On Friendship and the Political Imaginary
Zoom presentation on comparative case studies of art practices addressing racialized violence in Brazil and the USA, as part of the 2020 Introduction to Art & Politics course.
Experimental course on thinking the figure of 'the friend' through contemporary art, politics and philosophy.
This is an innovative distance course taught online through english (with opportunities for face-to-face meet-ups) introducing key themes and questions in respect of politics, affiliation and the ontology of friendship with particular reference to contemporary art practices, theories and institutions.
This course was originally developed in 2021 through the collaboration between Prof. Steven Henry Madoff (SVA New York) and Prof. Mick Wilson (Hdk-Valand, Gothenburg.) Building upon the success of the 2021 course, the new 2022 course seeks to further develop the focused inquiry into friendship as a question across politics, philosophy and artistic and curatorial practices.
Participants are expected to: (i) actively engage in the online workshops, lectures and seminars; (ii) engage in extensive shared reading; and (iii) and explore the implications of the course themes for their own practice and/or further studies. Participants are specifically invited to develop project ideas connected to the course themes and relevant to the participants’ own practice, (e.g., theory, criticism, art making, curatorial work, cultural studies, philosophy or other research across the creative arts and the humanities).
The course is structured in three phases: 1. terms, 2. sources, and 3. disagreements.
Phase 1: terms: introductory series of lectures and seminars looking at some of the central terms and themes pertaining to the question of friendship and the figure of 'the friend' (6–30 June)
Phase 2: sources: month of extensive reading across a range of discipinary sources, with weekly check-in meetings to support the reading process (1–31 July)
Phase 3: disagreements: intensive two-week group study workshop with daily seminars and invited guests where the group develops a shared framework of thinking collectively (15-26 August)
Phase 1: Terms: Introductory lectures and seminars, June
Throughout the month of June different terms are explored through seminars and lectures to access some of the many different approaches to the politics of friendship and affinity.
With an arc of continuity projected from the Aristotelian "o philoi, oudeis philos" to the Derridean recuperation of this in his intensive meditation on “O My Friends, There Is No Friend”, there is a recognizably euro- and andro- centric (although internally contested) discourse on the political imaginary of friendship. There are practices, terms, and analytical frameworks that operate otherwise invoking different terms and different arcs of continuity, ranging from the diverse Amerindian practices of amigre, pawana, tuhawa, and ayompari to such recent initiatives as the Feminist Duration Reading Group with its address to traditions of feminist organizing and friendship practices.
'The friend' is not a settled and resolved concept. It is something that is tangled with, and yet in excess of, and in specific difference from, other modes of relation including blood-ties, religious community and identity-belonging. Being friends–in ways that are more than family, religion or co-belonging in same-identity–operates centrally within the everyday horizon (the ordinary stuff of just living day-to-day) and the existential horizon (the larger perspective of the contingencies of a life/death .)
'The friend' seems not to be simply a figure to be described, nor a concept to be defined and then applied, but rather a constellation of practices to be lived, ways of being in the world, indeed for some the very way of worlding in itself. For some 'the friend' needs to be 'thought,' not in the sense of abstracted into a well-defined fixed category-concept, but worked upon in some way so as to open possibilities to live and die otherwise. Indeed, for some, 'the friend' provides the very condition of possibility for thinking to unfold. While for some the friend is a quintessentially humanist figure, for others it is an integral part of the horizon of a more-than-human, other-than-human, or posthuman imaginary.
Perhaps it is appropriate to speak of a specifically 'liberal' figure of the friend (involving values of the authentic, the private, the elective and the individualist) that is worried at the contamination of the concept of friendship by blood (kinship, obligation, rigid formality) and by utility (as means to an end, as a mode of publicity, evacuated of content by the instrumental de-humanizing of 'mass' society). One research task then may be to ask: What is obscured, occluded or evacuated in the 'liberal' figure of the friend? What are the different 'otherwise' figures of the friend? How are these differentiated? What is at stake in these differences?
Phase 2: Sources: Extensive reading work with weekly check-in meetings, July
The Sage said, “A good friend is felicity in the two worlds.” A “good
friend” is a loyal and faithful friend. “The two worlds” are this world and
the next world. When you obtain a good friend, you can lean on him while
perfecting virtue when you are still alive. After death, you can rely on him
to release you from calamity. Hence the good friend is a bliss in both
worlds. Liu Zhi (ca. 1670–1724)
Drawing upon a diverse range of sources we will work through a substantial body of reading together that builds upon the introductory work in Phase 1 by forging an in-depth encounter with different ways of thinking the question of 'the friend.' Sources are drawn from philosophy, literary criticism, art theory, aesthetics, anthropology, political and social theory, and de/post-colonial discourse and include texts by Giorgio Agamben, Hannah Arendt, Aristotle, Roland Barthes, Bettina Beer & Don Gardner, Maurice Blanchot, Svetlana Boym, Marcus Tullius Cicero, Céline Condorelli, Simon Critchley, Jacques Derrida, G.W.F. Hegel, Leela Gandhi, Steven Henry Madoff, Walter Mignolo, Michel de Montaigne, Sachiko Murata, Jean-Luc Nancy, Elizabeth Povinelli, Raqs Media Collective, Sasha Roseneil, Carl Schmitt, Sibyl Schwarzenbach, Jared Sexton, Denise Ferreira da Silva, Claire Tancons, Pnina Werbner, and Sylvia Wynter.
Phase 3: Disagreements: An intensive two-week group study workshop, August
Over this culminating two week intensive, supported by the input of different guests, we will work through detailed discussions of the terms and sources explored in Phases 1 and 2, and also respond to each others' project development ideas.
Draft Course Schedule
Times are CET (Swedish time)
Phase 1: Lectures and seminars
M 6 June 18:30-19:30
Tu 7 June 18:30-20:30
M 13 June 18:30-19:30
Tu 14 June 18:30-20:30
W 15 June 18:30-20:30
W 22 June 18:30-20:30
Th 23 June 18:30-20:30
Sa 25 June detail to be announced informal meet-up in Kassel (documenta fifteen)
Tu 28 June 18:30-20:30
W 29 June 18:30-20:30
Th 30 June 18:30-20:30
Phase 2: Reading weeks and short check-in meetings
Tu 5 July 18:00-19:00
Tu 12 July 18:00-19:00
Tu 19 July 18:00-19:00
Sat 23 July detail to be announced informal meet-up in Berlin (Berlin Biennale)
Tu 26 July 18:00-19:00
Stage 3: Intensive fortnight of daily meetings
M 15 August 18:00-20:30
Tu 16 August 18:00-20:30
W 17 August 18:00-20:30
Th 18 August 18:00-20:30
F 19 August 18:00-20:30
M 22 August 18:00-20:30
Tu 23 August 18:00-20:30
W 24 August 18:00-20:30
Th 25 August 18:00-20:30
F 26 August 18:00-20:30
Sa 27 August detail to be announced informal meet-up in Gothenburg
Reading lists and guest speaker list will be published 11 April 2022
Guest speakers in 2021 included Céline Condorelli, Walter Mignolo, Jota Mombaça, Sarah Pierce, Elizabeth A. Povinelli, Helena Reckitt, Shuddha Sengupta, Sibyl A. Schwarzenbach, and Claire Tancons.
Application period is February 18 to March 15 2022. Application via www.universityadmissions.se (for international applicants) and via www.antagning.se (for Swedish applicants).