INVIGORATING THE LOCAL with Brian Holmes & Claire Pentecost & the MRCC

  • Date: Friday, March 25
  • Time: 7:00-9:00 PM
  • Place: Nonstop Institute
  • Cost: $ 5
    • Cultural theorist Brian Holmes and photographer Claire Pentecost together with members of the Midwest Radical Cultural Corridor, a cultural geography project, will join us from Chicago and the Upper Midwest to investigate recent international events and the implications for our local actions. Come and discuss Wisconsin…Ohio… North Africa…the Middle East…networks… sustainability… small Midwestern communities…

      Brian Holmes’ experience and unique weaving of theory, art, activism, geopolitics and geopoetics offer us powerful tools for change.”

      Claire Pentecost’s work has long addressed the boundary between the natural and the artificial, leading her to…explorations into industrial agriculture and bio-engineering, including her long-term collaborations with Critical Art Ensemble, and most recently The Compass.

      The Midwest Radical Cultural Corridor has networked with small midwestern communities and agricultural projects since 2008, inviting its collaborators “to look at our collective existence on all the relevant scales: the intimate, the local, the national, the continental, and the global.” Other members of this project presenting at the event include Rozalinda Borcila , Ryan Griffis, Sarah Ross, and Amy Partridge.


    Brian Holmes is a freelance cultural critic living now mainly in Chicago, and previously Paris. He has organized with Claire Pentecost and various cultural collectives the seminar and blog Continental Drift on geopolitics, economics, sociology and cultural production (described as integrating “geopolitics and geopoetics”), coordinated with various cultural and educational sites in the U.S. such as 16 Beaver Group., NYC, and Europe. In Chicago Holmes also works with a collective of multi-disciplinary researchers and geographers known as The Compass, dedicated to exploring the “Midwest Radical Cultural Corridor,” whose work is featured in the international exhibition Heartland (University of Chicago and Eindhoven, Netherlands, 2009). Holmes has also collaborated with the Public School alternative school in Los Angeles where he has led seminars on the budget crisis in the University of California system. Holmes is a frequent contributor to the international listserve nettime, and has been on the editorial committee of the polticial-economy journal Multitudes (Paris) and the art magazine Springerin (Vienna). He was the English editor of publications for the 1997 Documenta X (Kassel, Germany). He has published books including Unleashing the Collective Phantoms: Essays in Reverse Engineering (NY: Autonomedia, 2007) and Escape the Overcode: Activist Art in the Control Society (Eindhoven & Zagreb: Vanabbemuseum, 2009). Holmes has a PhD in Romance Languages and Literatures from UC Berkeley.
    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 is Associate Professor in the Department of Photography at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a multidisciplinary practitioner who, with Brian Holmes, co-organized Continental Drift and The Compass, a cultural geography project that has toured and networked with small midwestern communities and agricultural projects since 2008, inviting its collaborators “to look at our collective existence on all the relevant scales: the intimate, the local, the national, the continental, and the global.” Her website The Public Amateur promotes those whose work crosses and disturbs the disciplinary boundaries that traditionally cleave to the authorized specialist. She is also a keyholder with the group Mess Hall, a multi-disciplinary art space in Chicago. She has collaborated for many years with the Critical Art Ensemble, a tactical media collective that has authored a number of influential books including Electronic Disturbance (Semiotexte: 1994) on internet activism. The Critical Art Ensemble examines the intersection between art, critical theory, technology and political actions, and their work has been exhibited in major museums internationally (Mass MOCA; Corcoran Gallery; Institute for Contemporary Art, London). Much of Pentecost’s recent work has involved creating installations that appear to be science labs that raise issues about GMOs (genetically modified organisms) as food. In recent years her work with the Critical Art Ensemble has also focused on issues of public space, arts and censorship following her Critical Art Ensemble colleague Steve Kurtz’s 4 year legal fight against charges brought by the Bush Administration’s Dept. of Justice (charges dropped in 2008) after police found petri dishes in his apartment (in preparation for an art installation called Free Range Grain) and suspected him of bioterrorism. (See Reflections on the Case by the U.S. Justice Department against Steven Kurtz and Robert Ferrell by Claire Pentecost; see also Disciplining The Avant-Garde, The United States versus The Critical Art Ensemble by Gregory Sholette [download].

    The Midwest Radical Cultural Corridor, a project of the Compass group, is “a call for longer, slower, deeper connections between the territories where we live. It’s a cartography of shared experience, built up by those who nourish lasting ties between critical groups, political projects, radical communities and experiments in alternative existence.” The Compass is a loose and shifting group of artists and activists, who have been exploring ties to different neighborhoods, cities, and rural parts around the midwest. It is a collective project of knowing where we are – of inhabiting, traversing and narrating what we call the Midwest Radical Culture Corridor. People currently working within/as the Compass Group include Brett Bloom, Nicholas Brown, Rozalinda Borcila, Bonnie Fortune, Ryan Griffis, Brian Holmes, Sarah Kanouse, Sarah Lewison, Amy Partridge, Claire Pentecost, Mattias Regan, Sarah Ross, Dan S. Wang, and Mike Wolf.

    Members of the Compass Group, and participants in the Midwest Radical Cultural Corridor project that will be visiting Nonstop include:


    Rozalinda Borcila

    Visiting Faculty in Participatory Platforms, Geneva University, Switzerland (2009), taught Sculpture & Expanded Media, Univ of South Florida (2000-09)

    BLW artist-activist collective (Rozalinda Borcila, Sara Lewison, Julie Wyman) –

    “I am going to tell you something no one else can tell you who wasn’t there…” by BLW in Journal of Aesthetics and Protest #5 (Sept, 2007) –


    Ryan Griffis

    Teaches New Media Art at University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana


    co-editor, Journal of Aesthetics & Protest #4

    Co-curator Agriart exhibition (2009, George Mason University)

    Griffis interview with subRosa (cyberfeminist group), published in Next 5 Minutes 4 Reader (2003)
    Tandem Surfing the Third Wave: subRosa + cyberfeminism


    Sarah Ross

    Teaches at School of the Art Institute of Chicago and at an Illinois state prison


    Amy Partridge

    Teaches Gender Studies at Northwestern University

    Radical Midwest Cultural Corridor projects include:

    Cartography with Your Feet (2010) in conjunction with the Detroit Social Forum that asked: “How can the scattered communities of the Rust Belt and the Corn Belt recognize each other, connect, share resources and build cultures of transformation? The Midwest Radical Cultural Corridor is a sign, a vision, an invitation to meet people in cities, towns and rural areas on the roads to Detroit, to learn about local situations and find common issues. Our group of artists and writers, The Compass, is dedicated to exploring the radical roots of better futures for the region. This workshop offers a convergence for caravanistas, bicyclists and walkers to say how they are linking their home environments, projects and struggles to other localities and initiatives. Participants can tell stories of their travels, show images with a projector and trace out routes on a large map of North America, locating the places they found most meaningful. Key themes are environmental and social justice campaigns, alternative food production, cultures of resistance and grassroots institutions.”

    The Region From Below: Corn and Coal Shed–Map and Quiz (2009) maps the coal and corn carbon economy in the Midwest region. It features four pop-out stories detailing alternatives to the corn and coal-shed and spotlighting some interesting locations where coal and corn come together. The project was included in the Heartland exhibition at the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago and simultaneously published in AREA, vol. 9, Peripheral Visions.