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Contact Zone - Mediating Risks and Expectations

Isabel Lima

Contact Zone (2012) video still

This public seminar will discuss the nature of participatory and collaborative practices by focusing particularly on the mediation of risks and expectations between the initiators, participants, funders and audiences.

‘Contact Zone’ is a term coined by the American linguist Mary Louise Pratt, to refer to “social spaces where cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other, often in contexts of highly asymmetrical relations of power, such as colonialism, slavery, or their aftermaths as they are lived out in many parts of the world today”. Mary Louise Pratt, 1991, ‘The Arts of Contact Zone’.

This concept will be quite useful as a starting template for framing socially engaged practices. Although these range in methods and objectives, each project creates a social space and its structures are usually quite defined and pre-determined. The idea of contact zone can also be applied loosely to the nature of this seminar in the sense that a range of different projects will be gathered together under the same umbrella and inevitably will clash against each other. Within this context it is hard to define boundaries of right or wrong modes of working. This discussion will aim to unpick these structures and focus on how these affect individuals and the project itself. A number of questions will be asked such as: What is Risk? How to quantify it? Is it worth it? How to juggle different expectations between different members involved in art projects? Is it possible to please everyone? What is there to loose? Who looses?

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Wolfgang Weileder
Fine Art, School of Arts and Cultures
Tel: 0191 261 2962

Toby Lloyd
Fine Art, School of Arts and Cultures

Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom, NE1 7RU
Culture Lab forms part of an evolving network of artists, researchers and scientists 
  at Newcastle University looking at new ways of working across traditional academic