Right of Refusal – Mobility in Post-Democracy Seminar Series, October 24th, 4-8.30pm


The Zolberg Institute on Migration and Mobility invites you to Right of Refusal, the first seminar of the Mobility in Post Democracy Seminar Series organized by the Vera List Center for Art and Politics and co-sponsored by the Institute.

Cory Arcangel, Bomb Iraq, 2005 (still)
Cory Arcangel, Bomb Iraq, 2005 (still)

Right of Refusal
With many states on the brink of a democratic collapse, the Mobility in Post Democracy series connects to the simultaneous disdain and opportunity revealed in this moment. On the heels of a keynote address by Wendy Brown, which will reveal the neoliberal mechanisms that have undermined democracy while pointing toward modes of resistance in new organizational models, this panel discussion will consider refusal as another possible strategy to thwart the further erosion of liberal democracy. By framing resistance as a human right, the right of refusal invokes coordinated action, solidarity, and the law to magnify the political implications of individual decisions. These discussions are particularly relevant as voters in the United States consider their options in the forthcoming presidential elections.

Discourses on human rights are primarily concerned with protecting and supporting individuals as active members of society. Active participation requires two general categories of rights: rights that protect individuals from discrimination, oppression, and other forms of harm; and rights to social, political, cultural, and economic resources necessary to participate, often in the form of material support from states.

This seminar focuses on another form of rights that are often overlooked in rights-based discourses: the right to refuse and embrace non-participation. The right of refusal can take many different forms. In the face of increased globalization and hyper-mobility, how can the right to remain stave off urban developers and alter the flow of migrants? Is it possible to opt out of a digital presence through the right to be forgotten? How does the right of refusal challenge the role of the state as protector and provider? For the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, many voters are considering opting out instead of choosing between the Republican and Democratic candidates. What does non-participation mean for our ability to question and critique the government? What are the affordances of collective refusal, as in a boycott? Is refusal a form of protest, a sign of privilege, the mark of apathy, or something else entirely?

The event begins with an interactive gaming session from 4-6:30pm, followed by two panel discussions from6:30-8:30pm exploring the various manifestations the right of refusal may take. The participants in this event argue for the right to refuse action and participation, to remain silent, to reject market principles of efficiency, to refuse to be part of the system. The upcoming U.S. elections provide the context to consider the ramifications of non-participation.

4:00-6:30pm Video game exhibition with artist walkthrough and reception from 5:30-6:30pm
6:30-7:30pm Panel I
7:30-8:30pm Panel II

Colleen Macklin, Associate Professor of Design and Technology, Parsons
Lucas Pinheiro, Lecturer in New Media Art History, Parsons
Joshua Simon, Director and Chief Curator of Bat Yam Museum for Contemporary Art and 2011-2013 VLC Fellow
Pilvi Takala, Artist
Miriam Ticktin, Associate Professor of Anthropology, New School for Social Research

Video Games on Display
Beautiful Frog (2015), Porpentine
Between (2008), Jason Rohrer
Bomb Iraq (2005), Cory Arcangel
Freedom (2010), Eva and Franco Mattes
Launch a Banker (2016), Grayson Earle
Loneliness (2010), Jordan Magnuson
Queers in Love (2013), Anna Anthropy
Welcome to the Desert of the Real (2009), Molleindustria

October 24th, 4-8:30pm

Starr Foundation Hall, UL 102
63 5th Avenue
New York, NY 10003


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