Archive for the ‘EGS’ Category

RCID Students A.D. Carson & Matthew Osborn visit The European Graduate School

August 1, 2014

RCID Ph.D. students A.D. Carson and Matthew Osborn spent three weeks at the European Graduate School (EGS) in Saas-Fee, Switzerland to attend the June Summer Session there, high in the Alps. The two students were privileged to attend seminars with Visiting Professor to Columbia, Princeton, The New School, NYU, and U of Michigan Slavoj Žižek, New York University Global Distinguished Professor Boris Groys, University of Texas Austin Professor Diane Davis, and RCID Program Director Victor Vitanza, among others, and were treated to evening lectures with Simon Critchley, Benjamin Bratton, Samuel Weber, and more. The experience far exceeded anticipations, and gave Carson and Osborn new ways to think about their studies at Clemson and beyond.

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Click photos to enlarge

Once they arrived in the village—traveling via Zürich, then rail, then bus—the two attended their first and “irreducible” seminar on the ethics of Emmanuel Levinas with Davis. The intimate and profoundly affecting six days involved, among other things, the subject’s “response-ability” to the Other and the need to weather its disturbance. The afternoons of this first week were spent with Vitanza, with whom students in the Media and Communication Division at EGS studied the thought of Jean-François Lyotard. Particularly memorable was the demonstration of Möbius strip, a topological object that has neither an outside nor an inside. How might this object come to be seen as a metaphor for the potentialities of discourse, the group wondered, when traditional critique doesn’t work?

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In a seminar with Groys, the students explored “the end of history,” avant-garde movements, and aestheticizations of politics. Walking down “the hill” from Steinmatte one afternoon, Matthew shared the plans for his dissertation on surprise and surprises with the professor. Groys, author of the recently translated-into-English study of artistic novelty On the New, stopped in his tracks to caution the young scholar: “It is very hard to surprise.”

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In addition to his seminar on “The Contingency of Necessity,” Slavoj Žižek posed the [still unanswered] question to A.D. if Hip-Hop can be subversive. A perspective is that its existence at EGS hints at a response. Žižek later requested to hear samples of A.D.’s “shitty music,” which the artist gladly provided. See a music video created in Saas-Fee by Carson and a few colleagues below:

Carson has also completed an entire mixtape entitled “Summer Session,” which is accessible on SoundCloud.

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Somewhere in the daze, Matthew experienced the first day of his twenty seventh year on the planet. His friends from home even managed to make an appearance in spirit by treating him to the hotel restaurant’s finest offerings—all the way from North Carolina! The gesture prompted a “back up” the likes of which he had never experienced, and he thereupon burst into infinitesimals. Speaking of fragments, Osborn created several videos during the trip using the application Vine, which are strung together below:

It’s tough to conclude this story, which is in some ways still ongoing. Many questions and challenges of the trip remain for the students open queries to be addressed in future thinkings, projects, and dissertations. Carson and Osborn thank the RCID Program, Clemson University, Victor Vitanza, Diane Davis, and everyone at EGS for making the experience possible and unforgettable.



EGS 2012: An Ourstory

October 11, 2012

This year, Trish Fancher and Jimmy Butts had the honor of attending the European Graduate School in Saas Fee, Switzerland. They participated in classes with Avital Ronell, Victor Vitanza, Denise Riley, Manuel Delanda, Volker Shlondorff and Wolfgang Schirmacher. In nightly lectures and in conversations and adventures with other students, Jimmy and Trish also learned from dozens of other artists, designers, scholars, writers, and all around fascinating folks.

Jimmy arrived a day early in Zurich to see James Joyce’s grave, and saw a Swiss Rock band with a female singer in the bar of his hostel the evening before he had to be up in the Alps to begin classes.  Joyce borrowed Jimmy’s hat:

Also, Trish traveled throughout Norway for two weeks before going to EGS. And because it seemed like it was on the way, she made a short stopover in Paris.

All the students were welcomed after a whirlwind of planes and trains to Saas Fee by Wolfgang SchirmacherDirector of the European Graduate School–a flamboyant character with quite a bit of personal flair and panache. The schedule: a three hour class in the morning, followed by a second three hour class in the afternoon, and ending with a two hour lecture each evening is taxing, but really intellectually stimulating.

