In Other Tongues: creating metaphysics, embodying language

June 7-9 2017

Venue: Dartington Hall, Totnes, Devon TQ9 6EA, UK

DEADLINE FOR PROPOSALS 22.00 GMT January 5, 2017

 

art.earth and Schumacher College invite you to submit a proposal for participation in the forthcoming summit In Other Tongues to be held June 7-9 2017 at Dartington Hall, Totnes, Devon TQ9 6EL, UK.  This event is produced by art.earth, a family of artists and organisations focussing on the contemporary arts and the world around us.

The summit is followed by a residential short course at Dartington, from June 10-14.

Frame

Our understanding of the world around us has been a constantly-shifting thing. We have always sought to explain natural phenomena we can’t understand and to use myth, ritual and religion to add structure and narrative to this most complex and puzzling place. More recently, as our scientific understanding of the world evolved and its tenets ever more culturally dominant, we fought to dismiss superstition and myth, confident in our new knowledges and delighted with our infinite ability to understand the ineffable.

And yet we also mourn, acknowledging the loss of the unknowable and what Berman refers to as the ‘archaic tradition’ (1981). He reminds us that non-modern cultures understood ‘certain things about light and colour…electricity and gravity that modern science has left out’. As scientific and technocratic ideas became paradigmatic, Gregory Bateson and others helped shift our thinking and allowed us to view the world once again in richer more inclusive spiritual and animist terms without necessarily embracing the notion of a supreme spiritual being.

It’s increasingly commonplace to hear about spirit of place, trees with souls, enchanted places, human-animal interaction, interspecies communication, and notions of language that stray far from  unexacting and often imprecise interactions between our own species. Anthropocentrism has for centuries been based on the surety of our superior intellect and language skills; we have claimed sole ownership of a level of sophistication that may (how can we know?) exist equally within other species. In our relentless quest to understand the infinitely small and the infinitely large, we have tended to forget the richness of the world in front of our noses. We have forgotten to listen. In adopting objective reasoning as the superior form of knowledge we have lost understandings that once were endemic and shared across cultures and continents.

More recently arrived digital worlds have demonstrably engendered a psychotic estrangement from the natural world: this is Louv’s Nature Deficit Disorder (Louv 2005). Perhaps it is time for a quieter, considered, more languorous carousal with the non-human world, revelling in our commonality rather than fretting about difference. We after all share large parts of our genome in common, as well as sharing common bacteria, molecules, proteins and cell structures. We (pretty much) all sexually reproduce; we all die. The alikeness is astonishing when on the surface we seem so unalike.

Artists never entirely succumbed; some doubtless eschewed enchantment and sentiment –– deliberately ‘courting meaninglessness’ (Gablik 1991) and consciously devoid of soul; but art almost always works with visceral knowledge. The best, the most profound art and science help us touch, taste, feel and smell new understanding.

Ultimately however we rely on stories ever-told to provide a spiritual baseline. The enchanted world dismissed, eviscerated from the Modernist worldview is hungered after and sought out: in different ways, in different languages, in different understandings. Re-discovering ancient knowledges that are still within our bones can only lead to new empathies and translations of other tongues, reinvigorating our connection to the world and everything that lives here with us and alongside us.

Berman, Morris. The Reenchantment of the World. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1981.
Gablik, Suzi. The Reenchantment of Art. New York, NY: Thames and Hudson, 1991.
Louv, Richard. Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-deficit Disorder. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2005.

Keynotes

There will be two keynote addresses and an keynote performance. These are still all to be confirmed.

 

Possible Topics

Not intended to proscriptive or prescriptive, this list of topics suggests areas we are likely to explore. However we are open to all relevant ideas, from the philosophical to the most practical and pragmatic:

  • Interspecies language and theory
  • Interspecies collaboration
  • Song, cry and voice – utterance and performance
  • Language and understanding
  • Morality and ethics
  • Mourning, death and loss
  • Consciousness studies
  • Listening and non-human language
  • Non-human cognition and philosophy of mind
  • Fungi, disease and the language of mycelia
  • Indigeneity
  • Ritual, myth and metaphor
  • Post-Batesonian understandings of the world
  • Animals and play, interspecies gaming
  • Fairies, monsters, daemons, and gods
  • Other understandings of natural phenomena
  • Enchantment and the sacred
  • Poiesis and other-than-human poetic gesture
  • The zoomorphic gaze

 

Types of submission

Submit any ideas that inspire you and which you think may have a place during this event. There will be limited slots available, so please inspire us. We would particularly welcome proposals from artists, writers and other makers as well as panels or interviews or other discursive formats.

Please bear in mind that the event takes place in a particular environment: Dartington is a 900-acre mixed estate that includes modern and ancient woodland, riverside with swimming, open pasture, formal gardens, and other outdoor sites where people can meet and work in groups. We particular encourage proposals that take advantage of this context.

We are looking for submissions that utilise the following formats. Note that in each case we will add time for Q&A, but please think about how interaction with the audience can be built into your offer. Formats might be:

  • academic paper presentations lasting no more than 20 minutes (with 10 minutes for Q&A)
  • panel discussions, live interviews, and other discursive formats, lasting 55 minutes. There is potential to broadcast these live.
  • presentation of artwork, indoor or outdoor
  • walking and other outdoor activities, particularly ones that engage with theoretical or philosophical thought in addition to their creative content
  • workshops, lasting 90 minutes (please indicate how many participants you can support)
  • if you are geographically distant and choosing not to travel you can indicate your willingness to present via video or Skype. If your proposal is accepted you will be asked to register as a Presenter.

 

Virtual presentations

A virtual presentation is NOT a live presentation via Skype (this is also possible), but is part of a programme of video presentations that will be on the website prior to the summit, and which will be included in the online publication.

Transcriptions or papers arising from these presentations can also be submitted for publication in the online publication and for consideration for inclusion in any journal or book publication.

As a virtual presenter you are listed as a contributor to the summit, but not programmed into the main programme of events.

 

Deadline

The deadline for submission is 22.00 GMT on Thursday January 5, 2017. We are requesting 250-word abstracts or outlines, which must be submitted through the event website at inothertongues.info/proposal-form/. We are unable to accept any submissions after the deadline.

Download the call for proposals (pdf)