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the not i project is made possible with support from :









el instituto, currently headquartered in Mexico City, is a not-for-profit organization that generates exhibitions, conferences, workshops, courses and platforms for other events. el instituto is committed to the exploration of the overlap between art, culture, politics, activism and human rights theory and practice, both locally and internationally. Having no physical site of its own, el instituto functions symbiotically, hosted by cultural or academic institutions, while also operating in less official spaces and capacities.


current projects include
Not I: the Performative Speech Act and the Sovereign Subject, a research project.



Not I: The Performative Speech Act and the Sovereign Subject
The research project Not I: The Performative Speech Act and the Sovereign Subject takes a look at the conditions - the who, why and where - in which one can speak and be heard. Not I proposes an analysis of different forms of speech acts and an exploration of the possibility of breaking with the inherent power relations, the "contextually bound formulas" and the conventions surrounding the right to successfully issue performative utterances.

The project deals with human rights issues specifically through the lens of the politics of performativity and the performative speech act. Emerging from research on dissident political art practice in Latin America - specifically the contentious and heavily censored period of visual art practice in Argentina in and around 1968 and the response to the 1968 massacre of student activists at Tlatelolco in Mexico City - the project will involve extensive study of the work of international human rights activists and theorists and of cultural practitioners deeply committed to the political uses of social space and the complexity of enunciation within those spaces.

The project freely crosses disciplines and historical periods in an attempt to draw out the discourse of human rights activists around the construction and deconstruction of the 'subject' (the modern subject), and the subsequent study of the complex contemporary political subject, (looking critically at theoretical constructions around the notions of sovereignty, displacement, exile and nomadism, among others) and taking into account work in visual art, film and other cultural, spatial and political practices that attempt to complicate notions of performativity and human rights discourse and action.
The project is conceived of as an extended platform for research around these sets of issues and is comprised of conferences, workshops, performances, an exhibition and other events.

Programmed public events include a conference on March 25th hosted by UNAM's Centro Cultural Universitario Tlatelolco in Mexico City; a series of workshops led by international human rights theorists, activists, architects and artists in the autumn of 2011; and a large scale exhibition, also hosted by Tlatelolco, in the summer of 2012.

Research towards this project has been made possible by a Curatorial Research Fellowship awarded by The Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts.

Untethering the speech act from the sovereign subject founds an
alternative notion of agency and, ultimately, of responsibility ...


- Judith Butler: Excitable Speech Acts, 1997




... suppose that, picking sides at a children's party, I say "I pick George". But George turns
red in the face and says, "Not playing". In that case I plainly, for some reason or another, have not
picked George - whether because there is no convention that you can pick people who aren't playing,
or because George in the circumstances is an inappropriate object for the procedure of picking.


- J.L. Austin: Performative Utterances, 1979
Not I: Spatial Practices in Revolution
- Six Workshops , September 30 through December 11 of 2011
Spatial Practices in Revolution was the second series of public events in the ongoing research project Not I: The Performative Speech Act and the Sovereign Subject. The performances and workshops were organized by el instituto and took place at CCU Tlatelolco, UNAM and Casa del Lago Juan José Arreola .
"agency begins where sovereignty wanes"
- Judith Butler
Módulo 1
The Workhouse / The Dreamhouse
Módulo 2
La imaginación política y la
inteligencia colectiva
Módulo 3
I would prefer not to
Módulo 4
La Revolución Indignada
Módulo 5
Camuflaje, desaparición y la política de lo imperceptible
Módulo 6
War Primer 2: a betrayal and an homage to Bertolt Brecht

Free speech

In Discourse and truth, a series of six lectures at UC Berkeley in 1983, Michel Foucault explores the nature of parrhesia or 'free speech' - and the uses of parrhesia to tell the truth - tracing the term and its usage from Greek literature in Euripides [c.484-407 BC] throughout Greek and Roman culture: essentially from the Fifth Century BC to the beginnings of Christianity.

As it appears in Euripides' plays and also in the texts of the Fourth Century BC, parrhesia is an essential characteristic of Athenian democracy.

