Monthly Archives: April 2009

Berlin Theatre Border program

img_1473Theatre Border is was the [update: very successful] second of our AHRC Beyond Text Creativity Beyond Borders Network events, this time in Berlin at F.U…20-22 April 2009

See the link for more [and eventually a commentary], but the program was:

Program structure:
(which is intentionally loose to allow time for discussion and for borders to be porous)

[and don't you think this picture looks like something Leonardo might have staged?]

Monday: From 10:00 a.m. to 05:00 p.m at Clubhaus.

10am Coffee

10:30 am Introduction Prof Dr Erika Fischer-Lichte and Prof John Hutnyk

11:15 am Dr Julian Henriques: Boarders and Skins: haptic crossovers, tympanic rhythms and sensory surfaces

12:30 lunch

2.30 pm “Goethe Institute Mauerreisse project discussion”, introduced by Kerstin Raatz

3:30 short break

3:45 Paulo Lara and Luiza Valle “Theatre of the Oppressed: Brazil, Parallels and Exercise”

5 pm Future Plans

6.45 pm Drinks and Dinner at “Alter Krug”

Tuesday: 10:00 a.m. to 09:00 p.m.

10:30 Chen, Lin “Restructure of the border with making belief performance”

11am Ray Ganz: “Van Gogh’s Ear: New Voices In Radio Art”

11.50 coffee

12:10 pm Raul Gschrey and Dr Dietmar Kammerer: “Performing in Surveillance Space”

1:30 pm Lunch

3:15 pm Miro Kaygalak: “qwx – show ur lingua” – chair: Kien Nghi Ha

4:00 pm short break

4:20 pm – instructions from Cristobal and Nicolas
W-B-B [Walking-Borders-Berlin]. See full description
5 pm leave for walking event –

8 pm dinner (central, tbc)


Wednesday: From 10:00 a.m. to end, back at the Clubhaus.

10:30 am Joan Kelly: “Theatricalizing Portrature”

11 am Dr Bhaskar Mukhopadhyay: “Theatricalizing Portrature commentary”

11:30 Coffee

11:50am Alexander Motturi and Johannes Anyuru: “FÖRVARET” (The Detention Center)

1:20 pm Lunch

3:20 pm Screening and discussion of “The Empty Centre” with director Dr Hito Steyerl

5 pm break

5:20 pm – 6.30PM Responses from walking event and party – venue tbc.

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Sonic Border was Nov 3-8th 2008 at Goldsmiths. The Theatre Border discussion starts here. Then we will join with the Copenhagen documentary festival (CPH-DOX) for film/border in November 09, but there are no details of this (to be worked out in Berlin – its a rolling program. Or maybe more of a cascade… avalanche…drift…

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Boycott these checks on students

brown1This excellent letter appeared in today’s Guardian. Signed by a range of academics, and pointing out the abuse of power that now extends the border into the classroom. Bad move UK (stupidly following the Australian points based immigration system that worked so well!).

We need a nationwide campaign, as previously discussed here.

Boycott these checks on students

The Guardian, Tuesday 14 April 2009

As academics involved in research on the uses and abuses of state power, it is becoming increasingly apparent that members of staff in universities and colleges are being drawn into a role of policing immigration (Universities weigh up new fraud unit to thwart bogus applications, 11 April). For example, academic and administrative staff are being asked to monitor the attendance of students at lectures and classes (whether compulsory or not), and we are being asked to check the ID of students and colleagues, while external examiners and visiting lecturers are also now being asked to provide passport details.

We strongly oppose the imposition of such changes in the way that academic institutions are run. We believe these practices are discriminatory and distort academic freedoms. The implementation of UK immigration policies is not part of our contractual duties and we will play no part in practices which discriminate against students and staff in this way. We support our administrative colleagues in their refusal to engage in such practices. Thus we pledge to refuse to co-operate with university requests for us to provide details on our students or participate in investigations of those students.

As a first, and highly practical, step, we pledge not to supply any personal details – such as passport or driving licence details – in our role as external examiners, and urge all of our colleagues across higher and further education to join this boycott. We will also forward motions to our respective union branches in support of this position. A boycott would undermine immediately the system of external examining at all levels, which operates almost exclusively on the basis of goodwill, and thus strike a significant blow against both the pernicious drift of government policy, and university managements’ acquiescence to this.

if you don’t start swimmin now

APTOPIX ObamaOut of the blue recently I was asked questions by the magazine ‘State of Nature’ and the full interview will be on their site next month. Some of their questions though had to do with Obama. Since my answer is sort of topical vis a vis the G20 at the start of this month, I’ll include this excerpt from the middle of the interview here now. (I promise not all my answers contain as much waffle or question redirection as this one):

….

