Spring 2021

Jan. 21: Sentient Flesh: A Mini-Conference with RA Judy

Join us on the morning of Thursday, January 21st for an exploration of RA Judy’s study of poiēsis in black, his monumental book Sentient Flesh (Duke, 2020).

As an incomparable scholar of Black Study, Judy composes the book as a set of ostanato riffs on blackness as it has moved across “literary genre—short stories, novels, poetry—literary theory and philology; structuralism and semiotics; anthropology and ethnography; foundations of mathematics and number theory; philosophy, from classical Greek to twentieth-century phenomenology and existentialism, and the history of ideas; Arabic philosophy and scholasticism; music—spirituals, “folk music,” blues and jazz—and ethnomusicology; political economy and legislative history” (xiii). Their purpose, offering an animating materiality that crosses the threshold of this world world into the next.

It is our pleasure to host for an exploration of this profound work in two sessions.

  • 8:00 am Zoom Coffee Hour. RSVP here:
  • 9:00 am “Flesh,” a reading with RA Judy followed by remarks by Franco Barchiesi and J Cameron Carter
  • 11:00 am “Para-semiosis,” a reading with RA Judy followed by a dialogue with Aria Dean

View the conference and join in the conversation on YouTube at

The mini-conference is being hosted by the California Institute of the Arts School of Critical Studies and MA Program in Aesthetics and Politics.

R.A. Judy is Professor of Critical and Cultural Studies in the Department of English at the University of Pittsburgh, and a member of the boundary 2 Editorial Collective, where he has edited the 2012 collection of writings by Tunisian activist, The Tunisia Dossier, as well as a special volume on W.E.B. Du Bois, Sociology Hesitant: W. E. B. Du Bois’s Dynamic Thinking, which received honorary mention in the 2001 Council of Editors of Learned Journals’ Best Special Issue Award category. His published scholarship spans multiple fields from Arabic literature and Islamicate thought to critical race theory and black studies. He authored the ground-breaking book, (Dis)forming the American Canon: The Vernacular of African Arabic American Slave Narrative. Some of his more prominent publications include: “Restless Flying from Tunisia to Haiti, A Black study of Revolutionary Humanism,” The Question of Nigga Authenticity,” “Kant and the Negro,” “Dreaming About the Singularity of the New Middle Ages: Three Provisional Notes on the Question of Imagination,” and “Fanon’s Body of Black Experience.” His latest book is Sentient Flesh (Thinking in Disorder/Poiēsis in Black).

J. Kameron Carter is Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University Bloomington. Drawing on the tools and resources of religious studies, philosophical and political theology, and aesthetics, he works in black studies with attention on the theory and practice of blackness. More specifically, his research concerns with what he calls the dissident sacred or that fugitive sacrality that is internal to black social life. He is the author of Race: A Theological Account (New York: Oxford University Press) and The Religion of Whiteness (forthcoming). Additionally, his book manuscript Black Rapture: A Poetics of the Sacred is in the final stages of preparation.

Franco Barchiesi is an Associate Professor in the Department of Comparative Studies and the Department of African American and African Studies at Ohio State University. He has also taught at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg (where he received his Ph.D. in Sociology), the University of Bologna (Italy), and Brooklyn College, City University of New York. He is a former Larry Donnell Andrews Fellow at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, Harvard University and a current Senior Editor of the journal "International Labor and Working-Class History". Barchiesi's latest book, Precarious Liberation: Workers, the State, and Contested Social Citizenship in Postapartheid South Africa (State University of New York Press, 2011) is a recipient of the CLR James Award from the Working-Class Studies Association. Barchiesi is now working on two book projects, one theorizing the concept of precarity through Black radical theory's engagement with the implications of wage labor in racial domination and antiblackness, the other studying how the connection between wage labor and antiblack violence constitutively defined, in the transatlantic space of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, liberalism as the dominant contemporary political paradigm of domination, agency, and conflict.

Aria Dean is a New York-based visual artist and writer, as well as Editor and Curator at Rhizome, the leading art organization dedicated to born-digital art and culture. Her current editorial program with Rhizome explores topics developed in conversation with artists and researchers through public events, publishing, online exhibitions, commissions, and preservation. She works to shape the conversation around born-digital art and culture, and the engagement of art and technology. Dean’s writing has appeared in publications including ArtforumArt in Americae-fluxThe New InquiryX-TRA Contemporary Art QuarterlySpike QuarterlyKaleidoscope MagazineTexte zur Kunst, and CURA Magazine. Notably projects and writing include “Net Art Anthology,” and “Poor Meme, Rich Meme.”

