Otto Freundlich “Cosmic Communism” @ Museum Ludwig, Cologne

Museum Ludwig, ML, Ausstellungsansichten Ot­to Fre­undlich - Kos­misch­er Kom­mu­nis­mus, Ausstellungszeitraum18. Fe­bruar – 14. Mai 2017, Köln

Museum Ludwig, ML, Ausstellungsansichten Ot­to Fre­undlich – Kos­misch­er Kom­mu­nis­mus, Ausstellungszeitraum18. Fe­bruar – 14. Mai 2017, Köln

I am currently working on my book on ‘Cosmic Materialism’, supported by Warwick Social Theory Centre. The book looks at the role of science and the parallel re-evaluation of alternative cosmologies/ontologies in the anti-colonial and anti-totalitarian movements of the interwar period. The artist statement in this exhibition (h/t Gesa Helms) is very exemplary of how the cosmic was envisioned as a provocation to contemporary politics:

“For him [Otto Freundlich], abstraction expressed a radical renewal that went far beyond art. For instance, the curved patches of color in his paintings reflect the concept of space in Einsteinian physics, with which he was familiar from an early age. Still, overcoming representationalism also had a social dimension for him. As he saw it, every form of material perception was permeated with possessiveness and thus outdated: “The object as the antithesis to the individual will disappear, and with it the state of one person being an object for another.” He always viewed the harmony of the colors in his paintings in the context of the greater whole. The notion of communism for which he fought sought to abolish all boundaries “between world and cosmos, between one person and another, between mine and yours, between all the things that we see”.”

Needless to say, this book (and this exhibition) isn’t sadly just about the past.

Otto Freundlich
Cosmic Communism
February 18–May 14, 2017
Opening: February 17, 7pmMuseum Ludwig, Cologne
Heinrich-Böll-Platz
50667 Cologne
Germanywww.museum-ludwig.de
Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Vimeo

Caribbean Queer Visualities & Transmission Gallery, Glasgow

Another interesting event, this time in Glasgow (thanks for this one, Gesa!). Official information here, Facebook here.

Location : Transmission
Date : Saturday, 18 February – Saturday, 25 March
Time : 11am-5pm/Tues-Sat

Transmission is pleased to be hosting the Small Axe-curated exhibition, Caribbean Queer Visualities in partnership with the British Council.

“One of the most remarkable developments in the Caribbean and its diaspora over the past two decades or so is the emergence of a generation of young visual artists working in various media (paint, film, performance) who have been transforming Caribbean visual practice, perhaps even Caribbean visual culture.

Importantly these younger artists did not grow up in the “aftermaths of sovereignty” so much as in the aftermaths of sovereignty’s aftermaths. They grow up in a context in which the great narratives of sovereignty, once oppositional, once open to the adventure of a future-to-come, have congealed and ossified, and in doing so disclose more and more their own modes of exclusion, marginalization, repression, and intolerance. And as the old anti-systemic movements for social and political change became installed in power in the new states of the region they stultified into new modes of orthodoxy, into their own terrified normativities, anxiously policing the boundaries of identity and community, the expressions of personhood and belonging, of sex and pleasure.

These are precisely themes that preoccupy this younger generation, and that provoke and illuminate the domain we call Caribbean queer visuality.”

David Scott

Director, The Small Axe Project

ARTISTS

Ewan Atkinson (Barbados)

Jean-Ulrick Désert (Haiti/Germany)

Richard Fung (Trinidad/Canada)

Andil Gosine (Trinidad/Canada)

Nadia Huggins (St.Vincent & the Grenadines)

Leasho Johnson (Jamaica)

Charl Landvreugd (Suriname/Netherlands)

Kareem Mortimer (Bahamas)

Ebony G. Patterson (Jamaica)

Jorge Pineda (Dominican Republic)

Curated and coordinated by:

David Scott, Columbia University

Erica James, Yale University
Nijah Cunningham, Princeton University

Caribbean Queer Visualities was first shown at the Outburst Queer Arts Festival in Belfast.

CFPs: I/Mages of Tomorrow & Techno Resistance and Black Futures

Just received these calls (thanks, Anja and Holly), which may be of interest to readers. More info on I/Mages of Tomorrow here and on Techno Resistance and Black Futures here.

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“I/Mages of tomorrow invites activists, artists, academics, film-makers, community organisers, scientists and tech-creators to consider what can be achieved when we come together as people of colour, as black and brown bodies, as queer, trans and non-binary voices and do not only talk about whiteness, patriarchy, islamaphobia, racism, or homophobia. Blackness will be explored not only in the diasporic context in which it operates almost always in the position of minority, but from the perspective of majority narratives from geopolitical and geographical locations in which whiteness is not the normalised, de-politicised default.

