Earlier this year I was involved in the seminar The Occult Turn. Working from my project The Following doesn’t exist I supplied the seminar with a free and open WiFi by facilitating and allowing people to connect together through the WiFi spots, the project intends to practice generosity and to form an idiorhythmic community of ‘followers’ that, from this digital point of departure, are free to trail off wherever and whenever they wish.
The framework of the podcast platform is modelled after a study into the philosophy of fourth-century desert hermit mystics known as the Ammas or Desert Mothers and after dominant thinking in contemporary feminist methodology. The reason to combine these streams of thinking and put them to use in a curatorial framework was to seek other ways of producing by problematising the universalising inclination of curating itself. In doing so, committing to not only account for curatorial work through language but insisting on a situated and embodied understanding – such as a mystic ‘understanding’.
One of the speakers at the symposium, Kirsty Pattison, specifically addresses the links of ‘intelligent magic’ to Greek Theurgy, the religious ritual element of mid-platonic and neo-platonic philosophy. Theurgy is the practice through which one aims to establish a mystical union with God (‘the one’, or read: that which is bigger than us).
The Amma’s mystical practice grounded for a large part in neo-platonic philosophy – a popular philoshpy in Alexandria in the 5th and 6th century – sought this unification through a life of solitude and ritual in the deserts around Alexandria.
Although most of the research for The Following doesn’t exist focused on the Amma’s methods of living together, as both a small society and as individuals (idiorhythmic) and their ideas about silence and listening, theurgy has formed an important reason to look into the philosophy in the first place.
For the majority in today’s western society, a unification with ‘the one’ is not directly on top-priority on the list of things to do on a daily basis, exactly because God’s death made our daily lives more important to us than our promised afterlives. But as I noted above, ‘the one’ might also be read as ‘that which is bigger than us’ – and there is a whole lot of that still; climate change, the rise of big data and geopolitical turmoil.
Then, the turn to the occult is a combination of embodied forms of understanding while being a way of letting ‘the other’ speak.
“Escape happens”, as Eugene Thacker notes in his first volume of the horror philosophy series.
 That’s Nietzsche obvs.
Approaching ‘every project’ as an ecology one could hardly still call it ‘a project’. By breaking with common aspects of the project, such as its temporality and its input-outcome relationship, my practice produces forms that are more open and comfortable towards complexity and confusion but are at the same time more compatible with the many ways in which we learn, think and play. My process balances tactics like getting into a flow and getting lost, as I see them as each other’s productive counterpart.
I am an artist with a curatorial practice, adopting the role of the curator to directly fall from it, which gives my practice a crossover characteristic. I am committed to creating horizontal structures that facilitate collaborative spheres for cross-disciplinary learning. Spheres, in which I focus on ties and bounds, information and resources, to make my practice inherently sustainable rather than concentrated on its intrinsic logic.
Informed by an interest in learning innovations, grounded in the experience of being educated within an innovative curriculum that formed my awareness about the act of learning itself, I employ pedagogical tactics and theories within my process. This usually results in long-term investments in certain ideas and subjects resulting in a doubled practice where learning is both the producing and that which is produced. To communicate this doubled outcome, I develop ways, materials and tools that feed into new investments. As such, I appropriate methods coming from social design, but having them informed by non-linear structures we encounter around us, like digital networks, chaotic processes to form playful tactics. The array of forms resulting from this approach, deploy action-based, discursive and performative techniques that support and sustain this ecological process.
According to Maria Lind: ‘the better curatorial programs help students acquire a discourse with which to talk about curating and a good network which at best becomes a peer group, however no program has the resources or facilities to help form a method, which is the most essential part of this applied form of articulation’, that is curatorial practice.
In creating a personal methodology for my wish to work comfortably within complexity, I looked into curricular development in primary education. While some academics advocate the introduction of experiential learning to post-secondary education and even doctoral research, this type of learning is, not unsurprisingly, best developed and described for the early stages of education. Based on ‘van de Akker’s Web’ for innovating curricular development, I created a similar web translated to fit the conditions of a curatorial or artistic practice. Within the context of the ‘sandbox studio’ research project, I subject this diagram as a temporary structure to tests by my peers and cross-disciplinary proffesionals. The diagram intends to step away from linear project-based development, as learning and creative practice do not reflect this linearity. Although many questions in the diagram may be familiar and may occur in several parts of conventional project development, the diagram visualises how these questions hang together, how they are interdependent on each other. In this way the diagram allows one to start from unforeseen angles while remaining able to assess the process.
Using the diagram:
The diagram consists of two different elements – the heart (vision) and the radials (aspects). The ‘vision’ for a mapped project is determined by the user of the diagram, this can be any more or less defined ideology, concept, feeling or intention to guide a project.
The different radials of the web represent a gradual scale to map ‘focus’ in the direction of one of the named aspects. The related questions (shown in one version of the map) help to think about how to outline the ‘focus’ of a project or an activity onto the different radials of the web. The aspects opposite each other in the diagram are oppositions or are interdependent. The aspects in approximation to each other are related.
Once filled out, the shape created is that of a ‘bubble’, (filled with the breath of its creator). As in nature, the most sustainable bubble is perfectly spherical and thus directs the shape a project should strive for. Any humps and dents in the non-spherical shape can now be acted upon. Mapping activities on the diagram, instead of setting a project out beforehand, slowly results in the collection of these activities adding up to a project.
“At this point I am not sure whether I am a curator or an artist who imagines a different artworld.”
- de Certeau, M. Practice of everyday life. (1992 ) at least: ‘General Introduction’ and ‘Making Do: Uses and Tactics’
- Sloterdijk, Bubbels (1998)
- Nanopolotics Handbook (2013)
- Lather, P. Getting Lost: Feminist Efforts Toward a Double(d) Science (2007) ✔
- Castenedra, Teachings of Don Juan
- Maitland, S. A Book of Silence
- Jacques Rancière, “The Aesthetic Revolution”, in The Aesthetic Unconscious, (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2009)
- Boaventura de Sousa Santos (ed.), Another Knowledge is Possible: Beyond Northern Epistemologies.
- Barthes, R. How to live together
- Foucault, M. The order of discourse
- Heidegger, M. Discourse of Thinking
This text has been cited, edited, reprinted, cut and translated in many different contexts. Its earliest version took form as a talk at the conference called by the Southern Female Rights Union in 1970, later it has been written down and often published without permission. Out of respect for Jo’s intellectual property, I will not copy her text onto my blog but offer you a window to her website which I will use for something I would call reverse-referencing. Rather most than sometimes things we read do not have a connection to just one single line of thought. In fact, to see thought as a line or a linear structure can in fact already be problematic for some types of knowledge. Referencing and footnoting might for that reason be among my favourite types of (academic) output. The ways these texts flow through the written output are hardly visible but for the writer, let’s try that in reverse for this text.