News & Events

Inspiring SMRN Meeting of April 2020

SMRN had an inspiring and warm meeting on April 30 with members joining including: Mansoor Behnam, Carol Bier, Delinda Collier, Siying Duan, Farshid Kazemi, Jessika Kenney, Somayeh khakshoor, Laura Marks, Minoo Moallem, Narjis Mirza, Katya Nosyreva, JR Osborn, Sheila Petty, Kalpana Subramanian, Yvan Tina.

Our member Yvan Tina is mostly interested in theatre and the notion of theatricality and how it is affected by the use of artificial life in performance art and installation. In this presentation, Yvan shared his new research, “Forging a third orality: exploring writing technologies in the African context,” acknowledging that the context of Africa is very complex due to its variety of traditions, art forms, ethnicities, languages, and beliefs and a history marked by successive foreign influences. Drawing from Walter J. Ong’s idea of “second orality” (oral culture mediated by technology, as in radio and TV), Yvan proposes a “third orality” that goes beyond audio and visual field. He looks to African artists who are exploring African systems of writing and using new media to reappropriate their cultures and arts. With this idea, Yvan investigates how the meeting between endogenous technologies and new media technology could contribute to the reinvention of language. Yvan’s inspiring presentation stimulated enthusiastic feedback and discussion. For example, traditional African medical practices could expand the bio-art performances that Yvan has researched.

The second part of the meeting was a warm and beautiful group conversation based on Khalvat, Practices of Self Isolation, on the suggestion of Narjis and Jessika. Narijis links our current self-isolated situation with the Persian idea of khalvat, which means that I distance myself from certain things (in Persian, كناره گيري kinara giry). The idea has many cultural, social, spiritual, and religious histories. During the conversation, Jessika led an exercise of Zoom sonic composition. In this exercise, the horizontal plane of the Zoom grid is taken as masaj, or sensation, and the vertical plane is conceived as mazami, or linguistic communication. Through these two connected planes, we vocalize our bodily sensation on the horizontal axis and our words on the vertical axis, and pass it on to other members. We hoped the exercise would connect us all in a living lattice, but through a strange quirk of Zoom it did not quite work out, though it was sweet to try. And then our members shared their thoughts and experiences of Khalvat and self-isolation.

Comments

juancas@sas.upenn.edu

May 23, 2020 03:24 pm

I just finished watching the video of the last meeting. It was so energizing and lovely to see you all engaging with Yvan’s ongoing projects, challenging the limitations of the digital code that structures Zoom’s architecture, and finally, spreading a very positive radiance out of each singular experience of self isolation and inspiration. Briefly, I have some comments-questions for Yvan, and a few lines to share about my own Self Isolation experience during this unexpected encounter between Ramadan, quarantine measures related to Covid-19, and the consolidation of remote aid groups to accompany indigenous communities in the Amazon. So, Yvan, I also shared with other members, as JR for instance, our interest to hear more from you about thirdness. Why do you think is important to label another iteration (1.0, 2.0, 3.0…) on a technological chain that has obsolescence and incompleteness as its inevitable ends? Does it have to be with something ‘new’ it has to offer? Or does it have to be with a possible old future of the local? As you know, the divide between written and oral is a logarithmic operation that has caused so many worlds to colapse in many registers, and as I promised I will keep this comment short. So, why the ‘oral’ as a way to mark the endogenous? And why a r.e.t.u.r.n to an endogenous Africa after it has been so mundialized, extracted, compartmentalized in (un)fortunate ways? You have been witnessing the emergence of the groundbreaking artists you mentioned, and I was wondering what do you think the endogenous does for them, and how does it look like when we see Africa as future? And by the way, I am glad that you think with an accent! ||–– || –– bffffrfrrffr –– ssssssss || tstststttsst –– || I think that I would have fainted during the Zoom meeting when there was my turn to join Jessica and Narjis masaj/mazami experiential tessellation. I had very difficult and intense days prior to the monthly meeting, and I basically limited myself to 3 Zoom meetings in the last 20 days. To properly honor the lunar motion of Ramadan pushed our breathing ontologies to new limits in between all these events happening on a planetary scale. I can hear Yvan’s feelings of dislocation in such a dystopian scenarios. I can say that moving to USA and establishing my way of life as a Ph.D. student after having lived near my sheik in Istanbul has been the most self-isolating exercise in my recent present. Self-isolation retreats, as I have learned them, produce different outcomes. My wife and I took intense quarantine measures in Philadelphia, and we only went out 2 times to do groceries for the ramadan, and we met few of our friends at our front door to receive some special food and desserts from them. But we have been so active on the Internet, WhatsApp groups and phone calls, serving as volunteers for two different aid groups in Colombia and the Amazon. This combination has folded our ideas about outside, inside, closeness and remoteness multiple times, as a mukarbas in the Southwest Iwan of the Alhambra. I am glad that I was able to listen to Jessika echoing Hafiz in this very day, in which the lunar month turns his face into another iteration of its love affair with this blue planet. Stay well and safe!