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I will be participating in a one-day conference at UCL London on March 2nd, 2013. The conference is based on the latest issue of Third Text (see antecedent post). The format is going to be a kind of open discussion/forum without paper presentations and more conversational developments of collective thinking around the theme of art and ecologies.

Conference abstract:

The Eco-Aesthetics conference marks the release of Third Text no. 120 (January 2013), dedicated to the subject of “Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology,” guest-edited by TJ Demos. The event will include numerous contributors to the special issue, which investigates eco-aesthetics in a postcolonial framework—from global warming in the arctic to oil industry environmental damage in Nigeria’s delta, from conflicts between mining corporations and tribals in rural India to the ecological effects of industrial development in the port of Bahia Blanca, Argentina, from urban farming in Detroit to the Occupy movement’s development of a post-media social ecology. The special issue and conference seek to link international and interdisciplinary researchers, artists, and critical theorists in order to consider the questions of how such politico-ecological developments have been recently analyzed, mediated, and negotiated within the visual cultural of art and activism.

Link

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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.

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.

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In one of my recent projects (”Nice-Looking Obstacles: Parkour as Urban Practice for Deterritorialization”), I have investigated the question of movement and architecture as rhythmical nexus through the practice of Parkour. One of my major arguments builds on Parkour’s consideration of obstacles as potential “landing-sites” for a different movement to take place. The engagement with architectural configurations and obstacles through movement recomposes the city, architecture and spacetime through the constant shifting of the movement-space-time nexus (see for example Bergson, Time and Free Will, Chapter II: “The Multiplicity of Conscious States; The Idea of Duration”). To conceptually derive from phenomenological tendencies in Arakawa and Gins and transform the practice of Parkour into a creative form of thought in motion, I use Deleuze and Guattari’s concepts of rhythm, refrain, assemblage and milieu. My major concern aims at the question of how architecture cannot only become more fluid or lend itself for interesting encounters, but what are the ecologies of practices that radically open the potential of movement and encounter to create new relational concepts of spacetime. The full article will be published soon in AI & Society but I would like to provide an excerpt of the most conceptually dense section.

The excerpt: “Architectural Body - the Concept of Landing Sites

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The Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory In cooperation with Culture, Imagination and Practice Research Group, School of Social Sciences

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In light of my acceptance for the Deleuze and Activism Conference in November in Cardiff, I would like to publish my abstract for remarks and discussion:

Expression as Micropolitical Force of Change

For Deleuze and Guattari expression evokes a shock that is in excess of the human body’s contained capacity of perception. It is the potential for change as an ethico-aesthetic and political enunciation. Expression as ethico-aesthetic concept yields the creative capacity of a becoming through an unfolding of its transductive and transversal forces of potential. Expression’s ethical implications lie in the question of “how one performatively contributes to the stretch of expression in the world” (Massumi 2002, xxii). It defines a particular mode of emergence, a becoming that is singular and yet in relation (collective). As a collective mode of becoming, expression reshapes the body as event producing a complicated field of potential that is constantly negotiated by molar captures and molecular series of singularities. The body in its state of shock becomes a negotiated territory for capture being executed (the molding of the expressive potential into a defined system) or it creatively acknowledges change (the acceptance of expression’s potential as novelty).

In an attempt to contribute performatively to the “stretch of expression in the world,” and thus to open up bodies towards the excessive potential of expression, the Senselab (www.senselab.ca) launched a series of events, called Technologies of Lived Abstraction, of which the latest was entitled “Society of Molecules (SoM).” Echoing Whitehead’s concept of society as a relational collective, SoM is a transnational and transversal series of events creating ethico-aesthetic interventions in their immediate local environment. The process-based events yielding an activist micropolitics will function as domain of inquiry to trace expression’s affects on a global, yet transversal, territory.