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Spheres of Action: Art and Politics

Date:10 December 2005, 10:00am to
10 December 2005, 6:00pm
Location:Clore Auditorium, Tate Britain, Millbank, London SW1P 4RG

This conference brings together three of Germany’s leading thinkers on philosophy, art and the media to debate the changing relationship between art and politics.

Peter Sloterdijk: ‘On a Few Relations between Surrealism and Terror’
Peter Sloterdijk, is Professor of Philosophy and Rector of the School of Fine Arts, Karlsruhe. His numerous books include Critique of Cynical Reason (1983), Rules for the People Park (1999) – subject of a notorious controversy with Habermas – and the recent trilogy, Spheres (1999–2004).
Respondent: Adrian Rifkin, Professor of Visual Culture and Media, Middlesex University

Peter Weibel: ‘The Political Revolution of the Neo-Avant-Garde’
Abstract: Traditionally the Neo-Avantgarde after 1945 is discredited as a purely formalist movement, blinding out the political content of the Avantgarde of the 1920s. But assuming that the Avantgarde movements from 1950 to 1970 share the same epistemic field as the cultural theories of their time, from semiotics to psychoanalysis, we can apply these theories to these art movements and discover in a new approach that the Neo-Avant-Garde was a political art, not on the level of representation but on the level of the dispositiv: transforming our traditional concept of the image, destroying it and deserting it, extending into space and time, defining it as an arena of action, and therefore expanding our conception of art and art-activities. In daily life, on the streets, beyond the studios and museums. The political revolution of the Neo-Avant-Garde operated on the level of the display, the dispositiv, the tool, negating our traditional media of memory and representation because after Stalinism, Fascism, and Hitlerism it became difficult to believe in the means of traditional culture. The proposed new methods, a radical critique, will produce new and surprising results and interpretations of this period.
Peter Weibel, artist and media theorist, is Director of the Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe and author of Fast Forward: Media Art (2004) and The Open Work, 1964–1979 (2005).
Respondent: Stewart Martin, Lecturer in Modern European Philosophy, Middlesex University

Boris Groys: ‘The Politics of Equal Aesthetic Rights’
Abstract: Art and politics are connected at least in one fundamental respect: both are realms in which a struggle for recognition is being waged. The artists of the classical avant-garde have struggled to achieve recognition for all possible signs, forms, things or events as having the equal „aesthetic rights“, e.g. as having the same right to be represented in the public collections, put on display on the art exhibitions etc. But after many decades of struggle the art of today still operates in a gap between formal equality and factual inequality. Art practice is still a material practice operating in the context of the contemporary mass media market. To understand the actual functioning of art under the regime of equal aesthetic rights means to reflect on the material, technical and economical side of the contemporary art system.
Boris Groys, art historian and theorist, is Professor at the School of Fine Arts, Karlsruhe. His books include Stalin’s Total Work of Art (1988) Ilya Kabavov (1998) and Über das Neue! (1999).

About this event

This conference is a collaboration between the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (CRMEP) and Tate Britain. The event will be chaired by Eric Alliez, Senior Research Fellow, and Peter Osborne, Director, CRMEP.


10.00–10.30 Registration

10.30–10.45 Introduction–Peter Osborne / Eric Alliez (CRMEP)

10.45– 11.45 On a Few Relations Between Surrealism and Terror
Peter Sloterdijk (Professor of Philosophy and Rector, School of Fine Art, Karlsruhe)
Response: Adrian Rifkin (Professor of Visual Culture and Media, Middlesex University)

11.45–12.30 Discussion

12.30-13.30 Lunch

13.30–14.30 The Political Revolution of the Neo-Avant-Garde Peter Weibel (Director, Centre for Art and Media, Karlsruhe)
Response: Stewart Martin (CRMEP)

14.30–15.15 Discussion

15.15–15.30 Tea/coffee

15.30–16.20 The Politics of Equal Aesthetic Rights
Boris Groys (Professor of Aesthetics, Philosophy and Media, School of Fine Art, Karlsruhe)

16.20–17.00 Discussion

17.00–17.30 Closing Panel (all speakers)

17.30–18.30 Drinks reception

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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
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