Thursday, November 15, 2007

Confrontation, Conversation, Confabulation, Culmination of Creation…Confrontation

By Angela Aguilar, UC Berkeley

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of attending a poetry reading with Amiri Barka. In his closing remarks, he urged audience members to engage with one another, using literature, books, poetry as catalysts. “Back and forth back and forth, that’s how you learn.”

This past weekend began with a confrontation. A personal one of which the details are not important here. In retrospect, I realized how symbolic and interconnected that confrontation was to the events that unfolded throughout the remainder of the weekend.

Being outside of the institution of education for some time and returning has allowed for the criticism that I have toward it, the educators and those being educated. I know now that I can no longer separate myself from what I am learning. I feel that I am able internalize it and utilize it in my everyday interactions, possibly more so than my self would have 5 years ago. Daily, I remind myself of what it was that never allowed me to forget or disregard the many injustices in the world. That thing, that force, has been art. In its many forms.

A recurring question that I have asked myself time and again is why are the arts are so under funded in public education. What kind of power lies in the creation of art? This question is one I carry with me as I continue my journey through academia. Being an undergraduate student in the Ethnic Studies program has opened up many possibilities for me to think about power and resistance through and within another lens. As a result of the thinking I have been doing in the classes I am currently enrolled in, I am becoming more and more interested in looking at how art (in its many forms) has been used to construct an imaginary (nation-state projects, creation of an “other”) and how it is used in spaces of resistance.

Friday’s symposium events were refreshing for a few reasons. I thoroughly enjoyed the keynote conversation Friday morning titled Transnational artworlds, social justice, and the “will to globality”. Professor Perez discussed her work that is published in her recent book. She raised several questions that were of particular interest to me. One of them being the issue of occupation of public spaces through privatization and corporatization. How has the public been responding to this crisis in the arts? She was eloquent in her articulation of the role of current neo-liberal government policies fomenting the disappearance of truly open and public spaces. So she asks the question, why struggle for these spaces for artists? Well, community consciousness is created in these spaces! And so it seems consciousness in any form is a big no-no in the current world system!

Professor Grosfoguel adds to this argument as he commented on the importance of shifting the geography of reason to a more southern perspective. I am currently enrolled in a seminar class with Professor Grosfoguel and he synthesized much of what we discuss in class into the minimal amount of time that was allowed during the panel conversation. Underlying in all of his comments is the idea of the urgency of adopting a critical attitude about the so-called Capitalist world system in order to create a new reality. However Professor Grosfoguel introduced a new phrase for the world system formerly known as Capitalist (European/Euro-American, Modern/Colonial, Capitalist/Patriarchal, Christian-centric World System). This new term renders visible all of the hierarchies of power that are currently hidden in dominant thought and discourse.

Okwui Enwezor discussed the techniques of coalition building that are created in the arts and asked the question, What can you do as a young artist that seems relevant and meaningful. (How can young people use art in ways that are relevant and meaningful to resistance while building coalitions) He raised some interesting points as to how life worlds of communities can function through the raising of consciousness through the arts.

Let me transition from the keynote conversation to the Translocalities/Transmodernities Panel discussion. Although I enjoyed all of the panelists (the first panelist, Richard Johnson and his discussion of the prohibition of educators touching children made me think about the school to prison pipeline that Angela Davis discussed last week…students getting used to the disconnect between them and this person who is no longer interactive with them…similar to a prison guard? I don’t know… just a thought.) I was especially interested in the final two panelists Jamila Moore-Pewu and Gabriela Veronelli.

Ms. Moore-Pewu, discussed the contemporary media representations of Africa and the role the media plays in the perpetuation of the belief that Africa is a “hopeless continent”. The discussion of World Systems theory can be brought into conversation with Jamila’s research. The perpetuation of this image of Africa completely negates the fact that Africa has been systematically underdeveloped in order for first world countries to live lavishly and comfortably. I’d just like to say that I am hardly comforted by that reality.

Ms. Veronelli’s contribution to the panel was especially interesting and relevant to me as many of the ideas she was proposing align with the work I am reading by Maria Lugones. Ms. Veronelli discusses the coloniality of language as a dialogical problem. She is thinking about the Spanish language and the struggle to make sense in a given geo-politcal situation. (I think I might have a mixed understanding of what Ms. Veronelli was saying, so please correct me where I might have strayed a bit…) In understanding the coloniality of language, she goes on to discuss how, in unveiling language as a hegemonic construction, we need to look at the project of language from the perspective of the marginalized and silenced; it is here that we will discover the natural ways of making sense. One of the most interesting points that she conveyed, in my opinion, is when she said that we must not take dialogue for granted, or that we are even going to make sense to each other. We must take risks and move and engage in places where we do not necessarily belong. We must confront and engage contradictions as opposed to simply tolerating them. The decolonial shift requires making connections, but “disconnections we cannot take for granted.”

I have preoccupied myself for some time with asking these questions: why do we trust without question and tolerate? Why are people confrontation-phobic??

Finally, on Sunday I attended a few minutes of the final roundtable discussion. I am so glad that I was able to enter that space and express my opinion and interest in relation to the symposium. I realized then and there what has been missing for me in the past year since I transferred to UCB: My active engagement with and in spaces where I previously assumed my opinion was not needed or important. It was here that I experienced the importance of dialogue and really understood the danger that lies in assuming. I would have missed out on making connections with people who are doing amazing things in the area that I am particularly interested in. And so my weekend ended with a confrontation of sorts. I hope to continue conversations with the people that I had the pleasure of meeting this past weekend, especially the wonderful people that are here at UCB.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Photos of the Symposium

Jenifer Wofford took some great photos and shared them with us on her flickr account:

They include great pieces of the whole symposium! Such as the Worth Ryder art exhibition (with SFAI's 'Another Country' talk and Laura Swanson and Allan de Souza), the center note with photos of Laura Perez and Okwui Enwezor, the first panel with Michelle Dizon and Greg Niemeyer and Christiane Paul, some behind-the-scenes with the organizers at Hou Hanru and Evelyne Jouanno's house, some pics of Lin + Lam, some of Mattius and Kristin and Zhanara and Daniel in a workshop, and Gabriella Veronelli ... phew! what a weekend : )

Thanks Jen!


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Beginnings that emerge with new beginnings

As an organizer of the Out of Time Symposium, it was/is incredible to begin with a one of a kind dialogue. Please read my interpretation of what transpired at this opening event in the form of notes.
-Annie Fukushima-

Event Details:

9:30 a.m.– 10:30 a.m., Geballe Room, Center Note Conversations:
Keynote Conversation: Transnational artworlds, social justice, and the “will to globality”
Okwui Enwezor + Laura Pérez + Ramón Grosfoguel
Introduced by Dalida Maria Benfield

For the Out of TimeSpace symposium ritical questions/definitions surrounding issues of art, visual culture, border thinking, and radical intervention, were provided by center conversations between Laura Pérez, Ramón Grosfoguel and Okwui Enwezor.

While every beginning has a beginning, this particular one of the Out of TimeSpace Symposium began with that of the voices of people of color, here more specifically a woman of color scholar: Laura E. Perez. Perez shared with the audience the beginnings of the symposium that began much earlier than 9-11 (and we can even say, even before that in conversations/inspirations that transpired much earlier): the symposium arose out of, the Visuality & Alterity Working Group at UC Berkeley, whose goal was to create connections with other institutions in order to answer the question of: “What does praxis mean?” Concerns for the graduate students in this working group were the politics of the local and global, in order to think about the different locations that bodies occupy, what different powers look like, how is it articulated through different networks, and where are the sites of interventions.

For Perez's work, there are three sites of work. First, Chicana art (1985-2000, a multimedia, relatively recently sophisticated work to understand the aesthetic strategies) – that allows for a thinking of the decolonizing aesthetics or world views that are embedded in this, how does it circulate how is it being read? The second is inspired by Perez’s work as a curatorial team that was conceived two years ago. The team worked on murals in the mission to engage with global conversations, to challenge cultural Darwinism in which the digital becomes opposed to accessible mediums. The third, is the critique of corporate companies and the art world relations that are embodied in the widely traveled shows of Chich Marin. Such a linking is embodied in one of the locations (the El Paso) where what greeted people who attended Marin’s shows was a painting that included with it a large Target logo. As Perez began the Chicana Art project, that inevitably led her to thinking more seriously, what has happened in the aftermath and the NEA backlash, the appropriation and occupation of public art spaces. The changing of art spaces, the economics, the kinds of work people are doing to critique the museum, and other forms of museum and exhibition, to begin crafting the maps as to what is going on in the arts, where public display, its practice is one sense, a growing corporation, but also a limited incorporation.

Questions that Perez moved the audience toward include: How do we respond? Can we respond to the types of privatization that are happening to public spaces? Such questions segue to Perez’s last comment and that is on the following: The creation of the museum and other display spaces, have always been tied to the performance of collective identities/performing of a national identities. It’s a very un-innocent process. Community process is made. Who is operating those spaces, how the public museum and other spaces, Connected to the privatization of other public spaces. We need to investigate corporate welfare. She asks: How is it that local museums, you can trace the pressure that museums are getting from govt. cut backs that open the doors of corporations?

