Skip to Content

Law, Justice, and Improvisation conference challenges orthodoxy

Lex Non Scripta, Ars Non Scripta: Law, Justice, and Improvisation, an international, interdisciplinary conference, will be held at McGill University on June 19 and 20, 2009.

Improvisation is an important art form and an artistic and cultural phenomenon – a manner of speaking, a way of being, and a realm of experience. For theorists, improvisation as a practice and as an idea raises questions not just about how law comes to describe, judge, and regulate improvisation, but the converse – how improvisation might describe, judge, and regulate the law. What does or should law tell us about improvisation? What does or should improvisation tell us about law?

For intellectual property, ars non scripta is a challenge and confrontation to legal orthodoxy. Does the alternative paradigm of sharing provide a better set of governance options in the creative realm? What other models might serve the purpose of respecting the art in and of improvisation better?

For legal theory, lex non scripta is likewise a challenge and confrontation to orthodoxy. Perhaps all art is improvised. Perhaps all law is too. Or perhaps we have lost something that once we knew about the relationship between meaning and silence, prescription and invention, justice and law.

Improvisational art practices are also deeply anchored in assorted social constructions that one might think a just and civil society should protect and encourage. Do we have a right to improvise and might we improve our rights? Can improvisation be seen as a context within which new forms and relations of social justice might be modeled?

The conference is hosted under the auspices of the Improvisation, Community and Social Practice project and is supported by the Suoni per il Popolo Music Festival, the McGill Centre for Intellectual Property Policy ( and the Faculty of Law at McGill. Please address all inquiries to or

Listening itself, an improvisative act engaged in by everyone, announces a practice of active engagement with the world, where we sift, interpret, store and forget, in parallel with action and fundamentally articulated with it ("Mobilitas Animi" 113).

– George E. Lewis