We welcome submissions addressing critical whiteness by white and white-migrant bodies speaking out on privilege, solidarity, silence, giving space and calling out. This anti-conference conference will be an immersion in the impossible materialised, a beautiful and empowering attempt at community, healing, creation, a challenging and unsettling exploration of our capacity to invoke dreams and to enact them into reality.

I/Mages of tomorrow prioritises black and brown, queer and trans, people of colour voices and we especially encourage those submissions. “

Techno Resistance and black futures conference

#blacktechfutures

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“We’re delighted to announce Techno Resistance and Black Futures conference taking place at Goldsmiths, University of London on 27th May, 2017.

In his 1994 essay ‘Black to the Future: Interviews with Samuel Delaney, Greg Tate and Tricia Rose,’ Mark Dery describes the black body as inhabiting a perverse space of cultural intolerance. In a very real sense, Dery describes the black body as occupying a place in history where the Diaspora is more reminiscent of the strangeness of alien abduction, rather than that of a self-determinant peoples.

Still, according to Dery, subjugation of the black body is situated in the techno-scientific, where the subject is articulated as real only in as much as it is made visible in contact with the most (dis)functional modes of technological progress: today in terms of the tip of a police bullet, the subject of the body cam or racial profiling, the efficiency of redlined pricing and other technologies that disproportionately reduce the free mobility of black people. For technology has been, and remains today, an insufficient means of liberation for the black body.

Paradoxically, since the projects of the Enlightenment and the technological dystopia called modernity, the technical has also functioned as the black body’s precise mode of individual and collective departure. Technological speculation, as a technique of relation borrowing from Brian Massumi (2008) or what Alanna Thain (2008) describes as ‘a lived reality of relation too often obscured by a retroactive distancing between mind/ body, self/ other, subject/ object, artist/ artwork, discovery/ invention,’ offers the black body a method by which the alienness of terrestrial belonging can be re-scripted, re-coded and re-organised into alternative modes of being and becoming. Here we reference Denise da Silva’s adoption of mathematical reasoning to devise procedures that unleash ‘blackness’ to confront life or Stefano Harney and Fred Moten’s proposed methodology of the undercommon which prompts black people to adopt a right of indifference to representation in the break of artistic production.

One goal is to understand how the black body operates at the intersections of history, speculation and technique. Another is to move beyond a methodological immediacy that reflects historical and present modes of sufferings and displacements. The overall aim, however, is to imagine new relational frameworks that seek to understand how the imposition of circumstance can emerge as a politics of self-determinate belonging.

It is here, at the junction of encounter and context, that Félix Guattari views the racialised group as assigning meaning. This meaning is a force that ‘constitutes the seeds of the production of subjectivity’, as ‘we are not in the presence of a passively representative image, but a vector of subjectivation’ (Guattari, et. al., 1995: 29−30). It is through the meaning of backness that the black, brown and racialised individual creates a cohesion of (mis)representation, expounded by aesthetic markers, dynamic vibrations and cultural kineticisms often expressed as a sense of belonging.

Techno Resistance and Black Futures takes this point of departure as method of intervention and critique (in literature, philosophy, sonic resonances, short film, science fiction, social platforms, gaming, cosplay, graphic arts and other digital and geek ecologies) that put forward the potential for alternative modes of living for the racialised body. In other words, it asks how the black, brown and ‘othered’ body can move beyond the study of symbolic, transcendental or physiological human attributes, or critique that exposes the violences of power (in their colonial, imperial and capitalist articulations) toward conditions of relation that activate new modes of being and becoming, and ultimately the liberation of black potential?”

Organised by: Ramon Amaro, Digital Culture Unit, Centre for Cultural Studies

Nigel Clark @ Birkbeck, 2 March 2017

Nigel Clark is speaking at the Human/Nonhuman Seminar at Birkbeck next month. Here are the details:

Thursday, 2 March 2017, 2-4pm.

Room B02, Gordon Square.

All welcome, RSVP via Eventbrite.

