Archive for November 12th, 2007

back in timespace to out of timespace

Monday, November 12th, 2007

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I swear if I don’t address at least some portion of this today, all of the brilliant discussions that happened at this weekend’s Out of TimeSpace symposium are just going to float out my ear, and go off into the ether forever. You’ll need to spend a few minutes perusing the OoTS website for any of this to make sense, but the short version of this story is that a lot of smart, creative, engaged academics, artists, and like-minded folk got together at UC Berkeley and SFAI for a series of conversations on visuality and alterity. (Erm, I had to look those terms up initially: if you need to as well, a couple of reasonably handy references are here and here, although I’d say that we’ve not adhered to any rigid definition of either). Not being anything resembling academic or well-read, I was not at all familiar with those terms initially. It turns out they applied to pretty much everything that consumes me as an artist. Little did I know.

The symposium opened on Friday morning at UC Berkeley with a lively centernote conversation loosely titled “Transnational Artworlds, Social Justice, and the ‘Will to Globality’.” Introduced and moderated by Dalida Maria Benfield (the queenpin of OoTS), it was an incredibly dynamic discussion between professors Laura E. Perez, Ramon Grosfoguel from UC Berkeley and curator Okwui Enwezor of SFAI. What was so compelling about it, since no transcriptions or public notes yet exist (check the OoTS site soon for these), was the way in which each speaker made a forceful case for his/her stance, and then pushed and prodded and encouraged one another throughout the discussion. There were some clear moments of disagreement, but what was so powerful was watching the way the three of them worked it out, and re-clarified their points of intersection again, in front of us. It set the tone for a symposium that was at times contentious and uncertain, but where despite differences in strategy, language and experiences, most participants were incredibly willing to move beyond their various epistemologies, to meet others at new points of intersection.

For all of the times in which I’ve seen all manner of passive-aggressive tactics used by both artists and academics to belittle one another to make their own point, I witnessed little to none of this at OoTS. The conversations many of us had were messy and imperfect, but they pointed towards a willingness to talk out and work on issues that many of us haven’t had opportunities to push with like-minded colleagues. It’s really difficult to be more specific right now: I’m not that great at distilling the enormity of some of those discussions down to tidy details. Also, the meatier blog housed at OoTS will soon be doing much heavier lifting than lightweight little Wofflings is able to do. Suffice to say, it really seemed that the risks and the effort undertaken to make this symposium happen in such a short amount of time are going to yield some pretty interesting rhizomatic results in the weeks and months to come.

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brilliant mimes/brilliant minds: Okwui Enwezor (with invisible coffee cup), Ramon Grosfoguel (invisible dagwood sandwich), Laura Perez (invisible book), November 9 at UC Berkeley

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OOTS co-organizer Rose Khor keeps her eyes on that sandwich

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Matthias De Groof and Kristin Rogge presenting during the ‘translocalities/transmodernities’ thinkspace

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Worth-Ryder Gallery opening for the ‘OoTS/Another Country’ exhibition

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Allan deSouza and ‘Another Country’ curator Laura Swanson breaking it down for folks during the artist talk

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The OoTS masterminds, Dalida Maria Benfield, Annie Fukushima and Lindsay Benedict, finally relaxing Saturday night

My involvement with the Visuality and Alterity working group that organized OoTS came late, and came minimally: I was always a little hazy on what it was all about, but I instinctively glommed on to the kinds of conversations that the folks involved were having. Unfortunately, the brunt of the planning happened while I was utterly consumed by and then recovering from the visuality-alterity extravaganza that was Galleon Trade, so I couldn’t contribute a whole hell of a lot. I helped out as best I could, but to be real, it felt a little bit like how at Thanksgiving time, I can only help my family prepare by doing all of the menial, brainless work. I am not to be trusted with turkeys, pumpkin pies, or any of that smart stuff that requires foresight and heavy lifting. Essentially, I was the OoTS member in charge of peeling potatoes and clearing plates. (Which was great fun, actually.) Nothing too hard, but good to be at the party, either way.

Congrats to Dalida, Annie, and all of the amazing participants who actually did the hardest work of visioning and manifesting this thing.