Happenings

If We Carry On Speaking the Same Language to Each Other, We Are Going to End Up Repeating the Same History

Extract from Syklus 2013, Michala Paludan, image courtesy of Abejderbevægelsens Arkiv og Bibliotek.

Extract from “Syklus,” 2013, Michala Paludan, image courtesy of Abejderbevægelsens Arkiv og Bibliotek.

This Monday, 10 November 2014, I am going to lock myself in a room with eight other people overnight in the spirit of feminist consciousness-raising sessions of the 1970s. Organized by Mikaela Assolent and Flora Katz, the experiment is part of a larger project entitled If We Carry On Speaking the Same Language to Each Other, We Are Going to End Up Repeating the Same History. The title is incredible; the sentiment sharp. What is the shape of change? And what do we agitate for? And what form do our tools take? In an exciting way, I have no idea what to expect, but here’s how Assolent and Katz have framed it:

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At the end of her book This Sex Which Is Not One (1976), Luce Irigaray addresses another woman and imagines what their experience could be outside of a social construction created by men, for men. She observes, “If we carry on speaking the same language to each other, we are going to end up repeating the same history.” For Irigaray, women’s liberation is not only about deconstructing imposed roles and identities, but also re-appropriating and/or inventing a language of our very own, that allows us to invent and live entirely new stories. To do so, we must start from scratch and independently rebuild what was previously confiscated.

In the spirit of  collective encounters, as conceived by Lois Weaver (The Long Table) and Malin Arnell (The Oncoming Corner) and inspired by texts which reflect on art as a space for a community to come (John Roberts, Art, ‘Enclave Theory’ and the Communist Imaginary, Third Text, July 2009) we will further investigate the questions evoked above through a series of collaborative evenings taking place at PARMER in November 2014. We would like to experiment using the sharing of experiences and knowledge to undo the inherent power dynamics of the groups assembled. Thus, we aim to consider these sessions as a space for the collective production and exchange of singularities.

Participants in the November sessions include: Maia Asshaq, Arlen Austin, Corrie Baldauf  & Megan Heeres, Lindsay Benedict, Amber Berson, Maibritt Borgen, Sara Constantino & Rochelle Goldberg, Catherine Czacki, Leah DeVun, Alaina Claire Feldman, Ariel Goldberg, Saisha Grayson, Joseph Imhauser, Liz Linden, Kylie Lockwood, Jane Long, Jordan Lord, Jacqueline Mabey, Trista Mallory, Anna Ostoya, Michala Paludan, Rit Premnath, Chloé Rossetti, Julia Trotta, cheyanne turions and Wendy Vogel.

Each person is invited to bring an element, prepared beforehand, that is as close as possible to their own area of expertise. The element, such as a text, anecdote, performance, video, object, et cetera, will be up for discussion according to the conversation format and staging chosen by its presenter. Listening, commenting, and contributing will be open, with participants being free to speak spontaneously, whenever possible. Each individual will thus be able to negotiate their own contribution to the session.

With the aim of questioning even the parameters of  these sessions themselves, the procedure used to compose the participant groups will also be discussed. As a space open by invitation, PARMER seeks other strategies of  inclusiveness to redefine the boundaries of  what is public. What defines the level of accessibility of  an artistic space? How this ephemeral community that we will constitute during the session can have strong common grounds and the right level of openness?

The sessions will conclude with a public reception on November 23rd that will include material collected and developed over the course of the sessions.

For more information please visit the website.

A series of  sessions following the same protocol took place in Paris, France, at the artspace Chez Treize, in Fall 2013. 
See documentation here (in French).

This project is supported in part by the Danish Arts Foundation and the Visual Arts Department at the University of California San Diego.

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My contribution will depart from my on-going project No Reading After the Internet and its concern with collective forms of knowledge production. My interest specifically is in non-institutionalized learning, particularly methods that de-emphasize scholarship and prioritize improvisation, intimacy and a multiplicity of meanings. Given the notion of expertise at the heart of If We Carry On…, I wonder if these methods are in opposition to one another, or if there is the potential for a productive, mutual implication between a stance of knowing and a stance of engaged not-knowing. There’s something also about the way that ideas move, about translation and adaptation, that I hope to bring to the conversation by way No Reading’s history: an itinerant project now collectively supported and transformed, rhizomatic, producing strange but related fruit in many places around the world. How does knowledge begin and end? Inspired by the different forms that the No Reading project has produced—like its life in Vancouver with Amy Lynn Kazymerchyk and Alex Muir out of VIVO Media Arts or its translation into No Looking after the Internet with Gabrielle Moser—I will use the opportunity of If We Carry On… to think through methodology as substance. Quite aside from any of our singular fields of expertise, I imagine the result of our evening of *not* carrying on will be a thing that none of us can yet anticipate and hopefully that the orientation of No Reading will be one way of registering whatever collective thing will transpire.

