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Mediating the Meeting


[Ed. note: we got an email from Paolo Bartolli of spurse explaining a little about their project “The Lost Meeting.” Here’s Bartolli’s note and my follow up to him. Bartolli is referring to my review of “The Lost Meeting” in this post.]

Letter from Paolo Bartolli
Dear Roberta, After reading your review of the project, it was clear to me that your time spent trying to understand our Installation in the course of an hour was virtually impossible and not doing your experience of it any justice.

On a fundamental level, this project is about mediation of the world, specifically in the “everyday.” It was a perfect entry into the particular Quaker history involving the schism between the Orthodox and the Hicksites which was also a question of mediation in relation to how one could experience a relationship with God, which, I am sure you are already aware of.

In this sense, mediation is what has been, and is being produced in our Installation. It is not about producing beautiful art objects in the world, but rather about producing a “thing” in the world i.e., an activity (process) of invention through mediation.

This project is about the Quakers yes, as a history from which to embed the genesis of thought with regard to mediation, but it is not about the Quakers as a way to reify a particular history that is quite often misunderstood and romanticized.

What this project does best is expose a complexity of history that is certainly not stagnant (the Quakers are still with us today, the Little Meeting is currently being used, etc.) and activates it through a process of invention to get at the “everyday” in what could be a profoundly different manner.

Again, this project is certainly not about producing an art object (with regard to the art teacher reference) but rather it is about producing a thing, Mediation.

Please check out this weblink for another basic understanding of the project. And please, feel free to stop by again, or contact us at Thank you for your thoughts.
–Paolo Bartolli, spurse

My reply to Bartolli

Dear Paolo, thanks for writing. I agree with you that your project is producing a thing in the world and that it is a mediation. Perhaps I was laboring under the false assumption that what you were producing would also be an aesthetic experience. I guess you’re telling me that an aesthetic experience was not the intent.
My basic question about “The Lost Meeting,” and I guess I still have it, is what relevance does it have to me as a viewer who is outside spurse. The project has an insider/outsider dichotomy that makes me uncomfortable. As an outsider looking in I’m afraid what I saw was confusing, chaotic, and disappointing.

As for mediation, I just don’t get how taking an archived object and running it through an algorithm and generating a pattern (for what?) has anything to do with me. What is the point of the mediation? Call me a Midwest pragmatist but I was looking for an end result of the mediation and all I understood was that the patterns would be used for new spurse projects. That self-generating aspect of the project seems like what goes on in academe (laboratories and the like).

But this project, sponsored by a group that funds exhibitions, PEI, is not an academic project or laboratory and should be measured on some level as an exhibit, even if it is an exhibit that is itself a process and a mediation. And as an exhibit that is a mediation I think it disappoints because it is not clear and seems not to be able to communicate to an audience outside itself.

Anyway, life marches on and I’m afraid I won’t have time to make it up to Abington again. But I wish you all well and thanks again for writing. –Roberta