BERLIN COURSE LISTINGS 2018
Metassemblage: collaging theory and practice
In A Thousand Plateaus (1988) Deleuze and Guattari deployed a critical theoretical notion of assemblage thought of in terms of “qualities, speeds and lines” (Mcgregor-Wise in Stivale, ed., 2005). Markus and Saka (2006) identify a recent upsurge in such usage, stating that “assemblage is a sort of antistructural concept that permits the researcher to speak of emergence, heterogeneity, the decentred and the ephemeral.”
If philosophers (and, subsequently, researchers in non-artistic disciplines) have co-opted the language of the historic avant-gardes and now routinely deploy notions of collage, montage and assemblage as conceptual frameworks, what can we learn from juxtaposing these (originally) practical and creative modes of disorganisation and reorganisation with their more recently derived theoretical and philosophical counterparts?
This course aims to re-examine the relation between theory and practice by means of comparing and contrasting the use of strategies of collage, montage and assemblage in contemporary and historic artistic production with their usage in critical theory and philosophy. It also aims to explore the hybrid forms which can result from the fusion of theoretical and practical manifestations of these concepts.
We’ll begin the class with a brief look at the historic origins of collage, montage and assemblage and their contemporary manifestations as strategies for making and unmaking in a wide range of current media. We’ll then be conducting non-medium-specific, practical examinations of these creative methods, and then moving forward to look at the connections and ruptures which become apparent when we consider these modes of artistic fragmentation and juxtaposition in relation to relevant facets of theory and philosophy. We’ll also be examining and discussing artworks which are explicitly informed by these theoretical sources and also exploring what happens when these perennially useful artistic approaches are re-applied to the theoretical sources which borrow from them.
The workshop will consist of presentations, class discussions of readings from relevant contextual and theoretical materials and shorter practical exercises. Each session will relate to a practical assignment designed to encourage further exploration of the course material. We’ll be looking at writings from theorists and critics such as Manuel DeLanda, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, and Simon O’Sullivan, amongst others, as well as a wide variety of work by artists such as Sergei Eisenstein, Jim Lambie, Hayley Tompkins, Sergei Eisenstein, Meret Oppenheim, Nam June Paik, and Cathy Wilkes, along with many others.
“To be playful is not to be trivial or frivolous, or to act as though nothing of consequence will happen. On the contrary, when we are playful with each other we relate as free persons, and the relationship is open to surprise; everything that happens is of consequence.”
—James P. Carse, Finite and Infinite Games
This workshop will address the question: what are the differences between ‘theatrical’ and ‘dramatic’? Our three days together will be spent exploring these questions and their implications for making artwork. Exercises and explorations in the workshop will engage ideas of dramatic, or infinite, play. Finite play is theatrical because the outcome is known in advance. In tension with the existential idea that death forms the boundary that lends life its meaning, in infinite play the outcome is necessarily unknown and the only purpose of infinite play is that the game continues.
The consequences for attending to the differences between the theatrical and the dramatic not only have relevance for examining our individual artistic practices, but also for gaining a deeper understanding of the political and rhetorical landscape we inhabit, and exploring the ways that artists can bring about change.
Assignments will include collaborative games of play, and improvisation, in both art-making, writing, and speaking extemporaneously.
UTOPIA REVISITED: dreams and nightmares of future past.
This workshop will travel across films, literature, theory, the visual arts, architecture, comics and video games in order to explore the concept of utopia -and its opposite dystopia- as an enduring fascination of artists and thinkers alike. The presentations will concentrate on four models of utopian thinking: The Island (isolation and containable scale), Paradise (flight form society and reconnection with nature), the School (new institutions, new order and space manipulation) and (the ideal) Cosmos (transcendental value and symbolism invested in geometry). Students will present a favorite case study from any form of art or theory and work on a concept deriving from it.
DEATH: The Final Taboo
Linda Mary Montano
We will examine death via the life story, performatively. We will safely and sacredly write our Obituaries, rehearse our funeral and celebrate our resurrection into life NOW.
On Personae, Fiction, and Identity
Jean Marie Casbarian
"There are more I's than I myself," so said Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa. Writing under the guise of more than seventy-five distinct authors in The Fictions of the Interlude, Pessoa goes on to say "To pretend is to know ourselves."
This three-four day workshop will explore the various ways in which the life of fiction might be roused, creating characters that oftentimes almost silently emerge in our artworks. As a way to investigate both the true and imagined self, we will adopt the strategies of imitation and invention as a way to coax these characters to come out and play. As we dive into ambiguity, historical myths, gender roles, and the fantastic we will discover how research begins to percolate through the act of merely being human.
