Imre Szeman

Banff Research in Culture 2014

Distributed Intimacies

Program dates: May 26-June 13, 2014

Application deadline: December 1, 2020

Application Information for Banff Research in Culture 2014: TBA

Banff Research in Culture (BRiC) is a research residency program designed for scholars engaged in advanced theoretical research on themes and topics in culture. BRiC is designed to offer researchers with similar interests from different disciplinary and professional backgrounds an opportunity to exchange opinions and ideas. Participants are encouraged to develop new research, artistic, editorial, and authorial projects, both individually and in connection with others.

During the residency, participants will attend lectures, seminars, and workshops offered by visiting faculty from around the world. The residency will help to develop new approaches toward the study and analysis of culture, as well as creating lasting networks of scholars who might use this opportunity as the basis for future collaborative work.

The Banff Centre is a world-renowned facility supporting the creation and performance of new works of visual art, music, dance, theatre, and writing.

BRiC is funded by The Banff Centre, Canada Research Chair in Cultural Studies, Faculty of Arts, University of Alberta and the Office of the Vice-President (Research), University of Alberta.

Distributed Intimacies


Lauren Berlant
Francisco Camacho
Wendy Hui Kyong Chun


Intimacy describes our relations with those people, places, creatures, and things to which we feel the deepest, most powerful or most abiding connections. The multiple ways in which we experience intimacy today draw attention to the complex patterning of closeness and distance that has always unconsciously structured our cultural, social and political practices. There have long been forms of distant intimacy—staying ‘in touch’ via the drama of epistolary exchanges or through sound waves emanating from a telephone—but recent technological developments, increased travel, the expansion of migration and immigration, and instantaneous virtual communication are fundamentally reshaping our understanding and experience of the proximity of bodies, sentiments, and ideas. Social networking and the democratization of modes of communication and media have had a profound significance for the experience of community, collectivity, and affinities; at every level, from the family to the nation, our sense of belonging is being redefined in ways that affect our daily experience but remain difficult to comprehend.

One can see evidence of the new distribution of intimacy everywhere: in the immediacy of a rock concert, one witnesses people en masse recording the spectacle for friends not present; on public transit around the world, passengers make connections to different elsewheres via newspapers, music, text messages, and mobile phone calls; and in political protests (as evidenced by the Arab Spring and recent dissent in Turkey), which have been reshaped by the use of technologies that are, for a new generation, part and parcel of everyday life. Intimacies of friendship, collectivity, love and belonging are being substantially redefined through the devices in our hands and a global infrastructure that supports instantaneous sharing.

Banff Research in Culture (BRiC) 2014 will investigate the cultural, social, and political repercussions of “distributed intimacies”—the processes and outcomes of new forms of mediation that have reshaped how we relate to one another, imagine ourselves as parts of groups, and constitute communities. Given the fractal character of our subjectivity—the ways in which we are necessarily the outcome of networks of intersubjective relations, experiences, and concepts—how are our intimacies constituted by the ways we live? What are the modes and machines by which intimacies are distributed, and what determines their intensities? How does the global distribution of goods, ideas and affects across oceans and continents shape forms of intimacy, belonging and community? What forms of intimacy feel inescapable? What impedes intimacy from flourishing? Are local scenes and forms of collectivity (e.g., non-traditional families, polyamory, activist movements, alternative forms of political practice) enabled by new forms of distributed intimacies? In what ways do contemporary cultural and art practices participate in the distribution of intimacy? To what extent are our intimacies are segmented, remote-controlled, and apportioned, and can we redefine these distributions without lapsing into a nostalgic primitivism? Finally, what does distributed intimacy imply for social change as well as for the politics of shaping one’s own self in relation to others?

We look forward to receiving compelling and original project proposals from thinkers and creators working on a wide range of projects.


Lauren Berlant is George M. Pullman Professor of English at the University of Chicago. Her national sentimentality trilogy — The Anatomy of National Fantasy (1991), The Queen of America Goes to Washington City (1997), and The Female Complaint (2008) — morphed into quartet with her celebrated book, Cruel Optimism (2011), on precarious publics and the aesthetics of affective adjustment in the U.S. and Europe. A co-editor of Critical Inquiry, she is also editor of Intimacy (2000), Our Monica, Ourselves: The Clinton Affair and the National Interest (2001), Compassion: the Culture and Politics of an Emotion (2004), and On the Case (Critical Inquiry, 2007).

Francisco Camacho was born in 1983 in Bogota, and lives and works in Amsterdam. He received a BFA from the Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogota, in 2003, and was a research fellow at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam in 2008-2009. Camacho’s politically engaged projects, which can be viewed as forms of activism or social discourse, have been presented in numerous solo and group exhibitions internationally, notably at the 2007 Biennale de Québec and the 2008 Brussels Biennial. In 2009 Camacho performed his ongoing project Group Marriage at SKOR in Amsterdam, as part of Manifestatie Spinoza. Other projects include record-breaking feats in The Guinness World Book of Records, and Truth Monument, a video and sculpture created with the inhabitants of a town in New Mexico, now on permanent display at the Geronimo Springs Museum. His solo exhibition Entkustung de l’art was presented at Casino Luxembourg – Forum d’art contemporain, where he was a resident artist in 2010. In 2011 Camacho completed an intervention as part of 12 Gestures, a project initiated by The Public School, Los Angeles, and the Kadist Art Foundation, Paris. Also in 2011, he created a community-based project for the Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven.

Wendy Hui Kyong Chun is Professor of Modern Culture and Media at Brown University. She has studied both Systems Design Engineering and English Literature, which she combines and mutates in her current work on digital media. She is author of Control and Freedom: Power and Paranoia in the Age of Fiber Optics (2006), and Programmed Visions: Software and Memory (2011); she is co-editor (with Lynne Joyrich) of a special issue of Camera Obscura entitled “Race and/as Technology” and co-editor (with Thomas Keenan) of New Media, Old Media: A History and Theory Reader (2005). She is currently a Member of the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton), she has been a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard and a Wriston Fellow at Brown, as well as a visiting associate professor in the History of Science Department at Harvard. She is currently working on a monograph entitled Imagined Networks.