Towards the cultural experience

Essay, by Emmanuel Vergès
20 May 2020. Published by Emmanuel Vergès.
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In the construction of cultural proposals, focus attention on the lived and shared experience. Short essay on the philosophy of action and the function of art.

Benoît Labourdette’s work, between By my window and street projections, makes me think constantly of John Dewey’s work, which considers art as an experience. “As long as art is the beauty salon of civilization, neither art nor civilization will be safe” (John Dewey, “Art as experience”, Éditions Folio, p549 - Text of 1934). They allow us to explore a path that is at once conceptual, methodological and very practical, of what art can become in the #dayafter, in a world where situations and forms of cultural and social construction are transforming, a more digital, distant, diverse and multiple, global, networked world.

During the confinement, our artistic and cultural practices have developed with a massive recourse to screens, platforms and logics of offers, often free of charge. Today, this confinement is an opportunity to adapt the conditions of the diffusion of works to these modern situations.

What if this were the moment to stop thinking about distribution or the offer, and to talk about the importance of experience and what it allows us to build as a culture and as a society. Favour an experience that is sensitive, agile, full of pirouettes and bushwalks, adventurous, collective, supportive. With this basic idea that the public are neither users nor clients, but rather profoundly cultural actors, recipients and producers of culture with tools and devices, themselves cultural, that allow a “becoming an author” in connection with our Cultural Rights, and put “intelligence in the periphery” by rethinking all current cultural mediation and intermediation. Which perhaps allow this crazy idea that the collective experience of a moment of culture leads us to work together? To cooperate? This confinement, a moment that we have all lived through in very different ways, is a tipping point for proposing pragmatic alternatives to an uberalization of the conditions of art production and a netflixization of the diffusion, through the construction, from each place of culture, of collective conditions of experiences of art.

“Experience, when it reaches the degree to which it is truly experience, is a more intense form of vitality. [...] Instead of signifying abandonment to whim and disorder, it provides the only manifestation of a stability that is not stagnation but rhythmic movement and evolution. Experience is the embryonic form of art.”

(John Dewey, “Art as Experience”, Éditions Folio, p 54 - Text of 1934)

emmanuel vergès is cultural engineer at L’office and author, Marseille.