neue Gesellschaft
für bildende Kunst

11Friday, 11. September 2020, 19:00
Eröffnung: Opening: Exhibition

Exhibition: Radical Passivity: Politics of the Flesh

Friday, 11 September 2020 — Sunday, 01 November 2020

Radical Passivity: Politics of the Flesh

Adress:nGbK, Oranienstraße 25, 10999 Berlin
Open: Daily 12:00-18:00, Fri 12:00-20:00
  • German
  • English

Entry: free
Organized by: neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst
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Radical Passivity: Politics of the Flesh

With artists including:
 Sophia Eisenhut/Christian Kölbl, Sidsel Meineche Hansen, KAYA, Jutta Koether, Andreas Langfeld, aLifveForms (cared for by J.P. Raether), Lee Lozano, Henrik Olesen, Eran Schaerf, Alina Szapocznikow, Paul Thek, Clemens von Wedemeyer, Marianne Wex, Andrea Winkler, David Wojnarovicz u.a.


In three “scenes” the exhibition deals with new forms of sensibility and corporeality in the arts. The themes range from discussions of pain, addiction and arousal, to the idea of a new digital corporeality, to questions of the social shaping of a no-longer subject-centred sensitivity.

Scene 1. Aesthetics of Affect: Pain and Arousal (from 11 Sept)
Scene 2. Digital Corporeality: Human-Machine-Sex (from 2 Oct)
Scene 3. Politics of the Flesh: Forming the Body (from 16 Oct)

The sequence of three scenes, using a display devised by the artist Eran Schaerf, unfold as a choreography of active and inactive works. Each scene is accompanied by a programme of lectures, performances and film screenings.

With their promises of self-realization and creativity, today’s social imperatives have turned out to be insidious forms of control. Any attempt to avoid them by means of passivization, refusal, withdrawal or self-care and mindfulness ultimately serve only to improve their functioning. By contrast, contemporary art – even if it is entangled in these same logics – has revealed forms of radicalized passivity.

The featured works reflect the links between illness, sensitivity and art, focus attention on the involuntary and the obsolete, and question politics of affect-based address and regulation. Drawing on works from the 1960s and 1980s, the exhibition addresses those areas in art and life that are not subject to choice, outside the individual’s scope for action. Frailty, ageing, exhaustion and mortality, but also birth, vulnerability and the capacity for arousal are understood here as phenomena of a different kind of resistance, acting as a critique of the illusion of feasibility.

Following on from Michel Foucault’s thinking on biopolitics, Paul B. Preciado has suggested that the form on power in today’s society is “pharmacopornographic”: the way humans are currently subjectivized and governed, he claims, operates on one level via pharmaceuticals (i.e. medicines, hormones, stimulants, tranquilizers, narcotics, etc.). On another level, today’s form of power functions via arousal, meaning not only the porn industry but also other social mechanisms that obey the masturbatory logic of “arousal – frustration – arousal”. At the same time, especially in queer-feminist positions, we find a valorisation of vulnerability, illness or weakness that resonates in the sphere of art on account of its tendency towards excessive sensitivity.

In the context of digitization, this takes on additional significance. At a time when the factors determining existence are becoming increasingly invisible, falling below the threshold of discernibility, when technologies are gaining access to the body, processes of regulation are becoming imperceptible and the digital is hybridizing with the physical, the level of the passions, of sensibility and controllability, is revealed as the true field of the political. Which raises the question: How does art respond to this new forms of power, which addictions does it cultivate, which new affects does it invent? Where are the limits of agency and which forms of expropriation must be resisted?


A cooperation project of the neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst (nGbK) and the Gesellschaft für künstlerische Forschung in Deutschland (gkfd)
Curatorial team: Kathrin Busch and Ilse Lafer

Curatorial Assistance: Jonas von Lenthe


Financed by joint venture funds from the Senate Department for Culture and Europe.



Further Dates

11Friday, 11. September 2020, 19:00
Eröffnung: Opening: Exhibition