Confraternity of Neoflagellants | BABEL Un/Session 6: Mash Notes | Toronto


Centre for Medieval Studies, Lillian Massey Building, 125 Queen’s Park, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada


Un/Session 6. Mash Notes

Co-Organizers: Helen Burgess (North Carolina State University) + Craig J. Saper (University of Maryland, Baltimore County)

Flâneur: David Gersten

*This un/session will run all day Sunday, Oct. 11 in the Great Hall, Centre for Medieval Studies, The University of Toronto, Canada.

We have long participated in signed or anonymous declarations of love and desire. Even in our neoliberal institutions, peculiarly bloodless forms remain: the corporate pitch meeting, the grant proposal warped by our understanding of what the other (funding agencies) “wants.” Screw that. As Roland Barthes declares, “What love lays bare in me is energy.” This will be an online/offline un-session conducted all day Sunday, Oct. 11 in the Great Hall, Centre for Medieval Studies, featuring participants entering into the lover’s discourse, with documents both electrical and tactile. Updates and online components of this session will be found HERE.

  • Helen J Burgess (North Carolina State University), “MashBOT” (A twitterbot. With printer.)

What would a bot do if it could write a mash note? Let’s ask it. This project will craft some handmade lovebots on Twitter, and pair them with a small thermal printer.

  • Craig Saper (University of Maryland, Baltimore County), “TENT–a–tive Vision(s) for an Electric [Kool-Aid Acid] Press” (A manifesto.)

There is already a consensus in academia of the main values founding our Electric Press project in collaboration with punctum books. The scholarly (or creative) value is not determined by mode: printed on paper no longer the privileged mode of delivery. Major scholarly organizations and associations have constructed guidelines for peer-review and legitimacy of electronic and multimodal publications. Multimodal projects can also make available new tools, perspectives, and types of knowledge. Multimodal book-equivalents are still part of the history of the book and printing. Once we agree on these foundational values, then the next question is what specifically do we intend to publish. This paper will spend the majority of its time establishing the aspects of Electric Press’ focus. In general, that tentative focus of Electric Press has two general criteria. The works published will: engage in experimental research methods; explore the shift from print-literacy to electronic/Electracy rather than remediating the advantages of the printed-on-paper book in a pdf or other form that mimics and expands the book. The ethos of the Electric Press can be summarized by the revised slogan from The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (“Drop Out & Turn On”): “Drop In & Boot Up” . . . and to do so, you’ll need a TENT-a-tive vision.

  • Haylie Swenson (George Washington University), “Philia” (A radio podcast.)

I propose, as a labor of love, presenting my “paper” in podcast form. My dissertation considers the intimacies that arise at the intersection of human and animal death across pre-modern and contemporary literature. My podcast will tell the story behind the story, as it were; it will describe the emotional and tactile encounters I have had with animal vulnerability that underlie this project (an invasive insect I saved from being squished on the Metro; a fox that surprised me in a moment of contemplating my father’s illness; a baby mouse that died in my hand). Using the intimate medium of radio, I will tell these stories as a way of considering the fine line that divides the personal and the scholarly. A love letter to both radio storytelling and scholarship, my podcast will explore one possible, underutilized outlet for telling the stories — the sorrows and passions, the serendipitous encounters — that fuel our academic work.

  • Leslie King (Radford University), “Erased – Memories of a Forgotten Daughter” (A handmade book and digital counterpart.)

The memories come and go. Sometimes they manifest in a distorted form. To deal with her mother’s memory loss and how their relationship is changing because of this, Leslie King combines the creation of a handmade book and a digital publication that deconstructs it. The three-dimensional book represents tangible memory. The book is formatted as an origami blizzard book, which holds in its pockets King’s miniature drypoint etchings, words, and event proof in the form of photographs, receipts, and other odds and ends. In the book’s two-dimensional digital representation, the subject becomes distorted through its flattened nature and eventual pixilation loss, like memory, as time goes by.

  • Norman Hogg and Neil Mulholland, Confraternity of Neoflagellants (Concordia University + University of Edinburgh), “Thekarites (2014)” (A slideshow.)

