Questioning Knowledge: Curating Dialogue, Uncertainty and the Unknown

When: Friday May 12th 2017 (10am – 3:30pm)
Where: CaPSL (Concordia University, LB Building 671)

This one-day event will be a collaborative investigation into epistemologies of curation and exhibition which problematize traditional accounts of knowledge exchange (for example, the notion that curated ideas or concepts are established, justified, and true) and instead offer a multivalent and perhaps messier framework of knowledge that thinks through the exhibition encounter as multiplicitous, dialogical, uncertain, and somewhat undetermined.

10:00am Reception (bagels & coffee)
1st Panel – Alternate Exhibition Strategies
10:30am Emilie St. Hilaire
Exhibition fictions: storytelling, world-building, and truth
11:00am David Szanto
Curating Food: Instabilities in gastronomic exhibition and performance
2nd Panel – Institutions?
12:30pm Cécile Martin
Bauhaus in Montreal: a celebration of .re-emergence
1:00pm Fern Thompsett
“Should we burn the building down?” – Free universities & the politics of ephemeral uncertainty
3nd Panel – Dialogue
1:45pm Kay Rollans
Merleau-Ponty and Dialogical Metaphor: Communication in a Living World
2:15pm Aaron Finbloom
Guided Reading & Discussion of Claire Bishop’s “The Social Turn in Art: Collaboration and Its Discontents.”
3:00pm Concluding Remarks
Abstracts / Bios
Exhibition fictions: storytelling, world-building, and truth
by Emilie St. Hilaire
Speculative design exhibitions propose alternative conceptions of how we live socially, ecologically, with animals, and with non-human entities. Our Transgenic Future is proposed as an exhibition which will consider the real possibilities afforded by current scientific developments using CRISPR technology. Real aspects of synthetic biology and genetics will be presented to viewers through pedagogical materials similar to what one might find in a modern science museum but these facts will co-exist alongside a fictional history which invites viewers to reflect upon what happened when transgenic hybrid animals bred for xenotransplantation were kept as pets.

Bio:   Emilie St. Hilaire is an interdisciplinary artist currently pursuing doctoral studies in the Humanities at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. Emilie has exhibited her work at galleries and festivals nationally and internationally, and has received grants and awards from organizations including the Canada Council for the Arts, the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, and the Edmonton Arts Council. In 2015 Emilie was one of only two artists from North America selected to attend the WARP Contemporary Art PlatformInternational Artist Village at the Brugge Triennale (Bruges, Belgium). In 2016 some of Emilie’s recent work toured Western Canada with stops in Winnipeg, Saskatoon, and Edmonton.

Curating Food: Instabilities in gastronomic exhibition and performance
By David Szanto
As food is increasingly deployed within artistic practice, new complexities are appearing among the relationships of makers, media, audiences, curators, and presentation spaces.  This presentation/discussion will unpack three cases of curated food art, including the uncertain outcomes of mediating and framing food’s inherent instability. The feeding robot Orchestrer la perte/Perpetual Demotion demonstrates the surprising performativities of a museum installation. The Canadian Association for Food Studies’ “Exploration Gallery,” an annual pop-up exhibition, implicates the painful politics between art and academic legitimacy. And a collaborative eating performance, the Portland Heritage Recipe Slam, shows how letting go of curatorial control creates unexpected and very tasty outcomes.
Bio:  David Szanto is a researcher, artist, and teacher, taking an experimental approach to food scholarship through design, ecosophy, and performativity. From 2007 to 2017, he worked for Italy’s University of Gastronomic Sciences, most recently as professor-at-large and director of the Eco-Gastronomy Project, an international knowledge-exchange initiative about foodways and food systems. Past projects include collaborations with digital and robotics artists to examine socio-technical hybridities, curatorial work at the intersection of academia, art, and activism, and food performances that explore belonging, representation, and human-microbial dynamics. Published works include articles and chapters on food-centered research-creation, performance-based research methods, collaboration in systems visualization, emotionality in academia, and the human-material-linguistic ecologies of food milieus. He lives in Montreal, Québec, Canada.
Bauhaus in Montreal: a celebration of .re-emergence
by Cécile Martin
In 2019 will be celebrated, the 100th year of foundation of the Bauhaus. Bauhaus-MTL (which I have co-founded, and I am co-directing) endeavors to contribute to  this anniversary.  What can be the meaning of such a project in relation to the Bauhaus: in revising its inheritance, but also in contributing to the pertinence and update of the values and practices of this school, in regard to contemporary issues and urgencies? How does a project in Montreal position itself within the worldwide celebrations of the Bauhaus? Why Montreal? What can be singularly contributed? What site should be chosen? What partners? What should be presented in such a context? What is the temporal unfolding of the celebration? What would be meaningful in the perspective of a celebration but mostly lastingly for the local community?
This talk considers Bauhaus-MTL’s curatorial contributions in relation to both uncertainty and dialogue.  Uncertainty as the motor in encompassing of all: of tensions, loud affirmations, total silences and creative reinventions, a cohabitation of opposites, defining a dance of renewable dynamics. And dialogue is an obligation to anyone entering this space of experience, anyone attracted by the desire to experience, to enter a utopian space, seemingly impossible, timeless and spatially unscalable.
Bio:  Cécile Martin holds a Master in Architecture (MArch). She is a multi-disciplinary artist, and curator of media arts and architecture based in Montreal (Canada). She teaches at the School of Design of the Université du Québec in Montreal as well as at Concordia University in Design & Computation Arts. She directed for 7 years the international biennale Champ Libre Cécile Martin is a Humanities PhD Student at Concordia University (Montréal) with advisors Chris Salter, Orit Halpern and Brian Massumi, a Student and Executive Member of Hexagram International Network for Research-Creation in Media Arts, Design, Technology and Digital Culture, and is a member of the Speculative Life Cluster research group, as part ofMilieux Institute for Arts, Culture and Technology, Concordia University.

