20 Sep 2019

The anthology of the NSU-study circle is here!

It has made its appearance as a special issue of Popular Inquiry - https://www.popularinquiry.com/ - (Volume 1 / 2019) edited by Noora-Helena Korpelainen, Olivia Glasser, and Emily Aiava.

It contains:
Raine Aiava, On Arriving: Introduction to the Appearances of the Political Anthology, pp. 1-8

Carsten Friberg, Political Aesthetics: A Philosophical Reflection, pp. 9-25

Elisabetta Di Stefano, The Power of the Gift: A Perspective of Political Aesthetics, pp. 26-35

Tomasz Ferenc, War Monuments as Vehicles of Memory and Activators of Social Action, pp. 36-46

Aniruddha Gupté, Synthesizing Solutions: An Exploration of the Modern Relevance of Socialist Design Principles Through the Medium of Plastics, pp. 47-63

17 Aug 2019

Appearing in Latvia
Seminar 5-10 August in Cēsis, Latvia

Our Ap.pol.-network appeared for five days of seminar in Cēsis – a summer session beyond NSU with the news of a new study-circle in NSU to begin in 2020: Urban Studies: Between Creativity and Power. Days of presentations, discussions, visit to Cēsis Mākslas Festivāls (art festival) and watching the TV-series Chernobyl (and a few minutes of the trailer of the Russian produced response).
Participants from Latvia, Poland, Italy and Denmark appeared; so did many different questions related to design and urban interventions in different forms which I will dwell a little on.
A theme coming up more times was interventions intended for making a difference in the place of intervention or among the people involved. A question was present in many forms: what will the intervention do – not in terms of the concrete change or transformation, but what the design of an intervention implies. Does intervention made with the best of intentions turn out to frame and affect the involved actors and the place in ways not-intended and conflicting with also the intentions? Is it actually the intervention that is where the political appears and the forms of intervention then what one should be aware of? Will good intentions sometimes turn out to be also means of political elements that were not intended yet becoming present in the intervention?
I will follow one line of reflections addressing some questions about this.

If one says the beauty of design is that it is fit for function (it seem the three-f formulas never leave design discourses) what is the fitting? Who does it fit? What is designed? Is it the object for use and we judge if it serves the purpose of function? Or is it the user that is designed?
Usually we will assume the designer knows what questions the design should answer. Let's say it is to keep liquids stored and available. Obviously the design-answer here is not related to a particular designer. Jars appear as an answer in early cultures (and one can question if we should talk about design previous to modern times). Further questions appear of more specific uses of the jar – like what kind of liquid it is intended for and in what situation. We have also questions of social relations about jars with specific forms for specific uses, like for a particular sauce on tables at special occasions and in consumer culture about appearing different from similar jars to get a position on a market. The more specific the requirement the narrower is the variety of successful answers, and often the critique will see the one fit for function in subtle ways to be the most praiseworthy. Critique then approaches art-critique – the design as the unique answer to what calls for its own particular answer.
But another question appears. Is the specific design-answer also an answer to a design of attitude and knowledge? Is the design also designing the user? So design designs the user!
The jar may simply be of help in a specific situation, but when the jar becomes a sauce boat for particular kind of sauces or a gift it intervenes into social relations. I now make a fool of me in the eyes of a critical community when I praise the over ornamented sauce boat or the cheap industrial imitation of the 'real' design.
Design does not design the social roles, but it does uphold them and contributes to refining and changing them. It adds to separating those with good taste from the rest – ask any teenager how strong that social differentiation is, and ask how strong it still is in place when one seeks recognition from a social group.
It gives rise to a line of questions about powers present and often implicit and neglected, not neglected out of an interest in explicitly ignoring them but because the appearance of the political here does not attract much attention.

What then when we look at interventions known from urban projects like Novi Beograd and the resettlement in agrarian Algeria. They are not only about providing housing and development but also to form people to be fit for function in the modern state and future requirements. The line of good intended projects is long – they provide answers to practicalities, offer service facilities, spaces for different activities considered to be needed etc. And then the experience is often that these projects end up with the problems they were designed to prevent.
Does the design fail? Is the design ambition wrong? Is the political ambition behind the design wrong?
Maybe a problem is the view on the users, they are simply not agreeing to the answers provided to their needs even though the understanding of the needs is not false.
How then to intervene a second time in such places? To change and improve.

