poetics, aesthetics, critique

Fall 2019

Open Secret Research Spore

The neoliberal university’s embrace of “research creation” projects is not surprising. Nor is it surprising that the trend toward the free flow of innovation is accompanied by the rise in revanchist racial violence and the intensification of civil society as an open site of civil war. The university has always been marked by settler-colonial claims; white supremacist desires for transparency; the patriarchal erotics of possession; and the capitalist atomization of the revelatory moment. As Ashon Crawley writes: “the university is a gathering of resources but in our neoliberal world, such gathering is at the expense of the intensification of displacement and degradation through settler colonial logics of land acquisition, privatization of knowledge production and the adjunctification of faculties, the making students into customers, and the financialization and profitability of research projects.”

In the bind of this contradiction I find myself asking: what could it possibly mean to get together in the university in a way that is antithetical to its projects of enclosure and foreclosure? Knowing that those spatial and temporal arrangements are the very condition of our gathering, how can we explore and amplify this contradiction rather than trending toward the fugitive possibilities of some vague otherwise?

Here I think of spores: those fungal and bacterial agents of queer reproduction that adapt and thrive despite adverse environments. I think of their parasitic and contagious qualities as well as the generous propagation of fungi, ferns, and algae. Spores also require me to think about scale and visibility. What modes of collectivity intensify the university not as an immediate site of possibility, but as a site of struggle where the politics of knowledge production is foregrounded? Can these local intensities scale up or propagate? What forms of creative practice nourish these intensities? What is the place of poetics amidst the talk of strategy and spores?

In his essay, “The Fire,” the poet Robin Blaser writes: “it is my belief that somewhere in the messy denial of the thought of poetry an explanation can be found for the importance of community. That poets do band together. I am demonstrably bad at the kind of communism one dreams of, yet I have repeatedly worked in and added to a community of that sort.” Blaser’s admission of his failure resonates with the contradictions that shape the work of creative research in the university. His insistence on the necessity of community despite an inability to realize its emancipatory promises causes me to wonder about banding together in collective projects where the fanciful talk of poetry and liberation is as possible as it is unexpected, given the material limits of this historical moment.

I invite you to participate in this creative research spore. Collective projects can offer opportunities for material support within and against the university, but require us to listen differently, to read differently, to compose differently, and to learn new skills. It will also require us to bring our old skills to bear in unusual and surprising ways. It will require us to facilitate spaces. To organize. To translate between theory and dreaming. To become undone.

In this research spore we will approach collectivity and creative research in sustained and collaborative ways. I propose that we pirate methods from the world of contemporary art, protocols of avant-garde poetics, lessons from our work as organizers and facilitators, as well as threads from the expansive fields of writing that inspire us. We can eat together, dance together, read aloud together, and write together. Each of these modes of engagement offers emergent examples of how we might elaborate our research projects while refusing the university’s immiseration of study. I invite you to bring the questions and objects of study that animate your research so that we can each have our work modified by purposeful, collective engagement.

This spore is catalysed by two broad goals: the first is to generate collaborative methods for practice-based research designed to wrench the joys of study from disciplinary demands. In the face of proposals, deadlines, applications, evaluation, and publication, what practices can we generate for luxuriating in inquiry, in language, and in unfinished projects of imagination under duress? Congregating in the shape of a question: what does it mean to be here, together, despite the totalizing logics of separation that occasion our meeting?

The second goal is to facilitate a collaborative space for research where we can experiment with creative methods in our individual projects, encouraging these projects to become contaminated as we re-animate how to conceive the individual and the Subject in relation to collective projects of inquiry. Inciting performances of a fraught commune: what methods will we find in this contradictory space of collectivity without the desire of a collective subject?

Elaborating on Fred Moten, Stephano Harney, and Valentino Desideri’s notion of “study” we will attempt to flood the scene of analysis, to immerse ourselves in the sensuality of haptic, kinetic, sonic encounters; to be moved by the textures of the object beyond its textuality. We will engage with language as it mediates these encounters and attend to how language is intermediated by new technologies, old modes of relation, and forms of value inherent to the reproduction of settler colonialism and racial capitalism.

Robert Jackson, Open Secrets Working Group


ongoing intermedia research-creation probes

Comments are closed.