Institute for the Public Life of Arts and Ideas Thu, 14 Jun 2018 23:23:18 +0000 en hourly 1 IPLAI Welcome Party and Slide Slam Wed, 07 Oct 2015 19:55:09 +0000 Welcome party and open house, October 23, 2015.
Faculty fellows past and present will present on their team-taught PLAI courses and discuss their time at IPLAI
Slam Style — 2 minutes, 2 slides 3:30 pm
​Followed by a 5 a  7​
​at IPLAI, 3610 Rue McTavish, second floor.
Guided Discussion with Tristan Honsinger Tue, 08 Sep 2015 15:41:02 +0000 Guided Discussion with Tristan Honsinger

On Thus, Sept 17, at 2:00 pm, the fantastic cellist Tristan Honsinger will speak at IPLAI. This will be a guided discussion with Sara Villa. A major figure in the world of Free Improvisation, Tristan is know for his long collaborations with Cecil Taylor and Derek Bailey, but has performed with a veritable who’s who of free improvisers. This event is free and open to all.

Improv collective action & activism Thu, 02 Jul 2015 17:59:19 +0000 The colloquium “Improvisation, Collective Action, and the Arts of Activism” will bring together activists, artists, and scholars to critically interrogate the idea(l)s of autonomy, freedom, and agency that are central to neoliberal cultural formations and to the modes of collective action that contest those formations. What kinds of polities and communities have these idea(l)s translated into? How have the autonomous collectives that emerged in the wake of recent counterhegemonic mobilizations challenged the centrifugal modes of action and diffuse power structures fostered under neoliberalism? What are the political implications of neoliberalism’s valorization of spontaneous orders and risk-taking for counterhegemonic movements that look to improvisatory performance practices (and their attendant ethical sensibilities) as pathways towards the construction of radically democratic communities? How might the critical tools of improvisation studies and related fields of inquiry (e.g. performance and music studies, radical democratic theory, studies of collective action) serve to trouble neoliberal moves to “relax,” and “autonomize” agents from, governmental regulations? In what ways might we use those tools to bring to the fore improvisatory practices and processes that engage with alternative understandings of autonomy, agency, and risk-taking? How might the aesthetic and ethical gestures derived from, or inspired by, improvisatory traditions in the arts contribute to the politicization/denaturalization of neoliberal cultural norms?


IICSI: International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation

PGSS: The Post-Graduate Students’ Society of McGill University

SALA: Société des arts libres et actuels

IPLAI Institute for the Public Life of Arts and Ideas (McGill University)


L’improvisation, l’action collective et les arts du militantisme*

*Dans le texte qui suit, le masculin désigne tous les genres.

Le colloque rassemblera des militants, des artistes et des universitaires afin d’interroger, sous un angle critique, les idées/idéaux d’autonomie, de liberté et de capacité d’agir qui sont au cœur des formations culturelles néolibérales ainsi que des modes d’action collective qui contestent ces formations. Sous quelles formes de régimes et de communautés ces idées/idéaux se sont-ils traduits? En quoi les collectifs autonomes ayant émergé aux lendemains des récentes mobilisations contre-hégémoniques ont-ils défié les modes d’action centrifuges et les structures de pouvoir diffuses que le néolibéralisme entretient? Qu’est-ce que la valorisation néolibérale des ordres spontanés et de la prise de risque implique, sur un plan politique, pour les mouvements contre-hégémoniques qui mobilisent des pratiques performancielles improvisationnelles (et sur les sensibilités éthiques qui y sont associées) pour construire des communautés radicalement démocratiques? Comment mobiliser les outils critiques offerts par les études en improvisation et les champs de recherche qui y sont reliés (études musicales et de la performance, théories de la démocratie radicale, études sur l’action collective) afin de mettre en tension les tentatives néolibérales d’« alléger » les régulations gouvernementales et d’en « autonomiser » les acteurs sociaux? Comment pourrions-nous employer ces outils en vue de mettre de l’avant des pratiques d’improvisation et des procédés mus par des compréhensions alternatives de l’autonomie, la capacité d’agir et la prise de risque? En quoi les gestes éthiques et esthétiques dérivés ou inspirés des traditions d’improvisation dans les arts contribuent-ils à la politisation et la dénaturalisation des normes culturelles néolibérales?