Normally, Jimmy and Trish would have begun with Diane Davis, but she had to miss this year to be with her family.  Instead, their group of students began with Avital Ronell teaching Derrida for the first time since he passed away.  The class opened with a discussion of Derrida’s Politics of Friendship and continued  continued with Ronell for a second week discussing hospitality and friendship, even taking a day to watch Werner Herzog’s My Best Fiend.  Ronell had just come from a press blitz in Paris and had met with Herzog to talk about a potential collaboration, which did not end up being viable for the two.  Ronell’s teaching style is wonderfully hospitable, and Jimmy and Trish felt extremely close to her by the end of their time together.  She offered a challenging pedagogical approach that worked through a diverse collection of texts, while giving them each careful attention through close reading. In addition, Ronell found a way to charm each student so that our her words continued to ring in our ears throughout the term at EGS.

Werner Hamacher, a true German philosopher, gave an intriguing talk near the beginning of the semester exploring the philosophical nature of the messiah that would never arrive, because of the mysterious definitional status of the messiah.  The messiah is the one who is coming, so if it were to arrive, then it would no longer be the messiah, and we would not notice it.  Hamacher suggested that the messiah might be anything, even a whiff of perfume–and that we will miss it. While walking back after the talk, Trish and Jimmy walked into a local bar only to find themselves dancing to “The Time of My Life” with several other EGS folks, including Werner Hamacher and an anarchist who has been trained in Chinese circus arts.

The two also began with the infamous Victor Vitanza as their second opening class.  He spoke on Jean Francois Lyotard’s work and the ethical perspectives made possible through postmodern frameworks.  He shared various visual examples including the creation of a moebius strip, as shown in this video clip.

At one point, Vitanza suggested, only momentarily, that Lyotard was more significant in thinking postmodern ethics than Derrida, but then took it back. Vitanza left the students with the question: “What is your relationship with language?”

This question resonated through the next two courses: “On Utterance” with Denise Riley and a second course with Avital Ronell, which focused on her own work.

Simon Critchley, the philosopher, scandalously read a short story he’d penned for his night lecture. The lecture led to a lively discussion among Critchely, Ronell, Schirmacher, and several students. Critchely bought Jimmy a beer afterward.  They talked about Hamlet.  Jimmy asked him later when it was better to write fiction over the factual research offered by philosophical inquiries.  Critchley replied, over breakfast, “It’s all fiction.”

After saying goodbye to Victor, the two began an afternoon class with Denise Riley.  Riley’s class was about listening to language using the inner ear.  Working through Foucault, Merleau-Ponty, Heidegger, and even Samuel Beckett, the class explored what it meant to hear the “truths” of language from language itself. The class experimented with this by reading aloud alternating lines of a few Beckett poems.

On a hike to see some marmots, Denise Riley shared with Jimmy that her first night in the United States was spent on Allen Ginsberg’s floor where she could hear the bugs crawling around the house and in the walls. After listening to Trish describe her dissertation project, Denise insisted that the world does not need another traditional, boring dissertation. She recommend that Trish write something that people will want to read, a dialogue or play perhaps. She was extremely British and very humble about her own work, yet she had a connection for whatever anyone was studying.

After two weeks of demanding and rewarding pedagogy in and out of class, Avital Ronell had to pack her bags and depart the magical mountain. She asked Trish to accompany her on part of her long journey to the airport. Trish helped Avital out with her luggage, and Avital helped Trish to better understand the complicated role of any mentor, teacher, and friend. It was a sad goodbye, with a very warm hug.

Somewhere along the way, Slavoj Zizek showed up.  He, of course, generated quite a buzz.  At one point, he grabbed Jimmy’s elbow by the coffee machine to tell him about a Brazilian drink called lágrima, warm milk with just a tear of coffee.  He is a man full of information, and just likes to talk with people about it.  Jimmy sat in on one of Zizek’s lectures where he talked about The Wire and various cinematic levels of honesty.

Jimmy then went on to sit in on Volker Schlondorff’s class. Schlondorff is a director who has won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival for The Tin Drum.  He also directed cinematic adaptations of The Death of a Salesman and The Handmaid’s Tale.  He gave lovely and haunting autobiographical stories about growing up during World War II in Germany and leaving for France to begin his film career.  On his lecture night, he screened his latest film, Calm at Sea, about the execution a young man during the Nazi occupation of France.

