Invitation to participate in vocabulatories

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Dear CP,

we would like to invite you to contribute to the publication that will appear in the framework of the vocabulaboratories project.

This is a collaborative project facilitated by Paz Rojo, Manuela Zechner and Anja Kanngiser. It entails a series of labs, and in relation to those, a website, and a print publication.


The basic question and interest of the project relates to the ways in which we access and shape our "vocabularies". How we bring concepts into relation with practices (beyond a quick-fix relation of theory to practice) and how we can understand and work on the possibilities for thinking and articulating what we do (as cultural workers, teachers, students, protesters, workers or non-workers, in any field really) through the rehearsal and "writing" of a vocabulary. Our investment in the idea of vocabulary comes from the conjunction between a voice, body and life, and a practice of articulation, thinking and positioning, that it implies - being situated between more singular as well as collective poetics, discourses and articulations.

The title "vocabulaboratories" refers to inventing processes and spaces (shared and experimental "laboratories") for working upon vocabularies (collaboratively and singularly), in order to learn about how discourse and concepts enable us to invest in what we do and vice versa, and how this relationship configures our ability to ethically produce and position ourselves in the world. We understand discourse not as limited to language or speech, but also as gesture, choreography, attitude, tone, etc, and in the sense of an expanded idea of writing also. So we´re organizing a series of laboratories in different contexts (arts, social-political, educational) where people from different fields and life stages come together to explore, expose and share the ideas and movements they refer to when speaking about what they do, and why they do it.


We are preparing a print publication with 28 entries from different contributors, which will serve as a kind of handbook or conceptual toolkit for the labs. The idea is that publication contributors, as well as participants and guests in the labs, propose an "entry" for other people to engage with, which contributes to the collective vocabulary that will grow across the different labs, and be available on the website.


In this project, we work with the idea that a "vocabulary" is a toolbox of concepts , which we access in order to position ourselves, say things, and make sense in and of the world. As opposed to a dictionary, a vocabulary does not necessarily limit itself to one mode of relation to knowledge or deal mainly with canonical references. Rather, it is always connected to a voice, and hence to a body which moves and acts in the world. The ways in which we engage abstractions and concepts through our vocabularies offer us modes of strategically operating within the world. Via our vocabularies, we become vocal and position ourselves, not to arm ourselves against reality, or deny it, but to work and exist within it. As such, we consider a vocabulary as consisting of all kinds of conceptual or (pseudo-)discursive apparatuses, which we put to work and think through constantly. Vocabularies exist in an inter-subjective space, which is constantly in negotiation with instances and ideas we encounter in life. These negotiations help us displace ourselves and things – allowing us to move, relate, act, make gestures and statements.


We would like to invite you to contribute an entry to the collective vocabulary that will be published in print prior to the labs (as well as being available online). By "entry" we understand a proposal and access point (or passageway) that gives onto a practice and mode of thinking and doing things. Entries are based on (but not glued to) words which we frequently use when asked to describe what we do, or why: words that we keep coming back to and which we invest with some meaning and ethics, without necessarily having formulated a theory around them. At each moment in our lives these words change, and give onto a different process: an entry is the mapping of that momentary strategy which we associate with a word or phrase. See below for a more detailed outline of what we understand by entry.

Practical info:

If you are interested in contributing an entry to the vocabulary, we propose a length of about 500-1000 words. If you would like to write less or more, or include many images/graphics please let us know very soon.

The print publication will appear in September 2008, as a (free and open content) book. Hence our deadline for drafts of entries is 8th of June 2008, and the final deadline for revised entries, including images or other graphics, is 30th June 2008.

The content of your entry will be licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License, unless you insist we use copyright. The same goes for images and graphics that you may want to join to your text (we can only print black+white).

The language of entries should be English.

For formal questions around the entry, refer to the website and the info on entries below. In principle, we do not give any restrictions on how to structure entries, other than the ideas mentioned above; entries as access points that open onto a practice and offer themselves to a possible application, whatever the idea or writing style.

We can offer you a fee of 100 Euros for contributing your entry.

So far the following contributors have confirmed: Lawrence Liang, Anja Kanngieser, Rodrigo Nunes, Diego Gil, Carla Bottiglieri, Sher Doruff, LISA, Judith Schwendtner, Tom Groves, Paz Rojo, Manuela Zechner, LUDOTEK, Igor Dobricic.

Please feel free to address any further questions about the project and publication to us, and also send us your comments or criticism (via email or the website).

We´d be very happy to have your contribution be part of the publication… looking forward to hearing from you.

With best wishes,

Manuela Zechner, Paz Rojo, Anja Kanngieser

About the project:

Vocabulaboratories is a project consisting of a series of laboratory spaces, in which vocabulary-writing is explored as a relevant, local and self-organizing practice. We propose to make a space within which we can write, exchange and discuss the strategies and hopes we invest in concepts. As such, vocabulaboratories are spaces where everyday, aesthetic, and social practices and articulations will be brought into relation with self-made conceptual frameworks. We understand "writing" in the broad sense, as inscription practice that can take the form of choreography, photography, sonography, etc.

