Urban Matters: Material Engagements with Communities and Borders in Times of Movement

Keynote Speakers

Keynote speakers:

  • Prof. Dr. renée c. hoogland (Wayne State University)
    • Respondent: Prof. Dr. Anna Hickey-Moody (RMIT University)
    • Moderator: Dr. Chris Meyns (Utrecht University)
  • Prof. Dr. Mike Pearson (Aberystwyth University)
    • Respondent: Dr. Liesbeth Groot Nibbelink (Utrecht University)
    • Moderator: Prof. Dr. Maaike Bleeker (Utrecht University)



Urban Encounters: Towards an Aesthetics of Everyday Existence 
renée c. hoogland
Urban Matters evokes many questions that directly connect with those I explore in my current book project, *Urban Encounters,* with its focus on the everyday; i.e., the contemporary global, urban everyday in its flattening, deadening, and in-differentiating effects, and, at once, as a potential site for resistance, change, and novelty. Combining theoretical inquiry and philosophical reflection with case studies of urban encounters, my aim in this book is to explore possibilities for an aesthetics of existence that keeps the paradox of banality and significance, the inherent doubleness of everydayness in suspense—as Maurice Blanchot writes, the “everyday is platitude (what lags and falls back ….); but this banality is also what is more important, if it brings us back to existence in its very spontaneity and as it is lived” —and that nonetheless does not lose its explanatory power nor its political accountability. Such explanatory power and accountability I try to ensure by maintaining a dual focus on “urban encounters” in various postindustrial cities themselves, and in a realm in which the elusive “everyday” may be captured in its specific “affective tones,” i.e., in the realms of art and literature.
In my talk, I will sketch the overall contours of *Urban Encounters,* reflect on the ways in which living as an immigrant in the city of Detroit has informed its central preoccupations, and share some of my experiences on a field trip to Cape Town, South Africa, one of the various cities with which I keep seeking encounters in search for the elusive everyday, in its undeniable banality and, at the same time, as a locus for challenging and simultaneously furthering contemporary philosophical aesthetics.
renée c. hoogland is Professor of English at Wayne State University in Detroit, where she teaches literature and culture after 1870, critical theory, and visual culture. She is the author of three monographs: A Violent Embrace: Art and Aesthetics after Representation (2014); Lesbian Configurations. (1997); and Elizabeth Bowen: A Reputation in Writing (1994). She served as the editor of Criticism: A Quarterly for Literature and the Arts for the past six yearsand further edited the first of a ten-volume Macmillan Interdisciplinary Handbooks Series on gender (2016)—for which she also acts as Senior Editor in Chief. In addition to her scholarly work, hoogland frequently writes columns and reviews for art journals and essays for exhibition catalogues.
‘Things Fall Apart’: performance in the city, the city in performance

Mike Pearson

Archaeologist Rodney Harrison characterises the present as ‘a physical stratum that contains not only the present, but all its physical and imagined pasts combined’*.

This presentation reflects upon experiences of performance making in the streets and architectures of Cardiff; upon ways in which urban fabric, design and planning – its physical pasts’ – may inform and impact not only upon themes and subjects but also upon dramaturgical form and structure; and upon the potential of performance to recover people, incidents and sites now lost, forgotten or erased. In reference to an attempt to evoke incidents and choreographies of the ‘race’ riots of 1919 in an Irish district of the city now squatted by a department store for which there is no comprehensive account, and in the reimaging of a cityscape that underlies the streets we tread and the locales we pass through daily, it suggests ways in which material remains – from archival photographs to period maps to surviving landmarks – can be gathered, indicated and employed to summon ‘imagined pasts’. Throughout, the presentation offers both conceptual and practical approaches to creative practice and – drawing upon perceptions from cultural geography and contemporary archaeology – to its critical apprehension.

* Harrison, Rodney (2013) ‘Scratching the surface’, in Alfredo González-Ruibal (ed.) Reclaiming Archaeology, London: Routledge.

Mike Pearson is Emeritus Professor of Performance Studies at Aberystwyth University in Wales. He was a member of RAT Theatre (1972-73), Cardiff Laboratory Theatre (1973-80) and Brith Gof (1981-97). He currently creates theatre as a solo artist; with artist/designer Mike Brookes in Pearson/Brookes; with senior performers group Good News From The Future; and for National Theatre Wales, including The Persians (2010), Coriolan/us (2012), Iliad (2015) and currently The Storm Cycle (2018-2020). He is the co-author with Michael Shanks of Theatre/Archaeology (2001) and author of In Comes I: Performance, Memory and Landscape (2006), Site-specific Performance (2010), Mickery Theater: An Imperfect Archaeology (2011) and Marking Time: Performance, Archaeology and the City (2013).