My article “To risk the Earth: The Nonhuman and Nonhistory” is out in the new Feminist Review Environment Special Issue, edited by Carrie Hamilton and Yasmin Gunaratnam (free link from publisher here). The article was originally written for the : Decolonizing and Reinhabiting Broken Earth, curated by Kathryn Yusoff and Nigel Clark. It was prompted by a string of peer reviews and conference papers which, in my view, followed a problematic and re-occurring pattern of inattention to colonial histories in public engagement with global environmental change. I feel that, no matter what discipline we inhabit, we have to remain aware that any landscape has a history, and that this history will be differently remembered by different people. The fact that some of these papers either ignored or tried to erase particular traumatic histories speaks of a privileged position that, in all cases, remained unacknowledged. This article is a plea to sensitise oneself to geography and geology not just aesthetically and experientally, but also historically. I am expressing this call through concepts developed by Suzanne Césaire and Edouard Glissant against the white privilege of selective environmental aestheticisation.
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.”
Director, The Small Axe Project
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.
“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
“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
Image: Bhanu Kapil, Performance for Ban at Pratt Institute, New York, April, 2013
An interesting discussion is taking place in Glasgow on Sunday 22 January 2017. Entitled “Blow up my town: Perspectives on self-abolition, the body, and transgression”, it is a one-off “reading/group/discussion” that takes inspiration from artists and writers such as Chantal Akerman, Bhanu Kapil, Jack Halberstam, Nathaniel Mackey, Pipilotti Rist and Marina Vishmidt. They seem to be fully booked, but the website already has some interesting materials that may be interesting to readers. I’ve been told that the website will continue as a resource – and hopefully as a platform for future events!
Image: ‘Prekariat’ – Graffiti by karina1101
My colleague Heather McLean has put together this amazing workshop, taking place on 22/23 January 2016 at Glasgow’s Kinning Park Complex. The event is free, but it would be great if you could register here. See you there!
The Arts and Precarity: Forging New Solidarities
This event combines radical cabaret with a day of academic-artist-activist workshop discussions.
Programmed in Glasgow’s Kinning Park Complex, an autonomous, resident-led social centre, the event will bring together a transnational network of artist-activists and scholars to discuss strategies for analysing and resisting precarious labour in a time of austerity.
Day 1: The Arts and Precarity Cabaret, January 22 — 7 pm till 11pm
The Arts and Precarity cabaret will feature five artists exploring and resisting public funding cuts, precarious work and labour inequalities through text, films, music and performance.
Day 2: The Arts and Precarity Workshop, January 23 — 10 am till 6:00 pm
The workshop groups will discuss precarious work across many fields, from freelancers in the cultural sector to zero hours service and education workers, from undocumented agricultural labourers to interns and volunteers.
Min Sook Lee (professor of fine arts and award-winning filmmaker of ‘El Contrato,’ a documentary)
Harry Giles (performer, poet, and general doer of things — writer and performer of ‘All I Want for Christmas is the Downfall of Globalised Late Capitalism’)
Richa Nagar (professor and author of ‘Muddying the Waters: Co-authoring Feminisms Across Scholarship and Activism’)
Geraldine Pratt (professor and author of ‘Families Apart: Migrating Mothers and the Conflicts of Labor and Love’)
Claire Askew (poet and award-winner of the inaugural International Salt Prize for Poetry)
They They Theys (poetry performance in English and BSL, melded with acoustic music and live visuals. Exploring disability, Deaf culture, class, race, gender and sexuality. Mostly mellow-ish, sometimes veering accidentally into punk)
Cachín Cachán Cachunga! (intersectional queer & trans arts company established in Edinburgh in 2009)
Caleb Johnston (lecturer in Human Geography and co-author of ‘Theatre, Politics and Transnational Justice’)
Fran Higson (filmmaker of ‘United We Will Swim….Again,’ The extraordinary story of a community fighting to save their local swimming pool)
Free vegan and vegetarian lunch catered by Soul Food Sisters social enterprise.
(BSL interpretation provided. The building is wheelchair-accessible by ramp. There are heavy double doors so please get in touch if you want assistance upon arrival. There is a level-access wide/large cubicle in one of the toilets, but no fully-accessible or stand-alone single accessible toilet. All toilets are gender-neutral.)
For more info contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
This year, there has been an explosion of Anthropocene themed events: academic conferences, design shows and particularly art exhibitions, it seems. And there are more in the making: The Deutsches Museum in Munich is preparing the exhibition ‘Anthropocene – Nature and Technology in the Age of Humans’, the University of Bristol’s Cabot Institute has announced a symposium entitled ‘Society in the Anthropocene’ and publishing giant Elsevier is launching an ‘Anthropocene’ journal in 2013.
