Monday, November 25, 2013

An Interstellar Raft of the Medusa: Critical/Liberal/Arts 2 @CUNY


It's been almost two months since some of us (well, many of us, actually, since we numbered close to 100) gathered at The Graduate Center, CUNY for the second installment of the BABEL Working Group's bi-coastal symposia series, Critical/Liberal/Arts, the first of which happened at UC-Irvine this past April. The proceedings from both events will be published in a special issue of postmedieval, edited by the series organizers, Myra Seaman, Allan Mitchell, and Julie Orlemanski, in 2015, but in the meantime we are fortunate that one of the NYC's event's contributors, AW Strouse, has offered a review and summary of the day at the online journal Hortulus, HERE, and I now also have audio files to share, for those who could not be there, but would like to join in some of the fun of the embodied performances -- by Henry Turner, the Hollow Earth Society (Wythe Marschall + Ethan Gould), Eleanor Johnson, Ammiel Alcalay, Bruce Holsinger, AW Strouse, Eirik Steinhoff, Jamie "Skye" Bianco, Michael Witmore, and Marina Zurkow + Una Chaudhuri -- that resulted from this prompt:
We hazard that many of the categories used to distinguish modes of knowledge production are in practice overlapping or entwined: distance and involvement; criticism and aestheticism; sensation and reflection; detachment and attachment; interrogation and incorporation; interpretive qualification and quantified data; analysis and speculation; control and loss of control before the objects of our study. A survey of the humanities and social sciences at present turns up projects that transcend traditional rubrics and do not remain in their respective fields at all — but rather, cross out of academia and continue on to other planes of social practice. These projects represent serious commitments to tinkering, mapping, constructing, organizing, blogging, protesting, ornamenting, fantasizing, digitizing, occupying, and more. We invite accounts of practices from inside and outside of the university that might be counted among the new arts of critique, or new modes of critical creation.
Presenters have been encouraged to avoid post-critical hype and anti-critique retrenchment. Polarizing these issues has helped generate powerful critiques-of-critique as well as strong defenses of traditional critical frameworks (such as Marxism, feminism, queer studies, race studies, postcolonial studies, post-structuralism, and the like). But we are interested in exploring theories and practices beyond the polemic. To wit: What are the new scenes or spaces of critical invention? What different faces might critique have? What does it feel like? What does it do? How does historical consciousness play a role in generating new forms, tools, or ideas? What does it mean to be “uncritical”? Is there an erotic hermeneutics, pace Sontag, or an eros of critique? How do we engage criticism and art and techne against the actuarial interests of the corporate university? Can we “afford” to nurture speculative creation, or pure science, in an age of austerity? Do delight, rapture, or the drift of daydreams have a role in criticism? Is there value in maintaining what separates the injunctions to critique and to create? How might our practices cross-pollinate the sciences and the fine arts? Or politics and aesthetics? Or the future and the past?
As AW explains in his review for Hortulus, partly quoting Christopher Newfield from Ivy and Industry, “academics are neither artists nor bureaucrats but both at the same time: we are vexed by an oppressive double-consciousness, trying to produce humanist work but measuring ourselves according to anti-humanist standards.” Part of the spur for the two events, in both Irvine and NYC, was to experiment with what Eleanor Johnson called "parallel play," moving back and forth between so-called "academic" discourse and the multiple performances of "something else" -- which "something else" is still "critical," but in a different register. Or as AW puts it (again) in his review, we sought, collectively, in these two events “to form a rapprochement between the dream-angel of individual talent and the monastery of academic tradition.” Further, and again in AW's words, “Participants experimented with new forms of artful and critical expression, making art critically, doing critique artistically, and practicing all manner of liberality, with the largesse and romanticism of an Arthurian knight.” And there were invitations to many things, including Henry Turner's just-then-unveiled "Society for the Arts of Incorporation": JOIN!

So, without further ado, here are the audiocasts (but with a HUGE APOLOGY to Eirik Steinhoff and Jamie "Skye" Bianco, because the sound technician -- ME! -- somehow forgot to turn on the microphone during their presentations -- BUT: we will thankfully have those in written form in the special issue of postmedieval, albeit their gorgeous performances and charismatic presences remain, for the moment, ephemeral and in memoria).

Critical/Liberal/Arts 2 @The Graduate Center, CUNY
27 September 2013

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