Thekarites is a theory-fictional account of the life and death of the artist Paul Thek and his ‘Technological Reliquaries’. In this re-telling, Thek continues to confound the contemporary art scene after his death. Though his processual rituals Thek enacts a dismantling, relic-ing and radical redistribution of the self that floods the sensual hyper-economy with tiny Thekarites — clusters of affective agency or desire. Thek’s radical little ‘me-machines’ then lead a revolution from within the ‘internet of things’ pathing the way for the West’s ecstatic embrace of an animist future.

Confraternity of Neoflagellants | BABEL Session 3: Hermeneutics 2.0 | Toronto


Centre for Medieval Studies, Lillian Massey Building, 125 Queen’s Park, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada


SESSIONS // 1:30pm – 3:00pm

Session 3. Hermeneutics 2.0

Organizer: Anna Wilson, University of Toronto

Room 301, Centre for Medieval Studies

The need for extra-institutional community between mobile academic and para-academic workers and the sudden prominence of the Digital Humanities means that a great deal of professional activity and community formation is happening in online spaces that nurture new hermeneutics, new ways of knowing and of sharing knowledge. Several recent articles have reflected on how Twitter has been shaping academic discourse in Medieval Studies in particular; scholars who live-tweet are exploring the new hermeneutics that emerge when a 20-min conference paper is translated into 140 characters with hashtags. Less explored are the ways other social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, blogs, Youtube, Vine, and many others shape the way their users present information, both through the formats they invite — the fanvid, the anonymous comment, the emoticons, reaction gifs, lolcats, webcomics, image captioning — and through the norms of discourse and audience literacies that emerge from the communities that gather on these different platforms. This panel seeks to explore how academic work transforms, translates, mutates, or reframes itself when it emerges in the shape of an internet meme, a piece of fanfiction, a hover text. What is at stake in such a change, politically, professionally, emotionally, and academically? What are the affective currents surrounding these different hermeneutics and movement between them? Who reads, who benefits, and who is put off or ignored? What political aims may be served, or not, by embracing internet hermeneutics? Where are the limits and limitations of internet hermeneutics? Can we speak of an ‘internet hermeneutics’ at all? The five presenters will display, play, or read out something they have made that explores the conjunction of internet hermeneutics and academic scholarship. These will provide a jumping off point for an hour of discussion between panelists, moderator, and audience.

  • Kaitlin Heller (University of Toronto), “Live Anglo-Saxon Role Playing”
  • Norman Hogg and Neil Mulholland, Confraternity of Neoflagellants (Concordia University + University of Edinburgh), “Let us know about anything wrong, or anything you don’t like about this review, and you could win a $50 Amazon voucher!”
  • Jennifer Jordan (Stony Brook University, SUNY), “Graduate School, Academic Self-Care and Digital Communities”
  • Dan Redding-Brielmaier (University of Toronto): “Accidental Pedagogy: Tumblr”
  • Ariel Franklin-Hudson (Columbia University), “Metatext/Paratext: The Hermeneutics of Tumblr Tags”
  • Cai Henderson (University of Toronto): “Lay thine eyes upon it and thou shalt see that it is barren: Appreciation and appropriation of medieval art on Twitter”


Let us know about anything wrong, or anything you don’t like about this review, and you could win a $50 Amazon voucher!

The Confraternity of Neoflagellants

As neomedievalists working in Scotland and Québec, our collaborative work is often fabricated mid-Atlantic in a cloud-workshop using freeware. Amazon is one of many labyrinthine online bazaars through which we have fabricated and distributed our work. Such platforms are ideal hosts for parasitic, para-artistic activities.

Since we were recognised in 2009, the Confraternity of Neoflagellants have persistently posted lavish and excessive reviews on amazon as an ongoing liturgical practice of person-object-veneration. The title of this project is Let us know about anything wrong, or anything you don’t like about this review, and you could win a £50 Amazon voucher! (2009-)

In Toronto we will perform one of many reviews that we have posted on Over-identifying with’s ethical values – a fluctuating mix of long-tail corporate-probes and subjectivity-surfing – we carefully elevate ‘item#s’ into neomedieval relics by scripting ‘object hagiographies’ in the form of marginalia, commentary and gloss. This is the neomedieval practice of relic-ing. An ever-expanding bestiary hosted by, Let us know about anything wrong, or anything you don’t like about this review, and you could win a $50 Amazon voucher! is an attempt to generate and embody a hypereconomic assemblage of practices, to become a hub that dissolves distinctions between production, transfer, consumption, humilitas and virtus.


Relic-ing: amazon is but one means of socially incubating person-objects via social networks. For us, this hypereconomic phenomenon closely resembles the pre-modern practice of ‘relic-ing’. The hypereconomy (Alexander Chislenko and Madan Ramakrishnan) emerged in the late 1990s as an attempt to quantify (and thus to subjugate) social capital as ‘situational’ knowledge: user-generated knowledge produced by prosumers for prosumers. In the booming Experience Economy of the 1990s, the virtus-value of goods and services would go up and down depending on the collective experience of their communities of users. Whether it be a free-range egg, a cordless power drill, a cluster of spa services, or an avatar’s high heels, the hypereconomic commodity was a relational hub in a network of inter-human (humilitas = the “human” downscaled) subjectivities.

Post-net art: Where much post-net art tends to rework the forward-thinking postmodern collectives of the 1960s and ‘70s, neomedieval artistic practice adopts ‘backward-thinking’, to identify and develop possible ‘premodern futures’ through a visceral, indulgent, lavish, liturgical and ludic materialism. Given its non-modern condition, contemporary artistic practice has as much in common with the middle ages as it does with the avant-garde of the 20th century.

La Confrérie de Neoflagellants

Montréal, Québec et Édimbourg, Écosse.


La Confrérie de Neoflagellants a été fondée en 2009 par le Sergent-At-Bras Hogg et rejoint par Gardien des Vêtements Mulholland. Il s’agit d’une confrérie laïque et l’égalité des chances lié par chorégraphe.

Shift/Work Unlearning: Participatory Workshops for Contemporary Art Practice

The 4th International Visual Methods Conference, organized by the University of Brighton will take place from 16th September to the 18th September 2015 at the University of Brighton in Brighton, United Kingdom. The conference will cover areas like International Visual Methods conference will be an outstanding conference which will primarily focus on interpretation of visual methods. As we see, a wide array of visual methods used in participatory visual research including ‘Photo voice’, photo-elicitation’, ‘graphic-elicitation’, ‘mind mapping’, ‘concept mapping’ and all forms of ‘Arts-based research methods’. International Visual Methods conference will be organized to focus on all these aspects. The participants will be highly benefitted by the track sessions of this conference. They will be able to know about all the aspects of the concerned industry. It will be attended by the participants with great enthusiasm.

9:00-10:30 Thursday 17th September 2015 Session 4: Critical Perspectives on Visual Methodologies – M2 Brighton University,  Eastbourne, England BN20

Shift/Work Unlearning: Participatory Workshops for Contemporary Art Practice

Key themes:

  • Arts based visual research methods
  • Participatory visual methods

Key words:

  • Paragogy
  • Unlearning
  • Workshopping
  • PAR (Participatory action-research)
  • OER (Open Educational Resources)

Paper Abstract:

Shift/Work examines and reconfigures comprehensive workshop-based approaches to artistic production that are theoretically informed, practical and participatory. Shift/Work aims to establish a collective ontology for practice, creating process-led paragogy, critically reflecting upon the learning processes involved, and disseminating research on a share-and-share-alike basis. Key to this is an open engagement with practice (work) as a means of both generating and transferring new knowledge (shift). This experiential knowledge facilitates new practices and open educational resources for artists and art educators to adapt and implement.

In 2014, Shift/Work commissioned an artist (Leeds United and designer (Crille Lampa to facilitate a three-day workshop at Edinburgh Sculpture Workshop. Shift/Work Unlearning (28-30th May 2014) acted upon current discourses and practices that engage with the values of unlearning, deschooling, improvisation and amateurism.

Working in two groups, the participants, a mixture of artists, educators, curators and arts administrators, spent a day designing an unlearning process for their peers to experience on the final day. The workshop was subsequently evaluated by all involved and re-calibrated to run at the Malmö Art Academy, Sweden (12-14th September 2014).

We will analyse the two iterations of Shift/Work Unlearning as examples of how to design, evaluate and develop an iterative action-based approach to artistic learning that is at once theoretical and practical. We will draw upon relevant literature, discourses, practices and models of unlearning that enable and inspire artistic researchers to implement their own workshops.

