Open Discussion Transcript
Saturday afternoon 2pm, 28th March 2014, we slowly assembled for the last event of day-two of the public programme of UTOPOGRAPHIES: EVALUATION, CONSENSUS AND LOCATION, a sprawling research project which condensed the energies and preoccupations of theorist Dan Smith, the Critical Practice Research Cluster, architect Amy Butt , Charlotte Knox-Williams, other utopographers and interested publics.
The schedule for Eddie Dorrian's session suggested we would:
Sit for one hour as a group and record ourselves in turn, for an amount of time (perhaps 5 mins). We each use the video camera - framing, close up, panning, zoom in and out, etc. Discussion is not lead. There is no declared starting point. No proposition. Each participant operates before and behind the camera. There is no compulsion to speak, act, etc. A transcription of any discussion will be made, a draft of the transcription will be offered for any participant to edit (their own contribution only). A text comprising the first draft and a second combined edit will be proposed for publication. The recording is the copyright of those participating, consent must be given for its future presentation or subsequent editing.
Recording Duration: one hour
Equipment: video camera
1. It may be less than an hour… could you come round and make the group more circular, equidistant and equal… yes… it’s kind of yellow isn’t it… never mind… I just wanted to start by trying to introduce what it was we are… wanting to do… which… I’m not quite sure… how it works… my proposal was really on the back of… the invitation to this project… which on the face of it… was something I wasn’t… the name for example… Utopia… was not something that was figuring necessarily… what I was working on myself… or the work I was involved with… There was a project that… Charlotte [Knox-Williams 1] had been involved with… in a school… in Kilquhanity… Scotland… which had been set up as… a free school… one of the earliest free schools in Britain… in the 1940’s… by John Aitkenhead… This is not really going around the right way… so part of the project was really to do with… recording conversations… a very simple device… of using the camera to… pass between participants during the conversation… and that would create some sense kind of… tracking shot… we can’t rely on the quality of the recording… hopefully that will pick up because I don’t think that the camera[‘s microphone] is particularly… strong enough… I think the idea was… to involve the… participants… or to have… participation as well as… documentation… part of the model of this school was this notion of the… council… and the children’s school… and so… it took this… egalitarian idea… of not having any… mastery… not having any… hierarchy… and that the children themselves… would somehow… not necessarily by consent… would come to an idea of resolution… of disputes... so it’s very… straightforward… and its something that is fed into… part of my practice… being involved with an artist-run… gallery… called Five Years… and part of that project span… involves open submissions… whereupon there is no… selection… no criteria… and the invitation was given to anyone to… participate… and anyone will be… given time… in fact that was how I met Charlotte… a project in Bethnal Green Library… in an old redundant part of the library… it was the public… selection of what seemed to be… quite interested in this notion of… public space… that education could be facilitated… so I am guessing that… that… kind of background was… partly… the reason why Charlotte thought this idea of… utopian… community of equals…she didn’t phrase it like that… but I deduced… so that’s my movement towards… a documentation… and again… that is… something that… I was curious… how this model of recording conversation… between participants… would allow the discussion around… common ideas… and the idea of an essence of an… argument… not necessarily an argument… a commonality… could be considered… I’m interested… actually… as a starting point… as I haven’t participated in this project at all… but I’m clearly aware that it’s off the back of another… and is also plugged into… an institutional framework… which again sort of begs the question… of why the notion of utopia… utopian formats… utopian ideas… or the idea of utopia… could be considered… and it runs in parallel perhaps… with your ideas of why this could happen… and how this could be discussed… and examined… and even this set up… kind of apart from…what it is… what is actually happening… how did it come to be like this? I was curious… whilst sitting and watching… and participating… and not participating in the events you had yesterday… just what it was you did…? What you thought… how people exchanged things… everything was quite frenetic… the activity…what’s that word? at times joyful…carnivalesque… and what it alluded to… and I wanted to know… whether that was something… in relation to the conference itself… which may mean its more conservative… or more formulated… in the presentation of papers… more academic… I’m not sure… I’m not sure what my ideas of academia are… obviously I have gone through art school… I have on occasions lectured… and taught…and on panels… revolving around issues of…extra and institutional frameworks…
2. So I'm kind of curious.,...these are the parts of the threads of what you do...
3. Is this the case?
4. Well, I'm sort of interested...
5. I don’t have any answers to that – I’m not even sure what my role is as an academic. I have worked in things like a warehouse, I’ve worked in museums and a few art schools and I’m not sure if that makes me an academic. Because I see it as a sort of day job, and its a day job that allows me to explore utopias, which I can’t help but explore, as its a preoccupation I cant get away from. So my approach to academia is trying to allow some sort of engagement with my preoccupation
6. Your preoccupation?
8. I always think that outside of it, is this question of transfer, that seems to be presented as relevance. And its interesting that you,... maybe I’m miss-reading.
9. My preoccupation I guess comes from first reading Moore’s Utopia around age 15, and that book resonating with a lots of questions I had growing up, about why is society like this? Why cannot it be different? And having people tell you..... look its like this. And reading that book, seeing possibilities, so its an obsession with why is the world is like this. Why do we allow these particular things to happen, why do we allow people to starve?
10. The academic framework is just one example of these social interactions, there are many other facets that you occupy, things that allow you...
11. I don’t know. I’m interested in academic debates, I’m interested in art and I'm frustrated because... I actually want art to be the world, and not things within it.
12. As I’ve just joined in, I’m not quite that I understand fully the question, the debates you had, the small pockets of discussion about academic.... institutional versus organic, and yesterday we were talking about conferences, networking and functions, and you were talking today about your interest in utopia... for me when I think about academia, maybe it’s in the states, maybe this is a disciplinary thing, I’m not an artist I’m an English professor, you know most of what we do is teaching. So you know, its interesting to hear that most of these conversations are about research, or what we can do, and whether that can be part of the real world or are we swamped by institutional administrative work. I'm expected to research and write, but most of my day-to-day life and actually passion is occupied with teaching and working with my students. I just want to bring that into the conversation because that isn’t very institutional in structure but it has a particular framework. Of course, learning and teaching can happen outside an institution.
13. Yeah, academia isn’t something that happens in life.
14. Yeah! And I think that the notion that academia is this ivory tower, and we are all sitting there doing our solitary research, is very different from the day-to-day labour of working with students. I’m sure it happens a little differently in the UK, and I know happens differently in art schools, but for me, that's an important thing to talk about
15. More than that, is that teaching, depending on how you frame your teaching, your teaching can be a kind of social action, your teaching can be a kind of utopia. It just depends on how much you feel that you can do stuff outside of delivering the the core curriculum you're contracted for.
16. The other option is to engage in social actions, to forget academia and dedicate yourself to small incremental changes. One of the things that happens a lot in utopia study conferences is that at various times, lets say “ Jim “ feels that he has to remind us that this is a society that studies utopias, and that its not about making utopia. Now that doesn’t mean that you might find 30 – 50% of the people involved in some kind of social actions, but at various times there are individuals who come in a kind of hit-and-run way to the society, and get really angry at us, get really angry that we are not planning the next utopia. Of course they tend to be the most mad people, in the sense that they cannot work within a group, they are not able to operate in a looser type social setting. I think the big challenge everyday is, if you are frustrated with the way the world is, the challenge is, to do something through your teaching.
17. Yeah, I mean I don’t teach just my curriculum. I try to get my kids to develop their consciousness, get them too, not only see the world how it is, but to change it.
18. Everyone who teaches can do that. In the same way I think that the teachers job is to invite the student to subvert the model, the teachers job is to subvert the institution. Somehow.... The other option again is, direct social action.
19. That's the ultimate aim, to subvert the model?
20. Well I don’t know if its a rigid duality, I’m just putting it out for there for arguments sake. I’m not saying, I mean we were talking about Augé yesterday, and we were saying poor Augé, he gets beaten up all the time for these non-places, and in reality he's just using this opposition to make an argument. He’s not, you know, probably in his own way, I don’t speak for him but I think he could find some pleasure in an airport too. Perhaps.
21. Its about solitude. That’s his connection. But I just wanted to say that, in a way, when we were putting stuff out there to provoke a conversation it doesn’t necessarily mean this binary...
22. But this opposition, you can subvert the model. You can be involved in social action. I think most of us who studied utopia, and probably many other people believe that within the creation and exploration of cultural forms, and the discussion of these, maybe through teaching, or our own activity.....
23. But I wasn’t making that opposition
24. Is that changing of the world?
25. But the opposition is a different one. The opposition on one side is subverting the model or social action. But you don’t have to choose. You don’t have to say one is better. You can just be a tool, you know, you can just be a meat puppet and the system says jump you say ‘how high?’ they say do this you say ‘For how long?’
26. But these tools, and I don’t want to call them tools because that's a bit rude, and some of my colleagues might be in this position, I don’t know, they believe in what they are doing, they don’t believe they are tools of the institution.
27. But that's fine, that's something else...
28. Which is pretty much anyone in higher education, you know, involved. They probably believe in what they are doing...
29. We recently had a meeting with our rector, I believe and were you there? David Cross said something about we are all in this because of an egalitarian belief. And the rector said yes, I agree, and thats why I’m here too, and our associate dean says the same thing and everyone is like ‘yes we are all egalitarians we are all here for the good of humanity thats why we are in higher education'. And if they can say that...
30. Yeah, but we’ll differ on what the good for humanity is.
31. Well they all believe they are in this for some form of altruism, because they believe in education as a reforming social tool, but these are...
32. Reforming not emancipating?
33. Its notable that the rector is a former lawyer, so there is this sort of built-in reformist thing very much on the surface.
34. But you know they will also say they are opposed to government policy on the introduction of tuition fees. I think because they are threatened by it, not because they inherently think its wrong, but they are saying yeah we are on your side, we share your same beliefs. And its like, who’s we?
35. And how does it feel when they give you 1%?
36. I’m not complaining about anything, because I’m on record.
37. Its their turn right, this is what we were saying yesterday, these people all believe in this egalitarian thing, they believe in the good of states, they believe in what they are doing, but what do these terms really mean?
38. There is a new thing that, if you're involved in higher education and say I want to change the world, or help my students or produce something that is innovative, these things probably look different to them, than what they look like to me. So talking about these things as if there's a shared core value,.....
39. That's kind of my point. The person we would see as the ultimate enemy in this institution, and I think he is, I think he believes we are all on the same side, and, that he's in this for the right reasons. I don’t think he is lying when he says that. He believes it, but he believes it according to a logic that we find twisted. In just the same way that Locke talks about discovering the utopian in things we find abhorrent
40. You know one of things I found really interesting with your talk yesterday was the absence of psychoanalysis, and I think psychoanalysis - as I was saying to Neil - psychoanalysis,...... Well there is this analyst named Winnicott who worked very carefully with children, and was supposed to be have been a great father, although he had no children of his own, and he talked about the 'false self', as a thing that could be very generous, and very tolerant and acceptive and you know, very culturally relativist, ... Winnicott was claiming for himself the ability to talk about a constellation of character in a fairly systematic way, so it wasn’t just ‘you’re false, I’m real, you’re real I’m false’ but there was this notion of the 'false self' constructed in such a way that the false self believes all of these stories, or what an ex-girlfriend called 'the empty words that they tell themselves', words like excellent become very quickly empty.... and I’m sure all over the UK there were storms of passion for a little time ‘I’m passionate about food', 'I’m passionate about transportation', 'I’m passionate about passion', you know, were all passionate about people, and very quickly those words are drained of all meaning, drained of all resonance and register. How do you recuperate words? And how do you then challenge individuals using those words?
41. Some people were saying yesterday, that came to the event, they were asking why is there all this stuff on the future? Because they were saying, there's just loads of events, you know this phrase ‘the future is trending’. And they are right, it's become meaningless, because everyone is saying 'yeah we are going to do an event on the future, we are going to do an exhibition in the future, we are going to talk about the future in our party political broadcast', we’ll all just focus on the future. Because it's a sort of resonant word, and because it's resonant it's everywhere, and it's drained and then gone. And yeah, with the passion thing, every reality TV show with someone baking or sewing or fixing a car or whatever, it's what they have a passion for, and they 'go on a journey' and those words have become,... it's like ‘well what is a journey?' Is it your life? Is it an emotional experience? What on earth is your journey?
42. Well, if you have a lot of extra time and you fill out a survey for Waitrose, Marks and Spencers, Sainsburys or what have you, they ask what you loved about your shopping experience. And that's where I fall down, because I don’t know how to talk about......
