Monthly Archives: June 2020

The Dark Side of Progress

Passagen Streams#1: The Dark Side of Progress
Critical Voices on The Corona Crisis
A Conversation with Peter Engelmann and Jean-Luc Nancy on June 10, 2020

Engelmann: Dear Guests, I welcome you to the Passagen Streams, our new online format, by which we try to give our authors a voice during the corona crisis. I would like to thank our collaborating partners, the Volksbühne Berlin, the Gessnerallee in Zurich and the Kunsthalle Vienna for the realization of this project. For our first Passagen Stream I would like to warmly welcome Jean-Luc Nancy, our long-time author and friend. He has joined us from Strasbourg.

Dear Jean-Luc, was the lockdown, which imprisons all humanity, another step towards the formation of an authoritarian state, or was it justified to contain the pandemic?

Nancy: The lockdown, as you call it, was justified. If you look at what we knew about the different things, about the possibilities, at least I believe that the core of the question is aimed at the alleged authoritarian state and I see no signs of authoritarianism of the state, no signs at all. Furthermore, these are states that had no interest in taking authoritarian measures. In fact, they have difficulties in doing so, particularly France. I believe that there is a discussion that is completely pointless.

Engelmann: Giorgio Agamben speaks of the fact that with the measures to contain the Corona crisis the threshold from humanity to barbarism has been crossed.

Nancy: The interpretation of our friend Agamben is an interpretation that is based on a prejudice that has nothing to do with the situation and that is based on the assumption that the state, the modern state, wants only one thing: to create states of exception and to transform the entire territory of the country into an extermination camp, or at least into a penal camp. I have no idea where such an interpretation comes from. I think that Agamben confuses two things here, namely the state and the technical-economic machinery that indeed controls the whole world. But when you talk about this machinery, it is not as if it wants to set up a penal camp for everyone. This machine does not want anything. It does not know what it wants even though it constantly moves forward (progresses). In any case, it is the case that the states naturally have many connections, interests, necessities tied to this machinery, but there is no conspiracy and no intentional calculation. And what is stupid is that the interpretation of Agamben names a culprit even though there is no culprit. We are all guilty. You could say with Dostoyevsky, we are all guilty and I more than anyone else. We are all part of that machinery. Continue reading


Clearances. Reading by Manuela Koelke and screening of Harun Farocki’s The Leading Role (1994).
Presented at TIER The Institute of Endotic Research, Wednesday, October 23, 2019 as part of Objects Before and After the Wall, Part 3.

“For the third part of Objects Before and After the Wall at TIER, a collaboration with Tlaxcala 3 in Mexico City, Manuela Koelke will investigate her experiences of East Berlin, and we will screen Harun Farocki’s film The Leading Role (1994). Both works reflect on the role subjective experiences and conflicting media narratives play in the capture, remembrance and re-writing of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
In her reading, Manuela Koelke revisits her childhood experience of growing up in East Berlin before and after the fall of the wall in November 1989, which brought about a sudden change of appearances, people disappearing, the economy crumbling, ideologies shifting, socialized land and goods being privatized, and new commodities flooding the East. But what really changed, from whose perspective? How do the subjective micro-stories of those who lived through these events relate to the state-sanctioned and media-driven narrative, then as now? How is the conflict between personal and collective affectedness to be understood, considering walls both within and outside? This foray into memories will question the value of being persuaded by any one perspective, whether personal or collective, and instead emphasize the need to make up one’s own mind, not to uncritically believe what the media claims to be true, and to find one’s own answers by relating to motivations other than one’s own.
Five years after the fall of the wall, Harun Farocki’s film The Leading Role (1994) delivers a montage film of media footage, produced by East and West German television crews at that time trying, for days on end, to get an emblematic image which would crystallize the event. In the attempt to define this ‘absent image’, “[…] this material shows the extent to which the collective conscience was affected by the event, as well as all the efforts made to repress the trauma” (Harun Farocki).”

Clearances © TIER – Institute of Endotic Research

The publication Objects Before and After the Wall was launched in an online conversation on Wednesday, June 10, 7pm together with the editors Benjamin Busch and Lorenzo Sandoval, and the contributors Tlaxcala3 (Ali Cotero and Clara Bolivar), Rodolfo Andaur, Eli Cortiñas, Manuela Koelke and Sung Tieu. Continue reading