Spring 2019: Algorithms, Infrastructures, Art, Curation (AIAC)

This conference was held on Jan. 26, 2019, at the West Hollywood Library's City Council Chambers

AIAC is a research project hosted by the MA Aesthetics and Politics program in the School of Critical Studies at the California Institute of the Arts. The project explores aesthetic and political issues related to algorithms and infrastructures in art and curation, ranging from finance to climate change, from human exclusion zones to bitcoin and blockchain, from search algorithms to theories of natural selection, and more. 

Sponsored by the city of West Hollywood, the Port of Los Angeles and the MA Aesthetics and Politics Program at CalArts and organized by MA program director Arne De Boever and MA program alum Dany Naierman, the project includes a public day-long series of presentations by and conversations with local, U.S., and international scholars, artists, activists, and curators on Saturday, January 26th, 2019. N. Katherine Hayles will give the day’s closing presentation. On Friday, January 25th, the conference participants will be joined by first- and second-year MA students in Aesthetics and Politics for an exploration of the Los Angeles harbor. This part of the project, which is not open to the public but will leave its traces on Saturday’s public presentations, will be guided by Dany Naierman and Brian Holmes. Other speakers include: Michael Bryant, Andrew Culp, Ken Ehrlich, Laura Finch, Aude Launay, Jonas Lund, Nicolas Maigret, Sara Mameni, Maria Roszkowska, Wesley Simon, and Stephen Wright.

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Spring 2016: Immigration: Art/Critique/Process Symposium 

This symposium was held on March 17-18, 2016, at REDCAT in Downtown Los Angeles. Organized by James Wiltgen, School of Critical Studies at CalArts, and Beatriz Cortez, Central American Studies, CSUN 

This symposium will address immigration as a concept that not only describes the movement of peoples across borders, but that also engages with a constant refashioning that defines our city and our region. Immigration demands our reevaluation of concepts such as human rights, the human, the citizen, the immigrant. What lives count and what lives are made invisible? How is immigrant labor justified in a language that speaks of biopolitics and governmentality? How can we move beyond the territorialized and rigid formation of identities to speak instead of unfolding identities engaged in multiple, simultaneous processes of collective becoming? Are we entangled/enmeshed with each other? How does the climate crisis impact global migration? The two-day event will include the participation of artists, curators, critics, cultural theorists, and philosophers. 

Thursday, March 17th 

4 - 4:30 pm: Opening Remarks: 
James Wiltgen
  • 4:30 - 6:30 pm: Performance: 
Regina José Galindo, 
Rafa Esparza, 
Nao Bustamante; 
6:30 - 7:30 pm: Border Crossers
 Chico MacMurtrie; 

7:30 - 8:30 pm: Reception; 
8:30 pm: Documentary: 
Frontera: A Sketch for the Creation of a Future Society (77 min., 2014)
; A Project by Laboratorio 060; 
direction: Lourdes Morales, Javier Toscano, Iván Lomelí, followed by a Q&A with: Ruth Estevez and Javier Toscano.

Friday, March 18th 

  • 10:30 - 11 am: Opening Remarks: 
Beatriz Cortez;

11 am - 12:30 pm: Cultural Critique:
 Michael Ned Holte, 
Kency Cornejo, 
Ricardo Roque Baldovinos;

12:30 - 2 pm: Break for lunch;

2 - 3:30 pm: Curatorial Practices: 
Tyler Stallings, 
Pilar Tompkins Rivas
, Jennifer Doyle;

3:30 - 4 pm: Coffee Break;

4 - 5 pm: Virtual Reality: 
Use of Force (2014) by Nonny de la Peña, followed by a Q&A with Nonny de la Peña;

5 - 5:30 pm: Coffee Break;

5:30 - 7:30 pm: Visual Art: 
Louis Hock, 
Ronald Morán, 
Yoshua Okón
, Harry Gamboa Jr.;

7:30 - 8:30 pm Reception;

8:30 pm: Keynote: 
Claire Colebrook, 
“Scale and Refuge.”

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Fall 2015: Questioning Aesthetics Symposium: When is Art Political? 

This symposium was held on Nov. 6-7, 2015 at REDCAT and West Hollywood Library's City Council Chambers

To ask “when is art political?” is to ask what conditions of artistic production and reception make it possible for art to be political. As conditions change, “political art” may no longer be political, “non-political” art may become political, and so on. Through short, lively presentations and discussions with the audience, this two-day conference establishes a shift in approach by leaving the quest for an essence of political art aside in order to inquire instead into the ever-changing conditions that make art political.

This two-day conference is hosted by the School of Critical Studies at the California Institute of the Arts. The conference is supported by the MA Aesthetics and Politics program, and made possible with additional support from the Transdisciplinary Aesthetics Foundation and the Equity and Diversity Program at CalArts.


