International
Conference

The
Pleasure
of
Doubt

in Art, Aesthetics,
and Everyday Life

June
19–21
2014

ICI Berlin
Christinenstraße 18/19
10119 Berlin

Conference

Irritation, uncertainty, disbelief; distrust, skepticism, wariness – the spectrum of doubt is rich and diverse. But traditionally, philosophy and humanistic scholars tend to turn their back on it. Doubt is usually conceived in purely negative terms: It is seen as a mere lack of knowledge, as an unavoidable step towards clarity, at best as a token of our finitude. The rational ideal of ‘pure knowledge’ tries to eliminate doubt in favor of clarity and distinctness. Doubt, in this perspective, is just a necessary evil.

The international conference “The Pleasure of Doubt in Art, Aesthetics, and Everyday Life” wants to examine and further approaches which liberate doubt from its traditional subordinate position. It seeks to lay bare the generative, positive aspects of doubt. In doing this, it follows the lead of artists and scholars who, like the American Pragmatists, both emphasize and embrace the stimulating and transformative facets of doubt. In fact, moments of doubt may well be acknowledged as valuable opportunities for a creative transgression of one’s intellectual and experiential horizon: Doubt opens up the chance to loosen the grip of stiffened patterns of thought; it invites to take a second look, to form a new perspective, and to initiate a change of aspect.

In order to capture this transformative power, one has to look beyond purely intellectual changes – which is what our conference wants to do. Doubt can only exert its force because it engages the doubting subject as a whole: not just on the level of concepts and beliefs, but also on the aesthetic level of feeling and perception. The starting point of doubt is emotional, taking hold not only of the mind, but also of the feeling and perceiving body. Doubt, in short, is not just a state of mind: it is a complex experience with irreducible aesthetic dimensions.

Departing from that diagnosis, the conference wants to shed light on (a) the aesthetic quality and scope of doubt, (b) the status of doubt in artistic practices, and (c) the idea of cultivating doubt as the centerpiece of an aesthetics of existence. Against this background, it draws on three preliminary considerations that all raise various questions which shall be discussed at length in the course of the conference:



1. The Aesthetics of Doubt

If we concur with the nowadays quite common idea that one of the main objectives of art consists in questioning the familiar and conventional, one might speculate whether doubt may – or even should – be understood as an essential linchpin of aesthetic theorizing. This holds in particular given the overall aesthetic and experiential dimension of doubting. Can we thus regard doubt as an indispensable component or vital prerequisite of aesthetic experience? Is doubt even on a par with traditional aesthetic key concepts (such as the sublime, beauty, or force)? Does one of art’s most distinctive contributions amount to its capacity to advance a creative cultivation of doubt? Also, is doubt a basic requirement for artistic originality and creativity?



2. The Art of Doubt-Making

Of course, it is not as if the arts were not aware of the importance of doubt. Ever since the avant-garde’s radical challenge of long-established aesthetic formulas, doubt has become an integral element within artistic practices. On a conceptual level, especially performance artists effectively cast doubt on traditional canons of art appreciation. At the same time, the “re-enchantment of the world” (Erika Fischer-Lichte) induced by performances, happenings, and other contemporary forms of art made doubt a striking component within the lived experience of aesthetic phenomena. Doubt has thus gained significance on a phenomenological, or experiential, level as well. This section wants to explore these artistic practices and articulations of doubt. According to Arthur C. Danto, 20th century art has developed an almost philosophical standard of reflexivity. Does this observation also apply to artistic evocations of doubt? Can art both evoke situations of doubt and reflect on its fundamental conditions and generative possibilities? How exactly does doubt turn into a subject-matter of artistic practices in the first place? What kind of status does doubt have in the production and reception of art? And how has doubt been discussed in the history of art?



3. The Cultivation of Doubt in Everyday Life

Following Nietzsche’s profound progressivism, scholars like Richard Rorty or Michel Foucault argued for an aesthetically inspired ethics of continuous creative self-transformation that shuns the conservative repetition of the conventional and familiar. However problematic such a radical intermingling of ethics and aesthetics may be, the question of how to stay sensitive for those moments of instability that might lead to novel ways of thought and perception still remains highly relevant. It surely goes without saying that the production of doubt in the arts may lay the ground for enriching experiences of diversity and heterogeneity. But how can the production and experience of doubt, as it were, be institutionalized? How can one demand from modern subjects to actively seek and even enjoy states of doubt? What seems debatable, in addition, is whether the arts should serve as a role model for such an aesthetically shaped progressivism in everyday life. Can the aesthetic cultivation of doubt really become a standard for our ordinary lives? Does the cultivation of doubt offer a promising link between art and life? Why should doubt be cultivated beyond the sphere of the art world anyway?

