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Summary of 2013-2014 Events 

Vital Theory (4): The Meanings of Memory (December 9th 2014)

The fourth in the annual postgraduate symposium focused on the social, cultural, political and technical implications of remembering and forgetting. Keynote talks were given by Tracey Potts and Andrew Goffey, and several of the Centre’s current and past PhD students gave position papers around memory studies, cultural commemoration and the politics of forgetting in post-conflict contexts. In the afternoon, a workshop on ‘Objects of Memory’ explored the connections between nostalgia, representation and materiality as well as the role of technology in supporting contemporary modes of memory. As ever, the day ended with Vital Theory’s ‘Anti-Market’ with presentations on thinkers such as Henri Lefebvre and the Tiqqun Collective.

 

 

How We Behave Study Sessions (October—December 2014)
Organised and run at Nottingham Contemporary in anticipation of Grant Watson’s ‘How We Behave’ installation, these study sessions were loosely themed around Michel Foucault’s later work on technologies of the self and were run by Andrew Goffey and Sophie Fuggle (French, NTU) and involved analysis and discussion of topics ranging from Kafka’s text ‘The Hunger Artist’ through Félix Guattari’s notion of ‘machinic junkies’, to extreme sports and the philosophy of the Greek Cynics.
 

 

Other Voices: A Different Outlook on Autism (29th and 30th of November 2014)
The public screening of the Spanish psychoanalyst Ivan Ruiz’s moving documentary film, Other Voices, which took place at the Nottingham Lakeside Arts Centre, aimed to open up a debate about the conceptualisation of autism in mainstream discourse. Ivan travelled from Barcelona to be involved in a Q&A after the screening, and the following day, a small workshop was convened to launch the Centres ‘Critical Autism Network’ which aims to bring critical research into dialogue not only with discourse about autism, but with individuals, groups and institutions dealing with or affected by autism. The network is part of the Centre’s addressing of questions raised by critical medical/health humanities.
 

 

Neoliberalism, Criticism and Crisis (2) (20th November 2014)
In this second workshop in the Centre’s series devoted to exploring relations between neoliberalism, criticism, and crisis, we focussed on issues to do with neoliberal subjects and with law (and/or the lack of it) in contemporary politics. Two presentations were given. Colin Wright’s talk, entitled ‘Bouncebackability: The Production and Governance of the Resilient Subject’, explored the role of the psychology and neuroscience of resilience in the production of the neoliberal subject supposedly adapted to crises. Cosmin Cercel’s talk, ‘Beyond Exception: Law, Emergency and the Powers of Capital’ examined the ways in which repressive practices in the sphere of law and security frame the ideological background of neoliberalism in which the resilient subject emerges.
 

 

Foucault, Subjectivity and Truth Stuart Elden (12th November 2014)

Drawing on his forthcoming book project Foucault’s Last Decade, Stuart Elden, Professor of Political Theory and Geography at the University of Warwick, and one of the founding editors of the journal Foucault Studies, gave a public lecture at the Nottingham Contemporary on the question of sexuality in the later writings of Michel Foucault.

Watch Professor Elden's public lecture.

 

 

Writing Around Contemporary Art Matthew Collings (6th November 2014)
The well-known artist, TV art critic and writer Matthew Collings gave a public talk at the Djanogly Theatre, Lakeside Arts, focused on the role of diverse forms of writing connected to art and art practice, from catalogues to press releases, from gallery captions to art theory. Matthew spoke about his own trajectory from art student to art critic and, now, to practicing artist.
 

 

The Subject of Addiction: Culture and Clinic (8th and 9th of September 2014)
This two-day interdisciplinary conference brought together critical and cultural theorists with clinical practitioners in order to interrogate contemporary addiction discourse, whether in governmental policy, psychiatric diagnostic frameworks, literary and media representations, or in the neuroscience of the ‘addicted brain’. The conference was accompanied by an exhibition of art work, photography and poetry produced by young clients working with the SUBSTANce group in Denmark.
 

 

The Line, the Symbol and Lacan Matthew Del Nevo (26th June 2014)
Matthew Del Nevo, from the Catholic Institute of Sydney, Australia, led this seminar centering on the metaphor of the line in Plato’s Republic. His presentation worked through this metaphor, related the theory of the unconscious and a theory of the symbol to it (Cassirer, Elliot R. Wolfson), and then located Lacan within this overall cultural sensibility.
 

