SPRING MEETING 2021, 28 September – 3 October: Intercessors, ventriloquists, thieves, anon. On Art’s Divestment of the Self

This gathering, originally planned for SpringMeeting 2020, now takes place in two parts: the first this autumn, and the second in April 2022. In the many months since we began this undertaking, the themes have lost none of their relevance. Can aesthetic practice divest from the self? If so, how? This is an invitation to abandon, mediate, forge and falsify selves.

Today, Mladen Stilinović’s artwork stating, “an artist who cannot speak English is no artist” could just as easily be rephrased as: “an artist who cannot speak about their own work is no artist”. Is there a more exploited genre and pronoun among artists than speaking in first person singular?

For SM 2021 we would like to approach what is singular as already multiple, to reimagine the individual through mediation. We would like to question origin, identity and ownership in the act of directing attention instead to intercesseurs, mediators and intermediaries, to true and falsifying personae and to collective or common agencies.

Against two decisive factors of the art market today – the compulsion to speak of one’s own work, and performance of one’s own brand-name – we would like to inquire into other possible articulations of personhood, authorship, ownership, agency, milieu, transindividuation and production that do not begin with nominal identity, that do not start with or return to “I/Me”.

An example. “Intercesseurs” (mediators) was the word Gilles Deleuze used to portray his collaboration with Félix Guattari:

"Mediators are fundamental. Creation’s all about mediators. Without them nothing happens. They can be people ... but things too, even plants or animals ... Whether they’re real or imaginary, animate or inanimate, you have to form your mediators. It’s a series. If you’re not in some series, even a completely imaginary one, you’re lost. I need my mediators to express myself, and they’d never express themselves without me: you’re always working in a group, even when you seem to be on your own… There’s no truth that doesn’t ‘falsify’ established ideas. To say that ‘truth is created’ implies ... a series of falsifications.”

There are many more terms that could apply apart from intercession: intervention, interlocution, translation, appropriation, forgery, ventriloquy, bastardization, theft. There is an abundance of modes in which artists produce, collaborate, distribute subjectivities and present work. Collectivity or group work might also be an opaque façade that conceals and protects political strategies and undercover operations.

If our point of departure is not the individual but the common, then we must look into what we share at a level prior to or beyond the personal – language, modes of production and cooperation, sensory apparatuses and habits, and history. While we do not want to affirm dehistoricization, we recognize good reasons for its contestation that point to canons and canonization. In a canonical culture relations between artists serve to cement significance. Canonical artists are often those who are centers of influence or those whose networks include other canonical figures. What ways are there to be in dialogue with and through others, which does not further secure the position of the self in the canon?

Art occurs, regardless of whether it resembles the canon of autonomous, functionless, exceptional, single-authored, manifestations of the artist’s will. Some occurrences might be found in invisibility, refusal, collectivity, name changes, shifting the locus of art making and thus its legibility as such. In a time of over-investment in the self as commodity and an aggressive disinvestment in collective resources and services – in order that we can all have the privilege of loneliness – how to choose the group every time, above and beyond the impoverished and impoverishing path of atomization?

The problems posed here seem ill-suited to individual inquiry. The world is neither neat nor kind. One’s interiority cannot present an innocent starting point or refuge of the beautiful soul. For SM 2021 we do not want to think only about single author-artists, but also to dedicate time to those who make the work possible but remain in the shadow: performers, assistants, translators, and so on. The author has long been declared dead, but shared authorship remains rare. Theaters, museums and other institutions demand unequivocally delineated individuals who guarantee for their products.

For SM2021, we want to devote time to the dependent, non-sovereign, subjected forms of making art and thought. We are specifically interested in working methods that say no to “working alone”. And we are also interested in artists speaking about the work of others in which they recognize something they themselves could not do. This is not about denying individual responsibility: one’s individual actions matter as they materialize the world. So, we ask: What can we learn from art’s investment in the divestment of the self?

The price is 18€ per night per bed if you stay more than 5 nights, otherwise, it is 20€ per night. Other expenses include a 12€ annual membership and 12€ per day for three meals prepared in our exquisite kitchen. There will be an excellent team of cooks who will need help from all of us. We can only accept payments in cash or French cheques, so bring it along (there is an ATM in the village).

In order to allow people with little or no resources to attend the meeting (and following similar initiatives currently taking place at PAF), this year we will experiment with a differential pricing or sliding scale. So, we will (un)fix the cost of the whole event to an amount between 172€ and 250€ per person. Even if you can pay 20€ more than the baseline of 172€, it will help someone else. If you would like to participate and you do not have the financial conditions to do so, please let us know and we will try to make it possible for you.

For these dates PAF will be fully compliant with COVID-19 regulations and operate at a reduced capacity of 50 participants, so book early, we’d like you to be there.

From the organizers,

Bojana Cvejić, Eleanor Ivory Weber, Nikhil Vettukattil, Stefan Govaart

Reservations at: contactpaf@gmail.com

Guests for Part 1:

Jackie Karuti is an artist based in Nairobi, Kenya. Her practice employs the process of drawing, video and performance to generate thought. Her work is founded on ideas around knowledge production & accessibility as well as the depths of possibility enabled by radical imagination. Karuti is an alumnus of Àsìko, a roaming Pan African art school established by the late Bisi Silva, designed to redress the frequently outdated or non-existent artistic and curatorial curricula at tertiary institutions across Africa. Karuti was the 2020 recipient of the Henrike Grohs Art Award which will see a publication of her work released in late 2021. Further in 2021 she received the Follow Fluxus-After Fluxus grant for young contemporary artists and will have a solo exhibition later in the year at the Nassauischer Kunstverein, Wiesbaden. Other projects that respond to her practice include In The Case of Books, programming the Out Film Festival-Nairobi and her online workspace, I’ve been working on some MAGIC.

Oxana Timofeeva is Sc.D., Professor at “Stasis” Center for Philosophy at the European University in St. Petersburg, leading researcher at Tyumen State University, member of the artistic collective "Chto Delat?" ("What is to be done?"), deputy editor of the journal "Stasis", and the author of books History of Animals (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018; Maastricht: Jan van Eyck, 2012; trans. into Russian, Turkish, Slovenian, and Persian), Introduction to the Erotic Philosophy of Georges Bataille (Moscow: New Literary Observer, 2009), How to Love a Homeland (Moscow, syg.ma, 2020; Cairo: Kayfa ta, 2020; trans. into Arabic), Solar Politics (forthcoming) and other writings.

Georgia Sagri (born Athens, 1979) lives and works in Athens and New York. Her practice is influenced by her ongoing engagement in political movements and struggles on issues of autonomy, empowerment and self-organisation. From 1997 to 2001 she was a member of Void Network, a cultural, political and philosophical collective operating in Athens. In 2011 she was one of the main organisers of the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York. Since 2013 she has been a member of the assembly of the Embros Theatre Occupation, and in 2014 she initiated Ύλη[matter]HYLE, a semi-public cultural space in the heart of Athens. She is professor of performance at the Athens School of Fine Arts.

Guests for Part 2 will be announced in winter 2021