The Loss of Object and Practice of Philosophy as Art: Interview with Byung-Chul Han

Byung-Chul Han

Byung-Chul Han in his latest book  – Undinge (Nonobjects) claims that the age of object is over. “Today we are in the transition from the age of objects to the age of nonobjects. Information, not objects, now defines our environment. Under no circumstances do I want to praise old, beautiful objects. That would be very unphilosophical. I refer to objects as resting places for life because they stabilise human life. The same chair and the same table, in their sameness, lend the fickle human life some stability and continuity. We can linger with objects. With information, however, we cannot. In Undinge I have made the proposition that nowadays we perceive reality primarily in terms of information. As a consequence, there is rarely a tangible contact with reality. Reality is robbed of its presence. We no longer perceive its physical vibrations. The layer of information, which covers objects like a membrane, shields the perception of intensities. Perception, reduced to information, numbs us to moods and atmospheres. Rooms lose their poetics. They give way to roomless networks along which information spreads. Digital time, with its focus on the present, on the moment, disperses the fragrance of time. Time is atomised into a sequence of isolated presents. Atoms are not fragrant. The informatisation of reality thus leads to a loss of space and time.

If we want to understand what kind of society we live in, we have to comprehend what information is. Information has very little currency. It lacks temporal stability, since it lives off the excitement of surprise. Due to its temporal instability, it fragments perception. It throws us into a continuous frenzy of topicality. Hence it’s impossible to linger on information. That’s how it differs from objects. Information puts the cognitive system itself into a state of anxiety. We encounter information with the suspicion that it could just as easily be something else. It is accompanied by basic distrust. It strengthens the contingency experience. Fake news embodies a heightened form of the contingency that is inherent in information. And information, due to its ephemerality, makes time-consuming cognitive practices such as experience, memory or perception disappear. So my analyses have nothing to do with nostalgia.

Effectively more artists than philosophers read my books. Philosophers are no longer interested in the present. Foucault once said that the philosopher is a journalist who captures the now with ideas. That’s what I do. Moreover my essays are on their way to another life, to a different narrative. Artists feel addressed by that. I would entrust art with the task of developing a new way of life, a new awareness, a new narrative against the prevailing doctrine. As such, the saviour is not philosophy but art. Or I practise philosophy as art.”


Lee Ufan and Mono-ha: School of Things

Lee Ufan
August 10 (Wed.) – November 7 (Mon.), 2022
The National Art Center

The National Art Center, Tokyo is exhibiting a major retrospective by Lee Ufan (Korean: 이우환, Hanja: 李禹煥, born in Haman County, in South Kyongsang province in Korea), Korean minimalist painter, sculptor artist and academic, honored by the government of Japan for having contributed to the development of contemporary art in Japan. He has received a great deal of attention internationally as a prominent member of the Japan-based Mono-ha group. Founded in 1968 in Tokyo, Mono-ha (lit. “School of Things”) was a short-lived artistic phenomenon that developed out of close relations between Lee and sculptor Sekine Nobuo which ultimately sought to redefine the category known as non-art in the Japanese modern art scene. They presented objects in their “essential states,” liberated from pre-ascribed intentions, dissolving the boundary that divides the subject and object into separate entities. The Mono-ha group wanted to change the role of the artist from The Creator to the Re-arranger of Things into Artworks. The art of this group was forcefully anti-modernist, primarily comprising sculptures and installations that combined basic materials such as rocks, wood, sand, glass, cotton, and metal, often in simple arrangements and with minimal artistic intervention.

“Faced with this solid block of raw earth, the power of this object of reality rendered everybody speechless, and we stood there, rooted to the spot… I could feel the passing of time’s quiet emptiness… That was the birth of ‘Mono-ha’.” Lee Ufan states that, as an artist, he “prefer[s] to offer a visual opportunity through which viewers can encounter the world,” rather than to make an object that is simply to be seen. Art exists in the ambivalent territory between ideas and reality, opening up the space as a place of interaction, mutual influence, and contradictions. Lee thus defines an encounter as a moment “mediated by a kind of directness…and interactive event” that involves the inner self and the external world to “break through the systematic shell of the everyday.” Lee sees encounters as ephemeral, expressive acts that allow us to reexamine the ambiguity of self and the other. Trying to stay away from Western art Lee concluded: “The times forced us to reconsider our situation as modern artists in Japan, and to think about the significance of being free from American influence.” The art of Lee Ufan is rooted in an Eastern appreciation of the nature of materials and in a phenomenological school of thought in his theory and writing. Lee also resorted to visual art to express his frustrations with South Korea’s military government, which resulted in decades of experimental art. The origin of Mono-ha work may be found in Lee’s article “Sonzai to mu wo koete Sekine Nobuo ron (Beyond Being and Nothingness: A Thesis on Sekine Nobuo)” below:

