Paris, Mains d’OEuvres 29 November – 13 December 2009
blown up ! is an eventwork, mapping an investigation at once philosophical, cinematic and relational. In a manner similar to Antonioni’s film Blow-Up which follows a photographer’s quest to locate a body in a London park from a blow-up of a snapshot he has taken, Silvia Maglioni & Graeme Thomson explored 1970s video footage of Gilles Deleuze’s courses at the University of Vincennes to locate participants in the seminar who then became collaborators in their film, Facs of Life. But blown up ! equally derives from an explosion, recomposing scattered shards of a political moment, a research process, a corpus of images, voices and concepts, within the framework of “a temporary autonomous classroom” that exhorts us to “make rhizomes, not roots, never plant ! Don’t sow grow offshoots ! Don’t be one or multiple, be multiplicities. Run lines, never plot a point !”
On the temporary autonomous classroom
Adapted from Hakim Bey’s notion of the TAZ (temporary autonomous zone) the temporary autonomous classroom forms the operational centre of blown up ! Structured around a series of ‘platforms’ which reproject the 8 plateaus of the film Facs of Life (inarchivé, visagéité, inclination, échelles/intervalles, bords, épuissance, promenade, falaise) into lived space, it is a site where the multiple knowledges, skills, passions and research trajectories that constitute the ‘curriculum’ can enter into new thought-assemblages distributed across indeterminate spatial and temporal intervals. The ‘temporary autonomy’ of the classroom relates on one hand to its desire to suspend a more or less rigid segmentation of institutional knowledge and research boundaries that structure education policy and practice in order to widen each platform’s particular problematic field, and on the other to the relative autonomy of each component of the classroom from any overarching or governing design.
In this sense the term ‘autonomy’ constitutes a problematic field in its own right. The trajectory of autonomist claims such as those advanced within the University of Vincennes from instruments of collective emancipation to incorporation within the rhetoric of an educational reform whose declared aim is to harness research and teaching to the imperatives of industry and market forces, demonstrates the ease with which a radical agenda can be transformed into an instrument of power and enslavement. One of Blown Up’s curricular aims is to investigate the possibilities of reinstating and expanding autonomy’s former radical potential (autonomy from enslavement to economic imperatives, power hierarchies, star systems, classification in terms of a spurious ‘shared’ transcendental horizon of value, meaning and ends) which is in the first instance autonomy of the movement of thought. The classroom of blown up ! operates on the principle that virtually any element which enters into relation with it can become an active part of that movement, modify its trajectory, speed, angle of enquiry.
What is an eventwork ?
In order to describe what blown up ! is or might be we had to coin a new term, that of ‘eventwork’. The notion of eventwork eschews both the category of event (the ‘events’ scheduled to accompany exhibitions frequently serve as a kind of decor to boost their already waning value as spectacle) and that of artwork, yet it partakes of both these categories in terms of its process of enunciation. The eventwork works towards an event which it envisages but cannot fully produce just as it works through a previous event (in this case that of Deleuze’s seminars at Vincennes) whose actualization, as Blanchot says, leaves something unaccomplished (the virtual face of the event which permits a recommencement). Its artistic dimension, meanwhile resides in the construction of an environment that is at once both lived and imagined (both space and image) and whose own lived image is continually being recomposed, reimagined and reactivated in terms of the relations generated between its component parts (the exploded distribution of images, sounds, texts, performance, discussion, intervention, comment, disruption). One might say that there is nothing to ‘see’ in Blown Up ! since the spectator/student is already more or less incorporated in this mobile image and in its potential field of action.
What interests us is not the blind alley of relational aesthetics, the supposed smooth space that masks and returns to an even more rigid striation and governing hierarchy (that of the proprietorial gesture of the ‘artist’, and the controlling function of the institution which appropriates the complex lived dynamics of social and political movements, translating them in the terms of safe, commodifiable aesthetic transactions and experiences, but to open the classroom to situations and relations coming from the outside that (in the event) may enter into new configurations, produce new harmonies of line, colour and volume but may also ’blow up in our faces’, produce something else, another space we hadn’t reckoned on.
Herein lies the third sense of eventwork, like a roadwork that promises to restore and improve traffic flow but which in the meantime produces interruption, blockage and diversion.
For blown up ! we have deliberately induced a convergence of different networks which normally operate smoothly in their respective spaces of relation and enunciation (their surfaces of redundancy) in an environment where these spaces may have to be renegotiated. All this depends on what contents and discontents can be made to circulate in the space of the classroom and how these can in turn be harnessed as motors of enquiry.
(Graeme Thomson & Silvia Maglioni, Paris : November – December 2009)
(images : courtesy of mains d’oeuvres, anouck durand-gasselin, vinciane verguethen, silvia maglioni, graeme thomson)