Videos of the 2019 conference are now online
This year, Sonic Acts celebrated its 25 year history with a festival edition dedicated to the topic Hereafter. It was as much a speculative position as it was, as always, a reality-check and an urgent call to rethink and act on the significant problems we are facing today. The three-day conference at De Brakke Grond reminded us of the festival’s first quarter of a century and what has changed since, but also encouraged us to look ahead, beyond our current planetary crisis. Videos of the conference talks are now online on the Sonic Acts YouTube and Vimeo channels.
The first day of the conference began with two keynote lectures by Rosi Braidotti and Rick Dolphijn, who asked about the logic of death; firstly, by rephrasing it through posthuman knowledges, and, secondly, by asking how art works with an idea of dying. This was followed by further keynote lectures by Susanne M. Winterling and Didier Debaise, who opened our eyes to the practices of life that we have hitherto been blind to and that our humanist concept of nature has refused to accept. The final session of the day was dedicated to artistic research. Irit Rogoff presented her current work on new practices of knowledge production and their impact on modes of research. And scholars and artists Sasha Litvintseva and Beny Wagner spoke about their new film that addresses and shapes the possibility of alternative narrative models capable of responding to the complexities of contemporary perceptual realities.
The second day of the conference started with a panel outlining the current political landscape on the Left and Right. Gregory Sholette wondered whether an anti-capitalist art can survive in a world of lolcats, doomsday preppers and xenophobic frog memes, while Jodi Dean showed how the twenty-first century puts forth a new choice: communism or feudalism. The panel was moderated by Ash Sarkar, an activist and senior editor for Novara Media. The second session of the day featured talks by Flavia Dzodan and Ramon Amaro. Dzodan was interested in how contemporary technologies become a tool of racial, gender and class exclusions, while Amaro discussed the domain of AI as an arrangement of axiomatic simplicity that, in its present form, diminishes variant domains of psychological and physical reality.
After afternoon screenings of Black Celebration (1988) by Tony Cokes, and American Hunger (2013) and Fluid Frontiers (2017) by Ephraim Asili, the final session of the day comprised talks by these two artists and filmmakers. Cokes’ presentation connected three threads: his scepticism with regard to historical constructions, the media’s attempted conversion of ‘revolution’ into a marketing trope, and how these representations resonate in our current climate of fear and proto-fascism. Asili spoke about his own cinematic practice – Mindfulness Cinema – which includes jazz methodologies, meditation, African-American literary traditions, Sigmund Freud, Sun Ra and concepts of landscape/locational cinema.
The final day of the conference began by dealing with the legacies of artist Julius Eastman (1940 – 1990), the queer African-American avant-garde composer, pianist, vocalist and conductor, and Amy Ashwood Garvey (1897 – 1969), political activists. Their pioneering and important work has been revived in new artworks by The Otolith Group in The Third Part of the Third Measure (2017), and Emma Wolukau-Wanambwa in Carrying Yours and Standing Between You (2018). We also welcomed Annie Fletcher to this panel, a curator from the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, who is preparing a large solo exhibition of The Otolith Group in May 2019.
Later, in talks by Elizabeth A. Povinelli and Louis Henderson, we learned about the artistic collective practices with which these two artists and thinkers are associated: the Karrabing Film Collective, a grassroots Indigenous group from Australia’s Northwest Territory that produces films representing their lives and intervening in the representation of ‘indigeneity’; and The Living and the Dead Ensemble, a collective created in Port-au-Prince with artists from Haiti, France and the UK who have translated and performed the play Monsieur Toussaint by Édouard Glissant from French into Haitian Creole. The final conference session problematised the usual ‘real of fiction’ and made arguments for the ‘fictions of the real’, whereby, after a talk by Stoffel Debuysere, Filipa César closed the conference with a performative reading called Meteorisations.