Imre Szeman

Banff Research in Culture 2011

Organizer builds BRiC anew each year

Article in Canadian Art

The Banff Summer Residency for Research in Culture (BRiC) is organized around a thematic focus that changes from year to year. Graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, junior faculty, activists, writers and practicing artists from around the world will convene at The Banff Centre to pursue their work for three weeks each spring/summer.

As a residency program, BRiC is designed to allow participants to devote an extended period of time on their own research in the company of others with similar interests. In addition to giving researchers from different disciplinary and professional backgrounds an opportunity to exchange opinions and ideas, it is hoped that participants will develop new artistic, editorial, authorial, collective projects during their time at Banff, both individually and in connection with others.

During the residency, participants will be able to attend lectures, seminars, and workshops offered by visiting faculty from around the world, each of whom will stay at Banff for a week or more and be available to discuss projects and ideas. Participants will also be encouraged to present their work to their colleagues through readings, talks, and presentations held over the course of the program. 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 held in conjunction with the annual Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music and visual arts residencies, which will give participants an opportunity to attend cutting-edge musical performances and exhibits while at Banff.

Banff Research in Culture 1: May 8-28, 2011

On the Commons; or, Believing-Feeling-Acting Together

Organizers: Imre Szeman and Heather Zwicker (University of Alberta)
Guest Faculty: Lauren Berlant, Michael Hardt, Pedro Reyes

Link to Information on Lectures by Lauren Berlant, Michael Hardt and Pedro Reyes

Lauren Berlant is George M. Pullman Professor of English at the University of Chicago, and author most recently of The Female Complaint: On the Unfinished Business of Sentimentality in American Culture (2008). Michael Hardt is Professor of Literature at Duke University, and author of a ground-breaking trilogy of books with Antonio Negri (Empire, Multitude and Commonwealth), among other works. Pedro Reyes is an artist based in Mexico City, who has had recent exhibitions at the Seattle Art Museum, Yvon Lambert Gallery (NYC) and Harvard University, among other sites.

The commons has emerged as one of the key concepts around which social, political and cultural demands are being articulated and theorized today. Harkening back to the displacement of people from shared communal spaces and their transformation from public into private property-a central act in the development of European capitalism in the 18th and 19th centuries—the commons insists on the fundamentally shared character of social life: that everything from language to education, from nature to our genetic inheritance, belongs irreducibly to all of us. As an increasingly rapacious capitalism draws ever more elements of social life into its profit logic and renders seemingly every activity and value into a commodity, thinking with and through the commons has become an important means of generating conceptual and political resistance to the multiple new forms of enclosure that continue to take place today, and which need to be confronted and challenged forcefully and directly.

The commons is a concept used in analyses and interventions in popular culture, art, new media, political philosophy, social theory, law, literary studies, and more. The ease with which neoliberal ideology-which celebrates the supposed rationality of privatization and has managed to transform taxation into an act feared above all else-has become embedded in the beliefs and lived structures of everyday life demands an intensive examination of how and why we have come to prefer enclosure to the commons in almost every area of social life. Just as importantly, it also requires us to investigate and invent new ways of being-in-common-ways of believing, feeling and acting together, of creating the commons that seem everywhere to be receding from view. The aim of this year’s Banff Summer Residency for Research in Culture is to give scholars, cultural producers and artists an opportunity to explore how we believe, feel and act together, and the ways in which we are prevented from doing so. How might we shape new collectivities and communities? What are the capacities and dispositions essential to producing new ways of being? What lessons can we learn from history as well as contemporary struggles over the commons (from challenges to intellectual property to indigenous struggles)? What concepts and vocabularies might we develop to aid our critical and conceptual work with respect to the commons (e.g., Alain Badiou’s revival of communism or Jacque Rancière’s reconfiguration of equality and democracy)? How does artistic and cultural production participate in the production of new collectivities and defense of the commons? Where do we go from here-a moment in which neoliberalism seems to have stumbled and lost its forward momentum? We welcome projects dealing with the full range of issues and topics related to being-believing-feeling-acting together today.