Secularity – in collaboration with GIBCA

Editors: Nav Haq, Andrea Phillips, Ola Sigurdson

Submissions to this call is now closed.

Call for contributions

GIBCA 2017 and PARSE announce an open call for contributions to a special issue of PARSE Journal on Secularity
GIBCA (Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art) and PARSE (Platform for Artistic Research Sweden) announce an open call for contributions to the special collaborative issue of PARSE Journal to be published on the occasion of GIBCA 2017.

GIBCA 2017 will animate public discourse on a subject of urgent social and political significance; that of the secular. What role should secularity have in society today?

Aiming to be fundamentally generative, GIBCA 2017 will be a multi-faceted project, incorporating art exhibitions and numerous artist-led initiatives developed in collaboration with different groups and organisations in Gothenburg, as well as significant events and debates that function necessarily at the level of the civic, the academic, the cultural and the political. The collaboration between GIBCA 2017 and PARSE Journal is based on an understanding that artistic research and production have an important role to play in contemporary debates on the relations between governance, religion and freedoms, which will form the foundations of the biennial. It will look to open a genuinely pluralistic debate, independent of the mediatised landscape, allowing artistic intelligence to encounter other, perhaps conflicting, perspectives. We invite proposals for contributions to this special issue of PARSE Journal on Secularity.

Secularity is based on the principle of a separation of religious belief (and non-belief) from the state. Contemporary Western liberal secularity strives to create the conditions that produce and protect four civic cornerstones; political and social equality, minority rights, religious freedom, and the legal separation of private and public domains. Secularity, not to be confused with atheism, has played an essential role in everyday society, allowing for the regulation of complex and often divisive areas of transaction, from abortion rights and sexual freedoms to gay marriage, social equality and censorship. Its strength lies in allowing different modes of living to co-exist due to the protection of rights. It has taken many forms around the world, examples of which include the “Averroism” of Islamic Andalusia in the Middle Ages, Atatürk’s modernising “Kemalist” secularism in Turkey in the early 20th century, the constitutional secularism of “Laïcité” in France, as well as the U.S. constitution.

Yet, in the midst of the geo-political upheavals at the beginning of the 21st century, secularity finds itself in crisis. Liberal secularity is now under acute pressure, part of an increasing global consciousness of fear, insecurity and precarity. The anti-pluralistic imperatives that mobilised the events of 11 September 2001, the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the founding of the Guantánamo Bay military prison and its accounts of torture, the murder of Theo van Gogh and subsequent right-wing nationalism in the Netherlands, the publishing of ‘blasphemous’ cartoons in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, and the crimes of Anders Breivik on the island of Utøya, along with the rise of Islamic State (ISIL) out of the political volatility in the Middle East, the attacks on the offices of the magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, the mass influx of refugees entering Europe to escape civil war in Syria and Iraq, and the subsequent response of different nations to the arrival of these refugees – these are but some of the events that are seen to be pushing Europe towards secular collapse.

In this state of affairs, rampant identitarianism has emerged, materialising many implicitly and explicitly conservative positions. Fundamentalisms and extremisms have morphed in all directions and many profound questions emerge about the future. What happens to secularity during moments of crisis? How should we relate to religious others entering the space of the secular? How can we sustain freedoms – social, sexual, cultural or religious – in a situation of stark cultural differences? Is secularity itself defined, as some scholars believe, by relations to others? Is it the State that is best positioned for defining secularity? If not, who should? GIBCA 2017 looks to address such complex questions on the status of secularity in the situation of its crisis. It will seek to open up a space, as Judith Butler proposes, for “cohabitation and struggle, through participation in public discourse, through cultural and educational projects, allowing modes of separateness to coincide with modes of belonging”.
Please send proposals in the form of a short abstract (not more than 300 words) outlining an area of discussion related to secularity, secularism and the public and cultural sphere to parse@konst.gu.se by November 30, 2016. Please also enclose a CV.
We welcome collective, transdisciplinary and experimental proposals.

Nav Haq, Curator of Göteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art 2017
Andrea Phillips, PARSE Professor of Art, Valand Academy, Gothenburg
Ola Sigurdson, Professor of Systematic Theology, University of Gothenburg

PARSE is an international art and research publishing and conferencing initiative based at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden which seeks to promote multidisciplinary research cultures in the arts and between arts and other disciplines.

GIBCA is one of the leading Nordic art biennials. GIBCA functions in the interrelated fields of research, artistic creation, and philosophical thought which together provide a vital ground for the probing of meaning and for opening up new avenues for dialogue and exchange. GIBCA is organised by Röda Sten Konsthall, Gothenburg. Sweden.

GIBCA 2017 will be held between September 9 and November 19, 2017.

Director Röda Sten Konsthall: Mia Christersdotter Norman
Artistic Director GIBCA: Stina Edblom