Curating performing arts/Montreal, revitalizing American Studies/Newark, improving quality of life in South Africa/Stellenbosch – by Neil Baldwin

[One of the many benefits of running a virtual interdisciplinary Center like the CRC is the ‘news and views’ we receive from our diverse listserv friends around the nation and the world. This month, we chose just three recent notices to bring to the wider attention of our readership.  We were impressed by the intensity of mission, ambition of subject-matter, and breadth of constituencies. Click on the links below — and let us know what you think. creative@mail.montclair.edu]

Envisioning the Practice: Montreal International Symposium on Curating the Performing Arts, April 2014.

ACAQ [Montreal Association of Arts Curators] is organizing its first symposium, Envisioning the Practice: Montréal International Symposium on Curating the Performing Arts, April 10-13, 2014.

The symposium will be hosted by the PHI Centre and the Faculté des arts of the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), Montreal (Canada).

Envisioning the Practice strives to create further parameters and grounds on which to foster theories and critical thinking about the practice of curating the performing arts through the presentation, discussion and publication of academic papers on related topics.

This symposium brings together proponents of recent critical and practice-based discourses on curating the performing arts (dance/movement, émergent practices, interdisciplinary forms, media arts, music/sound, theater/text-based) in order to enrich, structure and theorize the practice of curating in the field, with an interest in best practices.

Over the last 40 years, there have been numerous events, publications and graduate university programs dedicated to examining the role and deepening the knowledge base of professional curators in the visual arts. However, curators of the performing arts – who variously call themselves presenters, programmers, artistic directors, producers, diffuseurs,cultural agents and more — have been missing from these developments. In recent years there has been considerable momentum generating through formal and informal conversations on the subject of curating in the performing arts, aiming to flesh out issues about the practice. A first collection of texts, for instance,“Curating Performing Arts” was edited and published in 2010 by Frakcija Performing Arts Journal #55 in Croatia. Two exploratory meetings of artists and arts presenters were organized in North America and Europe:  “The Culture of Curation in Toronto, Canada in 2010 by the Canadian Association of Performing Arts Presenters, and “Beyond Curating: strategies of knowledge transfer in dance, performance and visual arts” held in Essen, Germany in 2011 by Tanzplan Essen.

As well as these specific conferences and publication, over the years an increasing number of international performing arts marketplace events have included conferences, round tables and discussion opportunities that sometimes move towards consideration of the vocation of the performing arts presenters.  A premiere graduate programme Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance (ICPP) at Wesleyan University (U.S.A.) began in 2011.

Building on these previous advancements, “Envisioning the Practice: Montréal International Symposium on Curating the Performing Arts”  strives tocreate further parameters and grounds on which to foster theories about the practiceof curating the performing arts.This symposiumseeks tobringtogether recent discourses on curating the performing arts (dance/movement, music/sound, theatre/text-based, interdisciplinary, media arts and emergent practices) in order to enrich, structure and theorize possibilities of curating in the field, with an interest in “best practices”.

To identify shared critical curatorial methods among practitioners, artistsand institutions and to devise new territories for expanding the practice, the symposium will present current research and critical thinking on topics related to curating the performing arts.

Curators(institutional, independent, artist-curators, critic-curators, among others), artists, artistic directors, programmers, presenters, producers, scholars, art administrators, art historians, art critics, independent scholars and graduate students are invited to submit proposals.

For more information, go here or email Symposium Planning Committee co-chair Dena Davida: dena@tangente.qc.ca

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‘Battlegrounds’ in Newark/Challenging Modes of Oppression: The American Studies Graduate Student Conference April 2013. 

It is the province of the historian to find out, not what was, but what is. Where a battle has been fought, you will find nothing but the bones of men and beasts; where a battle is being fought, there are hearts beating.” – Henry David Thoreau, A Week on Concord and Merrimack Rivers

The Rutgers University American Studies Graduate Program seeks papers for its upcoming conference “Battlegrounds.” Even as “battlegrounds” implies a divisive undertaking––a material or rhetorical cleavage, or even an academic violence between fields, ideas and scholars––we encourage subverting oppositions that only serve to reify the modes of oppression they challenge. Thus, we embrace intersectionality, affect theory, post-humanism, borderlands studies, and other realms of interdisciplinary inquiry. To limit this conference and conversation to a single discipline or intellectual approach would be to undermine the very nature of “the battleground” as a multi-ocular and multi-modal space.

Interested graduate students should submit a 300-400 word abstract by January 7th, 2013 along with your name and department. Please send submissions as a PDF attachment to battlegrounds2012@gmail.com.

We will inform selected presenters by January 31st, 2013.

This conference will approach battlegrounds in the following contexts:

Cities: Post-industrial and global cities are battleground spaces. The geographic home of this conference, Newark, has long been made visible as a battleground. Both the events of 1967 and the histories of industrial pollution have marked Newark as such. The project of neoliberal urban renewal of which Newark is today a fragile example now reorganizes and sublates that history through a new securitization of the city, a total collapse of public and private logics of “development,” a deployment of superpanoptic technologies of surveillance, policing, and imprisonment, and state-sponsored gentrification.

Weather: Recent weather-related events such as Hurricane Sandy, the Colorado Wildfires, and the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami remind us that issues of “climate change” and “climate science” are often contextualized through the rhetoric of “battle.” What are the ramifications of couching terms like “climate” and “weather” within the discourse of “battle?” How have battles related to climate, weather, and the “ecological” been waged in physical space? How have they been made manifest in political, social, economic ideology and policy?

