Berlin, 30 October – 1 November 2008
From 30 October to 1 November 2008, the Joint Symposium “Art:Relations. Revisiting Crucial Concepts” will be held in Berlin with the following participating institutions: Copenhagen Doctoral School in Cultural Studies, Literature and the Arts, the Centre of Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths College, London, the CréArt Doctoral School at Université de Paris X – Nanterre, the Norwegian Doctoral School in Cultural Studies, Oslo, and the Department for Performance Studies at Stockholm University. The symposium is organized by the International Research Training Group “Interart Studies” at the Freie Universität Berlin.
The symposium is conceived as a workshop focused on discussion to enable an extensive scientific exchange between participants of the partner institutions involved. It shall stimulate engagement with different topics that will be discussed and deepened in different workshops. These topics are embedded within the Research Training Group’s theoretical field of interest and reflect the doctoral fellows’ individual areas of research. The five topics are: “Interaction”, “Intermediality”, “Approaches to Historical Research in Art Studies”, “The Politics of Art: Autonomy, Intervention and Transgression”, and “Creation”. In favour of dialogue between the participants of the different workshops, the symposium will not revert to the otherwise common approach of individual lectures.
Participants are invited to submit a proposal (300 words max.) before September 15th, 2008. The moderator(s) of each workshop will evaluate the submitted statements.
In a second round, the participants are asked to extend their proposal to 5-8 pages and submit it until October 1st. Alternatively, one may suggest a theoretical text appropriate to be discussed within the workshop. In this case, the proposal should include precise questions, hypotheses and ideas that can be taken up during the discussion. All contributions will be circulated among the participants.
For many decades, the concept of the‘art work’served as the least common denominator within art studies. It defined the object of consideration as something (already) made and the act of contemplation as subordinate. With the departure from this paradigm, the term“interaction”, among others, became central within aesthetic discourse and with it processuality, mediality, contingency and the communicative character of aesthetic events.
Depending on the medium and context considered (from theatre, installation and media art to literature and music etc.), varying aspects have been accentuated and concepts of interaction have been developed. From a comparative perspective, this workshop will explore the similarities and differences between these various aesthetic approaches to interaction and discuss their productivity for theory construction in the humanities.
Leading scholars of media and art studies primarily working in Germany and Austria have discussed “intermediality” as a key concept since the early 90’s. Considered as an “umbrella term”, a variety of approaches have been developed making an effort to define the term by distinguishing it from the notion of interart as well as generating a systematic matrix of subcategories such as “media change”, “media combination”, etc. (Irina Rajewsky).
Furthermore, research on intermediality involves a spectrum of widely opposing perspectives on how the “inter” between media, life, and art constellations is determined. The condition of the in-between, as the prefix “inter” of the concept suggests, is either considered to be a property of art production in terms of generic and formal transformation among art works (Yvonne Spielmann) or identified as an aspect of experience and reception on the side of the (male/female) observer of art (Juliane Rebentisch).
Within this complex conceptual setting, the goal of the workshop is to critically discuss these various strands of current approaches and related terminology concerning intermediality from a primarily aesthetic research interest, determining methodological boundaries as much as theoretical trajectories. This workshop seeks to confront these debates with problems related to the participants’ focal points of research and analysis concerned with specific empirical research material. What makes a phenomenon intermedial? How to specify markers of intermediality? Is intermediality restricted to art works that involve new media only? How to conceive the relationship between intermediality and interart phenomena? Is intermediality as an analytical tool applicable both to current postmodern “Western” art and to so called “non-Western” performing arts?
When scholars from art, culture and media studies deal with topics and subjects of past epochs, which concepts and theories on and about history do they use? Do they work with them at all? And if not: Is there not the danger of falling back into Leopold von Ranke’s position claiming that the responsibility of the historian is to “show what actually happened”? Furthermore: Is there not a historical positivism creeping in, often contradicting great theoretical competence in aesthetic questions? Which methods and theories can be used to avoid this? Approaches that juxtapose the analytical reading of records and the historical review in the mode of new cultural history, or that merge both into a history of discourse? Doesn’t the connection between aesthetic and historical theoretical questions represent another starting point for new, extended theoretical reflections – a connection that takes the „sources’ right of veto“ seriously while considering both perspectives and thus implying a historical discussion that concentrates on the respective materiality and mediality of the subject matter?
This workshop discusses once more the relation of art in regard to politics: from art as a specific form of political intervention to the modernist defence of aesthetic autonomy.
Within this vast field, we would like to concentrate on three main questions:
1. How do different methodological and theoretical approaches definethe political dimension of art?
The various concepts seem to be determined by the underlying conflict between formal design and political content: from Adorno’s definition of the artwork as both autonomous and “fait social” to Rancière’s recent neoromanticist invocation for transgressing the distribution of the sensible.
2. What characterizes politically engaged art practices?
On the one hand, one can observe typical artistic strategies such as self-reflection, site-specifity, participation etc.. On the other hand, some regular “genres” have emerged, e.g. “intervention art”, “culture jamming”etc.
3. How do theoretical approaches and artistic practices interrelate?
How can we conceive the influence of theory production on artistic practices and vice versa? Which theories do these various art practices refer to? And which tendencies in art production inspire new theoretical perspectives on art and politics?
This workshop explores creative processes in contemporary art, especially regarding art forms, which do not manifest themselves any more through auctorial works. Rather than advocating a personal position through their works, the artists search to inspire new ways of thinking. In creative processes, where works of art emerge from which the author withdraws, the work of art as product (i.e. happening, event, object) looses its relevance. The avoidance of a product, understood as destination and result of the creative process, originates from the notion that art only emerges from the constitution of relationships and can be reshaped in other configurations of relationships.
Works that originate in such a way are not open – in the sense of works completed through an “interactive” audience participation. Instead they are temporary, transmutable manifestations that don’t outlast as product. They are no longer the carrier of subjective conceptualisations. They don’t express definite statements and can therefore change their shape and form freely. The meaning of the works emerges relationally within the constitution of relationships between different contexts or concepts. It is much rather about a withdrawal of the artist from specific situations and about the creation of connections between possible situations. Such works are a provocation for a shift to further possible conceptualisations, rather than a definite statement.
Artists such as Tino Sehgal, Philippe Parreno, the architect Rafael Lozano-Hemmer and projects like The Mobile Academy not only unfold a new method of dealing with art, they argue that this problem is immanent in art. Independent from their form (dance, construction, dialogue etc.), their works exist due to the claim that the possibility of unpredictable contextualisation is something internal.
How can creation be understood in works which are functioning rather sequential and which don’t reveal a linear continuity of their manifestation? And how can the audience’s creative participation be theorized in view of art forms, which can no longer be grasped through their products?