Subproject 5

Principal investigators:
Prof. Dr. Elke Bippus, Zürcher Hochschule der Künste, Institut für Theorie
Prof. Dr. Christoph Brunner, Leuphana University Lüneburg

Research associates: Ruth Lang, Nate Wessalowski
Associated researcher: Iris Julia*n Gütler
Student assistant: Lara Holenweger



The art-theoretical and media-philosophical project centers the concept of participatory critique and investigates it along its sensuous, technological, and political conditions with the aim of rendering the modes of expression of such critique describable. The project’s focus resides equally in the material, relational, and constituent aspects of such critique. Practices of participatory critique will be examined as constituent conditions, priming, differentiating, and challenging the segmentations, boundaries and framings of systems – such as art, socioculture, or politics. Relaying the praxeological research on media participation in artistic and activist micro practices of the first funding period, this second phase shifts its until then anthropologically oriented perspective towards more-than-human modes of existence. The new research trajectory emphasizes the qualities and potentials of critique as participatory from the vantage point of a posthuman conception of artistic and activist practices of resistance in media environments. From a theoretical point of view Judith Butler’s notion of performativity defines a decisive instance. Butler deconstructs the “voluntaristic subject of humanism” and inquires about the posthuman. In such a posthuman condition, the power to act resides not in the sovereign subject but rather conceives of vulnerability as the ground for emergent ways of subjectivation with and through material, mental and media ecologies.

The project conducts research on different dimensions of participatory critique in artistic knowledge practices as well as militant research (AB 2), on the Spanish municipalist movement and its technopolitics as well as the media studies genealogy of techno-collectives (AB 3). The aim is to weave ethico-aestehtic and aesthetico-political micro practices in art and activism into each other. Accordingly, participatory critique reveals its (non-)linguistic and more-than-human material and media forms of critique – putting them to the test – without reproducing acclaimed categories such as art vs. activism (AB 1). TP 5 focuses on the relationality of aesthetic-sensuous practices, affective dimensions, and material and infrastructural aspects of participatory critique through the analysis of case studies and its conceptual developments. Consequently, a theoretical re-positioning of the relation between art and activism and a differentiated analysis of techno-ecologically refined micro-practices and their modes of collectivity provide key elements of the project’s contributions to an overall theory of media participation.

Research associate: Sebastian Dieterich


This project studies the interrelation of aesthetic practices and participation, understands contradiction as a constitutive element of participation, and attempts to make resistance apparent as a performative pharmacological micropractice. The concept of “micropractices” is based on Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s theory of micro- and macropolitics (Deleuze and Guattari 1987). Those authors define micropolitics as a critique based on the model of representation that, with the intention of creating resistance, uncovers microscope phenomena beneath the large units defined as molar (state, society, church, school, capital, companies, etc.) and maps, so to speak, movements, lines, and forces.

The concept of micropractice adopts the perspective described by Deleuze and Guattari and shifts it slightly. The central fields of investigation are not structures and social contexts but rather practices. Like practices, micropractices are not indebted to a sovereign subject but result rather “from the intertwined connections of the events, which may be prefigured by cultural conventions but can be transform historically and hence is not determined.” (Alkemeyer, Budde, and Freist 2013, 21). Correspondingly, strategies of contradiction, demarcation, reversal, or shifting that can make practices effective in micropractical ways, to the extent they dissect, stretch, break up, or exaggerate, as it were, the learned course of practices that is perceived as natural. In their ineluctable connection to goal-oriented and standardized practices, micropractices are fundamentally pharmacological. That means they are at once formative and de-formative. In other words, they are determined in two way: they can have a programming, disciplinary, or standardizing effect, by referring to “what is to be done” as well as to “what is to be known” (Foucault 1991, 75), but they can also contradict norms by disturbing, diverting, and opening up the potential of the learned orientation of practices that is perceived as natural. The development and training of micropractical processes promises to call accepted conventions into question, to reflect self-critically on the determination and standardization of practices, and to resist effectively processes of subjectification.

The subject areas of Micropractices: Forms of Resistance and Engagement are aesthetic, social, and participatory methods for art and socioculture. In her research area, Micropractices in the Field of Art and their Aesthetic Politics, Elke Bippus will study a participation that forms through contradiction and therefore, it is assumed, remains a divided one. Contradiction is considered in relation to the conditions of the art system and is studied as something that develops participation or nonparticipation or belonging or not belonging. The guiding issue is that these micropractical, contradictory, and self-contradictory processes of participation form ways of resisting that can occur performatively in face of the relationality and dependence.

Sebastian Dieterich makes aesthetically motivated practices of working together on sociocultural projects the focus of his research area, “Do It Together”: On a Micropractice of Existence. He sheds light on shared gardening and cooking, practices of sharing, repairing, or handiwork in public workshops, and practices of self-organization and (re)appropriation of urban space. The goal, however, is always to work out the resistant but also pharmacological potential of these practices from the uniform perspective of micropractice.

The goal is to reveal micropractices as sensory, physical, reflexive, discursive, and above all experimental methods that reflect on resistance and engagement as a pharmacological practice of participation.

Alkemeyer, Thomas / Gunilla Budde, and Dagmar Freist, „Einleitung“, in: Diess. (Hrsg.), Selbst-Bildungen. Soziale und kulturelle Praktiken der Subjektivierung, Bielefeld: transcript 2013, 9–30.

Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Trans. Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press 1987.

Michel Foucault, „Questions of Method,“ trans. Colin Gordon, in The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality; with Two Lectures by and an Interview with Michel Foucault, ed. Graham Burchell, Colin Gordon, and Peter Miller (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1991), 75.

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