Being at Home

In her book Contemporary Art and the Cosmopolitan Imagination, Marsha Meskimmon writes that the domestic has become integral to works that “seek to engage the transnational flows and cross-cultural exchanges that characterize globalization” (2). By referring to notions of home that are concerned with the global – such as geo-temporal shifts and multiplicity – these works invoke questions about the nature of identity, politics, ethics, and a “cosmopolitan imagination” in a transnational world (5). Meskimmon posits:

What are the ethical and political implications of be(long)ing at home everywhere, of a “cosmopolitan imagination” that is premised upon an embodied, embedded, generous, and affective form of subjectivity in conversation with others in and through difference? Cosmopolitanism…is grounded, materially specific and relational; it is a committed address to cultural diversity and movement beyond fixed geo-political borders (6).

Art is able to create new forms of the social imaginary that address negotiations in politics and agency when borders are not fixed, and belonging is a process (7). Through an aesthetic of openness to others and a conception of affect as social, art facilitates dialogue across differences in identity (7). Art materializes the cosmopolitan imaginary, and by connecting the abstract to the concrete, it is able to make us reconsider our position within global cultural flows and the ethical and political frameworks that structure our understanding of the world.

Marsha Meskimmon will present her paper “Materializing Transversal Worlds: The Question of Cosmopolitan Public Art” as part of the Critical Cosmopolitanism panel this Saturday, alongside Nikos Papastergiadis .


Meskimmon, Marsha. Contemporary Art and the Cosmopolitan Imagination. London: Routledge, 2011.

Gaming the Political

Freeze frame of mobile screensaver from Giselle Beiguelman's 2001 Wop Art.

Freeze frame of mobile screensaver from Giselle Beiguelman’s 2001 Wop Art.

“They cloned our house phone,” says 15 year-old male Gilberto from Vidigal, a Rio de Janeiro favela. Cited in “Mobile phone appropriation in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil,” Adriana de Souza e Silva et al reroute discussions on the digital divide to one of a networked society, examining the relationships formed through mobile technology itself. Cloning is a common form of appropriation that follows the cannibalistic mode, where the unique electronic serial number of a mobile is duplicated. The cell phone tower can’t tell the difference, and one person ends up with the bill. Yet, mobile appropriation does not lie strictly in the realm of the low-income. Through interviews with researchers and artists, de Souza e Silva will delve into the public spheres made possible by mobile technology, in the already virtualized real world.

Adriana de Souza e Silva of North Carolina State University will be speaking alongside Gerard Goggin of the University of Sydney this Saturday morning from 10h50 to 12h10.

Aesthetic Cosmopolitanism

I’m not interested in this idea of the world that can be captured, either through a comprehensive encyclopedic view or that is perceived from a particular vantage point. On the contrary, I’m going to talk about a sense of the relationship between the work that art makes and the world that exists in the work of art – as a dynamic interplay, as something that is mutually co-constitutive. Art makes its world as it engages with the world. This is in contrast to the sense that art gives you a view of the world.

Watch the video below to hear the rest of Nikos Papastergiadis’ keynote speech at The World Biennial Forum in 2012.

Nikos Papastergiadis will present his paper “The Cosmopolitan Scene in Contemporary Art” as part of the Critical Cosmopolitanism panel this Saturday, alongside Marsha Meskimmon.

Frances Dyson’s “Dissaffective Voices”

In her most recent book, The Tone of Our Times (MIT Press, 2014), Frances Dyson develops a broad-ranging analysis of tonicity to argue for the (re) coupling of “cents and sense, eco and echo.” [p.1] Put another way, Dyson foregrounds economic and environmental concerns to deliver a relational account of how resonance (“with its attributes of sympathy, empathy, and common understanding – is reduced to echo: the shallow repetition of the loudest voice”) and dissonance “sound” under late capitalism. (p.2)

In the video linked below, Dyson presents a paper around the subject of the fourth chapter, “Disaffected Voices,” at the Pacific Centre for Technology and Culture.

Disaffective Voices and Posthuman Subjects

Frances Dyson will present at Aisthesis on Friday 18 March.

Sounding Out Magnetic Space(s)

“Listening,” Nermin Saybaşılı suggests, is a positively “spatial practice.” The notion of space recognized in and through aural experience developed by Saybaşılı, however, abides by anything but a cogent geographic teleology. Rather, it “[involves] the mapping of the invisible, the temporal, the detachable, the connectible, the reversible and the modifiable.”1 Listening to what she terms the magnetic, an audiovisual concept developed in her article “The Magnetic Remanences: Voice and Sound in Digital Art and Media” (2014), is to become attentive to space as it emerges and is mobilized in a particular way – one which has to do with the creativity and active energy of people animated in temporally and spatially unfolding events. For Saybaşılı, such is the audible materiality of political resistance.

