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Kim West: Autonomous Cultural Practices: Some Thoughts on the "Long Revolution" of Cultural Democratization

Aesthetic Seminar. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic all Aesthetic Seminars are online and transmitted on Zoom and you must sign up for participation. If circumstances allow, we will locate them at Aarhus University or Kunsthal Aarhus as well. Venues then to be announced.

Info about event


Thursday 27 May 2021,  at 14:15 - 16:00

Registration Deadline is May 27 (at 12:00 CET). Sign up here

In this lecture Kim West will suggest that a concept of autonomy remains necessary for thinking the critical and emancipatory potentials of the arts today. A notion of the exceptional status of art and culture with respect to the logic of ordinary social relations, was essential to the project of cultural democratization, which informed progressive cultural policy endeavors in the European welfare states, from the origin of such endeavors in nineteenth century popular education initiatives, to their ongoing dismantlement under the guise of ”creative economy” reforms. In order to assert the continued validity of a program for the extension rather than the contraction of the field of democratic participation, West will propose that autonomy should be reconceptualized as a qualification of practices rather than of objects or modes of being, describing a process of asserting critical agency through the full cycle of cultural production and distribution, from formal concerns of style, composition, and materiality at the level of the artwork, to issues concerning technological and institutional mediation at the levels of social organization and infrastructure. By way of a discussion of several examples of experimental cultural policy initiatives in the visual arts field from the 1930s onwards, West will therefore ask: under what conditions could culture once again become the locus from within which a revived project of radical democracy may be imagined?

Kim West (PhD, Aesthetics, Södertörn University) is a critic, researcher, and editor, based in Stockholm. His research focuses on the contemporary development of critical aesthetic thought, the cultural history of popular avantgardes, and the institutional and technological transformations of art’s forms of mediation. He has published extensively in Sweden and internationally, and has translated books by among others Jacques Rancière, Michel Foucault, Jean Genet, Michèle Bernstein, and Mark Fisher into Swedish. He is a founding member of the independent research group Agentur, which is during 2020-21 conducting the research project "The Aesthetics of the Popular Fronts" (see agentur.ooo). He is a researcher at the department of Aesthetics at Södertörn University, currently initiating the research project "Autonomy, Culture, Action: On Culture’s Spheres of Political Action in the Neoliberal Welfare State" (2021-24)

The seminar is public, and we welcome everybody. 

Programme: Aesthetic Seminar spring 2021