I was really happy to have a paper accepted for the ‘Co-Production in Heritage: Towards New Imaginaries’ theme at the Critical Heritage Studies conference in Montreal in June 2016. The range of papers and approaches was really exciting, spanning topics including wellbeing, ‘mashups’ as a form of digital democracy, and the concept of engagement zones for addressing inter-community conflict – the full list of papers is split across Part One and Part Two of the theme. I had the chance to meet academics from all over the world who are doing fascinating research in cultural heritage, and get to know some of the great group of scholars whose work is taking forward critical heritage studies in the UK.
I also got to try out some ideas I’ve been working with in the context of the artcasting project.
My talk was about the idea of hospitality as it might relate to artcasting. I argued that Artcasting makes a productive challenge to the stability of relationships and spaces of gallery engagement. Artcasting content is requested and is able to be interpreted by gallery professionals for accountability, audience development, and other purposes. But artcasting is also a form of public interpretation of the artwork, and visitors are creating new encounters with art in new places and times. The guest becomes the host of a new exhibition. So digital co-production can be unstable in multiple ways, and hospitality means taking account of such instability.
There is a paradox in the idea of hospitality, which Claudia Ruitenberg (2015) describes, drawing on Derrida:
the ethic of hospitality is all about the guest, about giving place to a guest—without even knowing when this guest will arrive. With a reference to the Jewish custom of leaving an empty chair at the Seder table, Derrida writes: “The other may come, or he may not. I don’t want to programme him, but rather to leave a place for him to come if he comes…” (p.14)
The paradox and instability of hospitality can helpfully be considered through mobilities thinking: what Bell (2012) calls ‘the flickering of hostness and guestness’. That flickering makes the kind of room Derrida is talking about, and also means we should expect our visitors to take the hospitality that’s been offered and do something new with it.
The talk was well received, and I had some great conversations with people afterwards. I was especially grateful for Areti Galani‘s challenges to my definition of co-production (still thinking about this!). I think there is a lot of scope for more discussion about the limits and boundaries of what we consider to be co-production.
Bell, D., 2012. Moments of Hospitality. In D. J. G. Molz & D. S. Gibson, eds. Mobilizing Hospitality: The Ethics of Social Relations in a Mobile World. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.
Ruitenberg, C., 2015. Unlocking the World: Education in an Ethic of Hospitality, Routledge.
(and thanks to my colleague Phil Sheail, whose interest in hospitality theory helped spark my own.)