As for Protocols—To Hold Things Together
Symposium convened by BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht, and Vera List Center, New York
Front: Skylab, “Habal-habal” Green Papaya Art Projects, and various Visayan artists. Back: “Dagat kay Dagway” (Sea and Horizon), installation view as part of Bisan Tubig di Magbalon (Don’t Even Bring Water), VIVA ExCon 2018 (Visayas Islands Visual Arts and Conference), curated by Green Papaya Art Projects, Capiz, The Philippines. Photo (c) Kiko Nuñez
To Hold Things Together is a two-day symposium focusing on modes of social and institutional nodality and protocols of encounter and solidarity in our hyper-local and hyper-dispersed existence. It concludes the first year of the program cycle As for Protocols of the Vera List Center (VLC), a research center and a public forum for art, culture, and politics in New York City, and is curated by BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht and presented by VLC.
Compositing real and speculative community and institutional models and proposing theoretical and practical elements of coalitional exchange, the symposium’s discursive strands seek to build aesthetic, poetic, and tactical forms of research, assembly, mobilization, and co-creation amid fraught unfolding realities. The symposium resonates, in motivation and format, with the VLC’s As for Protocols seminars that came before and can be accessed here.
The program expands over two days, each led by a distinctive tactic and site of investigation. Presentations blend lectures, conversations, performances, and artistic interventions.
Please note: BAK communicates program times in CEST (Central European Summer Time), VLC communicates times in EDT (Eastern Daylight Time)
DAY ONE: LOCALITY AND NODALITY
Thursday, 20 May 2021, 17.00–01.30 hrs CEST (11.00–19.30 hrs EDT)
17.00–18.30 hrs CEST (11.00–12.30 hrs EDT)
Affective Protocols of Locality
With Mitchell Esajas, The Black Archives, Amsterdam;
Maria Hlavajova and Rachael Rakes, BAK basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht;
Elizabeth Povinelli, Karrabing Film Collective, Northern Territories;
and Norberto “Pee Wee” Roldan, Green Papaya Projects, Manila.
The (new) age of pandemics has renewed conditions for rethinking localized and situated practices. This panel discussion revisits proximity and communal artistic labor for collectives, institutions, and less formalized groupings.
Break for 30 minutes
19.00–20.30 hrs CEST (13.00–14.30 hrs EDT)
On Artistic Coalition and Institutional-Communal Nodality
With Adelita Husni-Bey, 2020–2022 VLC Fellow, School of Pandemics, New York;
Carin Kuoni, Senior Director and Chief Curator, Vera List Center, New York;
Emeka Okereke, 2020–2022 VLC Jane Lombard Fellow, Invisible Borders: Trans African Photographers, Lagos/Berlin;
Rolando Vázquez and Rosalba Icaza, Maria Lugones Decolonial Summer School, Utrecht;
and Angga Wijaya, farid rakun, and Gesyada Siregar, Gudskul: Collective and Contemporary Art Ecosystem Studies, Public Learning Space, Jakarta.
This panel discussion engages political and public networks and coalitions within modes of artistic public practice. Presentations discuss the mutual priorities of embeddedness and connectedness in creative solidarities and learning structures across physical distance. Further topics include co-situated learning and embodied study for coalitional practice.
24.00–01.30 hrs CEST (18.00–19.30 hrs EDT)
Hél čhaŋkú kiŋ ȟpáye (There lies the road): A Dialogue About Making Art in a Good Way
With Suzanne Kite, Oglála Lakȟóta artist;
Scott Benesiinaabandan, Anishinaabe artist;
Clementine Bourdeaux, Sičáŋǧu Oglála Lakóta Doctoral Candidate in the World Arts and Cultures Department, UCLA;
and Jason Edward Lewis, Hawaiian and Samoan digital media theorist; University Research Chair, Concordia University, Montreal.
Oglála Lakȟóta artist Kite hosts a conversation as a moment for reflection with artistic and research collaborators on her year-long VLC-supported project Hél čhaŋkú kiŋ ȟpáye (There lies the road). This exchange involves Indigenous and non-Indigenous thinkers, artists, and the general public in exploring notions of ethics, protocols, and artificial intelligence. As does Kite’s project, the panel engages with questions of how respect and reciprocity with the nonhuman, such as in Lakȟóta ontology, can inform art and world-making in a “Good Way.”
