Dr. Sami Khatib

Project: Aesthetics of the Sensuous-Supra-Sensuous: From the Critique of the Spectacle to Speculative Critique

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At the crossroads of deconstruction, aesthetics and media theory, the research project examines the scope and relevance of Marx’s discovery of the topos of the “sensuous-supra-sensuous.” Is there a medium that can present the non-empirical materiality of social relations within capitalism? Medium, here, does not comprise a mediating interstice; rather, it points at a historically specific constellation of space, time, language and technique/technology. The Aesthetics of the Sensuous-Supra-Sensuous pertains to a non-empirical, yet material site in which commodified relations form spatially, temporally, linguistically and technologically constituted images. This mode of becoming-image is not bound to a (self)conscious subject of cognition but opens up research areas that  examine unconscious structures within language, politics and economy. In this way, critical concepts such as “commodity,” “spectacle,” and “phantasma” can be grasped as decentered image-productions within the medium of the sensuous-supra-sensuous.

In the winter term 2018/19 Dr. Sami Khatib was guest researcher at the cul­tu­ral sci­en­ces re­se­arch trai­ning group “Cul­tu­res of Cri­tique”.

Dr. Holger Kuhn

        Project: Liquidity: On the Cultural Logic of Governmentality in Contemporary Video Art

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        This project studies artistic videos and films since 2008 that react to the advancing financialization of the economy on the one hand and to governmental technologies of power (Foucault) on the other. The objects of study are works by artists such as Melanie Gilligan, Allan Sekula, or Hito Steyerl that address the question how capitalism, finance capital, flows of capital, or the global economy can be represented. Each in its own way opposes the assumption that capitalism, as a comprehensive social dynamic, cannot be represented in visual and filmic media and develops strategies for glossing or undermining this unrepresentability: (1) via figurative modes of representation; (2) via structural homologies; and (3) via symptomatic readings of historical formations of capitalism. In a second step, the project describes formal structures in these videos, semiotics or poetics of liquidification, of flow, and gaseousness, that result from shifts in the governmental power structures. It aims to investigate the potential of artistic-critical practices that seek not only to register the cultural logic of recent shifts in economic power structures (discussed under the headings of, for example, late, surveillance, or capture capitalism) but moreover to make them experienceable and thus render them amenable to concise critique in the first place.

        The inescapable entanglement of cultural products and financial knowledge would then precisely not end up in lamenting about how critique has “run ot of steam” or become “coopted”. On the contrary: the artistic works studied allow for describing different ways, forms, and formats of critique that on the very basis of the implication of any critical subjectivity with the processes of power aim for an analysis of power that brings out the non-necessity and non-acceptability of specific configurations of knowledge and power or of “regimes of truth” (Michel Foucault).


        • Dr. Liza Mattutat

        Project: The Struggle for the Means of Reproduction. The History and Political Theory of Care Work.

        The pandemic experience has conveyed new urgency to the question of what status care work has in society. Demands are being made everywhere for the reduction of workloads, greater recognition, and better pay for care workers. In response to these demands, feminist theorists are in the process of developing a concept of care that attributes relationships of care the potential to fundamentally transform bourgeois capitalist society. Such relationships of care, they argue, transcend the logic of exploitation because they directly (re)produce life itself (e.g., von Redecker). Some argue that relationships of care are a suitable starting point for developing new concepts of political participation (e.g., Lorey), or that they could in themselves be a source of strength for everyday resistance against patriarchy, racism, ableism, and exploitation (e.g., Garbes).

        The project The Struggle for the Means of Reproduction. The History and Political Theory of Care Work. aims to unfold this hypothesis about the transformative potential of care. What constitutes it? Is this potential inherent to practices of care as such or is it to be found in specific ways that wage labor and care work are organized? Are there ways of organizing care outside of the logic of the market and the family? And what effects do they have on those involved?

        In order to investigate these questions, the project brings conceptual philosophical work together with political economy and literary theory, as well as ethnographic studies. From the perspective of philosophy, it seeks to reconstruct the history of ideas surrounding the political concept of care. How has the relation between politics and care been conceived in the history of philosophy? On what concept of care must a transformative approach be based? In terms of political economy, the project proceeds from the perspective of feminist economics, according to which historical changes in the organization of wage and care work are largely determined by the demands of capitalist relations of production. Consequently, political measures that de-familiarize care activities such as child rearing and caring for the elderly can be just as functional for capitalism as familiarizing measures. Through methods drawn from literary studies and the social sciences, the project investigates whether there are alternatives that evade this functionality. Drawing on visionary feminist novels, in particular from the genre of science fiction, the project reconstructs utopian models of socially organized care work. The project understands counter institutions, in which care work is neither family work nor a paid service, but rather carried out by collective structures, as heterotopias within contemporary society. Their modes of operation will be researched through ethnographic interviews with the care-giving and care-receiving protagonists of these counter institutions.

        • Dr. Heiko Stubenrauch
            • Dr. Mimmi Woisnitza

                associated Post-Doc

                Project: On the History of Theater Stagings as Critical Practice

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                The project proposes a shift in perspective from director's theatre, referring to theater productions authorized by a single (around 1900 almost exclusively male) director, to the emergence of theatrical staging as an artistic practice. Such a perspectival shift allows, on the one hand, to consider, alongside the established and institutionalized theater, collective and collaborative theatre forms as well, which attempted to undermine authoritarian power structures politically as well as artistically. On the other hand, the concept of "staging" or “mise-en-scène” as "putting into the scene" emphasizes the social situatedness of both established and marginalized forms of theatre in that it invokes different, closely linked registers, such as the social and political conditions of production and performance, the structure and distribution of artistic work, as well as the means of scenic presentation. In addition, the theater makers' intentions and programmatic concerns come into consideration, namely to frame extra-theatrical objects scenically and thereby make them tangible and visible. Far beyond the aspect of referentiality or mere faithfulness to a dramatic original, the increasing emphasize on “staging” as artistic practice concerns the claim to criticism of theatrical forms. As a criticality of practice, which can be programmatic or immanent, depending on the case, critique is not understood in a purely negative sense, i.e. as a judgment-oriented analysis. Rather, the designing and rehearsal of alternative forms of coexistence as well as artistic working methods and framing procedures, which are characteristic of the staging practices of the theatrical avant-garde, corresponds to an affirmative and creatively oriented, performative concept of critique.

                Understood as practices of creative, affirmative critique, theater forms at the time of the historical avant-garde (1905-1927) employ concepts of life as an alternative to the diagnoses of crisis in the wake of industrialization and capitalism, the effects of war, and in the light of increasing nationalism. Regarding the theater, the topos of fusing life and art, which is central to the avant-gardes, concerns the media specificity of theatre as a transitory live-art, and thus goes beyond often-claimed references to existentialism (Kierkegard, Nietzsche), phenomenology (Husserl), or other strands of life philosophy (Bergson, Simmel, Plessner). The programmatic call for a new relationship between life and art is therefore of particular importance for the practice of "mise-en-scène", which implies processes of collective and collaborative vivification. On the basis of three interrelated focal points (humanism, care, technology) the project investigates different forms of this relationship (Max Reinhardt, Asja Lacis, Erwin Piscator).