Friday, April 30, 2010

Nonsite Collective 3 Years In (@ Harriet)


Since the spring of 2007, Nonsite Collective has organized a number of events, all of which contribute to the collective’s purpose of establishing curricular resources. This series of events includes talks and presentations by CAConrad, Frank Sherlock, Jonathan Skinner, Amber DiPietra, Bhanu Kapil, Norma Cole, Miranda Mellis, Kyle Schlesinger, Dont Rhine (of Ultra-red sound collective), Tanya Hollis, Taylor Brady, Michael Cross, Emily Abendroth, Kevin Killian, Bruce Boone, Alphonso Lingis, Eleni Stecopoulos, Robert Kocik, Brandon Brown, David Buuck, Susan Greene, Chris Nagler and many others. For the collective, events are not discrete (”No event in isolation!,” as Halpern says), but articulate one another—extend and intensify existing conversations, problems, lines of research and concern. The non-isolation of Nonsite Collective events—mediated by curricular documents—I find a crucial aspect of the collective’s practice, and a necessary alternative to events dynamics as they occur in other institutional and non-institutional locations. The poetics of gathering, and of event, in this sense is about generating new modes of attention and of collective problem solving, conversation, and action within a duration. It is also about the perpetual movement of site and nonsite, as expressed by the draft proposal; that whereas sites present ‘real’ conditions of socio-political disparity, nonsites abstract and mediate these realities as art, science, writing (metaphor, representation). Through the movement from site to nonsite to site, a negative dialectics forms whereby what remains is social conflict, discrepancy, and difference rendered visible, manifest, and sensible.

1 comment:

David (Michael) Wolach said...

Thank you Thom for gathering us at Harriet, and for your really generative questions that thread the various responses you got. Apologies for not getting back to you in time, but FYI I responded to the Harriet Post on my blog, excerpt below (responded in part, tho would like, at some point, to continue Amber's train of thought, dig deeper into that curricula simpliciter). Here:

And here:

"As I wrote recently in an essay for Jacket Magazine, I don't think it [Nonsite's events and curricula] does return us, precisely, to the radical social movements that have helped inform Nonsite Collective's collective practices, from Situationsist cross-disciplinary political interventionism to Freirean anti-banking pedagogy, but in the classroom, as elsewhere, the desire to assemble differently is certainly there, manifesting as response to managerial trends in education, increased corporatization hostile to any experimentation that doesn't garner dollar producing attention. Nonsite's work, incorporated back into the institution (which is essentially what I am doing when I teach) helps highlight how radically restrictive a lot of institutional pedagogical practices are, how, for example, even at a place such as Evergreen (where I teach), a school known for its radical co-learning (even popular educational) models, we need push ourselves to go further in cross-disciplinary research; we can, and should, push ourselves outside of the morbid professionalization inherent in how schools, say, get funded. We should (and at Evergreen I can) do so while still bringing to our re-narrations, our explorations outside of given domains, our different assemblages, a rigor and intentionality necessary to know what we are asking and how to listen for it. You [Thom] ask:

Is gathering a form of poesis—a form of active making?

Not necessarily, is my provisional answer--there is a premium in this culture on spectatorship. There is no sense, tho, in which one can participate in Nonsite Collective and be a spectator. The organizational pedagogy necessitates gathering as a commoning, which is an active making, and so every curricular discussion that spiders out in my classroom (our classroom) is an emergent instantiation of a constantly becoming (a radically dialectical) Nonsite Collective, its making and remaking, fashioning and refashioning. From CA Conrad coming to our classroom and building with us a new (soma)tic to 25 of us wrestling with what else Kocik's commons site for "sorely missed" social services might include (architecturally, structurally, and then again, poetically), there is something substantial, not simply semantic, about the claim that Nonsite has no central locus of activity. As long as this work recursively flows back into the refashioning of the Collective's draft proposal and its attendant makers, which is to say, into further avenues of collaboration, in echo of Halpern's "no work in isolation!"

So I'm extremely happy to see that Thom's put together a series of reflections on Nonsite Collective, where it's been and where it might be going (or can go). From both the classroom to (contiguously) the development of a poetics, Nonsite Collective has en-abled me in ways I can't fully apprehend, despite being able to state that what I appreciate most, perhaps, is precisely that which Amber speaks of--this desire to actively move from site to nonsite back into site, i.e., to make use of without using. Metaphor here is not terminal, but rather takes physical form when possible, thus Thom's mention of re-imagining poetry as not for itself, but "for us," I take to be a claim about the poem itself as part of a commons, a crucial site of activation for us who assemble, forming (and taking responsibility as) an aesthetic ecosystem--where aesthetic embodies the political-social-ethical practices of constructing/narrating some future(s) contra catastrophe.