Nothing is Original. Challenging Notions of Artistic Autonomy

Lukas Feireiss
Nothing is Original.
Challenging Notions of Artistic Autonomy
Online seminar, English, 2 SWS, 2 ECTS
Tuesdays, 10-14 h, weekly, 7 video sessions: 20.4., 27.4., 4.5., 11.5., 25.5., 1.6., 8.6.2021

Ideals of originality and uniqueness have long dominated conceptions of art. Since antiquity, philosophers and theorists have viewed a successful work of art as a complete and perfect whole. Somewhat romantic ideologies of radical artistic novelty reinforce the perception and understanding of an artwork as a complete end in itself with an inviolable integrity. As creative’s consistently yearn to be original, it is easy to become creatively paralyzed when it comes to considering what has been done before our time.

Against this backdrop, this seminar helps to deconstruct the value around deeply entrenched, classical notions of aesthetic and intellectual purity, originality and autonomy. It encourages its participants to copy, combine and celebrate one's influences and freely explore alternative potentialities for artistic creation. Thereby, “Nothing is Original” proceeds under the assumption that any seemingly original work of art is itself always a product of unacknowledged borrowings. Artists have always borrowed and stolen from one another’s works and each unique and novel text reverberates with echoes of earlier texts. 

Refusing any disciplinary coherence, the seminar will do close readings of seminal texts from multifarious eras and origins – such as Eduard Glissant’s Poetics of Relation, Nicolas Bourriaud’s Postproduction and Rachel Falconer’s The New Polymath to mention but a few – that share an urgency to question the dichotomy of original creation and derivative appropriation. That in mind, the seminar’s explicit prerogative is the reconfiguration of disparate elements and existing materials to produce new forms of cultural production by mixing, cross-linking and combining approaches that are often at odds with each other.

Requirements for the ungraded Studium Generale credits: Active participation is expected from the students and they will also be asked to read different theoretical and philosophical texts for each seminar session. All participants are asked to search for new insights and to then document, publish and test any findings through various media and means of communications, including texts, film, sound, performances, publication etc.

Lukas Feireiss works as curator, author and educator in the international mediation of contemporary cultural reflexivity beyond disciplinary boundaries. He attained his graduate education in Comparative Religious Studies, Philosophy and Ethnology. Feireiss is author and editor of numerous books, and curator of manifold exhibitions in the field of art, architecture and design in theory and practice. He has lectured and taught at various universities worldwide. At the Sandberg Instituut in Amsterdam he developed and directed the temporary Master of Fine Arts and Design program Radical Cut-Up, that examined the cut-up and collage as a contemporary mode of creativity and dominant global model of cultural production today.