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Knowledge and Decisiveness or: The Radicality of Art

Mirjam Schaub

Friday, 6.7.2018

In German
Moderation: Georg Dickmann

The artistic discourse that surrounds and flatters works of art, cloaks them in beautiful words, or eruditely debates the greatest possible range of their meanings fails to recognize and veils the fact – this is my thesis – that works of art are themselves amazingly decisive. To the extent they are good and not merely pleasant, they hit their observers with knowledge that is precisely not discursively mediated – often hard and right in the face, like an insult from an unexpected quarter.

Gilles Deleuze called this quality, conceived of as perceptive and not functional or conceptual, to take effect and to enclose the chaos of possibility, something that forces us to think. Is this decisiveness not attractive precisely because of, not despite, its inherent one-sidedness? Does it explain the radicality uniquely inherent to art that Helmuth Plessner characterized as the »infinitization of an idea«? My lecture follows these lines in an attempt to develop a critique of Umberto Eco’s oft-cited claim about the »openness of artworks.«


Mirjam Schaub is Professor for Philosophy at Burg Giebichenstein University of Art and Design Halle. She was previously a Professor at the Design Department of the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences and, in this capacity, founding member of the artistic/academic research training group »Performing Citizenship«, a partnership between Fundustheater, K3, and HafenCity University Hamburg. She studied in Münster, Munich (LMU), and Paris (Sorbonne I) and completed a PhD in Berlin (FU) about Gilles Deleuze. In Munich, she completed a training at the Deutsche Journalistenschule (German Journalism School), from which she still draws today. In Los Angeles (UCLA), she learned screenwriting. After completing her habilitation on the sense and nonsense of examples, she spent a longer period of time in Edinburgh with the support of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. She is interested in the philosophy of art and culture, epistemology, and political philosophy. She is writing a monograph titled Performing Radicality: An Untold History of Pop Culture (2019) and is co-editor of the edited volume Performing Citizenship, which will appear in 2018 with Palgrave Macmillan in London.