Meanwhile, Trish sat in on Manuel Delanda’s class on Deleuze’s theories of history and science. Each morning, Delanda would lecture on the scientific foundations of Deleuzian theory. Each afternoon, he would parallel those scientific principles with historical and social principles, thereby creating strong connections among philosophy, science, and history.

Among other moments were Peter Singer sharing about utilitarian vegetarianism.

Michael Hardt talking about learning from Occupy Wall Street.

Catherine Breilllat screening her disturbingly honest 1996 film Parfait amour! or Perfect Love.

Sylvere Lotringer exploring prevalence of modern day video surveillance.

And Samuel Weber considering the uncanny through the work of David Lynch.

The two Clemson students finished their coursework in Saas Fee with Wolfgang Shirmacher’s class.  They wrote short papers for him based on his research on Mediated Life and Homo Generator each morning, which they would go through along with the readings each afternoon.  The process was really interesting at the end of the trip, and gave the students a chance to apply and play with some of the concepts they’d picked up.

All of this was interspersed with lots of hiking, eating Swiss chocolate, and visiting the local Metro Bar.

   Afterwards, Jimmy met his lovely wife in Italy,

and Trish  flew off to Brussels to eat waffles!

It was quite a trip!

Trish and Jimmy on their way to EGS, June, 2012 …

April 10, 2012

Trish Fancher and Jimmy Butts
(RCID students, CAAH, Clemson University)

will attend the European Graduate School this June. In Saas-Fee, Switzerland.

–> They will have seminars with

Diane Davis, Victor Vitanza, Denise Riley, Avital Ronell, Volker Schlöndorff, Wolfgang Schirmacher.

–> And will be attending lectures and mixing with

Simon Critchley, Slavoj Zizek, Peter Singer / Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek, Hendrik Speck, Michael Hardt, Lev Manovich

Mitchell Joachim, Geert Lovink, Francois Noudelmann, Claire Denis, Sylvere Lotringer, Samuel Weber

Werner Hamacher, Manthia Diawara, Eduardo L. Cadava, Manuel de Landa, Catherine Breillat.

. . . VjV . . . 

European Graduate School, June 2011

September 10, 2011

This year’s visiting scholars to the European Graduate School (EGS) were second year RCID student Jared Colton and fourth year RCID candidate Nicole McFarlane. They attended the June session seminars in Media and Communication. Although this session took place in the days leading up to the solstice, the Clemson RCID contingent arrived to find a landscape with little resemblance to balmy Carolina summers. Freshly fallen snow covered the landscape.

The video below features excerpts from the six seminars that Nicole and Jared attended. Courses included “Art, Community, and Freedom” by Jean-Luc Nancy; “Derrida”: Hospitality and Cosmopolitanism” by Diane Davis; “Justice in Language” by Werner Hamacher; “Lyotard: Hesitating Thought” by Victor J. Vitanza; “Literary Cinema: the Transformation of Thought” by Volker Schlöndorff; and “Deleuze: Science and History” by Manuel DeLanda.

The EGS Experience from Jared on Vimeo.

Favorite Italian Restaurant: The chocolate truffles were to die for.

Jean-Luc Nancy was kind enough to pose for a photo with Nicole.

Manuel DeLanda strikes a playful stance with Jared upon the conclusion of his seminar on Deleuze.

Derrida seminar with Diane Davis and EGS students.


Attending EGS in Switzerland

August 24, 2010

Attending the European Graduate School (EGS) in Switzerland this past summer were second year RCID students Lauren Mitchell and Steven Holmes. They follow in the considerable footsteps of such international RCID-ers of mystery as Justin and Jason (2007), Amanda and Josh Abboud (2008), and Sergio and Anthony (2009). For 22 days, Lauren and Steven participated in one of the most intellectually demanding environments imaginable in the Western academic world.

If these hills were alive with the sound of music, they may not have noticed

Lauren and Steven arrived in the Zurich International Airport, and were able to make their way by train (3 hours to Visp) and then by bus (1 hour on a steady 45 degree incline), to the tiny village of Saas-Fee. The respective environments of Saas-Fee are diametrically opposed: a ski resort by winter and, as EGS faculty member Slavoj Zizek says, “summer camp for intellectuals” from June through August. The pastoral mountain scenery of the Alps initially greeted them with a misleading and breathtaking tranquility that was quickly unsettled by the challenge of attending six three-day seminars (three hours per seminar, two seminars per day plus an evening lecture) in the 2nd year Ph.D. track in Philosophy, Art, and Psychoanalysis.

