DECEMBER 21, 2019
"THE ISLAND EMPIRE"
CRES OUTPOST, ADRIATIC SEA
Pedagogy of the Cipher
Let’s start with some guiding lines, illuminating and mysterious:
Desire ignores exchange, it only knows the robbery and the gift. (Deleuze & Guattari)
My anarchy subterraneously obeys a law where I deal clandestinely with astronomy, mathematics, and mechanics. (Clarice Lispector)
It says here, "Play a vibration in the rhythm of the universe." So he said, "What is all that mystic stuff here?" And I said, "I mean, have you never had dreams where you fly from star to star?" (Karlheinz Stockhausen)
There, you have started the study already. The above lines are portals into a specific universe of concerns, values, sensations, perceptions. They are about economy (rules of exchange), physics (anarchic harmony), music (interplanetary consciousness), and writing (superior communication). They turn things upside down, which is a necessary step because the world is already upside down. Most likely you don’t understand what they mean, but you feel an impulse, a little wind, which raises curiosity and amazement within you. This is the beginning of a thaumaturgical pedagogy. As you will learn, this is an exoteric rather than esoteric impulse (even though the line between the two should be canceled). If these quotations were to become concrete matter they would be a lodestone: a type of iron which when hit by lightning becomes a magnet. Indeed, lodestone was the very first geomagnetic compass. Lightning, magnet, compass - all we need for travel and thinking.
Step Not Beyond (estb. 2016) is the name of a small - yet planetary - school of geo-ontologies. It's a philosophical disposition: go toward the limit of your thought, experience, work, but not beyond it. Be a tightrope walker, an acrobat who lightly treads across the abyss that is internal and external, creative and political.
Through a series of courses and practices the SNB engages a single comprehensive question without disciplinary borders (relevant to children, astro-biologists, and artists alike): "What is the Creative Act?" Or, how are things, from art objects to political institutions, brought into existence? What do desire, sensation, power have to do with it? This aesthetic question extends into politics (i.e. the creation of communities) and even ecology (i.e. nature is essentially creative). The goal is to define a common nucleus, a vital point embedded in the art-ecology-politics constellation.
Creativity is a response to (existential, aesthetic, political) knots. Yet knots are practical too, as every sailor knows. Even the great funambulist (Philippe Petit) uses them to cross the Seas of Air. This school is like a rope - knotted from ideas, encounters, activities - that students have to tangle and disentangle. We learn from the elastic fingers in "Cat's Cradle" and from the jumping feet in "Double Dutch" games: kinetic solutions to string problems. From there, we extend into string theory. And then back to the wisdom of insects and arachnids.
The school is inspired by the beautiful endeavor of Fernand Deligny in southern France in the 1970s; by Lucretius’ immense poem De Rerum Natura composed in the first century BCE; by the great sorcerers from small-scale societies in Latin America that taught us how to make ropes from sounds; by the authors and political revolutionaries from all parts of the world, known and unknown, that suffered deeply for their work. In other words, the SNB school has enormously diverse influences which nevertheless align in their sensitivities toward the world: no matter how small or local, the world always becomes cosmic too. And what exactly is the relation between the an artist's work and the cosmos? A hundred years ago Paul Klee raised this question, many others followed. Hence, this school is both more broad and more narrow than other schools, closer to an ancient society of artisans than to the contemporary academy. For thinking is a stylistic and visceral skill; an apprenticeship. And knowledge is subterranean, vitalist, latent; both prehistoric and of the future.
Moreover, the boring word “school” is both simple (everyone knows what it means) and complex (with multiple meanings): it can refer to a building where education happens, or to a group of individuals that share a particular style, or else to a type of training. But it is also used to describe a group of fish zigzagging harmoniously through the water. This last example is of particular interest for our configuration of art-ecology-politics where archipelagic thought unfolds. For everyone knows that the most insignificant example, seemingly the most distant, is also the most significant, the most energetic and fruitful. Here, then, indigenous (regional) knowledge, avant-garde methodologies, and philosophies of immanence collide. The rest is just chatter.
SNB provides no formal degrees or certificates. It is a training ground for rigorous alignment of elements within and outside of oneself. In sailing we learn how to align sail with the wind so as to move across the Sea; we learn how to be a part of the natural force itself (a true sensation of magic). Similarly, SNB is the wind that moves the sails toward future aesthetics and politics. Thus there are no formal prerequisites for the participants save for curiosity. The only constraint is that of limited space; it’s like going to the movies, you either get the ticket or not (but if you’re daring enough you can sneak in even when the room is full and the show has started).
