We listen to modes of dedication together by way of documenting and studying our difference, which is to say by giving ourselves away to it.
Between dedication as a mode of inquiry, a function of our being concerned with spirit, and preparing friendship on the run, in struggle, no reasonable, determined spacetime has elapsed. What we keep hearing is a heartache, a madness the post-traumatic will never surpass. And we know it because of our fleeing, open-wounded attachments.
We are sent (dedicated to come again) here, as inconsolable, because of a fundamental clamor, an elemental pressure to practice the formlessness of our companionship; to give ourselves away in collaboration, composition, tenderness. It is impossible for us to say how much we love each other, how much we want to dwell and scatter with each other. But as overwhelming or unsettling the feeling might be, we simply can’t dispense with the impossible just because someone, some law, some judge requires our full participation or address. In fact, the inability to keep our difference apart, to speak against the flesh, makes us sick. Without remedy, we suffer one another, knowing not how or that but on the way together, sole to soul, solitaire à solidaire.
Every year, as well as the series of interviews, gatherings and guided tours it organizes as part of its cultural outreach program, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal holds symposia during which the various participants (who include artists, cultural historians and critics) discuss, in the presence of art, some of the issues art raises.
The global pandemic currently under way has forced us to rethink these events. Several months of online conferences and discussions, however enriching, have resulted in a certain saturation and a powerful nostalgia for the days when we could meet in person and exchange less formally. In a broader context, society has been swept by a major wave of self-examination that has altered our understanding of collective being and the way in which institutions view sociality and the sharing of knowledge. On this question, universities and museums are closely linked, not least through the form that symposia generally take.
In their important 2013 book The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study, authors Fred Moten and Stefano Harney call the university institution into question by offering a series of reinterpretations of the traditional lexicon. How are we to understand today such notions as “political” or “critical” in the context of a university professionalization founded on dispossession and the exploitation of labour? To what extent is “professional negligence” of the “outside,” the “unrecognized,” the “undercommons,” intrinsic to the institution? What would a kind of “fugitive planning” look like that advocated not simple opposition to the university (which is also a place of refuge), but a voluntarily dissident – even “criminal” – indecision in relation to it? Could it allow us to envisage a new notion of the practice of study and of incessant indebtedness (which is also a practice of friendship) in terms of a future collectivity?
In light of these questions, for this spring symposium we are giving carte blanche to Ronald Rose-Antoinette and the Mardi Gras Listening Collective (whose members also include Dhanveer Singh Brar, Stefano Harney, Louis Moreno, Fred Moten, Fumi Okiji and Paul Rekret). In the spirit of The Undercommons, this group of academics, who take their name from the Pittsburgh bar where several of them originally gathered, meet regularly to listen to music together and chat informally.
The event conceived by the collective takes the form of two “mixed tapes” based on a meeting that took place in November 2020, which will be complemented, on April 21, 2021, by a live discussion between Ronald Rose-Antoinette, Fumi Okiji and Stefano Harney. Rather along the lines of an intimate radio show, the conversation will focus primarily on the selection and sharing of pieces of music (and texts) as forms of study, love and counter-distancing.
Le Mardi Gras Listening Collective
Distrust in the maxims of point and determination leads Ronald Rose-Antoinette’s interest in practices of preparation and retournement. He is the co-author of Nocturnal Fabulations (Open Humanities Press, 2017), an experimental book dwelling in Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s cinema. He has published on music and visual arts including in MICE Magazine, Flash Art International and South Atlantic Quarterly. He lives in Montréal and is currently based in Martinique.
Dhanveer Singh Brar is a Lecturer in Black British History at the School of History, University of Leeds. He has books published with The 87 Press and Goldsmiths Press / MIT Press.
Stefano Harney is an Honorary Professor at the Institute of Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice at the University of British Columbia and a Hayden Fellow and Visiting Critic at Yale School of Art. He is co-author with Fred Moten of The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study (2013) and All Incomplete (2021) both with Minor Compositions press. Stefano has held teaching posts in New York, London, and Singapore. He is a member of the Centre for Convivial Research and Autonomy, and the ‘freethought’ collective. Stefano lives in Brasilia, Brazil.
Louis Moreno is an urban theorist based in London, whose research examines the socio-spatial and cultural ramifications of finance capitalism. He is a lecturer in the Department of Visual Cultures and the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths, University of London. Louis is also a member of the ‘freethought’ research collective.
Fred Moten works in the Department of Performance Studies in the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. His fields are black studies and critical poetics and his special concern is the entanglement of social movement and aesthetic experiment. Over the last twenty years, Moten has addressed this concern in a number of books of poetry and criticism, the latest of which, co-written with Stefano Harney, is All Incomplete (Minor Compositions/Autonomedia, 2021).
Fumi Okiji’s research looks to black expression for alternative ways to understand the inadequacies of modern and contemporary life. Okiji explores how black and Africana music, sound cultures and expression, more broadly, provide the basis of a critical theory. Okiji’s approach is thoroughly interdisciplinary, drawing from black radical thought and expression, critical theory, feminist thought, sound studies, and musicology. She is the author of Jazz as Critique: Adorno and Black Expression Revisited (Stanford University Press, 2018) and is currently working on a second book project, tentatively entitled Billie’s Bent Elbow: The Standard as Revolutionary Intoxication. Okiji is also an improvisor and jazz vocalist—whose research is greatly informed by this practice.
Paul Rekret is author of Down With Childhood: Pop Music and the Crisis of Innocence (2017), Derrida and Foucault: Philosophy, Politics, Polemics (2018), and editor of the new edition of George Caffentzis’ Clipped Coins, Abused Words & Civil Government: John Locke’s Philosophy of Money (2021), along with articles on political and cultural theory in journals such as Theory, Culture & Society, South Atlantic Quarterly and Constellations. His book, Take This Hammer: Work, Song and Crisis, will be published with Goldsmiths Press. He is also part of the Amplification//Annihilation collective. His writing has featured in Frieze, Art Monthly, The Wire, the New Inquiry and elsewhere. He teaches in the School of Communications and Social Sciences at Richmond University in London.
DJ, musician, multimedia artist and cultural educator Parker Mah’s diverse body of work tackles themes and realities of hybridization, migration, transformation and identity. As co-founder of the Tumbao DJ collective, his specialty spans the Afro-Latin-Brazilian-Caribbean spectrum, with a predilection for vinyl. His passion, honed over fifteen years as a radio host and producer, is to broaden and share his interest in the socio-cultural legacy of these musics, and the stories they tell of migration and cross-pollination.
The musical question and the musical answer – Part I
- Kate Bush – Running Up That Hill [3:39-8:22]
- Alabi Ogundepo – Ijala [9:18-11 :01]
- Eugène Mona – Ti Milo [13:38-17:29]
- Nadia Batson – So Long [18:37-21:48]
- The Langley Schools Music Project – Rhiannon [23:22-27:12]
- Gil Scott-Heron/Brian Jackson – Song for Bobby Smith [28:58-33:33]
- Lou Rawls – I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good) [39:21-42:33]
The musical question and the musical answer – Part II
- Child Development Group of Mississippi – Da Da Da Da [1:23-6:29]
- Nancy Dupree – James Brown [7:23-10:03]
- Elizabeth Cotten – Shake Sugaree [11:07-16:04]
- 15 16 17 – Emotion [16:57-24:15]
- Michael Jackson – Darling Dear [25:43-28:17]
- Michael Jackson – I Wanna Be Where You Are [31:55-34:54]
- Mutiny – Anti-disco [37:15-41:50]
- Bob Marley & the Wailers – My Cup [44:15-47:48]