Their first seminar was with renowned media and networks theorist Friedrich Kittler. His lectures did not fall short of his considerable reputation. Kittler moved effortlessly through 2,000 years of historiographies of electricity and communication, parsing logocentric interpretations of the evolution of technology from those more along the lines of its essence, spending the final seminar on the shift from the Gutenberg to the “Turing Galaxy” and the state(lessness) of the techno-political (dis)order to come. Expecting at least 100 Goethe and/or Heidegger references an hour, they were pleasantly surprised that Kittler devoted much time to drawing intricate circuit diagrams. Half of the seminar felt like an advanced electrical engineering lecture, and yet the complex material was tempered by the wealth of obscure historical and philosophical anecdotes and allegories that Kittler has collected throughout his decades of research (overall, the seminar provided an excellent materiality supplement of hardware-software-wetware genealogies that resonated with the logics of invention that RCIDers “do” with Gregory Ulmer’s electracy~SH). Evening lectures during the first session were given by MIT futurist engineer and environmental ecologist Joachim Miller and Paul Miller aka DJ Spooky on digital reproduction, copyright-left, and, of course, dj-ing and sampling.

Have you heard about his new Ipad DJ-ing app? Knowing-doing-‘sampling’ is more like it

They moved from media theory to potentially lethal dosages of deconstruction with the excellent Derridian scholar, rhetorician, and EGS Graduate Diane Davis from UT-Austin. Her task was HERculean: covering not only the fundamentals of Derrida’s thinking through such essential paracepts as iterability, signature, context, and his engagements with John Searle’s speech-act theory (whew!), but also fastidiously connecting these ideas to his work in On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness (which they read after “Signature, Event, Context”) and Of Hospitality. For those who ever suspected Derrida of being a thinker who can be ignored or downplayed in the apparatus shift from print literacy to networks, MMORPGs, multi- or intermedia, and digital technologies, Diane converted many unbelievers. She closed the seminar with arguments from her forthcoming book Inessential Solidarity (October, 2010).

Sylviere Lottringer, founder of Semiotext(e), celebrated translator and interpreter of past decades of Continental theory, delivered an engaging evening lecture on Immateriality through the work of Yves Klein and the International Situationists, and Joseph Beuys (the lecture, according to Sylviere, was light in contrast to his three days with the first-year students, however it filled a dozen pages in our notebooks~LM).

Although most wouldn’t think of Derrida and Lyotard’s projects as necessarily aligned, Diane Davis’s Jacques Derrida Seminar, in a strange way that those students who have survived RCID 801 and 802 will appreciate, ungrounded the EGS students in a way conducive to making (non)sense of  Victor Vitanza’s Jean-Francois Lyotard Seminar. If Diane deconstructed presence through the intralinguistic critique of phallogocentrism in Derrida, Victor introduced the intermedial (“third”) spaces of Discourse, Figure, Lyotard’s dissertation, from the first moments of seminar. After Just Gaming, Victor confounded many (in a productive way) with Lyotard’s idiosyncratic, performative, and singular gestures in Libidinal Economy, which we (speaking for the group of 10 or so who attended each class with us) read and discussed together on the second day.

For any who hold the misconception that EGS is only for theory wonks, please observe the following clip from Seminar:

Two (bonus!) day viewings were from Bang the Drum Slowly by John D. Hancock and Werner Herzog’s Where the Green Ants Dream to show performaces of, respectively, the card game of “tegwar” (think “Calvinball” but with even fewer rules~SH) and the differend in relationship to aboriginal land dispossession.

By this point, if such a thing could be said, a running theme throughout the seminars emphasized by both Victor and Diane (as well as by Kittler) had emerged that, in our opinion, is of crucial importance for RCIDers to contemplate. All urged their EGS students to realize that these theoretical excurses and ways of thinking such as deconstruction, non-positive affirmation, and the libidinal economy do not necessarily result in moral-ethical-political passivity, relativism, or nihilism. As Diane convincingly demonstrated, the argument that without the Good and the True there can only be an “anything goes” mentality still presupposes the a priori validity and foundation of a known physis in which relativism could be posited as a ‘lack’ of some-thing that should be known and described. In other words, cries of relativism still inherently labor within a mimetic, epistemic, and negated ontology.

