Our Frankfurt School!

Some people noticed my radio silence at least! Thankx. The explanation is a mix of essay marking, dissertation chapters to read, preparation for a `conversation´in Manchester with Marie Louise Pratt (on 20th Feb), and a week in Germany – in particular a joint PhD colloquium between CCS Goldsmiths and Ethnology Frankfurt students. All praise Alexander Schwinghammer and Susan Schuppli for organising it, and a visit to ZKM in Karlsruhe to check out endless new media installations (by the end of it I was happy to find my pacman skills still adequate – and to thrill to the BSG game).

The colloquium was a great event – discussion will be detailed later by James and Joel, but if I can telegraph an obscure version in concrete poetry format: time-space compresion in the sensorium, issues of encoding, enframing, and affirmative delusions, what seems to me like a fetishism that projects representations as actuality where congealed social relations/exchanges appear, deflecting revolutionary struggles in spectacularly hyped, precarious actuality, itself in need of hermeneutical deprogramming that – in the end I do not really believe – can be reduced to some sort of god-complex, but at least think we should discuss it. So, then onto some very fine bars and the joys of Frankfurt nightlife.

Oh, and the announcement of the pending release of the Red Army Faction´s Brigitte Mohnhaupt (after 24 years, RAF members have been political prisoners far longer than Albert Speer or any of that lot ever spent in jail. Three more RAF members remain banged up. See here for an old herstory of the organisation and “Deutsch Herbst”).

3 thoughts on “Our Frankfurt School!

  1. Dear John,

    this is Subin, Shobna’s brother. I am happy you enjoyed the Frankfurt nightlife! Remember, some time in the 90s, we went together to Ostclub in Frankfurt with Shobna and Michael, those days I was a teenager.

    I enjoy reading your blog and have linked it on mine, because I think it is one of the most impressive, expressive and insightful one in the www! Keep on going with the good work. Too bad we missed each other in Frankfurt, I was there the same time en route from South Africa back to New York and enjoyed the Frankfurt nightlife myself, at the Dachcafe Bollywood Party!

    All the best from Subin in New York!


  2. Spatial Dramaturgies – James and Joel write:

    The Spatial Dramaturgies symposium was an experiment in convergence, bringing together two departments who share a common concern for the social and cultural occupation, participation and creation of space. The collaborative event, held at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt, brought together research students and professors from the Centre from Cultural Studies (Goldsmiths) and the Institute for Cultural Anthropology and European Ethnography (Goethe University). Alexander Schwinghammer, the first doctoral candidate to study for a joint degree at the University of London and a non-British institution (the Goethe University), instigated and warmly hosted this cross-channel meeting of minds.

    The title of the event was chosen to allow a broad range of topics and approaches while also advancing two elements of research that are crucial to both departments: philosophies of space and a more ethnographic focus on human duration and movement. Despite the diversity of the papers presented, participants discovered numerous conceptual links and fertile intersections, prompting lively discussions (both formal and informal) throughout the visit.

    The stage was set on Monday afternoon with introductory talks by Alexander Schwinghammer and faculty participants Manfred Fassler and John Hutnyk. Schwinghammer and Fassler highlighted the important distinction between space and spatiality, the latter emphasising the cultural elements of process and relationality. Hutnyk encouraged a street-level approach to spatial ethnography, taking us on a narrative and pictorial walking tour of Broadway Avenue, NY.

    The student papers began the following day, a marathon idea exchange from which emerged unexpected points of convergence between diverse areas. Julie Woletz’ historical contextualisation and analysis of virtual environments produced strange parallels with James Burton’s discussion of the neuropsychological condition of reduplicative paramnesia (where the subject hallucinates an illusory spatial environment over their actual surroundings). The themes of virtuality and the experience of space were further developed in Joel McKim’s questioning of the place of affect in new media/architectural theory and Carsten Ochs’ exploration of the significance of becoming and ‘in-between spaces’ in questions of interactivity. A number of the talks made clear the inseparability of time from discussions of spatiality – such as Susan Schuppli’s reading of the temporal and chronological distortions in Michael Haneke’s film “Hidden” as opening up the quantum possibility of alternative worlds – and Daisy Tam’s defence of ‘slow food’ (and the ‘slow space’ of community it can create) against the critiques ranged against the marketing techniques of companies using ‘slowness’ to sell conventional, mass-produced commodities.

    The spatialities considered ranged from the intimate space of the body to the trans-national spaces of global news production and capital development. Angela Dressler presented us with novel ways of visualising regional discrepancies in international news coverage and Gerald Straub suggested conceptual models for understanding the impossible/possible spectacle of Dubai. Spaces of creation held a prominent place in the conference with Christobal Biancci illustrating the poetic potential of vertical space through his Bombing of Poems project; Madoka Takashiro tracing the aesthetic and cultural history of Japanese Anime; and Georg Russegger exploring the “mixed reality” spaces occasioned by locative media and mobile computing.

    The symposium culminated in a tour of the ZKM Centre for Art and Media in Karlsruhe where the participants were able to experience canonical works of interactive media and work out their disputes in virtual battle. The symposium was a great success and will hopefully lead to a series of similar events in London, Frankfurt and Berlin.

    James Burton/Joel McKim


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