2017-2018 COOP study group: Proximity Aesthetics: Constructing New Ecologies of Practice ~ Tutor participants: Bassam El Baroni, Diakron, Luke Pendrell ~ Student participants: Bethany Crawford, Vinita Gatne, Sunghoon Kim, Olga Micińska, Sofia Montenegro, Edel O’Reilly, Floris Visser, Duruo Wang, Ciaran Wood.


COOP Academy ~ Proximity Aesthetics: Constructing New Ecologies of Practice from Month to Month


Monday evening October 23 till Thursday afternoon October 26 in Cologne. 
Monday evening November 27 till Thursday afternoon November 30 in Heemskerk. 
Monday evening December 18 till Thursday afternoon December 21 in Oldebroek. 
Monday evening January 22 till Thursday afternoon January 25 in Thessaloniki. 
Monday evening February 19 till Thursday afternoon February 22 in Epen. 
Monday evening March 19 till March 27 in Arnhem (PLEASE NOTE: 5 extra nights !)
Monday evening April 23 till Thursday afternoon April 26 in Barcelona. 
Tuesday May 29 - Monday June 4 in Athens (PLEASE NOTE: includes final presentation!)

Excerpts from Bassam El Baroni's presentation during our introduction week, September 2017

Quickly, zooming in on Stiegler’s work provides us with some shared theoretical territory, concerns, and positions that provide support in roughly outlining what we are generally calling ‘Proximity Aesthetics’.

According to Stiegler:

“Technology evolves much faster than social systems. As a consequence, all social organizations, from the family and government, to companies, languages, the law, and the rules governing the economy and taxation are transformed. The extremely fast pace of transformation has got out of hand in the spheres of politics and society, and for public authorities in general. Social systems are bypassed by new start-ups built around a process of permanent and radical innovation, and consequently no new economic and social model can be developed with a view to long-term sustainability.” A terminology Stiegler borrows from Jacques Généreux to describe the social effects of all of this is ‘dis-society’. So in light of this the mission is no less than to reach a new “equilibrium between social systems and technical systems” since in the current phase technology coupled with its instrumentalization in finance and governance clearly has a strong disruptive force that for Stiegler is related to a key term; entropy, a term he appropriates from the field of thermodynamics:
Entropy is the “… the tendency to disorganize and dissociate structures [… and] of a system to exhaust its dynamic potentials and capacity for conservation and renewal […]. During this process, technological innovation becomes self-destructive, disorganizing social structures […] All of the (climatic, geographical, demographic, biological) systems that constitute the biosphere are failing to survive the technological, industrial and economic projects that are currently being pursued on a global scale. In this situation, it seems necessary to consider a new macroeconomic model privileging the production of negentropy, and to rethink the way in which we articulate the relationship between technology and territory.”
And, Stiegler tells us that the negentropic is the: “Propensity towards structuring, diversification and innovation.” This attention to negentropy against the entropy of current technological systems is not to be mistaken for a form of romanticism that calls for a utopia of the past or the future, rather it is tied to the philosophical notion of Pharmakon and of ‘therapeutic knowledge’. Stiegler articulates the notion of ‘contributive research’ in his plan for a large scale long-term transdisciplinary project in the Plaine Commune area in the Parisian suburbs.

The project brings in “researchers (legal experts, economists, engineers, sociologists, psychologists, computer scientists, telecom scientists, designers, artists, mathematicians, philosophers, etc.) working closely with local inhabitants (associations, services, societies, elected representatives, citizens), to test and work alongside experimentation with new economic models and new ways of using digital technology.”

"disciplines shouldn’t simply conform to the new principles set in place by technological consumerism. On the contrary, the epistemic breaks produced by the transformation of the technical milieu must be handled rationally within those disciplinary fields and critical peer communities: they must be theorized and criticized through experimental instrumental practices and explicit protocols of observation and formalization."

"The project of cultivating contributive research responds to a dual need: the need for critical thinking in the long run and the need for a 'therapeutic' action in the short run. It combines the setting-up of fundamental research to theorize the impact of the digital across diverse disciplinary fields, as well as rational and supervised experimentation conducted in the territory in accordance with the methods of action research. Only this type of cooperation established between education, research, economic and public local actors will be able to handle the prospective theoretical, critical and operative challenges of a profound mutation in industrial civilization.“[…] researchers to set up, in collaboration with the local inhabitants (citizens, societies, elected representatives...) a true territorial experimentation procedure that enables the elaboration and testing of new economic and social models (and in particular new processes for the redistribution of productivity gains). [This last part is based on the Stiegler’s distinction between Employment and Work]

We can see how this project develops a specific type of proximity between technology, territory, the public sphere, and various disciplines in a pharmakonian relationship.
So, this particular formation of proximity aesthetics could be outlined as a struggle in, with, and  through technics (‘the pursuit of life by means other than life’) towards socio-economical and political negentropy.

Now, one might argue that such proximity already exists but according to David Hilmer Rex, one of the members of Diakron the collective artist platform co-leading the study group:

 “While artistic practices since the 1950s, through their increasing proximity with universities, have exercised an import of virtually everything external to themselves, to the degree of becoming a sort of meta-discipline and site for transdisciplinary ambitions, the modes of export and engagement in what lies beyond the art world are few and underdeveloped. Production of works of art and their circulation, is the main way in which artistic competencies and capacities makes their way into societies. In parallel with this massive import, the fundamental concepts of artist, work of art, viewer, institution, etc., have remained somewhat stable and robust.”

