Deadline passed - Mon 17 Apr 2023

Open Call

Powers of Love: Enchantment to Disaffection

“Powers of Love: Enchantment to Disaffection”—the fifth PARSE biennial research conference at the Faculty of Fine, Applied and Performing Arts, University of Gothenburg, Sweden, 15–17 November 2023.

Call for Contributions

The fifth biennial PARSE conference, “Powers of Love: Enchantment to Disaffection”, considers the transformative potential of love, friendship, the erotic, enchantment and care in artistic practices. Within wider cultural contexts, artistic practices are engaged in power politics through historical, contextual, institutional and discursive formations. This conference focuses on the connections between embodiment, passion, (dis)affection and critical thought, the grounds for being-in-common and the tensions between singular relationality and institutional structures.

In an attempt to thwart the alienation of neoliberal individualism, collectives of love and care—in the form of communities, communes, sisterhoods and brotherhoods—are increasingly called upon. What are the social and political grounds that collective forms of love build for being-in common? By which tactics, methods or strategies can art suggest how to handle asymmetries, dissonances and antagonisms? Implied in the West is a belief in harmony, unity, intimacy and immanent autonomy through conviviality. What if, as Jean-Luc Nancy writes, ideas of community, commune, and communion, in their quest for harmony and absoluteness, are the narcissistic opposite of love? What can be derived from other epistemic and philosophical traditions of love and gleaned at the intersections of the different cultural traditions in the expressions of enchantment?

An aesthetics of interconnectedness and ecological attunement breaks away from critical and deconstructive art practices of modernism and postmodernism. Today such art and design practices are predominantly under the influence of the Anthropocene. Both Arne Naess’s “deep ecology” and the Anthropocene argue for seeing the Earth as a holistic sacred organism. However, these perspectives exist in a nature-culture divide where Earth is pitted against human manufacturing and industrialisation. As Rosi Braidotti argues, this regressive move produces a negative bonding between humans and non-humans. Focusing on imminent catastrophes reduces everything and everyone to be equally vulnerable. How might holistic love and care be produced without universalising narratives of mastery of the Earth?

Love is often defined elusively as a set of relations that harbour best intentions and benevolence towards an individual or collective (be it of family, friends, a commune), and less frequently, but no less importantly, towards the environment and wider cosmos. In Jamaica Kincaid’s short story Girl (1978), a mother’s instructions to her daughter may be seen as an act of care or control, conflicting because of seeking life in the name of love. Girl offers a critical comment on the contradictory social structures that regulate perceptions of women’s loves—“you mustn’t speak to wharf-rat boys”— constrict women’s lives—“this is how…”— and power dynamics that oppress but can also empower Kincaid’s character—“to love a man” but not “feel too bad about giving up.”

Patriarchal romantic love in the form of possession and exclusivity historically aimed at vilifying and suppressing female understanding of the erotic, which has traditionally been seen as threatening and chaotic. Emblematic in cinema history are the works of Agnès Varda, Catherine Breillat and Chantal Ackerman, who each challenge the constructs of romantic love through a feminist aesthetic of erotic expression. Lauren Berlant (2012) unravels the interconnections between desire and love as socio-political constructs that predetermine all human relations. Feminist scholars Audre Lorde and Judith Butler emphasise the relationship between critical thinking, creativity, love and the erotic. In Doubting Love (2012) Butler describes how “One finds that love is not a state, a feeling, a disposition, but an exchange, uneven, fraught with history, with ghosts, with longings that are more or less legible to those who try to see one another with their own faulty vision.” Audre Lorde goes further, arguing for the erotic as the deepest form of spiritual, bodily, creativity and political togetherness.

Writing in the introduction to Love Objects (2014), the late design historian Victor Margolin recognises that “[w]e have no cultural consensus of what love is and consequently the word is freely appropriated as a floating signifier, available for attachment to a multitude of feelings and the acts that follow them. Colombian artist Doris Salcedo has spoken of the material challenge of producing A Flor de Piel (2013), a shroud of stitched and embalmed rose petals commemorating the death of a nurse tortured in the artist’s homeland, as an artefact that “now demands extraordinary care […] the way we move, even the way we breathe around the piece is crucial for its survival”— an example of extreme material care used to address legacies of violence and pain. Can an artist’s choice of material or type of making be felt as love?

The potential of love might also be sought in its queer potentiality. In Queer Love (2019) David M. Halperin proposes that “queer love can be understood as uncodified relations of counter-conduct against institutionally imposed uniformity that demand the production of new forms of intersubjective relations.” For Sunil Gupta and Zanele Muholi, photographers who document queer life on the city streets from New York to New Delhi to townships in South Africa, personal relations are positioned as political confrontations to social and cultural structures. For performance artists like Vaginal Davis expressions of queer life are tied in with the rapture of the political potential to redefine institutional norms and values.

In music, powers of love could potentially manifest as an aspect of materiality, relating to compositional properties, such as structural and conceptual complexity, or to sensuous qualities like timbre and texture, density, and volume, whereas works explicitly thematising enchantment or disaffection are to be found in music drama. Heart Chamber by Chaya Czernowin (2019), for instance, is all about powers of love. In an attempt to create a fluid, continually transfiguring sonic experience, Czernowin seems to defy the conventions of fixed identities, dichotomies and oppositions traditionally permeating the operatic genre: the musical art form par excellence of love, hatred, passion and violent death. In the opera L’amour de loin (2000) by Kaija Saariaho, on the other hand, the thematic core evolves with minimal action almost entirely as an internal process, evoking resonances of historical Western music. Since research about incongruous trajectories of love is more or less absent in contemporary musical discourse, the conference would welcome such contributions, founded on artistic practice. How can music—with or without textual content— incorporate connections between passion, disaffection and critical thought and harbor entangled paradoxes of love and power, pleasure and violence?

Intersecting performing arts practices, situated between disciplinary categories such as theatre, circus and dance, involve relational and communal experimentation of how to be together. Collaborative methods of working together may cultivate alternate or resisting institutional micro-cultures. Such instituent practices may apply over- and dis-identifications with majoritarian modes of relating, for example in terms of alternate ideals of love and sexuality.

The 2023 PARSE conference invites artistic practices, scholarship from across disciplines and theoretical experimentation to engage with the breath and multiplicity of love in its various forms, expressions, negotiations and dissociations. The conference will take place in Gothenburg and aims to create an atmosphere for engaged dialogue through plenary sessions, panels, screenings, events and multiple format presentations. The aim of the conference is to create an encounter between contemporary artistic research and other domains of enquiry.

Deadline for abstracts: APRIL 17, 2023, click here to submit.

Please include:

1. an abstract/ summary description of the proposed contribution (300 words)

2. short bio of participant(s) (150 words)

3. an indication of technical or other requirements for the contribution / presentation

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