Amid rhetorical dust-storms over purported Islamist threats to Western values, Sven Lütticken finds antecedents for contemporary struggles over the image in Judaic and Protestant bans on idolatry. Multiple meanings of the veil and varying forms of iconoclasm, under the aegis of the spectacle.
IDOLATRY AND ITS DISCONTENTS
Contemporary art has long claimed the privilege—indeed, the duty—of criticizing the images produced by the mass-culture industry. Now, however, both media images and works of art are increasingly coming under attack for religious reasons. It often seems as if Islamist fundamentalism has effectively conspired with the Western media and their Enlightenment rhetoric to create a culture war that perpetuates itself from one event to the next. These events (and pseudo-events) range from the dramatic murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh to the Danish cartoon riots, Jack Straw’s remarks on veils and the decision of the Deutsche Oper in Berlin to cancel a planned staging of Mozart’s Idomeneo—in which the severed heads of Jesus, Mohammed and Buddha were to be shown alongside that of Poseidon. Sometimes there need be no event at all: media reports that some British banks no longer hand out piggy banks to children, so as not to offend Muslim customers, turned out to be just as unfounded as the end-of-year hysteria over the alleged banning of Christmas by overzealous, politically correct bureaucrats and managers.
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The Coming Exception
The artwork has long been understood as a political-economic anomaly, while art practice is sometimes seen as a stand-in for liberated human activity. With value itself seemingly in a state of crisis, might the artwork prefigure a world beyond it? From Ruskin and Whistler to Harun Farocki, Sven Lütticken charts the trajectory of an exception.
The shift of artistic and activist practice towards the performance of personae. Sven Lütticken tracks the fraying limits of subjecthood through post-war action painting, Marcel Mariën’s surrealist-Blanquist parti imaginaire, the 1960s Dutch neo-avant-garde, the Invisible Committee, Rojava and artistic experiments with the political party-form.
Mutations of an untimely concept, in a period when capitalism has arrogated to itself the power of radical transformation. From Debord and Marcuse to the contemporary art world, by way of punk rock and hip hop.
Performance Art After TV
Relations between TV and performance art since the 1960s as a tangled skein of complicity and contestation. Sven Lütticken traces shifts in modes of acting, working and self-presentation, within a televisual world itself now being absorbed by cybernetic and digital systems.
Dialectic of Dionysus
Sven Lütticken on Asger Jorn, Fraternité Avant Tout. The Danish artist and Situationist wrestles with Engels and Nietzsche.
Once deemed extinct, the play instinct now pervades the worlds of work and leisure. Can it be turned to radical ends? Sven Lütticken seeks clues in Schiller and Debord, Neuschwanstein and computer games.
Attending to Abstract Things
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Do increasingly dark ecological portents indicate a deeper transformation of nature itself? Sven Lütticken elaborates a historicized conception of nature, seeking precedents and contrasts in 19th- and 20th-century philosophies and fictions. Dinosaurs and overmen, Geist and entropic decline in Verne, Nietzsche, Schelling and Smithson.
Suspense and . . . Surprise
Media projections of the ‘war on terror’ as manipulations of shock and time, purveyed through a perpetual present of 24-hour coverage and on-line news. Lessons from Hitchcock, Conrad and Benjamin on the poetics of suspense and possibilities for a rehistoricization of the attentat.
The Feathers of the Eagle
Lifting, swiping, zapping: popular expressions that have been aesthetic tactics since Dada. Sven Lütticken recasts the history of such practices of appropriation—not excluding those of Warhol or Debord, sometimes misplaced—as so many exercises in mythology. Anticipated by Flaubert, theorized by Barthes, staged by Broodthaers, is time running out for such creative misuses of past or present, as ‘intellectual property rights’ tighten?