Konstfack – Public Seminar

19 Nov., 2018

Part of the Higher Seminar series at Konstfack, seminar on “Publicness and Extrastatehood” on 19 Nov. 2018, 14-17:00, Stockholm.

Historically, ‘the public’ and the ‘public sphere’ were understood as being under the exclusive jurisdiction of Nation states, with citizens considered as constitutive of ‘the public’. Today, however, through the rapid development of networked communications technology in our everyday lives, non-State actors have come to play a definitive, if not an even more influential role in the shaping of our public lives and political conditions.

The seminar will plot this transformation, looking at key historical notions of public life from the likes of Hannah Arendt and Chantal Mouffe, while looking towards new understandings of publicness in view of our present reality. ‘Extrastatehood’, stems from a work by Hito Steyerl, who riffed off of Keller Easterling’s Extrastatecraft in mapping the heightened role infrastructure comes to play in our present as a mode of governance and control from below. In this scenario, conceptions of publicness expand from the sheer manifestation of bodies-in-space, to the techno-social means of enabling (or disabling) publics to come into existence at all … means of enablement that are often hidden from view, and means that transform how we figure our ‘agency’ within them.

‘Extrastatehood’ can also be grasped at a more human scale, to address considerations of public life that overflow existing normative boundaries of inclusion proffered by statehood and their specific cultures of belonging, putting attention on bodies and practices that supplement the status quo by asserting contesting forms of what counts as making a ‘sensible’ (and therefore publicly shareable) appearance.

Departing from the theoretical work enacted for Public Art Munich 2018, together we will plot a glossary of terms to help give shape to the breadth of considerations necessary today to ‘picture’ what public life, or publicness is, or could be in view of our changing material, communicative, and increasingly complex world of planetary dependencies. From this mapping, we may then begin to speculate on how artistic practices ought to adapt, contest and respond, when making claims on changing perceptions.