March 7, 2012  - I have been invited to have a public conversation with artist Ralo Mayer who is currently showing his latest exhibition Obviously a major malfunction/KAGO KAGO KAGO BE at the Kunsthaus Baselland. The work deals with topics of fiction, narrative and science generating a hybrid mix of objects, tales, imaginative stories and actual historical facts, interlacing into each other generating a mesh of dense relational networks between “things.” Informed by projects like the Biosphere 2, the two major space shuttle catastrophes of the Challenger in 1986 and Columbia in 2003 and events such as Tchernobyl, the fall of the iron curtain or global protest movements the exhibition highlights the dense entanglement between historical facts and their contingent recurrence in actual techno-social situations. References to Latour’s actor-netowrk-theory and Graham Harman’s strand of Object Oriented Ontology make their presence as much as Jon McKenzie’s work on performance and performativity. All of this comes into resonance through assemblages of objects and images in different installation clusters. Through fictionlaizations and an interest in science fiction the exhibition avoids an educative gesture and provides the sensing of a semblance of events rather than clear forms and representations.

I am keen on discussing questions of representation, the role of narrative and time as much as concerns with OOO’s heralding of the objective in contrast with a more process philosophy oriented reconsideration of objective and subjective. Time rather than space appears to me as the pertinent force moving through the exhibition. The self-abstracting dimension of matter in movement becomes part of time as a memory ready for pure recollection in the actual re-assembling of situated experiences in the exhibition spaces. Let’s see how we mange to break this down into actual modes of conversion with each other an through the work. I guess we will have to tweak the environment towards sensible transductions.

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I have been asked to participate in the accompanying conference of this year’s Netaudio Festival in London. Since I attended the festival in its first generation in 2006 it has developed massively and presents itself as a solid discourse on general themes concerning collective creative production, issues of open source and various forms of sonic expression, from broadcasts, to live performances and discussion panels.

I will be part of a panel entitled “Creativity and Collaboration in the Internet Era” together with Michael Bauwens, Matt Fuller and Tamara Barnett-Herrin. Other panels include Liliane Ljin, Jeremy Gilbert, Matthew Herbert, Mark Fisher and the UK Uncut.

The format of the conference defines for me the most exciting aspect. While there will be short presentations, a main focus lies in the formation of small working groups with each of the panelists to have in-depth discussions. After some internal discourse the groups will then come together to present their insights to the rest of the panel. I deem it as a relieve to partake in a more experimental format that allows for some dialogue beyond self-representational modes usually deployed at conferences.

In my mini-presentation I will take on the notion of the transindividual in the work of philosopher Gilbert Simondon to discuss modes of collective individuation that are different from general concepts of collectivity as a multitude of bodies. If possible I will make use of the last Senselab event “Societies of Molecules” to highlight modes of collective individuation with the help of online-platforms and actual gift economies.

Phew, exactly one week after I came back from ISEA 2010 I find a few minutes to reflect and share my excitement about one of the better conferences I have been part of this year. What has been very pleasing to me and apparently a lot of other participants was the high quality of art exhibitions and performances that accompanied the symposium. Another beautiful aspect of the conference was the first site for the events in Essen, Zeche Zollverein. Here we had the fabulous fun to plunge into a factory pool at Kokerei made out of shipping containers and experience a performance by Wet Soundswet-sounds

The conference opened with a keynote by Brian Massumi who, as we know, tied in a fine mesh of aesthetic considerations through the lens of pure experience and radical empiricism. Wonderfully presented and even so wonderfully contextualized by a long comment from Marie-Luise Angerer. The second day was scheduled for the Motion Lab Panel convened by Scott deLahunta. It was very interesting to see the different works of Scott, Nathaniel Stern, who’s work I really fell in love with, Erin Manning together with Norah Zuniga Shaw and Chris Ziegler. Despite the circumstance that the two evening performances were overbooked and hard to get in, I really enjoyed the Synchronous Objects installation by Norah in relation to her longterm work with William Forsythe.

Sunday reminded me an Odyssey  trying to reach Marl with commuter trains on a day without commuters to see the exhibition for the German Sound Art Awards 2010. The exhibition was not very exciting but to have seen a conceptually built city complex with wonderful attempts of concrete ornamentation made it worth the journey. In general, the commuting between the different conference sites was a bit a of pain, if one didn’t change hotels. The evening of that Sunday though was quite amazing. At the Folkwang University of Arts in Essen the conference co-organized the Day of Sound with fabulous electro-acoustic pieces and a concert space that made you shiver with its stunning acoustic quality. Highlight, certainly, was the performance with the Max Brand Synthesizer in a piece faithfully called Hell Machine.

