Be Water! New forms of Researching from Below

In the winter semester 2020/21, London-based artist Simon Farid and IfEK’s newly appointed professor for Public Anthropology Götz Bachmann will jointly host an art & ethnography & activism course that takes inspiration from Hong Kong students’ practices of undermining power.

When Hong Kong’s students rebelled in 2019 against their government, they did so with a new set of tactics. Whereas previous generations of students had used the “umbrella” (protecting demonstrators against the police’s water cannons) as their guiding metaphor for protest, this new generation went further, and took inspiration from kung fu fighter and Hollywood star Bruce Lee: “Be water!” became the name of the student’s method of short bursts of direct action that were immediately followed by all participants melting away into a crowd.

The course “Be Water!” asks, how such tactics and techniques can be used in the field between ethnographic research, art and activism. We will explore approaches to research that operate from positions of weakness, aiming for new ways to generate knowledge, to act in everyday life, and to leave marks in public without being traced. The course will question whether the context and position of the researcher can justify alternative ethical frameworks and approaches, looking at tactics of subversion, deception, covertness, anonymity, obfuscation and hiding in plain sight. 

We will work hands-on and experimental, operating both through digital media and in the urban space. Be Water! will engage with prominent and outsider art, activism, ethnography and theory, as well as our everyday practices, while searching for new mergers of activism, art and research: beyond fine art, classical academic research and traditional forms of activism. Students will also be tasked with doing and producing weird social games and art projects, pieces of idiosyncratic research and activist interventions (and mixes of these!) as parts of the final assessment.  

The course is a 4-SWS course in the winter semester 20/21 on Mondays from 2-6 PM. Classes will be fully online. The course is placed in the module 8/9 of the BA Cultural Research. GS-students are welcome.

Contact: goetz.bachmannprotect me ?!uni-bremenprotect me ?!.de.


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