Another way of telling

By Jan Baetens

On: Frederick Luis Aldama, Long Stories Cut Short. Fictions From the Borderlands (Tucson: Arizona University Press, 2017, ISBN: 970816533978)

Long Stories Cut Short. Fictions From the Borderlands is an amazing book and probably also the most direct, honest and useful book that I’ve recently read. Content-wise it looks very simple: a collection of “flash fictions” (ranging from the one-sentence fictions à la Augusto Monterroso to very dense, but always very legible, one or two page stories) on the “Latino experience” (that is the bilingual and bicultural life of those crossing all kind of borders from South to North in a multimedia and multilayered world),Long stories cut short without any concession to the naïve and sentimental utopias that continue to litter our perception of the harsh reality. Aldama’s prose is in your face and Long Stories Cut Short is amongst the most depressing books one can imagine. A welcome reply to all romantic views on the land of milk and honey (“She might be able to go home, the doctor announces. /He can only think: Hurry up and die.”, p. 171).

At the same time, the book is a great example of what literature today can or should be: an attempt to shape –which signifies: reshape–  modern life with modern means. Aldama thus brings into dialogue form and content: his borderland prose is not a matter of themes, it is also a matter of textual materiality, his book offering all fictions in two versions (English and Spanish, with no hierarchy between – they are independent and equal versions of each other) as well as in two media (the Chilean Mapache Studios have illustrated in comics style for most of the stories, and this image becomes a mirror story itself). Moreover, the author –a well-known specialist of narrative studies, who has the courage to start writing himself (like many others, he could have made a career by writing fifty articles on free indirect style in Jane Austen) – manages to change the genre he explores. His flash fictions do not only push the genre beyond its usual limits (the diversity of tones, styles, techniques and scopes is impressive), they also offer a complete rethinking of the nature of flash fiction once it appears in a collection. For Long Stories Cut Short is much more than a book of very short stories, it is an encyclopedia of the borderland experience. It does not rely on simple tricks such as the recurrence of characters and places in various stories –an easy way to bridge the gap between the part and the whole–but rather it manages to build a world in which the parts do not fit together –as they don’t in the real world either.

Seminar: “The 3 Ecologies Institute – Anarchiving an Alter-University”

On Thursday, the 18th of May, we have the privilege of welcoming professors Erin Manning (Concordia University) and Brian Massumi (University of Montreal) for a doctoral seminar at the KU Leuven, entitled The 3 Ecologies Institute: Anarchiving an Alter-University. This encounter will take place between 10 a.m. – 12 p.m., at Hoger Instituut voor Wijsbegeerte – Room HIW 01.20 (Kardinaal Mercierplein 2 – 3000 Leuven). Registration is not required, though brief notice of your attendance to would be appreciated.
Poster4Erin Manning and Brian Massumi will discuss their development of ‘The 3 Ecologies Institute’ at SenseLab (, a laboratory for thought in motion that explores the active relations between art, philosophy and politics through the matrix of the sensing body in movement.
The 3 Ecologies Institute is an experiment in thinking/making, formulated as a speculative proposition for an alter-university. Working with Félix Guattari’s concept of the three ecologies – the conceptual, environmental and social – Manning and Massumi move us to collectively invent what else learning can mean, beyond the model of the neoliberal university.
As university education has become increasingly focused on the demands of the job market, its earlier mission as a realm for creative exploration and flexibility of thinking has eroded – a development that has harmed the humanities and social sciences. The 3E Institute aims to provide a dedicated place for creative exploration and free inquiry as values in themselves. It encourages experimental thinking and creative making and supplements a transversal, transdisciplinary milieu to the split between theory and practice that often underlies pedagogical methods and educational institutions. The Institute will further approach its efforts toward collective experimentation, improvisation and reinvention by exploring the possibility of an alter-economy (new forms of ‘commons’, cooperative networking, skill-sharing and crypto-economies), including neurodiverse ways of knowing and the co-habitation of social diversities, and fostering ecological sustainability (including, but not limited to, the environmental).
Brian Massumi and Erin Manning will explore this potential through the concept of the anarchive: not the documentation of known past activities, but an ‘anarchic’ research-creation event of collective experience in the making. They look forward to the opportunity of sharing this work and discussing what else learning and living can be in these neoliberal times.
Further reading,:
Erin Manning holds a University Research Chair in Relational Art and Philosophy in the Faculty of Fine Arts at Concordia University (Montreal) and is the founder and co-director of SenseLab. Her activities are situated across art-making, philosophy and activism. Through process philosophy, her writing researches the relations between movement, art, neurodiverse ways of knowing and the political. Her artworks explore conditions of emergent collectivity and more-than human ecologies. Manning’s current art projects are focused around the concept of minor gestures in relation to colour and movement, and the synesthesia of colour-smell. Her publications include Politics of Touch: Sense, Movement, Sovereignty (Minnesota UP, 2007), Relationscapes: Movement, Art, Philosophy (MIT Press, 2009), Always More Than One: Individuation’s Dance (Duke UP, 2012), The Minor Gesture (Duke UP, 2016) and, with Brian Massumi, Thought in The Act: Passages in the Ecology of Perception (Minnesota UP, 2014).
Brian Massumi is professor of communication at the University of Montreal and co-director of SenseLab. He works on the philosophy of experience, art and media theory and political philosophy. His research participates in the collective exploration of new ways of bringing philosophical and artistic practices into collaborative interaction. Massumi has translated work by Deleuze and Guattari, Lyotard and Attali into English. He is well-known as a foundational figure of the ‘Affective Turn’ in the humanities and social sciences. His publications include Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation (Duke UP, 2002), Semblance and Event: Activist Philosophy and the Occurrent Arts (MIT Press, 2011), What Animals Teach Us about Politics (Duke UP, 2014), Politics of Affect (Polity, 2015) and Ontopower: War, Powers, and the State of Perception (Duke UP, 2015).

