MA students of Curating the Contemporary: a course taught in conjunction between Whitechapel Gallery and London Metropolitan University. Collectively, our background is diverse, combining art history, museology, fine art and cultural studies. The idea of working together came as a consequence of sharing the same work ethic, being hard workers, and having different skills, allowing us to engage with the curatorial in a way that encompassed our individual interests and expanded upon them.
One predominant, and obvious, interest for us all is language, with a particular reference to communication. Due to our different backgrounds, accents and vernaculars we each have very specific communicative quirks which both help and hinder our way of working. We often find ourselves being led off on tangents simply due to a mistranslation or misunderstanding of what had been said. We rapidly became entangled in a dialogical web, one which has a defined point of origin, being “what our concerns are”, but that led to any number of resolutions. We therefore concluded that this process had been revealed as the perfect subject for us to investigate, after all; what better to talk about than talking, what better to communicate about than communication and how better to enter into a curatorial dialogue than by defining exactly what that dialogue is.
We made some headway into the task, attempting to define something that is already believed to be defined. Of course, in order to start redefining dialogue you first have to understand what the currently recognised definitions are. The Oxford English Dictionary, for instance, describes it as both a Noun and a Verb where it can be “A conversation between two or more people as a feature of a book, play, or film”, “a discussion between two or more people or groups, especially one directed towards exploration of a particular subject or resolution of a problem.” or “to take part in a conversation or discussion to resolve a problem”.
As we started to discuss our own definition of Dialogue, feeding off the recognised term, we started to comprehend that in contemporary art, and our own thinking, it could be identified as something that does not simply occur between people, but between components, and that this type of communication can happen, not just physically but, in the terms of exhibition-making, as a curatorial approach. In curating shows, and generating discourse, we are also creating dialogue, the kind that exists between objects, artists and even the audience.
Our definition, or notion as we prefer to call it, began to come together:
“Dialogue is a performance.
It involves two or more components that communicate with each other in a not necessarily verbal manner.
Dialogue can have an either external or internal manifestation.
In other words: it can happen directly between two or more components, which independently interact with each other; or indirectly, between multiple components by means of an outsider. The latter is a facilitator whose interpretation initiates, develops and controls a conversation.
One of the main processes occurring in dialogue is translation, i.e. an exchange of perspectives.
When considering dialogical translation in relation to source material or medium, a fundamental thing to acknowledge is the reaction arising from the encounter of these elements. As in a sort of chain effect, each source material or medium involved in the performance produces, challenges and changes the original content of the message, which comes to be altered in its form, nature and structure.
Like in a Chinese whisper.
Dialogue is a performance; and its sound is infinite.”
As we were defining this we noticed that, not only did dialogue seem to be infinite and evolutionary; the definition itself was organic in nature: it grew with each new piece of research, conversation and collaboration. By applying our notion of Dialogue to curatorial practice, this had the possibility of occurring, not simply on an event-by-event basis, but as a conversation between shows and events. It was this concept, the link between each individual element, that led us to the formation of our overarching project dontdrinkthemilk.
Don’t drink the milk is the name that was given to a children’s game, sometimes recognised as broken telephone or Chinese whispers. One of its earliest representations was a scene from the 1933 film Mush and Milk which starred the Little Rascals and which we will show you at the end of this presentation. The children couldn’t quite decide whether the milk was spoiled or, in fact, boiled.
This, in its most basic form, is the epitome of the mistranslation and misunderstanding we had been experiencing in our early conversations. From one original source, the material slowly evolved and became something quite different. When we considered its application to curatorial and artistic practice it became quite an exciting prospect, leading us to consider the concept of reactive-exhibition-making: meaning that the source material when taken by one person, this person might be an artist, a writer, a musician, or a dancer, and translated through their own practice and way of thinking, had infinite possibilities.
We had our point of origin: the notion of Dialogue, and from there we wanted to investigate how other people reacted to it, another circuitous and somewhat complicated process. After all, we had one starting point and yet an endless number of routes to take. We focused on the cause of sound through movement and indeed the cause of movement through sound, becoming entangled in an artistic and curatorial dilemma: a chicken or the egg situation. The truth was that either could come first and there was no designated hierarchy to be applied to the first or second component.
At this stage, it was rapidly becoming apparent that we were relying on a form of synchronisation which could only be defined as something that at first seemed to be its opposite: de-synchronisation. Through having this original source, the notion of Dialogue itself, the concepts and artists we began to collaborate with were always intrinsically linked, but in some cases it was an uncomfortable link, almost intangible until the original source was made apparent. Through the development of these projects, as our thoughts began to take shape, we identified de-synchronisation as a key bond between Dialogue and our own chain reaction.
With our first physical manifestation, dontdrinkthemilk, happening on the 14th of December 2014 at TripSpace Projects in London, our first point of call is Zachary Eastwood-Bloom. Zac epitomised the earliest stages of the project, being an artist who truly believed in curatorial and artistic collaboration and someone who had toyed with the idea of reactive exhibition-making; where the original material was not the most important but, instead, it was in the translation, mistranslation and de-synchronisation from this point. His work had interpreted what was traditionally his own medium, ceramics, creating both digital representations and most intriguingly sound pieces. His practice, not his subject matter, experimented with the translation between media and the dialogue that occurred during the process.
As a result of Zac’s inclusion in dontdrinkthemilk, Liz Miller’s introduction to the project came organically, as she was a former colleague and friend. We were immediately taken by the translative qualities of her work; her practice involved devising a method of translation. Using highly recognisable classical pieces, she converts them through her own thought process, creating record-like prints that can be interpreted by intuition alone. In fact, anyone can read these pieces. Though, with individual interpretation of scale and colour, newly formed compositions, entirely dissimilar to that of the source, are inevitable. This entire process mimicked that of our own discourse.
Thus, as part of the reactive nature of our process, Alexander Soares and, not far behind him, Chester Lusk entered the conversation. Alex is a concert pianist, whose PhD considers memorisation of contemporary musical scores through the use of movement. As a collaborator for Liz’s work he offered his performative and performance-based component, which revealed the work as a method of translation. Sonic artist Chester’s collaboration comes with his own true reading of the score. With his use of analogue, electrical instruments he represents the de-synchronisation in translation we have been considering for dontdrinkthemilk; the mistranslation of a pure and original source.
Simultaneously, Post-Internet Landscapes (PIL), devised by Juan Crespo for our Internet platform agorama, will contemplate these reactive elements through the use of the meme and .gif format as a method of communication and a material for artistic and cultural discourse. His involvement with agorama for dontdrinkthemilk consists of the realisation of an online platform acting as a virtual institution comprised of: a permanent collection of memes and a temporary gallery showcase of .gifs from invited guest artists. PIL will also address the issue of Dialogue between the physical and virtual worlds as it tries to create a more existential place to connect realities, through the organisation of physical events.
It has become apparent that, in many senses, de-synchronisation is a catalyst for our chain reaction. This is especially due to our definition of Dialogue: one that spontaneously generates new material and changes what was there before. To conclude, we make exhibitions the same way we make conversations: proposing Dialogue as a medium, which primarily de-synchronises, in order to synchronise anew.