The symposium Arts in Action has been postponed three times since 2020. When it could finally take place at the University of Agder this week, the agenda is more relevant than ever.
The pandemic forced several stops in the work of planning the international arts in context symposium Arts in Action: Urgencies in Art and Art Education at the University of Agder.
“We wondered if this symposium would ever happen. We changed the dates. The world changed”, said Associate Professor Lisbet Skregelid during the opening on Wednesday.
“But we haven’t changed the questions that set the agenda. In fact, the questions we ask are more urgent than ever”, Skregelid said.
How can art make a difference in a modern world characterised by complex political, economic and environmental challenges and conflicts? And what can happen if art and arts education become dominated by a socio-political rationale?
These questions are the starting point for the symposium Arts in Action, which brings together 80 participants from home and abroad this week. Crises as a result of war, climate change and conflict provide the contextual backdrop for the symposium. Installations by artist Pelle Brage (JAM) on the lawn in front of Campus Kristiansand, which among other things show drowning people among pink bath toys and luxury boats in a pool, help highlight this framework.
The target group is artists, art educators and researchers within - and across - the disciplines of music, theatre and visual arts. The symposium offers an arena where they can share their practices and research agendas around the issues that Arts in Action revolve around.
Professor Boel Christensen-Scheel, director and artist Morten Traavik, musician and researcher Gillian Howell, and Director of Learning at Tate, Mark Miller, are some of the speakers.
According to Skregelid, the symposium is of interest to anyone who appreciates the importance of art in society, also outside the field of art. She points out that Arts in Action is relevant on several levels:
“There is a need for this event both to highlight the role of art in society, but also to problematise ideas around the use of art and various reasons for legitimation.”
“Kristiansand is especially relevant as a venue for the conference due to the intense discussions about art and culture, following the establishment of the Cultiva Foundation and the construction of the cultural centre, Kunstsilo”, Skregelid says.
The symposium has several objectives. One of them is to shed light on the discussion about the relationship between art and various societal challenges. The participants will also discuss how these topics can be reflected in study programmes and strategic plans within art education.
Furthermore, the symposium aims to build networks by creating new contacts and enhancing existing ones - especially with a view to research collaborations, but also art projects and teaching.
“Over the course of three days, we will explore how we can maintain the integrity of art production, art education and research - while simultaneously act in a globally responsible and ethical manner”, Skregelid says on behalf of the committee at the Faculty of Fine Arts that organised the event.
She said that the symposium will challenge regular formats of conferences by using the surroundings of the university and the town centre in Kristiansand as venues.
“Parts of the symposium will take place in the forest in the vicinity of UiA. On Friday, the participants will walk to Vaffelbua where there will be lectures and discussions, as well as outdoor workshops and performances”, Skregelid says.