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Affordances and Study
Valentina Desideri and Stefano Harney
Today we are witnessing a proliferation of autonomous schools, study groups, library collections, and art and performance spaces. Many of these schools and spaces are being created by artists, curators, and writers. These initiatives are symptomatic of illnesses that have beset formal educational and art institutions, and higher education systems everywhere. They could be said to be efforts to implement a transversal approach to art and study. But how can we guard against these schools and spaces inadvertently contributing to the art and knowledge production ecosystem, and indeed through their very energies and innovations adding value to these very same sick institutions in the process? How can study maintain its antagonism to the institutions and systems that make study impossible? We would like to propose that one way to work on this problem is to think of study as occurring amid clusters and tangles of affordances. We take the word from the original work of JJ Thomas who was keen to find a more imminent relationship between ‘man’ and environment. Thomas was interested in the perception of objects as affordances, things that made things possible. But we will try to dispense with ‘man’ and most especially ‘the mind’ of man, in our application of the concept. In particular we want to suggest that what has been taken as the mind that perceives affordances is itself nothing but a shifting collection of affordances itself, and therefore also, not itself. We would like to think of study as happening amidst and as affordances as a way to prevent its capture and extraction by the knowledge and art production ecosystem. Can affordances help us stay transversal? Finally, we will turn to the question of the ethics of study under such conditions. We will enlist the help here Ximena Davila and Humberto Maturana on love and preservation.
Valentina Desideriexplores art making as a form of study and study as a form of making art. She trained in contemporary dance, fine arts and is currently a PhD candidate at the Social Justice Institute at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. She does Fake Therapy and Political Therapy, she speculates in writing with Stefano Harney, she engages in Poethical Readings and gathers Sensing Salons with Denise Ferreira da Silva, and collaborates with many. She is one of the co-organizers of Performing Arts Forum in France and the online platform www.ehcho.org, she is a reader and a writer.
Stefano Harney is Professor of Transversal Aesthetics at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne (KHM). He is Honorary Professor at the Institute of Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice at the University of British Columbia, and a former Hayden Fellow at the Yale School of Art. With Tonika Sealy Thompson he runs the reading camp Ground Provisions. He is co-author with Fred Moten of The Undercommons: fugitive planning and black study (2013) and All Incomplete (2021). He writes and teaches collaboratively and cooperatively including in a long-standing intellectual partnership with Valentina Desideri.