transmutations

The recently launched first number to the brand new online journal Transmutations is out. This issue is working through the ongoing events of the Printemps Érable the Quebéc student strike against tuition hikes which has become a large-scale movement of different kinds - a spring in all its forces: “Frühlingserwachen.”

The issue focuses on performance in relation to social movements and movement as relational force. It comprises a lot of beautiful footage from the protests in Montreal but also films expressing different lines of intensity in relation to how such movements actually move. Texts are also part of the quite promising machine which has finally come to live. Congratulations!

Here is the overview of the issue.

It also includes a piece I wrote: On Relaying and Re-Beginning


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A bit later than thought, I am positing some images from the collaboration between Martina Fritschy and myself for the dOCUMENTA 13 readers circle we participated in on June 26, 2012. We picked Brian Holmes‘ essay “Profanity and the Financial Markets: A User’s Guide to Closing Down the Casino” from the 100 Notes/100 Thoughts Series. Our idea was not only to read and discuss the text but to change the affective tonality of such a situation toward a less hierarchical and more mutually engaging manner. We started off by facilitating drinks and inviting the members of the Occupy camp outside the Fredericianum to be our guests (thus bypassing entry-ticket checks). After approximately 30 minutes of reading 15 pizzas have been delivered to the main entrance of the gallery allowing all of us to enjoy some food while talking about the text. After about an hour we were asked to vacate the space leading us to continue our exchange occupying the stairs in front of the building.

Questions coming from our experience remain: How can we undo the appropriation of philosophy and political theory by a constantly hollowed out art dispositif? What are the techniques at hand beyond bringing together signifiers and signs? Which vocabulary can we develop for a more gestural approach through “a-signifying processes of existential singularization” (Guattari “Entering the Post-Media Era”)? And how can we move from figures such as analysis and debate toward more open-ended formations of collective aesthetic practices?

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Open 23 - Autonomy


In this time of ideological, economic and political crises autonomy is becoming attractive again.

But how does autonomy - the wish to take matters into ones own hands and have significance independent of old structures -  relate to the call for engagement and performativity? This issue, made in collaboration with Sven Lütticken, examines autonomy from the standpoints of art, art history, philosophy, political theory and cultural criticism, and attempts to resolve the bind between thinking in terms of engagement on the one hand and autonomy on the other.

Steven ten Thije delves into the background of The Autonomy ProjectJohn Byrne argues that art must be freed from its current technocratic framework. According to John Hartle, the rightwing-populist criticism of art lacks democratic legitimacy.Willem van Weelden interviews Franco Berardi on theItalian Autonomia movement and autonomy, Occupy, and education. Hito Steyerl makes a plea for isolation in order to think about how life can recapture its autonomy from art.Christoph BrunnerGerald Raunig, and Roberto Nigroexamine new dimensions in current forms of activism. Joost de Bloois comments on the recent protests against government cutbacks, whereby an appeal is made to autonomy. Sven Lütticken investigates the concept of autonomy and its relation to aesthetics and politics in the context of post-war modernism.Andrea Fraser argues for an approach to autonomy from a psychoanalytic perspective. Peter Osborne analyses misunderstandings about the autonomy of art and goes into Adorno’s ideas in this regard. Thomas Hirschhorn andJacques Rancière investigate what the essence of a work of art might be in these times.

Our contribution

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About Open

Open investigates the contemporary conditions of public space and changing notions of publicness in a structural manner in relation to cultural production. This implies an experimental and interdisciplinary exposition of the reality, possibilities, and limitations of the current public domain, in particular from sociological, philosophical, political, and artistic perspectives. Within the framework of this ‘project in progress,’ themes such as safety, memory, visibility, cultural freedom, tolerance, hybrid space, the rise of informal media, art as a public affair, precarity, and privacy have been examined.

Open is edited by Jorinde Seijdel (editor in chief) and Liesbeth Melis (final editing) and appears twice a year in a Dutch-language and an English-language edition. The graphic design is by Thomas Buxò and Klaartje van Eijk. Open is an initiative of SKOR | Foundation for Art and Public Domain, Amsterdam and is published by NAi Publishers.

