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A panel discussion organized by the Platypus Affiliated Society, held on March 19, 2011 at Left Forum, Pace University.

Panel Abstract: This panel will focus on the aesthetic tropes that activists use to express political dissent. Theatrical gestures such as street art (e.g., glamdalism), dance parties (e.g., Funk the War), or costumes have found their way into protest tactics. Simultaneously, many contemporary artists create 'activist' or 'social' art by pulling off media pranks against the government or corporations (e.g., Yes Men), reenact past protests (e.g., Mark Tribe or Sharon Hayes) and other forms of public performances. What are the historical roots that contribute to the use of current aesthetic interventions in political protests? In what ways do they expand or limit the possibilities for protests to transform the social order? How does experimenting with aesthetic and artistic sensibilities influence our political consciousness and practice? Political thinkers and art-activists will address these questions in order to make sense of the various forms of protest today.

Chris Mansour - Parsons School of Design, Platypus Affiliated Society
Jamie Keesling - 491
Laurel Whitney - Yes Men
Marc Herbst - Journal of Aesthetics and Protest, Reclaim the Streets
Stephen Duncombe - New York University

Transcript of Chris Mansour's remarks in Platypus Review #39 (Click below):

[vimeo https://vimeo.com/54660348]

On March 21, 2011, the Program in Critical & Visual Studies at Pratt Institute was pleased to join with the Platypus Affiliated Society sponsoring this talk by Professor Tim Hall of the University of East London.

For more information about Pratt's Program in Critical & Visual Studies, please see their site at: http://www.pratt.edu/academics/liberal_arts_and_sciences/critical_visual_studies/

Recent attempts to address the question of the good or worthwhile life have placed it at the center of social and political theory. These attempts have come, for the most part, from explicitly conservative commentators. Timothy Hall reminds us that such questions about the good life are also at the heart of critiques of social domination. In this talk, Hall discusses the continued relevance of Georg Lukacs' critical theory of the social relations of capital and the pervasive nihilism it produces. At a time of uneven challenges to authoritarian regimes and policies, questions of social justice and questions of the meaningful, good, or worthwhile life cannot be separated or put aside, but are pivotal to understanding resistance and social change. Hall brings Lukacs --- and perhaps Critical Theory itself --- back to this contested terrain.

Tim Hall is Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of East London. His main areas of interest are Marxism and Frankfurt School critical theory. His publications include The Modern State: theories and ideologies (Edinburgh 2007) with Erika Cudworth and John McGovern and The Fundamental Dissonance of Existence (Continuum 2010) with Timothy Bewes. He is currently writing a book on the political thought of Theodor Adorno. In addition he has an interest in state theory and international ethics and is currently researching Marxist state theory and Cosmopolitan political theory.

Sponsored by
The Platypus Affiliated Society
The Department of Social Science & Cultural Studies
and its Program in Critical & Visual Studies, Pratt Institute.

A roundtable discussion between Alan Goodman from The Revolutionary Communist Party USA, and Richard Rubin from Platypus entitled “Marxism and Israel: Left Perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” at Hunter College in New York City. Panelists were asked to speak on the role the Left has played in the development of Israel, the Left’s analysis of the role of American intervention in the Middle East, and what a critical Marxian approach to the conflict currently looks like, compared to what it might look like.

Transcript in Platypus Review #35 (Click below):

Questions for the panelists:
1. Historically, what role has the Marxist Left played in the development of Israel? What would a critical Marxist perspective on Israel, the ideology of Zionism and the Palestinian conflict look like? Has a Left critique historically been applied?

2. What is the relationship between American political hegemony and Israel? How has this traditionally been understood by the "Left", and how is it now portrayed? Has this understanding obscured attempts at political and theoretical analysis? How has it affected the international "Left's" approach to the actual political opposition among Palestinians?

3. Why have leftist approaches to the conflict emphasized a politics of resistance over cogent political visions? Do measures, such as BDS campaigns and the Flotilla effort, that seek to delegitimize Israel and the ideology of Zionism through resistance to its immediate means and policies ameliorate immediate social conditions or clarify political conditions? If not, what sort of approach should be emphasized?

Platypus panel at the Left Forum 2010 in New York City, Pace University, March 20, 2010.

Rather than asking what the Left thinks of Iran, this panel will pose the question, what does Iran reveal about the Left, its limitations and failures? This panel will address the crisis of the Islamic Republic and the historical task of the Left to clarify its role regarding the current Green Movement today. The 1979 Islamic Revolution continues to weigh on the political imagination of the Left. Perspectives on the Left either focus on Green Movement’s electoral and civil rights struggle, ignoring its Islamist leadership by Mousavi and others, or, in some cases, tout Ahmadinejad as a progressive “anti-imperialist,” denying the discontents expressed in the Green Movement. The 1979 Islamic Revolution continues to haunt the present, in the form of an impoverished imagination of what is possible. We will look more deeply at the political question of Islamism and how the Left can best understand Iran’s revolutionary past. What deeper failure on the Left allowed Iran to develop as it has? Whatever claim the current movement has to being secular in form -- that is, popular in discontent, and pluralist in that it possesses no elaborate program -- the legacy of the Islamic Revolution in the current crisis represents the unresolved failure of the Left to achieve greater freedom that cannot be reached through religious or populist means.

Panelists:
Laura Lee Schmidt (Chair) – Platypus Affiliated Society; History, Theory, and Criticism of Art and Architecture, MIT
Siyaves Azeri – Worker-Communist Party of Iran
Hamid Dabashi – Columbia University
Christopher Cutrone – Platypus Affiliated Society; University of Chicago

Platypus panel held at Left Forum 2010 in New York City, Pace University, March 20, 2010

Speakers:

Pat Korte, New School Students for a Democratic Society and Radical Student Union, Organization for a Free Society
Hannah Rappleye, CUNY School of Journalism, freelance journalist for Mott Haven Herald in the South Bronx, New School alumnus, former Senior Editor, New School Free Press
Easton Smith, Sarah Lawrence College, UNITE-HERE organizer
Ashley Weger, DePaul University, UNITE-HERE organizer, Platypus Affiliated Society

Moderator: Pamela Nogales, Platypus Affiliated Society

Within both historical and contemporary imaginations, university students are posed as playing an indispensable part in progressive and radical Left political movements. This legacy is imbued with and reproduces a sort of mythological nostalgia of the dissident student exemplified in early groups of the New Left such as SDS, whose name and politics found themselves recycled in the American anti-war movement surrounding the Afghan and Iraq wars. However, the twenty-first century student Left is hardly monolithic in its inclinations, ideologies and impulses. Rather, the current state of student politics is one exemplified both by autonomous actions and alliances, converging and diverging in the anti-war movement, labor solidarity campaigns, school occupations, new attempts toward intellectual discourse and theoretical engagement. Such a multifaceted scene requires adequate address. This panel seeks to host a variety of perspectives amongst actors and organizers of the contemporary student Left, engaging their experiences in dialogue with a multitude of questions that remain incompletely addressed as to the future of the university within the realm of emancipatory politics. Particular attention will be paid to the panelists' perspective on the importance of protest as political act, the prevalence and relevance of identity politics, and the current direction of student intellectualism and activism.