You describe how since 9/11 the theory of hybridity and diaspora as sites of political resistance “seems meek and mild in the face of an aggressive neo-liberal conservatism”. Now, the current political narrative in the US seems to be that it is time to return to a more ‘enlightened’ pre-Bush era, ignoring the fact that US foreign policy was hardly much different in previous decades. What does the election of Barack Obama mean for cultural theory?


I think there are big problems associated with the election of Barack Obama if we are to think of this as anything to do with Hybridity. You saw during the election campaign what a mess that turned out to be. Was he Black? Was he mixed? Was he black enough? What about that surname? That middle name? These were pretty distasteful scenes, and clearly the Republican team ‘A’ were in self destruct mode, but if we remember the primaries, the ‘B’ team did some of this low muckraking as well. But then I think all these issues of Barack’s cultural (read political) identity were also ‘meek and mild’ insofar as they disguised the ascendancy of a continued neo-liberal agenda on the part of both ‘sides’ of politics in the USA. Do I need to note that ‘our’ full of ‘hope’ new president managed to bomb Afghanistan on his first day in office, proceeding then to build a new coalition of the coerced to escalate the Afghan war, to launch a concerted recovery package for Capital that involved massive hand outs to the Auto industry, a renegotiation of the role of the World Bank and the IMF (rather than their abolition), an attempt to shore up the unravelling hegemony of the west in the face of military defeat in the Middle East (yes, it is certainly not a victory) and the ascendance of China and India in Asia? Some of us have been reading Quentin Peel’s article in the Financial Times of April the 6th. He says of the G20 summit in London at the start of April (in which, in passing, I note the death at the anti-summit protests of a 47 year old man at the hands of overzealous Police, with the Independent Police Complaints Authority investigating – will charges be laid?) that the summit indicated an important shift in the international order. The rise of new international powers meant ‘fundamental adjustments’ are taking place ‘including a switch of power from West to East. In the crisis, China India and Brazil (not east, but anyway, it’s the FT after all) must be at the table, with China playing an ever more important role in development and geopolitics. As well ‘China lectured Mr Obama’s new administration on the need to follow stimulus spending with renewed effort at fiscal consolidation’. Of course all this, and more – see here – is not anything other than the FT translating business-as-usual into an opportunity as ever. Capitalism is hybrid remember, it can come across as Chinese, but the change in the US response is such that the old stalking-horse accusations of Human Rights violations, usually used by the West to beat up on the rest of the world, were hardly mentioned during Hillary Clinton’s diplomatic visit there in February, as Quentin Peel also notes at the end of his piece. If the FT thinks the times are a changing, then we might want to take a more critical stance here too.

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What has the media coverage of Barack Obama (for example the constant reiteration that he is America’s ‘first black president’ when in fact, by any criteria, he is neither ethnically nor culturally any more black than white) signified in terms of dominant ideas of race, hybridity and multiculturalism?

Surely this question has to be relegated to the future judgement of history. Will Britain now elect its first Black president? It is interesting that there have been discussions on current affairs radio of just this prospect. The point being that we do not have a president in the Westminster system, and being prime minister does not have the same ring of achievement here – I mean, given the mess of the economy, no-one wants to be prime minister here. What I want to know is when we will get a Black Queen? There were those conspiracy theorists who said that Diana was pregnant with Dodi Fayed’s child when she died, but the line of succession would have excluded any possibility of Muslim royalty. I think here the theory gets absurdist. The aspiration to be President is as bad as the aspiration to be a royal – the sooner we do away with both hierarchical systems, and the corporate interests, stock market players, and big-time lobbyists behind it all, the better. Hmmm, did I tell you I was not in favour of the fake democracy that is the parliamentary system – voting once every four years is not really participation in decision making as to how we live our lives. I want real democracy – which is communism. At least that is one way we can define communism – everybody having a real say in how they live. Radical democracy. You don’t even have to vote for it in a guarded booth (remember the hanging chads).

