Aufzeichnung vom 26. Januar 2020 im MMK

Nina Power – We Live in a Society: Ironic Belonging and Meme-Being in a Post-Public Age

This talk will examine a series of related terms that might be useful for describing our current predicament, caught between the almost total quantification of existence on the one hand, the daily alienated experience of life on the other, and on the third robotic hand the highly wired forms of collectivity that exist online and, for better or for worse (often worse), mediate between the other two. Taking as its starting point the meme phrase “We live in a society”, whose origins are contested, the talk will begin by asking whether “society” today can operate as a concept in anything other than a dispassionate, ironic, wry admission of a certain failure, in the wake of what might be described as a ‘long Thatcherism’. (In 1987, Margaret Thatcher infamously said in a women’s magazine: “There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families.”) Her point, she would later clarify, was “that society was not an abstraction, separate from the men and women who composed it, but a living structure of individuals, families, neighbours and voluntary associations.” What we might wonder, with reference to Thatcher’s later clarification, is what is even left today of “men, women, individuals, families and voluntary associations.” What does it mean to be any of these things? A deep sense of fear and panic has sprung up in the face of an absent or apocalyptic future, a reaction somewhere between economically enforced infantilism and libidinally wild algorithmic casualness at the level of social bonds: what is a friend today? Who can we trust? What is a group? Are we even still individuals? The paper will suggest that, after certain (often laudable) recent attempts to resurrect the idea of the “public” in the interstices between art and politics, we have entered into a new era where memes exist because we do not, and where their authorlessness, ironic inclusivity and comic invocation of shared suffering and recognition perform the kinds of social roles that humans used to enact for one another.

Gesellschaften sind nichts Gegebenes. Sie formen sich in einem Prozess von Verhandlungen, Regularien, Herrschaftspraktiken und Widerstandsformen. Das Symposium Performing Society ist der Frage gewidmet, wie Gesellschaften in ihren aktuellen Bewegungen und zukünftigen Formationen gedacht werden können. Brauchen wir neue Begriffe oder gilt es, mit bestehenden Begriffen anders zu arbeiten?
Die Imagination und Konstruktion des Sozialen, das Verhältnis von Immigration und Klasse, die Performativität von Macht und Fortschrittsglauben werden diskutiert ebenso wie das Politische als Konzept, als Sprachhandlung oder als epistemologische und soziale Gerechtigkeit.

Im Rahmen der Ausstellung Museum, in der die Kunst Räume für das Andere und deren Sichtbarmachung, für Freiheit, Transgression und Widerständigkeit öffnet, möchte das Symposium einladen, gemeinsam über die Gesellschaften nachzudenken, in denen wir leben – und leben wollen.

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