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Erin Manning holds a University Research Chair in Relational Art and Philosophy in the Faculty of Fine Arts at Concordia University (Montreal, Canada). She is also the director of the SenseLab

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Generating the Impossible (2011)

A Potlatch for Research Creation

In the forest: July 3-7 2011, In the city: July 8-10 2011  (read more at

Art is not chaos
It is a composition of chaos

Step 1
Prepare for creative chaos.
Forty artists, writers, theorists, from all fields, gather for a week’s retreat in the woods. They have already met, virtually. The gathering has been preceded by shared readings and anticipatory discussion. The problem: the works they will bring will populate the same event, but their disparate requirements are bound to clash. Nothing is in place but an unformatted space.

Step 2
Compose an emergent attunement.
The week’s work will be to produce the conditions for a dynamic order to emerge from the chaos of intended cohabitation. The challenge: make the mutual attunement truly emergent, the product of its own creative performance. Preconditioned, yes, but not foreseen or preconceived. Self-curating event.

Step 3
Give forth.
The time: July 8-10, 2010. The place: the Society for Art and Technology (Montreal), newly expanded with built-in immersive media platforms and un-preprogrammed convivial spaces. The mission: activate the building, and its immediate surrounds, with the works’ dynamic coming into attunement. Invite the public to partake.

Step 4
Creatively return to chaos.

As soon as the attunement has emerged, blow it asunder as creatively as it built itself up. A ‘free radical’ – a latter-day trickster figure – will be loosed upon the event to joyously scramble the emergent order. Goal: produce a generative break-down in such a way that the public can take a piece of the event with them when they leave.