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Diffracted remainders of the subject? Beings in common, relations, and transformations

Event Label
Organisational Units
Art Theory and Cultural Studies
Location Address (1)
Schillerplatz 3
Location ZIP and/or City (1)
1010 Vienna
Location Room (1)

Given this troubled history of liberatory thinking, how can we, then, conceive of agency, resistance, and freedom? The mini-conference invites contributions that challenge the legacy of the Western subject in providing critiques and critical genealogies of subjectivity and subjectivation and in exploring relationalities, modes of being in common, and social experiments that testify the possibility for political transformation beyond the subject.

With kind support from the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna.

For liberal approaches (and not only those) liberation means to become a subject. At the same time, this subject remains at the center of colonial- capitalist modernity. Even so, currents within Marxism, feminism, anticolonialism have sometimes reverted to the framework of subjectivity when thinking about how to overcome the multiple crises of modernity. But if subjectivity is the form that communities and persons take under a specific social regime, if, moreover, subjects are produced by those very social regimes, then there is much reason to question “the viability of ‘the subject’ as the ultimate candidate for representation or, indeed, liberation” (Judith Butler, Gender Trouble, 4). However, there are also counter-currents which try to think liberation otherwise. These radical approaches challenge Western, individualist, proprietarian, masculinist understandings, by centering peripheral, marginalized and racialized communities, collectives, and traditions of everyday struggle. This promises not only to include the perspectives and knowledges of the excluded, but to abolish subjectivity as the dominant framework of liberation.

Keynote by Stefan Novotny: So What, Subject? Three Modal Sketches on Subjectivity and Difference

Respondents: Murat Ates, Nanna Heidenreich, Jens Kastner, Stefan Nowotny, Ruth Sonderegger

Orgainzing team: Ludovica D’Alessandro, Tyan Fritschy, Maurício Ianês de Moraes, Teo Klug, Aleksandar Novakovic, Ruth Sonderegger

Conference language: English 


9:30 Welcome and Introduction

1. Subjectivation through Representation

9:45-10:30: Franzis Kabisch, Mariel R. Rodríguez, Teo Klug (in German)
10:30-11:30: discussion
Respondent: Nanna Heidenreich (Universität für Angewandte Kunst)
Panel chair: Tyan Fritschy

11:30-11:45 Coffee Break

2. Subjectivation through the Art Field

11:45-12:15: Leila Haghighat, Maurício Ianês de Moraes
12:15-13:00: discussion
Respondent: Jens Kastner (Academy of Fine Arts Vienna)
Panel chair: Aleksandar Novakovic

13:00-14:00 Lunchbreak 

3. Towards the Beyond of Subjectivation

14:00-14:45: Aleksandar Novakovic, Ludovica d’Alessandro, Tyan Fritschy
14:45-15:45: discussion
Respondent: Stefan Nowotny
Panel chair: Teo Klug

15:45-16:00 Coffee Break

4. Flights from Western Modes of Subjectivation

16:00-16:30 Ramiro Wong, Max Heinrich (in German), Maurício Ianês de Moraes
16:30-17:15: discussion
Respondent: Murat Ates (Kunstuniversität Linz)
Panel chair: Maurício Ianês de Moraes

17:45-18:00 Coffee Break

Keynote by Stefan Nowotny: So What, Subject? Three Modal Sketches on Subjectivity and Difference
18:45-19:30: discussion
Respondent: Ruth Sonderegger (Academy of Fine Arts Vienna)
Chair: Ludovica D’Alessandro

19:30-21:00 Buffett and drinks

Abstracts of Presentations 

Who has the right to be vulnerable?
Ludovica d’Alessandro
I would like to present on the formation of the category of vulnerability as related to European modernity. Specifically, I would like to consider how the notion of vulnerability in Western political thought has accompanied the violent production of otherness by distinguishing between ‘vulnerable subjects’ and ‘non-vulnerable bodies.’ I would like to then link these notions to the ones of disability, debility, self-defence, and sensitivity.