By contrast, from the Nietzschean position, as Jean-Luc Nancy reiterated in the fourth seminar (see, we were going somewhere with this line of thinking~LM &SH), it is only once ratio (pre-determined calculations of means and end), prescriptives derived from descriptives, and negation are abandoned, that ‘responsibility,’ judgment (in an unconditional and pure indetermination), and obligation from the other in his/her Otherness can actually come into singular existence (ec-stasis). The Other could even be found, as Davis suggested through a re-thinking of Kafka’s cockroach. Victor’s “third spaces” are well-known to the RCID community. Along these lines, Kittler closed his seminar with a caustic comment that the Other as machine – once prosthetics become less visible (say, in the eye, for instance) – may also challenge the human as an autonomous, self-contained center. Not only ‘cyber’-ethics will do it these days –

Thus Spoke EGS!!! Friedrich Kittler!

Ask not what ends you have for your technological means, but ask what ends your technological means may have for you!

We (LM&SH) feel as though these thoughts are worth mentioning because many in RCID may wonder (at times) whether these so-called “high theorists” really have any sense of political engagement or effectivity. The answer: they do, but only with an indeterminate disfiguration of the political through affect-ivity!

Where Friedrich Kittler employed networks, Davis utilized linguistic signification, and Victor explored figural singularities, Nancy mobilized the History of Art. The basic topos was this: a way to re-think the relationship among art and philosophy through of a quasi-Heideggerian ‘mystery’ that was simultaneously unveiled at the culimination (kairos) of an artistic process of invention and then veiled before re-cognition or essential description could occur. To put it crudely: the change from mimetic and representational realism to non-mimetic and non-representational forms. Nancy saw deep philosophical implications with a novel reading of Kantian aesthetics as an underexplored nexus of the interrelationship between theories of art and philosophy. Without a cosmic mythological center of theology in the age of mechanical reproduction, non-mimetic, non-representational artists such as Marcel Duchamp can be seen as products of precisely this cosmic vacuum.

One of the more exciting opportunities that EGS afforded was the ability to spend some personal time with legendary theorists such as Nancy. A compatriot and friend, our philosophy professor from Colombia, Mariluz Restrepo, managed to insist that both Jean-Luc Nancy and his close friend, famous French Film director Claire Denis, come up to Lauren’s room for a glass of wine, Swiss chocolate, and some engaging conversation. Speaking of Claire, Victor, Steven, Lauren, and Diane were honored to be in the audience for an advance screening of her forthcoming film White Materials, a difficult and demanding representation of a divorced (white) female coffee plantation owner attempting to negotiate a nationalist uprising in a small sub-Saharan African village. Claire provided us with live voice over for the film, which did not yet have English.

Philosopher of photography and new media scholar, Hubertus von Amelunxen, graced the fifth seminar with several accounts of the curatorial (rhetorical and artistic) process of constructing the art exhibitions. Notable was Hubertus’ lecture on the making of Notation: Calculation and Form in the Arts, which was held at ZKM – Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe in 2009. The exhibit showcased works demonstrating and capturing the process of making, each falling somewhere in between an idea/ feeling and final product. Based on the seminar lecture, this show must have been an example of visual rhetoric par excellence, which paved a compelling transition through the “Matrixial Borderspace” to the final seminar with Bracha Ettinger (above, on the couch), practicing psychoanalyst and renowned artist. Bracha’s thick seminars were both visually, emotionally, and intellectually stimulating. As our rigid identities were broken down (yet again!!!), we began to understand that the complex semi-permeable membrane that constructs our identities may actually extend to the womb itself as the pre-primoridal zone of existence. Bracha’s example exposed how useful stretching a discipline to it’s borders can be. Her theory is born out of art.

After a sensational and exhausting 22 days, Steven and Lauren are both overjoyed to back among the RCID community. They would be happy to answer any and all questions about either of their respective experiences at EGS.