Symposium “Mediating Immediacy: Choreographing Affect”

On Wednesday May 17th 2017, there will be a symposium entitled Mediating Immediacy: Choreographing Affect, which is being organized in the framework of the KU Leuven Cultural Studies course Theory of Contemporary Dance, in partnership with STUK. The symposium is free, welcomes all and will take place at STUK – Soetezaal (Naamsestraat 96 – 3000 Leuven), between 14:00 – 18:00.

A description for the event and details about the program and speakers can be found at:
Contact: Arne Vanraes –



Photo credit: Twitter @trymainelee

Mediating Immediacy: Choreographing Affect
Our speakers Cécile Guédon (Harvard University), Erin Manning (Concordia University) and Ben Anderson (Durham University) will address the paradox of how the (presupposed) ‘immediacy’ of affect can be negotiated in performance praxis or in the broader social sphere. In short, ‘affects’ are often described as those basic, psycho-bodily intensities that emerge from encounters of lived bodies and environments. At a micro-perceptive level, they influence one’s capacity to act or move. While those energetic forces are frequently analyzed as being non-conscious and happening immediately, we will raise the question whether this implies that they are also unmediated. Is there a necessary contradiction between choreographic technique (which can suggest notions of mastery and reproducibility) and affect (so often associated with passivity and immediacy)? What can ‘structures of feeling’ tell us about structures of power and a politics of moving/feeling bodies? Does choreography carry the potential to critically research which energies appear between moving bodies in relation? And can such choreographies intervene to reconfigure affective production for the future?
Cécile Guédon – Articulating Modernity: Choreographing Abstraction
Erin Manning – A Manifesto for Immediation
Ben Anderson – Neoliberal Structures of Feeling
Concluding performance: Alma Söderberg, Nadita (

Book presentation: “Starchitecture. Scenes, Actors and Spectacles in Contemporary Cities”

Wednesday May 10, 2017, 6-8 pm at the Aud De Molen, Campus Leuven.

9781580934688In recent years, widespread media and critical attention has been lavished on famous architects and how their spectacular designs contribute to the branding of cities. Far less is known about the decision-making processes behind these projects and their subsequent urban effects. The book Starchitecture (by urban scholar Davide Ponzini and photographer Michele Nastasi) investigates recent skyscrapers, cultural projects, and high-profile developments designed by star architects in cities such as Paris, New York, Abu Dhabi, and Bilbao. The book addresses key questions: How and why do spectacular works get commissioned and procured? What are their visible urban effects? What can urban planners, architects, and policy makers learn in order to engage in more successful citymaking? In his presentation Davide Ponzini will explain and critique a growing global condition by revealing how starchitecture has been and continues to be deployed in cities around the world. These arguments are vital to understanding the urban landscapes of today, and tomorrow.

More info can be found at the following link: