call: athleticism and its discontents

 ‘Sportif au lit’: Athleticism and Its Discontents

Inaugural Colloquium: June 2-4, 2017     |     Location TBA

Deadline for presentation proposals: March 1, 2017

Cell Dislocation.jpg

 Image: “Cell Dislocation,” performed by Biyo Kukuchi. Photo (c) Maite Soler

In “Literature and Life,” Gilles Deleuze refers to Henri Michaux’s “Athlete in bed” poem to explain what he means when he calls literature athletic. Bedridden due to chronic illness, Michaux could barely walk, but in his dreams he is an olympic skater, a diver, a swimmer, skilled almost beyond imagination. As soon as he closes his eyes, he is an extraordinary athlete. Deleuze describes literature as athletic by means of flight and defection– a ‘minor’ athleticism that flirts with madness in order to uproot dominance and oppression. In other places, like his book on painter Francis Bacon, Deleuze has borrowed the term “affective athleticism” from Antonin Artaud to articulate the intense disfiguration that attempts to manifest in painting. In his own manifestos on theater, Artaud calls on a cruel yet healing athleticism to revolutionize performance practice (Butoh theater is the most direct expression to date of this performance theory). Athleticism, then, constitutes an intersection of desire, delusion, disfigurement, disability, eroticism, illness, health, minority, impossibility, paradox, performance, and the uprooting of fascist ideology and form.

What does it mean that Deleuze invokes, on one hand, a bedroom-as-sickroom scene, and on the other, a healing yet devastating method for performance, to explain how literature as athleticism can subvert fascist tendencies? How can we think of athleticism, gymnastics, twists, turns, knots, duration, expression, and living practice in ways that engage with but challenge what by now is a fairly established set of texts? What is the relationship between athleticism, text, and embodiment, given Artaud’s 1938 move away from script and existing literature? How does affect theory, from Artaud to the present, produce tools to (re)think the bedroom, in all its shades and tenses, from sleepy to insomniac, from private to pedestrian, from a site of care to a site of play, production, or resistance? What is athleticism, and what do we need it to be or become in order to subvert ever-pervasive hegemonic forms?

We invite papers, performances, workshops, installations, manifestos, and other hysterical instantiations and exorcisms of these and related questions. Please send your 500-word abstract or proposal and a 150-word bio to by January 1 2017.

We welcome work from diverse disciplines, including but by no means limited to: anthropology, art and art theory, black studies, community-building, comparative studies, creative writing, crip and disability studies, dance, feminist and other gender and sexuality studies, geography, history, legal studies, literary studies, media studies, musicology, normalcy studies, performance and performance studies, philosophy, political theory and science, political activism, sociology, trans studies, and translation studies.

This colloquium is affiliated with Northwestern University.

The Wedding Space, Berlin is a project for creative research in memory of Alfred Mann.


One thought on “call: athleticism and its discontents

  1. Reblogged this on Textual Interventions and commented:
    yoga stretches in doorways
    in rooms that separate sleep from
    eating and
    writing and
    only for a few minutes
    after crawling out of the insect sac
    getting a back ache while writing
    after 10 hours
    looking in the mirror
    doing the 8 Brocades


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