Intimate Estrangement

25–27 Sept, 2020

Lecture for the “Estrangement Sessions” as part of dis-order’s exhibition program Intimate Estrangement, 25–27 September, 2020 in Zürich, CH.

Obviously, one cannot speak of estrangement without recognizing that it cuts in two directions, not unlike its more contentious cousin of ‘alienation’. This is perhaps especially so in German considering the close, but not identical relation between verfremdung and entfremdung. The former “verfremdung” relates more to the practice of ‘making strange,’ or estrangement – an artistic strategy familiar to those aware of Brechtian methods that seek to eliminate theatrical catharsis. And the latter, ‘entfremdung’ or alienation, as it relates to a cut, or a separation. Either of these terms can signal personal, debilitating states of being, ones often compounded by conditions of life enforced by impersonal socio-normative governing codes that delineate criteria of dysselection upon certain gendered, raced, abled and classed bodies, not to mention those with neuro-atypical attributes of mind. To suggest that estrangement, or alienation has enabling qualities is not to celebrate the feeling of, or structural predisposition of exclusion from social givens – on the contrary –  it is to suggest, rather, that when those material conditions and socio-normative givens are unjust, irrelevant or injurious – to pursue a trajectory that seeks inclusion, or non-separation is to confirm those unjust, irrelevant, or unnecessary givens. So the type of enabling estrangement or alienation in focus here concerns how to resist incentivized adaptation to the coordination of social givenness, as an indispensable capacity for the construction of otherworlds. An indispensable collective capacity for setting and realizing commitments that are separate from given configurations of coexistence that subtend debilitating conditions of estrangement.