Promises of Monsters

 

She studies this transformation through maps

European perceptions of human diversity

 

The first part sketches

the processes through

ambivalent space

for aging femininity  of

possession

of the emphasis on the importance of maps

 

 

The child then flew into the Pine Barrens, becoming

an emancipated minor. After all, who can speak

for the monster, and in so doing who may be

silenced, and what facilitates a monstrous challenge or defiance

rather than reductive

dehumanisation?

 

To turn into waste means to lose worth, significance, or purpose. A later text of Derrida’s can perhaps account for this.

 

The text is littered with

horror film,

beautiful paintings,              drawings          and photographs,           recognition and acceptance             and       those who do not                  fit

aging,           disability,          and             AD,       books,      and  images,  negative attitudes                monstrous voices and monstrous spaces,  and  both

popular understanding and film.

filled with the poetry of Ursula Le Guin and the storytelling of Donna Haraway.

 

in          in          in                         in which

a    a    a    a

of  of  of  of

 

narratives intersect

generate generate generate

 

her book: a highly original

with on the one hand a, but on the other hand  –

 

and this integration of different sources

as she states in her introduction

may well be the most and convincing aspect

 

It is certainly an ambiguous time

It is certainly an ambiguous time

It is certainly an ambiguous time

in shaping  growing  hardening

 

for the monster

towards –

 

 

* This poem is a collage based on the Promises of Monsters special issue (2018, vol. 2, no. 2, edited by The Monster Network), created in an online writing meeting with two of the members of The Monster Network. The material for the collage was chosen with the method of rolling an electronic dice for a) article, b) page, c) sentence. This material (8 sentences) was then edited into a poem; a collective voice, a monster, that emerges from the issue, if you may.

The materials were found from the following texts (listed in random order):

  • E. J. Nielsen’s caption for Figure 20. The Jersey Devil
  • Agnieszka Kotwasińska: “Un/re/production of Old Age in The Taking of Deborah Logan”
  • The Monster Network (Hellstrand et al.): “Promises, Monsters and Methodologies: The Ethics, Politics and Poetics of the Monstrous”
  • Marietta Radomska: “Promises of Non/Living Monsters and Uncontainable Life”
  • Nicola Moffat: “Monstrous Promises: Performative Acts and Corporeality in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein”
  • Donna McCormack’s review on Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet: Ghosts and Monsters of the Anthropocene (Tsing et al.)
  • “Monster Talk: A Virtual Roundtable with Mark Bould, Liv Bugge, Surekha Davies, Margrit Shildrick and Jeffrey Weinstock” (edited by Donna McCormack)
  • Erling Sandmo’s review on (Surekha Davies) Renaissance Ethnography and the Invention of the Human: New Worlds, Maps and Monsters

Sneak peak into our event “Weird ecologies and storytelling practices”: Video by Gustaffson&Haapoja!

 

The Monster Network is proud to present the video “Embrace your Empathy!” with the permission of Gustafsson&Haapoja.

 

 

“Embrace Your Empathy!” is a work by Gustafsson&Haapoja. It was created for Flow Festival 2016 (Helsinki, Finland) along with a manifesto and flags of Utopian nations, where humans would co-exist more peacefully and equally with other animals. The video is realized by Matti Vesanen and the music composed by Mikko Virmajoki. It was originally shown without the music on repeat on a big screen near the festival entrance.

In her keynote lecture in the Monster Network’s event “Weird Ecologies and Storytelling Practices”, Laura Gustafsson discussed art, advertisement and propaganda, and this video was one of the examples used in her talk. Gustafsson sought to answer, whether it is possible to advertise empathy beyond rhetorics. How to make a person willingly give up their privileges and tune into the same level with other beings without resulting in propaganda?

 

 

Monsters, myth and media: Nordic stories of belonging and otherness (Network Funding from Nordic Culture Point 2018-2019)

Dr. Ingvil Hellstrand from the Monster Network gives us her thoughts on our workshop series funded by the Nordic Culture Point.

 

With the generous support of the Nordic Culture point, the Monster Network has recently completed a workshop series dealing with what we might call a resurgence of the figure of the monster in the Nordic countries. The political climate is changing, and in all the Nordic countries there is a harsher political rhetoric linked to what is considered normal and what is considered deviant. Simultaneously, right-wing politics demanding a ban on immigration and better integration are on the rise, and the past few years we have seen neo-nazi marches in Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway. These very real and acute situations is a reminder of the histories of monster-making: how certain bodies, voices and identities are rendered monstrous, or as not-belonging, as a result of ideology, social agendas, cultural norms and popular culture and the media.