Description

“The GEDS Human/Non-Human Working Group is pleased to host a seminar by Professor Nigel Clark (Lancaster University). Professor Clark’s work focuses on how social life is shaped and perturbed by physical forces. The idea of the `Anthropocene’ prompts us to see human beings as geological agents, but to also ask how our species acquired its geological agency: what physical forces we’ve tapped into and joined up with. Professor Clark is currently exploring how humans have used fire to transform `earthy materials’, and in the process how we’ve shaped our social and physical worlds. This leads to the question of what kinds of material and social experimentation we should be considering in times of rapid climate change. During record warm temperatures in 2016, forest fires in Alberta led to the evacuation of Fort McMurray – service centre for the Athabasca oil sands. Though mining operations were shielded by firebreaks, the collision of climate change with hydrocarbon exploitation was hard to ignore. In 2014, bushfire set alight Victoria’s Hazelwood open cut coalmine, pointing up Australia’s ambivalent positioning as the world’s leading coal exporter and as part of the front line of climate change-related extreme events. Meanwhile, Indonesia – world no2 coal exporter – struggles to contain its vast forest fire problem. This talk presents research with Lauren Rickards (RMIT) about fearsome and growing `synergies’ between climate-related extreme events and hydrocarbon extraction. More than just an issue of nature-culture entanglement, this `species of trouble’ summons us to think at once in terms of the circulations of the Earth system and the layering or stratification of our planet. Acknowledging the fraught and complex politics of the events in question, we also begin to ask what role frontline communities might play in renegotiating relationships with the strata and flows in question.”

The turn to the right: Opposition on what terms?

The present turn to the right is giving rise to a seemingly unceasing flow of disastrous policies and actions. Every few hours of so we receive another devastating piece of news, accompanied by an avalanche of online and print commentary. It is these responses that are almost as frightening as the shocks from the top. And I do not mean the comments from those who celebrate their own self-oppression, but by those who consider themselves in opposition. While it is understandable that people suffer from overload, this is not a good moment for clinging to straws offered by the very same people one is opposing. These false friends tend to manifest as follows:

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1) ‘National values’. Whether it is appeals to ‘British values’ and ‘Americanness’, or concerns about embarrassing the Queen, emphasis on ‘national values’ as a counter-strategy is not only disturbing, but increasingly bordering on the bizarre. From reading the protest signs at the London march on Monday against the ‘Muslim ban’, one gets the impression that some people seriously think of the UK Government as being capable of decent actions. We are talking about the same government that ran racist Brexit and anti-immigration campaigns and is radically disenfranchising its own people. But, apparently, there is still hope that they’ll do super nice things, because of British values and all that truthful stuff that abject non-Brits have to learn about this country in the citizenship test.
But then you say: appealing to ‘national values’ helps me speak to the nationalist constituency and not just preach to the converted. Great move! But: while you have correctly identified that nationalists do not fully understand their own ‘values’, perhaps you as an Enlightened Being at least could be a bit more reflexive about what these might be. After all, such values have historically been used to devalue those of other people, specifically, as writers such as Hoda Katebi have pointed out, under colonialism and ‘development’. From this perspective, if there is something such as ‘British values’, it could be described as ‘killing with kindness’.

nationalism


2) Nationalism.
Some writers feel no need to bother with the lame illusion of ‘national values’ and go for straight, undiluted nationalism. This economic gesture is popular, because it neither requires much elaboration nor reflexivity: take back the nation, make it great again! Oh wait, doesn’t that sound familiar? In the past, nationalism has led to real revolutionary fervour that resulted in some brilliant dictatorships and mass deportations/executions, or, if you don’t want to go full drama, failed alliances (I’m not talking EU here) and some really sound delineations of who belongs. But for many people it means such beautiful things as re-nationalising the railways, keeping more of their money, preserving the fragile local ecology of non-standardised bathtub plugs, saving the health service from the likes of Richard Branson – or being saved by the almighty Nicola Sturgeon. Of course, nationalism is totally going to deliver on that, because there is going to be so much more accountability…

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3) Who is this about? At the supposed anti-Muslim-ban march on Monday, most of the signs read something like ‘fuck this shit’, ‘fuck Trump’ and ‘grab him by the balls’, combined with some more polite British variations (see point 1). As some Muslim (and also non-Muslim) writers have pointed out, no white person actually gives a fuck about them. As a white non-Muslim, you might be hurt by bad man Trump, but, most likely, you are going to be able to carry on live as usual, even if you join the odd travel boycott. So, basically, you get to vent your frustrations at that whatsitorangefuckface, look great in front of your friends AND continue to enjoy your privileges – after all, even the most disenfranchised white person has greater freedom of movement – a brilliant win-win situation. Of course, it is totally okay to make this all about personal pain and not about your embeddedness in structural oppression (see points 4 & 5). After all, this is not making things worse for anyone else, is it?

