Node for Contemporary Afterlife Art (NCAA)
‘Node’ – A way to not call it a center. A way to think of it as pathways through which traffic may pass, the traffic of the dead.
‘Contemporary’ – is being disputed vigorously all over the art and art theory worlds. Within the so-called art world, contemporary is not the same as contemporaneous, at the same time as the now – that is, not all art being produced at this current moment (this now) counts as contemporary art, according to those who do the counting. For NCAA, contemporary refers, in part, to what enables, retroactively, a history. It does not follow after the historical, it is not the present of a past; rather, it is current activity in whose wake new historical formations can be observed and constructed in the present, where a renewed past can be activated in a new present. In other part, it refers to the inexistent, phantom future which despite its existence-deficiency impacts the present, making of the contemporary a kind of presence.
‘Afterlife’ – is tainted by religio-secularist bias and many people are scared away by it as though it were a spooky ghost. The afterlife is a very complicated, social and material engagement, an on-going relationship between presence and absence. For NCAA, it does not necessarily imply the survival of a whole ‘person’ after their bodily demise – as though anyone was ever whole before that; neither does it imply a final expiration of personhood. Both the body and the person operate in the universe – social and mental and physical universe – by leaving thick and complex traces, perceptible and imperceptible, that activate other processes and transformations, in humans and non-humans alike. Afterlife, then, may be summarized as the continuation of affect and intentionality in other forms, that is beyond the bounds of the original biological organism. Thus we might at least say that we already live in the afterlife, the afterlife of others who made and unmade us[i] and continue to make and unmake us.
‘Art’ – this last term has become so vast and capacious and contentious a domain that any description can only fail to contain and tame it. And, at any rate, the point is to expand it.
The afterlife is material, the afterlife is mental, the afterlife is social, the afterlife is political. We are made up of afterlives. Inhabiting the afterlife as an ethical position is precisely to not escape into the unreal; it is a way of orienting oneself viz the immanent. Engagement with afterlives is important today because any person concerned with justice must at some level be traumatized or haunted by the viciousness of global necropolitics. [ii] Living the afterlife is to stand shoulder to shoulder with the dead.[iii]
The goal of NCAA is to encourage and explore all the creative and new ways in which makers and thinkers and practitioners of various sort around the world are re-engaging the afterlife beyond adherence to traditional norms and techniques, or to rigid ideological formations.
[i] Cf Judith Butler
[ii] Cf John Berger, 2011, “One Message Leading to Another”, Massachusetts Review, vol. 52, no. 3–4.
[iii] Cf Achille Mbembe