Free Class Semester, Summer 2008

Free Class Semester

Realism Working Group, Summer 2008

The Realism Working Group of the Free Class Frankfurt/M invites you to participate in the Free Class Semester 07/2008 on Art + Realism. All events of the Free Class are free of charge.

For further information visit our blog:

and read the online magazine on this topic.

Feel welcome to visit us!


Language of communication is English.


Sunday 6.7.2008 | 16:30 | Realism | Conversation with Johannes Raether, Kerstin Stakemeier and Hito Steyerl at Frankfurter Kunstverein ( | in collaboration with HfBK Städelschule.

The topic of this discussion event will be artistic Realism – not as a term that defines a technique of copying reality but as a method of critical intervention into the production of that reality. Taking into consideration its complex history, present definitions of realism will be discussed in the context of their political development. What does it mean to define realism as a critical stance toward artistic production today? Which methods might enable the construction of realist views on the changeability of our present?

This round table discussion is organized as part of the project “Trompe-l’œil Polizei” by the Realism Working Group // Free Class Frankfurt/M. The group produced a bi-lingual newspaper (German/English) that is dedicated to the topic of realism, as well as the significance of collaborative strategies. It comprises interviews with “Chto delat?” and Claire Fontaine, an article by Johannes Raether and Kerstin Stakemeier, as well as texts and images by the members of the Realism Working Group. This newspaper is available in the ’10 Reasons to be a Member’ space at the Frankfurter Kunstverein for free distribution and online at:

Furthermore, the project includes a film program at Frankfurter Kunstverein and a series of workshops at HfBK Städelschule.


Monday 7.7.2008 | 11:00 | Realist Measures | Workshop with Johannes Raether and Kerstin Stakemeier | at HfBK Städelschule, Frankfurt am Main, Dürerstr. 10.

Where traditional art historical attempts acknowledge Realism only as either a bourgeois style in artistic production which arose with the bourgeois subject in the middle of the 19th century, or as a condemned Stalinist limitation of artistic expression in Russia after 1932, we want to use this workshop to practically propose a contemporary concept of Realism as a process with reality. As ideas of a positive Universalism have vanished and been replaced by the historical experiences of late capitalism’s negative universality, the fragmented condition of radical attempts toward an attack on this state of art is not a site of mourning but one of an urgency to act. Realism in artistic production could, in this context, be formulated as an ongoing attempt to produce excessive processes of realist constructions, a desire to expand fragments of radicality towards a positive, even if only preliminary, universalism. Re-reading fragments of texts by Charles Baudelaire on modernity as a state of disintegration, Victor Shklovsky on radical formalism, George Bataille on excess, Boris Arvatov on the necessary abolition of the notion of the everyday, and George Lukács on realism as a political stance, we want to use these first hints to discuss the praxis of a present urge towards realism as excess. This workshop is not primarily a theoretical registering of historical sources but is rather ridden by a desire to translate them into a praxis.

The literature will be handed out in the workshop.

Thursday 10.7.2008 | 11:00 | The Politics of Aesthetics | Workshop with Maria Muhle in cooperation with Isabelle Graw’s reading seminar at HfBK Städelschule | Frankfurt am Main, Dürerstr. 10.

In this workshop the Free Class participates in the reading seminar of Prof. Isabelle Graw of HfBK Städelschule and philosopher Maria Muhle to discuss Jacques Rancière’s book “The Politics of Aesthetics.”

Friday 11.7.2008 | 11:00 | Why it’s Time for Realism, Again | Workshop with Maria Muhle | at HfBK Städelschule, Frankfurt am Main, Dürerstr. 10.

Jacques Rancière distinguishes in his aesthetic theory between the aesthetic regime of arts and representative regime of art: this distinction short-circuits the traditional narrative of art history, which identifies the key historical break as the passage from representation to abstraction, i.e. from realist to abstract art. The aesthetic regime of the arts is thus not the negation of representation – it is a different politics of representation, one that does not reject resemblance. Rather, it arises from the rupture with the criteria that regulate resemblance in the representational regime. The rupture of the representational logic is not a rupture with realism – in fact, it proposes a new logic in which resemblance is linked to a new realism, one I would like to call an aesthetic realism. Whereas the representative regime thinks of realism in terms of the Aristotelian notion of mimesis, through which we learn something general about the represented object, aesthetic realism is defined by the radical indifference of both its object and its forms of representation. 19th-century literary realism, in relation to which the new realism emerges, undermines the hierarchies of genres, subjects and forms typical of the representational regime in order to replace them with the indifferent writing of and on the everyday. This aesthetic realism is marked by an ability of things and words to mean both more and less than they are supposed to: an anarchic potentiality of connecting the sensible with sense, through which things, words, images and gestures escape from their »natural«, instituted, determined role.

