Memoryscapes (digital, locational, imagined) TFDC 1.18
Jul 07, 2023 09:00 - 10:30(Europe/London)
20230707T0900 20230707T1030 Europe/London 8.7. Memoryscapes of Future Communities 1: Performing Waste

This panel together with the panel Memoryscapes of Future Communities 1: Territories of Waste are two parts of a joint proposal. Both evolved from a common interest in the figure of waste and wastelands of various kinds as memoryscapes of communities to come in the wake of present day ecological and economic crises. Our general understanding of waste is rooted in similar theoretical contexts that emphasize the relevance of the dissolution of existing social ties which creates potentials for redefining communities as more-than-human collectives striving to survive on the ruins of capitalist world. Thus, the figures of waste that we approach instantiate various entanglements of existence that emerge out of colonial pasts and persistently impose their agency by pushing extant communities towards change which, however, often evades human attempts at control for the sake of securing the status quo. As sites of germination of new forms of life and being-together, emerging from catastrophes of the modern era, these territories commingle and complicate temporalities to evade linear models of progress towards futures purified of undesirable toxic matter. The two panels, concerned respectively with ethnographic case studies, performative practices, and analyses of speculative fictional genres, are tightly intertwined to highlight the complexity of the problem of community and change in times of crises, the leading theme of the MSA Conference 2023.In our panel, however, we propose a shift in perspective in looking at waste and wastelands by focusing primarily on the performative aspects of creating new forms of commonalities.We propose to imagine future communities as a result of memoryscapes, exploring performative potential of waste which we understand as material debris, fos ...

TFDC 1.18 MSA Conference Newcastle 2023 conference@memorystudiesassociation.org
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This panel together with the panel Memoryscapes of Future Communities 1: Territories of Waste are two parts of a joint proposal. Both evolved from a common interest in the figure of waste and wastelands of various kinds as memoryscapes of communities to come in the wake of present day ecological and economic crises. Our general understanding of waste is rooted in similar theoretical contexts that emphasize the relevance of the dissolution of existing social ties which creates potentials for redefining communities as more-than-human collectives striving to survive on the ruins of capitalist world. Thus, the figures of waste that we approach instantiate various entanglements of existence that emerge out of colonial pasts and persistently impose their agency by pushing extant communities towards change which, however, often evades human attempts at control for the sake of securing the status quo. As sites of germination of new forms of life and being-together, emerging from catastrophes of the modern era, these territories commingle and complicate temporalities to evade linear models of progress towards futures purified of undesirable toxic matter. The two panels, concerned respectively with ethnographic case studies, performative practices, and analyses of speculative fictional genres, are tightly intertwined to highlight the complexity of the problem of community and change in times of crises, the leading theme of the MSA Conference 2023.
In our panel, however, we propose a shift in perspective in looking at waste and wastelands by focusing primarily on the performative aspects of creating new forms of commonalities.
We propose to imagine future communities as a result of memoryscapes, exploring performative potential of waste which we understand as material debris, fossil records, bodily remains, spiritual echos, digital traces as well as viral junk. The authors of each presentation approach the topic of the panel referring to different material and media and analysing them from diverse perspectives: through the lens of performance and decolonial practices, critical archival theory, speculative fiction and scientific speculation. To develop the concept of new performative forms of commonality and social change, we propose to overcome the narrow understanding of theatre and performance as artistic acts, but also the aesthetic framework of interpretation of life worlds and cultures. It is precisely the action of diverse agents (humans and more-than-humans, artifacts, resources, organic remnants, technological remains, viruses etc.) that enables the shift of research perspective, as it is about an action of matter that is common to all beings as a shared experience and that involves all spheres of existence: the social context and political history, local environmental practices and speculative ecologies, gender determinants and ethnic discrimination, religious implication and spiritual dimension, and last but not least, aesthetic experience.



Dorota Sajewska, Prof. Dr. , Interart Studies, University of Zurich

Anthropo-Scene. Wasteland as a Site of Commonality

In his famous poem The Waste Land, T.S. Eliot portrayed not only the disintegration of the modern world, the social and psychological collapse of mankind, but also the irreversible destruction that human being has wrought on natureculture, eradicating from it all spirituality, and devastating the surrounding landscapes. Keeping in mind this modernist depiction, I would like to make a significant shift, treating the Wasteland not so much as a manifestation of a total and irrevocable crisis, but of "a profound mutation of our relation to the world" (Latour). In my presentation I propose to interpret Wasteland both as a performative archive of the modern community and as a reservoir of a new type of relationality between the land and the various actors who inhabit it. From this perspective, I want to analyse the changing meaning of the "common space" in the Anthropocene era.
Based on the assumption that it is not the human being who is the main actor of contemporary changes, but the earth itself has become a living stage that tries to interact in dramatic action (Latour), I want to focus on the various forms of agency that produce new interconnections and configurations of diverse terrestrial actors. Referring to various examples of performative actions that locate themselves at the intersection of dance, theatre, visual arts, political activism, and ecofeminism (Mierle Laderman Ukeles, Otobong Nkanga, Tejah Shah), I will try to show new forms of commonality between bodies and matter hitherto strictly separated by ontological boundaries. My proposal pursues the idea of a performance research that focuses on the polyphony of scenic agents: living, non-living, and non-non-living entities, each of which appears only as fragments, as remnants. This is the exploration of Anthropo-Scenes in which "the entangelment of existence" (Povinelli) emerges in the form of a Wasteland.