Ramon Grosfoguel followed Laura E. Perez in the conversation. His work, a comparative framework, contributed to the conversation through his engagement with the cartography of power. Grosfoguel's methodology is to decolonize a world systems paradigm. Grosfuguel contends that if you look at the traditional social sciences, as much critical they are to they are to the Cartesian thoughts, there is a legacy of Cartesians that we have not overcome. The “politics of knowledge”, “I think so therefore I am”, the “I” is where we produce knowledge. The assumption is that you are supposed to produce a knowledge that is “nowhere” that assumes a neutrality. The “I” is not situated anywhere, not in the body, the dualism between mind and body, mind and somewhere, the mind is somewhere floating that allows the Cartesian of western thought that allows, he calls it an “epistemic racism”. The assumption that western epistemology is superior to the rest. If you look at the canon of social sciences it comes from western thought. What he is questioning is more a complexity of what it implies if we take a seriously the tradition from those other traditions of thoughts. It is the hegemony of thought. If we use this politics of knowledge, we get a very limited and distorted and the world systems, a capitalist world system or a global capitalism. The problems that he has with that definition, if you start the analysis of the present world system and you look at it from Europe expanding, then you get a particular configuration. What happens if we shift the geography of reason to the “undersight” of the experience. What we arrive at is a “complex package of power relations”. Grosfoguel contends that we need a complex understanding of power that is more multiple. On a world scale the relations that are global between north south, it is not just a phenomenon of the economy. Who does the work in the periphery, usually people from non-european origins. Those who get the benefits at the core, are usually people from either western or from western origins. There is another configuration he talks about the global/gender hierarchy. In white feminism there is a limited understanding of patriarchy, in fact the patriarchy the patriarchy that was globalized is European patriarchy. He wants to understand the local patriarchy and the global patriarchy. In other places it was matriarchy. Grosfoguel we are going to fight power, we need to have a process conceptualization of power. That is why he thinks that we need to look at the geography of reason. Can’t talk about it in the oldways of superstructures, he would prefer to use a concepts that have been used by people of color or feminist frameworks – intersectionality. Where one thing is the last instance of something, the heterogeneous to capture the complexity of where we live.

Okui Enwezor then followed Grosfoguel, calling for specificity. Enwezor has three key terms:

1) right at this moment the key question, what he calls the strategies of solidarities

2) techniques of coalition building

3) Building the minor (the aesthetics of the minor)

Okwui conveys that it is not so much to decolonize, but eviscerate the structure. Reading a 1970 quote, this quote is central to where we are (Berkeley as a site of revln.), that leads to the question: “What can you do as a young artist that seems relevant and meaningful”

Such a question is important to how we think about the issues, the kind of works that are fed on the market, that have become a site of excess. He thinks that the resonance of questions surrounding multiculturalism are no longer relevant in the institutions. One has to begin first not with the critique of the museum. Museums may serve public functions but they are private. It is not an open system the museum it gives us the imaginary that appears to be public in spite of its privatization. Multiculturality for Enwezor is what one has to contest, not necessarily deuniversalizing feminist discourse or cultural rhetoric. Enwezor argues that to really to begin to talk about muliticulturality, we have to begin where this multiculturality takes place.

Enwezor asks us to look beyond the public sphere. How do we move beyond that to think critically about civic society in which the Civic society are goal oriented? Enwezor argues that one trajectory for us is to not feed the beast. The minor, does not operate from the domain of the privileged manufactured commodification, a redistribution of works say systems of consumption.

Moving away from the model of the public sphere to the model of the civic society, where the politics of the north and south is a battle of the public sphere that are deeply embedded in the world system (grassroots institutions). This is one way to respond to this tension of the local and the global and how material, aesthetics, so forth move. The instance of civil society play a greater role in developing civil society. These societies are societies in translation. What is valued is the community. How do artists in Senegal respond to the rural AND the urban. This is not a local/global context, the way the rural is marginalized. They begin from redistributing the social capital. What they do is a transference of skills, that critique of the system, a collective of artists in Senegal is a redistribution of knowledge/skills. How the life worlds of these communities function, he thinks that we need to be attentative to “civil societies” – chicano movement are fundamentally a civil society movement that are in many ways very seductive.

Important “take-away” points may be read in the form of more questions/directions for thinking about how time-space of visual culture and intersecting realities interact with each other in both the global and the local:

How we can move beyond western binarisms that are highly polarized in the global north? One way is to invert the western binary.

How can new terms/language allow for a decolonial project? For example, “Interculturality” Latin American concept, interculturality implies equality.

What are the Different ways of defining community, the public sphere versus the civic bodies is useful. Different spaces that people function?

How does public/private provide binaries further inequities, and where are the spaces of possibilities?