After submitting a shift proposal (the more performative format) for the next Performance Studies International Conference in Leeds, June 27-30 2012, we, Bianca Scilar Mancini, Alanna Thain and myself, have been accepted with our proposal Ecologies of Siting. Here is the abstract:

ABSTRACT

Ecologies of Siting

The relation of ecology and economy coincides with the concerns of our inter-institutional Research–Creation series “Technologies of Lived Abstraction”, which culminated in July 2011 with ‘Generating the Impossible’. 55 participants explored the limits of a collaborative creative process through techniques of improvisation across heterogeneous backgrounds, following no scripts, without a predetermined landing site, and responsive to the durational intensities of encounter. An always-dissolving collective dedicated ten days to a critical multidisciplinary creative process that involved both a movement of thought and a production of an aesthetic residuum, i.e., an art “object”. This shift is a creative recapitulation of that event’s echoes (where porosity was already a compelling prompt). An “Ecology of Sitting” is based on a process of the improvisation of differential disciplinarity, a contagious attentiveness to how we define environment and landscape as an event-location.

This porous shift will radically experiment with performance methodologies for the improvisation of thought, a critical alternative to and reactivation of the (in)attentive audience of the traditional conference format.  Addressing the notion of concepts, bodies and the environment as variations of duration, we will seek modes of provoking sliding forces always improvising in the ways they generate confounding ecologies to challenge dualisms of body (agent/actor/performer) and environment (site/ location).

The radicalism of our proposal lies in our trust in the event of the encounter, and our conviction that authentic collaboration cannot be catalogued prior to sharing and exchange between participants. What we share are procedures and techniques for the improvisation of thought.

We propose biweekly working group meetings where participants accumulate conceptual or artistic residuum (defined here as the experiential liveliness of duration) from discussions shared through virtual meetings and tasks, as ecologies of improvised thought.  Drawing on a Guattarian ecosophical rejection of a human/non-human dualism, our performance technique of “attentiveness” will be geared towards (re)discovering an “agency of assemblages”, rather than an “acting upon” of the performance of the encounter. “Ecology of Sitting” resists a predetermined utility based on the economies of institutions (academic or arts), and reopens zones of collaborative attentiveness as a method of opening to unexpected connection.  As a set of techniques, we use a creative diagrammatics (Deleuze) drawn from movement work and event-based visual practice.  The goal is to produce a distributed attention that challenges the distinction between rehearsal and event, in an anarchival approach.

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I have been experimenting with the newly installed exhibition apparatus (dispositive) Palaver developed by artist Eran Schaerf and Professor Florian Dombois and installed by the Y-Institute at Berne University of the Arts. The occasion for the experiment was enabled through HKB’s open house (Oct. 2010)  and the desire to develop strategies for the use of alternative exhibition models with a wider public.

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In a nutshell: Palaver is an assemblage of a wall, two screens and two cameras. A space can be divided by a mobile wall, one screen is attached to each side of this wall and each side is equipped with a mobile camera. The idea is to exhibit an artwork or a performance or anything on one side and project it to the other side where the audience is. Through such an arrangement the audience as well as the object/performance are put into a mediated relationship. With the help of the camera, the screens and the separation a process of negotiation and estranged, mediated contact is facilitated. A palaver in its original meaning is the week-long political negotiations in a public space in African native cultures. The idea for such an exhibition apparatus is the change in roles and time that might accompany the experience of art. In other words, the role of the spectator, the work its reception and the way to think and talk about it discursively might be transformed through such a renewed assemblage. The palaver centers the art object but at the same time mutually positions spectators, art critics, art historians artists and curators on a plane of negotiation. Instead of unfolding each ofthese participants into his/her discipline and mode of reflexion, Palaver aims at an intense engagement with the object, modes of representation, ways of speaking and sensing, the refomualtion of space and the role of speaking in formal and informal ways.