Program

Venue:


ICI Berlin Institute for Cultural Inquiry
Christinenstraße 18/19, Haus 8, D – 10119 Berlin
Tel: +49 (0)30 473 7291 – 10, U – Bhf. Senefelder Platz (U2)


Thursday


19.00
Dieter Mersch
Doubt, Skepticism, and Desperation
The Arrows of Paradox


21.00
Reception



Friday


10.00–11.00
Erika Fischer-Lichte
The Theatricality of Doubting


11.15–12.15
Heidi Salaverría
Critique of Aesthetic Doubts


CANCELLED
Christiane Voss
Suspension von Zweifel als Form ästhetischer Gewissheit


12.15–14.00
Lunch Break


14.00–15.00
Andrew Norris
What is a Doubtful Situation?


15.15–16.15
Mathijs Pelkmans
Catching Doubt in Mid-Air?
Reflections on the (Im)possibilities
of the Empirical Study of Doubt


Saturday


10.00–11.00
Richard Shiff
As it Feels


11.15–12.15
Miriam Strube
Moments of Sudden Rightness
On the Fragility of Truth in Wallace Stevens’ Poetry


13.15–14.15
Uwe Wirth
Think Today – Finish Tomorrow
Strategic Dilettantism and the Question
of Knowledge in the Arts


14.30–15.30
Michelle Zerba
Reflections on Skepticism in Homer's Odyssey and the Poetry of C.P. Cavafy


Speakers

Erika Fischer-Lichte

is director of the International Research Centre “Interweaving Performance Cultures” and of the International Research Training Group “InterArt” at Freie Universität Berlin. From 1996 to 2011 she was professor of theatre studies at Freie Universität Berlin where she is currently operating as senior professor. She is a member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, received the “Berliner Wissenschaftspreis” in 2010, and was visiting professor in Oslo, Beijing, Los Angeles, New Dehli and many other places.

Research areas:
aesthetics and theories of art, theory and history of theatre, aesthetics of contemporary theatre, interweaving performance cultures.

Selected publications:
The Routledge Introduction to Theatre and Performance Studies, New York/London 2014; Performance and the Politics of Space. Theatre and Topology, New York/London 2013 (edited with Benjamin Wihstutz); Performing Ibsen. Performing Multiple Modernities, New York/London 2012 (edited with Barbara Gronau and Christel Weiler); The Transformative Power of Performance: A New Aesthetics, New York/London 2008.

Dieter Mersch

is director of the Institute for Critical Theory at Zurich University of the Arts. After receiving both his PhD and habilitation in philosophy from Technische Universität Darmstadt, he lectured on the philosophy of art and aesthetics at Muthesius Hochschule für Kunst und Gestaltung as a visiting professor. Between 2004 and 2013 Mersch was professor of media theory in the Arts and Media Department of the University of Potsdam.

Research areas:
philosophy of media, semiotics, aesthetics, philosophy of art, philosophy of language.

Selected publications: Ordo ab chao – Order from Noise, Zurich/Berlin 2013; Sichtbarkeiten 1: Erscheinen, Zurich/Berlin 2013 (edited with Mira Fliescher and Fabian Goppelsröder), Posthermeneutik, Berlin 2010; Ereignis und Aura. Untersuchungen zu einer Ästhetik des Performativen, Frankfurt/M. 2002.

Andrew Norris

is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the editor of Truth and Democracy (University of Pennsylvania, 2012), The Claim to Community: Essays on Stanley Cavell and Political Philosophy (Stanford, 2006), and Politics, Metaphysics, and Death: Essays on Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer (Duke, 2005). His recent publications include “‘How Can It Not Know What It Is?’ Self and Other in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner,” Film-Philosophy (2013), “On Public Action: Rhetoric, Opinion, and Glory in Hannah Arendt’s The Human Condition,” Critical Horizons (2013), and “The Disappearance of the French Revolution in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit,” The Owl of Minerva (2013). He is currently completing a monograph on Stanley Cavell’s contribution to practical philosophy.

Mathijs Pelkmans

is Associate Professor in the department of Social Anthropology at the London School of Economics (LSE). He received his PhD at the University of Amsterdam in 2003. Before joining the LSE, he held a postdoctoral position at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle/Saale. His first major ethnographic research project focused on the anthropology of borders in Georgia and in Kyrgyzstan; since then his empirical research focused on processes of religious change in the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Research areas:
social anthropology, anthropology of religion, border studies and religious conversion.

Selected publications:
Ethnographies of Doubt. Faith and Uncertainty in Contemporary Societies, London/New York 2013 (ed.); Conversation after Socialism: Disruptions, Modernisms, and Technologies of Faith in the Former Soviet Union, Oxford/New York 2009 (ed.); Defending the Border, Ithaca/London 2006.

Heidi Salaverría

is a freelance author, lecturer, consultant, and performance artist living in Hamburg. Holding a PhD in philosophy from the University of Braunschweig, she is currently lecturing at the universities of Flensburg, Vechta, and Lüneburg. She is also writing a book on the aesthetics of doubt.

Research areas:
The relationship between politics and aesthetics, philosophy of agency and recognition, pragmatism, philosophy of everyday life.

