Making Research: Materiality, Creativity, and Intermediation
Saturday, March 14, 2015 8:45am – 5:00pm
Intermedia Research Studio, Department of Sociology, University of Alberta (Tory 1-063)
This one-day symposium explores the intersections of creative practices and scholarly work. It aims to examine how a vast range of genres and media create capacities for innovative approaches to research processes, the sharing of findings, and theorizing. Fundamentally, the symposium responds to the now long unfolding crisis of representation, only deepened by innumerable contemporary social crises, including that of the university itself.
We wish to interrogate the cultural politics of representation, as well as our assumptions about and relationships with audiences, publics, readers, users, stakeholders, constituencies, etc. To do so, the symposium provides a venue for critical discussions on traditional hierarchies of knowledge production and consumption. It encourages an investigation of scholarly work that crosses disciplinary boundaries, as well as modes of inquiry that range from amateur to expert making.
We envision the scope of the symposium to be broad as it seeks to create opportunities for exchanges between scholars from diverse disciplinary backgrounds. During the symposium, we wish to solidify existing relationships and establish new ones with the intent of planning collaborative projects, including possibly drafting grant applications.
We would like to thank the Population Research Lab, the Department of Sociology (Pam Minty), and Rob Shields for their contributions to this event.
Sourayan Mookerjea, Director Intermedia Research Studio
Anne Winkler, Research Fellow Intermedia Research Studio
8:45am – 9:00am
Sourayan Mookerjea, Director – IRS
9:00am – 10:00am
The Politics of Pedagogy
Kim Mair “Participatory Classrooms and Distributed Expertise: Breaking Down Pedagogical Norms or Creatively Regulating Neoliberal Subjectivities?”
Leslie Robinson “Framed by Modernity: Exposing Coloniality in Art / Art Education”
10:00am – 10:15am
Coffee / Tea Break
10:15am – 11:15am
Dramaturgy as Process of Inquiry
Diane Conrad “Athabasca’s Going Unmanned: An Ethnodrama about Applied Theatre Research with Incarcerated Youth”
Donia Mounsef “The Intermedialist Actor: Materiality and Mediaturgy in the Performing Arts”
11:15am – 11:45am
Spaciality, Nature and Meaning
Rob Shields “Bare Nature”
11:45am – 12:30pm
12:30pm – 1:45pm
Exhibitions as Processes of Inquiry
Nina Muster “Exhibit Curation as an Experimental Research Design”
Liz Lawson, Ondine Park, Elena Siemens & Anne Winkler “Exhibitions as Processes of Inquiry”
1:45pm – 2:45pm
Bozhin Traykov “Superman vs. Alyosha: War of Positions around Representations of the Past and Present in Post-Socialist Bulgaria”
Natalie Loveless “Research-Creation as Interdisciplinary Method”
2:45 – 3:00
Coffee / Tea Break
3:00 – 3:30pm
Past Presencing & Material Transformations
Allen Ball “St. Mark’s Church – Through a Window: The Gift of Photography”
3:30 – 5:00
Contributors & Presentation Abstracts
PhD Student, Sociology, University of Alberta
Associate Professor of Fine Arts, University of Alberta
St. Mark’s Church – Through a Window: The Gift of Photography
This paper traces the psychic peregrination of a gift of four Kodak Kodachrome slide transparencies given to me by my brother Anthony in 1975. The now faded, double-exposed, distressed and dusty slides are the only artefacts that survived my childhood. The slides depict St. Mark’s Church, as seen from across Kennington Park at 70 St. Agnes Place, London, from the window of a room in a house that no longer exists. The analogue images captured on these slides were digitized and printed onto canvas to form the ground of my most recent series of paintings, St. Mark’s Church – Through a Window. Here, I interrogate the displaced memories and memorialization evoked by these distorted images.
Associate Professor of Drama/Theatre Education, University of Alberta
Athabasca’s Going Unmanned: An Ethnodrama about Applied Theatre Research with Incarcerated Youth
Athabasca’s Going Unmanned, a research-based play written by Dr. Diane Conrad, is set in a youth offender jail in Alberta, Canada and tells the story of three incarcerated youth and the corrections staff who work with them. The story centres on an escape plot hatched by the inmates and ultimately examines the needs of incarcerated youth and the prospects for offering them programming with transformative potential.
Following three years of applied theatre research with young inmates, as a part of their extra-curricular Native program at a local youth offender facility, the culmination of this SSHRC funded research was the writing of play or ethnodrama. An objective of the research was to explore the transformative potential that drama could have in the lives of the youth. The play is a fictionalized account of Conrad’s research experience. It illuminates the experiences of youth at odds with our criminal justice system and addresses a range of issues with sociological, criminal justice, policy and educational implications including issues of systemic racism within the justice system.
The play was produced at the University of Alberta in 2010 with the Canadian Centre for Theatre Creation, Department of Drama and published by Sense Publishers in 2012.
Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Lethbridge
Tutor of Art History & Cultural Studies and History, Athabasca University; Contract Instructor of Art History, MacEwan University
Natalie S. Loveless
Assistant Professor of Contemporary Art and Theory, University of Alberta
Research-Creation as Interdisciplinary Method
Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Lethbridge
Participatory Classrooms and Distributed Expertise: Breaking Down Pedagogical Norms or Creatively Regulating Neoliberal Subjectivities?
My presentation addresses troubling political questions to new pedagogies that are consistent with the emergent norms of Web 2.0 Culture and its “central cultural logic” of sharing (Shifman, 2014:19), by drawing observations from a course, institutionally titled “Digital Culture and Society”, that I designed and piloted in Fall 2014.
My course was designed with a thematic focus on Participatory Culture in Web 2.0 Culture,1 following Henry Jenkins’ work in both of its streams: fandom studies and the participatory classroom’s collaborative model of knowledge production known as distributed expertise (Jenkins et al 2013). The course itself was participatory in its inverted format and in the coursework. Mirroring the conceptual content of the course, students engaged directly in creative fan culture production in collaborative groups online and face-to-face in the classroom over a period of three months. Evaluation was primarily process-based and encouraged routine practice of the principles of a participatory culture. Many of these principles are observed in fandoms, including informal mentorship, social connectivity, and the participants’ mutual performance of appreciation for their own and others’ contributions.2
The creative modes of course delivery I was using presented inherent contradictions. While the pedagogical practices associated with distributed expertise and participatory collaboration break down the norms and forms of authority operative in the conventional classroom, they also appear to contribute to the regulation of subjectivity in preparation for entrenching flexible labour arrangements. As with the allegorithmic regulation that Steve Holmes (2014) observes in bitcoin mining, these new pedagogies creatively blur the lines between leisure and labour. Additionally, the participatory principles of social connectivity and mutual valuing of contributions make affect an integral aspect of the emergent flexible immaterial labourer.
Although there are parallels between them, the concepts of Participatory Culture and Web 2.0 Culture signal distinct processes, entities, and values.
Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Alberta
Associate Professor of Drama, University of Alberta
The Intermedialist Actor: Materiality and Mediaturgy in the Performing Arts
New hybrid forms of intermedial theatre problematize the nature of embodiment for the actor, initiating the undoing of normalized biopolitical categories of gender, sex, race, class, and ability. This paper looks at what happens to the body when the assumption of liveness is challenged by various forms of mediatization in contemporary performance practices. Analyzing the complex interdependence of mediation and the rituals of embodiment in contemporary intermedial theatre, this presentation asks a number of questions: Can we continue to speak of embodiment in the theatre when the body is no longer defined by its material conditions? What is acting across media, in actual and virtual environments? Does the “intermedialist” actor need to play the text in different ways when assumptions of centrality, liveness and presence are no longer stable? Can this post-human body assume a political position as it negotiates its way in non-traditional, immersive and virtualized environments? Do we need a new type of literacy and dramaturgy (“mediaturgy”) to apprehend embodied interactions in a fast changing theatre and media landscapes?
MA Candidate, Sociology, University of Alberta
Exhibit Curation as an Experimental Research Design
(Re)Markable Time and Alleyways: Patchwork Capillaries of Urban Living are two exhibits I curated in 2014 at the Intermedia Research Studio. (Re)Markable Time explored the concepts of calendars, their societal influences, and their connection to religious practices. Alleyways: Patchwork Capillaries of Urban Living captured individuals’ experiences, uses, and relationships with alleyways.
My research interest lies in the production, use, and transformation of spaces in relation to time. The Intermedia Research Studio provided me with the opportunity to use exhibit curation as a method to develop and/or answer valuable research questions concerning my specific research interest. I invited submissions for the two exhibits and received projects from a range of individuals with both university affiliations and no affiliations. Those who had university affiliations came from different disciplines, such as, sociology, modern language and cultural studies, anthropology, history, and art and design. Therefore, I was able to collect a variety of diverse perspectives creating unique dialogues that traversed disciplinary boundaries. Furthermore, these submissions provided me with valuable research data.
Due to my experiences in curating exhibits, I became interested in working towards a qualitative approach in which exhibit curation plays a central role. In this presentation, I draw on the above-mentioned experimentation and explore exhibit curation as a research design that allows collecting research data across different disciplines, opens a platform for developing important research questions, and challenges the traditional format of representing research.
Contract Instructor of Sociology, MacEwan University
PhD Candidate, Secondary Education, University of Alberta
Framed by Modernity: Exposing Coloniality in Art / Art Education
Professor and Henry Marshall Tory Chair, University of Alberta
In Philosophy of Landscape, Georg Simmel contrasts ‘landscape’ as a socially regular, selective set of perceptions to the raw material of ‘bare nature’ (2007 ). Sacred, beautiful, whole in itself and yet integrated with the individual, landscape stands as a significant intersection of the sociology of art, the environment, religion and individuation. The historicity of the concept ties it to modernity. Simmel uses this study to launch his critical project on the unity of humanity and nature within the all-pervading Life that continuously creates, sustains and reforms them, against the objectification of spirit.