The school is, on the one hand, completely international (or post-national) and, on the other, highly regionalized, providing young and old islanders with an unusual pedagogical experience based on the climatological forces of their region. Moreover, indigenous youth (those who trace themselves to predate the formation of the State) from any area of the world can attend for free.
Hence, all activities are immanently tied to a microclimate; all thought is climatological here; the syllabus, a series of atmospheres. Furthermore, ideas, when they are unforeseen and rare, produce a specific ecosystem within the individual, a precise ecology of thought, just as there is a planetary ecology of life and a political ecology of the State. The SNB provides a space where these ecosystems can be harnessed and where they can intermingle. Needless to say, building an ecosystem is about health; about growing old and young at the same time; about looking for a new earth. A space where thought and act are the same, where theory and lived experience come together in a palpable way, where gesture and substance are one.
The courses and experiences are offered in two ways:
On-the-island (or corporeal presence) during Summer: archipelagic, thaumaturgical, climatological, therapeutic engagement.
Online (or digital presence) at different times of the year, coming and going like the waves: virtual live interaction through video, audio, and chat presentations.
You can chose one or the other, or both. While on-the-island meetings are site-specific, its practice of bioregionalism can be applied to any microclimate in the world. These applications are another pedagogical aim of the project: to revitalize seemingly abandoned regions of the earth through willful migrations to the unexpected terrains. To initiate a new semi-nomadic life under the radar, so to speak.
We create educational arrangements for other locations and microclimates around the world. If you would like a program tailored for your particular region, use the contact form and provide your interests and budget.
The chief instructor is Dejan Lukic: institutionally trained as an anthropologist (PhD, Columbia University, 2007) and self-trained as a philosopher (with help from the Institute of Philosophy, University of Leuven). More formally, he taught at Reed College, Columbia University, The New School, and currently at the School of Visual Arts. He also conducts philoso-therapy.
Others attached to the running of the school are: Emily Taw, Will Scarlett and Cigdem Asatekin in New York, Aleksandar Norsic in Croatia, and Joshua McCarty in transit.
Introduction to a new method of thinking: Earth as atmospheric wisdom. What grows, endures, arrives, dissipates in the movement of the waves and winds? What forces of the biosphere (plant and animal, poisonous and healing) and biopolitics (totalitarian and revolutionary) abide on its surfaces? Is this movement beyond good and evil, or does it have secret ethics?
This three-hour conference, structured as a sequence of atmospheres, is meant to generate thalassic thought and luminous expression. Short readings will ground concepts under discussion (pdfs will be provided in the shared Google folder). Responses to the readings/discussions in the form of writing, drawing, sound, image are encouraged. I will follow up with you individually to discuss your contribution.
Themes and their figures that will guide our exploration are:
*Movement: Winds - Stowaways - Occupations
*Immanence: Abandonment - Lovers - Freedom
*Beauty: Camouflage - Octopi - Evil
Retreat to an island is a form of movement that serves as a necessary step to establish a proper rhythm of life: the ebb and flow. We thus enter a Summer school, like a troop. Since this one occurs on an island surrounded by the Adriatic sea which dominates not only the horizon but also the entire microclimate, its flora and fauna, our philosophical and physical engagement will be tied to its potent atmospheric presence.
To that question so dear to the old explorers - "which creatures live on deserted island?" - one could only answer: human beings live there already, but uncommon humans, they are absolutely separate, absolute creators, in short, an Idea of humanity, a prototype, a man who would almost be a god, a woman who would be a goddess, a great Amnesiac, a pure Artist, a consciousness of Earth and Ocean, an enormous hurricane, a beautiful witch, a statue from the Easter Islands. There you have a human being who precedes itself. (Gilles Deleuze)
Cres island is a place where everything slows down and where we can hear ourselves think. A place from which we can assess the enormous turmoils on our planet with a necessary distance, before we jump back into their foils. A place where both nature and politics are tangible: surrounded by the crystal blue Sea, populated with rare plant and animal species, each bears traces of its Communist past (being part of ex-Yugoslavia), Habsburg history (being part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire), and of the earlier cultures of the Venetian Republic and ancient Roman Empire. Hence, the creative configuration of art-ecology-politics will be theoretically investigated and experientially engaged as soon as we leave the classroom. In fact, the classroom itself will become the outside and vice versa.
