Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Totally Rad

This looks interesting:

[ctrl] [alt]: 2007


The challenge of theorizing and developing new forms of resistance will be taken up in [ctrl] [alt]: alternatives, encounters, movements. As the conferenceĀ¹s subtitle indicates, [ctrl] [alt] will address potential strategies and tactics for confronting these mechanisms of control. Working from the notion that control is often best (en)countered via practices that engage experimental methods, transdisciplinarity and creativity, we hope to foster an environment in which we can construct collective visions for social change.

Academia often regards itself as an end in itself, apart from concrete social struggles. Even when progressive academics engage the social world theoretically, they often do not acknowledge an indebtedness to, and impact upon, political struggles. At the same time, anti-intellectualism often circulates within activist groups. And art often becomes a fashionable and institutionalized product, failing to actualize its radical potential.

Given this mess, we seek imaginative works that cross borders between genres and disciplines including the highly political boundaries between art practice, academia and activism. We are particularly interested in papers, panels, roundtables, workshops, interventions, performances and artworks that incorporate critical, anti-oppressive perspectives. We invite contributions by artists, activists, scholars and writers as well as any others working in non-traditional spaces of knowledge production.
And what if per chance you happen to be an artist, activist, scholar, writer, and radicalized citizen of the world all wrapped up in the same brand-name packaging? Take the word scholar out of that mix and you have lots of radicalized artist-writer-activists outside of academia already out doing it, no? There are the underground artist-activists ("non-traditional others"?) who participate in the underground economy looking for ways to "get by" - and then there are those like, say, Susan Sarandon or even Pamela Anderson who depend on various commerical links for their survival. Or does their sympathy for the corporate devil automatically disqualify them?

My last post on Godard was about his film "Sympathy for the Devil" and included an excerpt from the "All About Eve" section where this line comes up:
Is it true there is only one way to be an intellectual revolutionary and that is to give up being an intellectual?
To which the character being asked the question, Eve Democracy, answers "yes."

How does that fit into the description of the event above when they say "anti-intellectualism often circulates within activist groups. And art often becomes a fashionable and institutionalized product, failing to actualize its radical potential." This is true, and let's not forget that whenever a group of academics try to facilitate an event that will radicalize academia so that it moves beyond its conservative (read: safe) academic impulse, the premise of the argument being staged, as argument, oftentimes feels too safe and secure in the knowedge of its own discourse which is oftentimes related to the issue of job safety and security. It will not be easy to "address potential strategies and tactics for confronting these mechanisms of control" when your lede goes
"[t]he challenge of theorizing and developing new forms of resistance..."
since once the theory takes precedence, so much potential is immediately lost. This is not to say theory has no place in the resistance, but we need to take our cue from the early 20th century avant-garde (advanced cultural troops) and use theory as one element among many to help alter the political environment. And what is "theory" anyway? Too many times, fill-in-the-blank (for example, CRITICAL ) "theory" gets packaged as the next trendy movement in academia and a new series of books is born followed by a network-specific hiring spree. Think of all the "cognitive loading" and "opportunity costs" (to use remixed ideas from Bruce Sterling's new book Shaping Things) that came with studying post-structuralist, deconstructionist, and critical theory - not to mention cultural studies - and we still have to wake up every morning and watch the G. W. Bushies destroy our country. The question for me becomes: how can we approach these issues without being anti-intellectual, unnecessarily theoretical for theory's sake, nor artistically-oriented to the commercial marketplace, i.e. with an idealized gallery and/or set of collectors in mind?

One possible way to deal with these inherent self-contradictions that are not going to go away, is to just find the space of time to make stuff. Not just make stuff out of thin air for the sheer beauty of it, but navigate the media landscape, steal all of the potentially useful stuff that's already out there metadata-wise, and then improvisationally remix it with no preconceived notion of where really you want to go with it, so that you (artist-activist) no longer know how it will all come out when you are ready to stop making it and move on to the next thing.

In other words: surf-sample-manipulate (which is a D-I-Y theory that has been appropriated by academia for its own uses - good!)

Yes, this is a form of resistance - in fact, it's a part of a lineage of resistance in the arts, one that you can trace back to Europe with Dadaism, but that comes to America with some so-called Modern poetry, Black Mountain College, jazz, the beat scene, Happenings, etc.

As for [ctrl] [alt], it seems like it's getting looser than the 2004 version. Maybe we'll send them this DVD lovely as one possible digital-pharmakon-on-high.

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