IDSVA’s Statement of Purpose speaks of our “pioneering curriculum—fusing distance learning with intensive residencies.” The third year summer residency at Brown University was the start of this next chapter in the many journeys that have brought us together as a community. The work consisted in the shaping of the heart within and without the deep polyphonic immersions that always matter for our residencies. This is my installment in the ever-becoming process of being that answers the call as Cohort ’13.
At Brown the histories of ideas were stirred up each morning in a salon-style academic environment. As we entered the dialogic realities of a Heideggarian ‘call for thinking’ in the fallout of burning embers sparked by the brilliant mind of Dr. Paul Armstrong, we moved through many conceptual and methodological debates. In the Research Methods Framework course—where we largely interrogated the various perspectives of our overpopulated reading list—we formed many questions through sifting and distilling our expanding thinking to practice writing critically and philosophically about the relationship between the history of ideas and art.
The libraries in and around the green spaces of Brown’s old-world campus provided a welcomed sanctuary in the material world whose topology of time and history was palpable. Along with the anticipatory passages of (pre) oral exam and dissertation jitters, we experienced the privilege of time to revisit the overriding themes of the curriculum’s rigorous texts and to develop a clearer agency for the place in which each of us will stand as we begin to launch our dissertations over the next two semesters. Walking (and sometimes running) through epistemologies, representation, formalism(s), modernism, postmodernism and the politics of art and the body opened up a variety of spaces for exploring the provocations, invocations and contradictions often inherent to the work of ever-becoming artist/philosophers.
The second of our courses, the Pre-Dissertation Seminar, was an opening for the many plays of art and philosophy that are staged at IDSVA residencies. As each student presented multiple takes of her/his own research confluences; ideas were growing and breathing in fresh ways every moment. Working to clarify our arguments in presentations that were meant to guide our coming research and reading, we also re-constructed our bibliographies as working book lists along with ongoing revisions of our statements. To quote Agamben, “Being such that it always matters,” we are works in process and progress.
With Brown being our last official residency as a cohort there was a mix of vulnerabilities embodied in structures of deep thought. We actively listened and questioned each other’s ideas in the classroom salon, rambling over a great meal in a local restaurant, or while eating the ‘Brownish swill’ (as the dining hall food became fondly known). The precious time and space of IDSVA residencies contributes to the mining of the other coursework done outside these productive moments. In their embodiment as fully engaged moving sanctuaries of critical inquiry, IDSVA’s residencies put the ‘real’ in ‘virtual reality.’
While the bulk of our time as students in the IDSVA community is filtered by a more direct relationship with questions concerning technology, the residencies are an experience in being as such. The Agamben energy is omnipresent. The reminder that trusting the process of thinking and new ways of being in the world are becoming sites for expanding being toward increased meaning: Cohort ’13 is an ever-becoming group of beings that matter. The singularity exposed for me at the Brown residency was such that it is a movement that encouraged my reading and writing through a historical re-evaluative research methodology and into what Cohort ’11 Ph.D. candidate Kate Farrington calls ‘me-search.’ There seems to always be a sense of belonging at residencies that has a life of its own as spurned by the topological realities of real time and space. The more body, mind and spirit we can jam into the spaces of residency as sanctuary, the more active and reflective learning/teaching/being communities of artists and scholars can contribute to relevant discourses surrounding art theory and aesthetics, and, as Agamben states: “Being such that it always matters.”