Mateusz Borowski, Prof. Dr. , Performativity Studies, Jagiellonian University, Krakow

What Emerges in Garbage Patches? Junk Life, Waste Communities and Future Mythologies

Garbage patches of drifting marine debris, coming predominantly from land-based sources, are one of numerous instantiations of environmental emergent effects of colonial entanglements beyond human control. These unwanted parts of cultures across the globe although rejected, are persistently active in ways that cannot be foreseen or comprehended. No wonder that environments composed of waste of various kinds become a subject of scientific (Goldstein et al. 2012; Zettler et al. 2013) and critical-theoretical (Clark 2014) speculation which conceives them as sites of germination; sites where unwanted remnants of the past turn into junk (Bardini 2013) – a productive entanglement of beings and forces that gives rise to both new forms of life and socialities.

The paper approaches this topic through the lens of speculative fiction which depicts the intrusions of marine garbage into the life of coastline communities, pushing them towards change. By looking closely at two chosen fabulations-Wu Ming-yi's The Man with the Compound Eyes (2011) Chen Quifan Waste Tide (2013)-I trace the figure of garbage patch as a memoryscape of the extractive capitalist culture; a memoryscape in which the material debris becomes inseparably coterminous and intertwined with ancient indigenous mythologies rejected and suppressed in modernity. Thus in both these novels marine garbage becomes a figure of entanglements of colonial past that returns to the mainland communities as both the "the accursed share" (Yusoff 2017) of colonial extractivism and as models of possible future and more livable communities on the ruins of the modern capitalist world.


Sandra Biberstein, MA, Interart Studies, University of Zurich

Performing the echos of the forgotten. How art combats the "amnesiac archive"

Since the early 2010s, Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme have been working on an evolving, multipart archive-project in which they examine how communities bear witness to experiences of violence, loss, displacement, and forced migration. With backgrounds in sound and experimental film, the artist duo works across a range of image-based, installation, and performative practices and from a research-led approach that relies methodically on archival research, found footage, oral history, and fieldwork. For May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth – existing as digital platform and physical exhibition, which was shown in Summer 2022 at MOMA in New York, at Migros Museum in Zurich, and The Common Guild in Glasgow – they have been collecting recordings of everyday people singing and dancing in communal spaces in Iraq, Palestine, Syria, and Yemen. Most of these videos that appear to be digital waste at first glance were posted on social media during periods of political conflicts and captured at weddings, funerals, or spontaneous gatherings. The work brings digital traces of these performing bodies together with new performances created by the artists with a dancer and electronic musicians. The project positions the found footage as material testimony inscribed through body, movement, rhythm and voice to the destruction of everyday life. According to Abbas and Abou-Rahme, "these fractured communities are resisting their own erasure and laying claim to space, self, and collectivity once more." As May amnesia never kiss us on the mouth involves a process of reactivating discarded, forgotten, insignificant material, fragments and traces in order to speak about the here and now, I will discuss how the artistic work of Abbas and Abou-Rahme creates a body of knowledge that combat what the artists have referred to as "the amnesiac archive" that is the Internet, and that transfers its digital waste into echos of resistance.


Małgorzata Sugiera, Prof. Dr. , Performativity Studies, Jagiellonian University, Krakow

What Viral Junk Remembers? Evolutionary Perspectives on Social Changes

Although the life cycle emerges from a system of inter- and intra-acting processes that goes beyond multiscalar and relational agency of viruses, the well-known Elizabeth Povinelli's figure of the Virus-Terrorist demonstrates the best that various and apparently innocuous explanatory tropes we use to domesticate viruses to the human scale hide as much as they reveal. The present paper intends to look at human genetic "fossil record" of past viral exposures, often referred to as "viral junk", as a potential source of deep changes of human communities, premised on adaptive speciation as an evolutionary response to increasing global warming and overpopulation, from the point of view of Greg Bear's duology Darwin's Radio (1999) and Darwin's Children (2003).

Whereas Bear speculates about a fictional virus to initiate social changes which challenge the Spencerian and neo-Darwinian principle of competition and selfishness, the paper will read his duology in the light of Joan Roughgarden's The Genial Gene (2009). Still under the common umbrella of evolutionary biology, the study offers, however, an alternative view of what biological nature is and what it takes to achieve evolutionary success; a view predicated on cooperative teamwork. What Roughgarden calls theory of social selection fits well into the description of a new community in Darwin's Children. However, do we really need a virus-induced speciation to change our communities? The author of The Genial Gene emphasizes that "only a subset of the species is being addressed so far by evolutionary studies, namely, the subset in which the definition of an individual is not problematic". Therefore, as the paper posits, the societal changes that the fictional viral junk effects on the biological level in Bear's duology, could be carried through effective changes in the way we conceptualize both the policy of evolutionary selection and our biological nature. 

Professor for Theatre Studies
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Ruhr University Bochum, Germany
Professor
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Jagiellonian University
PhD Student
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University of Zurich / Ruhr-University Bochum
Professor
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Jagiellonian University
Associate Professor
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Jagiellonian University
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