On Making Collective Heads: Performance, Choreography, Theory and the Social Body
curated by André Lepecki:
The third day of the symposium gathers together a renowned group of artists and scholars from fields such as contemporary choreography, experimental performance, affect theory, queer and neurodiversity studies, and performance studies whose ground breaking work has helped expand our understanding of the relations between brain and body, brain and art, and brain and the social-political sphere. Their different social, theoretical, and artistic practices challenge normative notions of the brain as a tightly encased organ governing a self-contained, self-possessed and autonomous agential subject, suggesting instead that the brain is never quite where it is supposed to be. Continuously spilling out across space and time, aggregating, and splitting up – and also being aggregated by other bodies, affects, and matters, including the brains and affects of non-human species and their singular modes of being – a brain’s location must necessarily then be always in a collective head (to paraphrase the title of a 1975 participatory work by Brazilian artist Lygia Clark, Cabeça coletiva). Combining lectures, intensely participatory performances, and plenty of time for dialogue, the four guests will experiment with variations on this hypothesis in differently embodied, theorized, composed and choreographed ways. The session thus offers discursive as well as artistic propositions to help us understand how artistic practices build embodied and performative technologies for making collective heads.
André Lepecki is Associate Professor in Performance Studies at New York University. He is editor of several anthologies on dance and performance theory including Dance (2012) and Of the Presence of the Body (2004). An independent performance curator, he has created projects for: Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin; Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw; Hayward Gallery, London; Haus der Künst, Munich; and the Sydney Biennial, 2016 among others. He is the author of Singularities: dance in the age of performance (2016) and Exhausting Dance: performance and the politics of movement (2006), which has been translated into ten languages.
With: André Lepecki, Patricia Clough, Mette Edvardsen, Leon Hilton, and Anne Juren.
10:30 André Lepecki, Introduction
10:45 Patricia Ticineto Clough, The Autoaffection of the Brain and the Nonhuman Unconscious
12:15 Mette Edvardsen, On Learning Books by Heart (with performance)
14:15 Anne Juren, Studies on Fantasmical Anatomy Vol. 2 (performance)
15:45 Leon J. Hilton, Disability Aesthetics, Schizoanalysis, and the Neural Subject
Patricia Ticineto Clough, The Autoaffection of the Brain and the Nonhuman Unconscious
This presentation reflects on the relationship between affect, digital media and computational technologies to show the inseparability of affect and the technologies by which it is measured and materialized. The core example here will be the brain and how the technological capacity to measure affective processes has fuelled an interest in everything neuro, giving us neuropsychology, neuropsychiatry, neuropsychoanalysis, neurophilosophy, neuroethics, neuroaesthetics, neuromarketing and neurotherapies. The turn to the neuro is an opportunity to rethink the body, subjectivity, sociality and unconscious processes in terms of digital media, including social. Clough then develops what she calls the “nonhuman unconscious” in relationship to what Catherine Malabou describes as “the autoaffection of the brain,” borrowing from psychoanalysts Harold Searles and Sue Grand who have written on the nonhuman environment. The discussion concludes with the implications of the nonhuman unconscious for art and political practices.
Patricia Ticineto Clough is Professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies at the Graduate Center and Queens College of the City University of New York. Recent publications include: Beyond Biopolitics: Essays on the Governance of Life and Death (co-editor) (2011); The Affective Turn: Theorizing the Social (editor) (2007); and Autoaffection: Unconscious Thought in the Age of Teletechnology (2000). Clough’s work draws on theoretical traditions concerned with technology, affect, unconscious processes, political economy and experimental methods of research and presentation. She is also a psychoanalyst practising in New York City.
Mette Edvardsen, On Learning Books by Heart
For the project Time has fallen asleep in the afternoon sunshine* a group of people dedicates itself to memorizing a book of their choice. Together they form a library collection consisting of living books. How is this process one of learning, and how much can we learn by heart? How does memory function over the course of time? How long does it last? What does it mean to develop a practice, where the value of something is in itself rather than for something else? In a time where forgetting has become a virtue, memory is considered superfluous and useless. With the support of technology, importance is given to the access of information and how to navigate it. But technology does not simply make information available, it also shapes the way we relate to it and what information is. In a world constantly defined by the new, memory may be seen as a resistance to forgetting and learning by heart as a gesture against efficacy and utility.
