Events Are Always Original

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Events Are Always Original (2010), The Templeton Five Affair, March 1967 (2010), and Super Students (2010) were a part of the the exhibition “The University Paradox” at Galerie Grita Insam. Playing out over the backdrop of the current discourse on education policy, this presentation specifically linked student strikes in Vienna, Vancouver and elsewhere into a coherent political-movement, rather than historically isolated events.

In a spatial installation, of photo-architectural drawings and black-and-white photographs, the two artists deal with the historical anchoring of the current discourse on “education vs. professional training.” The exhibition’s title refers to this paradoxical situation at universities, caught up as they are between the conflicting factors of economic autonomy and the freedom of education and research.

The works on display take on these debates using the architecture of Arthur Erikson’s Simon Fraser University (SFU) Campus in Vancouver. Despite the assumption that the modernist values of an open and accesible education are physically inscribed into SFU’s built spaces, the artists’ consider these spaces to be immanently contested aesthetic and political constructions that require the demands of students, over the institution itself, to be socially activated. It is thus the politicizing presence of the students that make these values spatially legible in the first place.

The analytical, research-oriented artistic practice of Bitter / Weber can be seen in their production of these images by the co-opting, reconstructing and reworking of documents and archival materials, as well as in the reference their work makes to concepts and technologies of analog and digital image creation.

In the wallpaper The Templeton Five Affair, March 1967, the protagonists of a demonstration are seen only in silhouettes before the university building. In this split between actors and architecture, the artists refer to the thesis of Henri Lefebvre according to which architecture is defined by social interaction.

The series of nine photographs, Events Are Always Original (2010), present images from Simon Fraser University’s Instructional Media Centre (IMC), documenting the aftermath of an 180 student occupation in the University’s Administration Building during November 1968. The students’ use of the space is shaped in the series as an argument for the necessity of re-appropriating university spaces in processes of self-organizing and locating specific demands. The title of the series is taken from Henri Lefebvre’s book, Explosion: Marxism and the French Revolution, written in response to the uprising in France during May of 1968.

The series “Super Students” links contemporary student strikes in Vienna, Vancouver, and elsewhere with student activism of the 1960’s. “Super Students” articulates these historic struggles through a foregrounding of the role of student movements in politicizing knowledge communities and university spaces over and above the influence of surrounding institutional and architectural structures. The series assembles images from student actions spanning 40 years at both the University of Vienna and Simon Fraser University in order to emphasize student activists’ continuing relevance in shaping the higher-education debate.