Beate Absalon – Capabilities of Passivity: Mediated Through Rope

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The next K’ex lecture will be:

Capabilities of Passivity: Mediated Through Rope
Beate Absalon

Thursday 9th March, 15.00 – 17.00
Education Building, Room 220,
Goldsmiths, University of London,
Located by the Library: No. 29 on the Site Map

Abstract

Rope as a functional tool for carrying, lifting, pulling, fastening and attaching has been used since prehistoric times. Beyond that, rope is also used to mediate a mode of being that has been put in second place by modern western societies: a mode of passivity. We commonly value activity over passivity, freedom over restraint, ability over inability. What I am interested in are practices that blur these binary distinctions and uncover the abilities of inability, the freedoms of being restraint – the potentialities, possibilities and creative aspects of passivity.

Even though rope as a material might appear trivial and ordinary at first sight, it seems to have specific qualities to create these exciting spaces of “potentia passiva”: Odysseus, tied up to his ship’s mast, is allowed to safely listen to the sirens’ song; activists tie themselves to trees as a form of passive resistance; kink aficionados use bondage to explore the erotic but also meditative feelings of surrender; performance artists use rope to become kinetic drawing-pendulums; marionette puppets dance with an elegance no human can achieve… Furthermore, the metaphorical implications of rope are all over the place: connection, communication, networks,…

The talk will present a work in progress and actively\passively invites everybody to wonder and think about rope as a material: what makes it so appealing to deconstruct the duality of activity\passivity? We can discuss theories of passivity from phenomenology to aesthetics to ethics; material-semiotic concepts such as Bruno Latour’s actor-network-theory; the gender specificity of rope usage (why are the mythological female Norns weaving the rope of fate and why is rope skipping a typical “girl game”?); the historical backgrounds of tying with rope and its dark sides (its usage in slavery and execution and how the Japanese art of Kinbaku has been developed out of a martial art’s technique); international differences of using rope and approaching passivity; Deleuze’s concept of becoming and the tentacle-like materiality of rope and how this can be thought with the Cthulhu Cult and Donna Haraway’s plea for tentacular thinking: “Tentacularity is about life lived along lines  (…)  not at points, not in spheres.” So how do the manifold examples of bondage and entanglements reveal to us the benefits of a life lived along the rope?

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Beate Absalon took a break from studying and working at the Institut für Kulturwissenschaft (Institute for Cultural Theory and History) at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin by using the Erasmus exchange program to study on the MA CAT. Her research focuses on strategies that playfully and/or bizarrely rearrange common norms. She loves to share her interest in rope both in theory and in the field, giving workshops in the collective ”luhmen d’arc” http://www.luhmendarc.de

 There are no suggested reading for this talk.

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