Friday, Nov. 6, REDCAT

  • 10:30am: Introductions Arne De Boever and Michael Kelly 
  • 10:45-12:00pm Leandro Katz, “‘Please, No Slogans’”; Bérénice Reynaud, "The polis Behind the Image"; Moderator: Beatriz Cortez 
  • 2:00-3:45pm Edwin Hill, “Hatin’ on Charlie: The Politics of the Punchline against Charlie Hebdo in French Rap in the wake of the January 2015 Attacks”; Martín Plot, “What Could Be Political Art?”; Moderator: Armen Avanessian 
  • 4:15pm-6:00pm Introduction, Arne De Boever; Lecture, Thierry de Duve, “When is Art Political? Suzanne McClelland's Call With Information”; Conversation with Martin Plot

Saturday, Nov. 7, West Hollywood Public Library Council Chambers

  • 10:30am: Introductions, Arne De Boever and Michael Kelly 
  • 10:45-12:30pm Davide Panagia, “On the Unusability of Art for Politics”; Mimi Thi Nguyen, “Beauty and Failure”; Moderator: Sidsel Meineche-Hansen 
  • 1:30-3:30pm Roundtable Conversation with All Participants Moderators: Arne De Boever and Michael Kelly

Fall 2014: This Isn’t About the Future: Black Digital Culture Now 

This conference was held on Nov. 14-15, 2014 at REDCAT and The West Hollywood Library  

Yesterday’s Afrofuture is today, so instead of scanning the horizon for the Mothership, this two-day, multivenue conference brings urgency to address happenings on the ground right now. Featuring scholars, writers, and artists, This Isn’t About The Future: Black Digital Culture Now addresses sousveillance, Black Twitter, genealogy, AutoTune and Vocoders, getting Embedded, Post- and posting, the digital body in art, the racial narrative of facial recognition software, activism, and more. This conference, curated by CalArts faculty member, Douglas Kearney, is driven by a need to acknowledge but also to question.   

What is presence in our present? What does the digital mean for historically black sites of social performance including passing, code-shifting, signifyin(g), and other forms of hiding in plain sight? How do we understand diaspora, today? If the digital has so profoundly shifted us, is it time we found a new North Star? 

Friday, Nov. 14 at 8:30 - 10 p.m. 
Alexander Weheliye  

Saturday, Nov. 15
The West Hollywood Library 
Jennifer González, Victoria Hungerford, Anna Everett, Stephanie Greenlea, Tisa Bryant and Thomas Allen Harris

Fall 2013: The Politics of Parametricism - Digital Technologies and the Future(s) of Sociality

This conference was held on Nov. 15-16, 2013, at REDCAT and presented by the Master’s Program in Aesthetics & Politics at CalArts.

This two-day conference organized by Matthew Poole and Manuel Shvartzberg includes a range of international experts from architectural practice and theory, and explores urgent questions that concern the social and political ramifications at stake in the evolution of computational design. Parametricism has been heralded as the new avant-garde in the fields of architecture and design—the next “grand style” in the history of architectural movements. Parametric models enable digital designers to create complex structures and environments, as well as new understandings of space, both real and virtual. Whether as tools for democratic action or tyrannical spectacle; self- and community-building capabilities; a post-humanistic subject; or the mediatized politics of our desired futurisms—all these themes are figured and being assembled within the Parametricist discourse.

Guest Speakers: Phil Bernstein (Autodesk), Benjamin Bratton (UCSD), Christina Cogdell (UCD), Teddy Cruz (UCSD), Peggy Deamer (Yale), Andrés Jaque (Office for Political Innovation), Laura Kurgan (Columbia), Neil Leach (USC, Los Angeles), Reinhold Martin (Columbia) & Patrik Schumacher (Zaha Hadid Architects, London).


Friday, November 15

  • 7–9 pm Keynote event: “Architecture and politics: Parametricism within or beyond liberal democracy?”–a discussion with Reinhold Martin and Patrik Schumacher

Saturday, November 16

  • 10 am
    Panel 1: Introduction to Parametricism: historical and technological context
    Phil Bernstein, Neil Leach and Christina Cogdell
  • 12 pm
    Lunch Break
  • 2 pm
    Panel 2: Parametricism, the commons and social representation
    Peggy Deamer, Teddy Cruz and Laura Kurgan
  • 4 pm
    Coffee Break
  • 4:45 pm
    Panel 3: Designing subjectivities, curating new models of sociality
    Benjamin Bratton and Andrés Jaque
  • 6:30 pm
    Event ends