The Hauntologists

11-13 November 2022

Spectral Infrastructure Symposium

2022, freethought collective

11–13 November 2022 (times to be determined), BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht  

Moving away from the concrete associations that infrastructure invokes—such as physical networks for transportation and communications, the organization of waste and utilities, resource flows, digital management, or capital movements—freethought proposes the notion of “spectral infrastructure” to direct attention toward the ghostly, affective, and fugitive intensities that undergird the quotidian: toward, in their own words, the “hidden and invisible textures that sustain an undefinable and disruptive quality in an otherwise efficient seeming organism,” or in other cases, “the ephemeral glue that holds things together in affective modality.” Spectral infrastructures elude stable definitions. Rather, they act as fleeting re-compositions and hauntings of dominant historical narratives and structures, warding off of the regimes of capture deployed by contemporary governmentality and governance.  

The symposium presents the following fields of enquiry that the freethought members have developed through their long-term research trajectory at BAK, also present in the exhibition with Adrian Heathfield and Hahn Rowe’s work this air (2022). The event gathers screenings, discussions, presentations, and music listening and DJing sessions, weaved together by brief dialogues which prompt underlying and intersecting questions around outsourcing, endurance and fugitivity, collective authorship, the residual, toxicity and extinction or the unspeakable, among others. 

 Symposium schedule:

The Unarchivable, convened by Irit Rogoff 

The Unarchivable expands what it means to be uncapturable by a regime or an order of knowledge. It is only with recognizable legibility that one enters the classification modes by which governance and legislation are enacted. Inhabiting less legible and categorizable dimensions results not only in the elisions we have seen with less empowered subjects and their exclusion from the realm of political representation, but it has also resulted in the endless reproduction of dominant experience, ideological stances, social distinctions, and scales of value. How then do we move beyond such narrow confines and work toward new legibilities, and new scales of value within human experience? If the traditional archive has been a repository of everything that has been agreed upon, then the unarchivable is the seething mass of half-marked affects and densities that snake around at the edge of consciousness suggesting other ways of being in the world and other possible relations. 

Sharing Para-Archival Practices, convened by Nora Sternfeld 

This session asks how one can be faithful to the unarchivable. The unarchivable is that which cannot be archived, but is still in the archive—something like the “archival unconscious,” to refer to Jacques Derrida’s Archive Fever. It is all that does not fit in the order of the archive, all that resists to be put into boxes: the affective, the performative, the memory, the resistance, the wayward, the inchoate, the stubborn—in short, “the potential otherwise.” It is what is haunting the archive—insisting, rather than existing—it is the archive’s spectral infrastructure. And even though the unarchivable is not graspable by the order of the archive, it has a presence: we encounter it through overseen aspects, but also through voids, and lacks, and traces of violence. This collaborative session gathers around questions and materials to ask: How can the affects of the unarchivable be actualized? And, as we might encounter archives as places full of sleeping, silenced, and petrified conflicts, how might we share strategies to align with the spirits and kiss the struggle awake? 

(Im)possible Realism, James Clifford and Massimiliano (Mao) Mollona 

Developed as an ongoing conversation, (Im)possible Realism is an attempt to reconceive ethnography against reductivism by embracing discordance and contradictory possibilities. It departs from James Clifford’s discussion of ethnography as a “zone of contact,” an imaginary and material political space in which cross-cultural, imperial, and capitalist modes of history and geography are enacted, unlearned, and undone. Ethnography is proposed as a practice that engages with the unexpected and the emergent, representing historical contradictions through juxtaposed stories. It is a disposition that does not smooth over reality’s surreal, unfinished, excessive, and paradoxical elements. (Im)possible realism thus works to expand the maps of history through partial and multiple perspectives that can represent incompleteness and resist dialectical transcendence. 

Unhoused Music, convened by Louis Moreno 

This part of the symposium is organized in collaboration with the 2022 Le Guess Who? Festival in Utrecht. 

The relationship between the sound of music and a sense of place is sometimes so direct that it appears almost intuitive. The relationship between jazz and New Orleans, dub and Kingston, house and Chicago, techno and Detroit, for example, seems to suggest that music is another kind of infrastructure—a different way in which the city inhabits us. How though do we square that with the proposition that if Black music is, as author Fumi Okiji says, a particular kind of dwelling, it is both a refuge for the homeless and a tradition of criticism whose radicality resides in the fact that the idea of home ownership was always a trap? Which suggests that Black music is another mode of planning, an enduring capacity to dislocate the 40 acres promise of private property? It is not the implementer of environments underpinned by the hostility of credit systems and police, but a grounding whose social protocols and habits of improvisation dissolve the constant demand to be a single individual. Across a sequence of three conversations and various selections of music, we will consider the ongoing infrastructural work of Black music, and how it temporally rearranges the collective desire for space, place, home and land—generating a very different sense of social ecology, urban planning and historical time. 

Suggestions from the archive

Education Program

Public program