Category Archives: Theory

Instagrabs: moments in time, practical aesthetics & digital vernacular creativity

 ~ aka, fucking around on my smartphone ~

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Working Girl – May 2018

 I’ve been doing this thing where I screen-cap a bunch of consecutive shots from my Instagram account that happen to line up, in my view, to make some aesthetic sense of a moment or phase in my life that gives me pleasure or generates affective resonance for me: let’s call them Instagrabs.
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Don’t Cry Mama – July 2018

An Instagrab relies on the mediating capacities of a particular technology, the smartphone camera and its screen cap function, as well as the commercial software platforms of Instagram and Facebook, to pull together a series of takes on the world that I take to hang together to provide some handle on a particular moment in experienced time.
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Kim Jong um… March 2018

It is a tableau of images that in practical and partial terms captures some perspective on my world in a retrospective and makeshift attempt to convey the feeling of particular trajectories or moments of movement through that world that have formed me as a subject (and will continue to do so through this intervention, to the extent that it formats and brings them into the present)
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Viking it – September 2016

As an assembled collage of a series of digital depictions of my experience of the world I move through, the Instagrab assembles a second-order perspective on what that phase in my experience of the world felt like, as well as the sort of meanings and feelings it might generate and confer, both retrospectively and prospectively – into the future.

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Tendrils – Autumn 2017

At once intimate, publicly accessible and imbued with personal meaning and affect, Instagrabs attempt to make some aesthetic sense of where I’ve been and the feelings that sequence of moves through the world involved in a multiply-mediated and specifically assembled practice of re-collection.

 

Click through for my Instagrab Album–  a work in progress

 

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FanPhatic – February 2018

 

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Filed under Affect, Devices and technology, Digital culture, Random thoughts, Theory, Uncategorized, Vernacular Digital Creativity

Gingko Leaves in Winter

#winterleaves #yellowleaves #sydneycity #sydneyhospital #specialplace

A post shared by Kane (@gaysciencestudios) on

 

 

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Filed under Affect, Antiretrovirals, Devices and technology, Engagement with medicine, Random thoughts, Self-medication, Sexual Sociability, Theory

Deleuze & Guattari and some Moreton Bay Fig-Trees

I’ve always been captivated by the wondrous reptilian root structures of old Moreton Bay figtrees. But two-dimensional photographs only capture a mere slice of their majesty, grace, and languorous durability and exhilarating lines of movement

Today I found myself following their thick curves and lines with my iPhone video, and was struck by how this technique allowed so much more of their startling prehistoric forms, compositional density and erratic experimentality to emerge.

Even my dog, Hercules, got the gist ….🐾

When Deleuze and Guattari first counterposed arborescent forms to rhizomatic assemblages in a Thousand Plateaux, I wonder what an encounter with a Moreton Bay fig tree would have done to disrupt such a neat distinction….

Neither arborescent nor rhizomatic – indeed/rather both – the Moreton Bay fig reveals the need to think territorialsiation and deterritorialisation, not as descriptors of empirical givens, but as complex, intermeshed processes or trajectories that bear the capacity to startle those who encounter them with their unpredictability, in the same breath as they reassure and astound us with their robust curves, enduring sturdiness and reassuring order

moreton pic

At once smooth and striated, these organisms are awesome and bewildering and moving in complex velocities – at once speeding and slowing the creature that encounters them in equal measure, when grasped with a modicum of motion …

As for the camerawork, it’s a bit wonky, but well, it’s a start…

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Booklaunch!

I’m honoured that my book The Gay Science: Intimate experiments with the problem of HIV will be launched ~ alongside Susan Kippax and Niamh Stephenson’s Socialising the Biomedical Turn in HIV Prevention at

Pride of Place: Remembering the Past, Shaping our Futures;

a conference commemorating the 40th Anniversary of Mardi Gras, on the evening of Monday 25 June 2018.

The Pride of Place conference will explore themes of intergenerational lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer experience, and celebrate the evolving purpose, identity and influence of Mardi Gras within the LGBTIQ community. The relationship between LGBTIQ politics and Indigenous Australians, as well as multi-ethnic communities, will be a focus of conference discussion.  The conference is co-sponsored by the Ally Network, the 78ers, Sydney Pride History, and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Sydney.