Seducer or seduced?
Art is about seduction where we might put ourselves—or allow ourselves to be transported—to a condition of seduction.
Seduction is a heady business. We all know about seduction: both as seducers and the seduced, for to seduce is to be first seduced—even if only by the very idea of seduction. Each seduction is an offering: will it fulfill a need; make us whole; slake some unnamed/unknowable thirst; scratch that itch?
Seduction ignites desire. But what is this desire, how does it manifest itself in artwork work when—and if— intentionally deployed? How and why do we artists make art if not to seduce by proxy?Seduction is as well bound up with surprise; and surprise really is such a wonderful delivery system.
But back to seduction and art: from Nabokov’s Humbert Humbert making us his at first unwitting and later perhaps willing accomplice or Duchamp’s teasing notes that accompany the Large Glass to de Laclos’ Les Liaisons Dangereuses to Louise Bourgeois’ tantalizing neurotics, the seduction by art (and the artist) is a tantalizing promise.
This workshop will ask students to lay claim to seduction—actively or passively—as we discuss how and why this might be productive as artists. Or is it a case of not being able to break down the idea of seduction; that by analysing the very mechanics of seduced or seducer the spell might be broken; that like the magic trick we must be willing accomplices. Is it possible to be seduced against our will?
Bad Performing for Shy Artists
This workshop is about creating a playful, supportive space in which we can explore and improve our performer / presentation skills. No matter if you give a lecture about your research, if you have to face and answer questions on your work, or (want to) make your moving body the main tool and site of your artistic work, you have to deal with the exhilarating moment of being there with an audience – live and vulnerable. We will create a safe environment to work on being on ‘stage’, using working methods from dance improvisation, and postdramatic theatre. We will watch each other, listen to each other, applaud to each other, try out our worst performance, failed self-presentation, longest black out, and playfully get more used to our bodies being seen, our voices being heard.
Aim: Explore performing aspects of your research to us in ways unusual to yourself. Be ready to have fun. We’ll help you.
Art as affective encounter
Occasionally, experiencing an artwork causes us to falter, to stumble, to trip up - creating a palpable and visceral sensation that occurs momentarily prior to our cognitive processes being set in motion. This sensation might be understood as an affective encounter, contingent upon Nigel Thrift’s notion that ‘affect occurs through a dynamic relationship between the social and the biological’ (Thrift 2008: 221), or in Teresa Brennan’s terms, an interaction between people and an environment in what she proposes as the ‘transmission of affect’ (Brennan 2004: 3).
John Dewey identifies the ability of an artwork to affect when he states that ‘we say with truth that a painting strikes us. There is an impact that precedes all definite recognition of what it is about’ (Dewey 2005: 151). Whilst he is not negating the importance of the critical engagement that an audience can have with a piece of work, he is nonetheless ordering the process of encounter so that affect precedes criticality: ‘while both original seizure and subsequent critical discrimination have equal claims […] it must not be forgotten that direct and unreasoned impression comes first’ (Dewey 2005: 151).
Jane Bennett takes a different slant when arguing that ‘… the trace in [Doris] Salcedo’s work always short-circuits the interpretative endeavour, offering too little content to ground a narrative of absent characters, yet too much to obviate an increasing bodily investment in viewing’ (Bennett 2005: 61).
Affective encounters are, of course, not limited to artworks. In Proust and Signs (2008: 12), Gilles Deleuze draws our attention to the passage in Le Temps Retrouvé - the final volume of La Recherché du Temps Perdu - when Michel trips on a uneven paving-stone, and is immediately compelled to seek the source of the sensation’s exact significance to him, something important that he needs to recall.
The difference between the instant of the encounter when affect, which according to Thrift is non-representational, occurs and the subsequent reflections upon it as cognitive processes, get going, is the central theme of this course. We will explore the possibility of producing equivalence of an affective encounter through art practice, or producing art practice that operates initially as affective encounter in order to lead us into a social, political or other engagement.
Found Text, Found Footage. Collage Film
Roland Barthes’ ‘Image, Music, Text’ elegantly outlines the raw materials of film practice. Moving image in art practice can comprise video diaries, found footage and documentary, creating narrative as film or installation. Adding text from journals, or cutting and pasting from novels, poetry or other sources deepens and enhances time-based work. This class will gather these raw materials to construct the image, music and text that make a moving image work. Collage underpins all cinema; the assembly of these materials gives meaning and nuance to the separate components. Over three days we’ll look at how these elements work together in constructing a moving-image piece, either as a short film or installation project.
