THESES ON HOPE
A summer seminar with Jack Halberstam, Tavia Nyong’o and Damon Young
10–19 July 2023
Between Bridges is excited to host a summer seminar conceived by the scholars Jack Halberstam, Tavia Nyong’o and Damon Young:
“Our late comrade José Esteban Muñoz once asked the question: what do you wear to the end of the world? This summer, we invite artists, scholars and students to join us in a collective thought experiment, exploring the making, unmaking, and remaking of worlds, and the relation between aesthetic practice and un/worlding. The seminar will be a place of study in which to converse, contemplate, and exchange ideas in a small and intensive group, without the pressures of institutional production, credit or evaluation.
For the past three years, we have gathered each summer with different groups looking to explore topics and practices in queer and trans theory. In these meetings, we hope to create connections across registers of art, theory, intellectual and cultural production. The ongoing project emerges out of a shared interest in the challenges and pleasures of collective thinking and critical theory: in questions of negativity and utopia, Blackness and ontology, desire and its itineraries. This summer at Between Bridges, meeting for five sessions over ten days, we will discuss shared texts, participate in workshops with visiting artists and explore different forms of intellectual production and exchange.”
This is a money-free seminar; there are no costs involved for seminar participants, other than the necessity of being physically present and accommodated in Berlin for the duration of the seminar.
The seminar is in English language. The seminar is open for everyone to apply. Our venue is wheelchair accessible. The capacity for seminar participants is limited, the applications will be reviewed by Jack Halberstam, Tavia Nyong’o and Damon Young.
You can download the application document here: Un/Worlding Application Questionaire
Jack Halberstam is Professor of Gender Studies and English at Columbia University and the author of the books Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters, Female Masculinity, In a Queer Time and Place, The Queer Art of Failure, Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and The End of Normal, and, most recently, Trans*: A Quick and Quirky Account of Gender Variance. Places Journal awarded Halberstam its Arcus/Places Prize in 2018 for innovative public scholarship on the relationship between gender, sexuality, and the built environment. Halberstam also recently published Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire and is currently working on a companion volume titled The Wild Beyond: Art, Architecture, and Anarchy.
Tavia Nyong’o teaches black and queer studies at Yale University, where he is Professor of African American Studies, American Studies, and Theater & Performance Studies. He is the author of two books, The Amalgamation Waltz: Race, Performance, and the Ruses of Memory and Afro-Fabulations: The Queer Drama of Black Life, along with numerous articles in academic and art venues. He co-edits the book series Sexual Cultures for New York University Press.
Damon R. Young is Associate Professor of French and Film & Media at the University of California, Berkeley, where he also teaches in the Program in Critical Theory, Women’s Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and the Berkeley Center for New Media. He is the author of Making Sex Public and Other Cinematic Fantasies as well as numerous articles on contemporary art, queer theory, psychoanalysis, film, and digital media. He is currently working on a book project titled Century of the Selfie.
During the first days, the seminar is accompanied by an evening programme open for everyone to join. It includes a talk by feminist theorist of culture Ewa Majewska, the German premier of artist Rory Pilgrim’s latest film, a screening by artist and filmmaker Theo Cuthand followed by a contribution by writer and scholar Macarena Gómez-Barris.
Monday, July 10, 7pm
Ewa Majewska: Queerstories beyond the West. Dialectics of the Weak.
Talk and conversation
In the 1970s two Czech thinkers – Jan Patocka and Vaclav Havel – conceptualized the moment of uncertainty and weakness, typical, as they thought, for those living in Central Europe. Such positioning could lead to plain resignation, but it also opens to ways out – lignes de fuite –, as Deleuze and Guattari wrote in similar times. Just, as in the "Refrain" chapter of their book Mille Plataux, also in The Power of Powerless by Havel and in Solidarity of the Shaken by Patocka, we encounter a subjectivity forming its escape from fear and impossibility by means of ordinary, weak, common practices, such as singing a consoling song, using everyday methods of disobedience or relating to others. The dialectics of the weak can be seen as a perspective reversing the traditional, patriarchal, colonial, heteronormative hierarchy of forms of political agency, which used to prioritize the forms of action, which resemble male, privileged strategies, while at the same time marginalizing and diminishing agency of the oppressed. Following Jack Halberstam and the concept of "queer art of failure", as well as Eve Kosofsky-Sedgwick's use of "weak theory"; feminist intersectional critique and James Scott's "weapons of the weak", I discuss the resignation from heroic, decisive, violent strategies and forms of action.
