Erin Manning - Biography
Erin Manning, Ph.D., is a philosopher, visual artist and dancer, and is currently a University Research Chair at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Concordia University, Montreal. She is also a founder and director of The Sense Lab, an interdisciplinary laboratory on research, creation and an international network focusing on intersections between philosophy and art through the sensing body in motion. Erin Manning received her Ph.D. in Political Science at the University of Hawaii (2001) and has been teaching philosophy, political theory, visual studies, cultural studies, and film theory. She is a member of the editorial board for the online journal Inflexions and the author of works on movement and ephemerality, for which she frequently collaborates with Brian Massumi.
Erin Manning studied continental philosophy and slavic studies at the Free University in Berlin, Germany from 1986-1990. She then attended the Carleton University where she obtained her B.A. in Directed Interdisciplinary Studies where she focused on Literature, Film Studies and Philosophy. She graduated from Carleton University in 1996 with honours and wrote a thesis entitled, Drawing DisConnections: Space and Time in Canadian Cinema. Erin Manning continued her work at Carleton University in Ottowa, Canada as she studied for a Ph.D. in Comparative Literary Studies. She graduated with a Ph.D. in 1998 from the University of Hawaii due to the closure of the Comparative Literature Department at Carleton University. From 1998-2001 she was at the University of Hawaii where she obtained a Ph.D. in Political Science. Her academic ventures continued with post doctorate work for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), where she focused on Communications and Art History at McGill University in Montréal, Canada.
Erin Manning has held numerous academic positions. She was a teaching assistant for introductory courses and film theory at Carleton University from 1994-1998. She taught courses in philosophy, visual studies and cultural studies from 2001-2002 at Carleton University. In 2003 Erin taught courses in the Communications Department at McGill University. Since 2004 she has taught in the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema and Studio Arts at Concordia University. From 2008 to 2013 she is University Research Chair at Concordia. She was also a visiting scholar in the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University during the winter 2010 term. She has also taught courses at the European Graduate School with Brian Massumi..
In her writing, Erin Manning addresses various topics related to thought and politics in a field between dance and new technology, the convergence of cinema, animation and new media. Her focus is on the senses, philosophy and politics, as well as on the political and micropolitics of sensation and performance art. Erin Manning’s art practice combines painting, fabric design and sculpture, and her dance background includes classical ballet and contemporary dance. She dances Argentine tango professionally. Erin Manning is the author of Relationscapes: Movement, Art, Philosophy (2009), Politics of Touch: Sense, Movement, Sovereignty (2007) and Ephemeral Territories: Representing Nation, Home and Identity in Canada (2003).
Ephemeral Territories was defined by Erin Manning as a book about home, or the ways in which artists in Canada invoke home as a concept and space that functions against the discourse of the nation-state. Erin Manning sees this strategy of creating ephemeral sites of accommodation as a potential to resist the constraining imposition of identity politics of the nation-state with territorial imperatives. In Politics of Touch: Sense, Movement, Sovereignty Erin Manning further examines the relational capacities of moving bodies as means of disturbing state-centric theories that fix and border corporeality. All bodies sense and generate knowledge through sense; hence by focusing on the differences among bodies in motion it becomes possible to theorize the ways in which the sense of the world is produced.
Following Baruch Spinoza and Gilles Deleuze, Erin Manning elaborates on the ways in which sensing bodies run up against existing political structures and how new politics can arise to challenge the body politic. Following this, bodies are not seen as simply moving in a pre-constituted space, but generating space-times in moving. Erin Manning proposes to explore the manner in which sensing bodies can challenge the borders of space and time. Taking the example of tango, Erin Manning elaborates on the geography of displacement: being rooted in the Argentine identity, tango is also the product of various practices in different times and spaces. Foregrounding the importance of gesture as politics, tango carries with it the awareness of the potential violence of touch, something defined by Erin Manning as a productive, not a policing, force.
In Relationscapes, Erin Manning further elaborates a new philosophy of movement by examining the movement-images of Leni Riefenstahl, Étienne-Jules Marey, and Norman McLaren, as well as the dot-paintings of contemporary Australian aboriginal artists. Erin Manning turns to a language whose affective force she sees as depending on the concept of thought in motion to challenge the standard notion of movement as spatial displacement. Through a variety of examples, Erin Manning describes choreographic practices that do not simply stabilize the moving body into patterns of displacement, but rather work to develop with that body. In this way, Erin Manning offers new ways of thinking the relationship between the body and politics today, confronting us with the fact that bodies do politics in more ways than we normally think.
Erin Manning founded The Sense Lab in 2004 with the hopes of creating a collaborative environment to allow for and nurture new modes of encounter. Since its founding The Sense Lab has held montly reading groups and a speaker series, Bodies-Bits///Corps-Données. Dancing the Virtual (2005), was The Sense Lab’s first event. Erin Manning writes in her book Relationscapes: movement, art, philosophy (2009) that Dancing the Virtual:
was conceived as a challenge to the often upheld dichotomy between creation and thought/research. The specific aim of “Dancing the Virtual" was to produce a platform for speculative pragmatism where what begins technically as a movement is immediately a movement of thought. In the active passage between movement and movements of thought, the participants of “Dancing the Virtual" collaboratively began to build a repertoire of new techniques for experimentation that performatively bridge the gap between thinking/speaking and doing/creating. Not only did this facilitate creation and communication across fields of inquiry during the events that challenge the active/passive model of speaker/listener or artist/spectator.
The Sense Lab has since hosted Housing the Body, Dressing the Environment (2007), Into the Folds (2008), Society of Molecules (2009) and Generating the Impossible (2011). Since 2007 The Sense Lab has hosted an online journal Inflexions. In 2007 Sense Lab also began a book series with MIT Press that is edited by Erin Manning and Brian Massumi entitled Technologies of Lived Abstraction. The Sense Lab now also hosts residencies. Erin Manning says, “At SenseLab, I seek to allow for a wide regrouping of collectives and individuals who similarly are impatient to create modalities of existence and thought that propose more creative ways of working academically and in the art world." In July 2011, The Sense Lab will cocurate (with the SAT) the launch of the new third floor and green roof of the Society for Art and Technology. The Sense Lab’s concept of Inflexions (also the title of the Sense Lab journal) will guide this 6 month event. The focus will be on research creation.
Erin Manning is an excellent teacher who has inspired students around the world with her unique approach to pedagogy. Through truly embracing movement and process her classes often demand that students physically get up and move. She demands of her pupils a high level of reading and engagement. Through mini-workshops and facilitated projects Erin Manning challenges the traditional classroom in inspirational and unique ways. The influence of dance is clear in Erin Manning’s philosophy and art. Her art is wide ranging from painting, dance to textiles. She is usually dressed in clothes that she has designed herself. Her fashion designs embrace the subtleties of movement as an aesthetic guideline.
Erin Manning has received numerous awards including: University Medal in Arts for highest standing, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada (1996), Governor General Silver Medal in Arts for highest standing (1996), Werner Levi Award for high standing, University of Hawaii at Manoa (1999) and the University Research Award: Concordia University Research Fellow, Emerging Scholar in the Humanities, Social Sciences and Fine Arts (2008). Her publications include: Relationscapes: Movement, Art, Philosophy (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2009), Politics of Touch: Sense, Movement, Sovereignty (Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 2007) and Ephemeral Territories: Representing Nation, Home and Identity in Canada (Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 2003).