43. You have no passion for it?
44. I don’t have passion for it, so its hard for me to love it
45. You know what's interesting, because Dan and I had an under caffeinated talk about this on the tube, on the way in, about authority and Utopia. I’m really curious because, you know, in my work I’m very critical of this happiness and positive psychology movement and I spend a lot of time showing how I think its problematic. And everybody says to me at every point, although nobody has said it to me yet, is you know, ok, so whats the alternative? What do you propose as an alternative model? And I think that's the problem with utopia right there, there are all these models, all these possibilities and nobody wants to say, well, this is what it should be. And Ruth writes about it in her last book, she implies a normative view and at some point you have to be willing to step away from this possibility and actually say no, here's the cure of how I think it should be. And part of the utopian project needs to stick to a plan, which is something I think we shy away from, which I shy away from too, and this event is also trying to enable certain things to emerge, and I’m just wondering, you know, how to get other people involved here to think about that. Where do you draw the line between exploration and possibility and actually saying, because all of this, even if its sort of organic and letting it emerge and collaborative implies a view right of how we should think things should be, how people should interact, what we think is productive, what we think has value - even if that's implicit - and especially as educators, we think a lot about this. 'Oh we’re doing really good for our students' or 'I want to help them become critical' and that will help them to do whatever. And that seems democratic, but it also implies that its me imposing what I think they should be doing. So I just want to throw that out, and I don’t know if I’m taking us off course, but I’m really interested in this. You know, people always think utopia, they think blueprints, they think its sort of this rigid idea and so we have all really shied away from plans, you know to this other extreme, but if we do think there could be a better world, if there is something better , we have to articulate clearly what we think that better is. And that implies a worse, which is tricky, you know. you don’t want to say this is superior to that...
46. Is that the problem at hand? You know, you have been very eloquent in describing it, which is part of this issue of mastery, and the problem with that is, I was kind of assuming that this is part of the problem of utopia, where the solution.....[noise]
47. Mastery, or the notion of even attempting it, as you describe, is this authoritative figure who can describe his actions as egalitarian. The difficulty of critical participation is what? Is that just named as such
48. I disagree that there is no model here, there is a model
49. It's kind of implicit
50. Its a model that doesn’t work very well, its not very efficient, its chaotic but, it's an alternative
51. It is an alternative, but also.
52. Its not us just saying we should have an alternative, that this is it, its crap and we are hungry.
53. But that's not fair, I mean this is inching towards something.
54. Ok but that's the whole point, I’m not saying its bad, I’m saying why should we expect it to be perfect?
56. I’m saying it might be. Yeah we need more food, but surely if we create a model its not going to work, no model works, we have to provide alternatives, try, and then if that alternative doesn’t work lets do something completely different. Or we might try and modify it. But you have to have an alternative, and this is the alternative where you cannot have the authority.
57. You have to bring it in to test it, otherwise its just simply a theory and what are we going to do in practice...
58. But then, this is not an empty discussion about lets have a utopian alternative. What we are doing,... I think this is a template. And I don’t think its going to be easy
59. Yeah but I wouldn’t use the word crap myself.
60. I would be fascinated to know if anyone here was at Occupy?
61. Yeah, in New York.
62. Yeah right, because so many events that I’ve been to, there's this competition that Occupy has to be present. There's this reverence around Occupy, so you have to acknowledge Occupy, you need to talk about your journey as part of Occupy and so forth, and I think what's really crucial is that then opens up into discussion about failure. Did occupy fail? And so I guess I don’t know if that's really a productive discussion. We could just kind of avoid that.
63. No, I agree, because what where our expectations of success? What? That it's permanent, that it creates a World State?
64. There are two things. One is that anyone who studies utopia, anyone who is interested in utopian studies very quickly realises that Utopia is a joke for a failure. So, the biggest complaint of people who are against the idea of thinking about utopia, is that they fail. The counter argument is, what does that mean? The point is, that they were imagined, and they existed, its not important for 20 minutes or two days or ten or twenty years. What’s interesting, is not the fact that they ultimately fail, because everything fails.
65. I think that something, something striking for me is, that when I spoke to friends of mine about this project, especially polish friends, they didn’t want anything to do with it. For them, it was not necessarily about failure, it was about an authoritative regime.
66. What I’m saying is that there are about ten of them right; there's failure, there's totalitarianism, there's genocide, I’m just picking on failure because that's what we were talking about at the moment. The other thing is, I think you know...
67. I think it's important, that's one of the key words we use.
68. Yeah it was one of the words that came up in the first workshops we did, when we discussed failure and the possibility of failure, and it was quite liberating and hopeful, because without the possibility of failure you can't try....