As a result Hilmer Rex and Diakron focus their work on addressing a set of problem points that if tackled systematically can help transform the current environment. Some of the problems they define and address through their practice are:

The language we use needs to be reconsidered:

 “The languages we do have about art today, are mostly communicative and representational and do not grow from the inside of artistic practices. Artistic processes are understood mechanically and linearly, rather than for their ability to spawn new processes and generate new conceptual resources through which they should be understood.”

 Developing organisational differentiation for a more diverse ecology of arts organisations:

 “Lack of organisational differentiation: there is a need for more types of organisational forms to mirror or allow for more types of practices to operate in societies. There is an increased need for artists, curators and admins to consider the organisational qualities of their practice, not as a passive backdrop, but as an integral active component on equal footing with what is deemed the primary or core part of a practice.” [ …] the art profession operates on a very robust and stable organisational backdrop, that is not considered as directly influencing the types of research and practice it can allow for, consequently limiting the ways in which knowledge practices might engage in societal and technological processes. […] the art system we have is not differentiated enough, meaning that there is almost only one way that artists are deemed successful, and that is through production of works of art and their circulation. Besides this, there are very few other ways in which artists apply what they are capable of, what they know, their skills, competencies, capacities, to processes in society.

What will we be working towards?

The aim is to develop a publication together as a study group, whereby each participant in collaboration or individually brings their already existing practice towards a 'proximity aesthetics' thereby creating a speculative discourse around 'proximities' and diversifyingthe discussion through different modes of contribution and research interests.

What proximities might you be interested in constructing?

Which places and technologies are you interested in bringing into proximity? What do you want this proximity-relation to achieve at a social and political level? Can we use this publication to speculate about an 'ecology of organisations' that might transform the way our practices engage with our social interests?


Bassam El Baroni, Luke Pendrell & Diakron

Luke Pendrell is an artist who works both independently and collaboratively across a range of formats, creating, appropriating and collaging texts, images and audio-visual material. Either working outside of mainstream channels or parasitically inhabiting and exploiting established structures of power in order to explore the interstices of art, power, science, philosophy, technology, and the supernatural, contesting notions of Art and Artists as institutionalized, careerist, neo-liberal carrion. He is research & Academic Program Leader in Visual Communication at the School of Art, University of Brighton, UK.

A founder member of the antirom collective, which offered a “radical critique of the poverty of contemporary multimedia in a number of savagely ironic, absurdist and incisive satires.”work has been consistently recognised as influential and pioneering and has been screened and exhibited in institutions and art galleries around the world such as Tate Britain (London), The British Film Institute (London), The Barbican (London), MoMI (NY), The Institute of Contemporary Art (London), MoMA (Sydney), Cal Arts (LA) and Le Salle de Legion d’honneur (Paris).

Recent collaborative projects include ‘Speculative Aesthetics’ co- organised and with James Trafford, the first outcome of which being the edited collection "Speculative Aesthetics” published by Urbanomic 2014. This was developed in collaboration with Adrian Shaw at Tate Britain into ‘Speculative Tate’, extending into a ten month long research residency hosted by Tate Britain, constructed for the consideration of open questions regarding the relation between aesthetics and new forms of realism within post-Continental philosophy (influenced by, though not limited to positions identified with ‘Speculative Realism’).

Diakron "is a platform and studio for transdisciplinary research and practice. We establish collaborations across disciplinary backgrounds and institutional frameworks. Our own backgrounds are composed of experiences from artistic practices, curatorial practices, social sciences and graphic design.
 Diakron is based on explorative research as a core value. This means, that we adapt what our practices do and what the organization is, according to the research projects we undertake.
 We are currently interested in creative and explorative ways of identifying and dealing with changes, that invisibly permeate or unavoidably overwhelm ways of life. This work is tied to concerned interests in various pervasive ecological, humanitarian, existential, digital, or economic shifts. We approach these issues through experimentation with our own ways of
working and the relationships we maintain through our practices".

People & Collaborators of Diakron are:
David Hilmer Rex is an artist based in Copenhagen, Denmark. He holds an MFA from The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Visual Art. He is a co-founder of Diakron, a platform and studio for transdisciplinary research and practice. The core foci of his practice,
is to firstly develop new organisational forms, that allow for artistic practices to operate throughout societies in increasingly diverse ways, and secondly, to explore and articulate a field not centered on specific professions, but articulated around shared engagements in a certain problem area.
Aslak Aamot Kjaerulff holds a PhD degree in mobilities research and action research from Roskilde University. He is a co-founder of Diakron, a platform for transdisciplinary research and practice. He teaches urban studies and strategic planning at Roskilde University. The core trajectory of his practice is to trace how concepts and ideas travel across cultures and disciplines. This involves exploratory methodological designs, where problem formulations, research processes, artistic productions are invented collaboratively in
various constellations. The outcomes have been exhibitions, government reports, artworks, transdisciplinary communities of practice, radio documentaries, and fictional as well as academic texts.
Other Members: Amitai Romm (artist), Bjarke Hvass Kure (artist)

list of proposed guests (not confirmed and incomplete)

  • Ida Soulard is a doctoral researcher in art history at l’ENS / PSL University and co- director of Fieldwork: Marfa, an international research and residency project run by les beaux-arts de Nantes and HEAD-Gen ve.

  • Elvia Wilk is writer and editor at Transmediale, Berlin and Rhizome NYC

  • Sarah Gold is a designer working on the formation and creation of digital rights. She founded IF where she works as Director