15/1/2020 – CFP: (Im)possibility

What, when & where

Graduate Student Conference
Department of Art, Film, and Visual Studies
Harvard University
April 9–10, 2020

(Im)possibility marks a limit of available information, a threshold of representation, a cessation of action. Thinking at the limits of the possible gives rise to a specific set of issues: how might we articulate that which cannot be said? How might we orient ourselves toward that for which no available theory or representation is adequate? While  it  is  primarily  thought  of  as  an  exception,  impossibility  is  in  fact  ubiquitous  and  our relationship  to  it  intimate.  To  demonstrate  the  omnipresence  of  the  impossible,  some  might look toward contemporary political crises, saying that current conditions are untenable. Others might  point  to  ecological  destruction,  noting  that  human  life  itself  may  soon  become  an impossibility.  So  integrated  is  this  limit  into  the  fabric  of  daily  life  that  it  has  become commonplace  in  contemporary  discourse  to  claim  that  the  impossible  can  no  longer  be called—at least in any straightforward sense—unlivable. Indeed,  Black  studies  theorist  Frank B. Wilderson III would  respond  that  the  category  of “humanity” has always rendered some lives impossible—that the very concept of the human constructs Blackness as a site of nonbeing subject to,and of,perpetual extraction, gratuitous violence, and social death. Alexander Kluge writes that cinema is the single medium capable of capturing “the impossible moment”—a moment that couldn’t be imagined beforehand, and which can never be repeated again. Cinema and digital media enable us to glimpse other realms of (im)possibility—realms in which the impossible can manifest as fiction, simulation, speculation, or absurdity. Outside the bounds of continuous space and time, the (im)possible might circulate here: not the world as it is, but the world as we might make it. Or,  perhaps  cinema  and  digital  media—despite  all  their  promises  to  collapse  traditional hierarchies and think otherwise—give rise to newstructural, technological, and epistemological impossibilities. Digital media rely on that which is impossible to comprehend: data made illegible in  code,information  flows  too  large  or  too  fast  to  grasp.  No  single  spectator  can  configure themselves as the subject of such information.

We don’t have to choose: (im)possibility is given in the shared periphery of a futural, idealized dimension and a present, negative dimension. It lays waste to current frameworks, concepts, and worlds while offering insight from beyond the break. (Im)possibility beckons as a radical promise  because  it  endures  as  an  impassive  present,  and  one  of  the  challenges  of  the contemporary moment might be to hold those two modalities together. How might we consider the impossible itself as anything other than a negative concept—an index of failure? What might we articulate about (im)possibility without, for all that, rendering it (as another) possible?

Deadline & how to apply

Please submit abstracts  (no longer  than 300 words), together with a short biographical note, to  fvsconference@gmail.com by January 15, 2020. Presenters will be notified in late February 2020.


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