69. And then everybody is at risk.
70. Imagine one of the major political parties saying, in our manifesto, 'we might completely fuck up'. Our government will fail, and we’ll end up worse because we're going to try something that won't work.
71. I find this argument about failure actually quite negative, and to a certain extent kind of backward in a way, because failure in my opinion is implicit in any attempt at doing anything. So in the manifesto, it's not mentioned because it's not good publicity, its not good to say it.
72. Yes the term need to be rehabilitated, because in a creative context like this, we talk about failure all the time. It's something we're trying to do in utopia, but it also needs to be rehabilitated into public consciousness.
73. I'd like to suggest that one way that we might be able to move forward, not today, but if something like this ever happens again, is in a way, a lot of us come to the term utopia, and the performance of utopia, from very different perspectives. Some people have read very deeply into utopia, some people have read very deeply into science fiction, some people just have intuitions about utopia, and so on, and maybe at least part of another event could be a shared reading, not academic, and no one making a presentation on the reading but some kind of shared reading. The one I have in mind based on this discussion is David Harvey in 2000, not 2014, he was dealing with just these issues, and the issue of closure and openness; of concrete process, and for him he came up with this idea of a dialectic utopia. That at a certain point, we have to make a space for utopia and we have to decide, and as someone pointed out to me decide has the same etymological root as death, so deciding is always killing off one option and letting another live. You just have to do that, you have to take that risk and court failure. But he says ok, so on the one hand there is this problem in spatial utopias, where there is always an attempt to achieve a kind of closure; once and for all. Which then gives us alien environments, but we have to somehow accept this as a possibility. On the other hand there is the temporal utopia, and social process never wants to declare time, and so we need a kind of balance between the open and closed, and the closed and the open, and through that you can sort of establish a feedback loop. One of the most substantial criticisms of Lefebvre, for Harvey, is that Lefebvre never said what that place was going to look like. He felt that ultimately Lefebvre’s critique of utopia was weakened by not finally saying 'this is what it's going to look like.' So Harvey is saying, in a sense, that you have to declare, like you have done here, and then you also do what you are doing now, which is kind of, this back and forth, this dialectic.
74. Are we going backwards and forwards?....that’s interesting actually, thinking about the exchange of voices that are recurring here, and the voices that don’t speak in this group.
75. But that's an old story, and again going back to psychoanalysis, there are people who speak and there are people who don’t speak. The problem is that, you think that I am not letting other people speak, well then, we can have that conversation and that can become really interesting .
76. Well it's interesting just as an observer, throughout the two days, and I don’t how weird this is, there are people who dictate, there are people who do actually generate, and I don’t know if that is part of dialectic.....
77. I think there are several things going on.
78. And not all the same.
79. I think there are people who are speaking, and I don’t think its really effecting the decision making process.
80. Not necessarily, but I guess my question would be different.
81. Is the decision making process happening in smaller groups, where you may not hear those conversations, rather than the public ones, where the ones with the loud voices are heard.
82. But I still think its discursive production.
83. Absolutely, it involves talking and I guess its about this sense of who has noticed you talking. Who seems to be leading, I think it can be hard to tell......
84. Also, some people might not want to speak, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are not contributing.
85. I think it also depends on where people are coming from. You know, when this discussion started Dan was the first person to start speaking after you, and it quickly became basically the academics amongst us who started speaking first, and opened this discussion out, and I think possibly that's because of our background, you know, we are trained to do it. You know, we are trained to ask questions, its our job. I guess it's part of the teaching process to break that silence and to get people thinking and speaking in some way,....... so its kind of second nature.
86. Actually, I would try not to do this and my students. They might disagree with me, but I would try not to do this in a teaching situation, because I wouldn’t want to dominate it.
87. But the question was asked specifically about academics, if the question was “as an art student what do you think about the model of education here at Chelsea”, I don’t think I would have been as participatory. Just because its not something I know much about, and I would have wanted to hear different perspectives, so I'm just saying that, the framing of the question also lead to a particular frame, …....maybe that's something we need to be asking. I don’t know.
88. You were talking about 'being egalitarian', and also you mention the question of what is the alternative, why is there no model that can be followed? So I see a conflict between being at the lead point, where you design a grand design for the future, and having to establish this egalitarian possibility of decision making and also deciding on what it is that we want. Why do we have to decide what it is? Why cant we decide what it isn’t ? And by deciding what it isn’t, we might end up with what is. So this is like we have a model, but its crap, but it might become better in the future.
