Panel member for Creative Resistance? Resilient Futures? at Whitworth Gallery, Manchester, September 2015 as part of GAIA: Resonant Visions, the artistic programmes for the Society of Ecological Restoration (SER) conference curated by James Brady
The rich build walls against the wild and so they desire it’, a talk for The Wild Project at Primary, Nottingham, July 2014
Keynote and respondent for ‘A Return to Pre-Modernity’, film programme curated by Victor Wang at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, August 2014. The films were: Amphibious (Login-Logout) by Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla; Tônus | 2012 by Rodrigo Braga; and ‘Beau Geste’ by Yto Barrada.
Conference papers, talks and panels from 2000 – 2014
The talks below explore emotions, walking, giving an account of oneself, Aristotelian phronēsis, conversation, learning and experimentation, relational ethics, kinaesthetic empathy, extinction and banality. Subjects include climate change, sound art, scientific fact and value, global commodity exchange, metaphor and materiality.
For the text of any talk, please email. The résumé.pdf lists all talks.
Witnessing the ethical and re-placing the human in outdoor dance practices
This paper came out of collaborations with the outdoor movement artist Paula Kramer and the workshop we provided at Tanzkongress, Düsseldorf 2013.
‘I’ll describe improvised movements by a dancer while touching the vegetation, the rocks, the soils and waters of a location, influenced by gravity and by weather and by a witness. My argument is that these improvisations make possible a novel experience of the ethical for the witness, an experience that moves through the body, as likened to Irigaray’s porous movement from within to outside the body…
Paula works with questions of how the human body can perceive and respond to an agency of matter, or the capacities of collections of entities. How does the shift in human consciousness allow for, what she calls, the rising of other presences that the dance can accept and move with, as if they were autonomous – but always unknowable … As a witness one experiences a kinaesthetic empathy. For the witness, though, the ‘other’ is not the tree or stone, but the human in relation with the stone. They don’t form one smooth entity.
Then, when Paula moves away, the rock, the tree, the river bed has become different, if only for a moment. It has become something that compels the witness to go and touch it, too, to acknowledge it. It has not been made ‘special’ by human attention. It’s as if the human – in attempting to be receptive, or to be like matter herself – has somehow entered the time, the duration of the material, not only touched its surface, volume or depth. There is a moment of mutual letting go, when there is a lingering between the human body and the tree, and even the witness can feel the changes that have been effected – as ephemeral and dissipating as they might be’.
key words: Paula Kramer, Mick Smith, Luce Irigaray, new materialisms
at International Society for Environmental Ethics, University of East Anglia 2013
The tick, the epiphyte and the camel
Can a place learn? Can the capability for learning be found not solely within the organism, or the organism responding with its immediate surroundings? Can learning be a capacity found within the wider field of relations between many life forms, a field that includes the non-living?
The question whether a place can learn might act to bring into existence a problem or contradiction. Or be an ingredient of a place that performance can show. Or lead to the invention of a field in which a problem finds its solution.
These variations are discussed by way of the tick, the epiphyte and the camel.
The talk is in two parts. In the first part, the question is treated as if it could be researched, as if experimentations could be made towards its solution. In the second part, the question is treated like a speculative concept, one that is added to a problem and changes the way the problem is understood, but the question itself is not answered.
key words: Isabelle Stengers, Gregory Bateson, AN Whitehead
at Aberystwyth University ‘Ecology and Environment’ Series, Theatre, Film and Television Studies & Geography and Earth Sciences 2013
Performing insensible relations
‘Most of the organisms of the world live beyond human sensing of them, and beyond the ways that humans make sense of the world. How to respond to those beings at temporal and geographical distances, and to the human-induced loss of this diverse biological life that is outside human sensing are problems for relational, ecological ethics, the strand of ethics that begins with the immediate relations between humans and others. For philosophers, this include how to write about the non-relational, about the beings and entities outside the categories and classifications that make the world make sense…
There is a phrase in the policy and science literatures to describe when these species disappear, which is ‘anonymous extinction’ – a phrase that comes close to describing the banality of extinction – but does nothing to describe its violence. And the phrase does nothing for describing how to live together with the ‘anonymous’. Of course, we do live with the anonymous, and we always have done, they preceded humans. Many probably do not need or want close human contact. It may be that the most enduring relation is one of distance and indifference.
These problems, too, are taunts for performance, at least in theory: how to show and perform the non-relational in an art-form that works between humans and holds hard to the present tense. How might performance contribute its own responses to these problems’.
key words: Jean-Luc Nancy
at ‘Performance and Ecology Symposium’, Central School of Speech and Drama 2013
Phronesis, emotion and metaphor
‘Each of these three concepts has something to do with motion. They are ancient and enduring, and they are about motion, change, solidarity, knowledge, the ethical – and performance.
Aristotle uses the word phronesis in several contexts, to describe a mode of being that is appropriate to situations so uncertain and complex that there is no comprehensible order. phronesis is a kind of reasoning together between people. It is improvising when there are no rules or beliefs or patterns of conduct to give one a sense of how things should go if they were to go right. It has to do with one’s character, and how we are with one another … Thoreau preceded other philosopher in not separating facts and values, emotions and the mind. He writes: ‘We fully know only those facts that are warm, moist, incarnated’… And metaphors move meaning across sensorial fields…’
key words: Aristotle, Paul Ricoeur
at the Walden Night, Über Lebenskunst, Der Haus der Kulteren der Weldt, Berlin 2011