Public Address Systems collects a series of projects created and coordinated by artist and researcher Lois Weaver.
Each of these projects is at its core an engagement with the public, though Weaver’s extensive practice brings together multiple and interrelated strands. In a period when the nature of ‘the public’ is increasingly contested, Public Address Systems create spaces that are hospitable and open so that alternatives can be modelled and critical questions staged. What do we share and what do we owe each other? How are ‘we’ counted and who is included? From broad questions about material resources to intimate studies of bodies and identity, Public Address Systems asks how it is possible to think, and feel, publicly.
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Public Address Systems also appropriates institutional spaces for complex interventions around gender, sexuality, human rights and other crucial flash points for public activism. The library, the museum and the form of the manifesto are all radically reconfigured to create new public spaces for political action, and to question ingrained institutional boundaries.
More information can be found at publicaddresssystems.org
Like other projects in this category, Porch Sitting explores alternative models for public conversations. The project takes seriously the idea that dialogue can happen side-by-side, rather than face-to-face with an expert. Porch Sitting creates an open-ended forum supported by clear structures that draw on vernacular forms of exchange. The conversation space becomes a ‘household’ divided into two areas: the Kitchen and the Porch. In the Kitchen, you can get drinks, have a chat, have a bite to eat. There are no rules for behaviour. There is no need to leave the Kitchen, if that’s where you’re most comfortable. On the Porch, conversation is sustained by a few simple rules. It is a space to sit, think, dream or get involved in the ongoing conversation. It is ok if conversation goes quiet, or if it spills out into raucousness or song.
A few openers help ease you into conversation:
I wonder whatever happened to….
Who do you think that is….
I have a feelin’ it’s going to….
Or just about any phrase that begins:
I imagine…I wonder…I think…I feel…
Porch Sitting was initiated at LaMaMa Experimental Theatre in New York on New Year’s Eve of 2012/13.
As an act of Domestic Terrorism, Lois Weaver airs dirty laundry in public. The project makes literal the crossing of boundaries between private and public, and engages audiences with questions of what and why we hide. This project is one of several to deal with laundry as a political theme. The intimacy and materiality of washing is also a social marker of class and gender. It can disclose the population and income of a household. It reveals personal taste and bad habits; betrays acts of insurrection and indiscretion. How laundry is hung can be a statement of pride or an expression of modesty. It can elicit shame or shelter the good in good dreams. It can be a form of communication between neighbours, a violation of housing codes in certain communities or perceived as a national threat in times of national insecurity. The act of hanging laundry is a daily yet resonant gesture that holds the memories of mothers’ hands. It’s a local ritual that translates globally in both rural and urban landscapes.
In 2011, as part of Art in Odd Places, Weaver staged Domestic Terrorism: Hang Your Laundry in Public on the streets of New York. In the persona of a Lady in Red, Weaver made a daily ritual of hanging laundry and engaging passersby in conversation. Audio recordings and photographs (by photographer Lori E. Seid) from these interactions were placed alongside the airing laundry in a growing public installation. This gentle disruption of the everyday was a generative act of dialogue on the nature of what is public and what is private.
THE CARD TABLE
The Card Table is part of Weaver’s exploration into alternative forms of public conversation. The project reserves a place for specialist knowledge, but instead of an ‘expert’, in this place there is a ‘dealer’ in a new kind of card game.
In The Card Table, dealers create deconstructed panel presentations in the form of thirteen interchangeable points. Players decide how the presentation unfolds, forging their own connections and actively participating in the transfer of knowledge. Tournament organisers keep score, but everyone is a winner. After the game is played, the card deck becomes a living archive of each particular encounter.
This playful approach to academic formats directly addresses the problem of access to public knowledge. It substitutes the familiar complexity of a card game for the more rarified jargon of academic discourse. The Card Table celebrates the value of specialized knowledge, but makes the process of sharing this knowledge open and participatory.
The Card Table was released at the Affective Archives conference at QMUL in 2010. The dealers included Susanne Franco, Giulia Palladini, Heike Roms and Jurgita Staniskyté.