 

Thinking With Animals Workshop (20th June 2014)
The idea of thinking with animals has gained considerable ground since Claude Lévi Strauss’s provocative remark in Totemism that ‘natural species are chosen not because they are “good to eat” [bonnes à manger] but because they are “good to think” [bonnes à penser].’ (p. 89). The emerging field of Animal Studies now evidences a growing scholarly interest in nonhuman animal life. Such interest moves beyond the idea of human-animal relations to encompass questions of co-constitution, co-evolution, biopower, ecology and cosmopolitics. This workshop, with a series of rapid presentations by a number of staff and doctoral students, both showcased and explored research of this kind at the University of Nottingham.
 

 

Chile’s Student Uprising: A Documentary Film Screening and Q&A (3rd June 2014)
A screening of this important documentary - about the student movement against the neoliberalisation of education in Chile, and the gains and losses of grassroots social movements engaging with representational forms of politics – was followed by a response from doctoral student Sofia Mason and a Q&A session with the London-based Chilean director.
 

 

I Would Prefer Not To Study Sessions (May-June 2014)
Run in conjunction with the Public Programme at Nottingham Contemporary, this series of study sessions took its cue from Herman Melville’s widely commented story ‘Bartleby the Scrivener’ and explored a range of arguments and ideas about radical passivity and strategies of refusal – from Lafargue’s Right to Be Lazy, Lee Lozano’s artistic practice, and Baudrillard fatal strategy of the refusal of meaning.
 

 

Neoliberalism, Criticism and Crisis (1) (May 29th 2014)
This first workshop in a projected series explored the ongoing relevance of Foucault’s account of neoliberalism and its connections to biopolitics for more recent work, post 2008 credit crunch, by autonomist Marxist Maurizio Lazzarato (author of The Making of Indebted Man) and economic historian, Philip Mirowski (author of Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste).
 

 

Translating the Dictionary of Untranslatables (21st May 2014)
This half-day conference, organised by the Translating Thought research group, with the support of the Centre for Critical Theory, the Centre for Translation and Comparative Cultural Studies, and the Nottingham French Studies journal explored the challenges involved in translating the Vocabulaire européen des philosophies, which is rapidly becoming a key reference work for the study of a broad range of reputedly untranslatable philosophical, literary, and political terms. With Barbara Cassin, Emily Apter, Michael Wood, and Michael Syrotinski.
 

 

What Makes Contemporary Art Contemporary? Peter Osborne (14th May 2014)
This public lecture explored what makes contemporary art contemporary by addressing some of the ways in which contemporary art structures our experiences of time. Peter Osborne is Professor of Modern European Philosophy and Director of the Centre for Modern European Philosophy at Kingston University and is the author of (amongst other books) Anywhere or Not At All, The Philosophy of Contemporary Art (Verso, 2013).
 

 

Friction! (8-9th May 2014)
This two-day international conference - organised by one the Centre’s previous MA and PhD students and subsequently member of staff, Eva Giraud – provided a forum for discussion around the link between technology and neoliberalism, as well as the potential role of technology in practices of resistance and activism. The central concept of ‘friction’ focussed the contributions on the potential for resistance inherent to the ‘glitches’ of technology considered as a material infrastructure.
 

 

Eco-Logics: Ethics, Politics, Art Workshop (6th May 2014)

This one-day workshop drew together an interdisciplinary field of academics and artists who find themselves engaged with questions concerning our relation to 'nature' and the nature of relationality. Ranging across the fields of ethics, politics and art, the event provided a forum for the sustained interrogation of contemporary trajectories of thought and practice, and a platform for the further development of novel interdisciplinary approaches to pressing, global-ecological concerns.

 

 

The Ragged Manifold of the Subject: Databaseness and the Generic in Curating YouTube Olga Goriunova (19th March 2014)
This talk addressed recent theories of the mediated, informational subject by exploring several art projects that utilise YouTube as a curatorial tool, showing the generic effects of computational affordances linked to databases. Olga Goriunova is an Assistant Professor in the Centre for Interdisciplinary Methodologies at the University of Warwick.
 

 

The Aesthetics of Revolt Study Sessions (February-March 2014)
Can art push the boundaries of the socially and culturally acceptable, or does the controlled environment of the liberal institution nullify transgression? Four fortnightly sessions use Madani’s work as a springboard to explore themes including role of humour, irony and parody in aesthetic critique, the limits of offensive art as a challenge to political correctness, and the gendered and racialised nature of dominant representations of what counts as “disgusting.”
 

