September 19, 2018 - Kunsthalle Wien - Antarctica. A Symposium on Alienation
September 19, 2018

Kunsthalle Wien

Antarctica. A Symposium on Alienation, Kunsthalle Wien 2018.

Antarctica. A Symposium on Alienation
October 4–6, 2018

Kunsthalle Wien
Museumsquartier, Museumsplatz 1
1070 Vienna
Instagram / Facebook / Twitter / YouTube / #Antarktika

In a sketch for a film, Michelangelo Antonioni wrote: “The Antarctic glaciers are moving in our direction at a rate of three millimeters per year. Calculate when they’ll reach us. Anticipate, in a film, what will happen.” Anyone who knows Antonioni’s work can guess what the film’s true subject would have been. The icy wastes would have been a dense visual metaphor for a diagnosis that is as old as modernity: alienation.

Climate scientists are now not expecting a new ice age. Far from expanding, polar ice caps are shrinking. Ours is an age of warming, and not just in terms of the global climate: affect and creativity have superseded the primacy of “bourgeois coldness” (Adorno). Authenticity is the new cool. So is alienation an affliction of the past?

Alienation, to sum it up in a tentative formula, describes a paradoxical state of simultaneous inclusion and isolation. The subject confronts relationships, institutions, things—what are objectively speaking products of human activity, human work—as alien entities. This “cooled down” relation between the self and the world, deprived of its resonance and mutuality—this “relation of relationlessness” (Rahel Jaeggi)—is the key subject of modern alienation theory. From Rousseau, and Marx, to Adorno, its exponents, scrutinizing the phenomena and tendencies of their time, warned: it’s getting cold.

While the concept of alienation has long been a central and productive critical category, especially for the avant-gardes of the 20th century, today it has itself come under critique. One prominent objection: with its naïve reference to creativity, authenticity, personal responsibility, and flexibility (as antithetical to the general hardening), it inadvertently prepared the ground for a “new spirit of capitalism.” Ève Chiapello and Luc Boltanski have argued that the architects of a new world of labor have “co-opted” the critique of alienation. Identification with one’s job and role has turned from a utopian desire to a social imperative. However, the downsides of constant creative and authentic self-performance—exhaustion, lethargy, depression—have to be dealt with individually: “burnt out” rather than “frozen.” What does this shift imply for the concept of alienation? 

As a prelude to the exhibition Antarctica. An Exhibition on Alienation at Kunsthalle Wien (October 25, 2018—February 17, 2019), Tanzquartier Wien and Kunsthalle Wien organize a symposium on the history and relevance of alienation theory. The symposium aims to discuss and examine the (im/)plausibility of the concept of alienation today, and to engender a critical re-reading, in view to its genealogy as well as its applicability to present-day political and aesthetic phenomena.

Initiated by Vanessa Joan Müller, Nicolaus Schafhausen, assisted by Maximilian Steinborn, Eleanor Taylor, and developed together with Tanzquartier Wien.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Nina Power: Who is the Subject of Alienation?, 7pm
Antonia Baehr, Latifa Laâbissi & Nadia Lauro: Consul and Meshie, 6–9:30pm

Friday, October 5, 2018
Michael Hirsch, Andreas Rumpfhuber: Work and Alienation, 5–9pm
Antonia Baehr, Latifa Laâbissi & Nadia Lauro: Consul and Meshie, 6–9:30pm

Saturday, October 6, 2018
Claudia Bosse: On aesthetic strategies of defamiliarisation, 3pm
Marina Vishmidt, Kerstin Stakemeier, Angela Dimitrakaki: Beyond Alienation, 5–9pm

Stay connected:
Please check our website for regular updates on our program.
For further information please contact: Susanne Fernandes Silva
T +43 (0) 1 5 21 89 1221 / presse [​at​]

Kunsthalle Wien
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