What is a vocabulary? First, it´s something that everyone has. Second, it´s something that everyone works with. Third, it´s a toolbox of concepts, which we use in order to position ourselves, move, and make sense within the world. Fourth, it´s always in the language of someone, or a group of people. Also, it´s to do with the voice; it allows us to become vocal. It´s that through which we articulate what we do, how and why we do it. It´s where a concept meets a practice.

For example; the word "vocabulary" has become part of my vocabulary by now, as a concept I am investing meaning in, and basing my practice upon. There are many other words: "strategy", "collaboration", "tool", "movement", etc. The way I understand those is not strictly in terms of their dictionary definition, or limited to their use in a specific theoretical framework, but comes from where and how a concept can become useful to me.

There are two key strategic/hopeful aspects to our project:

-one the one hand, working in the context of the arts, we want to address questions around authorship, collaboration, institutional contexts, 'activism', hoping the project might constitute an intervention in terms of a critical engagement with discourse production.

-on the other hand somewhat precarious social contexts that are not related to the arts or academia, where the method of vocabulary writing might challenge our own positons and open new modes of reflection, experience and positioning to all involved.

There will be a virtual online space accompanying the laboratories, where writing gets (b)logged, exposed and offered as a tool to other people. As such, the project produces an ever-changing multi-vocal vocabulary. The working method to arrive at this will be collaboration.

A number of guests from various disciplines will join each laboratory, bringing with them entries for the collective vocabulary. Entries are proposals and access points, providing an opening into the ethics and strategy of a practice, and a mode of articulation. Entries will be framed as experiments that we can engage with in various ways, taking into account our contexts. We – participants as well as organizers and guests – will all propose entries, do research, bring and share relevant resource material, and write together or alone where necessary. For example: an idea for "movement" could be a task, an anecdote, a theoretical text, etc, which we will work with, discuss and help translate into practice.

A few preliminary entries from the collective vocabulary: "collaboration", "discourse", "entry", "future", "non-specialization", "practice", "vocabulary"…

About entries:

...entries are proposals and access points (or passageways), that give onto a practice and mode of thinking and doing things. They are based on words which we frequently use when asked to describe what we do, or why: words that we keep coming back to and which we invest with some meaning and ethics, without necessarily having formulated a theory around them.

entries are made of reflections and questions, but also of practice. they are entry points to thinking and practice – they make a double movement of exposure and proposal. the idea is not to show off some rigorous writing style, but to explore ones vocabulary for oneself while offering this to others. as such it is important that we don´t get stuck with saying what we do, but that we rather do what we say, and reflect on that. we might come to consider our doing as a form of discourse aswell.

The idea of an entry is based on two parts:

(1) a reflexive part: this is where a concept is laid out and invested with meaning, in whatever way, style, format, language, jargon, set of references you find appropriate. this is not necessarily about theory or philosophy, but also about finding oneself a voice and asking questions.

(2) a strategic part: this is where the developed idea is proposed in the framework of a practice or situation, related and relevant to realities you are confronted with. if concepts help us move and position ourselves in the world, then we can learn a lot from looking at the concrete instances or ways in which these concepts may function: through these, we can make them operative and transferable as tools for others to use.

beyond creative communication and symbolic games, entries speak of problems, situations and hopes we find ourselves with, as well as strategies we meet them with. they are frameworks for putting the real at stake.

as such, each entry will be framed as experiments , experiments or technologies (in the broad sense of modes of configuration of thought and action) that we can singularly or collectively engage with. laboratory participants as well as organizers and guest will propose entries, do research, bring and share relevant resource material, and collaborate or work alone where necessary.

for example: as a cultural producer, i often say the word "collaboration" when i talk about my work. what do i mean by that, why is this notion so important to me? entries constitute entry points for myself and others to understand and make use of the investment i have in this idea of collaboration, and test it.

for example: an applied proposal could be a task, a plan for an action, an anecdote, a theoretical reflection, a set of questions, a score, etc, relating to a situation, environment or doubt we are trying to deal with in our life, and which we might want to address, problematise, and share. the situatedness of this will allow us to question what is at stake and work together to translate a proposal into practice.

A few preliminary entries from the collective vocabulary: "collaboration", "discourse", "entry", "future", "non-specialization", "practice", "vocabulary"…

the vocabulary we´re building on to frame this project will be successively made into entries too: we will do this together with lab participants. the idea is that while some entry points preexist the labs (the very basic conceptual framing of the project, notions such as vocabulary, entry, proposal, collaboration) throughout the labs, the toolbox of entries gets made through practice. at the first lab in amsterdam for example, we will work on an entry on "practice", while practicing it at the same time; we also made an entry that gives onto our processes as a group.

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Status: Completed - Vocabulaboratories is now a resource for CP. Many thanks to all those who made it happen.

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