Testing the Limits of (In)Action – On the Affective Neg(oti)ation of the Future of Europe via Artist Activism

Authors: Friederike Landau*, Postdoctoral Researcher
Topics: Political Geography, Cultural Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: negativity; post-foundationalism; artist activism; Berlin; intervention; Europe; borders
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Virginia A, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

The paper sets out to explore the interrelation between acts of boundary-drawing and affect to unpack the potential of an ontology of negativity within political activism. Viewing borders as structuring element of difference- and negativity-based political theory (Marchart 2007, 2013; Laclau/Mouffe 1985; Laclau 2007) and affect as crucial capacity to activate radical understandings of democracy (Mouffe 2005, 2013), the paper critically examines the understudied dimension of affect in neg(oti)ating spatial boundaries or limits in post-foundational thought and political geography.

The paper examines the performance, First European Fall of the Wall (2014), by the Berlin-based artist activist group, Center for Political Beauty, in which the group temporarily removed white crosses, a memorial site commemorating civil casualties of the German-German border, situated in the vicinity of the German Bundestag, and transported them to the southern borders of the European Union. While the unsolicited displacement of the spatial boundaries of Europe (i.e., marking/moving the limits of European space, morale and belonging) might suggest a pro-active form of activism, the paper reveals the group’s activity as situated within a logic of radical negativity rather than positivity. In this vein, the acknowledgement of the absence of ‘official’ and/or legally binding European migration politics, and the appeal to the fatal vulnerability of the past and future casualties at the border reveal the action as negative practice of activism. Ambiguating the meaning of ‘borders’ and ‘limits’, fusing their spatial, symbolic or affective ramifications, the paper sketches the potentiality of ‘negative’ protest via action that highlights inactio

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