„Vulnerability?“ …and political agency

Karin Michalski
„Vulnerability?“ …and political agency

Online block seminar, English/Deutsch, 2 SWS, 2 ECTS
Saturday/Sunday, 14./15.11. and 28./29.11.2020, each 10-18 h

The concept of vulnerability has been employed to counter the idea of the sovereign subject. Insisting on the description of bodies as vulnerable focuses on the foundational ways in which humans relate not only to each other but also to non-humans. However, in public discourse, especially in the connection to COVID-19, the concept has been used to identify so-called vulnerable groups. As Judith Butler critically remarked, it thus reproduces paternalistic power and gives authority to regulatory agencies with interests and constraints of their own: „On the one hand, the state enforces the destruction of basic material conditions for a livable life. On the other hand, it enacts its paternalistic humanitarian discourse reproducing the coupling of vulnerability and passivity“. The supposed need of protection of certain groups does not lead to social change with the effect of a good life for these identified groups as well, but on the contrary to more and new forms of restriction and exclusion.

In the seminar we will discuss the concept of vulnerability and vulnerable bodies in relation to contemporary art practices. By doing close readings of video and performance works by artists such as LaToya Ruby Frazier, Arthur Jafa and Stanya Kahn, we will try to look how certain art practices might be able to de-link the connection between vulnerability and passivity. Can a work of art employ forms of bodily resistance that do not disavow forms of vulnerability but produce and represent bodies as vulnerable AND equipped with agency?

Requirements for the ungraded Studium Generale credits: Active participation and a thematic input relating to a theoretical/political text or artistic work.

Karin Michalski arbeitet als Künstlerin, Film- und Videokunstkuratorin und Dozentin in Berlin. Sie studierte Filmregie und -produktion an der Deutschen Film- und Fernsehakademie Berlin (dffb) sowie Publizistik, Politik- und Erziehungswissenschaft an den Universitäten in Mainz und Berlin. Sie war mit ihren Film- und Videoarbeiten an zahlreichen Festivals und Ausstellungen beteiligt u.a. mit The Alphabet of Feeling Bad (2014 & 2012) und working on it (2008). 2016 gab sie die Künstler-Edition An Unhappy Archive heraus (in Kollaboration mit Sabian Baumann) sowie 2015 das kollaborative Buch I is for Impasse - Affektive Queerverbindungen in Theorie_Aktivismus_Kunst bei bbooks, Berlin und 2011 das Fanzine FEELING BAD – queer pleasures, art & politics. Sie arbeitet als Dozentin an verschiedenen Film- und Kunsthochschulen und Universitäten. 2015 bis 2018 war sie Vertretungsprofessorin für Kunst und Medien an der Kunsthochschule für Medien Köln (KHM).