During the 2013-2014 academic year, our Art and Scholarship Mellon Workshop has engaged a richly interdisciplinary nexus of questions, practices, challenges, opportunities, and possibilities for unsettling generic and medium-specific boundaries and staging collaborations between scholarly and artistic research and practice.

In Fall 2013, we presented a series of roundtable discussions and practice-based workshops at Lynda Barry’s Image Lab at the WID.  Our first discussion was centered around the question, “What is the work of art and theory?” The exploratory workshop “Mapping & Overlapping Territories of Influence” engaged participants in visually mapping intersections, overlaps, and incongruities between and within the work of diverse artists and scholars.  We embraced messiness as we constellated complex lines of inquiry.  The performative workshop “Collaboratory: Serious Play” focused on playful, creative scholarship.  We discussed hybrid critical-creative texts; remediated critical scholarship into visual and hybrid forms; practiced embodied meditation and free-writing; and collaboratively created text collages and performances.

In Spring 2014, we partnered with the Center for Visual Cultures to present a four-day series of events with visiting artists P.A. Skantze and Matthew Fink entitled “Methodologies in Motion: Manifesto, Workshops, and Public Performances for a Political Aesthetics of Affective Attention.”  This extended “collaboratory” focused upon developing methods that vibrate with the motion and vibrancy of performance and resound the spectacular, the aud-actular, and the multi-sensory.  The workshops and performances in poetic theatre and physical radio drama facilitated rich exploration at the edges of poetry, sound, and performance.  P.A. Skantze presented a public performance lecture Methodologies in Motion: Public Manifesto and Conversation toward a Political Aesthetics of Affective Attention on Wednesday, March 26. This was followed by  All that Fell and A Workshop in Physical Radio a 2-Day Workshop in the afternoon on Wednesday, March 26 and Thursday, March 27 in the Center for Visual Cultures in Memorial Library with a Public Performance on Friday, March 28 at 8:00 PM. An overlapping but distinct group of participants worked on afterKLEIST anORATORIO, written and directed by Matthew Fink with rehearsal on Friday, March 28 and Saturday, March 29 at the Center for Visual Cultures in Memorial Library and Performance on Saturday, March 29 at 6:00 PM at the University Club. Workshops included students and faculty from a wide range of Departments on campus including English, Theater, Art History, Art, Spanish, Design Studies, Comp Lit, and Southeast Asian Studies.

Building upon our commitment to interdisciplinary inquiry, Spring semester’s programming also featured an open call symposium, MAD THEORY.  The 9-hour event, held at the Madison Public Library Downtown Branch, provided workshop participants and the Madison community at large with a dynamic time and space to showcase and discuss a wide range of practices and forms of performative scholarship, artistic research, and critical-creative collaboration.  “MAD THEORY: A Performance Philosophy Symposium” featured an exciting range of interdisciplinary work – from an audio/noise performance theorizing queer stammers and the glitch to a relational, food-based aesthetic gesture; from a trans-digital methodology of the handmade to a performative investigation of race in visual culture; from experimental theory videos to collaborative digital poetics; from philosophy of body modification to exploration of library literacy programs. For MAD THEORY we partnered with Madison Performance Philosophy Collective and The Bubbler at Madison Public Library, as part of an intentional engagement with the public humanities and the Madison community at large.  Here’s a testament to the event’s success by Oliver Bendorf, UW-Madison MFA and MLIS candidate:

“Mad Theory was, on April 12, 2014, a philosophy performance, but it lives on as a performance philosophy. Mad Theory is an equal commitment to play and provocation, rigorously, with judgment suspended. We felt things in our molars; we stammered. We e-poemed; we palindromed. We became molecules. We had public thoughts about our private feelings, and public feelings about our private thoughts. We laughed, sang, danced, and screamed. I probably cried, but only because I loved it so. I would do anything for Mad Theory…”

Between 85 – 100 people attended throughout the day.  The full-color program booklet can be viewed here.

The Mellon Workshop collaboratively supported Word is Bond, a curatorial project by River Bullock. The exhibition showcased work by three contemporary artists Helen Hawley, Jeannine Shinoda and Anna Vitale, who use words and sound to communicate through narrative, material, repetition and queered tradition. Open March 26-April 17th in The Curatorial Lab, Elvehjem Building Performance and Poetry Reading with Jill Casid, River Bullock, Anna Vitale, Lewis Freedman, April 17, 2014 @ 7:30 pm, The Curatorial Lab, Elvehjem Building. The Performance and Poetry reading was attended by approximately 45 people from across campus and the larger Madison community. It provided a forum for open engagement and participatory spectatorship.

In May we hosted poet, activist, and artist Gregg Bordowitz. Bordowitz has played a crucial role in the history of AIDS activism as an early participant in the collective ACT-UP, and his video Fast Trip, Long Drop (1993) is famous for exploring the difficulty of living with AIDS in an age when narratives of triumph prevail. He is the author of several books, including General Idea: Imagevirus (Afterall Books 2010), a study of AIDS as word and image, and The AIDS Crisis Is Ridiculous and Other Writings 1986–2003 (MIT Press 2004), a collection of historical, theoretical, and autobiographical writings. Most recently, his work turns to performance, including improvisational lectures and an opera about the theorist, Michel Foucault. While visiting Madison Bordowitz presented a performance lecture Materialist Geography and the Knight’s Move onThursday, May 1, 2014 @ 7pm in Elvehjem L150. And on Friday, May 2, 2014 @ 12noon we hosted a seminar with Gregg Bordowitz in Elvehjem L170 during which we had the opportunity to discuss material from his lecture as well as his assigned reading from poet Robert Duncan, “Towards an Open Universe“.

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