Lauren Mitchell and Steven Holmes

Venturing to EGS, some a’more

September 24, 2009


This past summer Anthony Collamati and Sergio Figueiredo had the opportunity to spend three weeks in Saas Fee, Switzerland, studying at the European Graduate School (EGS). Continuing the tradition forged by Justin, Jason, Amanda, and Josh Abboud, they attended six intense seminars in the Philosophy, Art, and Psychoanalysis track of study. Each of these sections parallels RCID’s triad: Knowing (theoretical), Doing (practical/pedagogical), Making (productive). …


We began with ‘knowing’ in our first course with Victor Vitanza: “Jean-Francois Lyotard: Hesitating Thought.” As we “eased” into the program with Just Gaming, the students experiencing Vitanza’s performative teaching approach for the first time had Anthony and me (Sergio, I’m telling this story) recalling our first encounters in a Vitanzian classroom. As we ate lunch with the students during our mid-day break, we found that some students were unsure what to make of the “show,” but were excited about the passion Vitanza put into the course. Over the next two days, we worked our way through Lyotard’s Libidinal Economy and The Differend.


In a change of direction, we moved on to Wolfgang Schirmacher’s course, “Media Culture; Artificial Life.” An introduction to Schirmacher’s own philosophical work, this course was a mixture of an interpretation of other philosophers’ work and a grounding in the function that EGS’s PhD in Communication serves in the wider culture. The key term in Schirmacher’s philosophical ethical thinking is “Homo Generator,” which is defined as a human being that needs no certainty/truth and functions as a body politics treated as artifacts. After three days of “The Wolf’s” perspectives on life, the universe and everything, we were treated to a day of rest.


On our seventh day, we joined Victor and Diane Davis for a leisurely walk up one of the mountains on the ‘south side’ (I’m not really sure of compass-itorial direction). Anthony, with video-camera in-hand, filmed parts of our adventures that were later used to produce a video-adventure for his young son, Hugo. (The video, or part of it, is below.) On our way down the mountain, we discovered a human-made spa where we submerged our arms and legs in cool mountain water, and walked around a path with four different surfaces (the description said that this would help relieve stress and increase blood flow).

The next day, we were back to work in a split session with Sylvere Lotringer and Chris Kraus. In his course, titled “Jean Baudrillard,” Sylvere enlightened us with stories and escapades he shared with Baudrillard and other French theorists of the time. This introduction to Baudrillard was invaluable to situating his thinking in the overall work of media philosophy. Where Lotringer provided a practical (i.e., “doing”) understanding of Baudrillard’s contribution to critical theory, Kraus’ “Performative Philosophy” asked each of us to perform (engage in “making”) work similar to Lotringer’s lecture style. As a creative writing instructor, Kraus’ writing and style, combined with the EGS experience, provided a basis for re/thinking how theoretical work develops – in this case, through personal and social experiences.


Two weeks into the program, we left for the “Venice Biennale.” At midnight we hauled ourselves into two buses and prepared ourselves for this ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ event. Once we arrived (about 7:30am), we hopped onto a vaporetto (waterbus) and headed to the section of the city where the exhibitions are situated.  The ticket booths were closed when we arriveed, so we sat down at a local café and enjoy what was, without a doubt, the best espresso ever. Then, after spending a day with a survey of art from around the world, we returned to the buses and got ready to begin the third and final week of our time at EGS.

Upon our return, the village of Saas Fee welcomed our return with a parade which included a musical ensemble accompanied with sheep and cows. Initially, we were appreciative of the very thoughtful offering, but then we realized that this was a part of the build-up to the August cow-fights. Nonetheless, we enjoyed the show as we made our way to Bracha Ettinger’s course “Art, Psychoanalysis, Philosophy: The Matrixial Border-Space.” Grounded in Lacanian psycho-analysis, Ettinger introduced her views of aesthetic practices as a way to rethink ethics, particularly from a feminist perspective, but applicable to other theoretical practices as well.


After Ettinger’s theoretical course, we again shifted paths to “doing” with Larry Rickels and “making” with Diana Thater in the co-taught course: “Haunted Thought and Art.” Rickels started by introducing his current work with philosophical studies of animals, including readings by Derrida (The Animal That Therefore I Am) and Freud (Totem and Taboo), among others. On the third day of the course we turned to Thater’s installation art (usually video and photography), with a focus on animal-rights activism, such as “The Dolphin Project.” As our three-week expedition in Saas Fee came to a close, Thater brought the theoretical, practical and productive elements of media philosophy together with a visually theoretical art installation.


Finally, on June 18th, we made our way to the bus depot once again. Anthony and I left at the same time, but we parted our ways in Visp, Switzerland. Anthony continued on the bus to Bern before jumping in a train to meet his family in Milan. From there, they joined Anthony’s extended family for a wedding in southern Italy. At Visp, I took the rail line to Laussanne where I also caught a train to meet my extended family living in the outskirts of Paris.

