It begins, with a welcome
Or rather, an assembly of sorts.
Or rather, an invitation to drift from institutions to free radicals and in between.
Or rather, with a Symposium on radical practices, their alliances and shape-shifting nature; a journey from infrastructures through to agents, from performance practice through to the social and political terrains it occupies.
Post-Brexit, we find ourselves facing a reconceptualization of meaning, in governmental, cultural and social terms. Post-truth politics, a term emerging from the US that refers to the transparency of deception in contemporary political rhetoric, has created a culture where meaning is relative and contextual, and where our own subjectivities- identities and their political expressions – can easily be appropriated by a political and media apparatus that performs without end. Expertise has, since the 19th century, also been tied to insularity, exclusion and power; but this reorientation is not a wider reconsideration of who holds the expertise, how it is used, and the structures that support it, but to a legitimation of deception and assimilation.
But there’s a different way of looking at it.
In Free-Fall, artist Hito Steyerl argues that we find ourselves in a constant state of free-fall, what philosophers call a contemporary condition of groundlessness:
Falling is relational—if there is nothing to fall toward, you may not even be aware that you’re falling. If there is no ground, gravity might be low and you’ll feel weightless. Objects will stay suspended if you let go of them. Whole societies around you may be falling just as you are. And it may actually feel like perfect stasis—as if history and time have ended and you can’t even remember that time ever moved forward.
As you are falling, your sense of orientation may start to play additional tricks on you. The horizon quivers in a maze of collapsing lines and you may lose any sense of above and below, of before and after, of yourself and your boundaries. […] While falling, people may sense themselves as being things, while things may sense that they are people. Traditional modes of seeing and feeling are shattered. Any sense of balance is disrupted. Perspectives are twisted and multiplied. New types of visuality arise.
In free-fall, if you feel like the ground is slipping from underneath your feet, that you loose your perspective; and whilst stasis is what sustains consensus, groundlessness also provides a kind of freedom: of association, of crossing territories, of not seeing things from one perspective.
So whilst the political rhetoric, and economic logic of our contemporary condition affect a kind of disorientation, this is a productive precarity from which to speak and act. The horizon shatters, and a new verticality arises, one that allows for porousness, for cross-pollination- and for change. Disorientation, after all, can be productive: it can be liminal, place seemingly disparate things in conversation, and give way to new modes of visibility, of being together, of gathering and activating – and combating, too.
Today, we walked the edge between activism and protest in our collective thinking. We called to question institutions and their relationship to political structures, but also their own precarity, agendas and possibilities; we thought about the free-radical in neoliberal times, what it means to experiment and support experimentation, how we cross boundaries that are not defined by our contexts, but by the communities we encounter and form along the way.
En Masse #1:
Moving beyond the filter bubble
Conversations across contexts
En Masse #2:
Gentle , silent, active presence
En Masse #3:
Valuation (moving beyond existing structures as legitimising for practice)
Change (not all change is good)
Care (making space to see)
En Masse #4:
Collectives, communities, communes
Institutions and bureaucracy
Different types of change