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[Nettime-nl] public seminar: giaco shiesser
matthew fuller on Fri, 3 Jan 2003 15:12:02 +0100 (CET)


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[Nettime-nl] public seminar: giaco shiesser


Title: public seminar: giaco shiesser
Public Seminar

The wilful obstinacy of man - the wilful obstinacy of machine
Prof. Giaco Schiesser
Department <Media & Art> University of Art and Design Zurich


Date:               Friday 10th January 2003
Time:           11am
Location:   Piet Zwart Institute, 85 Overblaak, Rotterdam


In German there is a most beautiful and powerful word that does not exist in other languages. It deserves to be worked out a lot more for cultural and political purposes. It is called Eigensinn  or Eigensinnigkeit (approximately: wilful obstinacy). The word first appears prominantly in a fairy tale (Das Eigensinnige Kind, the obstinate child),  by the well known Grimm brothers who collected and published a wide range of German fairy tales in the first half  of the 19th Century under the title of "Grimms Märchen". This collection became very famous and has since been part of every library of German speaking households up to now.
A hundred years later, it was taken up, enlarged and transformed to a concept by the famous German filmmaker, author and theorist Alexander Kluge, especially in his book "Geschichte und Eigensinn" (1982/1990/2002), of which, unfortunately, there is no English translation.
The concept stresses the fact, that each individual has his or her own way of living his or her everyday life, not only by fulfilling a (economic) structure (which was the idea of Adorno and the still very influential Frankfurt School), but by pursuing their own targets by depending on their own (i.e. eigensinnigen) surprising, strange, obstinate attitude to undergo, subvert, melt, traverse the things that individuals are expected to carry out economically, politically, culturally.

For Kluge this Eigensinnigkeit is the crucial point for each political or cultural project to start with. The Eigensinnigkeit of the subject (which has much in common with Gramsci's 'bon sens') from which all development of individual and collective empowerment starts and which enables people to live their lives in a more democratic, self-determined way. It is their peculiarity, their sometimes bizarre and often contradictory will to do what they want to do, their self-determined actions, their beliefs and obstinacies that describes a subject's Eigensinnigkeit best.

Kluges' concept can be transformed und be used for a better understanding of all forms of art and media: Photography, Film, Fine Arts, Literature et cetera. Each of these forms of art has its willful obstinacy, materiality, its structure, potentiality and restrictions which makes all of them unique and irreplaceable - it is this I call the Eigensinnigkeit of a media. For all of them there has been  a wide range of aesthetics, developed over centuries, in some cases, only within a couple of years in others. You may well know that the Eigensinnigkeit of a language plays a crucial role for literature (think of what writers from Saussure to Lacan taught us about language), or that the material of the movies (a piece of photosensitive film that has to be developed) has its Eigensinnigkeit, to be experimented or probed with (think of  the 1st and 2nd French Avant-garde f.e.).

This holds true for <media art>, too (a concept which has to be criticised by the way because each art is media art). The media of media art are computers and networks: algorithms, codes, the digital or whatever concept you may use for it. We call it the machinic. There is an Eigensinnigkeit (wilful obstinacy) of the machinic and in my input we well discuss some aspects of that Eigensinnigkeit to get a better understanding for the experimental setup, its observation, the reflection of it and the future dealing with computer and networks as media and not only as a tool. A crucial moment for every art school nowadays is:  to experiment, to try and find out the possibilities of digital aesthetics by working with and through the Eigensinn of the machinic, because the society we have been started to live in is a digital one (if you call it information society, digital capitalism, digital age, knowledge society dos not matter). And still we are at the very beginning of finding out what are the potentialities, obstinacies and the restrictions of computers and networks as media.

This seminar is part of 'Slave & Master Engine, a  hard- and software critique group experiment' a three month project at Piet Zwart Institute hosted by Margerete Jahrmann and Max Moswitzer