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<nettime> the (elite) Retreat in Banff


    exiles all ---

A few months ago I came across the intriguing call for "The Retreat,"
characterized as a kind of get-down hobnob of autonomist exiles at the Banff
Centre this August, and organised as a satellite of some sort of the
artworld's dOCUMENTA (13).


I've long thought that Banff was out of touch (inaccessible to most
Canadians and mostly unaffordable), but I have to ask: who did get to go the
Retreat? Who gets to meet BiFO in the elite setting of the Rocky Mountains?

Well, not me, and it cost me a pretty penny. This has led me to question the
organisation behind this Retreat. In particular, how such a Retreat can
style itself as "open" to creating "new modes of becoming and belonging"
when its application process is costly and anything but transparent.

The guestlist included autonomists and philosophers, many of whom I have
been reading in some form or other (if not debating here on this list) for
the past decade and some years: Franco Berardi (Bifo), Bruno Bosteels,
Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, Pierre Huyghe, Catherine Malabou, Gáspár Miklós

I don't know everyone on there, but besides reading Malabou's work with
Derrida, I was intrigued by the call's thesis --- which correspods to my
lifework and play --- and especially by the chance to brainstorm with
renegade theorist Bifo. Here was a man I'd like to meet.

The call was open enough but lacked detail. Was it an academic pow-wow? A
gathering of artists? Which department at Banff was handling this? Could
this actually be---the shock, the horror---a gathering where the divisions
between artist / academic / activist are broken down, such as in this year's
Artivistic? [1] 

The call language was either all rhetoric or all good, depending on which
way you read it:

"Through the act (v.) and space (n.) of retreat, participants will raise
questions about the character of our society and the modes of artistic and
cultural investigation being introduced today to create new modes of
becoming and belonging."

After rehearsing the language of autonomia concerning withdrawal as a
strategic regrouping (something I've writ on extensively in regards to
Afrofuturism and rave culture) [2] [3], the call reaffirms the need for "new
spaces of openness, freedom, and possibility."

Alright, then. Time to submit! After all, this is the thrust of my
dissertation, the language of my life as a post-raver, and has been the
focus of my activities for over a decade. Ever since Bey's TAZ, this has
been the defining stuff of my Gen X/Y genes.

The application was a compressed two-pager. One page for the CV. One page
for a written statement. This should've raised a warning flag. Or two.

In short, not much room to explain the hybridity of a post-raver/media
artist/catalyst curator/renegade theorist/autonomist academic/arts and
economics journalist/organiser and activist who on the average day runs an
experimental audio record label, publishes on questions of collectivist
economics in the local newspaper, exhibits audio work abroad, edits an
academic Journal [3], DJs as a techno turntablist, and struggles to finish a
PhD financed by selling skis in a small BC town --- in short, like most of
you here, and hardly unique, I be a living example of the precarious
cultural worker with a virtual array of at least a dozen arms and hats,
fingers in multiple pies, all necessary to keep afloat in times of
"austerity measures."

Then came the fee.

No set fee was announced on the page --- I just got billed later on the
credit machine. The cost to submit these two pages?

Sixty clams. That's $60 Canadian beaver pelts.

(Sorry, you have to realise that on average I make under ten bucks an hour
in most of my work. This had me swallowing dry.)

So, I awaited the response. Which came in the measure of a one-sentence form


February 15, 2012
Dear Me,
We wish to inform you that you have not been accepted into the Visual Arts
Residency, The Retreat: A Position of dOCUMENTA (13).

Many thanks for your application, and we do hope you¹ll consider applying in
the future.
Best regards,
Margaret Alfred
Assistant Registrar
Visual Arts, Aboriginal Arts
The Banff Centre


Wait a minute. 60 bucks and this is it? A form rejection? A copy-pasted
"thank you very much, come again" finish? This is the spirit of Autonomia
and dOCUMENTA these days? Take the money and run?

A few furious questions, then:

[1] Who is this "we"? Who made the decision for this elite exile?

[2] How many were accepted? Out of how many applicants? From where?

[3] What, indeed, were the criteria? None were listed.

[4] Since when is this Retreat a "Visual Arts Residency"? Does this mean
priority was given to "visual artists" even though this was stated nowhere
in the Call?

[5] Indeed, why is the notoriously narrow-minded Visual Arts bureaucracy
handling applications for an autonomia Retreat that will assuredly be
applied to by all manner of renegade artists of the (multi)media generation?
This is a sure-fire way to cast out all the freaks and weirdos.

So who does cut the mustard there these days? Are you going? I can only hope
that "they" did include a few locals who are actually involved --- good on
those who made it in --- but these kinds of two-line rejections after paying
double-digit application fee leaves me wondering if the Banff Centre is yet
another institution that, if it doesn't begin opening up its doors, ought to
be thrown to the wolves.

Do we need an institutional elite to organise an exodus? Do we need to pay
$60 to even apply for the privilege to meet with a fellow autonomist?

Is this AT ALL what is implied in the writing and work of autonomia?

Some context is perhaps required here: the Banff Centre is funded by the
Canadian Government. Sure, the glory days are over, but this is still the
baseline funding. And as such, the Banff Centre is still supposed to (a) be
open to Canadian applicants and (b) provide some level of accountability on
par with other arts decision-making bodies in Canada, like the Canada
Council for the Arts. None of this is evident here.

Is this the influence of Kassel?

But there is something more here.

There is something beyond irony when elite institutions hold conferences on
exodus with Italian Autonomists and then hand out closed-door rejections
after taking your precariously-earned pay as an "application fee."

It's not a bad grab. How much money was made on this for the Banff Centre, I
wonder? At sixty bucks for two page apps, that's a fine afternoon's work for
throwing a bunch of email docs into the virtual trash.

This led me to muse.

Perhaps an OCCUPY BANFF mission is necessary. I smell a road trip a comin'.
In July. To a certain Alberta tourist town. To remind the aging "autonomist
marxists" just what their theories mean. And to remind Banff what it's
cultural mission should be too. Down with the bureaucracy.

I'd like to dig a moat around the Banff Centre. It's a castle.

Indeed, this rejection letter exemplifies everything this "Retreat" should
be against.



[1] " PROMISCUOUS INFRASTRUCTURES" : 3xAAA - Artists / Academics /
Activists. http://artivistic.org/ . This text here will be submitted for
their publication.

[2] "Technics, Precarity and Exodus in Rave Culture."

"Contesting Civil War: Tiqqun & Agamben"

"Media Ecology and Autonomy"


[3] "Exodus and Afrofuturism"

[4] Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture


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