Josh Abboud and I were privileged to be able to continue the RCID presence at the European Graduate School this June, ’08, in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. Like Justin and Jason, who attended last summer, we also took six seminars in the Media and Communication Division of EGS–a relatively intense means of learning and exchange. Our sessions broke into three unofficial segments that I have affectionately named as follows: Fun with Theorists, Adventures in Psychoanalysis, and Film, Film, Film.
. . . We began with the familiar as we took our first class, “Jean-François Lyotard: Hesitating Thought,” with RCID Director Victor Vitanza (yes, Victor’s class was our “easing in” to the system). While the material challenged us, I did delight in already having had the Vitanza teaching experience, and perhaps a bit in taking note of the dumb-struck looks on the faces of new students to that experience. I well-remember that experience for myself. Of course, the expressions soon changed to delight as we engaged in Lyotard’s/Vitanza’s drama from Just Gaming through Libidinal Economy to the Differend. In stark contrast to this experience, but with equal delight, we next embarked upon Sylvere Lotringer’s “Jean Baudrillard” class. Here, Lotringer shared his vast and colorful knowledge of and experiences with Baudrillard, as well as most other influential French philosophers of the past fifty years or so. Most interesting was Lotringer’s discussion of the whole Forget Foucault affair! I literally could not write fast enough to capture the gold that flowed from Lotringer’s lips.
“Adventures in Psychoanalysis” week offered us “Haunted Thought and Art” with Larry Rickels and Sue de Beer, and “Art, Psychoanalysis, Philosophy: The Matrixial Border-space” with Bracha Ettinger. Here, art–materially in Sue’s films as well as theoretically in Bracha’s notebooks–was both juxtaposed and interspersed with analysis á la Freud and Lacan . . . and, of course, Rickels and Ettinger. (Below are Bracha’s shoes and sketches.)
Finally, . . . in week three, the practice of art pulled even more into focus as we worked with two film-makers, Claire Denis (L’Intrus) & Tom Kalin (Savage Grace).
In addition to classes, we attended evening lectures with a range of artists, philosophers, filmmakers, and the like, including Barbara Hammer, Manuel DeLanda, Paul Miller (aka DJ Spooky aka That Subliminal Kid), Krzysztof Zanussi, and Carl Mitcham, among others. (Below are Paul and Clare.)
But alas, we were not only academic nerds. I ventured a few times into the social scene (though my cold mix well with the didn’t smokey bars), getting the EGS-behind-the-scenes stories, and of course expanding class discussions and the philosophical meanderings often enhanced by wine and the like. Additionally, we enjoyed the beauty of the nature around us, often taking morning walks. Though the weather did not cooperate throughout most of our trip, we lucked out on our second day off–on this gorgeous day, we hit the gondolier and did some serious mountain hiking (well, Josh a bit more successfully than me, as he actually reached the summit. I peaked about half-way up, and reveled in the scenery and the rock-sitting while he climbed).
Overall, EGS inspired, challenged and delighted in countless ways. I think I can speak for both of us when I say that we felt quite honored to be given this opportunity, and what we gained can hardly be put into words. The rare RCID/EGS partnership rewards in more ways than one could imagine, and I look forward to continuing my conversations with the many amazing people I met this summer.
~ Amanda Booher ~
I don’t want to offer another recounting of what was a once in a lifetime opportunity to immerse ourselves almost completely in our academic endeavors for three weeks. Instead, I will offer this small passage that I recorded while in Saas-Fee, Switzerland:
As we draw close to the halfway mark I must say that I am becoming more and more enamored with extending the boundaries of academic learning. The traditional university has its benefits, of course, but it comes with its own risks. Rigid disciplinary fields have territorialized teaching, learning, and research to the point that it has become very difficult to transfer knowledge, even while that knowledge resists this same territorialization. I suppose that is the driving force behind RCID, but that is also the obstacle against RCID. EGS as well has its own risks and benefits; however, it has created a place that allows knowledge to spill over, and even encourages students to spill over themselves.
And spill over ourselves we did. For three weeks we were stretched to our scholarly limits, drowning amidst ideas both old and new–the new is made familiar and the old is made strange. This was in no way a place to passively sit at the feet of the masters, but to actively enter the conversations that they have themselves continued from a lifetime of listening. As I said in the above passage RCID and EGS share a vision of breaking down boundaries of knowledge through knowing, doing, and making. Where else but EGS can you spend a day with Victor Vitanza discussing Lyotard’s use of the Moebius strip configuration in Libidinal Economy, chat with Sylvere Lotringer about how he had to talk Michel Foucault from off the street back into a conference in which he had been offended, share a meal listening to Tom Kalin talk about directing Julianne Moore in his new movie Savage Grace, accept an invitation from Krzysztof Zanussi to come visit him at his home in Poland, and then end the day jamming to Paul Miller (aka DJ Spooky, that Subliminal Kid) spinning at the nearby Happy Bar. And it all happens against the surreal backdrop of a small Swiss village.
Here are a few pix (Wolfgang Schirmacher, the Director of EGS, responding to Sylvere in the evening lectures; Barbara Hammer, addressing the faculty and students; and VV signing autographs on his seminar notes!):
This is not so much interdisciplinary but more like synasthesia, and it goes beyond description. I think I speak for Amanda when I thank all those responsible for making this experience possible for RCID students, both present and future. And while we may not have had the best weather Europe can offer (it rained almost every day we were there) we still got to eat the best chocolate in the world, of which both Amanda and I got our fill. Now that’s priceless.
~ Joshua Abboud ~
For more detailed recountings of our experiences, please visit our personal blogs: