Rachelle Viader Knowles

Translocal approaches to dialogue-based art across social and technical networks.

“Even as I write in 2008, there still exists a gap between conceptual works associated with relational aesthetics, works that address social practice, and works that reflect and act upon our networked and globalized society.”

Rudolf Freiling, “Towards Participation in Art”
from the exhibition catalogue The Art of Participation: 1950 – now (2008).

 This practice-led thesis investigates the supposed “gap” in participatory art practices between the face-to-face communications of social practice art and the at-a-distance networked communications of media art. Responsive to Freiling’s provocation, the question this thesis seeks to address is: how can artists devise methodological frameworks for participatory art practices that reflect contemporary social relations and modes of communications, and the complexities of mobility and globalisation? I contend that upon closer inspection the supposed gap that Freiling identifies instead reveals an active zone of art practice that employs dialogue as its primary method, a method that engages a range of techniques responsive to factors such as context, viability (economic, social, cultural, political), proximity and temporality. While other approaches to the question may be found in, for example, a hybrid discourse between contemporary art and media art (Shanken 2010) or other theories of postmedia, the solution I investigate in this thesis is the application of ideas drawn from the interdisciplinary field of translocality to the practice of dialogue-based art. In Translocal Geographies Brickell and Datta argue for a multiscalar understanding of translocality beyond the discourse of national borders and international migrations, enabling the term to be deployed as an expression of “simultaneous situatedness across different locales” and “connectedness to a variety of other locales” (2011, p.4), no matter the proximity. Viewed in this way, the theory and practice of translocality becomes an apt descriptor of the activities and goals of artists, artist-led networks, and cultural and educational initiatives seeking to bridge the space between people through dialogue-based processes and inter-connective flows. As the translocal research perspective continues to develop towards ideas of local-to-local connectivities and an expanded discourse of circulations and transfers, so translocality as applied to dialogue-based art proposes a broader and more conceptual notion of communications across spatial, temporal and cultural distance. I argue that this solution not only presents a model of art practice that draws on a multiple modes of social and networked practices, but also produces outcomes that contribute to the interdisciplinary translocal research perspective.

The thesis is therefore an investigation of translocal approaches to dialogue-based art.

The results of the research, and the knowledge it develops, are a set of recommendations for translocal dialogue-based practice. I argue that what is gained from this approach is a widening of the scope of who can participate in the dialogue, and following from this, what kinds of dialogues can occur. Framed as an epistemological claim, this project proposes solutions to the problem of how to approach and design a dialogue-based artwork where an investigation of the spatial, temporal and cultural experience between the participants in the dialogue and their locations is the content of the work.



Within this context, my presentation for the Aarhus Artistic Research course will focus on the third and final piece of practice I have undertaken as part of this doctoral research. #3CityLink, a collaborative research/teaching project between Fine Art students in Regina (Canada), Coventry (UK) and Gyumri (Armenia). For the duration of the workshop/exhibition between the 5th Parallel Gallery (URegina), the Lanchester Gallery (UCoventry) and Gallery 25 (Gyumri) (November 3-14, 2014) the students staged an unfolding, interactive public dialogue through a mixed mode of screen media and site-responsive practices. What I am thinking through at the moment is how to position #3CityLink in relation to ‘online international learning’ (OIL) education strategies that utilize networked communication to connect students with international counterparts, fulfilling institutional commitments towards ‘intercultural competencies’ and the production of ‘global graduates’. Within the context of Fine Art, OIL bears a resemblance to the history of telecommunications art. The title #3CityLink makes reference to the 1989 telecommunications art project Three City Link (Eduardo Kac, Carlos Fadon and Dana Moser), which linked artists in Pittsburgh, Chicago and Boston. #3CL reframes that project twenty-five years later within a growing discourse of participatory social practice art in an era where telematic communications and interactive screens are ubiquitous, and a global context where new forms of translocal engagement are emerging.

Works cited:

Brickell, Katherine and Ayona Datta (eds.) (2011) Translocal Geographies: Spaces, Places, Connections. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate.

Frieling Rudolf. (2008) “Towards Participation in Art” The Art of Participation: 1950 to Now. San Francisco/London: SFMOMA/Thames and Hudson.

Kac, Eduardo. (1989). Three City Link. Available at: http://www.ekac.org/threecitylink.html (Accessed: Feb 15 2013).

Shanken, Edward (2010) “Contemporary Art and New Media: Towards a Hybrid Discourse”. Art Basel Salon (video). Available at: https://www.artbasel.com/en/About-Art-Basel/Art-41 Basel/Salon#portletid_05B1526F87EE469199060394FEA95054 (Accessed: 7 Sept 2013)


This is the project summarised in images, from my projects that have led the research, and the works of other artists and projects that have informed the research…


Images (upper):

Lacy, Suzanne and Pruess, Linda. (1979) International Dinner Party. Performance artwork

Galloway, Kit and Rabinowitz, Sherrie. (1980) Hole In Space. Live satellite-link artwork. Documentation available at: http://www.ecafe.com/getty/HIS/index.html (Accessed 18 Nov 2011).

Deller, Jeremy. (2001) Battle of Orgreave. Performance artwork.

We Have A Situation! (2013) http://www.wehaveasituaiton.net

“In Dialogue” conference, Nottingham, UK (2014)

“Dialogue As Art Research Group” (led by artist Simon Pope).

Images (lower):

Anderson, Judy, and Rachelle Viader Knowles (and participants). (2012) QR Code Project: Parallel Worlds, Intersecting Moments. Interactive artwork.

Hay, Ken; Knowles, Rachelle Viader, Tonoyan, Mkrtich; Viday, Marcos and other participants. (2012 – 2014). Let Me Tell You The Story Of My Neighbour (Various iterations).

Knowles, Rachelle Viader; Tonoyan, Mkrtich; Ramsay, Christine; and other participants. (2014). #3CityLink.



and this is me.


3 thoughts on “Rachelle Viader Knowles

  1. Hi Rachelle:
    With the investigation of dialogue as a means of making, what is the relationship between your project (#3citylink) and MOOCs? if any? Now that people are writing about it, reflecting back, perhaps it could develop into a course?
    One could say that although there is ‘teaching’ going on, whether those involved take on the position of the ‘ignorant schoolmaster’ of Rancière. In a perfect world the MOOC is open, participatory, is shared, work is distributed…hopefully without paying (to get credit, yes perhaps) What u get out of it are besides exchanges and knowledge, the networks…. Which is commodified, monetized in another world?


  2. Your citylink project is quite interesting where you explore the notion of translocality. By echoing Gertrud, I think the politics of institution is important to think about the agency / effect of your project. I remember in the ref article from the bk ‘The exposition of artistic research’ (intro), on p.13 , talking abot today’s art education “Art is self-determined and suffers when it is told what to do”. I actually also see the forces around institution, your role as a teacher, or as an artist. How these influence your decision and thinking of translocality?



  3. The projects are idea seem so complex that the project seems to call for closer attention to some of the details: how practice is understood, how specific details might somehow encapsulate some of the deeper issues (ie. the potatoes were suggested). People want the terms to be more contested, especially around identity and location. Michael suggested that the trans prefix needs to be radicalised for instance. Perhaps there is a tendency to try to pin things down too much rather than emphasise the ambiguities here; to concentrate on the complexity of the relations and contingencies.


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