The books – both of which emerge from the vibrant social movement around HIV in Australia – will be launched by Peter Aggleton and Annamarie Jagose at an event chaired by Elspeth Probyn at 5.30pm on Monday 25 June, in the Refectory of the Abercrombie Building, University of Sydney (level 5).

Just prior to the launch, the conference is featuring a panel discussion, Mardi Gras and Communal Responses to HIV in Australia, from 4.15pm, featuring Dennis Altman (La Trobe University) Heath Paynter (AFAO), Nicolas Parkhill (ACON) and Niamh Stephenson, UNSW:

Mardi Gras and Communal Responses to HIV in Australia 

The Mardi Gras festival, protest and party have been particularly – and perversely – generative of communal responses to HIV in Australia.  At the beginning of the AIDS crisis there were calls to ban the parade, with one of the government’s principal advisors on AIDS describing the party as a ‘Bacchanalian orgy’. But it soon became evident that the parade and party could serve as hallmark events in which the possibility of a communal, collective response to the crisis could be celebrated and embodied. Some of the most brilliant HIV/AIDS education has emerged from Mardi Gras culture, garnering international recognition for Australia’s bold, irreverent partnership response to the epidemic.  This panel of distinguished speakers from the community sector and academia will explore why the culture of  Mardi Gras has generated such dynamic, collective responses to HIV in Australia.

If you would like to attend that session, or any other parts of the conference, you are required to register for the event (the standard price is $50 for the full two days, with some concessions as per the conference website).

“So many pills, so little time sweetie!”

 

 

 

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Key Thinkers for Cultural Studies: preamble to a team-taught course

Thought-events as catalysts for cultural studies

What came first? Theory? or the stuff it theorises?

People often talk about applying Theory to an object, situation, text, problem or event. But there is another way of thinking about Theory, or working with theories, that proposes quite the opposite: Objects, situations, texts or problems affect us, they act upon us as spurs for thinking; we are caught up in events that make us think: thinking happens to us, thinking is a gift from the thought-event.

You might have heard of the Cartesian maxim “I think therefore I am”. It is strongly associated with (indeed said to be constitutive of) modern (Western) enlightenment thought. Here thinking is regarded as a property of the individual rational subject that involves the correct application of universal logics and theories to the world, often in attempts to master, control, order or objectify it.

Rodin’s famous sculpture The Thinker, which I first encountered in the Musée Rodin, proposes a very different model of thinking: Here, thinking emerges an activity of the body – the very body that Descartes would cast as an impedimentto rational thought.

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As I exited through the gift shop, I came across pile upon pile of souvenir t-shirts with images of Rodin’s Thinker on the front, and – to my chagrin – Descartes maxim – “I think therefore I am” – in garish big red letters on the back! I couldn’t help thinking/ laughing/ pondering/knitting my brow (no doubt with nostrils a-flare): the museum’s merchandisers had got things entirely wrong!

Contrary to Descartes, thinking is not a property of the stable, sovereign self: Bodies are situated, often involved in difficult or unsettling or troublesome or exciting situations, and then …KAPOW!! thinking happens! We become participants in thought-events that produce new ideas, new ways of experiencing our situation, new understandings of how the world works, new ways of relating to it (For more on this point, see Martin Savransky’s 2018 essay ‘How it feels to think’, to which this preamble is very much indebted)

Another way of putting this is that we think with our bodies, that bodies are always situated, that certain situations endow bodies with the need or capacity or impetus to think: thinking takes hold when events propel us/our bodies into states of uncertainty, confusion, perplexity, exhilaration and active work.

For their part, key thinkers within the field of Australian cultural studies have argued that cultural studies is ‘always at some level marked … by a discourse of social involvement’ (Frow & Morris 1993: xviii): As embodied, social creatures, we are all caught up in situations that precipitate thought-events.

Theories become available here, not as lofty, indisputable explanatory schemes with universal applicability, but as a form of cultural practice, repertoires of concepts and gestures and ideas that put us to work; that are immanently involved in, and emerge from within, the thought-event. What’s more, they can do things! They have the power to recast a situation; change how you experience it, and in so doing, perhaps even change the problem that instigated the need for thinking in the first place.

