The third in the series of research session held by curator Grant Watson for Performance in Residence takes place in Amsterdam from 18 until 22 January 2013. Watson, together with Frédérique Bergholtz and Adva Zakai, conduct a series of interviews for his project How We Behave.
The interviews are structured around a mode of gathering material from invited guests and Amsterdam residents from different generations, by asking them straightforward questions about their life. Through exercises and questions that focus on certain activities from a person’s life, an attempt is made to interpolate some of the particular character and personalities of the city.
How We Behave departs from an interview of the same name with Michel Foucault, which appeared in Vanity Fair in 1983. In the interview Foucault talks about living life as a work of art, which we interpret to mean making an art of your life in practical as well as philosophical ways. Foucault also talks about this subject in relation to the gay liberation movement and the fact that people with few pre-given social structures or codes of behavior have had to invent a life for themselves both individually as well as collectively.
Foucault commented: “What strikes me is the fact that in our society art has become something which is related only to objects and not individuals, or to life. That art is something specialized or done by experts who are artists. But couldn’t everyone’s life become a work of art? Why should the lamp or the house be an art object but not the life?” Elsewhere Foucault expresses his fascination with the idea that bios itself could become the material from which a work of art is made, and identifies a precedent for this in antiquity. By using classical texts, Foucault is not suggesting that people repeat the practices of the past, but rather that they try to invent new forms of subjectivity which might start from aesthetics.
Interview sessions took place so far in New York City in May 2012, with a public presentation at The Kitchen on the 8th of May; and in São Paulo in November 2012, with a presentation in the Nucleus for Subjectivity class of Suely Rolnik at the University of São Paulo.
Grant Watson also presents the project as part of the Appropriation and Dedication seminar of If I Can't Dance that takes place on Sunday 20 January at the Goethe Institute in Amsterdam.