Underwriting Culture/Cultures of Under-Writing

Underwriting generally refers to an act of guaranteeing, sponsoring, backing, enshrined in insurance practices. By literally writing under the signature of the owner of the insured cargo, by countersigning, the insurer confirmed the acceptance of the risk of the endeavor and guaranteed the insured’s right to claim compensation for eventual hazard. Underwriting then provides legitimacy to an activity (shipping) and its object (cargo) and grants it institutional recognition by a regulatory body. The practice legalizes as well, by placing under the control of a body of legal practices, activities that could even eventually have been situated at its very limits (e.g. slave trading, contraband, et alia). Underwriting provides a promise of stability to a risky endeavor, while acting as a contract that expects to hold on the avowal of the risks it aims to back. In literal terms however, underwriting connotes the prefix under as a resistance to the very act of writing, marrying under with counter (as in countersigning).  As Jacques Derrida famously claimed, writing always connotes an element of fracture, of removal from ‘the real’ context. Writing bears the signature of a physical absence – of the subject and of the context – and articulates a moment of rupture, enacted as a counter act or as a mode of dissent under the very act of writing. In fact, “If a certain ‘break’ is always possible, that with which it breaks must necessarily bear the mark of this possibility inscribed in its structure.” (Derrida, 1988:64). The workshop aims to discuss underwriting as a conceptual tool for the analysis of culture from a threefold perspective: as an institutional act of legitimation of emerging artistic practices; as a strategy of artistic dissent; as a practice of criticality, conflating authority and critique, affirmation and denial.

Abstracts for 20’ presentations addressing cultural practices as modes of under-writing should be sent by Dec.30, 2016 to: lxconsortium@gmail.com