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What I have been trying in this particular occasion of experimentation was to undermine the conception of the object or the subject by becoming a non-subject and a non-object. The creature that lives at the interstice of non-subject and non-object is McGhille (see post below). McGhillie is neither a thing nor a person. McGhillie rather melts with its environment to liberate the one inhabiting the suit to become pure (in)difference and therefore not being accountable by vision or speech. McGhillie is perceivable but one cannot know it nor can one interact with it. I aimed at rendering McGhillie’s movements the least possible anthropomorphic. McGhillie was supposed to become a pure presence therefore demonstrating its disappearance. The visitors on the other side were estranged and curious. I aimed at a long duration not allowing for any interaction but forcing the audience to turn onto itself and initiate any kind of intercourse. The situation was at times uncomfortable due to its indeterminacy and at times charged with excitement when something happened. At one point I was compelled to end the performative situation but didn’t preclude how to go about it. The people in the room were already at the margins of the wall separating the spaces. The screens mediating the situation became fairly obsolete, live experience seemed to be more attractive. Hence, McGhillie was bemoaning the annihilation of the mediation by a screen and longed for its re-installation. Finally approaching the door to leave the room in a crouching way, a participant had blocked it to not allow for any escape. This provocation to leave the state of non-subject-object forced me to imagine what it means to be kept in a cell, to be considered outside of the general discourse and therefore being regarded as free to be subjugated. The liberating and almost powerful feeling of a Becoming-McGhillie shifted towards a Becoming-Animal with all its negative attributes in relation to the human master and the animal-slave. Finally forcing the door open, still being follwed by the crowd I managed to leave the situation and to allow McGhillie to become free for a future becoming.

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In sum, I can say that the attempt to undermine the dispositive of Palaver only partly worked. One of the main concerns that remain after the experience is the question of how a situation can be generated where one can feel the potential forces towards negotiation. In other words, is the apparatus as it is right now providing the right port of entry into a self-generative process of negotiation. In other words, are the enabling constraints given to allow the object/subject to speak in its own right or is Palaver just another discursive tool that hovers on the surface of representation and language.

As a current resident of Switzerland I wonder why not leave one of the apparently most obviously racist countries in Europe? At least so, according to the world press after last Sunday’s referendum on the deportation of criminal delinquents that reside in Switzerland but are not Swiss citizens. What is internally known as “Ausschaffungsinitiative” is a proposal by the rightwing party SVP that aims to lower the threshold for deportation of criminal offenses for residents with immigrant background. That the proposal as it was propagated might transgress common values of human rights confines the main problem after the referendum has been accepted by 53% of the society.
The incongruence is striking between general self-relfection on the Swiss society the harmony between high percentages of foreigners in urban areas (e.g. Zurich up to 30% and Geneva up to 40%) and the sheer ignorance, xenophobia and idiocy in rural areas. There seems to exist a shared common sense amongst the few who might belong to a local urban intelligentsia that one lives in an open and multicultural society. From my point if view, such perspectives are based on highly bourgeoise values expressed mostly by members of the society with high incomes working for universities, banks and insurance companies.
The reason to stay though might be to seek out the grains of resistance that do exist and to see how they function and work. Another interesting aspect is the fortunate circumstance for me to work at an art school where for students precarity is omnipresent and where the intellectuals have to work outside the acclaimed institutions that are legitimized to produce ‘real’ knowledge or ‘real’ values. Hence, I am wondering why the grains of resistance have not found more poignant formats than the usual, still beloved, visual gestures of street art? One thing is for sure, the subaltern cannot speak, since this might be already considered as enough of a offense to be deported. Hence, I guess one has to find modes of creative intervention that do not speak but act, that use new modes of expression to make the public feel that things are developing in nasty ways. I guess it is time to re-instantiate struggles and to make the force of desire become palpable.

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This nice video shows what I would call an ethico-aeshtetic and ethico-political intervention into the crisis shaken British student body that is facing decades of dept for higher education that only privileged members of society will have access to [unless you buy into being in depth for the 20 years to follow the moment of your graduation] … or has anyone heard of a new massive scholarship program to be launched by major banks and the government? I guess not.

