CRES ISLAND, CROATIA
aug 27 - Sep 4, 2017
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.
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?"
There, you have started the study already. The above lines are portals into a specific universe of concerns, values, sensations, perceptions. 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. 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 is the name of a small school and of 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 Summer courses the SNB School engages a single comprehensive question without disciplinary borders (relevant to children, astrobiologists, and artists): "What is the Creative Act?"
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 fingers in "Cat's Cradle" and from the jumping in "Double Dutch" games: kinetic solutions to string problems. From there, we extend into string theory.
The school is inspired by the beautiful endeavor Fernand Deligny ran in southern France in the 1970s; by Lucretius’ immense poem De Rerum Natura composed in the first century BC; 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 cosmical too. What is the relation between 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.
The 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. For everyone knows that the most insignificant example, seemingly the most distant, is also the most significant, the most energetic and fruitful.
The SNB Summer School is a form of retreat, which is a form of movement that serves as a necessary step to establish a proper rhythm of life, the ebb and flow. We thus retreat into a summer school, like a troop. Since this particular one occurs on an island, surrounded by the Adriatic sea which dominates not only the horizon but also the entire micro-climate, including its flora and fauna, our philosophical and physical engagement will be tied to its potent atmospheric presence.
There are no prerequisites for the participants. The only constraint is that of limited space; it’s like going to the movies, you either get the ticket or not (if you’re skilled and daring, perhaps you can sneak in even when the room is full and the show has started). Moreover, the school is, on the one hand, completely international (or post-national) inviting participants from all corners of the world, and on the other, highly regionalized, providing young and old islanders with an unusual pedagogical experience.
How are things, from art objects to political institutions, brought into existence? What do desire, sensation and power have to do with it? The SNB Summer School engages the essential enigma which lies at the core of all art: creative gesture. This aesthetic question extends into politics (i.e. the creation of communities) and even ecology (i.e. nature is essentially creative). Our goal will be to define the common nucleus, the vital point of creativity, which is embedded in the art-ecology-politics constellation.
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. This school 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 are offered on different Adriatic islands: Cres, Hvar, Brijuni, Lastovo. These are carefully chosen for their surroundings, which is to say, for their air, history, and potential for learning. Studying on an island is central to the above-mentioned conceptual investigations since an 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. Each island is 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 even 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.
Aligned with the designated concepts and with the island landscape, daily meals will be constructed by Vitalist Cuisine, headed by Joshua McCarty. Bio-dynamic 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.
The instructor is Dejan Lukic: institutionally trained as an anthropologist (PhD, Columbia University, 2007), self-trained as a philosopher (with help from the Institute of Philosophy, University of Leuven), working as a teacher and writer of art & politics at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and the Global Center for Advanced Studies in Slovenia.
Others closely attached to the running of the school are: Emily Taw in Berlin, Will Scarlett in New York, and Joshua McCarty in transit.
(as a verb meaning "to withdraw," "to ebb," "to pull a U-y," "to recede"... to what end? clearly, to harness forces in a sanctuary so as to advance again...)
We 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 we will engage are 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... 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 different variables into our life-worlds.
Furthermore, an auxiliary line of inquiry will be the following: what does it mean to become a secret, to be transparent and impenetrable like the Sea? This complex question has political, aesthetic, and personal ramifications. It is encoded here:
Some people can talk, hide nothing, not lie; they are secret by transparency, as impenetrable as water, in truth incomprehensible. Whereas the others have a secret that is always breached, even though they surround it with a thick wall or elevate it to an infinite form. ---Deleuze & Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus (1980)
Sometimes composers tap into these lines too 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 (1950)
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. In any case, you can continue your work after you return from the island and keep up a correspondence with the instructor and other classmates.
This class 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 of the island will frame our daily sessions:
The fee is 2000 EUR and it includes:
Maximum number of participants is 12. There is no formal application; just send an email with your interests.
A detailed list of readings and activities will be distributed one week before the commencement of the class. Feel free to email for a preliminary syllabus.
Finally, themes and materials change, like vaporized clouds, each year. If your attendance went exceptionally well and you wish to return in the following Summer, your fee might be waived.