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Upcoming Colloquium: Improvisation, Collective Action, and the Arts of Activism

Montreal, Quebec, July 9-11, 2015

The colloquium “Improvisation, Collective Action, and the Arts of Activism” will bring together activists, artists, and scholars to critically interrogate the idea(l)s of autonomy, freedom, and agency that are central to neoliberal cultural formations and to the modes of collective action that contest those formations. What kinds of polities and communities have these idea(l)s translated into? How have the autonomous collectives that emerged in the wake of recent counterhegemonic mobilizations challenged the centrifugal modes of action and diffuse power structures fostered under neoliberalism? What are the political implications of neoliberalism’s valorization of spontaneous orders and risk-taking for counterhegemonic movements that look to improvisatory performance practices (and their attendant ethical sensibilities) as pathways towards the construction of radically democratic communities? How might the critical tools of improvisation studies and related fields of inquiry (e.g. performance and music studies, radical democratic theory, studies of collective action) serve to trouble neoliberal moves to “relax,” and “autonomize” agents from, governmental regulations? In what ways might we use those tools to bring to the fore improvisatory practices and processes that engage with alternative understandings of autonomy, agency, and risk-taking? How might the aesthetic and ethical gestures derived from, or inspired by, improvisatory traditions in the arts contribute to the politicization/denaturalization of neoliberal cultural norms?

For updates on the Colloquium schedule and more details, please click here.

Improvisation is, simply put, being and living this very moment. No one can hide in music, and improvising in music is to be truly in this very moment and being completely yourself, with all your qualities and faults. It is probably the most honest state for a human being to be in.

– John McLaughlin in an interview with Daniel Fischlin.