Contour Biennale/DAI Roaming Academy #12: ‘Planetary Records: Performing Justice Between Art and Law’

On March 11 & 12 in Mechelen, Belgium, I will be co-curating the public program of this event in collaboration with the biennale’s exhibition curator, Natasha Ginwala. Here is the Intro to the Opening Weekend:


As a system of rules constructed and enforced through institutions to regulate behaviour, negotiating legacy relations between particularity and general application, while being maintained through textual and oral interpretation, law is a space of great—if denied—aesthetic deliberation. Justice, quite differently, might be figured as an intractable entanglement of relations, intentions, affectabilities and adjustments between ever-moving, never-global, densely articulated bodies.

The law’s modernization in the colonial epoch consolidated limits for possible relations between justice and law, in its ontological set-up of male persons with base units and rights of property in contractual relation. Engendered and ethnocidally arranged through this fractal abstraction, juridical modernism foreclosed the order of land-based life and literacies. Its decrees of ‘right’ expansion continue to be built upon and innovated, while it secures and distinguishes only particular subjects, objects, and things, into investment-worthy relations.

When artists engage procedures of witnessing, testimonial production and the performativity of the trial, allegories of justice and modes of theatricality surface to haunt the past and present. These spectral zones must constantly be inspected and contested, just as ghosts must be evoked in order to deal with their unfinished legacy. Film and performance are vehicles among many that carve out alter-civilizational images and conceive legibility for eroding matters of injustice. Working from Mechelen, this co-curated programme invites artists, theorists and filmmakers to explicitly unpack the technicity and asymmetrical power of European legal infrastructure. Over two days the program examines artists’ role in challenging normative legal foundations while transforming our understanding of response-ability to double-meanings of law/lore, and tracing the inevitably formal dimensions of present day struggles.

How do ongoing planetary rebellions determined through existing value forms and categorizations, including the racial categorization of “no body / no thing” aim at legal rupture when placed before the courts, without falling into mimetic disfigurements within this very same insufficient order? What does it mean to take an eye or ear to scenes of struggle that reverberate well beyond as well as inside legal institutional terrains? How can artists’ own literacy in post-media conditions—very much at play inside the contemporary law court—make sense of possible realisms against and beyond juridical modernism’s reproduction of capitalism and its increasingly death-driven function?

The artists of Contour Biennale 8, Polyphonic Worlds: Justice as Medium, are connected through their attention to aesthetic contestations of the juridical beyond its present coding, their productive dealings with a planetary regime of impermissible evidence, and their ritualistic as well as counter-analytical engagements with an expanding, expropriated archive. The “record” here is often not data that can be positively marked up or collected in advance, but instead, what is lived while being judged to be outside of proper adjudication. To cultivate flexible imagination around these juridical-aesthetic impasses is to work through the persistent constraining of just realisms, where survival is constantly at stake. Here, justice itself becomes the medium through which we cannot avoid moving through, within and around.

For the full program, click here: Contour 8 Public Program

[Image of the artist Rana Hamadeh performing  ‘Can You Make a Pet of Him Like a Bird or Put Him on a Leash For Your Girls?’]

Advertisements

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.

Speaker AbdouMaliq Simone

DAI Roaming Assembly #10, Infrastructural Rifts: Souls and Soils of Disaster Developmentalism

Co-curated with Farid Rakun of Ruangrupa, Jakarta, for the Dutch Art Academy Roaming Assembly program.

Curatorial Introduction

The Indonesian archipelago is one of many constructed territories to have lived and endured through key contradictions and limits of both exogenous and self-determined developmentalist ideology: from the systemic plantations of the colonial era, to the industrial engineering of postcolonial nationalism, through the violent primitive accumulations of the New Order regime and into an unevenly neoliberalized present. Meanwhile, the archipelago’s deeper history of available forms, its logistically messy, confluent and layered urban and rural fabrics, attest to complex, interwoven, non-common and inter-existent epistemologies of thought, belief, practice and participation that are difficult to capture through singular attachments and reductive modernist analytics.

