TM7 Workshop “Media aesthetics/Political aesthetics”; 5-7 January 2023; Kochi, Kerala

The workshop is initiated by ICAS:MP’s  media module: ‘Media and the Constitution of the Political (TM7)’. Apart from the workshop, we are looking to have two public platforms in the evening in collaboration with the Kochi-Muziris Biennale.

The past ten years have rapidly accelerated what Miriam Hansen once called the ‘political ecology of the senses’, a condition that emerged after twentieth century media modernity.  Today, cognition, public affect, experience and memory have been radically transformed. The Covid 19 pandemic highlighted how a complex set of technological infrastructures now shape life in pragmatic and exceptional ways.  Just as the social has become the technsocial (Terranova), the political has gone well beyond older normative debates.  More than a century ago, Walter Benjamin had hoped that cinema would train populations with new modes of apperception and play, and produce a playful, non-destructive, and collective engagement with technology. Today, this interface between technological play and diagrams of social control has been engineered into the larger political technologies of the contemporary.   There is also the anaesthetic experience of media technology, the dulling of the senses, the production of indifference to pain and trauma, the erosion of memory. Many of these features have been foregrounded in India and other parts of the world in recent years.

This new context calls for an expansive aesthetics, where the medial and the political form a larger constellation of sense making. In their recent book Investigative Aesthetics (2021) Mathew Fuller and Eyal Weizman make a case for aesthetics as a mode of sensing and sense-making, as a form of recording and intervening in the world.  In this larger collective process, there is no privileged or individual mode of aesthetic judgement: but a series of sensing capacities: driven by financial, biomedical, computational and geological movements. Aesthetics, as Fuller and Weizman write,  “is an approach that is fundamentally about assembling, and finding the means to recognise, a multiplicity of different forms of sensation”. If aesthetics refers to the sensing capacity of material entities, we are presented with hugely productive opportunities for populist aesthetics. 

In this relationality of sensing, political technologies of populism and right wing nationalism may mobilise different entities and practices (mountains, rivers, memories), and also intervene in new modes of hyper-aesthetics: overinformation, multiplication of sensing devices, crisis technologies. Hyperaesthesia is a peculiar oversaturated political aesthetics of the contemporary, where financialisation, sensation, violence and information overload produce new opportunities. In the context of expanded modes of sense-making which emerge from all material entities, how would we frame a political ecology of the senses in the contemporary? 

This workshop looks at the interfaces of  media and the political in the context of an expansive twenty-first century technological aesthetics, following the pandemic and the global rise of populist technics. We look back at the longer arc of twentieth century media experience and also into the future. Here are some of the themes:

  • Archaeologies of media aesthetics: revisiting older debates
  • Accelerationist aesthetics: money and political technologies
  • Populist aesthetics
  • Sensing politics
  • Saturation and hyperaesthetics of platform capitalism
  • Environmental media and the crafting of the political.
  • Hyper-aesthetics: saturation, anaesthetics, violence, information overload

Workshop Convener: Professor Ravi Sundaram (ICAS:MP Co-Director/CSDS)


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