Dispatch 9

Mar 25th, 2011


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INVIGORATING THE LOCAL with Brian Holmes & Claire Pentecost & the Compass Group

March 25, 2011

Chris Hill read the following introduction at this Nonstop event:

Welcome to the opening of Nonstop’s spring series Invigorating the Local: Conversations at the Intersection of Alternative Education, Open Media & Civic ParticipationTonight is the first event in the series, and we expect there to be four more speakers in coming months, whose work converges around art making, open media practice and alternative education, and who will appear at Nonstop in person or via skype.

Tonight’s guests have all worked together as part of a cultural geography group called The Compass. All are also active as artists, critics, and teachers whose individual and collaborative work over the last decade has been about invigorating public space and accessible communications networks, addressing continental and global issues, and specifically engaging small communities in the American Midwest, drawing connections between the global and the local, the political and the poetic.  In his essay One World One Dream Brian Holmes suggests, following sociologist Ulrich Beck, that that “globalism is inseparable from a process of intensive individualism which is its other face, the flip side of the same basic currency.” The Compass Group has described their work as examining  “our collective existence on all the relevant scales: the intimate, the local, the national, the continental, and the global.” Nonstop’s Working Members and Board welcomes them in expanding their Midwest Radical Cultural Corridor project eastward by visiting us in Yellow Springs.

Our guests are a distinguished group. I want to just sketch briefly some of the projects with which they have been involved.

Perhaps it was my contact with Brian Holmes’ work in recent years that inspired this series. He has worked as a critic and editor on very important international media cultural projects such as serving as the English editor at Documenta X in 1997 in Kassel, Germany, and is a frequent contributor to nettime, an important international listserv that emerged out of a series of critical media conferences, the Next 5 Minutes, in the Netherlands in the mid-90s that cultivated important global conversations at the cusp of digital media and the emergence of the internet. His blog Continental Drift speaks in English, Spanish and French—he is a translator as well—and his recent publications such as Escape the Overcode: Activist Art in the Control Society (2009) are collections of essays that mostly appeared first in Continental Drift.  In projecting where we might think about going with Nonstop, and also thinking back upon the events of the last 3 years that are part of the fabric of Nonstop and Yellow Springs, I found the following statement about connections between the realms of the intimate and the institutional, the local and the national, in his introduction to Escape the Overcode to be particularly relevant.

In Escape the Overcode, Holmes writes in his introduction:
“And so finally we reach the scale of intimacy, of skin, of shared heartbeats and feelings, the scale that goes from families and lovers to people together on a street corner, in a sauna, a living room or a cafe. It would seem that intimacy is irretrievably weighted down in our time, burdened with data and surveillance and seduction, crushed with the determining influence of all the other scales. But intimacy is still an unpredictable force, a space of gestation and therefore a wellspring of gesture, the biological spring from which affect drinks. Only we can traverse all the scales, becoming other along the way. From the lovers’ bed to the wild embrace of the crowd to the alien touch of networks, it may be that intimacy and its artistic expressions are what will astonish the twenty-first century.”

Claire Pentecost teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she recently served as chair of the Photography Department and the president of the local AAUP chapter. With Brian Holmes she contributes to Continental Drift blog and an ongoing seminar with the 16 Beaver Group in NYC. She hosts a blog, the Public Amateur, that seeks to broaden discussion about transgenic plants and other investigations into science and agriculture. She is a keyholder/member of Mess Hall, an interdisciplinary cultural center in Chicago. She has also worked closely with the  Critical Art Ensemble, that published an important text dealing with cultural actions in electronic territory, The Electronic Disturbance (1994)

Rozalinda Borcila was educated in Cluj, Romania, has taught Sculpture and Expanded Media at University of South Florida, and most recently served as Visiting Faculty in Participatory Platforms at the University of Geneva, Switzerland. I have admired her work with BLW, an artists-activists collective in which she collaborated with Sarah Lewison, also a member of The Compass Group, and Julie Wyman. The group re-performed challenging political and cultural documents, usually speeches and interviews videotaped the early 1970s, a practice BLW describes as “re-speaking.”  One of the their provocative texts that remarks on this practice was published in the Journal for Aesthetics and Protest (2007).  Rozalinda is also a keyholder at Mess Hall in Chicago. Over soup earlier tonight she described her recent involvement with an inspiring alternative education project that evolved out of a neighborhood action by mothers and their children and that led to the creation of a library, that perhaps we will hear more about later.

Ryan Griffis teaches New Media at University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. His recent projects engage issues of migration and travel and include Temporary Travel Office. His site yougenics.net in informative and has links to other recent projects such as co-curating the exhibition Agriarts (2009) at George Mason University, and editing an issue of the Journal of Aesthetics and Protest #4.

Sarah Ross teaches as the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and at an Illinois state prison. She has been involved with the Urbana Books to Prisoners project and her website insecurespaces.net features a number of projects and articles. A recent video Experiments of Struggle profiles activists in small midwestern towns.