Scenes of Criminal Intimacy
Tyan Fritschy
In modernity, sexuality has transformed from something that you do to something that you are. The historical advent of sexual subjectivity was brought about, according to Michel Foucault, by the emerging sexual sciences that allowed for the classification of sexualities according to schemes separating the normal from the pathological.
Much of queer theory is indebted to this famous thesis of Foucault and advanced theoretical models of deviance and modes of critique that operate along the lines normal/pathological and normativity/anti-normativity.
In my contribution I walk along with Christopher Chitty and Michael Warner and seek to test the validity of other models of thinking sexual politics. I propose to shift the register from deviant to criminal in order to challenge sex-as- subjectivity as well as to break the seemingly universal spell of sexual science.

Desire & Political Subjectivation
Leila Haghighat
I will present some findings from my dissertation, which examines the dilemmas of socially engaged practices “between appeasement and empowerment”. One aspect of these dilemmas pertains to political subjectivation. I specifically focus on the processes of subjectification experienced by the artists involved, including myself, as I can only speculate about those of the participants. I aim to understand the conscious and unconscious motivations of the artists, including desires, affects, and ideologies, to engage with social conditions. In this regard, I draw upon Spivak’s perspective on desire as an expression of ideological interest (1988), particularly the desire to speak on behalf of others who may not have the means to represent themselves. During the interviews, I asked my peers about their motivations, expectations, desires, and aspirations in this line of work, as well as their emotional experiences. Through these conversations, it became evident that the relationships with the participants are central to the work, surpassing the artistic processes themselves. Joy, responsibility, trust, and empathy emerged as significant elements, which I believe have politicizing impact and evoke both agency and self-criticism. For the artists remain passionately attached (Butler) (in Butler’s terms) to the artistic field, upon which their recognition depends.

Schamanischer Antikapitalismus oder wie sich In-Beziehung-Setzen ohne so sehr Subjekt zu werden (und Eigentum zu nehmen)
Max Heinrich
Verschiedene Perspektiven verbindend, binäre Grenzen durchwandernd und vielheitliche Ebenen berührend, ist Schamanismus mehr als eine eindimensionale Heilungsmethode, noch lediglich nur eine gute Möglichkeit, um im Vornherein Jagderfolge abzuklären, wie es in manchen (ver)westlich(t)en Narrativen und Aneignungen erscheinen mag. Das Schamanische bringt mehr mit sich: Es ist eine Weise des In-Verbindung-Setzens jenseits der wirkmächtigen (westlichen) Konstruktionen von Subjekt und Individuum mit ihren je etwas anderen, aber ziemlich immanenten Verbindungen zu Eigentum. Schamanische Techniken erlauben das temporäre Verbinden mit und sogar Einnehmen von Perspektiven anderer Leute, Entitäten, Personen, um gemeinsam zu verhandeln, wie „nachhaltig“ und prädatorisch-verhältnismässig planetare Begrenztheiten geteilt werden können, ohne auf systemische Enteignung und Ausbeutung zurückzugreifen, die wiederum grundlegende Mechanismen zur Herstellung, Aufrechterhaltung und Vergrösserung von (ökonomischem) Kapital (Eigentumswerten) sind. Doch bevor Kapital und Eigentum überhaupt Sinn machen, braucht es etwas, das diese „haben“, akkumulieren und verwalten kann, und dies überhaupt will. An dieser Stelle erscheint das mündige, aufgeklärte Subjekt, unabhängige und vernunftbegabte (oder -reduzierte) Individuen, die sich selbst aneignen und besitzen, um dann andere/s ihrer Eigentümer:innenschaft zu unterwerfen. Quer zu diesen gerade hegemonialen, reduktiven Kategorisierungen entfaltet sich das Schamanische immer schon jenseits einer Person, mehrere Perspektiven einnehmend, mehreren Dimensionen verbunden; eine multiperspektivische Möglichkeit nicht nur für Menschliche, sondern vor allem auch mit anderen planetaren Entitäten. Von diesen Überlegungen ausgehend wird der Beitrag der Frage nachgehen, ob dieser schamanische Multiperspektivismus in der Lage sein könnte, eine Perspektive jenseits besitznehmender Subjekte und gewaltsamer Individuation zu skizzieren, ein langsames Abfallen von diesen, eine Befreiung durch Verbundenheit?