What is the Anthropocene? The Anthropocene is not a fixed geological epoch as yet, but rather a proposal for one. Coined by ecologist Eugene Stoermer and popularised by Nobel-Prize winning chemist Paul Crutzen, the term translates as ‘The Age of Man’ or ‘The Age of Humans’. It basically implies that humans have come to dominate geo-physical activity on Earth and are affecting phenomena such as the planet’s climate at an unprecedented level. So far, scientists have not been able to agree on a date when the Anthropocene is supposed to have started: with the industrial revolution and its emission/population spike – or with the invention and proliferation of agriculture? I am not sure what exactly was submitted to the Geological Society in London in 2008, but whatever it was, the verdict is still out. In any case, the concept is increasingly gaining traction in popular discourse.
Why am I interested in this? First of all, most geographers are keeping an eye on the debate, because that’s their job: to keep up with what’s going on with our planet and how we (or other creatures) might deal with this information (e.g. migrate, change government, die out, adopt a new philosophy or life-style, change breeding patterns, do geo-engineering etc). But within this interest, there are obviously different areas that geographers are looking at. As I also teach in art and design, I am particularly invested in how artists and designers are engaging with the Anthropocene. Again, there is a huge diversity of creative projects. Some are more commercially orientated, in that they seek to take advantage of the potential new requirements of a new epoch. Others are more theoretical, for instance, redirection of architectural interest towards a double bind of land and form. And still others are overtly political, in trying to prompt a rethinking and remaking of current ways of living. (Will the frame of the Anthropocene help in this endeavour?)
What interests me most, at the moment, is the navigation between two areas: the geo-political, by which I mean the future of global politics and their response to planetary changes, and what at many events has been called the ‘geo-poetic’: ways of relaying the vast spatio-temporalities implicit in thinking geologically. When artists and other people produce Anthropocene-themed work, these areas often intersect, with varying emphases. It appears to be very much the same scenario as with, for instance, exhibitions on new technologies or environmental issues which fall into the category of ‘invisible risk’: artwork, computer games or other media trying to make tangible the scales we cannot experience (whether this is the atomic or the global scale), the causalities and consequences we cannot grasp (how do pesticides end up in Antarctic penguins? How come we cannot prove that leukemia cases near nuclear powerstations are causally related?) or the future trajectories we could help shape (e.g. the difficulty of taking action for far future intergenerational justice).
Indeed, a theme that unites the majority of Anthropocene art and design based events is the capacity of these fields to ‘sensitise’ their audiences to their new role as a geological actant. As the artists from Smudge Studio put it, through their exhibitions they wished to make people aware that ‘geologic time is not composed of us – we are composed of it’. Many other examples were described in symposia such as ‘The Geologic Turn’ (organised by Etienne Turpin at the University of Michigan) or ‘The Geological Turn’ (organised by artist Gabo Guzzo with London’s Banner Repeater Gallery). These ranged from rocks as an object of scientific, philosophical and popular interest (e.g. Jane Hutton, D Graham Burnett, Edward Eigen), confetti cannons in which ‘each piece of paper matched to the colours of the brightest explosions in the universe’ (Katie Paterson’s 100 Billion Suns), the exponential curve as the new cultural meme (Seth Denizen) to the interactive creation of new representative diagrams for our era (Gabo Guzzo).
The question that poses itself for me could be phrased as: ‘what happens after all this sensitisation?’ From my previous work, I have inherited the following tension: on the one hand, I have become extremely cynical about the ability of creative practice/affective methods to facilitate change/action/re-thinking by itself. Other things around it have to happen. In my work on public engagement with nanotechnology, I found that no matter now much creative practice you embed, if the channels that recognise or can process the outcomes of these creative engagements are not in place, nothing much at all happens (and what these creative practices represent to the audiences involved, of course, plays another role, but that is the subject for another post/article). On the other hand, it can be argued that ‘poetic interventions’ can help gather people round an issue – and these people can then put on pressure so that these channels are put into place. Working with this tension, I am trying to think about ways that artists, designers, social scientists can productively engage with it, especially when called on to put together ‘official’ public engagements.
Rather than just looking at the interactions between art, politics and theory today, I am also guided in this endeavour by looking at theory-art relations at the turn of the last millennium, where people were wrestling with a change of world view brought on by a move from classical to non-classical physics and the transition from imperialist regimes to (democratic/totalitarian) nation states. At this time, the early and mid-20th-century, an explosion of creativity occurred, which also tried to bring into dialogue the geo-poetic and geo-political. The unifying theme of this time appears to have been the ‘inhuman’ of both matter and human interactions (I have started to explain this in my article ‘Negotiating the Inhuman: Bakhtin, Materiality and the Instrumentalisation of Climate Change, forthcoming in Theory, Culture and Society in March 2013), addressed by authors such as Hannah Arendt, Mikhail Bakhtin and Simone Weil – and artists in all fields, from music to painting (Artaud, Brecht, Meyerhold, Schoenberg, Auden, Dali, Duchamp…). Often, close links existed between artists and theorists. Here, the question for me is: what can we learn from these past experiments? What can we learn as artists, theorists, public engagement practitioners?
I will post regular updates on the project, including relevant events and calls for submissions. Comments or e-mails are, as always, appreciated.