Digital Culture: Physical “battlegrounds” are still hallowed ground to some in our country–– commemorations are held, souvenirs are sold.  The technoscientific invitations of a digital age, however, radically reconfigure what counts as “cultural production” altogether.  How are today’s culture wars fought on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube? Are the Culture Wars over? Is using that term even appropriate? Or, are the Cultural Wars entering a new phase that is related to digital technology? What is to be done when divergent, battling groups see their “culture” as increasingly dominant precisely because of their choice of media? The technoscientific innovations of the digital age have seemingly calcified divergent “cultural” groups into even more oppositional categories. Groups of varying political persuasions are able to mobilize using the cultural edifices of sites such as Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter. Yet older technologies like TV and Radio still garner frenzied listeners as well. How might “cultural production” be re-conceived so that we may at once classify the divergent groups by both their physical and electronic presence?

Gender &  Sexuality: The presidential election cycle is a reminder of the ways in which the bodies of women are made available for circulation between male subjects in a phallocentric political structure.  The “battle” over access to birth control and abortion rights is being reformed along new tactical lines as the administrative state takes an increased regulatory role in a healthcare system whose growth remains one of the largest reliable engines of the economy. At the same time, other bodies become differently a battleground: transgender youth deploy their own counter-tactics to survive schools in the shadow of the newly protected white, gay male body of the teen bullying and suicide “epidemics” of the United States.

Race: In the twilight of the first-term of a presidency in a so-called “post-racial” era the call to examine the battlegrounds constitutive of and constituted by race and racialization becomes ever more urgent.  Certain contemporary battlegrounds are explicitly marked as racialized: mass incarceration, the erosion of affirmative action, new technologies of immigration, surveillance, detention and deportation; yet, others are not: the obesity “epidemic,” the dismantling of the welfare state, and the State promotion of gay marriage.

Transnationalism, the State, & Globality: America’s hegemonic positions in flows of transnational violence, war and capital, are more complicated than ever.  Where does the threshold between a “foreign” and “domestic” conflict begin and end? At the deployment of occupying armies and bases around the world? At the racialization of sexuality through the regulation of the bodies of Black and Latina women in domestic welfare reform? At the new frontier of NGO-governance funded by the United States to replace the postcolonial state? What is the structure of American discourses of battle and struggle on the contemporary international scale?

To learn more about The Rutgers University American Studies Program, go here  or email Sara Grossman, sargross@andromeda.rutgers.edu

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A Case Study from the Global South:  ‘The iShack Project’ to Improve the Quality of Life in Stellenboch, South Africa [An Ongoing Transdisciplinary Conversation.]
Enkanini is an informal settlement of about 8,000 people located in the vicinity of Stellenbosch University, South Africa.  Small shacks, water sanitation challenges, poverty, lack of electricity characterize this informal settlement as does its tight social networks, groups and religious organizations.  As part of their doctoral training in transdisciplinary research, PhD students at Stellenbosch work with colleagues across disciplines and Enkanini inhabitants in order to strengthen the local capacity to improve living conditions. The students’ task is to employ disciplinary, interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary inquiry approaches to meet their development goals in sustainable ways. Working in Enkanini where actors have not yet organized in rational and democratic institutions reveals the need for new approaches to local engagement, transdisciplinary knowledge construction and development work.This case study documents the Enkanini initiative. It outlines the project’s context and goals; the composition of working team and recruited forms of expertise; key moments and challenges in the project’s life as well as emerging lessons and challenges.  A concrete instance of transdisciplinary research in a developing country and a training ground for researchers employing transdisciplinary approaches, the case provides a common ground for deliberation around two questions:

Question one:  How might current conceptions of transdisciplinary research be enriched through the lessons learned from developing contexts where rational democratic practices and institutions are only emerging?

Question two What lessons can be drawn from the case to address the challenge of preparing masters and doctoral candidates to conduct research that is at once rigorous and responsible and able to address problems of our time—e.g. from poverty to climate change to the protection of universal human rights?

State of the Art : THE CONTEXT

Approximately 25% of South African urban households live in informal structures of various kinds, despite a massive house building program put in place by the South African government since 1994. In recent years, a new housing policy introduced by the government, called Breaking New Ground: A Comprehensive Plan for the Development of Sustainable Human Settlements (commonly referred to now as BNG), shifted the emphasis from building new structures in greenfield sites on the urban peripheries to the “incremental in situ upgrading” of informal settlements where they are more or less currently located. It was envisioned that this Upgrading of Informal Settlements Programme (UISP) would move the focus away from building housing units to addressing the need for more integrated sustainable human settlements. However, the shack dwellers in line for incremental upgrading often wait an average of no less than eight years before the electricity and water grid is installed.One such informal settlement is Enkanini, located within walking distance of the center of Stellenbosch, which is a town of nearly 200 000 people located 40 minutes by road from Cape Town. Enkanini is a growing informal settlement, currently home to about 8000 people. It is a proper illegal settlement and un-serviced, unlike most of Cape Town’s settlements that are legal informal, or legal serviced with shacks. Its location on a steep slope has made it an unlikely candidate for the upgrading programme because of the engineering difficulties involved. Any provision of services would come at a high cost, and neither the municipality nor the poverty-stricken inhabitants have any incentive to press for upgrading.As such, Enkanini presented an opportunity for a project group from the University of Stellenbosch and the Sustainability Institute to test the idea of an alternative trajectory for incremental upgrading with ecological design, in particular with energy, sanitation and waste technologies. Using an ecological design approach, the iShack project based in Stellenbosch developed an approach that provides shack dwellers with immediate solutions that can improve their lives before electricity and water grids are installed. The iShack project, the focal point of this case, is one of three related innovations in Enkanini. The other two projects addressed sanitation issues and social processes of social mobilization and institution building respectively.
For more information, and to join the conversation, click here and here and here

A view of Enkanini

     [A view of Enkanini]

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