Comparative Literature: Operational aesthetics – mapping the endless means of the sensible

Course content

Moving images has since its very invention developed along with changing regimes of work; a movement of capital that set the speed of the interval of images that today operate almost as workers, embodying the ‘dead labour’ of the machine and simultaneously bringing ‘live’ the productive performance in circulation. To properly understand the relation between labour and images, and, more specifically; the biopolitics that govern their ‘liveness’ at work­, we need to return to the history of modern logistics. Analysing the movement of images, or, more generally – the production circuits of aesthetics, we also need to analyse the movement of work. This brings us back to the first industrial logistics: the Atlantic slave trade – a moment which according also can be defined as the starting point of photography. In management researcher Stefano Harney’s words, it is a question of analyzing the “interface of the movement of commodities, and financialization of commodities.” Comparing this interface to both the supply line and the assembly line – in which the worker (and the image) function as both means and ends, Harney situates production within mediation itself (Harney 2018).

During this course, we will study how ‘logistical images’ may serve to produce themselves as ends, as workers in a looping industry of immanent mediation. These are rhythms that “tears man away from himself”, Franz Fanon writes. In The Wretched of the Earth (1961), he describes this movement as follows: “When I search for Man in the technique and the style of Europe, I see only a succession of negations of man” (my emphasis). Investigating the ‘working aesthetics’ (Danielle Child 2019) of such negations, we will read the history of aesthetics conjoint with the history of the moving (laboring) body.  From the concept of the ‘operational image’, here extended to a vaster understanding of ‘operational aesthetics’, we will read the history of the means for senses, and hopefully develop an immanent critique of such endless ends, and further engaging with Theodor W. Adorno’s definition of ‘aesthetic autonomy’ – where the working engagement of the senses function outside of production circuit. On the other hand, Adorno relied on the art institution as a safe haven for such engagement, why we today need to discuss the possible autonomy of a working aesthetics that instead of being institutionalized, institutes. Engaging with artistic methods that function beyond the museum factory itself, we will discuss how the means (our senses) of today function both in populist discourse as well as emancipatory struggles that may détourn their circulating interfaces, to enable indexical commons of means.   


Comparative Litterature and Modern Culture

History of Art and Visual Culture

Throughout the seven seminars, students will be encouraged to engage with examples both within and outside of the context of art. Through group discussions, individual mentoring, screenings and lectures, the course will finish with a collaborative writing of essays, where some of the methods investigated throughout the course, are both practiced and analysed

The course will include close readings of seminal literature, such as Karl Marx, György Lukács, Theodor Adorno, Walter Bewnjamin, Franz Fanon, Frederic Jameson, Jacques Rancière, Sven Lütticken, Marina Vishmidt and Stefano Harney – as well as engagement with essays and multimedia produced as or along with artistic investigations in this aesthetics, such as Allan Sekula, Hanni Kamaly, Hito Steyerl and Bouba Touré

Dette kursus udbydes i sammenarbejde med Litteratur/MK og Kunst/VK.
På Litteratur/MK kan det bruges til Litteratur- og kulturanalytisk emne, Kulturanalyse, Frit emne.
På Kunst/VK kan det bruges til Kunst og kulturforskning.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 56
  • Preparation
  • 280
  • Exam
  • 84
  • English
  • 420