“Everything Else is Ordinary” is a line that caps almost every entry in a found diary kept by an industrial worker in Delhi. Raqs Media Collective weave this thought into Strikes at Time, their video exegesis on the reclaiming of lost time from the working day. In their workshop, Raqs will coax the ‘ordinary’ and the ‘extraordinary’ to play with each other by mobilizing readings of art works, film, literary texts, philosophical and scientific works, diverse cultural materials and investigative procedures in order to unravel how the mundane and the miraculous differ from, shadow and mimic each other. In doing this, they hope to offer new and exciting ways of relating art practices, thought, emotion, life and curiosity.
With guest speakers Mania Akbari, Salima Hashmi, Yasmina Jraissati, Sami Khatib, and Cuauhtémoc Medina.
Everything Else is Ordinary: On the Mimetic and Discordant Relations Between the Miraculous and the Mundane is Workshop IV of HWP 2015-16.
THURSDAY, JUNE 9
2 – 5pm | closed
The poet on the balcony - Faiz Ahmed Faiz in Beirut - Seminar with Salima Hashmi (via skype)
The talk looks at the years 1978-1981 when Beirut was the refuge for writers, poets, artists and intellectuals in exile, from all kinds of countries for all kinds of reasons. The speaker came to Beirut with her two children to visit her father, a celebrated urdu poet who was editing Lotus, a journal of Afro Asian writings, from a small office in Raouche. This is a personal account of encounters with Moeen Besisu, Adonis, and others amidst travels to camps and forgotten archeological sites.
MONDAY, JUNE 13
8 – 10pm | public
Why is blue “blue”? - Language and perception in color categorization - Public lecture with Yasmina Jraissati
As agents who act upon and interact with our environments, we are equipped with sensory apparatuses that gather information. These sensory apparatuses transform energy into sensations. Having limited cognitive capacities, in order to make sense of these experiences, and verbally communicate about them, we need to group them together. It is said that “cognizing is categorizing”, and that sensory categories are building blocks of cognition. Yet, how categorization takes place remains a mystery. Why do we draw the boundary between red and orange, green and blue where we do? Is that due to the structure of our perceptual apparatus, or to language and culture? In this talk, I will present this over century long hotly debated topic. I will argue that the answer to the question of how we categorize most probably rests on the interaction between hard-wired mechanisms and cultural factors. The challenge is to offer a convincing account of such interactions, and ideally, one that takes into account different sensory domains, beyond the most studied case of color.
Language and thought: Which side are you on, anyway by Regier, T., Kay, P., Gilbert, A. L., & Ivry, R. B. (2010). In Malt, B., and Wolff, P. (Eds.) Words and the mind: How words capture human experience. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 165-182.
On Color Categorization: Why Do We Name Seven Colors in the Rainbow? by Jraissati, Y. (2014), Philosophy Compass, 9(6), 382-391.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 15
2 – 5pm | closed
How Can the Modern Tell Stories? Notes on Benjamin's Anthropological-Materialist Theory of Experience - Seminar with Sami Khatib
In his short essay Experience and Poverty (1933), Benjamin contends that with the “tremendous development of technology, a completely new poverty has descended on mankind.” This poverty “is not merely poverty on the personal level, but poverty of human experience in general.” Human experiences “in general” are not measured individually and quantitatively but collectively and qualitatively. They are communicable experiences that can be told – shared in storytelling. In his essay on The Storyteller (1936), Benjamin follows his earlier argument on the modern decline of the ability to exchange experiences orally. Against cultural conservatism he posits his anthropological-materialist question: Can we think of a new technological medium, a coming posthumanist tradition in which we can embed individual experiences and share them collectively with a linguistic community beyond functional socialisation? If tradition is the ability to transmit and pass on collective experiences in a meaningful way, modernity is not simply without tradition. However, the mode of the production of meaning has changed in modernity. If in capitalist modernity “all that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned,” as Marx and Engels famously claimed, the modern experience is also a liquid one. And hence, historiography – the integral unity of all storytelling – cannot rely anymore humanist teleologies. But what sort of stories, histories and historiographies can be imparted in the posthumanist medium of new technologies and liquid experience? Who or what is the storyteller of a present yet to come? Discussing these questions, the seminar will engage in a series of close-readings of selected passages of the mentioned essays. Participants are asked to have read the essays before the seminar begins.
TUESDAY, JUNE 21
2 – 5pm | closed
Poeticising the everyday - Seminar with Mania Akbari
‘The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes’ - Marcel Proust
This seminar will look at how artists and filmmakers elicit poetic meaning from everyday experience.
