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Contesting through care: on the precarious ecology of social action (Bojana Kunst)

In my presentation, I will examine a specific form of contestation that takes place along the lines of care. In the last decade, many artists have experienced political pressure, bans, media attacks and criminalisation, especially in environments where new forms of authoritarian government are emerging. The criminalisation of artists is often linked to the devaluation of their lives, work and existence, but also to the destruction of their communities and political alliances. This shows us that these attacks are not really directed against works of art, but against social and living environments of different ways of organising life. In my talk, I will briefly present some recent conflicts over artistic work in different contexts and analyze the social and political dynamics at the heart of these cultural conflicts. I would like to show how the defense of their autonomy in the name of artistic freedom is not enough, as it often reinforces the problematic dualisms and identity formations around the role of artists as social agents: such as progressive versus conservative, proactive versus reactive, etc. At the same time, these dualisms reinforce Western categories of temporality and reaffirm the power of the individual. I would like to show that most of the works around which the current cultural wars have exploded are deeply implicated in the invention and imagination of life, unsettling and resisting control over the reproduction of life. In doing so, they not only undermine their own role in the staging of power (Rolnik), but also unsettle the normative order because they operate along the transversal lines of care, inventing alternative heterogeneous imaginaries and alternative practices of life.

Freie Universität Berlin
Humboldt Universität zu Berlin
Universität der Künste Berlin