In Euripides play Ion, for example, the right to use parrhesia or the right to free speech is directly linked to Athenian citizenship:

Believing erroneously that he is Xuthus' son, Ion is seeking the identity of his mother:

"ION: ... one piece of good luck eludes me still: unless I find my mother, my life is worthless.

Why is it impossible for Ion to live without finding his mother ? He continues :

"ION: ... If I may do so, I pray my mother is Athenian, so that through her I may have rights of speech. For when a stranger comes into the city of pure blood, though in name a citizen, his mouth remains a slave: he has no right of speech."

For the purposes of the larger Not I project, and specifically for the Spatial Practices in Revolution program, what is interesting in Foucault's set of lectures is his elaboration of the very clear conditions under which speech was even possible in Greek and Roman cultures. For the autumn 2011 program, el instituto has asked the participants to think about the conditions under which the 'speech act' can and does happen.


The Speech Act

But firstly, what is a speech act?

As elaborated by the language philosopher J. L. Austin in Performative Utterances, he describes the performative utterance as one in which, in the saying, one is doing.

In the marriage ceremony one says 'I do' and in the saying it is done.

The same applies to utterances such as 'I apologize' or 'I name'.

But for Austin, the utterance is not always successful. The conditions must be 'right' for an act of speech to be felicitous, to function properly. If not, it is a 'misfire', barely recognizable as speech, it is mere 'noise'.

In Performative Utterances, Austin gives us an example of a 'misfire', of an infelicitous performative utterance, while describing the circumstances of the naming of a new ship: The ship is ready to be launched, the dignitaries are present, the champagne is at hand. At the point at which the champagne bottle is about to be used to christen the ship, a drunk emerges from the crowd, grabs the bottle, throws it at the ship, and christens it 'Generalissimo Stalin'. The verbal protocols were followed, the words were said, but of course the ship has not been christened thus. This is because, for Austin, the conditions were not absolutely correct: the speaker was a "low type" - the utterance could not possibly have been successful.

In reference to Austin's anecdote, Thomas Keenan, human rights theorist and director of the Human Rights Project at Bard College in New York, notes that for Austin, "The power does not reside simply in the words themselves, however necessary the words are. They are not magic words or incantations; they are contextually bound formulas."


But who is it that defines the conditions under which a speech act can be performed ?


Keenan would probably suggest we wonder where the 'low' type narrated in Austin's story ended up. In fact, Keenan picks up where Austin left off and asks: How do the uninvited come to take a rightful place in politics

This is one of the larger questions that the Not I project asks, although perhaps through this series of events and workshops, that question will be reconfigured somewhat ...

In his text Drift: Politics and the Simulation of Real Life Territories/Islands, Keenan quotes Rex Wockner describing the inauguration of the 5th Annual Aids Conference in Montreal in 1989 at which "more than 300 members of ACT/UP New York, Toronto's AIDS Action Now, and Reaction SIDA of Montreal marched into the Palais de Congres, commandeered the escalators, entered the main conference site, took over the stage, demanded that the microphones be turned on, and, in the name of persons with AIDS, 'officially' opened the Fifth International Conference on AIDS on June 4th ..." this was the first conference at which representatives of victims of AIDS were present and had a say in the discourse around AIDS. And it changed the configuration of these conferences forever.


Spatial Practices in Revolution asks the participants it will gather together in the autumn to consider the who, how, when and under what circumstances speech can occur, voices can be heard. But we will also ask ' who do we want to hear our voices ?' 'To whom are we directing ourselves ?' 'In what ways do we want to reconfigure ourselves as subjects ?'

The events and workshops will take a look at the dualism that historically has framed and predetermined the relation between state and subject (or citizen). We ask questions about whether there are ways in which this complex state/subject relation can be reconfigured, has been reconfigured and whether it is possible to think outside of this configuration altogether, on micro or macro scales.

There are no clear answers, and in fact, the purpose of this project is not to find clear answers. This is the second of a series of public events occurring within a long process of research-driven activities that attempt to deal with the ways in which we can rethink the "contextually bound formula" to use Keenan's term, under which the uninvited can invite themselves in and generate their own politics.