Shift/Work: Performative Unlearning

Shift/Work: Performative Unlearning

Dan Brown/Neil Mulholland

Strand B: The Politics of Performance Alternative Zones: Uncovering the Official and the Unofficial in Fine Art Practice, Research and EducationParadox Biennial Conference, 9-11th September 2015, Poznan, Poland.

“It was immediately apparent to us that unlearning presented a paradox. Unlearning is an anti-foundational foundation from which to proceed. This makes it a provocative starting point for a workshop, given that workshops are so often predicated on ‘active learning’. Our question, therefore, was what would happen if participants (who we call Shift/Workers) were encouraged to reverse engineer the process of active learning?”paradox2015_poster_citylight-667x1000

Paradox Programme

The Unlearning Organisation

The Unlearning Organisation: Cultural Devolution and Scotland’s Visual Arts 1967-2015

This paper sketches out the ways in which visual artists based in Scotland developed their own infrastructure in tandem with the devolution of state arts patronage from London to Edinburgh from 1967 onwards. It demonstrates how the Keynesian arms-length principal inherited by the Scottish Arts Council generated a productive tension with nascent Artist Run Initiatives in Scotland. With limited state support, artists successfully developed and ran their own platforms while the Scottish Arts Council developed and ran more generously funded (competing) national and civic arts organisations.

Following political devolution in 1999, Scotland’s Governments have revoked JM Keynes’ arm’s length Patron State model in favour of the New Labour experiment with structuration and creative economics that is Creative Scotland. A cross-party bonfire of hydrocodone the quangos fuelled by a populist revolt against ‘expertise’ and ‘excessive government’ in 21st century Britain has rapidly depleted the number of arms length bodies (ALBs) across the UK. This has meant that the centrist creative economy model has been continued by both SNP governments, to disastrous effect. The ALB bonfire has led to the centralisation of the arts (as well as local government and policing) in Scotland. In some respects then, post-devolution Scotland is less devolved than it was in 1994 and, also, less democratically accountable. Since the arts have been fully devolved to Scotland since at least 1994 (or 1967 as some might argue) further devolution of powers from Westminster would have no more or less impact upon this situation than full independence. Rather, remedying this quandary would involve Scotland’s Government rejecting duplication of the centralising tendency of UK Government (unlearning the habit of forming miniature versions of the existing Union State apparatus) and listening more carefully to artists in order to best support the democratic forms of governance that artists have developed themselves over the past 50 years.


Workshop 2:  31 August 2015, Macrobert Arts Centre, University of Stirling

Cultural Devolution as Paradigm & Practice (1999- present)


9.30 Tea/Coffee

10.00 Introductory: Recalling Workshop 1 and interim developments – Scott Hames

10.30 SESSION 1

Before and After 1999: Devolution, Change and Continuity

Kathleen Jamie

Craig McAngus

Gerry Hassan

12.00 Lunch

1.00 SESSION 2

Devolved Cultural Politics and Artistic Production

Neil Mulholland: The Unlearning Organisation: Cultural Devolution and Scotland’s Visual Arts 1967-2015

Carla Sassi

Aaron Kelly

2.30 Tea/Coffee

3.00 SESSION 3

Cultural Devolution as Policy Frame

Paul Cairney

Jean Urquhart MSP

Adam Tomkins


Future research directions and questions

Neomedieval Aesthetics in the 21st Century

@neoflagellants Panel 141 @IMC_Leeds 6th July 2015: 11.15-12.45 Neomedieval Aesthetics in the 21st Century

Medieval archetypes such as pilgrimage, liturgy, anchoritism, relic-ing, alchemy, banquetry, palimpsesting, mumming, compagnonnage, gifting and commoning are popular practices and themes in contemporary art. Why are so many artists mobilising metahistorical anachronisms to explore their contemporaneity – recalibrating and reactivating a variety of premodern ideas as vehicles of renewal – in ways that are best described as neomedieval? This panel of artist-theorists will speculate on neomedievalism’s aesthetic potentialities, from the elasticated loops and folds it presses on our ideas about history, to the untimely visions of differing non-modern futures it can help us to invoke.

"Sometimes your past comes back to haunt you and drags you back in to help track yourself down."