For her talk “Magnetic Istanbul,” Saybaşılı will be operationalizing the notion of the magnetic by tuning in to “Sounds of Resistance,” a series of ethnographic sound assemblages produced by musician and composer Erdem Helvacıoğlu during the Occupy Gezi demonstrations across Turkey in the summer of 2013. Helvacıoğlu has previously composed works based on field recordings collected around Istanbul in A Walk Through The Bazaar (2003) and performed improvised electro-acoustic projects exploring the ambient spatiality of sound. See below for a few excerpts from his numerous projects.

Nermin Saybaşılı will be presenting her work on the panel “Sharing Space” alongside John Paul Ricco.

  1. Nermin Saybaşılı, “The Magnetic Remanences: Voice and Sound in Digital Art and Media,” in Uncommon Grounds: New Media and Critical Practice in the Middle East and North Africa, ed. by Anthony Downey (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2014), 201.


Petit éloge de Montréal

Avant de débuter ce billet, je tiens à souligner l’intérêt d’une démarche de quatre semaines pour tenter de mieux comprendre la question du commun et vous présenter la première conférence du colloque. Intérêt renforcé par la chance que j’ai de maîtriser deux langages, chacun permettant de mieux décrire certaines nuances de la question, et me permettant d’honorer le public montréalais et sa bilinguité. Je tâcherai d’utiliser le français autant que l’anglais dans les billets à venir.

Ce colloque sur la sphère publique débutera par une invitation, voire une injonction à réinventer ce que l’on entend par “commun”. Sur ce sujet Santiago Zabala et Pierre Dardot serons les invités.

Outre l’intérêt de la question en elle même – devons-nous vraiment réinventer le commun?, ne pourrions-nous pas trouver une réponse dans son histoire?, pourquoi poser la démarche comme condition sine qua none de la tenue même du colloque ? – la question qui m’intéresse aujourd’hui est la suivante: pourquoi deux philosophes européens choisissent-ils Montréal pour réfléchir au sens du “commun”?

Montréal a une histoire unique par rapport à toutes les villes que j’ai pu fréquenter. L’identité québécoise a longtemps été définie par une double négation: “Ni Français, ni Américains. Spécifiquement Québécois”. Cette formulation n’est pas péjorative, bien au contraire! Elle rend compte du fourmillement d’une ville et d’une région en quête d’identité. Montréal a la chance d’appartenir à une région qui peut s’identifier comme elle le souhaite et qui n’a pas encore fini sa recherche. Alors, tout est bon à prendre! Montréal est un exemple en termes d’ouverture d’esprit, de politique d’immigration réussie, de douceur de vivre. Montréal est un petit échantillon du reste du monde, où toutes les communautés se mélangent. Le Plateau, par exemple, est devenu le quartier français et étudiant par excellence après avoir accueilli les communautés portugaises et chiliennes. Et toutes ces communautés semlent bien s’entendre, loin de pratiques sectaires. Une ville où les rapports culturels sont nombreux donc. Une ville où les communautés ne se haïssent pas. Une ville où chacun reconnaît la valeur du multiculturalisme.

Il n’y a rien d’absurde alors à “repenser le commun” à Montréal, qui aspire peut-être vers une autre forme de “commun-auté”, plus en phase avec la mondialisation, le mouvement de populations et avec la multiplicité des identités, plus harmonieuse que ce que nous voyons en Europe, au Moyen-Orient ou en Asie.


A lexicon for projects addressing the public sphere:

As each of the resulting projects and texts of the participants offer ideas and terminologies which themselves have long tendrils, this lexicon will offer a repository for those terms to be usefully unpacked and expanded upon.
I am unsure if it should be alphabetical or in true blog tradition temporally structured. My inclination is, time of entry marks time of reception for the author, in both a useful and poetic way intertwined so will begin with this idea.

“I am who I am because of who we all are.”

Marjetica Potrč will be presenting, “The Soweto Project: Ubuntu Park” as part of the panel,
SCULPTING THE COMMON alongside Nadia Myre, and Romeo Gongora.

The name for the park, Ubuntu, is not the name of a person or corporation as is so common in the naming of so called public spaces, but the name of an idea, even perhaps a worldview, shared throughout the African continent and central to the construction of a commons. “Ubuntu asserts that society, not a transcendent being, gives human beings their humanity.”

“ ‘A person is a person through other people’ strikes an affirmation of one’s humanity through recognition of an ‘other’ in his or her uniqueness and difference. It is a demand for a creative intersubjective formation in which the ‘other’ becomes a mirror (but only a mirror) for my subjectivity. This idealism suggests to us that humanity is not embedded in my person solely as an individual; my humanity is co-substantively bestowed upon the other and me. Humanity is a quality we owe to each other. We create each other and need to sustain this otherness creation. And if we belong to each other, we participate in our creations: we are because you are, and since you are, definitely I am. The ‘I am’ is not a rigid subject, but a dynamic self-constitution dependent on this otherness creation of relation and distance”.

Michael Onyebuchi Eze, Intellectual History in Contemporary South Africa, pp. 190–191

This suggests the necessity of a public sphere in the comprehension of another being. This does not preclude that we share a common sphere but acknowledges that even that difference will provide one’s sense of being.