Forum Lectures #23: Nikos Papastergiadis

Lecture by Nikos Papastergiadis.

The Cosmos in Cosmopolitanism

Mobility in the form of human migration and the modes of communication continues to be a force that shapes contemporary life. It has been a theme that dramatically influenced public discourse and reshaped the contours of the art world. However, there has been a theme that appears to be in retreat. Many of the prominent concepts have been discarded or radically revised. For instance, cosmopolitanism is commonly associated today with the idea that the forces of globalization could be tempered by new forms of cosmopolitan governance, an idea that was popular among some political theorists in the late 20th century but seems increasingly unrealistic today.

In this lecture, rather than discarding the idea of cosmopolitanism, I will seek to reinvigorate it by examining how visual artists have explored themes associated with the cosmos. Artists often claim that all humans possess a fundamental capacity to care, create and connect. Some artists also argue that this creative capacity is linked to a dual connection – companionship with others and with the cosmos. The Ancient Greeks claimed that tuning into the cosmos was the primal source of inspiration. Kant regarded cosmopolitanism as the goal of humanity, but he turned his attention away from the connection to the cosmos and directed it towards the practical rules for peaceful co-existence. However, these two concerns are not in conflict. Today a new vision of the cosmos is being developed by artists, among others, one that brings together the cosmos and the polis. Scholars from the South are decolonizing the mindset which divided the world and split us from our common connections, while others are using art to highlight the existential threats we now face as a species.

I aim to show that the idea of the cosmos is more important than ever today and vital for our attempts to rethink our place as one species among others in a universe that extends far beyond our world.

About Nikos Papastergiadis

Nikos Papastergiadis is Director of the Research Unit in Public Cultures and Professor at the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne and Visiting Professor at the School of Art, Design and Media, at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Chair of the International Advisory Board for the Centre for Contemporary Art, Singapore. Co-chair of the Cultural Advisory Board for the Greek Centre for Contemporary Culture, Melbourne. His current research focuses is a project on photography and memory, as well as another on the transformation of arts precincts. His publications include Modernity as Exile (1993), Dialogues in the Diaspora (1998), The Turbulence of Migration (2000), Metaphor and Tension (2004) Spatial Aesthetics: Art Place and the Everyday (2006), Cosmopolitanism and Culture (2012), Ambient Perspectives (2014), On Art and Friendship (2020), The Museums of the Commons (2020). His new book, The Cosmos in Cosmopolitanism will be published in 2023. He is also the author of numerous essays which have been translated into over a dozen languages and appeared in major catalogues such as the Biennales of Sydney, Liverpool, Istanbul, Gwanju, Taipei, Lyon, Thessaloniki and Documenta 13. 

Forum Lectures

Forum Lectures is a series of lectures by Danish and international thinkers and cultural workers reflecting on how art co-forms commonality. Forum Lectures bring thinking and shared study back to the university and invite public lectures on the last Tuesday of every month from 17:00 - 19:00.

The initiative is hosted by the research group of the New Carlsberg Foundation research centre Art as Forum. Our researchers are occupied by a.o. the infrastructures of the arts, collective modes of production, the entanglement of political theory and aesthetic theory, assembling strategies of curation, dematerialized art, acts of strategic separatism and temporality in digital art.

The lecture is free and open to everyone interested.