It's possible to think art could contribute but when we move into that discourse another problem appears: art is no homogeneous category and artists are as different in approaches as anyone else.
A difficulty, of my own experiences, is how some artistic interventions show lack of sensitivity to where the interventions are. They can become very 'dogmatic' not least in their understanding of the people involved. Perhaps I have just participated in too many presentations and events based on the assumption that people in their daily do not pay attention to their body and the environment – as if it does not hurt as much on me when I accidentally hit the table leg with my little toe or as if artists never get physical problems due to bad working postures. At least the designer's approach to people is at its best (which it not always is) about awareness of and knowledge about the users while some (but not all!) artists approach them with prejudices about how users are.
The difficulty addressed here is one of communication, on of how to know and respect the audience. Also in the good cases we should be careful, not least because when it is good we may no longer be on our guard but blinded by our good intentions. When the art intervening can do something to people – and do is in this sense not only giving a moment of pleasant appreciation of something beautiful – it can make us aware of what we ignore and engage us in reflection, community building and problem solving. But what does now really distinguish us from the intentions of the original planners of the urban environment? Is this not about doing the exact same with different means? How do we in the end design also the dialogue with the involved partners without imposing upon them our ideals of what is good?
Perhaps we need to recognize that in these cases there is a conflict of interests and we do have to decide what is for the best and to act politically on behalf of what we believe to be best being aware of and explicit in what we do. Perhaps what it comes down to is recognition of a conflict, philosophical in its foundation, between two approaches: one of an analytical distinction between elements among which to choose what is considered the best and another of dialectic recognition of conflicting elements always present and a task of bringing them together in mutual recognition to proceed.
This, finally, brings me to how we in general need to reflect on what we do as we should pay attention to how the means of addressing something, whether in design, art or research, essentially may frame or at least colour our work. We can only see things with the eyes we have – and the use of any instrument to see better i.e. to focus implies deciding what should be let out of focus. The political appears not only in the environment, in design intentions for urban planning or artistic interventions, it appears in our own discourses on these matters. What I say and display is already filled with intentions that are not mine because I have to communicate with you where you are, in a form you can make sense of both in terms of making sense of the words and in terms of interpreting arguments, ideas and the overall context of meaning, and language, interpretation and meaning are not neutral but all ‘infected’ with political ideals. It is exactly a point about the appearances of the political: to increase awareness of what affects us but slips out of our attention even though we believe we pay attention to it.

26 Jun 2019

Afternoon Seminar, May 8 2019, Aalto University


Politics is about politics, but it is also about aesthetics and material culture (flags, songs), i.e. aesthetic choices. What kind of an ‘aesthetic culture’ is politics? How does party politics differ from activism? What is the aesthetics of our everyday life? How do we use art and aesthetics in politics? And what might be said about the ethical/political questions provoked by landscapes?

May 8 scholars of the AP.POL network will present their ideas of aesthetics and politics – and they hope to have a dialogue with YOU. AP.POL aims to create a network for people working in the intersections of politics and contemporary aesthetics.
The network follows loosely the work of the Nordic Summer University study circle Apparances of the Political (2016-2018). Its first meeting was in Palermo, May 11. AP.POL aims to create a network of people working on the intersections of politics and contemporary aesthetics and cultural studies.

12-12:15      Presentation of the AP.POL Network
12:15-13      Elisabetta Di Stefano (University of Palermo): Artification as a Tool for Political Aesthetics
13-13:45         Carsten Friberg (Freelancer): Some Thoughts About Body Bildung

Snacks (offered)

14:15-15:00   Margus Vihalem (Univ. of Tallinn), On Political Uses of Aesthetics
15:00-15:45   Mateusz Salwa (University of Warsaw), The Ethics of Landscape

Coffee (offered)

16:00-16:30     Max Ryynänen (Aalto University), Political Concepts as Aesthetic Concepts
16:30-16:45     Jon Irigoyen (Doctoral Student, Department of Arts)
16:45-17:00     Jakub Bobrowski (ViCCA)
17:00-17:15     Shubhangi Singh (ViCCA)

Hosts: Max Ryynänen & Tiago Martins Pinto

Seminar, Ascea, 2018



Appearances of the Political, Autumn Symposium
2nd – 5th of November, Marina di Ascea, Italy

In 2015 the study circle Appearances of the Political was formed in Nordic Summer University (NSU). This year it concludes its project within NSU.
The intention with this seminar is to share and exchange knowledge within the scope of the circle and also to maintain and build our network beyond NSU to establish future activities. We invite participants from the study circle along with those who have shown interest in it or, for various reasons, are thought could have an interest in it. Hence, it is not an open and widely distributed call but please share it with others you believe may have an interest.
We hope the study circle can form the basis for seminars, workshops and other activities to build relations for future applications including also funding for research.

