Cottage University

From May 6-10, 2012, the fourth annual Department of Biological Flow spring workshop was held at a small cottage near Verona, Ontario. Instead of the weekend seminar format that had fashioned the first three events (2009: Brian Massumi and Erin Manning; 2010: Brian Holmes; 2011: Steven Shaviro and Susan Ruddick), eight individuals gathered for a loose set of enabling constraints titled COTTAGE UNIVERSITY.

Inspired by pedagogical spaces and practices such as Sense Lab in Montreal, HomeShop in Beijing and the Autonomous School in Zurich, the theme of this 5-day workshop of research-creation, meals and co-belonging was “Aesthetics, Ethics and Hospitality”.

Three of these days involved creative activation and reading sessions, with a slight twist. While traditionally group members receive readings in advance and variously engage in preparation for the “real” work of the seminar, Cottage University offered an attempt to express the hospitality of a group (including the hosts) by more or less coming to the reading together, blindly as such.

While different talents emerge from what people bring to the seminar, often a “power” differential may be built into the pedagogical space from the outset due to the time and effort one may invest or commit in advance (other work obligations, family, certain texts/authors favouring some backgrounds more than others, etc.).

That this year’s theme loosely coalesced around the question of “Aesthetics, Ethics and Hospitality” offered us a way of thinking this through more explicitly as an opportunity for hospitality itself: the hospitality of a group (including the hosts) more or less coming to the reading together, blindly as such. That the time everyone has agreed to invest together — a common “value” of a few days at the cottage — is not “undermined” by a few who have more familiarity from having invested more time prior, or “threatened” by those who might feel less confident in contributing because they have not invested more time prior.

For each of these three days, an external and independent Curator offered a reading that would constellate around the theme of “Aesthetics, Ethics and Hospitality.” The evening before the reading session a Catalyst group would develop a creative, embodied and moving activation proposal — by only engaging the metadata of the text offered by the Curator (ie. title, author, abstract, keywords from first page skim). Following a group activation session in the morning, only then would the entire group move to reading the text, either individually or in small groups, before discussing collectively later in the day and informally over meals.

Day One.
Curators: Sean Smith (and Erin Manning)
Catalysts: Barb Fornssler, Mahasti Mudd, April Warn-Vannini

- Brian Massumi and Joel McKim, “Of Microperception and Micropolitics: An Interview with Brian Massumi,” Inflexions 3, 2009, 183-275.
- Mat Wall-Smith, Anna Munster, Andrew Murphie, Gillian Fuller and Lone Bertelsen, excerpts from “Generative Thought Machine: Sydney Molecule,” Inflexions 3, 2009.

Day Two.
Curator: Paul Boshears
Catalysts: Berit Soli-Holt, Kevin Mitchell, Erika Biddle-Stavrakos

- Roger T. Ames, “Confucianism and Deweyan Pragmatism: A Dialogue,” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 30:3&4, 2003, 403–417.

Day Three.
Curator: Gina Rae Foster
Catalysts: Nick Trotter and Sean Smith

- Bracha L. Ettinger, “Copoiesis,” Ephemera: Theory & Politics in Organization, 2005, 703-713.
- Gina Rae Foster, “Lyric as Capacity and Thematization,” excerpted from chapter IV of Lyric Dwelling: The Art and Ethics of Invitation and Occupation, Atropos Press, 2012 (forthcoming).