Concepts such as fetish, magic, and the gift have often been attributed to ‘kinship communities’, and taken to be ‘out of place’ if not ‘overcome’ in modernity. But is Hegel’s notion of the magic fetish in Africa so different from Marx’s and Freud’s descriptions of the crucial role of fetishes in modern societies? Freeing ourselves from evolutionist and structuralist conceptions allows us to take the fetish not merely as the object of an irrational and arbitrary choice of people in primitive cultures but a potentially universal mechanism of deception, fantasy or desire. Art and art history likewise attest to the continuing legacy of terms originally devised for the description of other, non-Western cultures and has most recently focused not only on fetishism and magic but the materiality and mediality of their objects. We are all fetishists; and if we tend to see the fetish through the optics of fixation, it is precisely because of its unsettling nature and composite fabrication; its capacity to produce and/or reproduce originary acts and events and to destabilize the boundaries between faith and law, icons and idols, object and referent, the natural and the artificial.

In English

Joshua Barker
Iracema Dulley
Wyatt MacGaffey
Ursula Helg
Rosalind C. Morris
Roger Sansi-Roca
Bruno Sotto Mayor

Keynote by James T. Siegel
‘Reading matter’ by Filipa César

Organized by

An ICI Event organized by Maria José de Abreu, Preciosa de Joya, and Ursula Helg, in cooperation with DFG-Research Unit 1703 ‘Transcultural Negotiations in the Ambits of Art. Comparative Perspectives on Historical Contexts and Current Constellations’, Freie Universität Berlin

The conference is part of the ICI Core Project ERRANS. The English verb ‘to err’ has largely lost its positive connotations. It no longer invokes wandering, rambling, or roaming, and is now understood negatively in relation to a prescribed path or goal. To be sure, errors are acknowledged to play an important role in the pursuit of knowledge and happiness, but usually only to the extent that their recognition allows for their elimination, correction, and avoidance. Recognizing that a critique of ideals of productivity, success, goal-orientation, and determination is necessarily paradoxical, the lecture series takes the shifting meanings of ‘erring’ – connoting the violation of norms as well as the activity of wandering – as a prompt to explore the critical potentials and risks of embracing error, randomness, failure, and non-teleological temporalities, and to do so across different disciplines and discourses.

Kv Recurrences © Claudia Peppel / ICI Berlin 2016

Image Credit © Claudia Peppel, paper collage, Obey, 2015 (detail)

The event, like all events at the ICI Berlin, is open to the public, free of charge. The audience is presumed to consent to a possible recording on the part of the ICI Berlin. If you would like to attend the event yet might require assistance, please contact Event Management.