Esto es un mensaje explosivo - an exercise in collective utopian foreshadowing

Schedule: January 6-18
Hosts: Johanna Gustavsson, Eva Arnqvist, Beatriz Santiago Muñoz
In 1979 Carlos Irizarry, a Puerto Rican artist, boarded an American Airlines plane and, with a note reading Esto es un mensaje explosivo, threatened to blow it up in support of the liberation of Puerto Rican political prisoners. This was one of a series of events that is sometimes referred to as a work of art, as a political-symbolic action, or even terrorism. Irizarry himself refers to the action as a work and a symbolic act. At times he insists on the political meaning of the work to the exclusion of any aesthetic or art considerations. In court his lawyer claimed it as conceptual art which meant less years spent in prison, but also an exclusion from the support network around other political prisoners.

Irizarry's work serve as a starting point for this seminar's discussion. We find ourselves at a point in time when artists and activist anew are looking for strategies and methods not only to critique and oppose a current political situation but also find new means to intervene, act and formulate alternatives for another future. What can we learn by/from zooming in on a specific context, in this case Puerto Rico? What can we learn from each other, and by doing this work together?

Esto es un mensaje explosivo - an exercise in collective utopian foreshadowing is a two week seminar open to everybody with interest and experience in cultural and activist practice, methodology and social change. It calls for a collective effort to make an experiment in creating a utopian cultural policy through the language of art. To collectively explore and activate an intersection of activism, cultural production and public policy. To specifically engage in the politics/policies of San Juan and Puerto Rico with art/aesthetics as our language.

The seminar works from the assumption that there are radical political subjectivities at work even within a political structure dominated by repressive forces and the discourse of crisis, and that art can generate, invent, prefigure and test political forms and ideas. We will collectively research local practices within and outside of art (through interviews, studio visits, conversations, walks and other activities), formulate an understanding of it through discussion, and propose a wider public and free-ranging discussion of these ideas through a collectively determined project.