DAY TWO: SPECTRAL INFRASTRUCTURE
Friday, 21 May 2021, 17.00–21.10 hrs CEST (11.00–15.10 hrs EDT)
Three-part seminar and discussion with freethought (Stefano Harney, Adrian Heathfield, Massimiliano Mollona, Louis Moreno, Irit Rogoff, and Nora Sternfeld) and guest Denise Ferreira da Silva.
Over three consecutive sessions, freethought introduces the concept and applications of “spectral infrastructure,” a term that alludes to the hidden and invisible textures that sustain an undefinable and disruptive quality in an otherwise seemingly efficient organism. Continuing from the collective’s long-term research into material and organizational infrastructures, spectral infrastructure pursues an understanding of the “ephemeral glue,” or that which is invisible, inaudible, and illegible but nevertheless elicits a response and informs a reality that can be found echoing around existing structures. Spectral infrastructure holds things together by underwriting the subjectivity of an institution, of an intellectual and political drive, of a beat or a rhythm, of a gaze or a gesture, or of momentary mutuality or a collective affect. The research moves speculatively from the binding forms of material and data infrastructures toward intangible intensities as a coalescing force.
17.00–18.10 hrs CEST (11.00–12.10 hrs EDT)
Spectral Labor and Unpayable Debt
With Stefano Harney, author and researcher; Royal Holloway, University of London, London;
Massimiliano Mollona, writer, filmmaker, anthropologist, and senior lecturer at Goldsmiths College, University of London, London;
and Denise Ferreira da Silva, professor and director of the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice at University of British Columbia, Vancouver.
What will a post-pandemic future economy look like if viewed through a contemporary archaeology of labor? Focusing on ghostly economies—not the invisible, offshore, or black economy of finance capital—but those which exist as monstrous appendages of the everyday, this trajectory considers the infrastructures implied by the ghosts of the work that will be rendered obsolete, automated, and de-functionalized, and also those within the new modes of dwelling and living off the surplus population. These concerns intersect with Ferreira da Silva’s forthcoming book, Unpayable Debt (Sternberg Press, 2021), which apprehends these modes and conditions through a “poethical” lens, and weaves together structures of raciality and coloniality with the machinations of global capital.
Break for 20 minutes
18.30–19.40 hrs CEST (12.30–13.40 hrs EDT)
Fugitivity and Endurance (What is the Time of Spectral Infrastructure?)
With Adrian Heathfield, professor of performance and visual culture at University of Roehampton, London;
and Nora Sternfeld, professor of art education at University of Fine Arts Hamburg, Hamburg.
Major political challenges of our age, such as ecological catastrophe, racial injustice, technological acceleration, and violent economic exclusion, are deeply sedimented historical formations whose wakes and potential cures traverse centuries of struggle. How does the longue durée of social and political transformation, and its transgenerational nature, alter our understanding of agency, radical labor, and struggle itself? Is the tension between the immediacy of fugitive forces of radical action and the slow cumulative invisible work of enduring a sign of a spectral infrastructure? This session looks towards forging the relation between moments and processes of struggles over protracted temporalities and aesthetic forms.
Break for 20 minutes
20.00–21.10 hrs CEST (14.00–15.10 hrs EDT)
Sediments and Residues
With Louis Moreno, urbanist, theorist, and lecturer at Goldsmiths College, University of London, London;
and Irit Rogoff, writer, teacher, curator, organizer, and professor of visual culture at Goldsmiths College, University of London, London.
Gentrification processes sift the spatial unconscious of cities for residues of urban creativity and radical sociality to stabilize the financial fantasy of “urban regeneration.” Similarly, the reputational capital of educational institutions is built on the rejected moments of radicality that sediment together into a frisson of excitement that cannot be traced back to any continuous presence. The components of such excess deposits may be found in the very fabrics of environments and institutions. Or they may come to form a spectral infrastructure that haunts these spaces and will not let them calcify as the profit machines of human capital they are so desperate to become.
As for Protocols—To Hold Things Together is the concluding event of the first year of Vera List Center’s program cycle As for Protocols, and is curated by BAK and presented and hosted by VLC. BAK and VLC act as coalitional partners here, with the long-term goal of more closely aligning their support of developing political imaginaries through artistic practice.
VLC’s participation is made possible, in part, by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, New York; The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, New York; the Ford Foundation, New York; the Kettering Fund; the Selma Yomtov Schwartz Endowment; and the Sigrid Rausing Trust, as well as the members of Vera List Center’s Board.
BAK’s participation is made possible, in part, through financial contributions by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, and the Municipality of Utrecht.