Simmel’s text, which we have translated in Theory Culture and Society, is undoubtedly an inspiration for the recent work of Agamben on ‘bare life’ (1998 ), despite the identification of Walter Benjamin’s 1921 (1996) essay Critique of Violence as the source of the concept of ‘bare life’ or ‘naked life’ (zoe) – the mere fact of existing that the State seizes hold of as a ground against which to define the polity and those subject to Law.
In the sites of resource extraction, landscape and nature is reduced to a form of non-human bare life. This paper explores bare nature — life reduced to the caloric lure of the capacity of raw hydrocarbon bearing sands and shales (Shields 2012; Arnold 2014). Reduced to its energy capacity the supplmentarity of values – nature as beauty, for example or as a complex ecosystem including other forms of animate life including the human – is repressed. This form of natural bare life can be consumed without responsibility for the collateral damage to these repressed aspects of the ecosystem. This crude resource status emphasizing the raw caloric capacity of hydrocarbons could be called ‘bare nature’. ‘Place’ may literally be consumed by being dug up and strip mined in resource extraction – a disruption for decades of flora, fauna and any habitation before meaningful remediation and renewal of the local biosphere is possible.
In this manner, denial of any relation is spatialized onto the land. This is true despite the increasing human and social dependency on resources extracted in the most crude manner. This exclusion deprives the site of bare nature of participation in semiotic systems which give meaning except as an other to the spaces of everyday life whose humanity is augmented. The landscape without meaning or semiotic form is technically monstrous. This may explain the typical reaction to this absolutely excluded element of the spatialization of nature which is one of horror.
Agamben. Giorgio 1998. Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Translated by Daniel Heller-Roazen. Stanford, Calif. Originally published as Homo sacer (Torino. 1995).
Arnold, Jobb. 2014. Bare Nature – Industrial Development and Ontological Destruction Space and Culture Online www.spaceandculture.com/2014/12/25/bare-nature-industrial-development-and-ontological-destruction
Benjamin, Walter 1996. Selected Writings. Vol. 1. Edited by Marcus Bullock and Michael W.Jennings Cambridge. Mass.
Shields, Rob 2012. ‘Feral suburbs: Cultural topologies of social reproduction, Fort McMurray, Canada’, International Journal of Cultural Studies Volume 15:3 (May) 2012. pp.205-215.
Simmel, Georg. 2007  The Philosophy of Landscape Theory Culture Society 2007 24: 20. DOI: 10.1177/0263276407084465 Originally published as ‘Die Philosophie der Landschaft’, in Die Gueldenkammer, 3:2 (Bremen), 1913; also in Brücke und Tür: Essays des Philosophen zur Geschichte, Religion, Kunst und Gesellschaft, Michael Landmann and Margarete Susman eds, Stuttgart: K.F. Koehler Verlag, 1957, pp. 141–52.
Associate Professor, Department of Modern Languages and Cultural Studies, University of Alberta
PhD Student, Department of Sociology, University of Alberta
Superman vs. Alyosha: War of Positions around Representations of the Past and Present in Post-Socialist Bulgaria
On June 17th 2011 the Monument of the Soviet Army (MSA) in Sofia, Bulgaria underwent a peculiar transformation. People stared with dismay at the soldiers of the Red Army that had overnight taken the identities of icons of American consumer culture, such as Superman, Ronald McDonald and the Coca Cola prototype of Santa Claus. This provocation reignited the emotional debate about the future of the monument. Its destiny has been a bone of contention since the fall of the Berlin wall. In the meantime the issue has become strongly politicized and further polarized Bulgarian society. The Russian embassy sent a protest note and demanded punishment for the ‘vandals’, while numerous facebook groups formed in support of the artists, who in some instances were even depicted as brave heroes daring to stand against the ‘occupiers’. On the other side of the barricade were those for whom the monument elicited nostalgic feelings of the social safety of the old regime that the ‘liberators’ brought. The event even gained international significance with the likes of CNN and Toronto Star admiring the “Banksy” of Bulgaria – a country, rarely mentioned in Western media and usually in the discourse of Balkan corruption and crime.
The Monument of the Soviet Army serves as a bridge connecting a violent past with an equally violent present, and it poses questions about the future. It signifies the presence of history and politics in everyday life. The monument, prior to its transformation functions to evoke the memory of the ‘totalitarian state’ and the ‘horrors of communism’ that engaged intellectuals for the last two decades. Such discourse rarely questions the process of transition that formed the structure of the current political-economic system. The proposed paper is based on research and analysis that examine the relationship between collective memory and discourses of history, politics and ideology on the one hand, and the art of provocation as a mobilizing factor that subverts meanings and opens up spaces of alternative readings on the other. I view the transformation of the monument as an act of symbolic struggle over meanings of the past through the lenses of the present.
Contract Instructor of Sociology, University of Alberta
Intermedia Research Studio – Work on Display
Wendy Aujla and Heidi Erisman “Faces of Domestic Violence” – Research-Artist Collaboration
Kara Granzow and Anne Winkler “Disrupting Colonial Presents”
Elena Siemens “Pop-Up Times Five”
Sourayan Mookerjea “time bias poem no. 1 / device for plotting biography and history prototype v1.0”