“Should we burn the building down?” 

Free universities & the politics of ephemeral uncertainty
By Fern Thompsett

“What exactly are we doing? To some degree, we don’t know. And it is useful and good that we don’t know” (David Brazil, organizer of the Bay Area Public School, interview 2014). Anarchist free universities mobilize study against capitalism in a number of ways—one of the most interesting being in the (often ephemeral) spaces they carve out and dedicate to learning ‘for its own sake’. But what are the more complex politics evoked by this sort of study, and by the transient temporalities of these projects themselves? Are activists radical world re-makers or dilettantes in disguise? Are they throwing spanners in Capital’s works, or unwittingly greasing its wheels? This workshop will combine participants’ perspectives with those drawn from dozens of interviews with free university organizers across North America to explore the political implications of ‘a-teleological’ study, movement ‘mortality’, and alternative, emancipatory (re)conceptions of ‘failure’.

Bio: Fern Thompsett is a PhD student in anthropology, studying anarchism and radical environmental activism. Before re-entering university, she was a co-founder and organiser of the Brisbane Free University in Australia. During this time, she conducted freelance research with around 25 other free universities and free skools across the USA, Canada and Mexico. Throughout all of her research and activism, she remains fascinated by political paradoxes, and how we might think differently about failure and mortality.

Merleau-Ponty and Dialogical Metaphor: Communication in a Living World
by Kay Rollans
In lived dialogue, it is more than the words that count. A dialogue is rhythmic, articulated through gesture, punctuated by pauses and sighs, outbursts and laughs. But what is it that we actually know, or come to knowin and through these non-verbal interactions? Can they be said to be known at all? I will examine these questions through the concept of metaphor as a space of “silent understanding.” Metaphor will be fleshed out with the Merleau-Pontian concept of reversibility, and will be put forward as an alternative to the Kantian-inflected understanding that grasps, and rather as a dialogical understanding that feels, and that feels beyond the bounds of human dialogue.
This investigation can inform the study and practice of curation by opening the door to studying more closely the dialogical relation of the curator to the works they curate, and the dialogical teaching/learning relation between the curator and the audiences for whom they curate.
Bio:  Kay Rollans completed her undergraduate degree in philosophy at the University of Alberta. She is currently a graduate student in the Philosophy Department at Concordia University and editor of Gnosis Journal of Philosophy. Her interests include philosophy of language, phenomenology, with her current projects focusing on the ontological implications of metaphor. Beyond the constrains of academic philosophy, she invests her time in music, improvised comedy, and getting out of the city as much as possible.
Guided Reading & Discussion of Claire Bishop’s “The Social Turn in Art: Collaboration and Its Discontents.”
by Aaron Finbloom
Claire Bishop’s “The Social Turn in Art: Collaboration and Its Discontents” provides an amazing analysis and critique of social-practice art and works of relational aesthetics that attempt to create dialogical spaces within an exhibition setting.  This guided reading and discussion will attempt to highlight some key issues within this text and deepen their consideration.
Bio:  Aaron Finbloom is a philosopher, performance artist, musician and co-founder of The School of Making Thinking (SMT), an artist/thinker residency program and experimental college. Much of his work involves re-kindling the connection between the philosophical and the performative by creating quasi-structured conversations through games, improvisational scores, booklets, audio guides, dance maps, theatrical lectures, existential therapy and philosophic rituals. Finbloom has taught philosophy at Suffolk County Community College, curated dozens of courses playing with radical pedagogy for SMT, and led numerous interactive workshops at places which include: EMERGE Residency Program, The Performance Philosophy Conference, Elsewhere, and Milk Bar. Finbloom holds an M.A. in Philosophy and Art from SUNY Stony Brook and currently working towards his PhD at Concordia University’s Interdisciplinary Humanities program.