As fiction leans on narrative and documentary pursues the unusual, we will ask how artists go beyond these to deliver visions of everyday life that pulse with a new energy. Taking as a starting point Virginia Woolf’s ‘incessant shower of innumerable atoms’ that occur in any ordinary mind at any ordinary time, the seminar will look at various strategies employed by artists, writers and filmmakers to poeticise or monumentalise the everyday.
From Shahid-Saless' stillness of vision in “Still Life", through Forough Farrokhzad’s uncompromising gaze, to the hallucinatory eye of Pedro Costa, the seminar will consider artistic strategies which seek enchantment in everyday environments, and bid the viewer to do the same.
THURSDAY, JUNE 23
8 – 10pm | public
A Body’s Memory - Public lecture with Mania Akbari
Memory is not the preserve of words and images. There is a physicality to memory. We feel it in objects and it is written into our bodies. This is too easily seen as damage, when it is in fact the telling of a story.
For the last two years I have been looking at the triangular relationship between body, object and memory- the secrets that each may hold about the other, and how these might be unlocked. How might a landscape of memory suddenly appear, uninvited, in an object? And how might the object transformed tell the story of a body?
These are the questions I have been asking through my collaborative project with British sculptor Douglas White “A Moon For My Father’. The project weaves a deeply personal fabric of object, nation and body- looking at the things we create and the the things that create us.
FRIDAY, JUNE 24
2 – 5pm | closed
Traps, Spells and Mirrors: Mimesis and Critical Theory - Seminar with Cuauhtémoc Medina
This short seminar examines the way modern aesthetic theory and anthropology have explored the question of mimesis and its relationship with advanced thought. In that we will explore both the way critical anthropology has rethought the question of sympathetic magic, and the way the concept of mimesis and mimicry defined a number of aeshtetic concerns of the avant-garde. This will be a chance to explore the complex relationship between artists such as Theodor Adorno, Roger Caillois, Michael Taussig and Alfred Gell, and the ample legacy of James Frazer's concept of "Sympathetic magic" in modern western thought.
MONDAY, JUNE 27
8 – 10pm | public
To Die of Success. Curating Contemporary Art in Mexico today - Public lecture with Cuauhtémoc Medina
A lecture about the challenges of curating in the light of the contradictory demands that frame the political sphere of a troubled country like Mexico. Among other things, Cuauhtémoc Medina will refer to his experience as Chief Curator at the University Contemporary Art Museum (MUAC) in Mexico city, since 2013.
Raqs Media Collective was founded in 1992 in New Delhi, by Jeebesh Bagchi, Shuddhabrata Sengupta and Monica Narula, after they graduated from the AJK Mass Communication and Research Center, Jamia Millia University in New Delhi, while working together on their first, now lost, 16mm film, Half the Night Left, and the Universe to Comprehend. Raqs is a word in Arabic, Persian and Urdu that connotes an ecstatic form of kinesis. Raqs take it to signify the practice of kinetic contemplation. Over the past two decades, the Raqs Collective has enjoyed playing a plurality of roles, often appearing as artists, occasionally as curators, and sometimes as philosophical agent provocateurs. They create installations, make videos, photographs, print and online works, play with archival traces, make exhibitions and art interventions in public spaces, write essays, enact lecture-performances, engage with pedagogical procedures, edit books, design events, and foster collaborations. In 2000, Raqs co-founded the Sarai New Media Initiative at the Center for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) in Delhi, and the Sarai Reader Series. Raqs' work has been exhibited widely, including at Documenta, and at the Venice, Istanbul, Taipei, Liverpool, Shanghai, Sydney and Sao Paulo Biennials. They have had solo shows in museums and in educational and independent art spaces in Boston, Brussels, Madrid, Delhi, Shanghai, London, New York, and Toronto among other cities. Raqs also curated Rest of Now, Manifesta 7 (Bolzano, 2008), Sarai Reader 09 (Gurgaon, 2012-13), and INSERT2014 (Delhi, 2014).
Mania Akbari (b. Tehran, 1974) is an internationally acclaimed filmmaker, artist, writer, and actress. Her provocative, revolutionary and radical films were recently the subject of retrospectives at the BFI, London (2013), the DFI, Denmark (2014), Oldenburg International Film Festival, Germany (2014), Cyprus Film Festival (2014) and Cambridge art Picturehouse (2016). Her films have screened at festivals around the world and have received numerous awards including German Independence Honorary Award, Oldenburg (2014), Best Film, Digital Section, Venice Film Festival (2004), Nantes Special Public Award Best Film (2007) and Best Director and Best film at Kerala Film Festival (2007), Best Film and Best Actress, Barcelona Film Festival (2007). She also had numerous exhibits around the world in galleries such as Tate Modern and Whitechapel in London. Akbari was exiled from Iran and currently lives and works in London, a theme addressed in her latest Film, Life May Be (2014), co-directed with Mark Cousins. This film was released at Karlovy Vary Film Festival and was nominated for Best Documentary at Edinburgh International Film Festival (2014) and Asia Pacific Film Festival (2014). Akbari is currently working on the new project A Moon For My Father in collaboration with British artist Douglas White.
