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Session Overview
RN02_03c_P: Subjectivities and Subjectivation in the Arts
Wednesday, 30/Aug/2017:
6:00pm - 7:30pm

Location: PA.1.3
PANTEION University of Social & Political Sciences 136 Syggrou Avenue 17671 Athens, Greece Building: A, Level: 1.

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Figures of subjectivities: the creative subject and art as critique and self-formation

Dan Eugen Ratiu

Babes-Bolyai University, Romania

This paper responds to the general conference theme by discussing a key figure of subjectivity, the creative subject, and the functions of art in the present context. I will examine its constitution and contemporary avatars, starting from the “aesthetics of the self” outlined by Baudelaire in “The Painter of Modern Life” (1863) up to the “aesthetics of existence” developed by Foucault in his latest work. This passes by the analysis of modernity as an “attitude” and makes of self-invention one of the characteristics of this attitude and one’s relationship with oneself (“What is Enlightenment?” 1984). As Foucault maintains, modernity does not “liberate man in his own being”, but rather compels him to face the task of inventing himself as a kind of transgression of the historical limits and situation. Moreover, following Baudelaire, this complex and difficult “elaboration of the self” did not take place in society itself, or in the body politic, but can only be produced in another, different place, which is art (Foucault, 1984). The questions are whether this critical “aesthetics of the self” is what must once again characterize our relationship with our own present and ourselves, and whether this active form of aesthetic self-formation can circumvent other forms of “subjectivation”. I will also draw on the notions of “critique” and “critical attitude” supported by Foucault (“What is Critique?”, 1978, and other works) to suggest that artists can contribute to redevelop a particular sense of self-realization and self-fulfillment by their critical demands for creativity and authenticity.

Art education in France : shaping subjectivities against capitalism


université paris diderot, France

In France, art education (« éducation artistique et culturelle ») has been built as a tool to pursue cultural democratization. Getting more students engaged in the arts appear, at least in the public discourse, to be the main goal of developing art education schools. However, a critical observation of art projects in schools show that art education class pursues a deeper and an implicit goal: most of the artists who work in schools want to change the students, to open and expand their ways of seeing what they can do with their lives. They usually want to share a critical way of seeing capitalism and some aspects of our modern trend. This paper will try to analyze the values associated with art education (Dewey, 1934) and the way these projects try to shape the subjectivities against capitalism.

But at the same time, the observation of art education shows us that artistic intervention could lead to a paradoxical result, as artists tends to display in a classroom a way of working, creating and undertaking their own lives, it is that which fits perfectly into the new spirit of capitalism (Boltanski, Chiapello, 1999)

This paper will present some of the results of a study grounded in field research undertaken in middle schools in the suburbs of Paris (Seine Saint-Denis) between 2010 and 2014 (this paper will be based on the observation of approximatively 15 art education projects).

Rancière revisited: Reconceptualising emancipation in arts.

Ina Sattlegger

University of Vienna, Austria

“Politics is first and foremost an intervention upon the visible and the sayable.”

(Rancière: 2001)

Rancières work on aesthetics is very much established within the sociology of arts. However, for this conference I would like to focus specifically on the political inquiries of the French philosopher concerning the possibility of new collective subejctivities.

What I propose is a theoretical investigation into the value of his concepts of police and politics, equality and disagreement that subsequently tries to explore the emancipative potential of (performing) arts. I consider this fruitful precisely because his thought enables us to put the very notion of ‘subjectivity’ in the centre of exploration.

Questions are the following: (How) can we utilize Rancières notion of the political as a-priory emancipatory to ask whether art can contribute to a ‘stage-building’ for the un-doing of old and doing of new European subjectivities and forms of agency?

More specifically: Can we perceive specific artistic interventions that engage critically with the notion of European subjectivities, such as ‘Eating Refugees’ staged by the Berlin-based ‘Center for Political Beauty’ (‘Zentrum für Politische Schönheit’) and others as aiding in rendering acts of speech audible that were perceived as mere white noise before?

Can we think of those practise(s) as ‘interventions upon the visible and sayable’ and thus, as politics – or not?


Rancière, J., 1991. Disagreement: politics and philosophy. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Rancière, J., 2001. Ten Theses on Politics. Theory & Event, 5(3).

Art as a Reflexive Medium of Change: Desire, Aesthetic Resonance and the Material Language of Objects

Anil K. Jain

Zeppelin Universität Friedrichshafen & Universität der Künste Berlin, Germany

The »material turn« in the social and cultural sciences has led to a new interest in both the material conditions of cultural production and the role of objects/non-human »actants« (see e.g. Latour 1996) in social interaction. Also in art theory object-centred approaches like, for example, Graham Harman’s (2002) object-oriented ontology have gained popularity. However, neither the related objectivation of subjects nor the subjectivation of objects provide satisfying explanations why objects really do »matter«. That is why in this paper a different perspective is taken that points to the important role of »aesthetics« and »materiality« without eliminating the subject-object difference.

The »aesthetics« of material objects »speaks« to our senses – and to our desire. It addresses the cognitive as well as the latent emotional layers of the subject. In this way, the (art) objectworks as a medium, and its message is a message about our desire. If we listen to this message we »reflexively« may start to take a different position also to ourselves and our social environment. Additionally, the aesthetics of objects can »trigger« and amplify existing (in)formation(s) via »resonance«. Both aspects may provide impulses for change.

In the final section of the paper results of empirical research (from a research cooperation of the Zeppelin University Friedrichshafen and the University of Arts Berlin) will be resented that show how art can work in practice as a reflexive, aesthetic medium of change in organisational contexts and the public space. Especially, I will focus here on what I call the »instrumental paradox«, i.e. the actual uselessness of a mere »instrumentalisation« of art – as well as any kind of object »fetishism«.

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