89. Except when you think about social action, a lot of times it collapses. Joseph Rykwert observed in a book called the Seduction of Place, that in most instances when we are talking about the city, and the shaping of the city which can include everything, we tend to be against it. And the problem with putting it in the negative register, is that it doesn’t really suggest how we want it to be. His argument is that, if we want the city we want, if we want to have a city where whatever we feel, we feel welcome, we feel at home, wherever it is we want as a community, and he's always talking about community, he's not talking about individuals or corporations or consumers, he's talking about citizens, then the challenge as he sees it, is to put it into political action. Is put it into the positive; this is what we want, not, what we don’t want, and I think there is something really valuable in that.
90. I really think on a self conscious level your dominating the discussion.
91. That was an intervention, a certain kind of intervention.
92. I’m going to undermine myself, but the society I want, for as many people as possible, is the complete opposite of how I current live. You know, I can get strawberries in December. The society I want, we will not have strawberries in December, I will not be able to order books at a moments notice and have them arrive the next day. I probably wont have central heating, I probably wouldn’t have wifi. I probably would have to spend a lot of time and space with dirty, smelly, people and it would be awful. But it would be awful according to the alienated life I live now, so I would have to learn to live in that harsh environment, so its not what I want. I want to live in a nice warm cosy house, with no interruptions and unseasonal fruit, watch Netflix and have constant hot water, be able to buy cheap clothes, to be able to buy cheap clothes would be nice, you know, made in the far east. I want all of those things, so the life I really want for society is going to mean I have to give up all of those things, and I don’t want too. But I'll do it if I have to. So its a kind of conflict about what I want.
93. So in other words, ideologically you would want a crap life, but you're not prepared to sacrifice what you have
94. I am prepared to sacrifice it, to build that life, yeah.
95. But only if everyone else does it before you?
96. I don’t believe my giving up those things now would bring about that crap life, so yeah I know it sounds really crap and empty, but I said I was going to undermine myself, and that's the position I’m in....
97. I agree with you that giving up certain qualities that we enjoy in the western way of life, in society, if that would bring about this kind of egalitarian world, where everyone is not hungry and everyone has this level of medical treatment or whatever, to me, that would be worth doing.
98. I think we have to do it. I don’t think we have a choice. I think its going to happen, its going to happen to almost all of us, apart from a very small number living in enclaves. We might be lucky enough to be living in one of those enclaves, but this is not going to last forever. Getting strawberries in December, you know, in a cold country.....
99. Days are numbered.
100. Our days are numbered.
101. This is the conflict of scientific advancement versus ecological reality.
102. I don’t think its scientific advancement, because I think we could build an enormous space-age incredible planet, where everyone lived in Buckminster domes, and we were all fed and kept warm. You know, its not technology, it’s just capitalism.
102a. But those are different. One is a resignation of an apocalyptic future that is going to happen, and the other a sort of active moving towards another possibility.
103. But we have no choice. I think we've got to the situation where we have no choice about whether or not we are going to lose the strawberries in winter. Most people are going to lose them within the west.
104. But I’m saying that if we changed our lifestyle, because these systems fell apart , we'd have to adapt to that. I'm not sure that's what you are saying, but that's not what I would consider a utopian impulse, thats just resigning yourself. Do we wait until the strawberries go away?
105. That's what's going to happen.
106. Why don’t you start building those domes now, in preparation for the moment where it all collapses
107. That's a good point because there's this big film right now, about Noah, and I guess that's getting us ready for that collapse.
108. But what's the story of Noah? That one family survive, and the animals? Hollywood is obsessed with disaster, its like the world could be fucked as long as your kids are all right.
109. That's not sustainable is it.
110. It's not sustainable.
111. Maybe we’ll wipe out the whole zoo and say it was for conservation, in the name of conservation lets kill all the animals...
112. I’m going to shut up now.
113. What's going to happen after this event with the documentation? Everybody has been taking, is there,...... what comes afterwards?
