Meg R. Jackson: Insights from Group A – Collective Movement and Border Crossing
Participants of the Winter Academy were divided into small groups (A, B, C) to discuss their research. Megan Jackson, a Ph.D. candidate in Contemporary Art and Theory at the University of Arizona, shares insights from her Group A. Megan’s dissertation project, “Running Bodies: Contemporary Art’s Histories,” explores images of the accelerated human body since modernity and the role of movement in contemporary history- and art-making.
Particular themes continue to elbow their way into the engaging discussions we have shared during the Winter Academy: collectivity, movement, and collective movement. The term “collective” seems to sit more comfortably right now than does “public” or “public sphere.” In one part, this discomfit may be as result of the (necessary) skepticism of any appropriation of Western theoretical paradigms for social and political contexts from which those paradigms did not organically emerge. In another, the dominant concern with the collective, at times more specifically with collective action, is a (also necessary) product of contemporary circumstances, in the squares of Ukraine, in the re-negotiated spaces in the Balkans, in the suturing projects (civil, historical, z.B.) in Post-Soviet societies. And then, there is the tug-of-war between processes: local + national (or + global), periphery + center, individual + collective, “underlying”+”events”. The “plus” sign between the twos are to indicate a shift beyond simple binaries of these processes and to point to a far more complex, multi-dimensionality of these processes, or identities even. I cannot help but wonder if such themes are not only description driven, but are they prescription driven, too? And if they are indeed prescription driven, what should be the role or responsibility of the intellectual (or media) in grassroots civil activity? Where are the most fertile fields for our discourse? A statement made during the Berliner Seminar was striking in this regard: we must consider the effects of certain frameworks we construct and the agency of any subject.
“Movement” I use to refer simultaneously to a body practice and practices of bodies, to aesthetics and to politics and even to traveling concepts. The body moving in a space and in relationship to others signals self-expression, ideological articulation, embodied knowledge and community attitude. Body movements performed in the arts, I venture to propose, can act as a blank canvas, a basis for experiment and practice with regards to everyday reality, political action or re-action, alternative historical practices. If, at the fundamental level, as was argued by Jacques Rancière, politics are aesthetics, then the arts are fundamental in understanding the State, society, and the relationship between the two. Indeed, we struggle with our inherited histories in very real ways, and I do mean this in the universal “we” or meta-“we.” Grappling with such a struggle requires creative projects or a new “grammar” that attend to the emotional as much as it does the cognitive. This attention to emotions or passions, as we have discussed this week, is a trans-regional and trans-disciplinary interest (social sciences, political science, and various modes of histories, too).
To reference one’s region is a combination of intellectual interest and personal experience, so it is understandable — necessary, even — to illustrate loftier theory with everyday examples. While a hopeless lover of critical theory, I am still convinced that such terminologies as “post-colonialism” or “public sphere,” without specific examples, gives those discursive constructs a higher pedestal than deserved. Group A consisted of scholars from Ukraine, Germany, Romania, Slovenia, Israel, and the U.S.A. (I hope I have not forgotten one, and if so, very sorry!). While we each made reference to specific knowledges or regions, we also had very productive discussions about our respective projects, conceptual frameworks, research methodologies, and “beyond.” The conversation was not so steeped in our subjectivities, but rather it took on a dimension of generous insights and critical questioning between scholars who mutually share a curiosity in history and in aesthetics. This was perhaps one of the best examples of trans-disciplinary, trans-regional exchanges with which I have participated. Such dynamic and thoughtful exchanges are extremely valuable, professionally and personally. I appreciate this experience, very much.