Kantonen, Lea: Parallel Worlds and Artworlds: the ethics of pluriversal art

In today´s situation of environmental emergency there is a need to find new ways of being and thinking together with academics, artists, designers and activists. In Latin America collaborative activist art and design is practiced especially in Indigenous, afrodescent and peasant communities striving to protect the diversity of their ecologies and their political autonomy. Different understandings of knowledge, aesthetics and action are let to flourish side by side. In our talk we reflect the practice and ethics of collaborative activist art using the Tunuwame museum project of a Wixarika community in México as an example. We are especially interested in thinking how an activist art project carried out in an autonomous indigenous space can be presented in the framework of contemporary art in a sustainable way so that it does not lose its criticality.

According to institutional understanding of art, an artwork is defined as such through its presentation in institutional art structures, in art museums and galleries. However, the Tunúwame community museum project takes place principally in the local community and it is brought to mainstream art institutions only occasionally in the form of documentations and art performances. We claim that community-based, activist art worlds can radically expand our understanding of art and its possibilities and in reverse, the discourses and technologies of contemporary art world can expand the possibilities of indigenous environmental activists. We ask, what kind of ethical considerations are needed for artists working with communities with radically different ecological and political ontologies. What kind of adjustments need to be made when presenting community-based collaborations in contemporary art settings? We reflect the ethics of artistic collaboration in two phases: in the artistic process and in the presentation of the art work and we suggest, following Arturo Escobar (2012), the concept of pluriverse as a tool for thinking and working across parallel worlds and art worlds.