EveryOne’s Postconceptualism

Invited to Oslo by Anne Szefer Karlsen, Associate Professor of the MA CURATORIAL PRACTICE, Faculty of Fine Art, Music and Design, University of Bergen, I presented this writing workshop as part of Anne’s ‘HOW TO DEAL WITH TEXT AS A CURATOR’ workshop with Federica Bueti, Karen Grønneberg, and Gerrie van Noord (in picture).

Everyone’s Postconceptualism

Urban dictionary – top rated definition:
“there’s no there there”
A descriptive phrase (originally coined by Gertrude Stein) now used to convey an utter lack of substance or veracity as it pertains to the subject under discussion. Alternatively, the phrase can be used as a literal absence of a physical location. Bush and Cheney keep screaming about a link between Iraq and al Queda, but there’s no there there. I went searching for Atlantis, but there’s no there there.

Seminar Description
Language, literature, thought and knowledge are part of the world. There are no pure styles or neutral signs; to use words assuming their ready-made, global purchase on things, or to deny the technical role of projection in meaning’s transfer, is to be bound for failure.

To acknowledge in this way theory and culture as ever, some-how, situated and practiced is also to acknowledge that it reads/writes differently by ‘travelling’ (Edward Said) and that this excursion of meaning involves its own travails for practitioners. Following Spivak then, in this particular conception of contemporary production that works against the neoliberalised, single-timed concept of the art work or curatorial proposition as always-already secured potential ‘knowledge’, it is in fact the poetic aspect of every artistic/curatorial expression that performs the risking of knowability itself. This is not to doubly aestheticise artistic or curatorial writing (aesthetics are always intractably t/here) but to emphasise writing’s stakes and its reflexive potentiality for thinking further—through the response-ability and speculative/fictive aspect of literary and discursive making.

This seminar is an experiment in coming to terms with writing’s ‘situation’ in participants’ own practices through the use of an exemplary text of post-language lyric writing by Juliana Spahr. We will consider modes of response-ability within the frame-based negotiations of specific projects, and the manifold rewards of poetic writing’s political and aesthetic modes of inquiry.

Preparatory reading for the seminar:
Isabelle Stengers, ‘Who is the Author’, in Power and Invention: Situating Science, pp 153-176.

Juliana Spahr, The Transformations. (As much as students prefer to dive in – we will also read this text in class but some familiarity would be good).

Class reference texts:
Edward Said, ‘Travelling Theory’, from The World, The Text, The Critic.
Dominique Paini, ‘Should we Put an End to Projection?’, October, Fall 2004, No. 110, Pages: 23-48.

‘Harbour Imaginaries from Below - on the aesthetics of limits to cheap labour and nature’, by Rachel O’Reilly

‘Harbour Imaginaries from Below – on the aesthetics of limits to cheap labour and nature’ talk

I give a talk, ‘Harbour Imaginaries from Below – on the aesthetics of limits to cheap labour and nature’, on Friday 8. January, 2016, at the MUHKA Museum of Contemporary Art in Antwerp as part of the School of Missing Studies’ Lodgers #4 program.

Could the desire for the fully automated movements of goods also be a desire for silence, for the tyranny of a single anecdote?

From January 4-16 Lodgers #4  presents a series of reading-, scriptwriting, – and performance workshops, departing form the harbour as a plethora of disparate languages. Each stage in the reception, processing and distribution of goods comes with its own syntax, vocabulary and infrastructure. Each of these languages also has its own history and evolution.

We will be looking at the coded communication between ships, the harbour master, dockworkers – but also at the PR language used to present the ideal harbour; the programming language of automatization, the human language of formal and informal labour protest, and the gaps in the story that the colonial leaves.

Accumulated, this Babel-like situation marks a point on the evolution of the harbour, one that offers an insightful opportunity to investigate the many facets of its influence and breadth. For some, automatization threatens the future of the voice(s) that the harbour can speak with – traditionally the setting for interaction and tales of fantasy. For others, the future harbour is a utopian site where humans are emancipated from the location itself, leaving the harbour silent and speaking in inaudible code.

Participants are invited to participate and engage in a collaborative process incorporating the many disparate languages with which a harbour ‘converses’ – working on a speculative narrative that takes place in the harbour of 2050. Departure points for this narrative are silence as a political imperative of infrastructure, and the role that silence will play in the future harbour both in its human and automated state. In proposing that the future harbour may be silent, we’d like to increase the volume of the stories, which must be told now.

More information on the program: Lodgers #4