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The Ethics of Critique
Two-Day Conference by Michael Rebhahn
Mon 23 July 2018, 10.00 – 17.00
Contributions in English or German with English subtitles
According to its definition, critique is an act of distinction: between the successful and the failed, the true and the false. This results in an enormous task that must be fulfilled with responsibility, care and impartiality. The inflation of critical practice as well as its fragmentation towards a narcissistically exaggerated hyper-critique increasingly undermine these categories, however. Not least against the background of an informal join-in culture
in social media, the conditions and varieties of critical practice have undergone a decisive change: authorities have been shifted, professionalism eroded — now anyone can pose as a critic by claiming public space for their opinion. In the setting of an unfettered ‘mouthing off’, argumentation and style deteriorate; explanation is replaced by assertion and instead of nuanced knowledge, one encounters ignorance that purports to be informed.
The Ethics of Critique is a two-day contemplation of the forms, means and gestures of critique, its conditions, possibilities, aims and boundaries. The composer Johannes Kreidler will defend himself against applause as an instrument of power, the music journalist Robert Barry will explain the changes in the basic conditions of critique in the age of algorithmic opinion-forming and the poet Nora-Eugenie Gomringer will ask where the demarcations lie between artistic freedom, public access and censorship. In addition, the effect and practice of critique will be discussed in two panels. The first is ‘How to deal with It?’ and asks: what does critique trigger — intellectually and emotionally? How does it in uence individual working processes? The second is ‘How to Do It?’: what are legitimate and what are unacceptable means of critique? How does social media change the quality and language of critical acts?
10.00 Opening Lecture Michael Rebhahn: All Bark And No Bite? On Certain Tendencies In Current Criticism
11.00 Lecture-Performance Johannes Kreidler: Against Applause
13.30 Lecture Robert Barry: Criticism As Hyperstition
Traditional journalistic ethics have always boiled down to a question of fidelity. The guidelines set by professional bodies will revolve around such themes as accuracy, truthfulness, impartiality, honesty, and neutrality. In general, when we talk about „the ethics of criticism“, it is usually values such as these, or similar, that we are invoking. But to what extent is this possible – or even desirable? And what risks does it pose for criticism as a profession?
In his 2010 book, You Are Not A Gadget, American computer scientist Jaron Lanier argued that social media encourages people to mould their personalities to suit computer models of themselves. But the logic identified by Lanier is not limited to the walled gardens of Facebook and Snapchat. Critics, too, increasingly, critique solely to be aggregated, risking redundancy at the hands of algorithmic recommendation engines. But is another criticism possible – beyond the demands of faith and Facebook?
14.30 Conversation: How To Deal With It?
With: Björn Gottstein, Barbara Lüneburg, Hannes Seidl, Jennifer Walshe
Moderation: Michael Rebhahn
16.00 Discussion (Optional)
Co-Funded By The Creative Europe Program Of The European Union Supported By The Ulysses Network