Feb-April 2017 — The Incomplete Reading Group

with Lore Gablier, Nina Glockner, Roel Griffioen, Ola Hassanain, Vincent Hessling & the Berlin Coffeehouse Conversations, Thalia Hoffman, Winston Nanlohy, Alejandro RamirezIgor Sevcuk, Éric Stephany, Giorgi Tabatadze 

Winter calls for slowing down the pace, allowing time for reflection. Therefore, La Cocina is inviting a group of artists and researchers to initiate a discursive situation in the form of a reading group. The reading group is conceived as a discursive space to explore the now familiar notion of agonism borrowed from Chantal Mouffe, through the lens of “incompleteness and the promises of progress”.

How to read today the hopes and will underlying the modernist project to improve society by designing it? How these broken narrations of progress have shaped our aesthetic and political reality? Can we imagine, could we propel different narratives, and most importantly, how relevant would that be?

Public presentations will be developed together with the group and held throughout the months. The visual, performative, and written notes elaborated by the participants will also articulate an exhibition later this year.


Saturday 4 February

For the inaugural session, we suggested to depart from the two following texts:
– Jorge Luis Borges, “Funes. The Memories” (1942)
– (“Bifo”) Franco Berardi, After the Future (AK Press, 2011), Chapter 1: “The Century that trusted the Future”

Saturday 25 February

Excerpt from Mathieu Kassovitz’s film “La Haine” [The Hatred] (1995)
– Excerpt from Mikhail Kalatozov’s film “Soy Cuba” [I Am Cuba] (1964)

Wednesday 8 March

Session hosted by Roel Griffioen

Reading material:
– Beatriz Colomina, “Le Corbusier and Photography” (1987)
– Hilde Heylen, “Architecture and Modernity” (1999) [From page 8-14]
– Roel Griffioen, “What Makes the Magazine Modern” (2017, unpublished)

For the third session of the “Incomplete reading group,” Roel Griffioen presents his ongoing research on the role of architecture magazines published between the two World Wars vis-à-vis the project of ‘modern architecture’. What precisely made the magazine the favored ‘laboratory’ or ‘production room’ for the modern movement, and more broadly speaking, for architecture in modernity? Did these magazines merely reflect what was modern, or do they somehow also embody, or perhaps even co-constitute modernity?

Roel Griffioen is an FWO-doctoral researcher at the University of Gent’s Architecture & Urban Planning Department. In addition, he writes about housing, gentrification and precarity.


Saturday 25 March

Session hosted by Vincent Hessling

Reading material:
– Herbert Marcuse, “Some Social Implications of Modern Technology” (1941)

Who are the Means and What Sets the Ends?

“He required, said Tobler in a gruff tone, a head in the position of his employee. A machine could be of no service to him. […] He, Tobler, needed an intelligent mind, an autonomous work force. If Joseph believed that he did not fulfill these requirements, he should be so kind to, etc. And at this point, the inventor expressed himself in repetitions.” (Robert Walser, The Assistant, 1908)

Somewhere around 1900, the zip of progressive narration breaks down. The grand récit about our voyage to moral perfection, individual autonomy, technical mastery, and ever-greater wisdom suddenly loses traction. What is left is room for doubts that humanity’s relationship with science and technology may not be properly defined by a rationality of means and ends. Who are the means and what sets the ends? This is a question that becomes even more puzzling today, in times of ubiquitous technology, globalized exploitation, and supposedly nearing Singularity.

The classic narrative of modern progress still hinges on human subjects, as much as it relies on technological means. In my dissertation, I explore literary narratives that challenge assumptions of human agency and technological instrumentality. My proposal to the Incomplete Reading Group: that we re-think such assumptions with respect to current debates. Herbert Marcuse’s historic but groundbreaking essay about “Some Social Implications of Technology” (1941) will be the ideal launch pad for our enterprise.

Vincent Hessling is a researcher at the Department of Germanic Languages in Columbia University. He focuses his interest on the idea of progress, history of technology and science, narratology, and systems theory. Hassling is the founder of the Berlin Coffeehouse Conversations.

Saturday 1 April

Session hosted by Thalia Hoffman

Reading material:
– Thalia Hoffman, Behind Sham (2017)

Reading into the smell and taste of Guava’s

‘Guava’ is a platform for art actions that challenges the possibility of free movement and the removal of borders in the Middle East. It practices political imagination, involving the area of the Middle East and its residents, through film, video, performance and participatory art.
At the reading group I will offer to discuss political imagination through and around the ‘Guava Platform’. Focusing on aspects of time and place which the platform sets its action in: A present created of past and future and A place of no certain ruler. Asking questions about political engaged art practiced within a conflict zone and the possibilities political imagination through art might bring forward.