Art For Unstable Communities: A Fuzzy Logic In Ayn Hawd

Maurizio Bortolotti

The link between beauty and revolution has been markedly transformed in the last decades. The dream of a transparent society based on communication - in which that link (between beauty and revolution) had disrupted and changed the course of that society - has been jettisoned. The idea of society itself as a unified whole, consisting of transparent relationships between people, has since become blurred, because in the last decades migrant communities have changed and conditioned the perception of the world, and as a result concepts and understandings of what constitutes a modern society. No transparency, but just unstable communities who are able to create new relationships in a continuous process of transforming their own status. This image of society today carries more currency.

In one of his most interesting book, titled Social Systems, Niklas Luhmann wrote:

In terms of the social dimension, society produces an arrangement of freedoms and commitments for interaction (...). Outside the interaction system, every participant is subject to other kind of expectations, and everyone agrees that this is how things are. These external commitments, if they are transparent within the interaction, lead to the self-control of individual participants, for each is expected to maintain role consistency."

In the end, the main assumption of Luhmann follows: "Society carries on communication, and whatever carries on communication is society". This idea is simple but it is an engine powerful enough to trigger a lot of reflections and expectations as well. And it is a great point of departure for working in a way that beauty isn't just completely part of the 'society of the spectacle' - utilized as one of its main specular moments - but it is a way to create interaction and social relations. This is a way to transform the idea of beauty itself, not as narcissistic mirror, but as the concrete instrument in the positing of the contingency of the migrant.

Unstable relations make up the core of the present society. In this novel situation beauty is called on to perform a new kind of play. With its performative role, beauty might begin a process of modulation, at the interface of art. Indeed, art can offer the pragmatics to stage an experimental situation, in the formation of a community or by permitting an experience of social connectivity. In that way, realizing a show is today akin to realizing an Opera, as a collective work, or ensemble.

In September 2008, I curated a show with the title Platform Paradise in the Palestinian village of Ayn Hawd, thirty kilometres from Haifa in Israel. This show was a kind of experimental situation responding to the specific conditions of the village. Commissioned by the Foundation for Achieving Seamless Territories, based in Amsterdam, the show deals with the necessity of the village to get a community life after decades in which the village has lived unrecognized. In a condition of illegality, the villagers exist as migrants in their own country.

The original village of Ein Houd was expropriated by the Israeli army in 1948, and later became an art colony lead by the Dada artist Marcel Janco. The inhabitants fled to a place in the hills a few kilometres away, founding the new village of Ayn Hawd, which has remained unrecognized by the Israeli government until 2004, when a strict 'master plan' was imposed to regulate this precarious and illegal social space.

The Foundation for Achieving Seamless Territories organised an international competition named One Land for a new master plan, approaching me with the invitation to curate an international show in the village. So, I invited some artists, architects and designers - Ali Kazma, Berend Strik and Nisreen Abu Al Hayja, Dan Graham, Debra Solomon, Nico Dockx and Helena Sidiropoulos, Map Office, Multiplicity, Tomas Saraceno and Museo Aerosolar, Yona Friedman, One Architecture and Concern, Sharif Waked - to work with the people of Ayn Hawd to realize Platform Paradise.

The show announces itself as "an instrument for producing art working directly into the existing life space of a community. The point here is the connection with the people living in the village, which generates the art proposals and presentations. The experimental space of the platform aims to create an exchange between art and the people, where the projects will be realized or presented on the base of this relationship."

The concept of the show is to make projects specifically for the village working for its inhabitants who have lived for decades in precarious conditions. The artists, architects, designers were invited to realize specific projects working for/and inside this unstable community. The urban space itself is unfinished under the condition of becoming a living space for a stable settlement, without reaching it, because buildings, roads, facilities are still incomplete. This is the starting point of Platform Paradise: the fact that art can be generated at the core of a community in its particular conditions of life.

So, Debra Solomon has planned a market rebuilding the history of the food produced in the village; Nico Dockx and Helena Sideropoulos has proposed wall paintings outside the houses made by the inhabitants; Dan Graham is planning a project for the children in the playground; Yona Friedman gave instruction to the people to realize models of a new communitarian idea of architecture; Tomas Saraceno and Museo Aeosolar made together with the kids a flying museum of plastic bags; Berend Strik worked with the villager and fashion designer Nisreen Abu Al Hayja making photographs of traditional clothes sewed with coloured thread by the women of the village; Map Office from Hong Kong have realized a New Land (Third landscape) sowing a square metre of Chinese seeds in ten gardens of the Palestinian village; One Architecture & Concern made a proposal for a resort in the village; Sharif Waked made a installation on an incline close to the restaurant, title humus, about the relationship between Israeli and Palestinian; Multiplicity has presented a video about the Road Map, on the different way to be treated as an Israeli and Palestinian in the country; and Ali Kazma one on the everyday life as present-continuous condition titled Today.

In a context like the present Israel where concepts like "Space" and "Community" are immediately politicised for the special conditions of the country, the experimental situation created by the show is that of the lab for a radical reworking of a conception of art.

The village-community rooted in the country-context of Israel became the frame for making art through the optic of a group proposal directly connected with the everyday life experienced. The art projects suggest the possibility to reform a life in terms of exposing and articulating relations, expectations, and a reservoir of imagination so far denied this unstable community living on the hills near Haifa.

Reestablishing the communication between art and people is the fuzzy logic of beauty for a new idea of community, which is here tried and tested, that is a logic that is neither romantic / idealist in the situating of art. It is rather a new perspective of producing a pragmatic, not for an art audience but with, and at the core of, a community in which their relations with the space are quite unstable. But submitting them to mutable transformation, a continuous process of re-definition of the space of human condition is affected. Creating a new communication between art and people means bypassing any situation of 'useless' of beauty, which is inside the logic of contemplation that is part of our society of the spectacle.

Making art concrete and putting it inside the space of living is a challenge for all of us, especially today when the migrant communities have changed our perception of the world. Indeed, for tackling the contemporary world we need a more open (fuzzy) logic that can represent the complexity and the horizontal condition of humanity out of any monocular perspective of the society of the spectacle, and the incommensurability of the subject, especially so through art.

And this is very different from the violence of the rational logic of beauty, which was elevated in the western tradition. This deems necessary the introduction of a more democratic view in art taking inspiration from the new conditions (contingent) of the world as developing in the last decades.

I think a kind of fuzzy logic is the experience of beauty like communication of which I was talking about, and it could be the way to find an alternative idea of living and producing art as well. World migration has created a new situation for redefining the general concept of democracy, which allocates a different set of meanings to human relations in producing complex social spaces around the world. Compared with them, art can be a net where all these potentialities can be tested for producing a new experience of beauty, keeping in mind Luhmann's ideas about society and communication, and updating them under the harsh light of the present transformation of reality in the world; and particularly so, for these people, living under this continuing situation of contemporary war.