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Colloquium celebrates grassroots initiatives reviving Buffalo

By PATRICIA DONOVAN

Published March 13, 2014

“We want to highlight a range of projects and practices that re-evaluate conventional strategies for urban development.”
Stephanie Rothenberg, associate professor
Department of Visual Studies

To celebrate and fuel the many grassroots initiatives helping to revive Buffalo’s reputation as both the City of Light and the City of Good Neighbors, UB’s Technē Institute for Arts and Emerging Technologies will host the free, public and colorful Performing Economies Colloquium April 4-6 at UB and at sites throughout Buffalo. 

The term “performing economies” refers to art practices and ecologies that produce innovative systems of exchange, dialogue and development during times of political and economic crisis. This event aims to show the public what is possible and to place a variety of hands-on changes in the context of unrestrained capitalism and its rarely discussed consequences.

Such economies have provoked the multiplication of farmers’ markets, community gardens, artists’ collectives and many cooperative businesses from bakeries to bike shares. These mark a renaissance that over the past few years has helped change public perception of Buffalo from Rust Belt relic to vibrant community.

Stephanie Rothenberg, associate professor of visual studies, and Paige Sarlin, assistant professor of media study, are the organizers of the event.

“We want to highlight a range of projects and practices that re-evaluate conventional strategies for urban development,” Rothenberg says. “We are particularly interested in policies and action plans that represent progressive approaches, support communities and encourage financial viability, cultural activity and environmental sustainability.”

So look for “performing redevelopment bus tours” of Buffalo’s East and West sides; a reception and live performance of “Disorientalism,” a multimedia project by Katherine Behar and Marianne M. Kim about the disorienting effects of technologized labor, junk culture and consumerism; a Sunday soup brunch; and more.

A detailed program schedule and registration is available at the Performing Economies website.

The colloquium will offer participants an opportunity to discuss strategies and practices with regional and international scholars, artists and activists whose work has advanced such efforts.

They include UB alumna Silvia Federici, the renowned feminist scholar, activist, radical autonomist feminist Marxist and teacher, who famously argues that capitalism perpetuates itself through a constant infusion of expropriated capital (aided today by the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and other proxy institutions) with devastating consequences, especially for women. Federici is a professor emerita and teaching fellow at Hofstra University.

She will be joined by Renée Ridgway, an Amsterdam-based artist, writer, educator and co-initiator of the collective online platform n.e.w.s., and representatives of such Buffalo grassroots organizations as PUSH Buffalo, Go Bike Buffalo, Sugar City and The Foundry.

Another presenter will be Mary Mattingly, the noted environmental artist and creator of the Waterpod, an eco-sustainable floating habitat that demonstrates future pathways for nomadic, mobile shelters and water-based communities, both docked and roaming.

Mattingly will occupy the Techne Rover, a customized, 6-by-10 trailer designed as mobile media art studio. It will be open to the public from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 3 in front of the Center for the Arts on the North Campus, and in locations around the city during the colloquium.

Mattingly will present workshops on understanding sustainability and building codes, and on the eco-political importance of such things as fabric shelters and rainwater collection. Other artists will offer performances reflecting Buffalo’s rich history of combining economic and aesthetic interests.

In tandem with the Performing Economies Colloquium, Rothenberg and Laina Bay-Cheng, associate professor and director of the PhD program in the School of Social Work, are leading collaborative seminars with graduate students from the arts, humanities and social sciences. Seminar students are working together to integrate social research and creative practice in ways that highlight Buffalo’s economic and cultural revival, and can advocate for continued action.

The event is co-sponsored by the Gender Institute, the Humanities Institute, the School of Social Work, and the Department of Visual Studies.