Culture at Work:
Critical Practices and Experimentation

Copenhagen, April 24-25, 2014

Throughout the twentieth century, social critique and critical theory have informed a powerful thrust of thinking and agency not only in the field of political activism proper, but also in a wide array of cultural and artistic projects and undertakings, placing us by now at the cusp of an entire tradition of critical art, critical scholarship, critical pedagogy, critical curating, and so on. Contemporary critical practices have developed new formats and modalities of work, often by propagating cross-disciplinary ventures, by blurring the boundaries between arts and research and by instigating new collective research platforms.

With this conference, we will put focus on the idea of the experiment and the ways in which experimentation stands out as a distinctive feature in today’s critical art, research and curating. We will depart from the question: What is an experiment? How do experimental protocols and practices translate between sciences, humanities and art practices? How do we set up and articulate composite and transversal objects of concern in creation, scholarship, and exhibition? Which are the institutional and disciplinary affordances for experimentation, and what are the critical histories in which there are inscribed? Which constraints hinder such translation? And, conversely, which venues and platforms might facilitate research and creation of an experimental mold?

A particular emphasis will be put on the spaces of critical experimental practices, that is, the many different locations where critical work unfolds: public spaces, art spaces, schools and universities, cultural institutions and so forth, in their variegated material manifestations, as well as the symbolic, epistemological and imaginary spaces they incarnate. Moreover, in addition to understanding these spaces in their actual forms and in the dense historical heritage they embody, we are interested in the new interfaces opening up between these spaces, ranging from actual exchanges to virtual encounters. We will examine how traditional spaces of critical experimentation are being put to work in new ways, giving momentum to investigative interrelations and couplings in the field.

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The conference is the first of two gatherings organised by the “Culture@Work”-network, a joint European project aimed at gauging how contemporary culture is put to work in new contexts. The network is founded by the School of Human Sciences at the Catholic University of Portugal (The Lisbon Consortium) in collaboration with the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art (MACBA), The National Archive of Literature, Luxembourg, and the Department of Arts and Cultural Studies at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. The second conference will be held at the MacBa in Barcelona in February 2015.

The Copenhagen conference is co-sponsored by Université de Paris VIII – St. Denis within the framework of the European Network for Cultural Studies.

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The conference will feature public lectures and presentations by Carles Guerra (Barcelona), Irit Rogoff (London), Lars Bang Larsen (Copenhagen), Antony Hudek (Liverpool) and Tania Ruiz Gutierrez (Paris).

On the second day of the conference, a number of parallel working groups will be organised on the backdrop of the input provided by the submitted proposals from the participants. The group sessions will be based on presentations and discussions, but will also involve an aspect of production, as the groups will present their findings in a final plenary discussion, paving way for a concluding debate and the formulation of the intellectual agenda of workshop II, to take place in Barcelona in February 2015.

Participants are invited to submit proposals for 20-minute contributions to the working groups on the second day of the conference. In addition to the traditional academic paper format, we welcome performative work, presentation of relevant material for discussion, screenings, etc. Please include a 300 word abstract of your contribution and a short description of your work when applying.

Submission deadline is March 3, 2014. For submissions and queries, send an email to critical.experimentation@gmail.com

There will be a limited number of EU sponsored grants for travel and accommodation costs for participants from the partner institutions, please indicate if you will also apply for the grant.