The project will deal with human rights issues specifically through the lens of the politics of performativity and the performative speech act. The project will freely cross disciplines and historical periods in an attempt to draw out the discourse of human rights activists around the construction and deconstruction of the 'subject' (the modern subject), and the subsequent study of the complex contemporary political subject, (looking critically at theoretical constructions around the notions of sovereignty, displacement, exile and nomadism) and taking into account work in visual art, film and other cultural, spatial and political practices that attempt to complicate notions of performativity and human rights discourse and action.


The issues will be tackled by artists, performers, human rights activists and theorists, sociologists, architects, and other researchers and cultural practitioners in the autumn of this year, primarily asking: Is it possible to shake our notions of power as a hegemonic entity that exists in and of itself and to instead reconfigure seemingly entrenched power relations ?

We will bring together a group of participants ( both tutors and 'students' ) interested in the proposed subjects who will follow the 3-month series of events and workshops. In this way, we hope to generate a forum for extended discussion around sets of issues related to contemporary cultural and political practice in Mexico and abroad. The Centro Cultural Universitario Tlatelolco, host to Spatial Practices in Revolution, is situated in the midst of a highly politicized working class housing complex, and houses the memorial to 68, the first major expose of documents and testimonies related to the 68 student movement massacre. Many of the participants will specifically address the context of Tlatelolco itself and the issues regarding political hierarchies and questions of sovereignty that unhinge the dominant models of state/subject of mainstream politics and society that are inherently embedded in the fabric of this urban site.

Theoretical thinking around notions of dissent as a spatial practice; around our ideas of protest; of non-participation; and of other political strategies, will be brought together with closely read case studies in an attempt to bring theoretical and practice-based research into close dialogue. The program will provide a platform for a group of interested thinkers to cross boundaries between cultural and political practice at all levels of academic, professional and political development.


The six workshops will run from September through November of 2011, taking place on weekends, and occasionally on weekday evenings. Participants can elect to attend all six or specific workshops (please indicate preference on application forms). There will also be a number of public events held which will be open to the general public.


Confirmed speakers include Avery Gordon and Ines Schaber (Session 1); Fran Ilich and Jennifer Flores Sternad (Session 2); Montserrat Albores Gleason and Pablo Sigg (Session 3); Tania Bruguera (Session 4) and María Berríos and David Levine (Session 5); Thomas Keenan and Oliver Chanarin (Session 6);


There is a suggested donation of 500 pesos for each workshop. Participants demonstrating financial need may be eligible for full or partial grants. Apply as necessary.




course details T.B.A.
Not I: The Performative Speech Act and the Sovereign Subject
an exhibition at Centro Cultural Universitario Tlatelolco


Summer, 2012
details t.b.a.
Centro Cultural Universitario Tlatelolco
Ricardo Flores Magon 1, col. Nonoalco-Tlatelolco


To be held at UNAM's Centro Cultural Universitario Tlatelolco in Mexico City as an element of el instituto's Not I project.


Not I: un encuentro sobre arte y politica
( Not I: a conference on art and politics )


March 25, 2011
10am - 1pm, 4pm - 7pm
Centro Cultural Universitario Tlatelolco
Ricardo Flores Magon 1, col. Nonoalco-Tlatelolco


To be held at UNAM's Centro Cultural Universitario Tlatelolco in Mexico City is the first element of el instituto's Not I project.
Invited speakers include Maria Berrios, Avery Gordon, Pablo Lafuente and Javier Toscano.


Conference topics include:

Maria Berrios:
How to make a straight line invisible. On conceptual humour and the politics of vanishing;

Avery Gordon:
"Running Away.": Some brief thoughts on disobedience, running away and other promising conduits to abolishing the disposition to war.

Pablo Lafuente:
Can Emancipation Not Be Abstract?

Javier Toscano:
Resistance and Enunciation. The Drive to Anonymity
Contact Details

Alfonso Reyes, 194-D
Colonia Condesa
Mexico DF
06140
Mexico

info@el-instituto.com

Tel (+52 55) 5256 4934
Mobile (dialing within Mexico) 044 55 34 88 90 11
Mobile (International dialing) +52 1 55 34 88 90 11
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