The Oculus: Art & Politics of Light
Light enigmatically becomes vision when it falls onto or emanates from the circle (e.g. the eye, the sun). This short intensive class will delve into two particular qualities of the seeing experience:
1) the light as a double agent of perception and creation of the world
2) the role light plays (as an experience and as an image) in art and philosophy
We will therefore discuss politics of transparency, conceptions of the “evil eye”, biochemistry of photosynthesis, metaphysics of shadows, and so on. To this end we will engage contemporary artists who use light as their preferred medium (e.g. James Turrell, Olafur Eliasson, Ann Hamilton, Christo and Jean-Claude). Furthermore, we will couple these studies with reflections of Paul Klee, Vasily Kandinsky, Giordano Bruno, and William James. In light of this, our goal is to, on the one hand, diagnose the present state of visuality and, on the other, to unravel its necessity for more expansive understanding of what constitutes creation and inspiration.
Making Writing: The Poetics of the Dissertation
This workshop explores the epistemological and philosophical aspects - and the creative possibilities - of the dissertation component of your doctoral work.
Focusing on activating the relationship between creative and critical components of the doctorate, we consider ways of moving between the critical and the creative, ways of making the creative critical, and above all, ways of making the critical creative.
Here we understand poetics as at once a theory of practice and a practice of theory, enabling a feedback between creative absorption and critical reflection to generate new knowledge about both the process of making and what is made. Poetics then becomes a form of research-creation in its own right rather than simply something that comes after a research which takes place elsewhere (whether in the studio, the archive or the field).
With this in mind, we will engage in a series of practical experiments in writing with rather than writing about, aiming at inventing a particular poetics for your own writing.
This class will work with the concept of silence and will consider silence from multiple positions: as a servant of power, as a lie, as a punishment, as a luxury good, as the reason for creation, as an object we both do and do not recognize. In a world saturated with noise, this class will ask whether we should desire or fear silence-or if it is even ours to choose. We will also explore through practice what is aesthetic of silence, proposition brought by Susan Sontag. We will reflect on the work of John Cage and Merce Cunningham, Doug Wheeler, Hito Steyerl , Christine Sun Kim, Susan Philipsz etc. At last, we will discuss the connection between silence and silenced, using Sara Ahmed’s concept of ‘feminist killjoy’ as a departure point. We will examines the idea of ‘feminist kiljoy’—along with the unhappy queer, the angry black woman, and the melancholic migrant—to demonstrate how our Western obsession with maintaining happiness and silence, can be problematic for those whose experience interrupts the silenced narratives.
Delay slows us down. It can cause us to reflect – if only for a moment; or it can function as an irritant, keeping us from what we want. Students are asked to investigate to what extent this temporal ‘blip’ influences our behavior, emotions and thinking processes and to produce an idea for a work that expresses some aspect of their investigation.
How to make an abstract notion concrete?
What material(s) to chose?
What sense(s) to active?
How slow should a delay be? How fast? What’s to be gained; and, how can the ‘gain’ be tested?
Is delay just time stopped? Or it is someone or something detaining us from something else? Is that something else more or less desirable from the thing/person detaining us? Can all of life be seen as one long delay?
Journeys that Never End. Art practices between the cyclical and the linear, the eternal and the transient.
Herman B. Mendolicchio
This workshop proposal focuses on the concept of 'cyclic journey' and onthose phenomena and experiences that tend to recur.
The constant rotation of the Earth around the Sun, the inexorable cycle of life and death, the reiterations of history, periodic migrations, rising and falling civilisations, economic cycles, the unceasing processes of creation and destruction, cosmologies, the return trips made by people across the epochs, or even daily routines, are all realities that shape the concept of ‘cyclic journey’.
The workshop considers, on the one hand, the intense, intrinsic, inevitable cyclicity that affects all humans; on the other hand the linear, temporary and transformative nature of life. How do concepts like repetition, recurrence and eternal influence our practices? How are they opposed to notions such as the impermanent, transitory and fugitive? The workshop will reflect upon the journeys that never end, through diverse practices, theories, visions, exercises, examples and conversations.
Writing on art is never solely 'about' the work. In translating art into thought, art writing makes of the art work an element in its own material.
Writing about art does not mean that theory is simply imposed on art, or that artistic ellipsis is merely subjected to critical scrutiny. When theory attempts to master art this way, its object typically eludes it. The task of Art writing is more like the task of the translator. Theory has its own aesthetic, and creates another intelligibility, out of a specific collision of philosophical and artistic materials.
In this workshop we will explore art writing as a genre, and reflect on the many relations that theory can have with the arts.