[ARENA] Call for papers | Tickle Your Catastrophe!

Eva DeGroote eva vooruit.be
Quarta-Feira, 15 de Outubro de 2008 - 17:08:24 WEST

(Apologies for cross-posting - please forward to anyone who might be  
interested in submitting a proposal)

Call for papers |Conference 2009 | Tickle Your Catastrophe!

We cordially invite you to submit a proposal for the Tickle Your  
Catastrophe! conference, which will take place from 6 to 7 March 2009  
at the Vooruit Arts Centre,  in Ghent, Belgium, during the arts  
festival The Game is Up! How to Save the World in Ten Days (from 4 to  
14 March 2009). This conference is a joint initiative of the NGE  
(Dutch Aesthetics Society), Ghent University, KASK/Hogent  (Academy  
of Fine Arts, College University Ghent) and Vooruit.  

Whereas the twentieth century was dominated by political extremism  
and (coping with) trauma, it is the fear of the inevitable and  
complete catastrophe that reigns at the beginning of a new century.
Although worst-case scenarios have always been part of our cultural  
identity, the catastrophe has taken on a different form at the  
beginning of a new millennium. The impending depletion of the world’s  
oil resources and the implosion of the global economy, international  
terrorism, the breakdown of the financial market, overpopulation,  
unsustainable exploitation of natural resources, pollution, major  
climate change, disastrous floods and new epidemics… Not only have we  
become increasingly aware that the threat of a catastrophe is real  
and inevitable, we also realize that we are not exactly innocent when  
we consider the causes of these catastrophes, and therefore cannot  
blame divine providence, fate or forces of nature. Yet we know that  
we alone cannot change the world.
Tickle Your Catastophe! doesn’t want to wallow in doom and pessimism,  
but wants to question our idea of a catastrophe and the role it plays  
in philosophy, art and science today. As the original meaning of the  
conference title suggest, we want to give this concept ‘a kick up the  
bum’ in order to discover how the catastrophe was and is represented  
in art and philosophy. What is its significance when we shed the  
light of tomorrow on it, and when we compare it to the shadows of the  
past? What is the point of these visions and what is their  
disadvantage? Does this vision paralyse us with fear or can we see it  
as a comforting release? Do we have a death wish or do we simply see  
it as a great excuse to embrace hedonism in the here and now? Does it  
offer us the illusion of a chosen downfall or does it force us to act  
and take up responsibility, right before it is too late?
Starters: To face this many-headed monster, we start with the  
introduction of two antagonistic images of our downfall. We use them  
as a starting point, to stimulate our mind, as something to go on, or  
never to return to.
1# The Svalbard Global Seed Vault
In 2007, on the Spitsbergen archipelago (Norway), the Svalbard Global  
Seed Vault was opened, or rather, sealed off. In this underground  
vault, deep in the arctic rocks, specimens of seeds of millions of  
plants are preserved to assure the diversity of vegetation in case of  
a global crisis. This futuristic-looking complex, which was built to  
resist any possible catastrophe - from global warming to a nuclear  
holocaust - functions as a sort of time machine. It should enable us  
to turn back time and return to a past unaffected by the catastrophe.
The Seed Vault raises some important questions: can we imagine a  
‘Noah’s Ark’ for philosophical ideas, scientific theories or works of  
art? What is the value of a masterpiece or the Western canon in light  
of a catastrophe? And what do we NOT want to save for the next  
generation? What’s the difference between plants and weeds? Isn’t the  
idea of a new beginning, a life after the future, nourished by our  
lack of initiative and our inability to take action now, whether it  
be on a political, environmental or economic level? Are we being held  
hostage by traumas of the past, making it impossible for us to dream,  
and instead only safeguarding what we might lose? Are the arts  
condemned to a similar immobility, as they are locked behind the  
doors of the market and the museum? Or is art where we’ll find a  
seed, ready to grow and bring forth new life?
Keywords are (but are not limited to): art and commitment,  
messianism, transhumanism, the environment, revolution; art as time  
capsule; creativity and scientific survival strategies
2# Albert Speer’s ruin value
As the chief architect of the Third Reich, Albert Speer designed  
Germania, the future capital of the new world. Speer tried to mirror  
Hitler’s power in his architecture. Hitler wanted the ruins of his  
empire - should it one day collapse – to rival those of the ancient  
Greek and Roman empires, and remind future societies of its past  
grandeur. To meet with these demands, Speer developed the theory of  
the ruin value: by using the right materials and construction  
methods, you can ensure that today’s grand buildings will become  
tomorrow’s sublime ruins, after the downfall and decay.
The idea of the ruin value is a complex and dark, but also powerful  
metaphor. If the seed vault raises questions about art, philosophy,  
and science as strategies to survive the inevitable catastrophe, then  
Speer’s ruin value celebrates the aesthetics of destruction, where  
beauty, knowledge, and culture can ultimately be found in decay. It  
conveys a dark vitalism: it is a perverse antidote for the catharsis  
of forgetting and our mortality, a Pandora’s box. The vision of the  
ruins of the apocalyptic landscape after the catastrophe paves the  
way for an ode to decay, for a rebellious aesthetic of the downfall,  
a therapeutic revolt by mutilation, an orgy of destruction.
Keywords are (but are not limited to): the aesthetics of destruction,  
the destruction of aesthetics, cyberpunk, dystopia and utopia,  
cultural pessimism, trauma.

Call: The conference committee welcomes proposals for papers,  
presentations, roundtable debates and sessions exploring these themes  
or any other topic relevant to the theme of the conference.  
Contributions from a variety of disciplines are welcome: fine art;  
media art; philosophy (of art); performance art and theatre; film  
studies; art history; cultural studies; science factions,...  
Interdisciplinary papers are especially welcome.
Papers or presentations can be in English or Dutch, but sessions will  
be monolingual. A detailed programme and a list of invited speakers  
will be announced in January 2009.
A selection of participants will be invited to submit an essay,  
either for the online review Esthetica. Tijdschrift voor Kunst en  
Filosofie, or for a book that will be published at the occasion of  
the conference.
Please send a summary of your project (400-word limit) and a short  
biography to catastrophe  ugent.be.
Deadline: 1 December 2008. You will be notified of the acceptance of  
your proposal before the end of 2008.
Conference Committee: Dominiek Hoens (Jan van Eyck academie, KASK),  
Frederik Le Roy (Ghent University), Mia Vaerman (NGE), Robrecht  
Vanderbeeken (KASK, Ghent University), Nele Wynants (University of  
Antwerp), Tom Bonte and Eva De Groote (Vooruit).

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