The Headless Conference
March 19 2010
In 2010, the New Museum presented Goldin+Senneby’s The Headless Conference, organized by Rhizome for the New Silent series. Goldin+Senneby are Swedish artists - they are also characters in Looking for Headless, a detective story novel involving a murder (by decapitation, of course) commissioned by the artists that has been published serially since 2007. In it, Goldin+Senneby appear as shadowy figures, remotely controlling the action as it unfolds in exotic locales like the Bahamas and Gibraltar–glamorous but bureaucratic hubs of the offshore finance industry. While they implicate art institutions in the narrative they enact, Goldin+Senneby are ultimately interested in how the virtual world of global finances performs a sleight of hand to fictionalize the boundaries between public and private interests, in order to make them disappear.
The lectures, documentaries, and didactic displays that have accompanied the presentation of Headless at art institutions share little of the heady cloak-and-dagger suspense found in the fictional texts that the project spawns. The Headless Conference was no exception to this rule. Co-organized by Rhizome and the Office for Parafictional Research, the event took the form of an academic symposium on issues pertinent to the discourse surrounding Goldin+Senneby’s work. Up for discussion were topics as diverse as the economic theories of George Bataille and the nature of virtual spaces built by offshore finance networks. Participants included Angus Cameron, lecturer in human geography at the University of Leicester, and Goldin+Senneby’s chosen emissary; Brian Droitcour, Rhizome staff writer; Keller Easterling, associate professor at the Yale School of Architecture; Ginny Kollak, director of the Office for Parafictional Research and second-year graduate student at the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College; and Allan Stoekl, professor of French at Penn State University.
The New Silent was a series of programs, presented by the New Museum and organized by its affiliate organization Rhizome, that explored contemporary art engaged with emerging technology and examined the ways digital technologies alter our lives and experiences of urban spaces. The series comprised screenings and performances, as well as a critical conversational strand, which brought together leading scholars, artists, critics, and public figures to illuminate the complex interactions between technology, culture, and creative practice. Named for the generational theories of Neil Howe and William Strauss, the New Silent presented artists working at the furthest reaches of technological experimentation as well as those responding to the broader aesthetic and political implications of new tools and media.