Due to several observations throughout my (short) life at universities and all its registers, teaching, administration, research and so fort, I come to a strong disbelieve that thought is actually taken seriously in everyday modes of academic existence as ethical concern. I am using the notion of concern explicitly from Whitehead’s mediation on the Quaker concept of concern in Adventures of Ideas. For Whitehead the “occasion as a subject has a ‘concern’ for the object. And the ‘concern’ at once places the object as a component in the experience of the subject, with an affective tone drawn from this object and directed towards it” (WH (AoI) 1967, 176). A concern creates a relation in the midst of novelty emerging through a subjective form. Without concern, there would be no relation possible and without the possibility of relation as ontogenetic force there would be no event, no emergence and no becoming. This scheme of concern permeates the entire spectrum of existence, up to quantum level, and might be also thought of as that what gives experience the relevance of existence in an actual occasion.

Why do I need this notion of concern to make my point? In academia and particularly in the humanities and even more specific in fields where question of power (à la Foucault) are concerned, readers and writers try to grapple with institutional power by asking what constitutes power relations and what holds them in place. The attempt of a concern is given in the kernel of the question of power but the relevance of it is often not present. To give an example: A teacher introduces first year undergraduate students to Foucault’s Discipline and Punish. Questions of the relation between bodies, institutions, architecture and power are raised and disciplinary strategies are highlighted. The movement of thought that the text generates resonates with the students’ own experiences in a place that aims at disciplinary apparatuses, the means of correct training and the subjectiviation in institutional confinements. The teacher then employs techniques of control and discipline by means of examination, judgement and a strong believe on how to interpret the material properly. This is exactly the point where two modes of disciplinarity meet: 1) the disciplinary enclosure of proper interpretation according to a certain episteme; 2) the disciplinary practice of examination and subjugation as means of correct training. The concerns in such “teaching-machines” is not a concern of relevance. In other words, these concerns assume a certain kind of stable subjectivity of the teacher, who has acquired a certain kind of knowledge and joined a certain kind of power apparatus that supports the reproduction of monotonous interpretations. in Whiteheadian terminology, there is no opening for the incurrence of novel objects to become part of a subjective form of an actual occasion of experience . If there was a real concern that has relevance, one would have to make the modes of thought at stake come alive in the reading and writing of one’s own practice and in the presence of the others (e.g. the students, the concepts, the dead authors, the institution, appearing objects).

Similar problems occur in institutional settings. To navigate between the administrative monster, the desire and pleasure for and of research and the obligation of teaching can create moments of great despair. But what is at stake here is the continued concern to not stop thinking. If thinking is reduced to the fabrication of texts for the accurate positioning in designated fields targeted at the proliferation of one’s own personality, concerns are again without relevance. In relation to an occasion’s relevance in the future Whitehead writes: “The relevant future consists of those elements in the anticipated future which are felt with effective intensity by the present subject by reason of the real potentiality for them to be derived of themselves” (WH PR 1978, 27). This conception of relevance feeds the principle of creativity in Whitehead as the emergence of novelty (AoI 179/180). A concern that is relevant can only emerge through the intensive feeling of the subject for objects as part of their relevant future. In other words, a twofold process is underway for a relevant concern: the subject has to have the capacity to feel potentiality of the future elements of a concern and these elements need their potentiality expressed through their independence. Both parts belong to an ethics of the instant of creation by having a relevant concern. In the case of the institutional impasse the relevant concern arises from the subject’s feeling for the object’s potential - it might be a situation with students, a concept, a political event, a conversation, a thing - and the objects’ potential to become in a relevant future. This means for creative movements of thought to be relevant concerns, they have to constantly begin from the ethical plane in the midst of a feeling for and with potentiality. The genesis of the subject can never rest but has to constantly be concerned with the movement of thought in the very moment of one’s practice. The imposition of institutional power, the aspiration for status and the abuse of one’s position (as rank) create an immobile and uncreative suspension without measure. It is the the surrender of creative thought under the disguise of power imposition. The strange thing is that these sates of uncreative suspensions still create feeling and at some points these feelings might be lured into being concerned again in a relevant manner, glimpsing potentiality from afar. Hence, and this is the great danger of habitual inattention, suspension and immobility increase the decline of an ethical concern emerging from the middle of each occasion to think in the presence of the other.

A relevant concern as an ethical concern therefore requires a “believe in the world” as Deleuze mentions: “If you believe in the world you precipitate events, however inconspicuous, that elude control, you engender new space‐times, however small their surface or volume … Our ability to resist control, or our submission to it, has to be assessed at the level of our every move ” (Deleuze Negotiations 1995, 176). Disregarding to asses the ability to resist control at the level of every move, means to stop thinking and to give in to the standardization of everyday life. The desire for power and control lurks around every corner and the comfort to reproduce pre-given actions is daring. The question of concerns of relevance has to do with how the creative act of emergence is concerned as ethically relevant. It is the task of the subject to put itself at risk at the level of every move to be able to produce relevant concerns in a creative manner. Thought is in decline because anxiety reigns over risk and greed over generosity.

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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.