Seminar 57 // 5, 6, 7 May 2016 // London


Curatorial/Knowledge Seminar, 5–7 May 2016


Thursday, 5 May 2016, 11am – 5pm

Location: Richard Hoggart Building, Room 150

11am – 2pm:

Josephine Berry (Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths; Mute magazine)

The mutual convergence of autonomous art and biopower on life itself: can life be understood as resisting power in our neoliberal times, and if so how?

This presentation will be based on the article ‘Everyone Is Not an Artist: Autonomous Art Meets the Neoliberal City’ (recently published in New Formations) which is part of an ongoing research into the relationship between creativity, life and power in the neoliberal context. This article ‘explores the parallel between the securitising effects of the urban capitalist milieu, which acts to fix life within normative bandwidths, and the implications of artistic autonomy that strives to return to the everyday, thus fixing all life within the bandwidth of aesthetics. The contemporary and officially sanctioned use of relational or participatory art projects in particular within the UK’s zones of “regenicide” – generally, condemned social housing – is read as paradigmatic of biopower’s contradictory elevation and degradation of life. If crisis capitalism targets housing – the ultimate structure of care – as a last means of surplus value extraction, then autonomous art, through its pursuit of the sites and spaces of everyday life, finds itself on a collision course with the trajectory of economic development.’

Josephine Berry is the editor of the cultural politics magazine Mute and teaches at the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths. She is the co-author of No Room to Move: Radical Art and the Regenerate City (together with Anthony Iles; Mute Publishing 2010). Research interests include the transformation of public and community arts within the context of urban regeneration, and the relationship between creativity, life and biopower.

– Josephine Berry, ‘Everyone Is Not an Artist: Autonomous Art Meets the Neoliberal City’

Lunch Break: 2–3pm


Elora Tescari (MRes Curatorial/Knowledge) – Research Presentation

The City as Playground: Urbex as a Case Study

Aristotle suggests that human experience can be divided into three basic activities: poiesis (labour), praxis (political action), and theoria (general intellect). Modern and contemporary scholars such as Hannah Arendt and Paolo Virno have suggested that the separation between these spheres is no longer clear-cut and that each is taking on the form of the other. In relation to this tripartite division, Aristotle also discusses the role of leisure (scholé) and play (paidiá) in the life of the citizen, and makes a clear distinction between the two: play is relaxation, and leisure is constructive. However, neither Arendt nor Virno give their opinion on today’s role of leisure, or play, even though play and playfulness are concepts that have been amply revisited in a wide range of disciplines and also figured at the core of a number of artistic movements.

Urbex, or Urban Exploration, is used here as a case study to explore the potential of transforming the city into a playground. The practice of Urbex is inherently playful and performative. Its fundamental aim is to explore urban space, especially those sites that the citizen is not supposed to visit. In temporarily reclaiming, occupying, and reimagining space, urban explorers disrupt the ordinary and engage in an activity outside the capitalist system of production. Like Duchamp’s ‘laziness’, playfulness is a form of ‘refusal of work’, an alternative way of being in time and space.

– Henri Lefebvre, Extract from Critique of Everyday Life

Thursday, 5 May 2016, 5–7pm

Location: Professor Stuart Hall Building, LG02

Pete Wolfendale: Prometheanism and Rationalism
(Visual Cultures Public Programme, chair: Simon O’Sullivan)

The aim of this talk is to articulate and defend the connection between contemporary forms of prometheanism and rationalism. It will begin by defining prometheanism through its opposition to political liberalism and normative naturalism, as developed by the projects of left-accelerationism and xenofeminism. It will then show how the success of these oppositions is premised upon philosophical rationalism, insofar as it supplies the needed accounts of positive freedom and normative autonomy, and articulate the problems faced by alternatives to liberalism and naturalism that reject these conceptual resources. The remainder of the talk will be devoted to elaborating the account of rational agency through which these concepts should be understood. Positively, it will aim to explain what reason is, giving a minimalistic picture of the capacities its exercise involves. Negatively, it will aim to explain what reason is not, addressing some common objections to rationalism based on misunderstanding its relation to affect, embodiment, collectivity, and other issues.

Pete Wolfendale is an independent philosopher from the North East of England. His work develops the consequences of philosophical rationalism for the philosophy of mind, aesthetics, and metaphysics. He is the author of Object-Oriented Philosophy: The Noumenon’s New Clothes (Urbanomic 2014).

