Marsha's 2008/2009 Involvement in Critical Practice

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REALIZED (The following is also presented on Vocabulaboratories page in more detail.) Vocabulaboraties was a collaborative project facilitated by Paz Rojo, Anja Kanngiser and Manuela Zechner. It consisted of a series of laboratory spaces, in which vocabulary-writing is explored as a relevant, local and self-organizing practice. It offered a space where interlocutors could write, exchange and discuss the strategies and hopes they 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 (orality). It´s that through which we articulate what we do, how and why we do it. It´s where a concept meets a practice.

The two key aspect of this project include:

First: Working in the context of the arts, we aimed 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.

Second: There was a desire to explore somewhat precarious social contexts that are not related to the arts or academia, where the method of vocabulary writing might challenge one's positions and open new modes of reflection, experience and positioning to all involved.

The text has now been published and offers all kinds of models for working through words and concepts in print. Additionally, there is the online space, which offers a useful resources on various dynamics including collaborative production.

Reflections on the Process of Producing this Text

The Group: The working group comprised of Cinzia, Michaela and yours truly - a good team. We were all, I believe, surprised by our easy working relationship. We met once at Michaela's place for dinner. An audio recording, made during our meal, was disseminated amongst us as a resource.

The Form: We developed an entry on "Critical Practice" and used the genre of dictionary definitions as a model. This was annotated with the comment function in Word, an approach that I'd used successfully for the production of Future Reflections texts.

The Content: (Though it has to be said, to distinguish this from the content is a little artificial.)


MB: I very much like the term "articulations". It's not presently part of my vocabulary but will be. I wonder how this compares and contrast with "utterances"? 08_04_09

MB: I wonder about the idea that vocabulary is "...where a concept meets a practice". This seems to deny that which is inarticulatable, such as tacit knowledge. (Or at least it's hard to describe in words because it's about embodied actions.) Some of the entries in the Vocabulaboratories text intimate this through their use of image...Representation is an important part of communication but what's lost in the process of transcription/translation involved in this process? At the very least, representation involves a displacement: Making something intelligible necessitates moving it into a familiar/accessible syntax. But what does this syntax do the "original" semantics? An obvious critique of this project points out the way Vocabulaboratories circumscribes meaning in manageable chunks. But what gets left out? True: There's space for interpretation; the entries are not overdetermined. But the question remains: What gets left out and where is it? 08_04_09