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Forms of Life: Artifice, Emergence, Generation. ESSCS Summer School

Semester: SS 08
  • N. N.
Zeit und Ort:
  • 28.07.08-03.08.08 (Mo, Di, Mi, Do, Fr, Sa, So), 09:00-18:00, Amsterdam (N/A)
    Mo., 28.07.08 09:00-18:00 Amsterdam (N/A)
    Di., 29.07.08 09:00-18:00 Amsterdam (N/A)
    Mi., 30.07.08 09:00-18:00 Amsterdam (N/A)
    Do., 31.07.08 09:00-18:00 Amsterdam (N/A)
    Fr., 01.08.08 09:00-18:00 Amsterdam (N/A)
    Sa., 02.08.08 09:00-18:00 Amsterdam (N/A)
    So., 03.08.08 09:00-18:00 Amsterdam (N/A)


Erste Veranstaltung: 28.07.2008
Hinweise: The 2008 session of the ESSCS takes “forms of life” as its signature term and core theme proposing to explore how past conceptions and present perceptions of “life” have manifested themselves in cultural practice and theory, and how they are likely to change in the future. While also referring to earlier uses of the concept (Wittgenstein), we will use “forms of life” to move beyond the nature versus culture divide – re-mapping the human and non-human, matter and mind, people and things, art and life, zoe and bios, form and process – and explore how culture inflects all forms of life, their objective study and analysis, as well as their performative presence, through enactment, embodiment and self-reflexivity. Moreover, we will strive for a critical analysis of the procedures and figures that give life intelligible form.

While in society at large, bio-genetics, bio-politics and bio-power have become familiar catchwords of anxiety and concern, and the political debate has seen a shift from party and class to human rights, what distinctive contribution do the arts and humanities have to make to these debates? How are all these issues framed by the “question of technology,” and in particular, what role do the natural languages and their cultural manifestations play in the new “life” languages: the genetic code, mathematics and computer language? How do cultural studies and life sciences interact with and respond to each other? To address these and other questions, we use the following three key terms:

Artifice implies both art and agency, rather than “artificiality” as the opposite of the natural. As aesthesis, art includes modes of making, doing, and seeing. Artifice, when understood as art as well as acting or performing, calls attention to the possibilities of inventing and imagining new forms of life through the intertwinement of the aesthetic and the political. Encompassing the imaginative, the technological, the theoretical, and the artistic, artifice as a term emphasizes the politics of art and the art of politics in the invention of life forms, both individual and collective.

Emergence can be seen as processes of interaction between different agents or elements within an environment, creating a form of life that is more complex than merely the sum of its elements. As such, forms of life can consist of qualities that cannot be predicted, thereby creating new meanings and forms of expression that may reconfirm or counter existing interpretations of the elements that construct the particular form of life.

Generation denotes both the act and process of begetting life and an existing group of beings that share pertinent traits (age group, family, pedigree, class, race, breed). Hence, the notion typically weds life change to continuity and identity, reducing transformation to development. Through the subtle disciplining of generation and genealogy, the life forms of cultures, theories, and people only change insofar as they remain essentially the same.