A Day at the Urban Matters Conference, Utrecht

9am to 10.30am

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A response to Mike Pearson by Liesbeth Groot Nibbelink on site-specific performance. She speaks about the artist Tazu Nishi, I snatch a few words and phrases:

Tazu Nishi

Statues

Metaphor or Feeling

A Mood, a situation

the contradiction conjured up by statues

Impressive but impotent

Alone but facing a crowd

A song can be a statue

A word can be a statue

Sensual

Statues want to be desired.

A broken chest

a finger fallen off…

10.30am – 11.15am

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Meditating and moving on the grass with Oranges with Vicky Hunter and Leslie Satin.

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11.15am to 1.30pm

Tea and snack at a cafe. Collecting thoughts. Sending off an overdue assignment. Suddenly lighter.

1.30pm – 3.00pm

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Presentations on Afropean cultural movements (Marleen de Witte) and diffractive readings of intersectionality and superdiversity literature in relation to New Materialisms (Evelien Geerts).

3.30pm to 5.30pm

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The fields of New Materialisms and Material Religion in a tense exchange. (One of the aims of the Urban Matters conference was to bring these two fields into conversation with each other). One of the speakers, Peter Braunlein, in particular contests and undermines New Materialisms, focusing mainly on the work of Jane Bennett. Braunlein concludes that “ I can’t see new materialist approaches for the study of material-religion, but I see new materialisms itself as a worthwhile field to study.” He seems to see New Materialisms as a kind of religion that is worthy of study, rather than a mode of research and a complex of philosophies. Iris van der Tuin offers a response, acknowledging her own frustration with the tendency towards jargon in the field of New Materialisms, but highlighting the valuable contributions of the field in terms of how agency and relationality are understood and researched. For van der Tuin, New Materialims attend to and participate in the production of differences. At the heart of the methodology of New Materialisms lies an awareness and appreciation of the relationship between the researcher and the research subject/object, how each acts upon the other, and how necessary it is to attend to the political, ethical and material complexity of the research process in producing knowledge. This mornings movement workshop with oranges in many ways demonstrated this methodological awareness of the embodied and complex ways in which we make and share knowledge today.

5.30pm – 8.30pm

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A visit to the Centre for Ecological Unlearning, an initiative of The Outsiders Union, an Urban Farm House and Barn near Utrecht, led by Sam Skinner and Casco Art Institute. We had delicious tea and cake, sat in the big lofty thatched barn, chatted about the process of establishing a neighbourhood commons as art, and how to access funding to support such fundamental initiatives. We encountered chickens, and vegetables, and a big yellow slide, an apparatus for training the growth of hops in the garden for local beer makers, the old cheese fridges and the milk vat and tap where the farm used to sell its produce to the local community.

“Inhabiting and animating Terwijde farmhouse by the Centre for Ecological (Un)learning, a longterm, collective initiative by The Outsiders Union and Casco Art Institute: Working for the Commons. Cultivating the natural commons, social commons, cultural and knowledge commons!”