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`The Articulation of Protest': A Lecture by Alberto Toscano

Published 2012/09/17

From William Bunge’s Fitzgerald: Geography of a Revolution (1971)

Norsk versjon


As the second lecture in the series

`The Articulation of Protest´
A Programme on Some of the Logistics
of Information and Social Activism Today

Friday, 21 September 2012 / 19:00
Live audio streaming

Office for Contemporary Art Norway 
Nedre Gate 7 
0551 Oslo, Norway l

OCA welcomes social theorist and philosopher Alberto Toscano on Friday 21 September at 19:00, with a lecture dedicated to the rift between logistics, on the one hand, and protest, dissent and intervention, on the other. In his paper, Toscano will analyse how the current focus on the politics of logistics and the insistence on invisible circulation might be undermining or sidelining the art of protest.

Invisibility, connectivity, the immaterial and the systemic, all associated to modern economic life, pose persistent problems that are even more urgent in times of depression. It is normally in these times when the interruption of the flow of goods and people makes the system and its mechanics visible. But, as Harun Farocki’s investigations into the language of war and marketing show, images of the symbols of power and resistance are often made not to be seen. Perhaps because of this, much recent artistic work that seeks to unsettle consensual perceptions of our world has been profoundly preoccupied by logistics – by the mutation of maritime space into a the space of containers, by the creation of virtual theatres of war, by the innervation of lived experience by abstract matrices of information and finance… However, is this almost ubiquitous focus on the logistical taking us away from the art of protest? Should we trust its suggestion that the only strategies we have left are blockage, interruption and sabotage, and no longer proposals for change? 

Alberto Toscano has written on militancy, egalitarianism, religious thought and social protest, in order to explore ‘the point at which theology (or religious practice and conviction) and social protest intersect’. His 2010 book Fanaticism: On the Uses of an Idea addresses a poverty of analysis and imagination resulting from the wish to remain within a closed theoretical horizon, in which, adopting the words of Margaret Thatcher, ‘there is no alternative’. In response, Toscano proposes a sociological critique that ‘can function as a potent antidote to the role of the concept of fanaticism as a kind of negative talisman, a tool for exorcism’, shifting the understanding of fanatical movements ‘beyond the merely ideational level, to that of social groups, interests, discourses, as well as their patterns of communication, and their specific intensities and patterns of emergence’.

The Articulation of Protest’ is a programme of two lectures that looks into strategies that have emerged in recent times through actions and communication, and in dialogue or confrontation with existing legislation, with the aim to secure free circulation of information and knowledge in the face of the state's or capital's attempts to control and to commodify them. In doing so, they explore individual and collective initiatives and other strategic choices, and discuss them in relation to a history of critical organisation, of free speech and activism.

The Swedish historian Rasmus Fleisher opened the programme on 14 September with a lecture about current developments and polemics within ‘social media’ and the reality of a social engagement within these channels.

Alberto Toscano
Alberto Toscano is a social theorist, philosopher and a lecturer in sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London, UK. Toscano is the author of Fanaticism: On the Uses of an Idea (2010) and The Theatre of Production: Philosophy and Individuation Between Kant and Deleuze (2006). He has translated into English several works by Alain Badiou, such as Logics of Worlds (2009), The Century (2007) and Handbook of Inaesthetics (2005), and is co-editor of Alain Badiou’s Theoretical Writings (2004) and On Beckett (2003). He has co-translated and prefaced Éric Alliez’s The Signature of the World (2004) and Antonio Negri’s Political Descartes (2007). He has published several articles on contemporary philosophy, ontology and social theory. He sits on the editorial board of the journal Historical Materialism, and edits the Italian List for Seagull Books. He is currently completing a book on representations of contemporary capital, titled Cartographies of the Absolute (with Jeff Kinkle).

For more information on the programme, please contact OCA’s press officer Maria Moseng

OCA Semesterplan - Spring 2011: Recital of Vevnad by Arne Nordheim

Published 2011/06/07

Norsk versjon


Performed by Hans Josef Groh, Sverre Riise and Asbjørn Blokkum Flø.