As we look back to this summer’s trip, we find ourselves fortunate to have interacted with such wonderful people and to have had the chance to unwind with our families after three intense, but fun, weeks talking with world-renowned thinkers. Here are a few more images from our time at EGS.




The last photo above of dinner (avec Sergio, Diane, Anthony, and V) is a bit out of focus because the owner of the Ital restaurant as well as amateur photographer sat down with us and had a bit too much vino. But really, What is too much of some a’more!

~ Anthony Collamati and Sergio Figueiredo

Cuts from Anthony’s film….

Venturing to EGS, 2

August 26, 2008

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:



Venturing to EGS: A Mountainside of Ideas

September 6, 2007

This summer, June ’07, I had the wonderful opportunity to spend a little over three weeks in Europe, but it wasn’t a “vacation” by any sense of the word. I, along with fellow RCIDer Jason Helms, took six seminars1clairejasonsm.jpg (yes, 18 hours for each of the six in three weeks) in the ‘Media and Communication Division’ of the European Graduate School (EGS), and I must say it was one of the most intense, enriching educational experiences that I have ever encountered. Where else in the world are you going to get the opportunity to take a seminar on film (thinking/creating in film) with film director Claire Denis (pictured: with Jason Helms) and a seminar with Helene Cixous on Helene Cixous (and her intellectual and personal relationship with Jacques Derrida)?

There were other seminar and instructors of equal fascination: we had a seminar on the works of Jean-Francois Lyotard entitled “Hesitating Thought,” which was taught by RCID Director Victor Vitanza; there was a seminar on Media Art (with an emphasis on rethinking the shape/space inside the body) by renowned installation artist/sculptor Antony Gormley; a seminar on Matrixial Borderspace by Bracha Ettinger; and a seminar on Media Culture and Artificial Life by EGS Director Wolfgang Schirmacher.

Each of these seminars had its own dynamic and process, but the conversations they together ignited amongst us students was an exceptionally fertile ground for sprouting ideas. Whether in seminar, at breakfast, lunch, dinner, or in the Metro bar (drinking a Cardinal Lager), there was never a moment to not be actively involved (and invested) in a conversation.

Most of our time in Saas Fee, Switzerland, was spent in seminars or EGS related functions—including evening lecture sessions, which were presentations by faculty at EGS as well as guest speakers/presenters like writer Julian Barnes; philosopher Manuel DeLanda; and artist, musician, and theorist Paul Miller [a.k.a. DJ Spooky]). 2jjnancysm.jpgWe did have some free time each day after lunch, and some days we decided to watch Denis’ films; other days we took in the sauna and hot tub or went for a hike up (and/or down) the beautiful mountain-side (even taking the lift to the top of “an Alp” [stopping to stand next to a glacier] and hiking the hour and twenty minutes back down to the village). And there were several days where afternoon naps were in order and still others where drinks and conversation were the occurrence of the moment (like chatting with Pierre Alferi or Jean-Luc Nancy [J-L F with Jason & me]).

During our time at EGS, we had two scheduled days off. One was an actual day off, but the other included an all day trip to the Biennale in Venice. We arrived in Venice at 8:00am and left that same night at 11:00pm. This trip began the whirlwind part of our EGS stay as we toured the city of Venice on Thursday–including a fantastic meal that evening in some tiny corridor just across the waterway from the San Marco square. The following morning we had breakfast in the Swiss Alps (back in Saas Fee) and then we headed for Paris, ending our day with a lovely dinner at a little bistro a block from the Eiffel Tower.

The Paris part of our EGS experience was not part of the original plan, but Helene Cixous pic of cixous at homewas unable to come to us; however, rather than cancel on us completely, she gave up her monetary compensation to pay for our class to travel to her for a one day seminar and meal in her apartment, which concluded with a in-depth, behind the scenes look at the renowned Theatre du Soleil (for whom Helene has written several plays).

All told, it was a fascinating experience and I met many engaging individuals whom I hope to continue conversations with through the years to come. This opportunity was so unique and so rewarding that I hope all RCIDers get the chance to take advantage of it in coming summers.

~ Justin Hodgson


PS: Here’s a video of various snapshots.