XXIV: Interwoven Bodies (with Michael Hardt, Michael Kliën, Pedro Lasch, Corina Stan & Florian Malzacher)

How do we deliberate before and beyond language, how do we create relations without words, how are our bodies determined by the spaces we are in? The 25th edition of The Art of Assembly takes place in the context of Michael Kliën’s “Parliament”, a social choreography in which citizen-performers work in silence to hold council amidst the elemental phenomena and fundamental concerns of collectively lived experience. Political philosopher and literature theorist Michael Hardt together with Antonio Negri coined the term Multitude, describing a „multiplicity of singularities acting together“: a network that is neither homogeneous nor self-identical. Visual artist Pedro Lasch, director of the Social Practice Lab at Duke University, works with choreographies of festive gatherings, multiplatform social communication, and other artworks created through interaction. Literature scholar Corina Stan shows that relations are not only constructed by proximity but also by interpersonal distances that have shaped ethical thinking throughout modernity.

CORINA STAN ° On Tact as a Political Category

The Refugee Tales walk is a political and aesthetic project inspired by the Canterbury Tales that calls for an end to indefinite immigration detention in the UK. The walk takes place regularly, including a 5-day hike every summer, and involves persons who have experienced detention, writers, activists, and supporters of the project. In this talk, I describe the experience of participating in this community of bodies in movement as a thoughtful calibration of distance—an allowance of time, space, and silence that enables a rethinking of tact as a political category. I sketch this practice by revisiting the work of Helmuth Plessner, Theodor Adorno, Roland Barthes, Edouard Glissant, and more recent figures like Anne Dufourmantelle and Pierre Zaoui. 

c Pedro Lasch

PEDRO LASCH ° Collective Citizenship: What Are We Before We Are Naturalized?

For the last twenty years Pedro Lasch has been staging experiments in everyday life with a set of mirror masks that are used in specific situations (Naturalizations series, 2002-present). At the core of this simultaneously intimate and massive process lies the question of the political and aesthetic potential of defacement: what is liberated in our individual and collective bodies when we detach from them that overpowering marker of emotion and identity. After reviewing a selective range of past contexts and their respective implications, Lasch concludes with observations, propositions, and questions that have emerged from this cumulative collective experience. 


MICHAEL HARDT ° Strategic Multiplicities

Revolutionary movements in the late 1960s and early 1970s experimented with constructing political multiplicities and I want to focus on the strategic conditions necessary for those multiplicities to survive and be effective. One example I will explore is the set of student organizations that conducted strikes at universities in California and New York, calling themselves the Third World Liberation Front.  These Fronts included organizations of Black students, Chinese students, Mexican students, and others. My primary interest is how these groups strategically created the conditions necessary for racial multiplicities such that there was no priority or hierarchy among the different component groups. 

XXIII: Gathering (in the) Cloud. Digital Performance Beyond Zoom (with Kent Bye, Jaamil Olawale Kosoko, Sarah Rothberg & Florian Malzacher)

The pandemic introduced virtual gatherings into many people’s lives. Team meetings, activist assemblies, even theater performances were now attended from kitchen chairs, sofas, and beds. Both activists and performance makers (usually strong believers in the need for bodily presence) resorted to screens–and if only because there was no choice. Where are we now and what comes after Zoom? Is the metaverse more than a promise or threat? In this edition of the Art of Assembly we look at how performing arts are approaching digital realms. Journalist Kent Bye, who hosted hundreds of game developers, academics, creatives, and enthusiasts in the VR and AR fields on his podcast “Voices of VR,” offers a brief overview of virtual gatherings in art and activism. Jaamil Olawale Kosoko speaks about their virtual performance suite Chameleon: The Living Installments, exploring the fugitive realities of living at the intersection of digitality, Blackness and queerness. Sarah Rothberg introduces her playful VR/AR experiences and talks about the intersection of interactivity and performance.

SARAH ROTHBERG ° Interfacing as Art

How does an interface distribute power? How does a social arrangement? How to imagine how to create both anew?

Sarah Rothberg presents artworks including NEW MEETINGS and THING.TUBE, which invite you to consider how the design of a communication technology shapes the way we connect. NEW MEETINGS is a real-time animated performance of avatars “meeting about whatever” broadcast from within a custom metaverse., a livestream network for artists made with the collective Is this THING On? (Christopher Clary, soft networks, and Molly Soda) is an experiment in software-development-as-performance.

KENT BYE ° VR Presence & Live Immersive Performance Trends

In his talk Kent Bye reflects on the affordances of different mediums through the perspective of VR presence, and then looks at some of the immersive theatre and performance trends happening at the intersection of VR and immersive storytelling. Agency, embodiment, social dynamics, and emotional immersion are elemental ingredients that are combined in different ways to modulate the phenomenological qualities of immersive experiences, whether they are virtual or physical. Breaking down some of these live performances from the immersive storytelling and film festival circuit will help to elucidate some of the deeper trends happening with the future of AI and VR/AR (aka XR).

jaamil olawale kosoko ° American Chameleon. The Living Installments

From the stage, to the living room, to outdoor screenings, to fantasy, to the privacy of one’s own bedroom, dance animates physical life—but with what? Over the years since the pandemic, dance artists have had to negotiate how their work meshes with digital social systems in order to create new channels for audience engagement.

XXII: Provoke me if you can. The crisis of artistic disturances (with Núria Güell, Renzo Marten & Florian Malzacher)

Provocations as a means of disturbance have long been part of artists’ as well as activists’ basic toolkits. But in a time when many already feel permanently snubbed, artistic provocations often seem stale and redundant. The demand for repair, care, and healing dominates artistic discourse. On the other hand, when climate activists glue themselves to highways or oil paintings, emotions run high throughout society. Meanwhile, the political far-right blatantly focuses on lowering inhibition thresholds: Continued taboo-breaking pushes the boundaries of what is say- and doable. Núria Güell’s artistic practice continuously challenges moral and legal conventions when, for example, she offers herself as a bride to random Cuban man who wants to get a Spanish passport, or when, in reverse, she tries to become stateless herself. Renzo Martens disturbed viewers with videos such as Enjoy Poverty in which he centered himself as a white man and propagated the self-gentrification of Congolese plantations. Meanwhile, however, his role as a performer as well as the relationship to the protagonists of his work has fundamentally changed. In time where confrontational practices are generally questioned, The Art of Assembly investigates how the concept of provocation has shifted in recent years.

RENZO MARTENS ° Building a World With Critique

How a white artist purposefully positioned himself as a beneficiary of murderous and exploitative policies, to later restitute the means of production to the very plantations that have funded European and American white cubes.