On Representation/Non-Representation (LCCT 2013)

Organised in collaboration with Matt Mahon (UCL)

The centrality of representation to critical thought – both in terms of representational practices and claims to unrepresentability – is well documented. Its embedding in critical theory permits the branching of representation as a concept-metaphor into aesthetic, philosophical, theoretical and political practices. Representation is a transdisciplinary concept and, as such, thinking through these practices can allow us to address issues of power and criticality. The historical, material and technological conditions by which representation is problematised is a pertinent issue.

What does it mean to be against or beyond representation? We might think of how we ascribe unspeakability and unrepresentability to spaces – spaces uncaptured by cartography, or figurative ‘places’ such as the intangible and immediate aspects of aesthetic experiences, the Lacanian Real or Kristeva’s chora. What is permitted to be represented – in an identitarian sense (Butler’s Precarious Life) as well as in ontological or sensible terms – can lead us to think the power implications of such circumscriptions.

We should also ask how we might engage in work that aims to operate, practise and perform without representation. Object-oriented and speculative ontology which rejects the primacy of human access to objects; Deleuzian critique of representation as recognition and identity; non-representational artistic practices; DeLanda’s critique of extensive relations between concepts; the non-representational theory of Tarde and Thrift: all are attempts to go beyond representation in practice as well as to define the terms of unrepresentability. The problem of writing theory with an aim to move beyond correlation and access is also a pressing concern for this stream.

Papers which engage with these problems of representation and non-representation are welcomed, including (but not limited to) the following topics:

  • The history of non- and un-representational thought
  • The historical, material, or technological conditions through which representation is problematised
  • Critiques of representation through unspeakability and unrepresentability
  • Non-representation and empiricism
  • Defence of representational thought
  • Power and the political implications of non-representation
  • Language and unspeakability
  • Performing or practising against representation

The final stream make-up (of four panels) can be found in the LCCT 2013 programme.