Globally, as large-scale infrastructure has been increasingly removed from public accountability, private companies absorb and ‘disappear’ political risk, leaving governments to merely campaign on how to fund numericised problems. Infrastructure companies are some of the most dominant forms of contemporary economic life; contract deregulation for a vast array of infrastructure services that were formerly the tasks of the state, whether in Europe, European colonies or early stages of postcolonial polities, enable the penetration of debt-oriented ‘structural adjustment’ logics formerly reserved only for the South.

When struggles around infrastructure developments appear in public against the limits of land, water and social reproduction, the imperialism of structural adjustment by infrastructure appears takes plain view. The sheer scale of present day developments across the planet, combined with the gap left by increasing value uniformity, neutral branding, and singular vocabularies of extinction-oriented ‘best practice’, creates epistemo-political rifts and gaps of symbolic opportunity, where religious, environmental, new labour, indigenous and subaltern communities have been able to differently occupy, and challenge in turn, the ‘fundamentalist’ dimension of late capitalist developmentalism, thus querying the category of the infrastructural itself.

Given the frantic use of resources goes hand in hand with accelerating processes of over-signification, and neither urban or rural thought can be suspended from habituated grounds, this DAI Roaming Academy brings together esteemed emerging and established theorists, activists and artists of the lived infrastructural in Indonesia and Greece, to consider how artists, in particular, might imagine and intervene in the infrastructural in ways that are both signifying and de-signifying on the side of lived eco-social commitment and endurance.

Sidestepping mere arts of ‘exposure’ and overidentification that foreground spectacles and disasters of technology and hardware, “Infrastructure” here comes to be defined through an expanded feminist lens as “an answer to the question of movement and relation” (Angela Mitropolous).

Program

farid rakun – Doublethink-/sink-ing Jakarta
An introduction on how to exercise Orwellian doublethinking towards Jakarta, farid will focus on his own and his family members’ stories and biographies to consider how, contrary to presently popular narrations, Islam-based populism and growth-oriented developmentalism could go hand in hand, be two sides of the same coin, sinking Jakarta further both literally and figuratively.

AbdouMaliq Simone – ‘The Inoperable: On compressing infrastructure and everyday urban life’
How do people residing in districts largely constructed by themselves now deal with dispossession and the disentanglement of long-honed collective operations? How do residents of the residual urban cores of Jakarta, and many other cities of the Southern latitudes deal with the conundrums involved in attempts to update these operations in the midst of multiple forms of urban intervention, some of which are replete with opacities of uncertain potential and effect? Even if the more opaque interventions seem inoperable, never concretely realized, they nevertheless generate unanticipated impacts and frictions. Even the massive volume of projects and infrastructure that is realized sometimes ends up instigating futures far from that which was promised. The presentation considers what might be taking place at the tension-filled, disruptive interfaces between varying logics and forces of spatial transformation and updated operations of autogestion.

Rika Febriyani – ‘Finding ways in a chaotic field’
A study of a classic case: spatial conflict between formal authority and informal organization, taking the examples of Jembatan Lima market and a subsidized housing complex in Kalibata, Jakarta. The presentation aims to explore how conflict becomes a source of energy for daily economic operations outside of largely abandoned city regulations.

Maarten Bakker and Katrin McGauran (SOMO, Centre for Research on Multinational Organizations) – ‘Monitoring  Corporate-State Developments in an Era of Deregulation’
Presenting recent case studies of Dutch company involvement in Indonesia and the South (inc. large scale port developments), SOMO will put into perspective the ideological move ‘From Aid to Trade’ in recent Dutch development policy, and the strategic and organizational challenges of multinationals monitoring within latest regimes of privative, post-regulatory governance.

Saras Dewi – ‘An Examination of Benoa Bay (Case Study), Further Phenomenological Approaches to Social-Ecological Crises in Bali’
How do the Balinese conduct their resistance against non-sustainable hypertourism infrastructure? Through a phenomenological investigation we can pierce into the Balinese concept of Tri Hita Karana, three subtle relationship between human, nature and god. The fight against the reclamation of Benoa Bay utilizes contemporary interpretations of artistic expressions that revive mythologies of the sacred, and transform these into various artistic bodies of works – literature, paintings, music, dance and others. Art for the Balinese is embedded in culture and rituals; in the case of advocating for Benoa Bay, art is instrumental to raise awareness and to organize mass movements.

