[spectre] Lectures in Ljubljana, Oct 18-23, 2004

Inke Arns inke.arns at snafu.de
Sat Oct 16 19:38:01 CEST 2004

[Dears, I am sending you two announcements -- I hope to see some of 
you in Ljubljana! All the best, Inke]


Seminar for Contemporary Performing Arts
"Performed Politics"
Cankarjev dom, Ljubljana
October 18, 2004 (Monday), 19 hrs

Inke Arns (Berlin)
Affirmation and/as Resistance: On the Strategy of Subversive 
Affirmation in Current Media Activist Projects (including some 
examples from the field of contemporary performance)

Since the year 2000, Deportation Class , Please love Austria! , Vote-
auction.com , and The Yes Men  have all made use of the tactics of 
resistance through apparent affirmation of and compliance with the 
image and the corporate identity of their opponents. While 
Deportation Class unmasked the "Star Alliance"  founded in the 1990s 
by Lufthansa and twelve other airlines as a "Deportation Alliance," 
thus agitating against Lufthansa's lucrative deportation business, 
Christoph Schlingensief adapted the mass-media Big Brother format to 
stage a media-savvy deportation of asylum seekers live from the 
container on Herbert von Karajan Plaza, carried out through TED 
viewer voting throughout the Vienna Festwochen of 2000. By 
advertising the whole event as an action of the FPÖ [i.e. the Freedom 
Party of Austria], Schlingensief could count on the attention of the 
mass media. Similar waves of outrage were unleashed by the action 
Vote-auction.com, carried out by ubermorgen, which offered American 
voters the chance to auction off their vote to the highest bidder in 
an online action just prior to the US presidential elections of 2000. 

Here, the confluence of capital and (voting) power was demonstrated 
with astonishing clarity. Finally, in their action The Yes Men, the 
American activists' group RTMark sent alleged representatives of the 
World Trade Organization (WTO) to international conferences, where 
they delivered amazing reports on the state of the world's economy 
and proclaimed the end of the WTO.

In my lecture I will look at these and other recent media activist 
projects (etoy/Toywar, 0100101110101101.org, etc.) and analyze their 
strategy of (subversive) affirmation as resistance. What becomes 
apparent in these projects is the fact that today critical distance 
is no longer seen as a viable strategy. As there seems to be no 
outside of the text (Jacques Derrida) left - a situation brought 
about by the strategy of total recuperation and appropriation of 
critical viewpoints by the dominant political and economic system - 
it is rather the viral-like stealth tactics of subversive affirmation 
that still seem to hold a potential of resistance. These tactics 
allow artists to take part in a certain social, political, or 
economic discourse and affirm, appropriate, or consume it while 
simultaneously undermining it.

Laibach and NSK as a whole (as well as others) have undoubtedly 
played a crucial role for the formation of today's subversive-
affirmative media activist strategies. In the lecture I will 
therefore try to excavate some of the parallel histories of 
subversive affirmation in East and West.

Duration: 60 min.


In the framework of the international colloquium
Art and its Strategies: Between Aesthetics and Politics
Slovenian Society of Aesthetics
Ljubljana, Oct 20-23, 2004

the following lecture will be held:

Inke Arns (Berlin)
The Tactics of Explicit Consent: On Subversive Affirmation in Current 
Media Activist Projects and their Historic Predecessors

In September 2003 a news item shocked the Austrian public: 
Karlsplatz, one of Vienna's main squares, would soon be renamed 
"Nikeplatz". Apart from the new name, it appeared that a huge 
monument in the shape of Nike's famous "Swoosh" logo would be built 
in Nikeplatz. Needless to say, it was all fake. The one-month 
campaign provoked the reactions of Vienna's citizens, city officials 
and, of course, the Nike group, which denied any involvement and 
started legal action to put an end to this bizarre performance.  This 
prank was the work of an organization known as 0100101110101101.org, 
whose members are known to be significantly influenced by the work of 
Laibach/NSK since the 1980s.

Subversive affirmation and over-identification are tactics - if we 
are to follow Michel de Certeau's definition given in his Practice of 
Everyday Life - that allow artists to take part in a certain social, 
ideological, political, or economic discourse and affirm, 
appropriate, or consume it while simultaneously undermining it. In 
this context, Michel Foucault speaks of the "possibility of a non-
positive affirmation", a "non-affirmative affirmation", which does 
not embody negation, but consists of a leading towards a border at 
which "an ontological decision is made." 

Subversive affirmation and over-identification are forms of critique 
which through techniques of affirmation, involvement and 
identification put the viewer/listener precisely in such a state or 
situation which s/he would or will criticise later. Conceived as 
"estranging participation" or "involving alienation"  (Sylvia Sasse), 
this tactic reveals how the targeted discourse functions - without 
distancing itself from it. Thus, when speaking of subversive 
affirmation and over-identification we are not dealing with critical 
distance but are confronted with a critique as aesthetic experience 
which - via identification - is about creating a bodily/psychic 
experience of what is being criticized. 

The various tactics and parasitical practices which I will present 
have in common that they employ the classical methods of aesthetics, 
imitation, simulation, mimicry, and camouflage in the sense of 
"becoming invisible" by disappearing into the background.

Furthermore, the lecture will attempt to historically classify the 
artistic practices of subversive affirmation and trace them back to 
their origins. There appear to be largely unkown conceptual links to 
the absurdist practice of Oberiu (Association of Real Art - Daniil 
Charms and others) of the late 1920s / early 1930s which has been 
called the last Soviet avant-garde.

Duration: 45 Min.


Inke Arns

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