And seeing this symposium as a particular beginning within many beginnings, what is art in this context of the Out of TimeSpace symposium?

Where may we build coalitions?

Friday, November 9, 2007

Cybernetique Revisited: Fragmentary Recollections


We begin with a genealogy of a word and a working concept - the namesake of our discussion, “cybernetique”. The obscure origins of the word “cybernetic” is surprisingly highly relevant to our discussion today. The word as we know it comes from the Greek root “kybernan”, which means “to steer or pilot a ship” or “to direct”. Flowing from this root, in early 19th century France the word “cybernetique” meant “the art of governing.” It is in this sense we employ the term as a concept/metaphor for what we’ve observed in and around Cyberspace. At once a brave new world of possibilities, and a mere reflection of continuing and long-standing oppressions and global disparities, we maintain that the digital realm is at once a potential site for insurgency and a disciplining mechanism.


The so-called ‘Digital Divide’ presupposes that a unified digital utopia was at some point in existence, and was meant to be whole, but has now become disjointed. This “digital divide” is far from being innocent or inevitable, but rather parallels a pre-existing strategy of divide and conquer, whereby those in power astutely practice cybernetique – the extension of empire into the uncharted territories of cyberspace.


Suppose the following: You are in a room with a computer. Through this computer, you will interact with several entities that you do not know or cannot see. The only means by which you can communicate is through the computer. Through the asking of questions, your job is to determine the races of the entities whose answers are appearing on your screen. Where is the cyborg now?


But can the cyborg speak? How might language, for instance, figure into a debate dominated by questions over physicality and embodiment? Computer-mediated communication is always-already filtered through—indeed, governed by—multiple layers of language: first, by the semantic and syntactic rules of programming languages utilized by computers and applications, and then by the written, spoken and visual languages with which we communicate by way of text, sounds and images.


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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Another Country

The artists showing work in "Another Country" (part of the Out of TimeSpace exhibition) will be having a talk starting at 5pm on Friday, November 9th, in the classroom attached to the Worth Ryder Gallery. Allan deSouza, artist and associate professor of New Genres at SFAI will be moderating the talk. He will be asking the artists and myself questions about the theme of "Another Country", why the artists participated, and more specific questions regarding the ideas in their respective works.

This talk will be quite casual and we encourage participation from those who attend - we are open to questions and comments. Also, it would be great to start a dialogue on this blog as well. Any thoughts about the exhibition itself, or more about specific works are much appreciated!

Laura Swanson

Monday, November 5, 2007

Structure of polycentric sessions

I had a question for moderators (and session participants). I was interested in trying some other session formats, other than the standard 10-20 minute presentation by each participant, followed by group discussion.

Any interesting ideas, thoughts or alternative structures that you have been considering, moderators? Participants, I'm also interested in whether you have suggestions as well.

John Kim

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Artpologist Installing Work

Devin picked me up this morning because he has a truck big enough to fit my paintings. Thank you so much Devin for helping me out today. On the way to the Worth Ryder Gallery he played a little Sugar Minot on the car stereo, we drank coffee along the way, and he remarked how he needed to get back before the football game.

Today was the first day to start to install our work for the Out of Time Space project. It was actually really exciting. I was the only one of the Artpologist group to attend because Zhanara was working and the other two artpologists are in Central Asia. Aminatou, the video artist, is in Turkmenistan doing some video classes for the locals and Gaisha is in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Gaisha, the photographer, is doing various things related to her work, and I hope she's getting some time to go out and see the local Almatinski favorite d.j. Rustam Ospanov.

Today I didn't really get a chance to hang the works. I arranged everything and I got some great help from a French curator (I didn't get her name) who is helping out in the project. I did get a chance to view Aminatou's video work. I haven't seen this video work since being in Almaty. Hearing the sounds shocked me a bit. I had a rush of feelings from our Transformation of Space in Almaty project and I almost cried. I really put a lot of work into this project last summer, and it was a very intense year for us. But the sounds from Aminatou's video brought me right back into Central Asia. I could just taste the Shashlyk and Pivo (kebab and beer in Russian).

It was also really nice to see my old friend Lindsay Benedict. She's got to be one of the coolest women I know. She's even vandalized the gallery to scare the shit out of everyone.

Anyhow, there's lots more work to do this week. I have to work a lot turning tables in a fancy organic restaurant in North Berkeley. All that my mind will really think about will be if I did my artpologist group justice by reassembling their work in the best possible way and if I'll be able to say anything interesting this Friday.

On the play list: The House of Leaf and Lime by The High Llamas, a "mega" mix by Grandmaster Flash, and Autumn Leaves by The Cannonball Adderly Quintet