Thinking Contemporary Art Practices

PhD School at the Faculty of Humanities at University of Copenhagen

- The contribution of Walter Benjamin

Walter Benjamin’s writings have been the object of intense scrutiny from the vantage point of aesthetics and philosophy of history. These two areas might still be the dominant approaches to his work, but a third one now seems to be emerging along with the new reception by contemporary artists, and in particular by the growing number of artists working with archives. In this situation, we can reassess the actuality of Benjamin’s thinking on the basis of archival artistic practices, now sufficiently numerous and widespread to ask the question of their political bearings and impact, and indeed of their distribution in different directions, where Benjamin’s political philosophy still offers an important compass.
Contemporary archival art practices do not only raise new historiographical perspectives on the repressed history of the vanquished. They also performatively engage in a query to redefine the nature of the political ‘gesture’ in a context of history and memory. Here, Benjamin's notion of ‘mimesis’ might give us a valuable supplementary perspective on the new performative archival practices and the temporalities they imply, and on new modes of agency arising from these temporalities. Moreover, the notion suggests itself as a strategic tool to analyse artistic practices beyond historicist schemata like the modernism versus postmodernism debate, and as contributions to new ways of actualising the political moment of the ‘now.’ The four seminar days will be dedicated to the issues of mimesis, non-sensuous resemblance, gesture, and text-image relations. Participants are invited to present relevant cases of contemporary art practices including dance, performance, film, video ands other forms and media.

Registration is closed.

ECTS: To be announced.