MECO CAMP 2016: Collaborations on Collaboration

Kim Williams | July 2016

Eva Hampel

Photo by Eva Hampel

This time we weren’t going to get caught out, no! Most of us came prepared with Arctic-style clothing and bedding to insulate against the dry, biting cold typical of mid-winter at Riversdale. Of course it was warm and wet this year. A balmy 23 degrees, then a full night and day of rain, transforming our spectacular view along the Shoalhaven River into an atmospheric arrangement of muted greens, greys and silver, with rising mists over mirrored water.

Photo by Louise Boscacci

At Riversdale (The Boyd Education Centre), 20 July 2016. Photo by Louise Boscacci

The view is compelling – your eyes are drawn along the broad, straight avenue of water flanked by forested hills on one side and rolling farmland on the other. It is one of the reasons that the MECO camp has become a highlight of the academic year. It is a camp to quieten down and slow down, allowing us to rest, reconnect and regenerate. Now that the MECO camp has a rhythm, this being the third gathering, there are stronger connections and collaborations forming within this research group. This year’s camp was a hive of quiet and not-so-quiet activity: reading, writing, making, thinking, sharing, planning, walking, talking and of course eating. MECO members continued and built upon existing collaborations, formed new connections and planned future projects. Some of these projects are:

  • Jo Law and Agnieszka Golda: Workshopping their contribution to Bundanon’s Siteworks
  • Su Ballard, Joshua Lobb, Cath McKinnon: Developing a project on “learning to write” a critical reflection on non-fiction practices.
  • Brogan Bunt, Lucas Ihlein and Kim Williams, with guest contributor Eva Hampel: Walking Upstream: Waterways of the Illawarra
  • Louise Boscacci, Su Ballard, Eva Hampel in collaboration with Bridie Lonie (Otago University, via Skype) worked on content for a forthcoming panel, Affect, Capital, and Aesthetics: Critical Climate Change and Art History, to be convened at the Art Association of Australia and New Zealand (AAANZ) Conference, The Work of Art, ANU, December 2016.
Collaborative work project by Kim Williams, photo by Louise Boscacci

Collaborative work project led by Kim Williams; photo by Louise Boscacci

Emerging from this year’s camp is a whole-of-MECO project: we are planning to produce a book/object using the term ‘Atmosphere’ to frame the collaborative work. The idea came from a fruitful roundtable discussion, a product of the cumulative experience of three winter camps over the past three years since the inaugural CAST (Contemporary Arts and Social Transformation) in 2014.

A big thanks to those whose hard work and careful planning makes this camp happen. Special thanks this year to Jo Stirling, whose menu planning, co-ordination and mammoth shopping trip provided us with fresh, healthy food for thought.

MECO360: Diffracted Encountering

Louise Boscacci | 29 January 2016

Not long after the first MECO network research event close to seven months ago, a short essay, Spinoza was a lens maker, coalesced in my thoughts in response to a call out for collective musings on ‘material and ecological thinking’. At the network gathering on the Shoalhaven River at Riversdale, I had undertaken some night photography sessions in the full moon light. I offer the essay here, and a companion image from the nocturnal photoplay series What does a dark–turning–solar–moon–wodi wodi–river–hand–eye–light–lens do? Consider them diffractions of a-bodied encountering.

boscacci_moonphotoplay_010715_

Louise Boscacci 2015. ‘What does a dark–turning–solar–moon–wodi wodi–river–hand–eye–light–lens do?’. Composite digital photographic series. (Click to enlarge).

Essay: Spinoza was a lens maker LouiseBoscacci_Spinoza_lens_maker_120915_240116-MECO

 

Diffracted encountering II

Working with insights from quantum field physics, Karen Barad convincingly unsettles and troubles the words material and immaterial, provoking us by proposing that imagining and thinking are material practices if mattered or made manifest and active in meaning by the ‘(im)material’ body. At the microphysical scale of the atom and the subatomic electron, the radical indeterminacy of matter, and even touch, is revealed.[i] (If touch is, on the one hand, electromagnetic repulsion, and on the other, intimacy, why have I spent so much of my energy as an artist-maker revalorizing the haptic sense in object encountering?). The quantum leap of the excited electron from a higher energy level to a lower one creates a photon of light. Light, another practice-favourite as illuminator and animator, affective ephemeros, photosynthetic collaborator in the supply of oxygen to breathing bodies I care about, behaves as both particle and wave in oscillating indeterminacy, nimbly eluding fences of language; it is best embraced, for now, as I must, in terms of Barad’s (im)material. Matter is not what it seems, and never has been. Even better, “nature deconstructs itself,” says Barad, because matter is not a discrete thing locatable in time or space; rather “space and time are matter’s agential performances”.[ii] Ontological indeterminacy, a radical openness and change (that changes with each iteration) are at the heart of matter if we take on the teachings of jumping electrons: matter is a matter of transmateriality.[iii]

Wombat&Cath_nightwalk_2015

Louise Boscacci 2015. ‘Wombat and Cath nightwalking’. Digital photograph.

“What spooky matter is this?” (Karen Barad 2014).

So what do I mean by the descriptor ‘immaterial’ when referring to transient forces and energies of affective encounters in attuned-to places and atmospheres? Perhaps, a better vocabulary of practice might be to articulate along the lines of the unmanifested, perceptible and palpable—the sensed and ‘felt’—yet ungraspable, in both haptic and cognitive senses. This is the corpo-real experience, as Bracha Ettinger reminds us, of a-bodied and virtual-transient affect.[iv] Fleeting electrical flashes of encountering that surprise and linger in their impingement are corpo-real and generative gifts in the intertwined feeling-forward, making, thinking, imagining, doing and undoing of processual art practice. From Barad, amongst the rich makings of her thinking, I find an opening of potential for the electron-infused mattered mammals we (if I may) artist-scholars are being-becoming: “the electric body—at all scales, atmosphere, subatomic, molecular, organismic—is a quantum phenomenon generating new imaginaries, new lines of research, new possibilities”.[v]

 

Endnotes

[i] Barad (2007, 2012)

[ii] Barad (2014)

[iii] Barad (2014, 2015).

[iv] Ettinger (2006); Massumi (2014). I am alluding to thesis-writing musings and questions to self.

[v] Barad (2015, p411).