Wednesday 15 June, 19:00
Office for Contemporary Art Norway
Nedre gate 7, 0551 Oslo

I do everything myself, from the beginning, spinning,
dyeing and later weaving the yarn into the heart.
It thus becomes weaving of art, not the art of weaving.
- Hannah Ryggen,
Vi lever på ei stjerne, Inga Elisabeth Næss, Samlaget 2002

In connection with the closing of the exhibition 'Forms of Modern Life', which includes two major works by Hannah Ryggen (1894-1970) on loan from The National Museum in Oslo, OCA has commissioned the recreation of a recital of Vevnad as originally composed by Arne Nordheim (1931-2010), and now performed with Hans Josef Groh on cello and Sverre Riise on trombone. Asbjørn Blokkum Flø will steer the MIDI-file for the Disklavier. This recital marks the first and only time this experimental composition has been revisited and reperformed publicly since the introduction to audiences in 1993.

Arne Nordheim composed Vevnad in conjunction with Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimuseum's 100th year anniversary as a tribute to Hannah Ryggen, an artist who for nearly four decades created tapestries based on a committed social and political engagement. The piece is a homage to the artist, her approach to her medium, and reflects the concept of weaving on several levels: the score consists of three sections, all named after technical terms of weaving: Woven piece, Weft and Warp. The piano part is composed and drawn in a manner that visually makes the notes in the original score resemble woven material. During the actual performance Nordheim steered a Disklavier from a computer with the front of the instrument removed facing towards the audience. The strings and the mechanical movements inside the Disklavier thus resembled a shuttle moving through the warp of a loom.

Arne Nordheim premiered Vevnad on the opening of the 100th year anniversary exhibition at Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimuseum on 2 October 1993, together with cellist Ingrid Stensland, trombonist Arne Johansen and Sigurd Saue who steered the MIDI-file for the Disklavier. The concert was held in the Hannah Ryggen Hall surrounded by her tapestries.

About the artists

Arne Nordheim (1931-2010) made his international breakthrough in the beginning of the 1960s with the song cycle Aftonland (Evening Land, 1957), followed by Canzona (1960) and Epitaffio (1963). His work has since then been played by leading orchestras and musicians around the world, and he is considered the Norwegian contemporary composer who has achieved the greatest recognition beyond the boarders of his own country. Nordheim received a large number of prices and honors including the Arts Council Norway Honorary Award (1990). From 1981 he was the tenant of Grotten, the honorary residence offered by the State to the nation's most outstanding creative artist. In 1997 he was elected honorary member of the International Society for Contemporary Music.

Hans Josef Groh studied cello with Valentin Erben and Martin Ostertag in Germany. Until 1992 he was a member of Ensemble 13, one of Germany's leading ensembles of contemporary music. He is currently a cello player with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra, in addition to being a regular player in the Oslo Sinfonietta, and a member of the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra. He has taught at the Badisches Conservatoir, Karlsruhe, Germany and The Barratt Due Institute of Music, Oslo, Norway. In 2010 he was awarded Spellemannsprisen for his CD Die 7. Himmelsrichtung, in the category for contemporary music.

Sverre Riise studied trombone with professor Ingemar Roos at the Norwegian State academy of Music, and has held the position as principal trombone in the Norwegian Opera Orchestra and the Norwegian Radio Orchestra, where he still is today. In 2000-2001 and 2006 he was playing with the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, and he has occasionally been playing with the Norwegian Radio Orchestra and the Oslo Sinfonietta. Sverre Riise is currently a teacher at the Barratt Due Institute of Music in Oslo.

Asbjørn Blokkum Flø holds a diploma in composition from the Norwegian Academy of Music. Since 1999 he has worked as a freelance composer and sound artist with focus on instrumental music, electronic music and sound art for radio and installations. Flø's works have been performed in a number of festivals, including DEAF (Dutch Electronic Arts festival, Rotterdam, the Netherlands), Synthése (International Festival of electronic music and sonic art - Bourges, France), Ultima, Oslo and the Ibsen Festival, Oslo. He has represented Norway in Ars Acustica twice.

OCA would like to thank Rannveig Getz Nordheim for generous permission to perform Vevnad, Sigurd Saue from NTNU for the MIDI-file, NOTAM - Norwegian center for technology in music and the arts, for technical assistance and Jan Bjørnar Sture/KHIO for lending of the Disklavier, Jan-Lauritz Opstad from Nordenfjeldske Kunstindustrimuseum, Harald and Peter Herresthal from NMH and Øyvind Nyvoll from Ensemble Ernst. The event is curated by Tonja Boos from OCA.