press release

Under Pressure – about pictures turning into subjects, individuals becoming collectives, and the new spirit of capitalism

The aim of this conference is twofold: We want to discuss the value system resulting from the "New Spirit Of Capitalism" with three scholars: the Italian philosopher Paolo Virno, the French sociologist Luc Boltanski, and the American Professor of English Language and Literature W.J.T. Mitchell. Each of these writers has developed new tools that seem very useful for an analysis of the present condition. But we also want to confront some of their propositions with the realities of artistic production. Can "exit" and "disobedience", as envisioned by Virno, be considered options from an artistic point of view? And what would an insistence on "status" or long term projects as invoked by Boltanski/Chiapello look like if artists where to take on this strategy? How much can one count on pictures alone, as Mitchell seems to do, and can pictures really change the "ways of worldmaking"?

The idea for this conference emerged during the course of two seminars at the Städelschule/Frankfurt, where three books were studied: Luc Boltanski & Eve Chiapello´s "The New Spirit of Capitalism," Paolo Virno´s "A Grammar of the Multitude," and W.J.T. Mitchells "What Do Pictures Want?". Despite their differences and respective specificities, we noticed striking similarities as far as the diagnosis of our present condition is concerned. Where Virno emphasizes communication as the "queen of productive forces," Boltanski and Chiapello propose their notion of a "project-based Polis" in which information and contacts are must-haves. For Mitchell it is "Pictures" that are alive and can speak – they are living symbols that contribute to producing the conditions of the new "Empire."

The Institut für Kunstkritik at the Städelschule was founded by Daniel Birnbaum and Isabelle Graw in 2003. It regularly organizes lectures and seminars with critics and theorists. Among recent guests: Giorgio Agamben, Yve-Alain Bois, Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, and Michael Fried,

Under Pressure is a collaboration with Frankfurt's Institut für Sozialforschung.


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Institut für Kunstkritik Städelschule Frankfurt:
Under Pressure

W.J.T Mitchell, June 30
Paolo Virno, December 15
Luc Boltanski, February 6