On Nature, Race and Gender: The politics of the contemporary debates around art, culture and research
Master-Symposium, 9–11 May 2017
Art Institute, Academy of Art and Design, Studio Building, Room A 0.11
with Prof. Chus Martínez, curator, Head of the Art Institute HGK FHNW
Filipa Ramos, editor and curator, London
Tejal Shah, artist, New Delhi
Trevor Paglen, artist, New York
Ingo Niermann, writer and editor, Basel
Natascha Sadr Haghighian, artist, Berlin
For the past two years, the Art Institute in Basel developed its program around three crucial issues: Nature, Gender, and Race. But what does this mean exactly? Do we need to treat these notions as subjects, and create a “theme” so that they can be accounted for in the practice? Or, on the contrary, should we understand them more like substances that nourish the way we think—or should think—about art’s complex relationship with coevolution, the possibility to overcome the gender binary, and the possibility to achieve social equality? There are no simple answers to these questions, and every artist deals with them differently. Even if you simply avoid them, you “deal” with them. Therefore, we have decided to divide this symposium into two parts: one is a conference and another is two days of practical workshops with artists Tejal Shah and Natascha Sadr Haghighian.
We are currently seeing the rise of the radical right in parallel with new rhetoric about communism; consumable, collegiate ideas of the left; political correctness about gender and race… It all seems to mark a limit of the political and social languages we have inherited from the social sciences, from the many mutations of humanism, and from a pallid belief in representative democracy. And yet, what to do? How do we name and talk about our desire for change? For possibility in the face of dark analyses that stress the limits of both a wealth based on labor and a public space defined by freedom? In recent decades, artists have been the best researchers of the complexity of these substances. The way they have been able to produce speculative thinking on the possibility of becoming animal, or becoming machine, as well as the space for freedom and post-racial imaginations of the social has marked a horizon of practices, works, and voices that we must put forward time and again. This—putting the practice, the voices, the thinking, the research of the artist communities forward—is the new movement, the new “revolution,” if you prefer the old-fashion term. A movement that stresses the need to produce space again in a moment when the lack of public money has collapsed art institutions and private interests are taking the lead. A wave of people thinking and doing differently, but also a community of others who can listen and take on the challenge of challenging their habits, and then, hopefully, their minds too.
Text by Chus Martínez
DAY 1: 9 MAY – OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
10am–1pm: Lectures Session I
Chus Martínez: Opening / Introduction
Filipa Ramos: The Drunkard and the Tiger
This encounter between a drunk artist and a love letter to an extinct tiger looks beyond current strategies of political action to try to discover significant forms of new insurgence in our present times.
Tejal Shah: Not Same, Not Different, What Then? The Fish are Swimming Upstream. Come.
What can instigate a total cognitive and affective r/evolution inside? Can the knots of hatred, fear, attachment, aversion, and self-centeredness irreversibly be undone? Can we come to cherish all other sentient beings as much as we cherish ourselves? Can the line between self and other ultimately dissolve? A proposal on the nature of reality and the nature of mind – a supermundane path.
1pm–2pm: Lunch Break
2pm–4 pm: Lectures Session II
Trevor Paglen: Your Pictures are Looking at You…
Most of the world’s images are now invisible. From smart cities monitoring traffic flows to quality control systems in factories, to the immense repositories of photographs on social media that are continually mined for meta-data by powerful artificial intelligence systems, we find ourselves in a world in which the majority of images are made by machines for other machines. The rise of computer vision, machine learning, and artificial intelligence represents an acute break with the visual cultures of the past, rendering traditional forms of human-to-human seeing an exception to the rule. In this talk, artist Trevor Paglen will explore the world of seeing-machines, articulate how images have gone from passive representations to active agents, and outline some of the dangerous consequences for human societies.
Ingo Niermann: Who Got the Looks?
A recent US-American study shows that on average conservative politicians are rated as more attractive than liberal politicians while it’s the opposite with academics. What are the possible outcomes of these results regarding the future of democracy and social justice?
4pm: Final Discussion
DAY 2: 10 MAY – FOR MASTERS STUDENTS ONLY
Workshop with Tejal Shah
DAY 3: 11 MAY – FOR MASTERS STUDENTS ONLY
Workshop with with Natasha Sadr Haghighian