The MAC virtual spring symposium: the musical question and the musical answer

April 21, 2021 at 3 p.m. ET
Free event


For the spring symposium, The musical question and the musical answer, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC) is giving carte blanche to Ronald Rose-Antoinette and the Mardi Gras Listening Collective (whose members also include Dhanveer Singh Brar, Stefano Harney, Louis Moreno, Fred Moten, Fumi Okiji and Paul Rekret). In the spirit of The Undercommons, this group of academics, who take their name from the Pittsburgh bar where several of them originally gathered, meet regularly to listen to music together and chat informally.

The event conceived by the collective takes the form of two “mixed tapes” based on a meeting that took place in November 2020, which will be complemented, on April 21, by a live discussion between Ronald Rose-Antoinette, Fumi Okiji and Stefano Harney. Rather along the lines of an intimate radio show, the conversation will focus primarily on the selection and sharing of pieces of music (and texts) as forms of study, love and counter-distancing.

This virtual event is free and registration is required (register here).

“We listen to modes of dedication together by way of documenting and studying our difference, which is to say by giving ourselves away to it.

Between dedication as a mode of inquiry, a function of our being concerned with spirit, and preparing friendship on the run, in struggle, no reasonable, determined spacetime has elapsed. What we keep hearing is a heartache, a madness the post-traumatic will never surpass. And we know it because of our fleeing, open-wounded attachments.

We are sent (dedicated to come again) here, as inconsolable, because of a fundamental clamor, an elemental pressure to practice the formlessness of our companionship; to give ourselves away in collaboration, composition, tenderness. It is impossible for us to say how much we love each other, how much we want to dwell and scatter with each other. But as overwhelming or unsettling the feeling might be, we simply can’t dispense with the impossible just because someone, some law, some judge requires our full participation or address. In fact, the inability to keep our difference apart, to speak against the flesh, makes us sick. Without remedy, we suffer one another, knowing not how or that but on the way together, sole to soul, solitaire à solidaire.

Ronald Rose-Antoinette

Every year, as well as the series of interviews, gatherings and guided tours it organizes as part of its cultural outreach program, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal holds symposia during which the various participants (who include artists, cultural historians and critics) discuss, in the presence of art, some of the issues art raises.

The global pandemic currently under way has forced us to rethink these events. Several months of online conferences and discussions, however enriching, have resulted in a certain saturation and a powerful nostalgia for the days when we could meet in person and exchange less formally. In a broader context, society has been swept by a major wave of self-examination that has altered our understanding of collective being and the way in which institutions view sociality and the sharing of knowledge. On this question, universities and museums are closely linked, not least through the form that symposia generally take.

In their important 2013 book The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study, authors Fred Moten and Stefano Harney call the university institution into question by offering a series of reinterpretations of the traditional lexicon. How are we to understand today such notions as “political” or “critical” in the context of a university professionalization founded on dispossession and the exploitation of labour? To what extent is “professional negligence” of the “outside,” the “unrecognized,” the “undercommons,” intrinsic to the institution? What would a kind of “fugitive planning” look like that advocated not simple opposition to the university (which is also a place of refuge), but a voluntarily dissident – even “criminal” – indecision in relation to it? Could it allow us to envisage a new notion of the practice of study and of incessant indebtedness (which is also a practice of friendship) in terms of a future collectivity?


Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC)
185, Sainte-Catherine West
Montréal QC H2X 3X5
This venue is accessible.

T. +1 514 847-6226

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Roxane Dumas-Noël
Head of Public Relations
T. +1 514 847-6232 /