On Monday the conference took its proper format meaning too many parallel panels in often too small rooms. Since I had to leave after the second day of the conference, I will only comment on two things. First, The Digital Aesthetics of Climate Change panel, organized by a group of befriended scholars from Aarhus University in Denmark and successfully turned into an “Un-Panel” by The People Speak from London. Thematically and in its expression the panel raised a vital discussion that didn’t leave the impression of flaky and fuzzy climate-talk but a profound an continuous critical inquiry fueled by contributions from outside the room posted and projected on a screen. The People Speak moderated the panel friendly and to the pint which turned it into a refreshing format, especially at 10 a.m. in the morning. The second panel, was the one in which Jonas Fritsch and I presented our reflections on our experiences from Society of Molecules in May 2009 in Montréal. We were surprised about the number of people that crammed into the room for a panel on Urban Interventions. The unfortunate part of our panel was the rather loose time-keeping which resulted in no time for discussions and a focus on one particular, rather uninspiring presentation (no names of course). Apparently, our title “Balloons, Sweat and Technologies - Urban Interventions through Ephemeral Architectures” raised interest trough the very notion of Ephemeral Architectures. Not having thought of it properly, I was asked if our installation was called ephemeral architectures or if we regarded the entire event as ephemeral architectures. A very interesting question for which I would like to thank Katrin Rickerts a lot. At another point in time I will come back to these considerations.

Impressive were the TURST exhibition with very high quality works and the performance by Ei Wada and his Braun Tube Jazz Band. In general one could recognize a shift in digital aesthetics away from a data-centred and often pseudo technological or scientific attitude (except the work of Carsten Nicolai of course) toward a thorough media practice that carefully examines its needs to trigger certain modes of expression. Ai Wada took the notion of the signal to its core and blew the gallery apart with his performance. Here is another set, but you get the impression.

I enjoyed very much the work of Seiko Mikami entitled “Desire of Codes.” The work consists of an entire wall of motorized webcams that trace you. The captured images get projected on a screen where they are remixed with other video material mined from the Internet. Aesthetically and conceptually a very strong work. Another project that caught my attention was Ariel Guzik’s work “Nereida.” Nereida is an underwater capsule that contains musical instruments to establish contact with cetaceans. What impressed me the most was the serious engagement concerning potential means of communication with other species by aesthetic means. For me this is a very beautiful and strong work in the field of research-creation.

isea_trust_-seiko-mikami guzikariel_nereida_prj_02_craulgonzales_plasmaht-lab

I would like to close with a short but definitively worth wile experience of wearing the McGhillie suit provided through an intervention/performance organized by my colleagues in Zurich Knowbotic Research. McGhillie is an un-person, a Batleby-like figure who evades classification and social or physical order. Neither a person nor a mere object but rather a thing with all its potentials and qualities. A Becomnig-McGhillie means to stop thinking and feeling like an individual ant to melt with your environment. Becoming-McGhillie makes you enter the field of the void that is never the void but an in-between filled with new potential. McGhillie is a thing of the interstice, between different modes of being, between different forms of life. Becoming-McGhillie for only 20 minutes allowed me to enter the interstitial field between being and non-being, not only by means of perception (perceiving and being perceived) but by means of affect that allow different milieus to constitute with and without McGhillie. A definitive must if one seeks for modes of pure experience!

becoming-mcghillie

categories: conferences, events, research
tags:

PhDs on a boat in Aarhus

Here is a quick homage to the fantastic “Event, Signal, Affect” conference at Aarhus University I was invited to last week.  The conference was targeted to bring together selected scholars working on affect, theories of the event, non-representational theory and signal or the signaletic. The setting was very intimate, with 25 people and a perfectly organized structure, including dinner and collective cookout.

The main guests were Erin Manning and Brian Massumi and Nigel Thrift, who unfortunately never made it to the conference. Topics were widely spread but well orchestrated into focused panels. The intellectual debate was engaged and on a mutually interested and curious level. On top of the two fantastic interventions by Manning and Massumi and the very focused crowed of guests, I would like to foreground the environment and techniques that made the conference so unique.

We started off with a round of conceptual speed-dating, a technique to get to know each other and have an idea of the other one’s thinking-space. The concept was autonomy and the range of discussions was wide. The good thing about this technique is that you get an immediate impression of the other one’s personal work and his/her way to move in thought. Another good aspect was to seek for 10 minute presentations and have more time for discussions. In the cases where the time was kept, discussions were very vital. The dinner and especially the collective barbecue gave the conference a very different tonality from other conferences. A free day in between the two conference days added more quality time to relax and meet up and talk. All in all I really had the feeling I have been in touch with people that also don’t want to have large conferences and impersonal panels anymore.

This brings me to a very crucial point about such events. What one seeks in such events might be to network and put yourself in contact with the “right” people. But what actually really counts is the potential of a joyous being together and friendship. In that respect it would be interesting to ask, how do you generate environments that do not allow any straight forward modes of self-representation and networking but are lures for friendship? In that sense I have to say that the potential for friendship to build is way higher in such events. I feel that I had the chance to intellectually relate to my friends Tomas Jellis and Jonas Fritsch more intensively. It is the real joy of the time and ideas shared that need to be accounted for a creative practice such as our intellectual work. Further I finally had the chance to meet Thomas Markussen, also member of the Senselab and associate professor at the Aarhus School of Architecture. Two very lucky meetings that I didn’t anticipate before were Niels Albertsen head of the Department of Landscape and Urbanism and Leila Dawney, PhD researcher at the Geography Department in Exeter. Another wonderful aspect were politically engaged talks by Thomas Markussen on the Cut Up Collective and Tatiana Bazzichelli’s presentation on Italian Hacktivism and the media event of Anna Adamolo.

I would like to close this entry by pointing out the the level of openness of the discussion we enjoyed. Merete Carlson, PhD scholar from Copenhagen, gave the last presentation pointing out the difficulty to affectively engage with interactive media artworks by writing a PhD thesis about it. The problem is not, that one is not capable of writing a thesis according to known norms but rather how to write a thesis as process and in a way that accounts for the movement of thought without representing it in language. For me such highly difficult questions lie at the core of what research-creation might mean and how we have to move “earth and the heavens,” as Bruno Latour says, to allow new minor modes of research and creative practices to flourish.

Here just a quick overview concerning the upcoming Interdisciplinary Dialogues Series I am organizing this year. Session II deals with the theme of Research, Ethics, Politics. A short description of the session outline:

A PhD project in its research and content often touches upon topics of critical importance and ethical encounters. The research we deploy bears a plethora of political and ethical decision we make and are confronted with. This immediate layer of a politico-ethical encounter in the practice of research is reflected onto the modes of creating and composing the content of our papers, presentations, shows, performances, and finally the PhD thesis. What critical considerations of the politics embedded in research might foreground are new practices and techniques of dealing with such issues beyond the well-considered modes of representation. Maybe through an awareness of the multifaceted politics in research we can re-invent modes of creating content and expression.

Interdisciplinary Dialogues II

deleuze-and-activism1

After a long stretch from Cardiff back to London and then to Zurich, I am finally able to post a couple of reflections on the Deleuze and Activism Conference in Cardiff. I will here focus on a couple of common remarkable points that could be sensed throughout the event.

In first place the issue of “Deleuze” - “and” - “Activism”: Fortunately and finally precise and creative critique has been uttered concerning the rather dominant refrain of a branding of “Deleuze and …” enterprises. No surprise with the conference’s setting at Cardiff and its filed of Deleuze and-ianisms this might have been the last event termed in that fashion. Nevertheless other participants, respectively Keir Milburn from the University of Leeds, and I amongst many in the audience felt the problematic and discomfort of the framing of conferences through an “and” that creates a binary relation without respecting the eternal “and” prominently proposed by Deleuze and Guattari in their opening chapter of A Thousand Plateaus. From my perspective this has been less framed in a terminological problematic and rather opened the question of enabling constraints for thought to generate a creative problematic plane. In that sense one could feel that discourse has not been challenged in terms of radical thought but rather a rehearsal of established modes of thought. Without deploying a general critique and neglecting the fine nuances uttered by some very inspiring presentations, I would like to emphasize the slow mobility when it comes to rigorously creative and at the same time precise modes of thought. To base discussions on historical convergences between Deleuze and his peers or interpretations by successors, or to draw the discussion into a Badiouian or Hardt and Negri field seems less creative than one might expect.

The second issue of a conference on activism without an act-ivism: This was for me one of the most irritating experiences of the event. A continuous “drive” (and indeed it seems appropriate to not use desire here!) towards excuses of not doing real activism but only talking … I would suggest thinking might have happened once in a while as well. The issue here at stake was to feel uncomfortable if not ashamed of being academics or justifying oneself in such a situation. The more than a century long convergences between theory and practice to their very abandonment of the two explicitly in the philosophy of Nietzsche, Wiliam James, Alfred North Whitehead and Gilbert Simondon seemed to be evicted at various moments of the conference. This has to do for me with the “and”-construction of an event, where a name becomes the place-holder for “philosophy” (proper) and the addendum of activism its other pole. What seemed to happen throughout this series of self-accusation or excuses was the reinforcement of these two terms and their epistemes and ontologies without focusing on the continuum of which these two poles might be part of. In other words, an ontogentic mode of thought would have been helpful to foreground the field of emergences that make such a field of thought between Deleuze and Activism possible. In that sense, “A Thought” as an “act” (and certainly an act as a thought) could be regarded as a milieu for emergencies around a particular mode of thought and practice (that of Deleuze and his field) and another field of thought and practice related to activism - A thought is an act and an act is a thought, both being part of the complex micro-events of emergency as expression and their micropolitical forces.  Without depriving each of these fields from their very own ontologies, an ontogenetic operation could actually facilitate other fields of emergency that are vital enough to sustain a critique by proposing a different problematic, that of separated poles and the actual continuum that provides the plane of emergency for such poles to be potentially actualized. In such a manner the considerations of research-creation where the hyphen emphasizes a continuum of sets of practices across domains and where fields of emergence are the experimental ground seem to me one of the promising avenues for an ontogenetic operation that deals creatively with proclamations of blocks such as philosophy and activism.

Finally the very insightful demonstration of various processes and practices: This was the delightful part apart from also meeting very interesting people whom I have been friends with or heard about a lot. The various insights into Israeli micropolitics of interventions in the Israeli settlement politics by Ronnen Ben-Arie, the creative paper on Dandyism by Laurent de Sutter, or the presentation on the Radical Education Collective by Gašper Kralj and Bojana Piškur offered interesting and engaged approaches across domains. Not only appeared it that practices are able to foster a vital thought but also that a mode of thought can team up with practices when they collide in a creative way. In that sense I wished that conceptual papers would emerge more often from a serious self-understanding as practice and as an act at the very moment, a presentation as part of a series of events, a re-folding of experiences that are the ground for a conceptual trajectory.

Another aspect that surfaced in light of different practices and their contexts, was the very thought and practice that has to feed into creating an event. Such a circumstance has less to do with names and designated research fields but more with the formats we seek and the potential opening of a co-creative process. It seems to me that a small and intense setting as it was the case, works quite well. But at the same time I had the impression of being restricted through modes of organization and overarching formalism as academics/researchers of all fields with an interest in activism. From that angle I am convinced that the framing of an event is as important as the different people and ideas that come together. A board-room with pompous paintings of deans and a conference that doesn’t get in touch with the organizing institution and its students are two of many factors that have an impact on how such an event turns out. To understand a conference (in itself a critical term) as an ethico-aesthetic and aesthetico-political event across transversal registers of creative movement might propose another trajectory that could help to make the co-creative “acts” of such an event being felt.

interdisciplinary dialogues - what is research?

The Interdisciplinary Dialogues 2009/10 series I am organizing in the PhD in Humanities at Concordia Universty, took place for the first time this term with the opening session entitled “Art as Research.” The overall theme for this year focuses on the question of “What is Research?” As part of the annually curriculum the PhD in Humanities is having the Interdisciplinary Dialogues as a platform for PhD students in the program to share ideas with their peers and faculty and to get their work discussed in light of particular topics.

The emphasis of the conceptual framework lies in the notion of “dialogues.” From last year’s experience and due to a general discomfort with terms like panel or paper presentations, this year’s series aims at creating an environment of mutual exchange of ideas in relation to a specific theme. Thus, the PhD students were asked to give 10 minute insights into their work in conjunction with the session’s theme. Once the presentations are over, a discussion with the audience is generated by a faculty member. In our case Owen Chapman from Concordia’s Communication Department took on the role of the discussant.

What follows are some remarks that are based on the experience of this first panel and the experiment it comprised. The presentations were all exercised in perfect idiosyncratic and thoughtful ways. I think the audience received insights into five very different projects that have very different angles around the problematic field of art as research. From preceding discussions the presenters knew each other which turned out to be very beneficial for the session as such. Hence, the challenge of proposing a problematic field instead of a bold statement or a mere provocation played not really in favour of the creative collaboration I envisioned for the session. Once the floor was opened for the audience, people (in reference to one individual in the audience that unfolded the problematic in a more than determinstic mode of thought [à la art vs. science vs. philosophy]) often fell back in defending academic disciplines, their value for dialogues, and their strengths in adressing the issue of art as research.

