How do you define a Libidinal Circuit? Is it, and if so, when is it something you’re aware of in your everyday life?


I think that a libidinal circuit is an attunement to the urban environment and the capacity to see and hear our fissures, our interconnections. There is a special intimacy in cities amongst strangers that allows for both the possibility of some happenstance and where the constant commerce with others unites us in a common pulse, creating an alchemic connection that is just as real as the city streets and buildings that make up our physical urban environment.


On the other hand, the circuit also implies a deeper structure - it implies that we are ‘hard-wired’ or rule governed, or that the circuit is always rigged by someone else, elsewhere and so recalcitrant to our initiatives and self determination. And yet, despite the stubbornness of routine and the fixedness of the grid, a spark might promote a detour that can lend excitement to the possibilities for imagining and enacting another way of doing things, or of belonging. And this, points to the need to try and understand how our unconscious flows and drives are integral to these libidinal circuits.  


Can you tell us a little about the Culture of Cities? How did you come upon the idea for the Libidinal Circuits conference, and why choose Liverpool?


This series of conferences derives from the Culture of Cities Centre’s emphasis on the relation of culture to social change, and stems from a longstanding conception of scenes in cities and their role in revitalizing concerns for both place and the tempo of change. Libidinal Circuits is the third of a five year series devoted to Scenes of Innovation organized by the International Association for the Study of the Culture of Cities (IASCC).  


The city of Liverpool provides a unique context for exploring these questions further; perhaps more than any other city, Liverpool has had to reinvent itself and innovate in order to compete within a global market over and against its former thriving, industrial past, and working with the School of the Arts at The University of Liverpool has been a real opportunity to engage with those who are working on, and through aesthetic praxis in order to dramatize and animate this shift.  


You’re also presenting at the conference - can you tell us about the paper and how it intersects with the theories which underpin Libidinal Circuits


The Liverpool conference offers an opportunity to recast some of my thinking on memory and the city and how our theatres of memory are embedded in libidinal circuits. Approaching the events of September 11, 2001 through the new 9/11 Museum in New York is a chance to rework the traumatic event. Trauma has become a buzzword, one that can risk glossing or short-circuiting our relationships to history and to memory. Yet the conception of trauma can also be treated as a libidinal circuit, as necessary for mobilizing in any present a desire for living a connection.


Museums as social institutions have systems of classification and imaginary relations to the world that can be approached and studied rather than simply endorsed; the reinvention of ‘big data’ supplied by the digital participation and expanding collection of visitors’ stories is one way in which I investigate how faith in the algorithm represents not only a means to capture, record, and represent the event, but also a belief that that our individual experience of it represents a new shift in how we build our theatres of memory as itself an indication of the kinds of futures we envision.


The Libidinal Circuits conference is taking place at FACT and University of Liverpool from 8-10 July. Come and take a look at the pop-up exhibition in FACTLab.