Ladelle McWhorter discusses how

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In this class we begin to wrestle with the place of theory in cultural studies. In reading and discussing together the work of what the unit outline casts as ‘key thinkers for cultural studies’, we might understand ourselves, like those whose work we will be thinking with, to be involved in a thought-event, or a series of thought-events, that have the power to makes things happen, constituting us as practitioners of inventive thinking: i.e. thinkers in the midst of the dynamic field of cultural studies

 

We’ll flesh out some of these ideas in our first seminar this week. So don’t stress! When you set off an adventure, what better place to start than with some energising food for thought? (Probyn 2004)

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KR, 02/2018

References

Frow, John, and Meaghan Morris, eds. (1993) Australian cultural studies: a reader. University of Illinois Press.

Probyn, E. (2004) Eating for a Living: A Rhizo-Ethology of Bodies, in Cultural Bodies: Ethnography and Theory (eds H. Thomas and J. Ahmed), Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Oxford, UK.

Savransky, Martin. “How It Feels to Think: Experiencing Intellectual Invention.” Qualitative Inquiry (2018):.

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Science is Magic: practical aesthetics and vernacular creativity in social media

“To engage in practical aesthetics … is to conceive of an aesthetics informed by and derived from practical, real world encounters, an aesthetics that is in turn capable of being used or put into effect in a real situation.  In other words, it is to orient aesthetics – with its specific qualities and capacities – towards actual events or problems (much as practical ethics is shaped around particular problems).

~ Bennet, J (2012). Practical Aesthetics. New York: I.B. Taurus

Framing the selfie as an instance of practical aesthetics allows us to conceive of it as an intervention that both responds to a particular event or problem, and seeks to amplify, redirect, or intensify the impact of that event/problem.

“An object for practical aesthetics might be said to arise from an encounter with an event”

~ Bennet, J (2012). Practical Aesthetics. New York: I.B. Taurus

The selfie imbues the event with personal meanings and associations and sends these associations and affective intensities into (more or less) public circulation – and in ways that often exceed the intention of the creator.

The selfie does not provide a definitive solution to the problem it addresses so much as a situated response to the event with which it is concerned, assembling a platform in the process for the expression of new meanings, objects, responses and affective relations.

In this sense, the creator is participating in the process of eventuation by mobilising the selfie as an affective and aesthetic repository/transmitter of their particular way of feeling an event.

To reformulate the selfie in this way raises practical/ethical/aesthetic questions for the selfie-maker: what style might one devise to become worthy of the event?

Example: Gay Science selfie

science is Magic profile

Image-Affect-Glossary   

* The t-shirt says Detroit and the upraised spanner symbolises the power of workers in solidarity

*I’m having a cuppa in my Science is Magic mug. I love how Beaker embodies the anxiety and clumsiness and the pervasive imminence of catastrophe implicit in modern Scientific projects: Beaker is a Muppet, but fear not citizens! Because haven’t you heard? Science is Magic!

*You know what else is Magic? A nice cuppa tea.

*I’m wearing my Stephani ring, which I always wear to remember my love for Stephan

*Behind me is artwork by Daniel Joshua Goldstein that I bought after I met him, quite by chance, a few days after watching We Were Here, a documentary about the impacts of the AIDS crisis in San Francisco, to which Goldstein, as one of the film’s participants, bears moving testimony.  I saw the film in a tiny theatre in the West Village In New York, 2011, and got to meet Daniel himself a week later, when I bumped into him and his partner completely randomly on the sidewalk of 8th Avenue. Daniel was in town to show his For Redon exhibition. His work, and this work in particular, spoke to me.  I’m so lucky to be able to enjoy it every day.

*As FB Cover Art, I’ve used an iphone pic of some beautiful chrisanthemums, which graced a vase at home during the weekend of Club Kooky September 2017.  A wonderful instantiation of queer chemistry if ever there was one.

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Care of the Selfie: Towards an Aesthetics of Digital Existence

What is a selfie?

180407B3-1AB1-44AF-A076-2566F5247575A selfie is not a simple act of self-reflection, but more like the instantiation of a brand, in the sense that it functions as both a medium and device that projects the self into the various social arena of digital culture.

A medium, in the sense that media are platforms for social action.

And a device, in the sense that it collects, stores and processes information that enables other participants in the platform to calculate, respond, and recalibrate.

Once a selfie is grasped as a multi-dimensional platform, then all sorts of material objects and social processes can be understood to enter into the labour of self-formation.

In short the selfie is an experiment, a platform for self-articulation, a social device and virtual source of relational transformation

 

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