After a long time, we were happy to welcome guests at the Hybrid Lab on the Charlottenburg Campus of the Technical University and the University of the Arts. Prof. Dr. Christoph Gengnagel opened the 43rd Hybrid Talks on the topic "Science, Art and Activism".
The first speaker of our 43rd Hybrid Talks was Slovenian interdisciplinary artist Prof. Janez Janša. In his artistic works, the director of the master's program "Solo/Dance/Authorship" of the Hochschulübergreifendes Zentrum Tanz Berlin pursues an approach that deals with social and political fields of tension in a performative as well as conceptual way. Janez Janša explained his performative activism starting with his amusing and at the same time politically relevant project "NAME Readymade". In 2007 he and two other contemporary artists joined the conservative party SDS in Slovenia. In the same year, all three artists legally took the name of the then prime minister and chairman of the party Janez Janša. His political activism against the conservative prime minister was expressed in this long-term performance and resulted in an election campaign of the three Janez Janša with posters in public spaces and media appearances. The performance artists provoked public irritation and dissolved the boundaries between politics and art.
Kristina Leko, lecturer for art in context at the Berlin University of the Arts, works as an interdisciplinary artist with a focus on critical spatial and social interventions, representing a participatory approach. Her artworks, which are created with students among others, combine field research and art making and often deal with social problems and marginalized groups in urban society. In her lecture, she introduced us to exemplary projects such as "MISSING MONUMENTS" (Graz, 2007/08) on monuments to persons of migration and labor history who were previously unknown in urban history; FEMINIMUS VOR ORT (2021) in Berlin and projects on the decolonization of urban space. Through these brief insights, Kristina Leko made it clear to the audience that she sees art as political and that her mission is to change society through it.
Peter Ablinger, composer and member of the Academy of Arts Berlin, in contrast to Kristina Leko and Janez Janša, positioned himself critically to in his perception politicization of the arts in recent years. He believes that today's contemporary art is predominantly concerned with social and political issues. As an artist, he feels an appeal from both science and the arts to react and act on politically burning problems such as the climate crisis. But how should this be expressed in his compositions? In contrast to the visual and performing arts, music is less political, or perhaps not suitable for this in its expression. For himself, he also saw the problem of how he should act as a composer, how he should succeed where science and politics fail. Therefore, according to Ablinger, art should go on a "general strike" if it is to master the impossible play of the climate crisis alone.
Prof. Dr. Friedrich Steinle, historian of science at the Technical University of Berlin, was the last speaker of our evening and illuminated the topic from a historical perspective. Looking at science and activism in the 20th century, he said, there had always been scientists* who engaged in activism. He referred, for example, to the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists, which was founded by well-known scientists in the USA after the Second World War to warn against nuclear armament. In our present time, however, a new phenomenon has emerged: according to his observations, current activists increasingly refer to scientific findings, for example during the pandemic or on the topic of the climate crisis. One must be aware that scientific findings can be instrumentalized by political actors in order to achieve certain goals. This also affects the science of history, which can be observed in the war in Ukraine, for example, where history is reinterpreted by the Russians to legitimize their war of aggression on Ukraine.
After a stimulating discussion round, visitors were able to exchange ideas with the speakers over a drink.