the emancipatory
potential of
cultural practice

TEH Meeting 81
WUK, Vienna

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It’s (about) politics

Performing the Emancipatory Potential of Cultural Practice

Conference theme

There is widespread unease about a loss of democracy, globalisation and the power of neo-liberal markets, about inequality, eroding solidarity, and ever-expanding job and living insecurity. This unease affects us – a political response and action are called for.

The Trans Europe Halles Meeting 81 at WUK offers room for debate and reflection upon the emancipatory potential and impact of cultural practice. It’s (about) politics investigates what it means to be ‘political’: What does it mean for cultural centres? For each and every one of us? How do we act? How can we act – as individuals, as collectives, as institutions?

Independent cultural centres have their roots in the political act of appropriating space for alternative cultural and social production. Therefore, cultural institutions are also places where civil society acts, where questions of how to take part in the political process are negotiated and lived.

Taking into account these roots, the conference will focus on the self-conception and the role of cultural centres as institutions as well as the importance of art and culture in a political present characterised by the dynamics of inequality. In four thematic ‘routes’ It’s (about) politics will address a variety of issues, from contemporary political theory to practice-oriented inputs. From the perspectives of politicisation, networking, and building alliances, the possibilities of individual and collective political action will be discussed and interventions will be planned in the framework of more than 30 workshops, lectures, and talks by and with around 60 speakers.

Three key note speeches will present historically developed and contemporary approaches of cultural work to politics. Route 1 Scenarios of democracy introduces strategies, theories, and practices of political action in several modules. In hands-on sessions and practice-oriented workshops route 2 Wake up focuses on potentials and resources: What resources are available to us and how can/do we use them? In route 3 Know your enemies we will debate the economic background of the present-day situation: What are the effects of twenty-first-century capitalism? How can we act out of a situation of scarcity? Through various examples of cultural production Route 4 Art as a role model will take a closer look at political action by and through art. In an expanded panel discussion the conference closing will focus on the question: ‘What next?’