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4) Self-victimisation. A familiar face from anti-racism debates, white self-victimisation is a totally great way of ensuring that we can all be happily oppressed together without having to make special concessions for anyone. As they say, we’re all in this together. In fact, all the hard-done by white people that have suffered from the clout of the English upper class, evil Germans and so on, are much worse off than, for example, those dirty refugees that don’t even have a concept of the struggles in the countries they are rushing to for salvation. You seek salvation from us wretched white people? Sorry about those unfortunate bombings, but haven’t you looked at how much we are suffering ourselves? Some of the brilliant logic from this camp has even resulted in calls to support Trump, because Angela Merkel, the apparent source of all of this suffering, rejects him. The enemy of my enemy is my…

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5) Externalising white supremacy. Congratulations – you have correctly identified sources of modern day Nazism: Trump, the KKK, the Christian right, Theresa May, Nigel Farage, the Sun, Steve Bannon, the BBC, and sometimes even Jeremy Corbin when he dabbles in half-hearted attempts at immigration policy. Down with them all, and the world will be a better place. Of course, as a white middle-class political commentator, it is sheer talent and ambition that has given you a position at a major news outlet, and it is sheer coincidence that pretty much all of your colleagues have the same background, too. You probably all love Hannah Arendt and her poignant analysis of totalitarianism. But you are really not sure what to make of that ‘banality of evil’ talk. Evil that can’t just be conveniently isolated in scapegoat-type effigies? Evil as a process that we may all be part of? But I’m such a good guy!

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6) Fantasies of violence. Along the same lines, a popular sport at the moment is virtual ‘Nazi bashing’. Devised as a critique of the wimpy left and its amnesia regarding bodies that could potentially be hurt, because it’s usually not theirs (and wasn’t there this Fanon guy, too?), some people haven’t quite got the irony and have discovered ‘Nazi bashing’ as an online spiritual relief that helps make the world a better place for others – a bit like Fight Club meets Live Aid. It’s so romantic to be a black clad street fighter, a hero fighting for… what was it again? And it’s unlike the less visible forms of violence that are so hard to make fashionable. Recommended watching: The Dreamers.

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7) Bad shit from nowhere. OMG – where did all this suddenly come from?? We’ve never seen such racism, sexism, homophobia, etc before! What has gotten into people? I’m afraid, you are so right! This is a total anomaly, probably having to do with a bad constellation of planets or something. I’m sure I read some of this my horoscope: people will turn really fucking scary from 2016 onwards. Of course, this has nothing to do with present economic and political systems which reward a dismantling of public services or just the public in general. It also has nothing to do with any sort of racist, sanctimonious rhetoric from the top, used to cover up self-enrichment and nepotism. So what are we supposed to do?? We can’t really think of anything, because we really don’t understand why people act like this!!

Ongoing Reading List (recommendations welcome!)

Demir, Ipek (2017) “Brexit as Backlash Against Loss of Privilege and Multiculturalism” Discover Society

Goodfellow, Maya (2017) “Theresa, Trump and a Culture of Demonisation” Media Diversified

Katebi, Hoda (2017) “Please keep your American flags off my hijab” JooJoo Azad

Ko, Lisa (2017) “20 Lessons on How to be American” The Offing

Holloway, Lester (2016) “White tribalism was not made by Trump. It already existed in America as it does in Britain” Media Diversified

Weber, Cynthia (2016) “Sovereignty, Sexuality And The Will To Trump: A Queer IR Analysis And Response” The Disorder of Things

Wolfe, Ross (2017) ““Everyone’s a victim”: Relativizing Auschwitz with Adorno” The Charnel House

Yerbamala Collective (2017) “Our vendetta: Witches vs Fascists”

Big thank you to Gesa Helms and Anja Kanngieser for comments. All mistakes remain my own.

Academic Boycott of International US conferences in Solidarity with People Affected by ‘Muslim Ban’

You can sign the letter here.

London Demo at Downing Street today (30 January 2017) 6-8pm. Demo at Warwick (Piazza) 2pm. More demos around the country/world.

“On 27 January 2017, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order putting in place a 90-day ban that denies US entry to citizens from seven Muslim majority countries: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia. So far, the ban includes dual nationals, current visa, and green card holders, and those born in these countries while not holding citizenship of them. The Order also suspends the admittance of all refugees to the US for a period of 120 days and terminates indefinitely all refugee admissions from Syria. There are indications that the Order could be extended to include other Muslim majority countries.

The Order has affected people with residence rights in the US, as well as those with rights of entry and stay. Some of those affected are fleeing violence and persecution, and have been waiting for years for resettlement in the US as refugees. Others are effectively trapped in the US, having cancelled planned travel for fear that they will be barred from returning. The order institutionalises racism, and fosters an environment in which people racialised as Muslim are vulnerable to ongoing and intensifying acts of violence and hatred.