114. We’re going to go near a wifi-spot, upload it all, and hope for the best. And buy strawberries.
115. While sitting with our Macbooks
116. Are you making a publication?
117. I’m trying not to speak, but there is going to be a publication which I'm hoping is going to develop along similar lines. I mean, I don’t want to be the editor of it because I’m lazy, and I also believe it should happen in another kind of manner. So what Penny is doing with the graphic facilitation here is going to form an important part. One of the things that Neil spoke about was coming up with a template, I don’t want to use templates, but something concrete. Guidelines. What kind of rules, what kind of terms, what kind of words? So I think it's something we need to discuss. I do feel like, going back to Jill’s point about, I completely agree that we spend a lot of time talking about utopia, and it goes back to the Harvey thing, that you have to say what it is at some point. I think this is a necessary part of it, its a part of it I don’t like, I hate working collectively, but I think its the right way.
118. I agree. Yeah. I also said that I am uncomfortable with the decision part, with the killing off, that's something I personally struggle with. And I’ve seen it again, and again after working in this area for a decade now, over and over again people ask me flat out all the time, what is the answer, and I feel very reluctant to make that decision. And I have personally been struggling with why? Is it that I don’t want to personally get rid of possibilities? Is it because I don’t want to be seen as authoritative?
119. You may be seen as authoritative, but not authoritarian, and that's an interesting slip of the tongue, if you think about it. Because you have a certain authority, you have been working with the same material for a along time, you can speak with confidence, with a certain decisiveness. We trust you.
120. I know that, and I don’t feel that you should.
121. I’m just saying that I think its an important part of the project, at some point for things to happen differently. An articulation of difference. And I do think that this event did that, you know, articulated the process.
122. But I think if someone asked you what the alternative is, if they said “what’s the answer?”, you don't have to say “I have the answer”. You can talk about how one might get to an answer.
123. Yeah I’m sure.
124. Whats even more interesting for me, is when people show me the various attempts to get to the answer. I’m really surprised that something we haven’t focused more on; but there's still time, is actual practice. Because when you cite people like Harvey, I think its a very interesting suggestion, but unless there are concrete studies, I think its a missed opportunity because....its just more theory I guess.
125. But that's our work, our work is to do the case studies
126. Great! Where are they?
127. Well it depends where you are looking, if you are looking you can find them.
128. Yeah, but I’m guessing this is what the offering from you folk would be. In contrast to, I should be careful here, but its just interesting that it goes to back to theory,... you have to say what you want. No! surely you have to demonstrate what you want. Or you have to demonstrate a kind of attempt to live differently,.... or something. Does this make sense?
130. I think in the end, case studies are required. Adam and I had this conversation because, I think I tend to self-present as more kind of high theory or something, and that can start to feel like its going to, sort of fly off into space, and one of the ways you can start grounding the thought, is through case studies, something concrete.
131. I think I’m ambivalent
132. Because I come from a literary studies background, I guess I have this 'big other' behind me. I know what the institutional demands are, there has to be some kind of basis in literature, somewhere along the line for me to present this as a viable project. I think I really value theory, it's often downplayed, I remember I went to a practical social sciences seminar one lunch time a couple of months ago, some guy gave this great presentation that was incredibly critical of the Centre for Social Justice - which is Ian Duncan Smiths lobby group that masquerades as a think tank- and I think he used Deleuze, and then immediately someone, the first question, was from this very snazzy dressed gentleman with a very plummy voice who rushed to the defence of The Centre for Social Justice and said “well your French philosopher can say all these abstract things”, and immediately I was like, no, if you don’t have the values behind it, that's what theory does, it gives you a set of values. It's important to take a step back, and I think it is something that artists as well as academics can do, is take a step back and say ‘actually when we think about this what are we doing?' What are the underlying values? And we shouldn’t be snide and use a French philosopher as a derogatory term, in this sort of dog-whistle way, that I felt was incredibly offensive. So no, I think theory has its place.
133. Can I just read something based on the facebook page of this event, this is what they said ‘this is pretentious, and vacuous art world pseudo-hipster leftism, deluso babble at its worse, at the place where I did my MA'.
134. Alright, alright, I wrote it, I wrote it. [laughter]
135. And then it says, and quotes 'the theme of evaluation is to enable critical practice to develop its current research, consensus as its problematic for utopians', does that make sense? Maybe they’ve cut something out? ….'Our evaluative communities,..... and location as we are all interested in being estranged in time and space'. So they've basically quoted our blurb, so you know I didn’t know how to feel about this, sort of flattered, like I'm a hipster now? I live in Finchley, I’m 40 years old, I’m not a hipster, I don’t understand Deleuze, I hate the art world and pseudo hipster leftism, but yeah, this is obviously how this event appears to somebody. And I’m not sure what to think of that, and I don’t know if they are right, or I don’t know, as you say we have to realise the value of art world pseudo hipster leftism deluso babble, and say well actually within that we find useful spaces and values. And so defend that or, I’m just not sure.....
