categories: conferences, events, research
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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.

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