Multiple Arts: Making Poetry

Multiple Arts by Jean-Luc Nancy

Poetry is the indeterminate unity of a set of qualities that are not restricted to the kind of writing called “poetry”. The history of poetry is the history of poetry’s persistent refusal to allow itself to be identified with any given poetic mode or genre – not in order to invent one that would be more precise than all the others, or to dissolve them into prose, functioning as their ultimate truth, but in order ceaselessly to determine another, new exactitude. This is always necessary, every time anew, for the infinite is here and now an infinite number of times. Poetry is the praxis of the eternal return of the same: the same difficulty, difficulty itself.
Jean-Luc Nancy

Philippe Beck’s art of poetry: the poems of Opéradiques

Contemporary French poet Philippe Beck through his intriguing poetic project Opéradiques (2014; which has yet to be translated into English) demonstrates a new understanding of writing poetry through the deconstructive, reconstructive, boustrophedon process. Beck finds the foundation of his art of poetry in the “ruins” of existing written poems, stories, texts of all genres and forms. When it seems that writing poetry has lost all direction, and almost become irrelevant, Beck’s work shows us the “cracks in the wall”. Is it that these “cracks in the wall” should be received as a bold attempt to secure a new enthusiasm for the future, to form a stronger poem able to say that which cannot be said? Does Beck’s work tell us that poetry must be the answer to the question “what is poetry?” The works of Derrida, Walter Benjamin, and Jean-Luc Nancy, provide an opening through which to grasp Beck’s poetics. (Gorica Orsholits, Inscriptions, July 2022 – Volume 5)

The rest of the issue is available here:

Alain Badiou: The Immanence of Truths

Being and Event III

The Being and Event trilogy is the philosophical basis of Alain Badiou’s entire oeuvre. It is formed of three major texts, which constitute a kind of metaphysical saga: Being and Event (1988), Logics of the Worlds (2006) and finally The Immanence of Truths (published 19 May 2022), which he has been working on for 15 years.

Surrealism — Nadrealizam

Yugoslavia — Serbia

The collective activity of the Belgrade Surrealists began in the inspiring atmosphere brought on by two Surrealist manifestos by André Breton. The first joint edition the almanac Nemoguće-L′impossible was published in 1930 in Belgrade, with the manifesto signed by thirteen founding members of the movement.The members of the Belgrade Surrealist movement published their contributions or acted as editors in avant-garde publications, they released the official periodicals of the movement, and in addition to textual contributions and various forms of extensions to the traditional creative process, their publications also included pieces made through visual experimentation, published novels, collections of poetry, essays, etc. In the period before the rise of Surrealism as an organised movement, between 1922 and 1930, several periodical publications were released with contributions from, or edited by, future Surrealists bringing texts that were in one way or another related to Surrealism.      
In the journal Putevi, published from 1922 in Belgrade, the collaborators were Marko Ristić, Dušan Matić, Aleksandar Vučo, Milan Dedinac, and others. The new series of this journal was started in 1923, with Marko Ristić and Miloš Crnjanski co-editing its triple issue in 1924. Among other material, this journal published three excerpts from an essay by André Breton, that had appeared for the first time in Littérature, selected and translated by Marko Ristić. In Svedočanstva, Marko Ristić published his article “Nadrealizam” (Surrealism), which was the first paper produced in our culture to address this phenomenon, and it appeared immediately after the publication of the Manifesto of Surrealism by André Breton.      

In the exhibition held in 1969 at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade, entitled Nadrealizam―Socijalna umetnost 1929-1950 (Surrealism―Social Art 1929-1950), the work of the Belgrade Surrealists was reconstructed, studied and exhibited as a whole for the first time. The activities of the Belgrade Surrealists were contextualised in the major exhibition of global Surrealism, Der Surrealismus 1922-1942, organised by Patrick Waldberg, a historian of Surrealism, held in 1972 in Munich and Paris. Within this project almost all the members of the Belgrade Surrealist circle were represented with a total of 43 works. In that way these creations were exhibited at the European level as well, and were duly integrated into the broader context of this phenomenon. At home, the last presentation of the Serbian Surrealism was the exhibition Nemoguće, umetnost nadrealizma (The Impossible: the Art of Surrealism), curated by Milanka Todić (PhD), and realised in 2002 at the Museum of Applied Arts in Belgrade.

