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Sarah Kanouse and Dara Greenwald
What the Market Bares—Socially-Engaged Art in the International Marketplace

Media Insurgencies: Workshop

12:30 p.m. – 3 p.m. Polycentric sessions and screenings, San Francisco Art Institute, Lecture hall and classrooms
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Starting in the 1960s, Serbian workers began migrating to Western Europe for employment. In 1969, the West German government formalized a system for these "gastarbeiters," or guest workers, and the word has become part of the Serbian lexicon to refer to anyone working abroad. Today, the government estimates the Serbian diaspora at 3.5 million, with remittances reaching $2.4 billion—12% of the GDP—in 2004. Most gastarbeiters intend to return to Serbia, but the homecoming is never what it is imagined. Tensions between those who remained and those who left exist for economic, cultural, and interpersonal reasons, and much larger structural forces shape the broader terrain in which these financial and personal relationships are negotiated.

"What the Market Bares" is a video installation investigating some of the relational impacts of labor migration in Kucevo, Serbia through the material experiences of residents and gastarbeiters. We set up a free, open-air photo booth in the daily farmers’ market. Along with receiving their portraits, residents were asked to state one thing they receive from abroad and gastarbeiters to state one thing they bring back from abroad. These unseen objects provide insight into how the people are or are not linked in the global economy. The portraits and statements were compiled into an animation reversed-projected on the windshield of a bus. Installed in the town station at dusk, the piece played as dozens of gastarbeiters boarded chartered buses back to their jobs in places like Austria, Germany, and Sweden. The project was undertaken as part of a one-month Arts Intervention workshop sponsored by ArtLink Belgrade.

Workshop Abstract: What the Market Bares—Socially-Engaged Art in the International Marketplace

The increasing visibility of “socially engaged” or “interventionist” art to the mainstream art world has contributed to an increase in international residency programs specifically interested in these types of work. Though programs vary dramatically in their structure, scale, and priorities, they present opportunities that are both useful and highly problematic. Drawing on experience in an international residency in Serbia in 2007, this presentation gives special attention to the neocolonial trope of the traveling artist performing ‘interventions’ in faraway places defined largely in terms of cultural difference but frequently without an analysis of capitalism. How can these opportunities as “visiting international artists” be used strategically by radical culture workers? How can we reconcile our needs as artists for venues, audiences and art discourse while at the same time actively challenging imperialist agendas? Can artists with US passports avoid reinforcing our privilege when working in less developed parts of the world? In what ways might the projects produced in these contexts resist the global conditions that brought them into being? While we do not pretend to have the answers, we hope to use our experience in Serbia as a springboard for considering these difficult questions with other artists, activists, media makers and thinkers at the conference.

Many thanks to our translators: Dragana Jankovic, Ivana Popov, Dragana Lazarovski

Participant Bios:
Dara Greenwald has participated in collaborative and collective cultural production and activism for many years. Participation includes the Pink Bloque, Ladyfest Midwest Chicago, Version>03, Pilot TV Chicago, and other groupings that resist being named. She worked as the distribution manager at the Video Data Bank from 1998-2005 and taught in the Film/Video/New Media Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago from 2003-2005. She also writes, curates, and makes art. Her videos have screened widely, including at Images Festival (Toronto), New York Underground, Yerba Buena Center (SF), and Ocularis (NY). She is currently pursuing a PhD in Electronic Arts at RPI in Troy, NY. More detailed CV at www.daragreenwald.com.

Sarah Kanouse is an interdisciplinary artist examining citizenship, public space, landscape, and historical memory through arts practice, writing, and occasional curatorial work. In the last few years, her work has appeared in exhibitions mounted by Artlink (Belgrade, Serbia); Institute for Quotidian Arts and Letters (Milwaukee); Columbia College (Chicago); Women's Caucus for Art (Barnard College, New York); SOFA Gallery (Indiana University), Kupfer Center (University of Wisconsin Madison), Centro Cultural Rosa Luxemburg (Buenos Aires, Argentina), among others. Sarah's writings have been published in the Journal of Aesthetics and Protest, Acme, The Democratic Comuniqué, Critical Planning and Art Journal. She teaches digital media and contemporary arts practices at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. More information at www.readysubjects.org.