 

Haunted Humanity

Our first workshop took place in Stavanger, Norway on 29 and 30 November 2018. This workshop, entitled Haunted Humanity, invited artists, writers and researchers to discuss how the very idea of being human is haunted, not only by monstrous Others, but also by the traditional hegemony of the (white, able-bodied, male, middle-class) human.  The (in)stability of the human is defined by its relation to its others, and we wanted to grapple with the idea of various hauntings, be it bodily, technologically, historically, territorially, fictionally and ideologically, to mention a few.

Coming from a feminist tradition, the workshop was organized around the principle of diffraction. This means that we gathered people from different fields and perspectives in order to bring out various approaches and multiplicities in terms of hauntings. One example of how we managed to do just that was a session where we discussed the Tasmanian tiger and the story of its extinction alongside a videowork by Swedish artist Tove Kjellmark that focuses on the female body. After an engaging talk about the preservation and presentation of the now-extinct animal by

Professor of environmental history at the University of Stavanger, Dolly Jørgensen, an initial  discussion about cataloguing and classifying brought about a debate about the impossibility of representation without haunting, exemplified by the female body as a spectacle. In other words, invoking the very idea of a body, be it female or a Tasmanian tiger, demands a reflection on how it can be displayed, represented, historizised, told, portrayed and reproduced. And further, an attention to who is doing the storying, and when and how it is being told, and what is silenced or lost along the way.

One of the major haunting figures to this day is Frankenstein and his monster-creature, and so we felt a tribute to Mary Shelley’s work as well as to the legacies of Frankenstein was in order. How can we deal with acknowledging the legacies on the one hand, but also challenge and subvert them on the other? Central here is of course the question of knowledge production, and the production of a literary canon. This theme of knowledge regimes, canonization, tradition and legacy did actually become an overarching theme for the entire workshop: whose knowledges are deemed monstrous, unfitting, problematic, and what are the consequences of being rendered illegitimate or improper by the state apparatus, religion or majority culture. For example, many of our invited speakers talked about Sámi knowledges as an example of something that has been silenced or hidden, and how this making-invisible continues to haunt history and culture, as well as families, identities and everyday lives.

 

Weird ecologies and storytelling practices

Our second workshop took place in Tampere, Finland on 4 and 5 April 2019, with the theme of Weird Ecologies and Storytelling Practices. Here, we continued the thread about knowledge production, but situated in critical story-telling practices. Having invited writers of speculative fiction, such as Laura Gustafsson and Johanna Sinisalo as keynote speakers, this workshop engaged in questions of why stories are important, and for who. How can weird and speculative stories contribute to change how we perceive the world that we live in and surround ourselves by? By exploring themes of imagining, (re)telling and envisioning the world otherwise, the very question of human superiority and the necessity of alternative perspectives and positionalities set the tone and artistic-theoretical framework for this workshop.

The workshop also featured a writing workshop with Professor Emerita Nina Lykke, in which she invited us to “write the posthuman”. In order to do this, she argued, the exercise is to draw on a range of senses and attempt to de-centre and and posthumanise the “I” position. By shifting perspectives and agency for the storyteller, Lykke advocated writing and thinking practices where a traditional, representational mode of writing was challenged: the point is not to represent, but to acknowledge the posthuman as a “you”. In turn, this “you”, is something or someone that we, the humans, must relate to. Throughout the workshop, Lykke’s point seemed to reiterate in several of the talks: in artist Henna Laininen’s dialogue with a glacier; art-researcher Shreyasi’s intimate photo assemblages of cities and technologies, and in researcher Marietta Radomska’s deliberations about the materialities of life and death.

Storying the monster is a way of making visible the boundaries for established knowledge regimes, and potentially challenge them. The monster is a figure that haunts, and it is thus in a position to raise questions about presences and absences, as well as about its own ontology. Similarly, the monster allows unexpected and unrecognized perspectives and stories to show themselves, and – perhaps – shift the boundaries for what is considered reality for a moment. For the whole of our workshop series, the monster served us well as a thinking tool about hauntings, weirdness, humanity and ecology.

Remember to listen to our podcast from these workshops!

 

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Special Issue on the Monstrous

coverDr. Donna McCormack (Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Surrey) speaks about the recent Special Issue of the journal Somatechnics that she edited with the steering committee of the Monster Network.

The Monster Network has been busy doing collective work and is happy to announce the publication of a special issue of the journal Somatechnics on Promises, Monsters, Methodologies: The Ethics, Politics and Poetics of the Monstrous (September 2018).

The Special Issue started as a collaborative project between the five editors, who are all steering committee members of the Monster Network. Most of us have worked together for many years, while others came along later consolidating our desire to think about the future of monster studies, and to address whether there is such a thing as monster studies. Continue reading “Special Issue on the Monstrous”