We will dive into the main theme which holds it all together, just as it at the same time puts all in flux. The Sea: taciturn, surging, immanent, open, smooth, with different degrees of depth. (Should we not be like this too?) Water, salt minerals, rocks that surround it, all affect our skin and the layers of our thought in turn. The sea is physical (a space of swimming, diving, sailing), metaphysical (a source of inspiration from fairytales to the bible), biochemical (the origin of earthly life), and political (a site of travel, immigration, colonization).
We will follow a syllabus, an outline of works by artists, anthropologists, philosophers, writers, evolutionary biologists, and composers, all of which have been intensified by the Sea - a natural and thinking force. Some of the authors include Reinaldo Arenas, Clarice Lispector, Vilem Flusser, Diderot, Tomasi di Lampedusa, Yukio Mishima, Theophrastus, Curzio Malaparte, Ladislav Klima, Rudolf Steiner, Gyorgy Ligeti, Alejandra Pizarnik, Paul Scheerbart, Abraham Cruzvillegas, Lygia Clark... You don't have to be familiar with any of them; the retreat will be your introduction. The important aspect of these "obscure" authors, outside of the mainstream, is that they redefine our relations to the world by introducing unpredictable variables into our life-worlds.
We will follow and record sound-images on the island. For example: sometimes composers tap into these sensations and make them audible:
In addition, after these notes, can we agree with the vibration of the words below which posit algae as a principle of perfection?
I now no longer like anything but what is amorphous, soft, lukewarm, damp. The monstrous vegetation of the algae, of hair soaked in sea salt and the salt of sweat. (Michel Leiris)
This retreat is a small-scale operation with patient attention to every detail. For only in fragile conditions, with rarified ingredients, can wide-ranging, impactful results and experiences occur.
The contents of the readings, the surrounding ecosystem, and the history (and prehistory) of the island will frame our daily sessions:
3 hours lecture/workshop based on the reading, hearing, smelling
Walking, swimming/diving, foraging, kayaking
Movement exercises corresponding to some characteristics of the flora and fauna of the island
When taken together, these intellectual-kinetic modalities constitute "spiritual exercises", as these used to be called centuries ago. In addition to mastering concepts that lie at the core of life, you'll learn about specific plants, animals, insects, and geographic features of your temporary habitat. Following your instinct, you'll choose one of these to become intimately connected with (by inhabiting its characteristics, not symbolism): a totem that will be your guide even after you leave the island. For the goal is to receive some extra apotropaic and tutelary power.
There's a guest-instructor each year: a professional diver, local fisherman, performance artist, biodynamic gardener, marine biologist, etc. All daily exercises are fused with the ideas explored in class workshops.
You will produce a series of multiples - as reactions to discussed themes and experiences of the week - that may include texts (as writers), sounds (as composers), drawings, images, videos (as artists), dishes (as chefs), performances (as dancers), design proposals (as architects), or concepts (as philosophers). If none of these suits you, you can learn how to swim butterfly or how to do a high-dive with somersault (but you have to learn it well). Furthermore, you can continue your work after you return from the island and keep up a correspondence with the instructor and classmates.
Aligned with the designated concepts and with the island landscape, some meals will be constructed by Vitalist Cuisine, headed by Joshua McCarty. Biodynamic wines from local vineyards will be selected in the same vein, following the same pulsation, by Alex Norsic. Food and drink will thus be an important part of the overall nourishment which ties the physical and metaphysical dimensions together.
Furthermore, there will be one “open table” evening (inspired by Eva in Burgenland region of Austria): a free dinner for anyone to join, a stranger, both local and foreign.
The fee is $2000 and it includes:
Accommodation in a shared room (double occupancy) in Stanzia Castellani
One meal per day
Maximum number of participants is twelve. Instead of application send a summary of your interests from the contact form below. Be genuine. If you took the pre-school online series, you'll have a priority here.
A detailed list of readings and activities will be distributed few weeks before the beginning of the retreat.
Finally, themes and materials change each year, like sea-foam or like vaporized clouds. If your attendance went exceptionally well and you wish to return in the following Summer, your fee will be waived.
Copyright © 2018 DL