Main source:

The Problem of Space Travel

Did we successfully solve the problem of space travel or have we just caused new ones?

Herman Potočnik Noordung was born on December 22, 1892, in the city of Pola, which was in those days a part of Austria-Hungary (nowadays Pula, Republic of Croatia). In 1929 his book The Problem of Space Travel: The Rocket Motor was published in Berlin.

A careful study of its contents compared to the works of his predecessors and contemporaries emphasizes new insight in Potočnik’s expertise, which was his unique contribution to the development of theoretical cosmonautics. The new element in his ponderings is that he directed cosmonautics to the research and conquest of our own planet. The other pioneers of cosmonautics saw the main goal of this branch of science in the expansion of humanity “throughout space,” traveling to other celestial bodies and building colonies away from Earth. Potočnik, at least in the beginning phases, wanted to use space technology completely for the good of our own planet. Rocket aviation, which would enable traveling on Earth with almost cosmic velocities and the multifunctional station in Earth’s orbit, which would observe every event on the planet and direct life on it – those were the first two cornerstones that Potočnik felt had to be conquered in the development of cosmonautics. Nobody before him had defined this condition so clearly and precisely.

Tsiolkovsky’s book Dreams of the Earth and Sky, published in 1895 highly influenced Potočnik’s work on the idea of space stations. Tsiolkovsky did not limit himself only to space stations as a development phase when planet inhabitants colonize the expanses of outer space. He set the space station in a time when intelligent civilizations will be able to cause a metamorphosis of space. According to him, space stations will, sooner or later, completely replace planets with gravity and with a limited amount of warmth and light from the sun. They will become their artificial analogies, and thus retain all the advantages of a planetary environment, but without its drawbacks.

Arte Povera

The Politics of Labor in Postwar Italian Art

Magazzino Italian Art Foundation
March 19 – April 30, 2022

Jannis Kounellis, Senza titolo, 2003

Arte povera means literally ‘poor art’ but the word poor here refers to the movement’s signature exploration of a wide range of materials beyond the traditional ones of oil paint on canvas, bronze, or carved marble. Materials used by the artists included soil, rags and twigs. In using such throwaway materials they aimed to challenge and disrupt the values of the commercialised contemporary gallery system.
This lecture series will examine the idea of artistic labor as it was (re)conceived in the postwar period. Contributors will reflect on the political, social, and cultural factors that led artists to challenge traditional methods of production and systems of value. The lectures will cover artistic developments in Italy from the late forties through the nineties, examining both precursors to and major figures within Arte Povera. The series’ theme of labor is purposefully broad and lectures will cover a wide range of issues, including the impact of Leftist politics on arts production, the exploitation of domestic labor and its visual reconfiguration by female artists, and changing conceptions of physical and material artistic practices in postwar Italy. 
Leading artists were Giovanni Anselmo, Alighiero Boetti, Pier Paolo Calzolari, Luciano Fabro, Piero Gilardi, Jannis Kounellis, Mario Merz, Marisa Merz, Giulio Paolini, Pino Pascali, Giuseppe Penone, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Emilio Prini and Gilberto Zorio.

War – Bob Marley

Until the philosophy which hold one race superior
And another
Is finally
And permanently
And abandoned –
Everywhere is war –
Me say war.
That until there no longer
First class and second class citizens of any nation
Until the colour of a man’s skin
Is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes –
Me say war.
That until the basic human rights
Are equally guaranteed to all,
Without regard to race –
Dis a war.
That until that day
The dream of lasting peace,
World citizenship
Rule of international morality
Will remain in but a fleeting illusion to be pursued,
But never attained –
Now everywhere is war – war.
And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes
that hold our brothers in Angola,
In Mozambique,
South Africa
Sub-human bondage
Have been toppled,
Utterly destroyed –
Well, everywhere is war –
Me say war.
War in the east,
War in the west,
War up north,
War down south –
War – war –
Rumours of war.
And until that day,
The African continent
Will not know peace,
We Africans will fight – we find it necessary –
And we know we shall win
As we are confident
In the victory
Of good over evil –
Good over evil, yeah!
Good over evil –
Good over evil, yeah!
Good over evil –
Good over evil, yeah!