The Aesthetics of Resistance

lecture & discussion

Róza El-Hassan is a Budapest-based artist of Syrian-Hungarian origin. Her retrospective exhibition in Műcsarnok / Kunsthalle Budapest presents an oeuvre where an initial post-conceptual, disembodied and disengaged, rather hermetic period was followed by a (more subjective, political and critical attitude. This transition, which later prompted one of El-Hassan’s reviewers to call her an „existential propaganda artist”, was the outcome of acknowledging the precarious nature of identity and the impact of social-political forces that shape it. In her recent work, El-Hassan interrogates issues rooted in her double identity; but she does so in a way that goes beyond personal implicatedness.

These issues include the vexed questions of progress and/or tradition; the definitional monopoly of superpowers accounting events in international politics, and the function of „identity traps”, the often homogenizing tendency of which is countered, in El-Hassan’s work with the experience of inhabiting hybrid social contexts.

El-Hassan’s artistic activity opens up the ground to discuss various aspects of radical cultural activism. One of such aspects is the conditions to interpret political/activist art praxis. As art – and engaged art little less than other forms of art – retains its autonomy and is separated from the immediate social space, its practitioners are not expected to actually solve emerging social problems, rather to engage in practices that may create discursive space to induce social changes. But acknowledging that art possesses a relative autonomy within society is not to suggest that it is independent of society. What is the gain, then, of the existence of such a relatively autonomous social space?

The dynamics of traditional object making and performative art praxis is balanced within Róza El-Hassan’s oeuvre by her conviction that the protest against war and violence may both resort to the means of aesthetic reflection and actual change-oriented activism. The tension between aesthetics and politics, however, does beg the question: how can a modernism-indebted, self- and object-centered creative practice, investing so much in the immanence of the work of art, be compatible with the above-described activist tendencies in contemporary art?

The contradictions and ambiguity of progress and tradition, a frequent conflict also in East-West relations, is given an ample treatment in El-Hassan’s work. Taking up this line of thought, the symposium means to reflect upon the exchangeability of experiences from differing cultural contexts and the difficulties of cultural translation.

Concept: Róza El-Hassan, Dóra Hegyi, Bea Hock
Organizer: tranzit. hu
Co-organizer: Agency for Contemporary Art Exchange (ACAX), Budapest

Friday 29.09.2006
14.00- 17.30
Moderator: Dora Hegyi

14.00 - 15.00
Tour in the exhibition with Roza El-Hassan

15.00 - 15.35
Eva Fodor sociologist, Budapest
Overpopulation debates


15.50 - 16.25
Emese Suvecz, free-lance curator, Budapest
Exhibiting contradictions

16.25 - 17.00
Gerald Raunig, philosopher, Vienna
Art and Revolution

Discussion ca. until 17.30

Saturday 30.09.2006
10.00- 14.00

Moderator: Bea Hock

Beral Madra, curator, Istanbul

Arab Lotfy, documentary filmmaker, Cairo


Dieter Lesage, philosopher,Brussels-Berlin
Resistance, radicality, resignation

Pal Szacsva y artist, Budapest
From the perspective of the artist

Milica Tomic artist, Branimir Stojanovic philosopher, Belgrade
If there is no god, all is forbidden!

Final Discussion ca until 14.00

Aesthetics of Resistance.doc (doc, 68 kb)