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Date | 18.03.2019, 7.00 p.m.
Venue | Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien, Hauptgebäude, Augasse 2–6, 1090 Wien, Forum, 1.17A

Lecture by Eva Buchinger within the IKA Lecture Series WS 2018/2019 Uselessness: Is this humankind’s most valuable tool? organised and curated by Michelle Howard and Luciano Parodi.


Our use of tools has often been portrayed as the definitive attribute that led to our current position at the top of the animal hierarchy by provoking us to stand upright and walk. As a direct result, our brains developed at an exponential rate, allowing us to express ideas, tell stories and make objects whose uselessness still confounds us today. Uselessness rarely matches our expectations and disappoints a priori, but it can also fascinate and liberate because it contradicts the logic of use equals value. A depository of neglected ideas can also be a treasure trove, an alternative Pandora’s box that can trigger creativity and free the imagination. Since the advent of modernism, we have been preoccupied with usefulness and employability, be it in terms of space, energy, production or, indeed, education. Historians predict that the rise of artificial intelligence will produce a “useless” class that will not only be unemployed, but unemployable. Karl Marx, in his Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts written in 1844, said that the production of too many useful things results in too many useless people. Uselessness is an uncharted phenomenon that may lead us to a better understanding of what our common values are and prepare us for a new future. If our future will be defined by our uselessness, then it is time for this state and our judgements of it to be reappraised. This lecture series brings together people with very differing approaches to uselessness and attempts to shed light on what our new future could hold.

Winter Term 2018/2019

15 October 2018

Ebru Kurbak, Artist, Designer
Lost Skills, Lost Potentials, and Fiberpunk

The biggest threats to the limits of what we can imagine are our assumptions. This lecture explores confronting dominant assumptions about values of skills, knowledge and technology as a critical and artistic strategy.

Kubra Ebru Kurbak 

19 November 2018

Guta Moura Guedes, Curator, Strategic Designer

Useless Design?

Design is the operational tool for the 21st century and from its very beginning exists to serve humankind. Useless design is a paradox, unless the lack of use is non-existant. Some observations from a design curator’s point of view and some notes from a strategic designer perspective.

Guedes Guta Moura Guedes, photo © Francisco Sá Bandeira 

10 December 2018

Friedemann Schrenk, Palaeoanthropologist
7 Million years of Uselessness in Human Evolution

Major transitions in early human history include upright walking and the earliest material cultures. Triggered by originally useless responses to environmental change, these transitions depict uselessness as the underlying cause for Human biocultural evolution and diversity.

Schrenk Friedemann Schrenk, photo © Sven Tränkner / Senckenberg 

7 January 2019

Owen Hatherley, Author, Journalist
Superfluous Space

This talk will be about the in-between spaces of post-war housing estates, large open green areas which are traditionally treated as 'useless' space with no obvious programmed purpose, and what in those spaces is attractive and valuable precisely because of their lack of clear function.

Owen Owen Hatherley, photo © Agata Pyzik 

Summer Term 2019

18 March 2019

Eva Buchinger, Sociologist
Uselessness? From the ‚Unemployed of Marienthal’ to the robotic age

Uselessness is a possible, but not at all necessary consequence of unemployment. This has been taught by the famous Marienthal sociography among others. So maybe the ‘rise of robots’ together with a (possible) jobless future is nothing to worry about?

Buchinger Eva Buchinger, photo © AIT Austrian Institute of Technology GmbH 

8 April 2019

Diedrich Diederichsen, Author, Critic
Gebrauchswertromantik und Vernunft ohne Instrumente / A Romanticism of Use-Value and a Non-Instrumental Reason

Was geschieht, wenn man seine Ideale ernst nimmt / What happens when your ideals are taken seriously.
(This Lecture will be in German)

Dietrich Diedrich Diederichsen, photo © Claudia Rohrauer 

29 April 2019

Kerstin Meyer, Economist, Activist
The Provocation of the Standstill

Tempelhofer Feld, a former airfield in the centre of Berlin, is now an open space for the public to use for leisure. It may neither be sold nor built on nor designed. The story of the political fight over the city’s most valuable asset and how the public assumed its right to legislate standstill.

Meyer Kerstin Meyer, photo © Petra Vogt 

13 May 2019

Sonia Leimer, Architect, Artist
Dear Werner Herzog

During a trip through Peru last year I read your book Conquest of the useless. Your diary of the time your spent in Peru shooting the film Fitzcarraldo and my personal impressions during my journey through the Andes overlapped.

Leimer Sonia Leimer, photo © Maximilian Pramatarov 

3 June 2019

Ruth Sonderegger, Philosopher

On the central norms and imperatives of Western aesthetics

My lecture will focus on the emergence of uselessness, purposelessness and disinterestedness as central normative concepts of Western aesthetics; of norms, that is, which came into existence during the 18th century in tandem with capitalism and its emphasis on purpose, use and interest.

Sonderegger Ruth Sonderegger, photo © Lisa Rastl