Thematic Projects 2014-2015

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Invocation of the Demon Sister/On the specificities of becoming a medium A year-round thematic seminar led by Jan Verwoert

Perhaps the channel always stayed open. And we received: Modernism. A tale of many voices, spirits and intensities, like electrical currents, conducted through bodies who offered themselves as conduits and performed invocations, in writing, thinking, art, music and other fields of biopolitical revolt. If, from its moment of inception, modernity and its regimes of sex, power and money, knew about the vital importance of the bodies who command and channel both the generative and destructive forces of bodies conjoined in spiritual, material and corporeal exchanges, one of the biggest deceptions of the Moderns lay in their denunciation and persecution of mediumship as a form of madness, hysteria or witchcraft. Feminist scholars have reconstructed the history of the repression of corporeal mediumship — from the medieval witch hunts to the probing of the hysteric's body and soul by the needles and pins of modern medicine — so as expose the violence commited, yet also to tap into the experience and knowledge demonized as heretic/hysteric/unverifyable.

In crucial points, this critical rewriting of modern history touches on another body of thought and research: the inquiry into the survival and resurgence of anarchic premodern practices of communal corporeal mediumship in cultures of carnival. Here, bodies under the influence (of subliminal forces) go to pieces but all the pieces mix, mingle, speak and dance, profanate and celebrate, the values of creation and death, in forms of what Mikhail Bakhtin called the "grotesque realism" of the people's carnivalesque imagination, or what, in the environment of Brasilian psychedelic resistance came to be embraced in the revival of José Oswald Andrade's notion of "Anthropophagia".

The seminar will be take its point of departure in a brief investigation of the motif of the body of the possessed or undead becoming a vessel for disasters of the past to be transmitted into the present, as a standard in Gothic novels and scary movies. It will contextualize these readings by considering Tatiana Kontou's research into the crucial importance of mediumship and the role of the female medium as a blueprint for a re-understanding of the novel as a medium for the invocation of many voices.

The seminar will then proceed to take a close look at the psychoanalytic attempt to grasp the body as a prison of introjected memories and medium for their compulsive re-enactment, in depression, hysteria and the scene of transference (in the writings of Freud, Lacan and Kristeva). This investigation will be flanked by the Feminist critique of the appropriation and repression of female mediumship by modern science, in continuation of the atrocities performed in the course of the withhunts and colonial genocide (in the writing of Hélène Cixous and Sylvia Federici). In the spirit of Cixous and Federici it will ask what of the knowledge, practices and experiences pathologized and repressed at turning points in the constitution of modernity could be recuperated and re-explored.

In its final part the seminar will engage thoughts on collective corporeal mediumship enacted in cultures of carnival and the celebration of grotesque bodies liberated from the constraints of oedipal seriousness, yet exposed to the potentially traumatic confluence of life and death, comedy and tragedy, in the writing of Mikhail Bakhtin, the sculptural work of Lygia Clark and Alina Szapocznikow, the novels of Clarice Lispector and the music of the Brazilian Tropicalia movement.

The overall aim of the seminar is to reconstruct a specific history of repression, and, through exercises in careful close readings (of philosophy, literature and art) open up a horizon critical speculation about re-activating the potentials of anarchic practices of mediumship.

On Performativity: I must not be joking nor writing a poem? A thematic project led by Katarina Zdjelar in fall and winter.

This two part thematic project explores the history and applications of the concept of performativity. Coined by J.L. Austin in 1955, the term has since been extensively explored, discussed and used in artistic practice and art history. A survey of recent press releases or exhibition documentation reveals the ubiquity of the term, with reference to levels of performativity, performative use, and the articulation of performativity, and engagements with horizontal performativity, performativity of the object or performative dimensions. We witness the creation of performative umbrellas, performative interventions, performative sequences of actions, next to performative installations, performative talks, and performative programs. There are constant claims to a performative potential, performative character, performative points of view, performative transformations, or to performative expeditions, performative screenings, performative readings, performative lectures, performative presentations. On Performativity: I must not be joking nor writing a poem?' will actively look back at the history and development of this notion and explore its validity and its status in the present.

RADIO Sonne! A thematic project led by Bernd Krauß, in collaboration with Bauhaus-Universität Weimar, Fakultät Medien in fall and the Künstlerhaüser Worpswede in spring.

This first session of the thematic project RADIO Sonne! will bring us close to the center of Fränkische Schweiz, a hilly area that was once the backdrop for the very early romantic “Pfingstreise” (Pentecost Journeys) by W.H. Wackenroder and Ludwig Tieck, both students at that time of University Erlangen and so-called co-founders of German Romanticism. In letters to their families they describe the landscape and experiences during their 4 weeks of travel through this area towards Bayreuth and the Fichtelgebirge in 1793. In October, a group of Piet Zwart Fine Art students will travel with a group of Bauhaus University Media students to Egloffstein, a small village on the hillside of the Trubach valley, which will serve as a base camp for a week of collaborative work around literature and language, conversation and translation. We will study writings by Wackenroder and Tieck, as well as Adalbert Stifter's 'Waldsteig ind Hochwald', Ernst Jünger’s 'Auf den Marmorklippen', and Philipp Moll’s 'Blumen ind Wurst'. We will develop different formats for understanding texts in relation to landscape and transfer those outcomes for the audience of RADIO Sonne! Radio is hereby understood as a very general method of sending and receiving. Submitting to the radio format will be a contract between us: for both have to sign off, and to let the wave shine.

History decays into images, not into stories. A thematic seminar led by Vivian Sky Rehberg in winter and spring, in collaboration with the Künstlerhaüser Worpswede.

The temporal dynamics of modernity and the majority of its accompanying social and cultural forms were steadfastly geared toward the future and maintained a complex and problematical relationship to tradition in their quest for the “new”. With the passing of mass utopias, the temporal dynamics of our contemporaneity share no such vision of the future. On the contrary, engagement with the past is a significant feature of contemporary cultural forms, including those circulating in the art world. Artists and curators alike recycle archival documents or documentary footage, revisit historic or commemorative sites, revive past (frequently modernist or conceptual) art practices and exhibitions, and record or re-enact past events. Today’s international artists are not beholden to traditions of historical representation or academic understandings of history as a discipline. Still, artworks that grapple with historical experience generally approach it via the methods of contextualization: either the contextualization of an object or the contextualization of a subject. This thematic seminar will rely on case-studies to examine how narrative and non-narrative historical representation has infiltrated the art of today. What value does the past hold for the present? What are the possible reasons for this resurgence in interest in the past and in history? What critical and ideological purposes does it serve? And what forms of historical consciousness emerge from it?