The Author as a Capitalist Performative Subjectivity: Value, Alienation in Art and Everyday Life
Maurício Ianês de Moraes
Creative authorship and the aestheticisation of daily life have been historically approached as forms of opposing labour and social alienation within the capitalist and the art market systems. In this view, authorship is the result of the connection between propriety to the subject that produces it through one’s labour (Marx 1863, 1844).
Aesthetics has a role in this relationship by supposedly developing human capacities to their fullest, restoring the bonds between individuals and society, and to what Marx called species being, by operating outside of and against capitalism.
The supposed emancipatory tools of art and aesthetics could then be used to subvert capitalist exploitation and question the art market forces, thus rebuilding a sense of community in a society torn apart by the impact of the economic system, as well as producing a non-alienated form of subjectivity.
I aim at addressing this view critically, since, if art in the modern and contemporary sense has been produced and subjected by these very economic forces, the redistribution of the creative potencies in society will impose the same mechanisms to the individuals and groups involved therein. Thus, authorship shows itself as an alienating arrangement, for it becomes a performative (Austin, 1962) tool that connects the subjectivity to value and shapes it towards self-exploitation, and adaptation to different modes of capitalist relations.

Who is a subject in fictional abortion plotlines and why?
Franzis Kabisch
The Pro-Choice-Movement and the claim that pregnant people should be able to decide about their own bodies, are based on the notion of “choice” and are thus strongly connected to an understanding of an autonomous subject. Scholars like Loretta Ross and Rickie Solinger (2017) have criticized the mere focus on individual choice and are arguing for a shift towards reproductive justice for everyone. Looking at abortion from this angle means incorporating intersections of (hetero)sexism, racism, classism and ableism. It does not simply ask: Should pregnant people be able decide about their pregnancy or not? But: Who is able to make such a choice? Whose pregnancies are wanted, whose are not? Can we still talk about choice if Western societies don’t offer a present and a future in which child bearing and rearing seem to be a desirable option?
Researching the depictions of abortion in film and television, I want to look at the notion of subjectivity in regard to the fictional characters. Are they treated as subjects? Do they have bodily autonomy? Can they decide for themselves while being scripted and thus literally subjected to a writer’s imagination? And furthermore: Is such a scripted subjectivity even desirable? Are there also examples who look at abortion from a reproductive justice angle?
Drawing from artistic research methods like writing dialogues with fictional characters or imagining narrative plots without protagonists, I want to discuss the use of subjectivity in abortion plots. Is it important to portray fictional characters as subjects and with bodily autonomy? Or is it feeding into the idea of abortion being an individual matter and not a political one? These questions become especially interesting when looking at how the embryo is given subjectivity through narrative devices. With the help of ultrasound images, baby clothes, names, etc. the embryo often gets personified and turns into the antagonist if not even protagonist.

Sozialarbeitende als Agenten staatlicher Subjektivierung?
Teo Klug
Bis jetzt gibt es keine Kraft, die stärker auf den Menschen einwirkt, als andere Menschen. Diese Dynamik etwas zu analysieren und in ihr die Rolle der Sozialen Arbeit aufzuschlüsseln möchte ich in dem Input leisten. Besonders spannend scheint mir der Aspekt, dass Sozialarbeitende mit einem klaren staatlichen Auftrag Einfluss auf gesellschaftliche Prozesse ausüben.
Einfluss wird mithilfe von pädagogischem Geschick ermöglicht. Soziale Arbeit tritt als Agent staatlicher Interessen auf. Wie ich zeigen möchte, kann diese sehr direkte Form des Einflusses von Gesellschaft auf Menschen Aufschlüsse geben über einige grundlegende Dynamiken, wie wir uns als Subjektivierte in Beziehung zu einander und gegenüber Autoritäten bewegen.
Social Workers as agents of governmental Subjectification?
Up to now there is no force that influences human more than other humans. In the input, I would like to analyze this dynamic and break down the role of social work in it. The aspect that social workers with a clear government mandate exert influence on social processes seems particularly exciting to me.
Influence is made possible with the help of pedagogical skill. Social work acts as an agent of state interests. As I want to show, this very direct form of society’s influence on people can shed light on some of the fundamental dynamics of how we, as subjectivized people, move in relation to each other and to authorities. 

