In “Plight of the Publics,” art historian Johanna Burton, professor of rhetoric Shannon Jackson and curator Dominic Willsdon present the argument that while socially engaged art testifies to a growing alignment between contemporary art and social justice, the type of public service that art institutions perform gives insights into the future of public systems as both aesthetic and political projects. Similarly, my artistic research and practice involve an investigation into the types of public service rendered by cultural institutions, grassroots organisations and a socially engaged artistic practice. The modalities and tools of the latter are of particular interest in my enquiry into the function and responsibility of artistic work in complex political, social and economic negotiations between conflicting factions of society.

the 25th hour is an enquiry into institutional practices at the crossroads of political paradigm shifts, following the Tidö Agreement, and grassroots mobilisation in Bergsjön, a suburb in Gothenburg comprising of diverse migrant communities. Reframing dominant spatial formulations such as access, programming decisions and physical architecture of public spaces is crucial to this project, as is re-thinking the processes of exchange and collaboration between artistic labour and non-artistic labour, following John Roberts’s writing on the dialectic of skill and deskilling in contemporary art practice.

The Singaporean void deck is the conceptual model for the 25th hour. It is a distinctive architectural feature of residential apartments in Singapore. The void deck is the empty (hence “void”) ground floor (hence “deck”) of apartment buildings, meant for social use and accessible to all residents. It is the emptiness of the void deck that generates possibilities for an array of communal activities and initiatives. It is this notion of the generative void that informs the social and dialogical praxis of this project.

the 25th hour was manifested at Kulturhuset Bergsjön on 11 May as follows:

16.00-18.00: An extension of Kulturhuset Bergsjön’s ordinary opening hours. In an experimental collaboration with Kulturhuset’s staff, the building was kept open an extra 2 hours without institutional programming as a prototype of generative voiding.

16.00-19.00: A collective dialogue created in close collaboration with representatives of Bergsjön’s grassroots organisations and Kulturhuset’s staff. As an initiative that is neither top-down nor bottom-up, it was conceptualised and carried out as an artist-hosted social gathering and sharing of critical perspectives in response to historical precedents leading up to the construction and inauguration of the cultural centre, Kulturhuset Bergsjön.

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