Salima Hashmi is an artist, curator and contemporary art historian. Professor Hashmi was the founding Dean of the Mariam Dawood School of Visual Art and Design at Beaconhouse National University, Lahore. She taught at the National College of Arts Lahore, for 31 years and was also Principal of the College for four years. She has written extensively on the arts. Her book “Unveiling the Visible- Lives and Works of Women Artists of Pakistan” was published in 2002, and ‘Memories, Myths, Mutations – Contemporary Art of India and Pakistan’ co- authored with Yashodhara Dalmia for Oxford University Press, India in 2006. She has recently edited ‘The Eye Still Seeks – Contemporary Art of Pakistan for Penguin Books, India in 2014. Salima Hashmi curated “Hanging Fire” an exhibition of Pakistani Contemporary Art for Asia Society Museum, New York in 2009, which was accompanied by an extensive catalogue. She recently curated the critically acclaimed exhibition titled ‘This Night-Bitten Dawn’ hosted by Gujral Foundation and the Devi Art Foundation in Delhi, which opened on the occasion of the Delhi Art Fair, 2016. Government of Pakistan awarded her the President's Medal for Pride of Performance for Art Education in 1999. The Australian Council of Art and Design Schools (ACUADS) nominated her as Inaugural International Fellow, for distinguished service to art and design education in 2011. She is a practicing artist and has participated in many group exhibitions and has had 6 solo exhibitions at national and international level. She is Council member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.
Yasmina Jraissati holds a PhD in Philosophy and the Cognitive Sciences (Institut Jean Nicod, EHESS, ENS, CNRS, 2009). In 2010-2011, she was a Fyssen post-doctoral fellow, and visited the Center for the Study of the Senses, Institute of Philosophy, School of Advanced Study, University of London. Yasmina’s collaboration with the Center for the Study of the Senses is ongoing, and in 2015 she was a visiting fellow in the context of the AHRC grant “Rethinking the Senses”. She currently lectures at the American University of Beirut. Yasmina specialises in color categorization. Her research, both theoretical and empirical, focuses on perception, the relationship of perception to language, categorization and concepts, and the philosophy of cognitive sciences.
Sami Khatib teaches at the American University of Beirut. He was a researcher at the Theory Department of the Jan van Eyck Academie Maastricht (2012) and earned his PhD degree in Media and Communication Studies from Freie Universität Berlin (2013). His main research interests are in Walter Benjamin Studies, Critical Theory, Art Theory, Modern Continental Philosophy, Psychoanalysis, and German Studies. Recent publications on: https://fu-berlin.academia.edu/SamiKhatib
Cuauhtémoc Medina (Mexico City, December 5 1965): Art critic, curator and historian, holds a Ph.D. in History and Theory of Art from the University of Essex in Britain and a BA in History from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). Since 1993 he has been a full time researcher at the Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), lecturer at the Philosophy Faculty and the Posgraduate Deparment of Art History of the same university, and between 2002 and 2008 was the first Associate Curator of Art Latin American Collections at the Tate Modern. He was widely published texts in books, catalogues and periodicals, and among other things between 1999 and 2013 he was in charge of the art critical section of the Reforma newspaper in Mexico city, titled “Ojo Breve”.Among other projects, he has organized When Faith Moves Mountains (Lima, Peru, 2001) by Francis Alÿs; The Age of Discrepancies, Art and Visual Culture in Mexico 1968–1997, (in collaboration with Olivier Debroise, Pilar García and Alvaro Vazquez, 2007-2008); Teresa Margolles's project for the Mexican Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2009, What Else Could We Talk About?, Dominó Canibal (Cannibal Dominoes) (2010), a year long series for, the Contemporary Art Project (PAC) in Murcia, Spain; and in 2012, he was Head Curator of the Manifesta 9 Biennial in Genk, Belgium, titled The Deep of the Modern, in association with Katerina Gregos and Dawn Ades. Since 2013, he is Chief Curator at the MUAC Museum in Mexico city, where he has curated a number of exhibitions by artists such as Harun Farocki, The Raqs Media Collective, Jeremy Deller, Andrea Fraser, Vicente Rojo, Vincent Meessen, Jorge Macchi and Hito Steyerl, among others. He has also recently curated Francis Alÿs A Story of Negotation, a travelling show organized for museums in Mexico, Argentina, Cuba, Canada and the USA. In 2013 he was granted the Walter Hopps Award for Curatorial Achievement by the Menil Foundation in Houston, Texas.