Improv & Community Health Tue, 26 May 2015 16:47:55 +0000 Colloquium on Improvisation and Community Health, June 5-6, 2015. Free and open to the public

June 5th 8:30am-5:00pm, Mackay Center School (3500 Décarie Blvd, Rm 219, Michael Reed Room)

June 6th 8:30am -4:40pm, La Sala Rossa (4848 St. Laurent Blvd)

Improvisational theory and community health policy share many concerns, and overlap with regards to methods, problematics and theory. Many public health initiatives and the theories that inform them have in common features of improvisatory practices: a focus on dialogicality, the desired equality of voices, flexibility and an openness to contingencies, and a rejection of both top-down management and traditional silos, whether they concern sources of agency, genres, or institutional and governmental responsibilities and mandates. Community health initiatives often take place against a backdrop of insufficient resources and uncertain outcomes—conditions that often suggest improvisatory gestures in response. In a narrower sense, improvisatory arts practices are commonly theorized as potent sites for identity formation, interpersonal understanding across barriers of difference, creation of bonds of solidarity, collective contestation of status quos, and so can themselves be important parts of community health initiatives.

This conference will explore these and other related themes, asking questions such as: How might features of improvisatory practices (whether they concern the production, reception or mediation of the improvisatory) suggest new models of social policy? How might the improvisatory arts play a role in creating healthy communities? How might inclusive models of collective improvisation both model, and actually help create, more inclusive, healthy communities? What do policy makers have to learn from improvisers, and improvisers from policy makers? How might improvisatory models of the distribution of agency, responsibility, ownership and action translate into constructive models for improving community health? What is/could be/should be the role and function of the improvising artist in creating and maintaining healthy communities? How might a study of the improvisatory reveal hidden assumptions, agendas and shortcomings in our conception of what constitutes a healthy community? What are the similarities and differences between “unhealthy” improvisations and “ill” communities?

June 5 will be held at the Mackay Center School, a school for children with physical disabilities, committed to creating a healthy and creative community via collective improvisatory music making. June 6 will be held at the Sala Rossa, a performance space committed to community activism and liberatory arts.



“I Smell Burnt Toast”: Talk on Wilder Penfield Sat, 11 Apr 2015 19:57:13 +0000 IPLAI presents a talk on Dr. Wilder Penfield, Canadian neurosurgeon and pioneer in the field. Talk presented by Robert Nitsch, introduced by Ian Gold

Details TBA

Future Humanities: Transforming Graduate Studies Sat, 11 Apr 2015 19:57:11 +0000 The Institute for the Public Life of Arts and Ideas (IPLAI) at McGill University presents FUTURE HUMANITIES: Transforming Graduate Studies for the Future of Canada,* an event that brings together students, graduates, faculty and administrators from over 30 Canadian universities, national organizations, government and funders. Here we rethink graduate education in the humanities to develop ideas for new programs, to change the culture of the academy itself and to enhance how humanities degrees are seen by the broader public.

Register for events on May 21-22, 2015.


Please note that IPLAI will be livestreaming events and recording for possible future use. By registering for this event you give the IPLAI at McGill University permission to record your image and/or voice and grant IPLAI all rights to use these sound, still, or moving images in any medium for educational, promotional, advertising, or other purposes that support the mission of IPLAI and university. You agree that all rights to the sound, still, or moving images belong to IPLAI.

Student Papers Sat, 11 Apr 2015 19:57:07 +0000 Each year, IPLAI awards undergraduate and graduate students funds to carry out research that is interdisciplinary and in conjunction with a public institution. Some award winners carry out internships and some perform archival research at these public institutions.

Please join us May 13th at IPLAI for paper presentations by last year’s award winners:

  • Caroline Bem: “The Diptych, A Moveable Form.”
  • Reilley Bishop-Stall: “A Crisis in Camera: Photo-Colonialism and the Imaging of Atrocity”
  • Nina Penner: “A Philosophical Approach to Operatic Storytelling”
  • Tanya Southcott: “The Photography of Edith Mather”
Future Cities Sat, 11 Apr 2015 19:56:50 +0000 IPLAI presents Future Cities: 25 years in the future. Join students and faculty in Architecture, Arts, Engineering, Law, Management, Medicine, Music, and Urban Planning, local artists and writers, and public thought leaders including Ken Dryden, Novelist Heather O’Neill, Actor & Director Paul Van Dyck, and Adam Greenfield for a day of crossing boundaries into other ways of seeing, describing, and analyzing; opportunities to reimagine the future of the city; and a collective effort toward the creation a new, interdisciplinary city making methodology.