[-empyre-] SenseLab - new forms of collaboration

Timothy Conway Murray tcm1 at cornell.edu
Mon May 6 13:48:14 EST 2013

Erin, it's so great to be back in dialogue with you. Thanks ever so much for continuing with us this month.

When Renate, Ana, and I were imagining this month's discussion on collaboration, I personally was interested in seeing how the month might foreground digitally inflected collaborative 'events' that merge philosophy, art, and activism.  Of course, as you know, this reflects the nature of the collaboration in writing, -empyre-, and curating that have so frequently brought Renate's and my work together over the past decade, particularly when activities sponsored by the Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art merge with Renate's Tinker Factory.

My own efforts in the area of collaboration began when working on collective editorial teams in the early days of critical theory in France and the US.  This was motivated by the critiques of "authorship" by Foucault and Barthes both of whom argued for more flexible models of "writing" that would disfigure authority as institutionalized by copyright and profit. Of course, work in theatre, performance, and cinema has long been characterized by the tensions between the authority of the "director" or "conductor" and the less mappable creativity of teams of artists, critics, and designers working together.

In the early days of video art, moreover, collectives such as Ant Farm and Videofreex transformed this kind of collective work into tactical and political media events, thus laying the groundwork for current crossovers of artistic expression and collective activism.  

I'd be hearing more from Erin and Carol-Ann about these kinds of interrelations.



Director, Society for the Humanities
Curator, Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art
Professor of Comparative Literature and English
A. D. White House
Cornell University
Ithaca, New York. 14853
From: empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au [empyre-bounces at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au] on behalf of Erin Manning [erintango at gmail.com]
Sent: Saturday, May 04, 2013 12:34 PM
To: soft_skinned_space
Subject: [-empyre-] SenseLab - new forms of collaboration

----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
Thank you Carol-Ann, for your descripton of Concert-Urbain - sounds really wonderful. Before we start speaking across projects, let me say a few words about the SenseLab. For those of you who were part of the discussion last month, consider this a continuation of the discussion!

I started the SenseLab in 2003 with the idea that we might collectively find ways to stage encounters that provoked new forms of collaboration. With Brian Massumi, who joined very early on, and a lively set of collaborators, our first gesture was to ask ourselves whether there would be interest in meeting in settings that privileged neither the conference paper nor the art exhibition. What, we wondered, would it mean to meet across our "techniques" rather than our finished projects?

This spawned the first series of events, Technologies of Lived Abstraction, which lasted until 2012. During this period, we worked to collectively develop what we call "enabling" constraints to better be able to come together and create lasting collaborations. We discussed some of these in last month's empyre list.

While the events, as I mentioned last month, are very important to what we do, what we are most interested in is creating modalities of engagement that exceed them. We count on the myriad collectives who work across art, activism, philosophy and social change to connect in with us, and to assist us in coming up with ways of extending the work we do in our events beyond them. One example of such a group is Boston's Design Studio for Social Intervention, which continues to be a real inspiration to us, and with whom we work to develop new techniques.

We are just beginning a second stage, which we are calling Immediations. This will likely take us through the next decade, as the work we do takes time (and we are slow!). For Immediations, the emphasis is on opening out the idea of "emergent collectivities" to sites that are not our own. How, in relation to other collectives, can we work to seed collaborations offsite? What kinds of collaborative effects can a group like the SenseLab seed? People often tell me that they wish they were in a city like Montreal that is so full of activism and lively in its collaborations. Our hope for this next phase is to connect in with other groups to see how to network existing collectives to create more of these enclaves of collaboration.

The first event of the new series will take place at Arakawa + Gins' Bioscleave House (NY) and will take the form of an infestation. As the discussion progresses, I'll be happy to discuss it further. Until then, a few thoughts:

1. A technique is something that is created in the process itself, and cannot necessarily be subsumed to the next process.
2. An enabling constraint is a constraint that opens the process to its potential without leaving it to pure chaos, a kind of structured improvisation.
3. Collaboration as we understand it is not about creating "the newest new" in the capitalist sense. We are interested in forms of valuing that are not directly tied in to value-added or prestige-value - the forms of value most prized within capitalism. For this reason, we speak of a "pragmatics of the useless," foregrounding a speculative pragmatism that opens the way for new kinds of approaches to valueing the "useless." We place art and philosophy squarely within the realm of the "useless" and value them highly.
4. Our process for each event dictates what forms of technology we will use - we are extremely open in this regard. Our tools of course involve a lot of online communication (a Basecamp group hub) as we have members from all over the world.
5. While we have received government funding for this second phase of the SenseLab, we are extremely aware of the dangers of institutionalization and the ways it makes products its goal. The third phase of the SenseLab will be to take it out of the institution and ask what kind of site would best co-compose (in Montreal) with the current culture of artist-run centres and community activism organizations. We would like to envision the SenseLab's future as an unaccredited teaching/learning site that feeds into and composes with alter-economies across art, philosophy and activism.

Looking forward to the conversation!

Erin Manning
Research Chair, Philosophy and Relational Art
Concordia University


On 2013-05-04, at 3:55 AM, Carol-Ann *Braun <carolannbraun at free.fr> wrote:

> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
> Hello to all - nice to participate this first week of May in a discussion on
> the balancing act between artistic activism and "real time alliances"Šor, as
> I understand it: the ³wicked problem of designing for social change" ?
> (Ritter, early 70¹s!)
> The projects of our association, Concert-Urbain, based in Paris, are at the
> frontier between design and social work. Our software development,
> prototypes, ateliers, shows, conferences, have been enabled by the French
> government. Exceptionally motivated functionaries have helped us with
> budgets, ateliers, reports from the field. They have been our business
> angels in the launching of an ³art-start-up².
> In France, government policies contribute extensively to innovation in the
> arts. The policies reflect the programs of thousands of citizen's
> associations, some run by activists in what is called here ³l¹education
> populaire², ie, schooling for the people by the people (the movement is
> vast, at the heart of France¹s social fabric).
> Our design challenge includes interlocutors at every level of society. This
> entails a special kind of salesmanship: choosing modest words to describe
> what you want to do as an artist;  adapting technology to existing
> educational methodologies; answering questions others have asked; getting
> elected officials to define and then accept the risks digital technologies
> might represent for them; saving face when no one answers the call to
> participate... The negotiation process is long-term, with changing
> interlocutors as time goes by. It is painstakingŠand sometimes just a royal
> pain. It also brings esthetic breakthroughs of particular significance to an
> artist working with digital technologies.
> I have several examples of collaborations and collective initiatives that I
> can share with you. Each raises different issues:
> 1. A collective fiction, with a chat space at its core: carried by officials
> in the city of Troyes who wanted to bring city employees and citizens
> together around a shared ³multimedia² project.
> 2. Measuring utopia: an art project on the subject of happiness, with a
> methodology that involves an alternative approach to data-base design. Our
> main partner: the CIRASTI, a federation of associations to engage kids in
> scientific projects.
> 3. An urban renewal initiative by the Conseil general du Val de Marne, that
> includes an on-line debating platform designed to include those who suffer
> from intellectual disabilities. It is linked to the "participatory design"
> of neighborhoods by including inhabitants
> (see http://www.maitrisedusage.eu/).
> More on its way throughout the coming week,
> Carol-Ann BRAUN
> Association Concert-Urbain
> http://concerturbain.wordpress.com/
> le  04/05/13 06:37  Renate Ferro  rtf9 at cornell.edu wrote:
>> ----------empyre- soft-skinned space----------------------
>> We are most grateful to Ana Valdes for agreeing to guest moderate the
>> May discussion with Tim Murray and myself and welcome her back to
>> -empyre- as a guest moderator.  We also wish to thank Erin Manning who
>> has agreed to make the transition from last month's discussion to this
>> month highlighting The Sense Lab.  Erin will be making a few posts
>> specifically about her own experiences with collaboration.  She will
>> be joined by Carol-Ann Braun.  Biographies for Week One guests are
>> below.  We look forward to the month with you.
>> Tim Murray and Renate Ferro
>> Week 1:
>> Erin Manning (CA) is a philosopher, visual artist and dancer, and is
>> currently a University Research Chair at the Faculty of Fine Arts,
>> Concordia University, Montreal. She is also a founder and director of
>> The Sense Lab, an interdisciplinary laboratory on research, creation
>> and an international network focusing on intersections between
>> philosophy and art through the sensing body in motion. Erin Manning
>> received her Ph.D. in Political Science at the University of Hawaii
>> (2001) and has been teaching philosophy, political theory, visual
>> studies, cultural studies, and film theory. She is a member of the
>> editorial board for the online journal Inflexions and the author of
>> works on movement and ephemerality, for which she frequently
>> collaborates with Brian Massumi.
>> Carol-Ann BRAUN (US/FR) is a Paris-based American artist who has been
>> working with digital technologies since 1985. Her work ranges from
>> still images to animations to interactive immersive text-based
>> environments (inner-media.org). Closely affiliated with the Atelier du
>> CUBE (lecube.com ), she has extended her artistic practice beyond
>> esthetics to include ³social media². The first prototypes involved
>> chat spaces as a search engine.  This led to the design of polling
>> technology (http://cie.acm.org/articles/braun-phones-kids/). Last
>> month Concert-Urbain launched a poetic polling platform on the subject
>> of happiness: lebonheurbrutcollectif.org. The project¹s intention is
>> to find contribute to defining new criteria for measuring the
>> ineffable nature of happiness...It will be gathering momentum over the
>> next three years. The Ministry of Culture and the Region Ile de France
>> have taken a particular interest in ³Le Bonheur Brut Collectif, ²
>> which is also being followed by a research team at the CNAM
>> (Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers), Paris.
>> --
>> Renate Ferro
>> Visiting Assistant Professor of Art
>> Cornell University
>> Department of Art, Tjaden Hall Office #420
>> Ithaca, NY  14853
>> Email:   <rtf9 at cornell.edu>
>> URL:  http://www.renateferro.net
>>      http://www.privatesecretspubliclies.net
>> Lab:  http://www.tinkerfactory.net
>> Managing Co-moderator of -empyre- soft skinned space
>> http://empyre.library.cornell.edu/
>> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empyre
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