*During the conference days two “living books” will be available to be read at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Readings take place as one-to-one encounters where a “book” recites its content to a “reader”.
Mette Edvardsen ’s work is situated within the performing arts field as a choreographer and performer. Although some of her works explore other media or formats, such as video, books and writing, her interest is always in their relationship to the performing arts as a practice and a situation. With a base in Brussels since 1996 she has worked for several years as a dancer and performer for a number of companies and projects. Since 2002 she develops her own work and presents her performances internationally. A retrospective of her work was presented at Black Box theatre in Oslo in 2015. In 2010 she initiated the project Time has fallen asleep in the afternoon sunshine to develop learning by heart as a practice, a process which is still ongoing today. She contributes to publications, and regularly teaches, mentors and is involved in jury work at several arts institutions. She is currently a research fellow at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts.
Anne Juren, Studies on Fantasmical Anatomy Vol. 2 (performance)
Anne Juren conducts a session of her ongoing research on “fantastical anatomies” with all conference participants. “Fantasmical anatomy” gives a name to an ongoing experiment that departs from the Feldenkrais method and expands it in an experimental-aesthetic-speculative dimension. From Feldenkrais it takes the notion that the brain is a corporeal-symptomatic matrix that offers a sense of orientation to the body. In fantasmical anatomies, I propose instead that disorientation as an experimental way to reestablish unsuspected and improbable relations between body and mind, imagination and sensation, experience and language, action and non-action. In the end, fantasmical anatomies may lead us to the discovery that neither the body nor the brain are necessarily localizable entities – and how from a somatic-poetic con-fusion new possibilities of producing and creating movement can emerge.
Anne Juren is a choreographer, dancer and performer based in Vienna. In 2003, she co-founded together with the visual artist Roland Rauschmeier the association Wiener Tanz- und Kunstbewegung in Vienna. Her choreographic works and artistic research have been extensively presented in international theatres, festivals, and different art spaces and venues. In her work, Juren tries to expand the term choreography in engaging the body in different states of physical, sensorial, corporeal and mental experiences, questioning the boundaries between private and public spheres. Since 2013, Juren is a Feldenkrais® practitioner. She is currently part of the artistic committee for the Master in Choreography at School of Dance and Circus and doing a PhD at Uniarts both at Stockholm University of the Arts.
Leon J. Hilton, Disability Aesthetics, Schizoanalysis, and the Neural Subject
This talk considers certain artistic practices (for example, Agnes Martin and Javier Tellez) that illuminate recent critical debates surrounding how disability relates to aesthetic form. In turn, it explores how these practices and debates might be reapproached “schizo-analytically” in ways that can open up questions about subjectivation, aesthetics and politics within the historical context of what Catherine Malabou describes as ‘the parallelism between the transformation of the spirit of capitalism (between the sixties and the nineties) and the modification, brought about in approximately the same period, of our view of cerebral structures.’
Leon J. Hilton is a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania. He received his PhD from the Department of Performance Studies at New York University in 2016. He is currently completing a book project that traces cultural critiques of psychiatric authority since the 1950s – from mid-century critics of the asylum, the feminist ‘anti-psychiatry’ movement, and the de-medicalization of homosexuality to the contemporary discourse of neurodiversity – across a range of social practices and aesthetic forms (including theatre, film, literature and performance art). This research grows out of his dissertation, which was completed with the support of a Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Fellowship and received the Michael Kirby Award for Distinguished Doctoral Dissertation. His work has been published or is forthcoming in GLQ, Disability Studies Quarterly, African American Review, Los Angeles Review of Books, and TDR/The Drama Review, where he was managing editor from 2011–3. He is also co-editing a forthcoming special forum in American Quarterly entitled ‘Mad Futures: Culture, Politics, Affect.’ He received a 2016 Creative Capital/Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant to complete an article on feminist aesthetics and anti-psychiatry.