Stone soup is a context for inquiry-motivated, discursive engagement among individuals involved in the production of visual culture in Los Angeles. Discussions will be prompted by work as process, a current or upcoming exhibition, a text, a film, a thought experiment, an observation, a question. The content presented need not be art, although will be approached as a contingent example of culture. One presentation per discussion, which will determine its own duration. Each presenter will be responsible for determining the location of discussion. Considering the work of peers is an integral motive for initial investment as well as continued participation.
Influenced by the folktale from which it takes its name, stone soup started in 2013 when Adam Feldmeth observed a despondency forming among peers with hopes of greater public recognition in their artistic endeavors. With no guarantees of work reaching a larger audience, the logistical delays inherent to the system of published mediation, and the occasional public, critical reception often narrowly framed by another's individual authorship, it seemed practical to constitute a supplemental option for a more plural discourse to form between multiple individuals. While the call and response of two individuals -- artist and critic -- working respectively in private allows for the beneficial gathering of observations, it also keeps matters in a format that invokes distance.
Concurrently, numerous comprehensive and robust projects, research-rich pursuits, piercing inquiries, and notable artistic efforts by peers in various post-graduate states were going unrecognized. This was in some cases due to the landscape of available platforms in greater Los Angeles, and in others related to the internal parameters of these platforms or the projects themselves. Whatever the reasons, substantial cases of cultural contribution were often being passed over and/or incapable of finding a needed support structure to then perhaps be the material of substantive conversation.
A social continuum of all this work could remain ultimately private. It is too often the case that a dependency on exhibition venues and mannered formats hinder what is publicly presentable. What commentary might then add to a public discourse is customarily filtered through generic and/or fleeting praise and clarification, if at all. Questions of whether art is confirmed through its use as example in the conversations it contributes to, rather than in the autonomous achievements of individual authorship, thus became the architectural grounds for pursuing a common discussion that would utilize the spaces we already rent, visit, display within and inhabit, advancing the context of each discussion by extension.
Creative expression and criticism thereof are often contingent to institutionalized learning structures, as they are to culture formation, and yet are regularly distanced by the very industry standards, both academic and economic, that regularly mediate their confluence. How often do we talk about this or that artwork, exhibition, screening, or text (or their authors) without then finding the time to carefully consider these matters together? With far-reaching inquiries today into the limitations of Critique founded in Enlightenment ideals as a matter of humanistic debate, what does a reexamination of a public sphere entail? Where is the process of critical engagement located when detached from long formalized codes of object-based, product adjacent reception? In contrast to group critique in which the individual presenting is either the only person held accountable and/or the only person receiving commentary in the form of feedback, stone soup situates itself around examples as catalysts for the mutually engaged discussions that follow, in order to question the limits of our discursive investment stimulated by the plurality of conversation itself as culture formation. Rather than being in service to assessing what these cultural modifiers -- and by extension their authors -- are about for singular use moving forward, how are we variably approaching our active discussion motivated by these introductory degrees of focus?
Beginning in Fall, 2018, The Southland Institute has partnered with stone soup. Over the last half-decade, stone soup has provided a discursive platform and resource in Los Angeles for individuals who are not presently affiliated as a student with an institution of higher education. Moving forward, stone soup with The Southland Institute intend to function as pedagogical supplement to, and continuation of, practices formed by and informed through educational experience. Discussions remain free and open to those who wish to participate. Regular attendance is encouraged.
If you have interest or inquiry, please email stonesoup [at] southlandinstitute [dot] org. Subsequent information will be sent on logistics, calendar sign-up and proceedings.