Breathing Matters: Poetics and Politics of Air

A seminar/laboratory at the University of Chicago’s Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry, Winter 2016

Instructors: Jennifer Scappettone, Caroline Bergvall, Judd Morrissey

Graduate Student Assistant: Ted Gordon

Course tumblr page is archived at http://breathingmatters.tumblr.com/.

The participants in this collaboratively led teaching laboratory will be asked to re-examine the notion of “inspiration” in its aesthetic and historical senses, revisiting textual and arts practices based on tropes of channeling, dreamwork, revelation and possession as well as current practices based on embodied, performative and eco-conscious notions of circulation, interconnection, transformation and receptivity. We will explore the interdependence of breathing in and breathing out as a guide to art methods built on conscious mind-body traditions, on poetics of critical voicing and unvoicing, and on signal circuitry’s reception, translation, and transmission of im/pulses and data. We will delve into the workings of air as an animating element that bridges and binds individuals to both internal and external forces. We will explore the long history of engagement with this element as it has been used to signify and enhance the circulation and interception of signs, dreams, and voices in literature, performance, audiovisual and electronic media, sculptural and architectural sites. We will examine the modern and contemporary politicization of air as a commons, and will apply forensic research methods and technologies to the analysis and critique of industrial and post-industrial landscapes. The imagination of air itself becomes relevant to thinking about utopian or dystopian collectivities.

Students will have the chance to respond to each set of materials with their own collaboratively produced works, which will be offered up for group discussion. We welcome students from the literary and visual arts, performance studies, film and media studies, as well as those with an interest in translation, linguistics, sociology, and anthropology. Sporadic excursions and film screenings will form part of the course, and students should be prepared to make time for them.

Books for purchase at Seminary Co-Op:

Adriana Cavarero, For More than One Voice: Toward a Philosophy of Vocal Expression

Rodrigo Toscano, Deck of Deeds

Claudia Rankine, Citizen

Juliana Spahr, This Connection of Everyone with Lungs

Recommended: Erin Mouré, O Cidadan and O Cadoiro; Caroline Bergvall, Drift

This course is sponsored by a Mellon Collaborative Fellowship for Arts Practice and Scholarship at the Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry. For more information about the course and the instructors, please visit https://graycenter.uchicago.edu/experiments/the-data-that-we-breathe.

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