Friday, 6 May 2016, 11am – 6pm

Location: Richard Hoggart Building, Room 150

11am – 2pm:

Grant Watson (PhD Curatorial/Knowledge)

How We Behave: Life as a Work of Art and the Politics of Subjectivity

In this session, Grant will be presenting his recently submitted practice-based PhD research How We Behave, which includes a written thesis and an extensive interview project:

‘The first element analyses texts by Michel Foucault on the care of the self and a politics of friendship, including lectures and interviews, commentaries by other authors, and my own interviews with Foucault specialists. It gives an account of 50 interviews conducted in Europe and North and Latin America, looking at methodology and demographics, and referencing the ethnographic interview and the interview in art. The second element extends this to a performative register through filmed interviews, which manifest the care of the self as narrated by contemporary subjects. Subsequently, within the limits of my research it has become possible to argue the existence of a “queer askesis”, analogous to the care of the self but different. It has become clear through the testimony of interviewees as well as the conceptual framework of contemporary thinkers that this phenomenon has complex implications that extend beyond the self to include forms of politics which break with relations of domination and oppression, and with the degradation of social relations and of the environment.’ (from the abstract of the thesis)

Grant Watson is a curator and researcher who teaches at the Royal College of Art. He has been the senior curator at INIVA (2010–2014) and a curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Antwerp (2006–2010). Recent curatorial projects include How We Behave with If I Cant Dance, Amsterdam; Practice International at Iniva, London, Iaspis, Sweden, Casco, Holland; and Keywords at Tate Liverpool.

– Michel Foucault, Interview with Vanity Fair

2–3pm: Lunch Break


Ryan Inouye (MRes Curatorial/Knowledge) – Research Presentation

Ryan will introduce his research around recent ‘emancipatory’ formulations of group subjectivity since the 1990s (largely within a US context) and their dependence on various analytics of spatial proximity that constitute, frustrate and confine the subjects’ becoming.

Contemporary art has a habit of framing subjectivity (around identity, region, ideology, history, event) in exhibition format. This operation often takes one of two forms: an exploration of the complex interiority of a specific subject or an inauguration of a coming group formation. Both practices often seek to materialise connections to larger political discourses. This thesis project questions whether a desire to constitute togetherness must be necessarily mediated through participation in a politics. Here, it could be useful to reorient the curatorial from endeavors of declarative organisation toward an analytic of sensing. This would be a curatorial that deprioritises a concern with spatial proximity in order to pursue intensifications of feeling togetherness, the development of common senses that might coax sentiment to the surface.

– Stefano Harney / Fred Moten, The Undercommons, p. 131–146 (extract from the interview with Stevphen Shukaitis)


Manuela Villa Acosta (MRes Curatorial/Knowledge) – Research Presentation

Reconsidering Auditing to Resignify Efficiency in Madrid’s City Council

Citizen-based movements are experimenting with other ways of governing ourselves in certain municipalities of Spain. In Madrid, the conflict between the neoliberal demand for efficiency and the complex nature of a government composed of organized critical citizens is particularly notorious in the area of culture. My proposal is to reconsider a standard control tool of neoliberal management to introduce a new vocabulary related to the social, economic and political values proposed by these governments. That tool is the audit. An active form which, though disguising itself as a neutral and universal element of our infrastructures, acts towards generating a political discourse based on a specific body of knowledge.

– Michael Power, The Audit Explosion (please read p. 12–14 and 38–40)
– Universidad Nómada, ‘Mental Prototypes and Monster Institutions’

8pm: Drinks/Dinner together

Saturday, 19 March 2016, 12–4pm

Location: Richard Hoggart Building, Room 350

Reading Group, chaired by Stefan Nowotny

Following up on a number of discussions we have had in previous seminars (e.g., around Mark Fisher’s notion of precorporation, Franco Berardi’s account of the soul put at work, or a politics of care as proposed by Precarias a la deriva) this reading group session will focus on a chapter from Bernard Stiegler’s 2010 book What Makes Life Worth Living: On Pharmacology. Stiegler here proposes that ‘biopower’ today has become a ‘psychopower’ which operates through the short-circuiting of attention and the destruction of care. The invention of new ways of life experienced as ‘worth living’ thus depends not only on reinvestments in the industrial or financial sense, but also on a reinvestment of affective energies: a libidinal economy which takes care of its objects rather than consuming them,

– Bernard Stiegler, Extracts from What Makes Life Worth Living (Introduction + chapter 5: ‘Economizing Means Taking Care: The Three Limits of Capitalism’)


Seminar Dates: 
Thu, 05/05/2016 - 10:00 - Sat, 07/05/2016 - 15:00