Symposium - Fear, Resentment, Division

Between art, theory and activism

29. - 30. November 2023

Symposium Angst, Ressentiment, Spaltung - Talk mit Candice Breitz

Fear, resentment, and disgust are the negative emotions from which populist ideologies and authoritarianism emerge, as sociologist Eva Illouz argues in her recent book "The Emotional Life of Populism: How Fear, Disgust, Resentment, and Love Undermine Democracy". Particularly in the era of burgeoning right-wing populism, it is increasingly evident that these pathological feelings are not exterior to democracies. Instead, they permeate around socially-mobile contemporary democracies, eroding them from within. These sentiments thrive on the perceived loss of privilege and the specter of social decline. They shape individual identities and fabricated communities that derive claims of possession and perceived exceptional rights to specific social spheres and lifestyles from these adverse emotions—an occurrence philosopher Eva von Redecker terms "phantom posession" (Phantombesitz).

Consequently, could social mobility and the pledge of upward progression signify systemic flaws within Western democracies? Are they responsible for the social dysfunction emerging ever more prominently in the current historical framework across Europe and America? How do assurances of advancement, neo-authoritarianism, notions of property entitlement, racism, and sexism interconnect?What triggers the polarization dynamics that are currently also coming to light within social movements?

The symposium, co-curated by students of Zeppelin University and held in German and English explores through lectures, talks, and workshops, the sentiments, practices, and imagery that underlie populist thought and authoritarianism and provoke violent social divisions. Contributors are philosopher Eva von Redecker, artist Candice Breitz, writer Asal Dardan and curator Maria Hlavajova. They discuss the meaning of image making and distribution, the role that aesthetic experience, activism and social practice play or could play in the context of confronting hate and resentment.

In the face of the rise of right-wing populist and neo-fascist parties and movements and the racist and anti-semitic acts of violence related to them, such as those in Hanau or Halle, three topics will be discussed: First, it will focus on the analyses of the production and distribution of hostile images in different popular media and the emotional grammar which underlies these forms of hostile image making. Secondly, it will question which imaginary elements, sentiments and attitudes are obstacles in the fight against right-wing ideologies, practices and systems of thought, and which promote solidarity. And thirdly, it will examine those activist and artistic means, practices and strategies of action which are able to counter polarizing tendencies. In all three thematic areas, the focus will be on artistic approaches to the topic. The Symposium aims to shed light on the instruments and means which are currently emerging in the art field and in art-related anti-fascist and anti-racist protest movements, and what role these instruments might operate within a society based on hatred, resentment, and othering.

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