Things to do – research council wish list

piratesofthecaribbean2_trailer_41As part of my job, late Wednesday evening, I am filling out a ‘response form’ for an Arts and Humanities Research Council ‘consultation’. I include it here as I expect this draft not to get past the photocopier… The consultation form asks, in somewhat bureaucratic survey format, for me to opine on things that might be good to do if one had the ear of the research councils. Obviously this is a task in delicate expectation hampering, utopia limiting, reality conscious compromise. And surely I am not the best person to be quizzed for viable schemes – heaven forbid. Yet how about we do some things like:

a) a Global Politics Institute. Such an institute could be based on the sort of thing we write in the Goldsmiths MA Postcolonial brochure which addresses: ‘The emergence of China and India as global players; of the Persian Gulf, Africa, Brazil and Russia as hubs in the world resource economy; the crisis of the nation-state, and phenomenon of ‘failed states’, and the development global governance; the rise of global terrorism after 9/11 and geo-political instability in the Middle East; the snowballing of the metropolitan credit-crunch into global financial meltdown’ Such an institute would investigate issues of intellectual property rights, social capital, financialisation, global governance, democracy and secularism. An institute like this would deal with issues ranging from the representation of terrorism and fear to images of poverty and charity (double standards) in Asia and Africa; from questions popular democracy and people’s movements in India and Latin America to the volatile debates over human rights in China and over the environment in South East Asia (Malaysia, Indonesia). It would be an important forum for shaping intelligent debates with intellectual rigour and a rounded – can I say wholesome – approach to life and struggles.

b) An Art and Politics Institute. This would be an exciting move because, as the Goldsmiths MA Art and Politics website suggests, this would recognise ‘the appeal within arts colleges, and among art students, to ‘situate’ practice in terms of current contemporary discourse has increasingly led to the incorporation of political and social theory into art school courses’. It would, as also noted, ‘investigate shifts in the relationship between art and politics – theoretically, historically and operationally. Using a diverse range of discourses, the programme will consider, from a variety of perspectives, changes in the relationship between politics and art’. Good stuff.

c) a Centre for the Study of Alternative Futures would support research around climate issues, anti-capitalism, syndicalism, autonomous Marxism, new communism etc. The success of the recent Birkbeck ‘Idea of Communism’ conference – with 800 delegates on each of the three days – suggests a massive untapped potential for a politically relevant philosophy. AHRC could take the lead on this, to its great credit.

What else:

Foster a critical intelligence, a rampant creativity that is more than just cramming.

Reverse the tendency towards conformity.

Against vocationalization of the curriculum.

The push (obsession) to regulate training by research councils has been a disaster I think. Departments doing flips and twists to appear to provide a comprehensive training that is frankly not suited to purpose. It cannot be – there is no uniform code for research at PhD level. The production of a common bland formulaic (quality assured) set of inanities simply does not produce the kind of curiosity, creativity and inspiration that is required for the research we want our students to achieve. Rather, fund existing researchers to pass on experience by example, not how-to sessions called ‘how to type a bibliography’ or ‘mock celebrity 101: publicizing your research in the press’.

Promote dissemination of ideas by encouraging and funding open source journal access, universal distribution of print and electronic resources (beyond the universities as well) an end to the prohibitive costs for journal subscriptions, support for alternative publishing, weblogs, print on demand and the like. The development of adequate public libraries….

Conduct a serious public forum in each university (Bombard the HQ) – as a regular event on each calendar – exposing core aims and objectives of research and the research councils to critical public evaluation. Invite profs and people from all walks of life to an open-ended, ongoing, policy making (ie., empowered to enact funded policies) long-term, reflexive debate about what a research council or university researchers ought to be doing.

Topics for discussion:

- complications of Govt funding v. autonomy/academic freedom

- how might the centre v margin privilege of research, in all its forms, be undone

- race, class and gender bias in research/academia

- vernacular research and researchers

- concept of a community university, solidarity with universities destroyed or hampered by war, such as in Palestine.

- experimental/inspirational futures

- art and politics

- postcolonial…

Run a campaign for unrestricted transfer of academic personnel between countries. Reverse the damages caused by the new points based immigration system and other restrictions on international travel. A national campaign against the requirement that academics take on the work of the UK Border authorities, turning academic relationships into acts of surveillance and distrust.

Reward internationalism, don’t punish it.

Better meals, more coffee, a decent bookshop…

ahh, this is getting silly – its late, lets go do something useful…

Economy of contribution

deckchairWe’ve had Bernard Stiegler at CCS this year (and next). Radar has kindly posted two video interviews on the Economy of Contribution event held at Goldsmiths a couple of months back.

This one and a half day workshop was hosted by the Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths College, London on February 10th/11th 2009. It was organized by Scott Lash (CCS), Bernard Stiegler (Centre Pompidou/CCS), Robert Zimmer (Computing), Nina Wakeford (INCITE, Sociology) and Götz Bachmann (CCS). The event was kindly supported by Intel Research.

The Stiegler video is embedded here (there is also an interview with Scott Lash on the radar site):
Interview part 2: Bernard Stiegler from ‘studioincite‘ on Vimeo.

interview with Sokari Douglas Camp 30.4.09

sword_fish001I will be interviewing Sokari live at the Second Skins: Cloth and Difference Symposium 30 April 2009 at INIVA, Rivington Place, London UK.