136. If we are going to try and rehabilitate concepts like utopia, we have to also, you know, we have to defend the process whereby we rehabilitate concepts like utopia. There is a lot of pretentious crap that masquerades as art, and a lot of pretentious crap that masquerades as theory, and academia, its the inherent risks of what we do I think. And I guess, we have all sat through events where we'd say, what a lot pseudo leftist hipster delsuo babble.
137. Can I just put in a comment about this event, which I have to say I really enjoyed, because I never really get to do stuff like this, and I think this is the most exciting thing about Utopographies. And its not a [noise], I mean I have actually enjoyed it very much, but it seems, and I think this is where you started the conversation about people dominating, and I am sure I am one of those people, but no, I’m not insulted by that. I think you are absolutely right, I think it's fascinating that there is all this great construction happening, artistic things in different mediums, and a lot of making. Right, and then there are the more academic types, of which I am one, and we are sort of talking and theorising and I think we both have a lot to give to each other. Thats the practice idea. But I do think they are kind of two very separate strands, strands that are operating differently. They are meeting because we are all in this space, but they are not informing each other or colliding as much as maybe they could. Because I feel there could be so much I learn from this, and I assume, I hope that there is something more theoretical, not to say art is not theory, that we could all bring,.... But it seems that it's just two parallel strands happening, even though they are happening in the same space and time, does that make sense to anybody, or is that just my.....I’m curious.
138. That's a very interesting observation , but again why are they parallel strands? Why is that?
139. I don’t know, that's why I’m curious.
140. That's not really how I'm experiencing it, part of it is the great difficulty, to articulate, and that seems to be a part of this...
141. Well I just wonder what you'd feel if you had more experience of life, you know, ongoing discussions about theory that happen, in an art school environment, like all the time.
142. Because its not that we are not doing it, or not talking about it. We talk about it every single day, but yeah I think its, I don’t know, I'll shut up. I’m not going to say another single word.
143. I’m lucky enough to have participated in the workshops that evolved the structure, and in thinking about what this event should be like. I was involved in the building of the thing, and able to participate in this event, and I think that's special, because I don’t sense those distinctions. The fabrication of the event and the event itself are very closely meshed.
144. Yeah, I felt that when I was participating in threading the structure. I just want to say it wasn’t a comment on the art, I actually think, probably again and this is from the outside, that art, you know the discussion on theory and practice, that this is actually much more enmeshed in what you do. I felt very strongly, and again this is a personal reflection, and I’m just sort of babbling, that this, this type of making is actually so removed from my daily life and that's something I regret. So I was feeling more, how could I bring that making, you know that creative process, not that writing and thinking is not creative, but it's a very different type of process, and I would like to see more of what you guys do on a daily basis, brought into what is maybe a more traditional literary academic environment. And I don’t know how to do that......
145. There's something I agree with, what that guy says, and yet if we look around now, this is a supposedly public event, and hardly any members of the are here. Its only us that are involved in the project.
146. We are the public
147. Well yes, we are the public. But this is already a discussion we are having between us, and we discussed this discussion, and we discuss things between us,...... anyway, this is what I found right, like, there needs to be this type of repetition, and such projects are totally divorced from what's happening outside.
148. Sounds like academic bad conscience to me.
149. Yes, well no. But in many cases, what we are discussing, there is no-one from outside the circle.
150. If you quote Deleuze, and start doing his stuff, alright, look what happens in this circle. People get accused of like empty theory, or babble. Imagine what is going to happen if you go out there, [points outside] where someone is worried about how they are going to feed their kids. They’re not going to want to engage with your comment.
151. Why not?
152. Why should they, why should they
153. People might accuse you of being a loon, but they'll listen to what you have to say.
154. I don’t see why it's a zero sum game.
156. I don’t see why it is a zero sum game, I don’t see why its this, or that.
157. No I’m not saying, I'm saying 1818this lack of engagement, this is why people come up with such comments, I mean I like......
158. I don’t think that's why they come up with those comments.
159. I’m acting as a chair, I’m sorry but your hour is up.
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