This is a commentary and reflection on the ongoing discusssions in Hamburg (Germany) about a complex of historic buildings close to Hamburg’s city. The disctrict called “Gängeviertel” in proximity to the city center consits of 12 remaining buildings of the former working-class area. Hamburg’s city council in its continuous treatment of urban space as commodity to be sold at maximum profit disregards the need for affordable housing and culturally transversal zones. DIfferent from Berlin Hamburg suffers from a continuous loss of affordable work and production places for young artists and creative communities (it is probably just a matter of time until Berlin arrives at this stage). More than 200 artists have started to peacefully squat in parts of the buildings for exhibitions, info-cneters, performances, lectures and concerts/parties. The resonance of the interventions has effected more than 10.000 visitors s far. The city who originally sold the property to the Dutch investor Hanzevast is under pressure to resign form the contract and consider alternative developments of the area. The creative community united under the title “Komm in die Gänge” (a word-play on the title of the district meaning something like “move it!”) proposed recently an alternative development plan. Here are two videos, one in German but it provides good insights and another showing a flashmob in front of the city hall against the elimination of important cultural institutions in Hamburg.

Such inspiring activities call for several questions regarding resistance and potentials for interventions and strategic occupation of space. It seems like the negotiation of a spatial environment receives a wider interest through its presence than other less material and less tangible forms of protest. The size plays an important role but also the pressing issue of a lack of space in the city and the desire for liveable and affordable districts with a rich cultural atmosphere. The collective initiative depends heavily on the factor of spaciality and the distribution of matters of interest in the spaces. In an environment of a a major city and the despair of creative cultures that move to Berlin and other countries, Hamburg has the chance to convert a site into something productive in an ethico-aesthetic manner. In other words, the groups that form a collective seek paths for enunciation that operate on margins between a molar issue and its appropriation.

The delicacy of dealing with large-scale sell-outs of space to corporate money reveals its problematic in a double-folded situation. In the molar capture of a capitalist purpose either option, a sell-out or a culturally diverse and sustainable renovation of the district, offers little room for a difference in terms of a creative climate beyond capitalist appropriation. Being marketable will always remain the general purpose if larger investments are at stake. On the other hand the creative force of adaptation seems to be transversally present throughout different notes of critical response to the lack of space, culture or support. One of the major fields of investment should be the creation of collective enunciations that address the issues of molar capture at many levels and through different strata. A rather topological generation of regions with sets of creative practices and their forces. In such a way the predominance of space seems persistent when it comes to a wider recognition of a problematic field. Such a spatial point of entry therefore has to be adapted and extended by its durational nature, its transversal practices and topological unfolding. It sometimes seems to be more reasonable to negotiate a minimal support and therefore a maximum of autonomy. If the city council involves in a remodelling project of the sight it might be advisable to create autonomous formats of a cooperative, with more self-organization and little reliability on the financial situation of the city.

In a deleuzoguatarrian manner I regard the second video, of a flashmob that creates noise, as a cut into the rhythm of solidified space, creating its own rhythm and connecting new milieu’s. Such practices might be a sign for a resistance and practices to come. The foundation of the molar deployment of reason fundamentally disintegrates in light of transversally powerful (meaning creative) rhythms that offer new collective modes of enunciation.

space invaders - impression taken by christoph brunner in paris 2009
In relation to my research and the fabulous projects that surfaced in the last years I thought it would be useful to have some hints towards really great sites for urban activism, actions and interventions that happen in the in-between spaces of the urban fabric. One is co-founded by Jean-Francois Proust and entitled Adaptive Actions - he is also involved in Montréal’s VIVA! Art Action festival of which I will report more throughout the week. Another great site is the well acclaimed and really beautiful site of the CCA’s (Canadian Centre for Architecture) exhibition Actions. FInally a site a good friend pointed me out to in Europe *Book [of] Urbanism. All three propose transversal, activist and creative practices that shift urban configurations and create pockets of difference.