Rudi Laermans – Post-intellectuality
Laermans starts with the observation that, as a social figure, the intellectual is 'dead' or non-existent nowadays – as far as intellectuals still exist, they are living as 'ghosts in the catacombs of culture and society'. He goes on to propose the hypothesis that the 'death of the intellectual' is tantamount to the disconnection of several characteristics that used to be unified in this figure: 'free thinking', critical commitment, essay writing and public visibility. According to Laermans a first important rupture in the history of the intellectual occurs when the connection gets lost between commitment and concern about values on the one hand, and the intellectual's 'experience of truth' on the other. He concludes with a discussion of two contemporary 'simulacrum figures' of the intellectual – the radical chic academic and the opinion maker – and relates them to the application of neoliberal logic within the university.
The intellectual – Niklas Luhmann – 'radical chic'
Hans Demeyer – Exhaustedly Adrift. On Mark Fisher
In this essay Hans Demeyer introduces the work of British cultural theorist Mark Fisher (1968-2017). Starting from a characterization of the ‘free intellectual’ as a precarious labourer, for whom work exhausts mental health, it both sketches Fisher’s intellectual biography and covers the dominant preoccupations of his critical production. It discusses his desire to revitalize the ‘popular modernism’ he encountered in his youth, qualifies his practice as blogger and reviewer in terms of ‘structures of feelings’, and traces his leftist political and aesthetic critique of late capitalism. Although Fisher’s work offers an escape from the personal, a final section asks if it allowed for instances of compassion.
cultural theory – Mark Fisher – the Intellectual
Bart Verschaffel – Losing with style. Living and writing according to Dirk Lauwaert
Verschaffel characterizes the writing practice of Flemish essay writer Dirk Lauwaert as an existential project: a lifelong attempt to 'lose with style' and to escape from the inability to live. According to Verschaffel, the intense confession of the unliveability of existence is the basis of Lauwaert's critical work. As existence is unliveable, it needs to receive a form (to become liveable). Lauwaert finds these forms in fiction, in the first place film, which is for him the art par excellence that 'shows bodies and looks at bodies, that conceives of hundreds of different ways to express emotions and consciousness in corporeality'. The urge to make (the nakedness of) life liveable also supports Lauwaert's interest in clothing, within film and real life. Writing, for Dirk Lauwaert, was tantamount to giving 'form' to one's own life: his texts were like images in which the writer could appear and disappear, show himself and withdraw.
Dirk Lauwaert (1944-2013) – Essay Writing
Eddy Bettens – Words in the wind. Reading notes
Bettens writes about literary 'short forms' and books that consist of nothing more than 'notes' – the classical example being the so-called Waste Books by Georg Christoph Lichtenberg. Authors like Lichtenberg, Sei Shōnagon, Gerhard Amanshauser, Georges Perros… practise a minimalistic, free and almost passive form of writing, that ranges from making notes to writing down quotations or even just highlighting parts of an existing text with lines in the margin. Often these unpretentious 'note books' have something dilettantish about them, but they also possess 'passive virtues' like resignation and reticence. Bettens concludes that these 'note writers' are endowed with the extraordinary capacity for 'writing with an open hand'.
Gerhard Amanshauser – Literature – Notes
Arnold Heumakers – The tension between art, politics and life. On Erich Wichman, free radical in Centraal Museum Utrecht
While visiting the exhibition Erich Wichman, free radical in the Centraal Museum Utrecht, Arnold Heumakers found himself asking: is the art of Erich Wichman (1890-1929) 'left' or 'right', or is this question out of place? In this essay, Heumakers explores the biography, writings and art of Wichman, who is known to have been an extreme-right agitator and by some is even considered the first fascist of the Netherlands. He finds that Wichman's writings hardly contain any statements about the social function of art, but at the same time remarks that a certain Nietzschean vitalism links his views on art and politics. Furthermore Heumakers observes that Wichman's 'fascist writings' (mainly Fascism in the Netherlands from 1925) are remarkably unpolitical and that his art can be regarded at most as a mere illustration of his rebellious political ideas.
Art and Fascism – Dutch Art – Erich Wichman (1890-1929) – Fascism
Erwin Jans – Orientalism Now!
Forty years ago Edward Said published Orientalism (1978). This book has had an enormous impact on postcolonial theory, literary theory, cultural studies, and oriental studies. It also plays a major role in contemporary discussions on 'whiteness' in the art world. In this article, however, Erwin Jans reminds us of the critical reception of Said's book, mainly from Marxist circles, and Said's response to this critique. Jans concludes that the popularity of Said's book has contributed to the dominance of a binary and schematic way thinking about the self and the other.
Edward Saïd – Postcolonial theory