Among those affected by the Order are academics and students who are unable to participate in conferences and the free communication of ideas. We the undersigned take action in solidarity with those affected by Trump’s Executive Order by pledging not to attend international conferences in the US while the ban persists. We question the intellectual integrity of these spaces and the dialogues they are designed to encourage while Muslim colleagues are explicitly excluded from them.”

Catastrophe: Critical Legal Conference 2017 @ Warwick – Call for Streams

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Image: “Catastrophe” by Lala Gallardo

Thought this conference might be of interest to readers, and it’s happening here at Warwick:

“Ten years ago, the so-called ‘Invisible Committee’ urged that ‘It is useless to wait…. To go on waiting is madness. The catastrophe is not coming, it is here. We are already situated within the collapse of a civilization. It is within this reality that we must choose sides.’ Over a decade before, Leonard Cohen had written; ‘This is the darkness, this is the flood. The catastrophe has already happpened and the question we now face is what is the appropriate behaviour.’ The 2017 Critical Legal Conference thus calls for streams, panels and papers that reflect upon ‘catastrophe’; on the catastrophes of our time and upon their interrelations; upon the questions of appropriate behaviours that might emerge and sides that might be taken. In particular we hope to encourage streams on:

  • Increasing brutality and violence of the carceral and security state;
  • War, migration, and refugee crises;
  • Racism, xenophobia, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia and countless forms of day to day violence;
  • On the atmospheres of violence under regimes of Modi, Temer, Trump, Brexit or Erdogan
  • Natural disasters and the effects of climate change in the anthropocene;
  • Forms of colonialism, neocolonialism and economic imperialism driven by capitalism and neoliberal ideologies;
  • Crises of care and depletion of the social reproductive capacities under global capitalism;
  • Rampant fear-mongering and the political exploitation of deprivation.
  • Catastrophe, disaster and crisis as modes of biopolitics, governance or accumulation

However, these catastrophes are only the most obvious effecting us today. Catastrophe does not necessarily imply a sudden fright or a grand world-historical moment that is evident to all. We also want to emphasise: the slow violence of catastrophe; the gradual and often imperceptible disintegration that is neither spectacular nor instantaneous; the ‘human catastrophes’ fostered by capitalism in its crises of social reproduction; intimate catastrophes, moments of collapse and calamity that concern the subject and the psyche, as well as the domestic.

Taking a cue from Bonnie Honig, we might identify the genre of this mode of critique as containing something of the dark romantics. The catastrophe is that chasmatic void into which we are about to fall (or perhaps we have already fallen). We are pervaded by a sense of the coming (or already arrived) doom. But despite this, catastrophe also suggests an opening to something beyond. It creates new spaces for resistance and solidarity, while potentially strengthening old ones. Catastrophe names the end in ancient Greek music and theatre, an unravelling and return to context. It was coupled with anakrousis – a sonorous explosion that was played at the beginning of a performance to clear the ears and so make space for a cosmos to be created. Catastrophe announced the overturning of that world and prepared the listeners to leave the theatre, to return to the street and to the context of popular life. Tolkien coins the term Eucatastrophe to signify the sudden positive resolution of a seemingly impossible situation. Thus, continuing from the hugely successful 2016 CLC focus on ‘turning points’, the theme of catastrophe asks us to consider the day after the moment of rupture, the period after the turning point.

What are the traps of thinking through ‘catastrophe’? Does catastrophe require redemption? Certainly modes of Christian theology imagine the katechon – the worldly suspension of the end times in which we are situated – as the holding-off of the justice of the end of the world. But by thinking our situation in other cosmologies, does the question of the catastrophe disappear, or appear differently? Or in a more profane sense, what are the problems of thinking through the lens of the catastrophe – is there a catastrophe (for us) in thinking catastrophe? Should we move away from the thought of the catastrophe and think more hopefully or joyfully?

Finally, we hope the question of catastrophe also invites a certain critical self-reflection. In liberal accounts, law seems to stand out against the catastrophe: the catastrophe is the perversion of legal rationality or the inability of pure legal norms to reach their proper context. Critical fields seek to undermine this claim, but to what extent and what effect? And what of the left’s own catastrophes, what of the co-option of resistance in human rights or development, or of the various collapses or exhaustions of left political and legal projects?

So we invite participants to the coming Catastrophe of the 2017 Critical Legal Conference at the Warwick Law School and in conjunction with the Social Theory Centre. It will take place on the 1st-3rd of September. Further details can be found on the conference webpage (Link). Please send your stream proposals to clcwarwick@gmail.com. The closing date for streams will be the 28th of February, the call for papers will open after that.”

http://criticallegalthinking.com/2017/01/19/catastrophe-critical-legal-conference-2017-call-streams/