Cite as: Christoph F. E. Holzhey, ‘Tension In/Between Aesthetics, Politics, and Physics’, in Tension/​Spannung, ed. by Christoph F. E. Holzhey, Cultural Inquiry, 1 (Vienna: Turia + Kant, 2010), pp. 13–45 <>

Tension In/Between Aesthetics, Politics, and PhysicsChristoph F. E. Holzhey


The article sketches a critical paradigm for interdisciplinary work that is centred on tension as a highly ambiguous and ultimately deeply paradoxical notion. It highlights that a unifying account of what tension is or a systematic classification of its diverse meanings would risk resolving tensions between different approaches and privileging a particular mode of doing so. Successively focussing on aesthetic, socio-political, and physical tensions, the essay articulates tension rather as a broad umbrella term that is stretched by multi-perspectival articulations, unified through its intensive surface tension, and at the same time full of transformative and generative potentials. In particular, it proposes that tensions between different cultural or disciplinary fields can be made productive by inducing tensions within each field so that different fields can be related to each other on the basis of tension rather than some substantial commonality.

tension, aesthetics, politics, physics, field theory, intensity