Tuesday, July 11, 7pm
Rory Pilgrim: RAFTS, 2020-2022
In moments of change and transition, what supports us and keeps us afloat? A raft is the simplest and most fragile vehicle of survival on open water. Ancient as human language, rafts are still needed during urgent crossings. From the Abrahamic story of Noah’s Arc to the idea of Earth as a lonely life raft floating in space, the symbol of a raft has often represented the ultimate preserver of life. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, artist and composer Rory Pilgrim develops RAFTS as the second chapter in a body of performance, film and sonic work exploring how the climate crisis relates to support structures in our everyday lives. The commission is narrated by the voices of eight residents of Barking and Dagenham from Green Shoes Arts: Hugh, Carina, Liam, Butterfly, Katy, Dee, Mark, and Eddie, who each in their own way reflect on what the symbol of a raft means to them. At the heart of RAFTS is a concert broadcast that interweaves stories, poetry and reflections around a seven-song oratorio that makes connections between work, mental health, home, recovery, and our environment. Further voices and people from near and far join the journey, including members of Barking and Dagenham Youth Dance, members of Project Well Being – a group for those experiencing homelessness in Idaho, USA – and solo singers Declan Rowe John, Robyn Haddon and Kayden Fearon. Inspired by the original Radio Ballads as vessels of time, the concert explores how we mark time and act to enable support and prevent harm in both the short- and long-term. Using tools of prophecy, reflection and creativity, the concert takes us on a journey that contemplates which ‘rafts’ could be needed to navigate the future in times of change and uncertainty.
Wednesday, July 12, 7pm
Theo Cuthand: Extractions (2019) and Macarena Gómez-Barris
Screening, talk and conversation
Extractions (2019) is part of NDN Survival Trilogy (finished in 2020) by artist, filmmaker, and writer Theo Cuthand. The film investigates extractive capitalism and its impacts on First Nation Indigenous people and parallels resource extraction with the rampant apprehension of Indigenous children for the profitable foster care system in Canada. Cuthand reviews how these industries – and growing up in a culture of anti-Indigenous misogyny and intergenerational trauma caused by colonization, land dispossession and ecocide – have affected his community and himself. The screening is followed by a presentation by author and scholar Macarena Gómez-Barris and a subsequent conversation between conversation between Cuthand and Gómez-Barris.
Ewa Majewska is a feminist theorist of culture, associate professor at the SWPS University in Warsaw, Poland, working on the queer studies/archive theory project Public against their will. The production of subjects in the archives of "Hiacynt Action”, examining the state action targeting gay men in the 1980s Poland. She taught at the UDK Berlin, University of Warsaw; she was a visiting scholar at the UC Berkeley; ICI Berlin and IWM in Vienna. She published seven books, incl. Feminist Antifascism (Verso, 2021), as well as numerous articles and essays in journals, magazines and collected volumes: e-flux, Signs, Third Text, Journal of Utopian Studies and others. Her research focuses on archive studies, dialectics of the weak; feminist critical theory and antifascism. She co-curated the exhibition of Mariola Przyjemska at the Zachęta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw (2022-2023).
Rory Pilgrim works in a wide range of media including songwriting, composing music, film, music video, text, drawing and live performances. Centred on emancipatory concerns, Pilgrim aims to challenge the nature of how we come together, speak, listen and strive for social change through sharing and voicing personal experience. Strongly influenced by the origins of activist, feminist and socially engaged art, Pilgrim works with others through a different methods of dialogue, collaboration and workshops. In an age of increasing technological interaction, Rory's work creates connections between activism, spirituality, music and how we form community locally and globally from both beyond and behind our screens. Solo Shows include: Chisenhale Gallery, London (2024), Vleeshal Centre of Contemporary Art, Middleburg (2024), WAMX, Turku (2023), Kunstverein Braunschweig (duo-2021), Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe (2020), Between Bridges, Berlin (2019) Ming Studios, Boise (2019), Andriesse-Eyck Gallery, Amsterdam NL (2018) and South London Gallery (2018). Rory has also made commissions, screenings and performances for Serpentine Galleries, London (2022), MoMA, New York (2022), Centre Pompidou, Paris (2021), Glasgow Film Festival (2020), Images Festival, Toronto (2019) and Transmediale Festival, HKW, Berlin (2019). In 2019, Pilgrim was the winner of the Prix de Rome. He is currently nominated for the Turner Prize.
Theo Jean Cuthand has been making short experimental narrative videos and films about sexuality, madness, Queer identity and love, and Indigeneity since 1995. They have screened in festivals internationally, including the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, Mix Brasil Festival of Sexual Diversity in Sao Paolo, ImagineNATIVE in Toronto, Ann Arbour Film Festival, Images in Toronto, Berlinale in Berlin, New York Film Festival, Outfest,and Oberhausen International Short Film Festival. His work has also exhibited at galleries including the Remai in Saskatoon, The National Gallery in Ottawa, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, MoMA in New York, and The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. He is of Plains Cree and Scots descent, a member of Little Pine First Nation, and currently resides in Toronto, Canada.
Macarena Gómez-Barris is author of four books including The Extractive Zone: Social Ecologies and Decolonial Perspectives. She is Chair of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University.