During the course of the discussion it turned out that the setting of an interesting theme, great presentations, and a discussant, are not necessarily enough, if it is not possible to divert deterministic lines of thought in favour of more productive forces. The techniques at stake need to be more refined without cutting the proces of actual collaborative thought. Hence, and this is the curicial question here, what is needed for a collective thought to emerge? I actually think, that the potential for such a collective process was immanently present but did not actualize due to particular circumstances. This is in its core a very political problem. On the one hand, we have to warrant a certain openness for a process to freely develop in its unpredictability. On the other hand we need a political commitment that is able to cut creatively and therefore to generate new openings. The political act resides not in the selective mode of amplification of a preferred line over others (always the problem of a positioning such as “right” or “left”). On the contrary, the political act here lies in the very attentiveness towards a process that need to be maintained open for new modes of collective expression. In other words, not a strategy or tactic that provides a direction but a continuous critical re-posing of the problematic at stake and its creative productivity.

Once the session was in a certain mode oriented (or territorialized), the refrain, with which the territory appears, became so strong that it disabled any re-emergence of a creative collective process. Participants fell back into straight-forward and short-handed exercises of rehearsing the jargon of their accustomed and inscribed disciplinary modes of thought. What would have been necessary was a little cut to open up another line and therefore a new field of potentials. In that sense a discussant can take on such a job, an audience member as well or one of the presenters (ideally we might want to get to a point where these differentiations are somewhat obsolete). The question refers for me to a lack of intensity and resonance. Certainly a molar resonance developed according to a strong refrain - the deterministic statement according to molar blocks of thought. But there was another resonance immanent yet not activated. The discussion that the presenting students generated in the meetings before bore plenty of potential for a collective mode of thought. A group-intensity, a comfort and ground to work from were the immanent forces that could have been activated to generate a new shift towards a processual opening.

We have two more chances to experiment in the coming sessions. Let’s hope things get more often cut productively than they did this time.

levels of nothingness - rafael lozano-hemmer

This is a short review on Lozano-Hemmer’s and Brian Massumi’s (in collaboration with Isabella Rossellini) work in progress “Levels of Nothingness” shown at the Guggenheim New York:

The Guggenheim’s Works in Progress series issuing its 25th anniversary this year, invited Lozano-Hemmer to present one of his works in progress. Levels of Nothingness is a synaesthetic performance of written, oral and visual dimensions. In collaboration with the actress Isabella Rossellini and the philosopher Brian Massumi Lozano-Hemmer and his team developed a voice-tracking system that responds to words in the form of lighting events. Attempting to create a relational model between the dimensions of thought in motion and audio-visual experiences the performance consisted of a 30 minute reading of philosophical quotes revolving around colour and perception clustered in conceptual blocks such as “emergence,” “singularity,” “body” or “transition.” Massumi’s philosophical influence in his work on colour and perception has been complemented by Rossellini’s beautiful voice and the “light dance” of more than 50 rock-and-roll concert lights.

The sensation that such an event generates is difficult to circumscribe in a classical manner such as light performance or interactive performance. What actually happened was a relational field of perception throughout the entire room. The perception of the visitor became amodal in its mode. In other words, one was immersed in light, a screen to read the quote that was aurally transmitted by Rossellini’s voice and enclosed in a slightly hazy room with the background noise of the lights moving and other bodies trying to capture the light at the ceiling. The human perception became amodal while the machine perception had its full attention focused on the voice and flow of words in their sonorities. The performance system for interaction became the perceiving entity as we (traditionally) expect the human sensory-motor system to work whereas the human perception was forced to reveal the amodality that perception is based on - synaesthesia as the point of entry for any perception to become noticeable and not as a strange abnormality of some particular individuals. Those who know the work of Massumi will realize that “Levels of Nothingness” might be one of the first attempts to make the synaesthetic amodality of perception apparent in a conscious and not only a pure experience. The collective modes of the event taking form cross many fields of expertise and experience that might be best described by the notion of mutual intensity for “a perception to come” - an intensive field of percepts offering themselves for experience to merge into presence without ever becoming immobile. On might regard the experiences generated in the event as an extensive continuum of collective intensive practices that has been extended for the first time to allow a wider audience to become part of the event. Thanks!

Hopefully, a longer interview with Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and Brian Massumi will be published in one of the following issues of Inflexions - A Journal for Research-Creation.

To give a small impression of the side-project around floaties and ephemeral architectures developed by Jonas Fritsch and Christoph Brunner, I would like to post this video documenting our ephemeral action. The video has been produced by Jonas Frtisch. The work developed during the 5-day transnational and pan-global event Society of Molecules undertaken by members of the Senselab around the world. For a short info see the projects-section on this site or follow the links to Society of Molecules and the Senselab. For a detailed coverage of the whole event see the forthcoming issue of the journal InfleXions on micropolitics edited by Erin Manning and Nasrin Himada.