Theme of the seminar
Both aesthetics and politics are concepts with a wide range of significances and the combination of them promises only more complications. Presentations should address how both concepts are interpreted and how the combination of them can be approached. Such approaches can relate to conceptual analyses, concrete examples, historical and contemporary cases, and to different fields of art and literature, popular culture and everyday phenomena, communication and design – to mention only a few.
The focus of the study circle is on contemporary phenomena hence historical studies should explicitly address how they add to an understanding of contemporary phenomena.
In particular we invite to a broad understanding of aesthetics to include more recent contributions e.g. in the field of atmosphere/ambiance and not to exclude either traditional understandings or experimental.
The study circle is cross-disciplinary and presentations will reflect both the diversity of participants and how different approaches can inform each other across conceptual and methodological differences. A particular attention should be given to how concepts, theories, approaches and examples can be made accessible for participants in other fields enabling the sharing of knowledge as well as forming a common platform for the study circle’s future work.

Appearances of the Political, Autumn Symposium
2nd – 5th of November, Marina di Ascea, Italy
Albergo Elea, Corso Elea 69
in collaboration with Wassard Elea
Refugium for writers, artists, composers, and scholars.

Friday, 2nd
18:00-20:00   Welcome & Refreshment

Saturday, 3rd
9.30                    Introduction: Appearances of the Political
10.00                 Henrik Juel (Denmark)
The Power of the Camera Presenting Politicians - a study in the rhetoric of camera techniques
Response: Elisabetta Di Stefano (Italy)
11.20                 Coffee break
11.40                 Virgil W. Brower (USA)
Political Phenomenology of Artwork: Aesthetic Dimensions of Populism. (Remarks on Art & Politics in a Totalitarian Era)
Response: Anete Vanaga (Latvia)
13.00                 Lunch
14.30                 Laine Kristberga (Latvia)
Performance Art in Central and Eastern Europe in the Period of Late Socialism
Response: Henrik Juel (Denmark)
15.50                 Coffee break
16.10                 Elisabetta Di Stefano (Italy)
Artification of public space. Mere decoration or political action?
Response: Minna Heikinaho (Finland)
17.30-18.30    Discussions

19.30                 Bus depart
20.00                 Festive Dinner: Menu di Gustazione, Cilentan style at Il Nido,

Sunday, 4th
9.30                    Reflection
10.00                 Minna Heikinaho (Finland)
Mimesis and the Articulating Body on a Stroll in the City
Response: Laine Kristberga (Latvia)
11.20                 Coffee break
11.40                 Bill Thompson (UK)
The Map, the Territory, the Cartographer and the Belief in Secular Isomorphism or the licencing of non-vitalism as a principle of practicing thinking being as a collective
Response: Virgil W. Brower (USA)
13.00                 Lunch
14.30                 Anete Vanaga (Latvia)
Auteur cinema in Latvia as a space to collide agonistic and antagonistic pluralism
Response: Bill Thompson (UK)
15.50                 Coffee break
16.10                 Discussion and conclusion

20.00                 Dinner

Also participating:
Robert Mogensen (Denmark)
Martina Hjertman (Sweden)
Bengt Westergaard (Sweden)
Lars Mogensen (Denmark/Italy)
Carsten Friberg (Denmark)

Wassard Elea, Via La Chiazzetta 27, I-84046 Ascea (SA), Italy.
Email: wassardelea@gmail.com Tel. +39 366 36 16 543.

AP.POL meeting, Palermo

Appearances of the Political ” (AP.POL - Network)
University of Palermo, 11 May 2018


Fabrizio Micari, Rector of the University of Palermo
Ada Maria Florena, Vice-Rector for International Relations
Leonardo Samonà, Director of the Department of Humanities

Elisabetta Di Stefano (University of Palermo)
Presentation of the NetworkAppearances of the Political

Signature of the international AP.POL Network Agreement

10.00 -10.30 coffe break

10:30- 11.30
Francesca Zanella (Study Centre and Communication Archive, Parma)
Rita Messori (University of Parma)

11:30- 12:00
Tonino Griffero (University of Roma Tor Vergata)
Like Leaves in the wind? Atmospheres and democracy

12:00- 12:30
Mateusz Salwa (University of Warsaw)
The Everyday Aesthetics of Public Space

12:30- 13:00
Margus Vihalem (Tallinn University)

13:00 – 14.00 Lunch

Max Ryynänen (Aalto University, Helsinki)
The Anarchist Banker. Activism, politics and visibility

15:30- 16:00
Carsten Friberg (University of Southern Denmark)
Aesthetic education and practice

16:00- 16:30
Elisabetta Di Stefano, University of Palermo
The Network “Appearances of the Political”: future perspectives for research