Selected publications:
»Ungeregelte Zweifel und politische Urteilsbildung bei Shklar und Rancière«, in: Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie, forthcoming; »Critical Common Sense, Exemplary Doubting, and Reflective Judgment«, in: Confines of Democracy (ed. by Castillo /Faerna/Hickman, forthcoming), Alterität und Anerkennung, Baden-Baden 2011 (edited with Andreas Hetzel and Dirk Quadflieg); »Enjoying the Doubtful. On Transformative Suspensions in Pragmatist Aesthetics«, in: European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy, Vol. 4, No. 1, 2012, pp. 247–254; Spielräume des Selbst. Pragmatismus und kreatives Handeln, Berlin 2007; Die Kunst der Anerkennung. Eine Swiki-Konversation, Hamburg 2006 (with Antje Eske/Kurd Alsleben).

Richard Shiff

is Effie Marie Cain Regents Chair in Art at the University of Texas at Austin, where he directs the Center for the Study of Modernism. He received a BA in architectural studies from Harvard University and holds a PhD in art history from Yale University. He served as a visiting professor at Emory University and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, received fellowships from both the Guggenheim and the Getty Foundation, a was honored with the “Distinguished Teaching of Art History” award.

Research areas:
art history of the 19th and 20th century, art theory, art criticism.

Selected publications:
Ellsworth Kelly: New York Drawing 1954–1962, New York 2014; Between Sense and De Kooning, London 2011; Doubt, New York/London 2008; Critical Terms for Art History, Chicago 1996 (ed. with Robert S. Nelson; 2nd edition 2003).

Miriam Strube

is professor of American Literature and Culture at the University of Paderborn. She was a research fellow at Harvard University, visiting professor at Oglethorpe University, Atlanta, and visiting scholar at Princeton University and Columbia University. She is currently spending her sabbatical at Princeton University and is writing a book on the intersections between the philosophy of pragmatism and modernist literature.

Research areas:
American literature of the 19th and 20th century, pragmatism, modernist poetry, gender studies, black studies, cultural theory, music and visual culture.

Selected publications:
American Philosophy and Culture: A Textbook, Münster 2014 (ed.; forthcoming); Pragmatism’s Promise, Special Issue of Amerikastudien/American Studies, Vol. 58, No. 2, 2013 (ed. with Susanne Rohr); Revisiting Pragmatism. William James in the New Millennium, Heidelberg 2012 (ed. with Susanne Rohr); Subjekte des Begehrens: Zur sexuellen Selbstbestimmung der Frau in Literatur, Musik und visueller Kultur, Bielefeld 2009.

Uwe Wirth

is Professor of German Literature and Cultural Studies at the Department for German Studies at Liebig University Giessen. From 2005 to 2007 he was Scientific Coordinator at the "Center for Advanced Studies in Literature und Culture" (ZFL), Berlin.

Research areas:
the analysis of the logic of dilettantism, questions of performativity, the paratextual framing of narratives and the interrelation between the concept of hybridity and the concept of grafting as models of culture.

Selected publications:
Die Geburt des Autors aus dem Geist der Herausgeberfiktion. Editoriale Rahmung im Roman um 1800: Wieland, Goethe, Brentano, Jean Paul und E.T.A. Hoffmann, München 2008; Kulturwissenschaft. Eine Auswahl grundlegender Texte, Frankfurt/M. 2008 (ed.); Dilettantismus als Beruf. Professional Dilettantism, Berlin 2010 (edited with Safia Azzouni); Impfen, Pfropfen, Transplantieren, Berlin 2011 (ed.).

Michelle Zerba

is Professor of English, Classics and Comparative Literature at Louisiana State University and currently a visiting scholar at Columbia University. She received her PhD in comparative literature from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1982.

Research areas:
classical literature, rhetoric and philosophy; early modern studies; political theory.

Selected publications:
Doubt and Skepticism in Antiquity and the Renaissance, Cambridge 2012; “What Penelope Knew: Skepticism and Doubt in Homer’s Odyssey”, in: Classical Quarterly, Vol. 59, No. 2, 2009, pp. 295-316; Tragedy and Theory, Princeton 1988. She is currently co-editing a special edition of the journal Comparative Literature entitled Odyssey, Exile, Return and the Norton Critical Edition of Aristotle’s Poetics.

Contact

Concept and Organisation:


Mark Halawa-Sarholz
Jörg Volbers



Venue:


the ICI Berlin Institute for Cultural Inquiry
Christinenstraße 18/19, Haus 8, D – 10119 Berlin
Tel: +49 (0)30 473 7291 – 10, U – Bhf. Senefelder Platz (U2)


A conference conducted by
the International Research Training Group »Interart« (FU Berlin) in cooperation with
the ICI Berlin Institute for Cultural Inquiry






Gestaltung und Programmierung: NEWOLDNOW.COM

Doubt/No Doubt