“Fabricating Metal: the work of Sokari Douglas Camp”.

This session will be a discussion of the work of sculptor Sokari Douglas Camp, illustrated by a selection of several images chose by the artist. Sokari Douglas Camp was born in 1958 in Buguma, Nigeria. She went to the California College of Art and Craft, and then graduated in 1983 from the Central School, London, before gaining a Masters in sculpture from the Royal College of Art, in 1986. She works in welded steel, fusing the realities of London and Nigeria and raising questions about the world(s) in which we live. Several of her sculptures make direct references to the masquerade tradition of the Kalabari, including such works as Big Masquerade with Boat and Household on his Head and some of them address themes that are more explicitly London based – yet in all cases relevant and compelling. Made in steel, they seem to move – and sometimes they do actually move (thanks to mechanical innovations).

What is relevant to this workshop on ‘cloth and difference’ is that, even while the work is in metal, the masquerade figures are a tangible response to the ways that putting on costume, in Kalabari performance, as well as more generally, allows or facilitates a transformation. A transformation that is expressive and public, and both varied and provocative in context and significance.

The theme of performance and dress assigns significance to cloth in ways that are deeply woven into the textile of Kalabari culture just as much as in everyday London. Costume allows an expressiveness that is appreciated and engaging for all those who encounter Sokari’s sculptures. Her imposing pieces are now found in a variety of places – the British Museum forecourt 2005 , outside a block of flats in Peckham, in various galleries throughout the world or in competitions for public sculptures such as the Fourth Plinth of Trafalgar Square 2003 or for a memorial to slavery (forthcoming Burgess Park, South London 2010 ). At the same time, Sokari’s sculptures are linked in style and realization with comparative work suggesting a rethink of the hierarchies of appreciation of material and cultural difference that we see expressed in the art world and its commentaries.

Sokari’s work challenges the too-easy separation of themes that allocate certain arts and topics to some galleries and spaces, and others to the mainstream. Her work challenges the protocols of order and ownership, propriety and place that are the received norm. The appearance of a Sword Fish Masquerade in Peckham or of protesters on the Fourth Plinth in each case raises a flag (or a cloth, a dress, a headscarf) for an alternative appreciation of texture and style. There is much to discuss here that opens up the material concerns of this workshop – the fabric may be rendered in metal, but within the folds of these ‘second skins’ are woven many moving expressions.

(Sokari Douglas Camp will be in conversation with John Hutnyk from the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths).

Second Skins is HERE.

More on Sokari from Ro (we still miss you so much) and from a Goldsmiths sidestreet.

spoiler alerts for the final BSG

dylan-cylonSee the link below for pretty good-fun piece by Antonio Lopez on the final BSG (one among many – though I think people are holding back so as not to SPOIL it for others) – anyway, linking shamans and Hendrix and media and Dylan (but a pity the whole thing with the subterrainean cylons routine is lost)…

But really, the ending of the final episode was shit. I admit I loved the idea of a Lampkin Prez, and as someone suggested his mutt was going to have a great time munching antelope in Africa (see here). But you gotta agree the last half hour was awful. Yes, as expected they land on real earth …. gnnng… So, hunter gatherers who do not have language is anthropologically absurd. But hooray, the fleet will offer them language and sex – like some sort of twisted overseas aid program. Many set out to build bourgeois homes – Helo and Athena are going to start an Ikea store. Anders for no reason destroys all the floating mecano set – despite the Lego TM functioning FDL drives. Starbuck disappears right out of the film – does she join Bilbo Baggins and the Elves after leaving middle earth? Gaius becomes a film producer on sunset strip, not and angel, and though he hangs around till the 20th century, he has a job as an ad exec for Sony and is killed by double agents pretending to be anarchists protesting the G20 summit. Tyrel is just forgiven for killing his ex – and lives alone forever rewriting the chord progressions for cover songs by Nirvana, building another invisible viper and eventually becoming head of Exxon. Tigh and Ellen are what – going to live together on earth forever, making highland single malts or something? Adama is going to become Daniel Boon, selling stims to tourists outside Frontierland in Florida.

After all that death, what a surprise. Up till that two-thirds point I thought the last episode was superb. But then they end up in, I dunno, Happy Valley or something! Antonio is right to note ‘the ridiculous coincidence that the scenery looks like Window’s XP’s desktop pastoral landscape’ – see his screed on Reality Sandwich, and stay tuned for my chapter with Laura King, called ‘The Eighteenth Brumaire of Gaius Baltar’, on which we recently did the final edit, and which will appear in a US book next year.

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