 

The Philosophy of Emptiness. Cohen Tan (12th February 2014)
This talk, by one of our former PhD students who is now a colleague at the Ningbo campus of the University of Nottingham, explored the meaning of ‘emptiness’ in the Buddhist philosophy of Nagarjuna as well the resonances of this notion with aspects of Derridean deconstruction.
 

 

Rhythm Work Workshop (17th January 2014)
This workshop focussed on the work of Henri Lefebvre around ‘rhythmanalysis’ and its inter-disciplinary relevance for innovative approaches in Geography, Cultural Studies and Cultural History and Literary Theory.
 

 

Vital Theory (3): Technologies of Capital (13th December 2013)
The third in our annual post-graduate one-day conferences, Vital Theory, focused on the role of new (and old) technologies and their attendant infrastructures in the perpetuation of and resistance against neoliberal capitalism. A keynote introduction by Eva Giraud was followed by three position papers by PhD students in the Centre: Joshua Bowsher talked about NGOs as a technology of neoliberalism; Stephanie Petschick discussed the links between memorialisation, technology and capitalism; and Tom Harding provided a psychoanalytic critique of the DSM as a biopolitical technology.
 

 

The Politics and Poetics of Disgust Study Sessions (October-December 2013)
What does it mean to be disgusting? Through reading and discussion, four study sessions, held in the Nottingham Contemporary Gallery and led by Tracey Potts and Colin Wright, addressed disgust within art, theory, and the social realm, bringing in references from theories of abjection to TV documentaries.
 

 

Biopolitics and Aesthetics Josephine Berry-Slater (20th November 2013)
Josephine Berry-Slater is a Lecturer in the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths College and long-standing editor of Mute Magazine. Her talk addressed the question of the relationship between the life sciences and art.
 

 

From Animism to the Internet Study Sessions (May-June 2013)
From speed-bumps to sludge in ponds, Amerindian totems to Tamagotchi, this reading group, held at the Nottingham Contemporary Gallery and led by Eva Giraud and Andrew Goffey, traced some lively debates within contemporary philosophies of technology: exploring not only how technologies shape the world, but how objects themselves can be said to have agency.
 

 

Sensing Change (27-28th March 2013)
This two-day conference offered an opportunity to reconsider the role of the senses in the grand narratives of modernity and postmodernity and to elevate the relevance of recent sensory approaches for investigating questions of social, political and cultural change.
 

 

The Dictatorship of the People Peter Hallward (24th April 2013)
Peter Hallward of Kingston University, best known as a Badiou scholar, gave a talk on the notion of the ‘will of the people’, with its roots in Rousseau, Marx and Mao among many others, in order to deal with critiques of voluntarism around more radical understandings of political subjectivity.
 

 

Jodi Dean Study Day (21st March 2013)
Internationally renowned critical theorist Jodi Dean joined us for a day devoted to interrogating her work on both digital technologies and ‘communicative capitalism’ and her engagements with the recent resurgence of interest in the ‘Idea of Communism’. The day involved a workshops based around excerpts from her book Blog Theory, followed by four position papers by Eva Giraud, Andrew Goffey, Seb Franklin and Colin Wright. Colin then chaired a public lecture by Jodi on her most recent book, The Communist Hypothesis.
 

 

Affective Atmospheres (1st April 2012)
This one day event explored the factors – geographical, architectural, visual, tactile and sonorous – that contribute to the production of ‘atmospheres’ conducive to particular affects, whether excitement, fear or boredom. As such, it engaged with the so-called ‘affective turn’ in the human and social sciences and the specific methodological challenges faced by researchers working on sensory experience and culture. A paper by Tim Edensor (Manchester Metropolitan) on the role of lighting in creating the unique atmosphere at the Blackpool illuminations was followed by a roundtable discussion on innovative methodologies in sensory research with Tim Edensor, Ben Anderson (Durham), Tracey Potts (Nottingham) and James Mansell (Nottingham). The day concluded with a public lecture by Ben Anderson on ‘Atmospheres of Emergency’ held at the Nottingham Contemporary art gallery.
 
 

 

Centre for Critical Theory

The University of Nottingham
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email:critical-theory@nottingham.ac.uk