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This fall I will curate an exhibition at the Art Gallery of Windsor, and in my research preparations I have been trying to understand what decolonization can be as a set of actions. As a concept, broadly, decolonization makes space for narratives that have otherwise been silenced through forceful and uneven distributions of power. Decolonization affords legitimacy to different ways of knowing outside of specific circles of cultures, so that, for example, an Canadian who is the grandchildren of immigrants can appreciate the cultures of Indigenous peoples in Canada without condescension or appropriation. Decolonization works on two fronts: it creates space for the colonized, and it makes demands of the colonizer (regardless of how near or far the original acts of colonization are to the present moment).

This is my first shot at a working understanding. Here are some others I’ve collected:

  • (of a state) withdraw from (a colony), leaving it independent (Canadian Oxford Dictionary, 2004)
  • A decolonizing lens assists in making sense of the contradictory personal experiences of the Indigenous researcher that arise from dual accountability to the Indigenous community and to mainstream Western research site (from Margaret Kovach’s Indigenous Methodologies, pg. 85).
  • The undoing of colonialism, the unequal relation of polities whereby one people or nation establishes and maintains dependent territory (courial governments) over another. It can be understood politically (attaining independence, autonomous home rule, union with the metropole or another state) or culturally (removal of pernicious colonial effects) (Wikipedia).
  • Decoloniality endorses interculturality, (which has been conceptualized by organized communities) and delinks from multiculturalism (which has been conceptualized and implemented by the State). Muticulturalism promotes identity politics, while interculturality promotes transnational identities-in-politics. Multiculturalism is managed by the State and some affiliated NGO’s, whereas interculturality is enacted by the communities in the process of delinking from the imaginary of the State and of multiculturalism. Interculturality promotes the re-creation of identities that were either denied or acknowledged first but in the end were silenced by the discourse of modernity, postmodernity and now altermodernity.  Interculturality is the celebration by border dwellers of being together in and beyond the border (excerpted from the manifesto Decolonial Aesthetics [1]).
  • A constant reworking of our understandings of the impact of imperialism and colonialism is an important aspect of indigenous cultural politics and forms the basis of an indigenous language of critique. Within this critique there have been two major strands. One draws upon a notion of authenticity, of a time before colonization in which we were intact as indigenous peoples. We had absolute authority over our lives; we were born into and lived in a universe which was entirely of our making. We did not ask, need or want to be ‘discovered’ by Europe. The second strand of the language of critique demands that we have an analysis of how we were colonized, of what that has meant in terms of our immediate past and what is particularly significant  in indigenous discourses is that solutions are posed from a combination of the time before, colonized time, and the time before that, pre-colonized time. Decolonization encapsulates both sets of ideas (from Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s Decolonizing Methodologies, pg. 25).
  • A fundamental component in the mobilization of processes of decolonization is for settler societies to engage in, commit to, and take responsibility for learning colonial histories and understanding contemporary legacies that support and maintain white-settler privilege on stolen Indigenous lands […] Indigenous scholars, artists, writers and activists have been working towards achieving Indigenous cultural, political, and economic sovereignty rights, and it is now time for settlers (scholars, politicians, artists, writers, educators, etc.) to participate, without encroachment or cooption of Indigenous initiatives, within the project of decolonizing dominant Canadian society, its institutions, myths, narratives, and governments (Carla Taunton, as quoted in Decolonize Me, pg. 23).

And now, the question of HOW. How can a process of decolonization be enacted? At the Art Gallery of Windsor, I am working with their collection, which has been amassed over the gallery’s 70 year history. Is it possible to look at the works in a way that performs a decolonization upon the objects? Or, is there a way to encourage a decolonization of the viewer through an encounter with the collection? In practical terms, what would such a project actually look like? This question, very much alive, is what guides my looking as I sift through the trove of materials gathered on Indigenous land in the city of Windsor.

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