Week 10 — in the ruins of progress

Did you know that universities across the country have been striking? As a student who missed lectures, I fully support it. Fortunately, the symposium I have been looking forward to for months went ahead, not on campus and as a teachout. It was the final installment of After Progress, featuring Isabelle Stengers. I wrote my first essay last year on her work so you can imagine my excitement.

My notes are too disparate and the talks too rich to summarise here, but this quote from the event blurb does a pretty good job.

…we seek to collectively hold out a trusting hand to a whole series of interstices and undercurrents, to a plurality of minor stories, earthly experiments, speculative propositions, and insistent possibilities, that intensify the political potentials of cultivating pluralistic value-ecologies otherwise – in the ruins of progress.

Strikes notwithstanding, it really was a banger week on the uni front. On Tuesday, I went for a lunch meeting about decolonising data. Specifically, what concrete, technological actions can contribute to that goal. I just sat there and soaked it up, then came out feeling energised for the rest of the day. Being the dumbest person in the room is really my bag.

Against Economics
by David Graeber

I read this a few short hours after sending last week’s missive. It was so good that I couldn’t hold it until this week, so I got all swear-y on twitter. Graeber has that way of being so cleverly demeaning that it’s not just informative, but also a joy to read.

Mainstream economists nowadays might not be particularly good at predicting financial crashes, facilitating general prosperity, or coming up with models for preventing climate change, but when it comes to establishing themselves in positions of intellectual authority, unaffected by such failings, their success is unparalleled. One would have to look at the history of religions to find anything like it.

It’s a banger for quotes so I’ll avoid copy/pasting the whole thing. But will leave you with Mia’s response

Emoji summary: 💸 💥 🚫

Humanitarian Volunteer Scott Warren Reflects on the Borderlands and Two Years of Government Persecution
by Ryan Devereaux

This article almost made me cry. Partly because of the horror of the situation but mostly because of the hope threaded throughout. Individual people just trying, you know? I’ll admit I cry v easily (any sad film scene, that car ad) but it is a beautiful story. And significant because he successfully reclaimed a religious freedom defense used almost exclusively by the religious right.

I like to imagine a world with no borders.

simplistic, one-dimensional pictures fail to capture the complexity of the borderlands.

an intricate ecosystem of human and non-human inhabitants with a complex history stretching back thousands of years

Emoji summary: ⚖️ 😢 ✊

Both university readings this week sounded much more interesting before I read them. The module descriptor says

Here we will look at the theoretical frameworks which have been suggested to characterize the kinds of attachments we might have to our feminist pasts. Should we use the language of inheritance and generations?

No lecture because of the strikes, which might have improved the readings. But anyway.

‘Deep Lez: Temporal Drag and the Specters of Feminism’ in Time Binds by Elizabeth Freeman

Close application of Judith Butler to some artists’ work. I have an instinctive distrust in any over-reliance on Butler. This twitter thread includes some of the reasons. Like, there are just better people out there doing that work.

One piece she discusses is Sharon Hayes’ work holding protest signs, including “I am a man”. The article compares it to dealing with trans issues, but completely ignores race. Considering how much trans violence is inflicted on black trans women, its a glaring omission. I don’t know what Hayes intended, but the article made me uncomfortable in its erasure of blackness.

I can’t say I was overly wowed by this reading, but it has made me want to find work that actually deals with the questions the module poses.

Emoji summary: 🕰 👯‍♀️ 🏳️‍🌈

Fans of Feminism
by Catherine Grant

Again with Butler. This one redeemed itself by introducing me to art collective LTTR.

LTTR is a feminist genderqueer artist collective with a flexible project oriented practice.

Sadly no longer practicing, but I enjoyed a foray into their work.

Grant tries to use fandom as a lens for these different moments in feminism, even though sometimes the subjects of her analysis don’t see themselves that way.

I don’t necessarily consider myself a fan. I see a lot of the work that people were doing in the 70s, not only feminists, but mostly feminists, as more existing on a continuum, and not necessarily trying to see it as history, as something in the past, and more as a spirit that lives through time and the work that a lot of people are doing now is really interrelated with that and carries that same kind of energy

A comment from LTTR member Ginger Brooks Takahashi. I think I’m more on her line of reasoning.

If art is your thing, the article does describe and show several pieces. Including Oriana Fox Our Bodies, Ourselves featuring a giant vulva blanket and a lesbian reappropriation of the famous guerilla girls piece.

Image from MoMA

While I don’t know that fandom really works for what Grant is trying to do, I appreciate the objective.

feminism is something that is still in process, a place of negotiation, from the re-writing of classic texts and images to the creation of new communities, to the expression of art practices that take feminism seriously enough to re-write its stories. This approach allows for an interaction with feminist histories that does not simply revere or reject, combining the past and the present in an active dialogue, one that does not seek to simply reinstate the past, but to rework it differently, passionately, and perhaps even politically in the present.

Emoji summary: 🙌 🖼 🌷


For your amusement: How male octopuses avoid being eaten by hungry females
by Katherine Harmon Courage
. Got this one from Alex Mitchell’s Feminist Friday newsletter.

Finding Resilience: Confronting Limitations On An Expedition Through Afghanistan’s Big Pamir by Charley Zheng. Makes you want to go on a trek. Or, makes me want to go on a trek. Reminds me of this article I read earlier this year about how wonderful walking is.

Interview with Margaret Atwood. I wish I could have heard her tone when she said this.

Molly: I think many women —
Atwood: Women are people.

Why is so much of design school a waste of time? by Juliette Cezzar
Learning to take critique, aimed at designers but like… designers are people.


Emoji summary is 100% nicked off my favourite art critics The White Pube. They said they don’t mind.