MOBILITY IN POST-DEMOCRACY
Carin Kuoni, Director/Curator, Vera List Center for Art and Politics, Co-director
Zoe Carey, PhD Student Sociology, New School for Social Research, Co-director
Johanna Taylor, PhD Student Public and Urban Policy, New School for Public Engagement, Co-director
With the penetration of global capitalism into every regime type and the increasing intervention of international actors into domestic politics, concerns about the demise of democracy are far from new. Post-democracy, as one such school of thought, considers the narrowing of political possibilities in Western states with advanced capitalism that cater principally to financial interests of large corporate sponsors. Scholars like Wendy Brown and Colin Crouch lament the pacification of our news media from a tool to educating democratic citizens to a form of entertainment that seeks ratings rather than contentious in-depth analysis. Donatella della Porta and others see promise in new social movements to revive political debate, and in particular they characterize new digital media as an alternative to staid democratic institutions. The utopian ideal that new media will be the new democratic alternative is by no means confirmed. This is further complicated as people travel around the world both physically and digitally, forming post-democratic alliances through new social movements, around NGO’s, and in art-based collaborations that enable greater mobility within and across institutions, states, and ideologies. How are people mobilized through new digital media? How can new forms of social movements demobilize networks of power? What creative organizing tactics are being developed to reinvigorate a democratic ethos? Art collectives and new social movements are building parallel structures for issue-specific solutions – how can they avoid institutionalization and maintain the flexibility that lends these temporary organizations strength and resilience? What democratic possibilities for mobility remain outside the decaying nation-state?
Led by the Vera List Center for Art and Politics, the Mobility in Post-Democracy working group will follow the ZIMM Creative Collaborations format to develop a platform for students and scholars of democracy, critical theory, digital technology, curatorial studies, and social practice as well as art practitioners and engaged activists to work toward an interdisciplinary understanding of the radical potential of this post-democratic moment. The collaboration will shape the conceptual framework around the Vera List center’s new biennial curatorial theme, Post-Democracy, in its first year and will inform VLC programming in 2016-17. Conversations from this creative collaboration will also be included in the VLC’s forthcoming Post-Democracy publication.
- Development of a common language and a theoretical understanding of Mobility in Post-Democracy. This will support the individual, interdisciplinary work of everyone in the group including forming the basis for VLC programming in 2016-17 (as seed funding).
- Make this language and related interdisciplinary conversation developed at three closed roundtable events open to the entire New School community as well as the general public in order to broaden the reach of these events and conversations. Promotion of these events through the VLC mailing list and beyond is essential.
- Unite a core group of members in all programs that emphasizes equal participation from students, faculty, VLC Fellows, and outside collaborators such as scholars and artists. This includes:
- Two VLC Fellows developing projects related to the Post Democracy curatorial theme.
- A core working group of 3, under the stewardship of Carin Kuoni, to develop programs in collaboration with the other group members.
- A broader working group of faculty and advanced graduate students from various disciplines and divisions of the New School working with Post Democracy in their scholarship.
One of the first initiatives enacted by the VLC was interviews with faculty from across the New School whose research relates to Post Democracy. In total, we conducted 17 interviews with faculty from NSSR, Lang, NSPE, and Parsons that revealed the diversity of ways Post Democracy is inflected in faculty work. These conversations, which were recorded and later transcribed, each lasted approximately one hour and were grounded in a short reading suggested by the faculty member.
Post Democracy Objects
Each interview culminated in the working group co-directors and interviewee sharing objects related to Post Democracy and the topics introduced in the faculty member’s suggested reading. Photographs of each gathering of objects have been collected. Artist Nobu Aozaki will be creating a response to these images in the 2016-17 academic year.
In addition to 3-on-1 conversations with faculty, the working group convened three roundtables in the spring semester to bring these varied perspectives into dialogue.
- The first roundtable discussion involved a close reading of Crouch’s Post Democracy (2004). Subsequent dialogue emphasized the fallacy of the postwar period serving as the ‘golden era’ of democracy, as well as the valuable insights gleaned from decentering the western perspective in studies of post democracy.
- The second roundtable highlighted Post Democratic art projects through a reading by Hito Steryl and a presentation by artist Nobu Aozaki. The faculty enjoyed discussing Post Democracy with an artist, seeing it as an effective pathway to analyze interdisciplinary approaches.
- The enthusiasm generated at these roundtables led to demand for another gathering with an artist presenter. The working group also participated in a luncheon with VLC fellow Lawrence Abu Hamdan, whose work looks at the role of voice in law and the politics of listening. His fellowship continues through 2016-17 and will include return visits for ongoing collaboration with the working group and broader university community.
Throughout the year, the readings that grounded faculty interviews, were suggested in round tables, and popped up in various conversations were gathered into a comprehensive resource guide on Mobility in Post Democracy. As a living document, this list will continue to grow with new recommendations from ongoing conversations. Selections from the resource guide will be shared in advance of future public programs to facilitate understanding and a shared framework, and will be included in an eventual Post Democracy publication.
- Developing a Framework: around how mobility engages with new media and new social movements in post-democracies that will inform the individual and collective work of participants.
- Post-Democracy Publication: participants, conversations, and presentations from these working group events will be incorporated in VLC’s publication about the biennial, curatorial theme.
- Future VLC Programs: the working group will serve as the intellectual and artistic research lab to inform further Post-Democracy programming in the second year of the biennial, curatorial theme. Highlights for the fall include:
- Democracy and Citizenship after the State: Keynote by Wendy Brown – October 20
- Prefiguritive Politics: Enacting Utopias and the 2016 Elections – October 24
- The Right of Refusal – November 14
For more information please visit the Vera List Center website.
Pictures from Top to Bottom:
Interview Objects from conversation with Assistant Professor Erica Kohl-Arenas
Interview Objects from conversation with Assistant Professor Evren Uzer
Mobility in Post Democracy Round Table 1
Mobility in Post Democracy Roundtable 2
Lunch conversation with VLC Fellow Lawrence Abu Hamdan