Cargonauts, Anna Lascari and Ilias,  ‘Gaming Port Infrastructure from Below’
Cargonauts is a unique computer game conceived by a research collaboration of artists and theorists as part of Logistical Worlds. The game captures port struggles from the logisticized labour point of view, in the context of the expansion and privatization of the largest Greek container port of Piraeus (near Athens). Following Brett Neilson’s talk ‘From Warehouse to Data Centre: Poetics and Infrastructures of Political Form’ for DAI Roaming Academy in Jakarta, 2015, Anna and Ilias present Cargonauts as research practice and aesthetic tactics of navigating and worlding infrastructure from below.

Performance Lecture – On Neutrality. Between Non-Aligned Movement(s) and Neoliberal Curatorial Economies

With Jelena Vesić and Vladimir Jerić Vlidi, at Florida, Lothringer13 space, Munich on December 3, 2016.

Introduction

‘We are small and we have politics’

Re-claiming neutrality as a politics of de-colonisation, independence, peace and non-alignment with the powerful world empires, the lecture performance On Neutrality draws upon the active positioning of non-aligned and ‚third world countries‘ gaining independence during the Cold War era. In contrast to the moral minimalist concept of neutrality as it is mobilized in liberal governmentalities, across art and politics, the project considers the rich variegated recent history of situated, politicised forms of neutrality concepts. This politicised history of neutrality concepts will be juxtaposed with the waves of depoliticising neutrality, including curatorial neutralisations of politics, which, aided and abetted by the humanitarian rhetorics of contemporary art, persist in attenuating institutional anxiety and agonistic possibilities of production in contexts of re-colonisation by multinational corporations.

On Neutrality was initially a part of Travelling Communiqué research and exhibition project (Museum of History of Yugoslavia, Belgrade, 2014) and became a Non Aligned Modernity book edition (Museum of Contemporary Art Belgrade, Serbian/English). The lecture performance was presented at Savvy Contemporary Berlin as part of the exhibition From Bandung to Berlin: If all of the moons aligned.

 

Feminist Cinemas of Extraction lecture at UCSD

I was invited to the Visual Cultures of Work research group in the Discursive and Curatorial Production Initiative of the Department of Visual Arts at UC San Diego, to present this lecture ‘Feminist Cinemas of Extraction – Reading Divestment through the Historicity of Labor’

Thursday, November 3, 2016
4–6 PM


‘Mining has stood out as an exemplary industry through which labor and labor struggle has been historically imagined, imaged, and understood. Nevertheless, the formal conventions of radical labor film inherited from Soviet cinemas of the 1920s—in placing trope-like emphasis on machinic automation and the patriarchal ‘family’ wage—have tended to contract viewers into materially very limited and highly gendered readings of extractive politics. Feminist practices of art, film, and activism have long since grappled with this problem on an aesthetic level in accordance with the industry’s own revolutions of production. Rachel O’Reilly’s talk will address the intersection of unwaged, feminist sociality and labor cinema’s attention to the theory of value. Focusing on feminist experiments in cinematic form found in Sophie Bissonnette, Martin Duckworth, and Joyce Rock’s 1980 film Une Histoire de Femme—which tracks the work of Franco/Anglophone women in their support and organization of the historic 1978 International Nickel Company of Canada (INCO) strikes that took place in Sudbury, Ontario—O’Reilly will rethink the relationship between aesthetic politics, contractual form, and labor within present day settler colonial conditions with regard to its relevance for our own cultural work’.

The Visual Cultures of Work research group in the DCP Initiative in the Department of Visual Arts at UC San Diego examines cross-disciplinary ideas and influences—ranging from art history, film and media studies, the history of science, literature, feminist theory, and political history—in the economy of work within modern and contemporary visual culture. This event is co-sponsored by Critical Gender Studies at UC San Diego.