From partisans to dissidents: On political subjectivity and revolutionary practice
Aleksandar Novakovic
Thinking from the historical experience of struggle in former Yugoslavia, I want to elaborate and put into relation two archetypes of political subjectivity – partisans and dissidents –, in order to draw conclusions about the revolutionary potentials and limits of political subjectivity. While partisanship signifies ‘taking a side’ or ‘joining a party’ and emphasizes collectivity, dissidence insists on non-conformity and individuality. These two figures illustrate the complexities of political subjectification, of acquiring necessary capabilities, which are required for a specific struggle, of identifying with ‘a cause’, and all those revolutionary desires which escape the confines of subjectivity.

Becoming mestizxs: transversal subjectivation processes in the dispositive of visuality in novohispanic painting through the analysis of Castas a painting by Luis de Mena (ca. 1750) (Performance Lecture)
Mariel R. Rodríguez
This contribution analyses different subjectivation processes that took place in Mexico in the historical period short after the conquest and before its constitution as an independent republic. I look at visual languages developed during the Vicerroyship of New Spain to discern the different and transversal subjectivation processes that took place in this time-space and in a further step, to connect it to contemporary debates around identity and self- representation.
More specifically, I propose a reading of Casta painting as a visual document of creole sentiments made by Luis de Mena. Considering the central space given to the virgin of Guadalupe in the painting I will introduce Bolívar Echeverria’s notion of an “ethos barroco” which he tightly links to the cult of guadalupanismo. Guadalupan Catholicism became central to the nascent identities of New Spain, since both creoles and mestizos professed it, Mena’s gesture to include the virgin of Guadalupe in his version of a Casta painting, reaffirms the colonial space and identities as a product of cultural mestizaje where white creole subjectivities have the central role of reproducing the nation. Considering the importance of the Virgin Guadalupe for the indigenous population is helpful to subvert a purely creole reading of the painting and to affirm the adoption of mestizaje as a resistance practice on the side of the colonized.
The contribution is planned as a lecture performance, includes an image and video projection of different materials I have encountered during my research.

Scented Encounters: Unveiling the Aesthetics of Othering in Continental Historiographies as related to the politics of scent and process of subjectivation (performative talk/installation)
Ramiro Wong
The project Scented Encounters investigates the convergence of Aesthetics, Othering, and Subjectivity through the medium of scent. It introduces the concept of “Aesthetics of Othering,” revealing how sensory stimuli, such as scent, can be wielded to perpetuate power dynamics. Western/Northern cultures historically employed scent to distinguish and marginalize certain traits as socially acceptable or stigmatized. This use of scent exemplifies the process of Othering, where dominant cultures establish norms and “otherize” those who deviate.
Through the performative talk, the project attempts to showcase how sensory experiences, like scent, participate in the formation of subjectivity by influencing individuals’ perceptions of self and others. The presentation underscores how aesthetics, including the olfactory dimension, is a potent tool for constructing hierarchies and exerting control. By addressing racism, sexism, and other biases, the project illustrates how aesthetic choices compound the process of othering, resulting in the subjective shaping of identities.
In essence, Scented Encounters tries to bring us a few steps forward into one of the nuanced ways in which sensory experiences contribute to the construction of societal hierarchies and individual identities converge.
The performative talk will make use of certain elements that will be created and installed in the conference space and the audience will be guided around these objects.