During this workshop Maria Muhle will interrogate the notion of aesthetic realism by confronting it with the modernist paradigm of autonomous art and its mediality (Greenberg, Adorno). Thereby the Rancierian idea of an aesthetic regime of the arts helps to understand what notion of realism this regime depends on. Both parts will share a concern with the political dimension of artistic practices. In the case of aesthetic realism, the political dimension is triggered by a double fictionality, one that goes back and forth between the fictionalization of the real and the realization of a fiction. The notion of fiction and its relationship to the real, reality and realism will thus be crucial to the workshop. We will take the work of Irish artist Gerard Byrne as an exemplary approach to these questions.

Download literature for this Workshop:

Louis Althusser: »The ›Piccolo Teatro‹: Bertolazzi and Brecht. Notes on a Materialist Theatre« (1962), in: For Marx (1965).

Maria Muhle: »Why It’s Time for Realism, Again«, in: Afterall 17, Antwerp, London, Los Angeles, Spring 2008. Part 1, Part 2

Jacques Rancière: »Aesthetic separation, aesthetic community«, unpublished manuscript, June 2006.

For this workshop there is more literature available in the library of HfBK Städelschule, but there is no need to read all the texts in order to participate.


Maria Muhle studied philosophy and political science in Madrid and Paris. PhD: “A genealogy of biopolitics. The notion of life in the thought of Michel Foucault and Georges Canguilhem.” Her research focuses on contemporary political and aesthetic theory. Recently she has published “Lager und Biopolitik”, in: Auszug aus dem Lager, Bielefeld 2007; “Zone d’attente et camps étrangers”, in: Le retour des camps, Paris 2006; “Equality and public realm according to Hannah Arendt“, in: Continuous Project # 8, Dijon 2006; “Gleichheit zwischen Ästhetik und Politik.” Introduction to Jacques Rancière, Die Aufteilung des Sinnlichen, Berlin 2006.

Johannes Raether is an artist based in Berlin. For further information visit his webside.

Kerstin Stakemeier holds an MA in Political Science and History of Art. She is working on Phd projects in both disciplines on the „Aesthetization of Politics“ and on „Artistic labor and Revolution – artists as amateurs“. She publishes frequently on topics related to art, labor and materialist philosophy, is a member of the Radical Culture Research Collective and, together with Nina Köller, runs the „Aktualisierungsraum“, a project space based in Hamburg, which stages twelve subsequent exhibitions all concerned with the carving out and discussing of past events, objects or theories of historical significance which are than actualized and exhibited in the space.

Hito Steyerl has produced a variety of work as a filmmaker and author in the field of essayist documentary filmography and post-colonial critique, both as a producer and a theorist. Her works are situated on an interface between the cinema and fine arts, and between theory and practice. Her principal topics of interest are: cultural globalization, feminism, culture, global migration and racism. In 2004 she participated in Manifesta5, The European Biennial of Contemporary Art. She recently participated in Documenta 12, Kassel 2007 and is a visiting professor at the University of Arts Berlin.

Film Screenings:

Symbiopsychotaxiplasm, William Greaves, 1968

23.06.2008, 19:00 at Frankfurter Kunstverein

This film, done by independent filmmakers who produced a multitude of documentaries as well as feature films and television programs, is from an early time in their career . The director is well known for bringing African-American issues to the forefront. Symbiopyschotaxiplasm is such an attempt, working in the film-within-a-film format that it adopts , it merges a conventional looking drama that is going on off-screen in Central Park in New York City with the conflict and frustration that eventually explodes on-screen.

Tout va bien, Dziga Vertov Group (Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Pierre Gorin), 1972

01.07.2008, 19:00 at Frankfurter Kunstverein

This film by the two founding members of the French New Wave cinema revolves around a strike at a sausage factory as experienced by an American reporter and her husband, who is French. Directed as a collaboration between Godard and Jean- Pierre Gorin, Tout Va Bien shows the class struggle that happens in a precarious working environment and takes Marxist theory at its base. Formally, on the other hand, it approaches a Brechtian look in the way references to the outside world are combined with the unmistakable presence of the camera.

Always love your man (Ama l’Uomo Tuo), Cara DeVito, 1975 + Letter to Jane, Dziga Vertov Group (Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Pierre Gorin), 1972

04.07.2008, 19:00 at Frankfurter Kunstverein

Again an early work from the director’s career, Always Love Your Man is a short documentary that depicts the story of DeVito’s grandmother and the abusive behavior she experiences in her relationship with her husband. The feminist approach dominant with the film comes across as DeVito observes her grandmother both in her private element telling stories of the now-deceased grandfather as well as in her social circle as obeying the position that she is assigned to.

Letter to Jane is a film that Godard and Gorin directed as a follow-up to Tout Va Bien. The film features a single news photograph of Jane Fonda, one of the main characters from Tout Va Bien, looking over some Vietnamese people (?) , and a voice-over commentary in which Godard and Gorin deconstruct the photograph, attempting to understand the implications that lie within the pose and the protagonist. This film was the last collaboration between Godard and Gorin.

Blue, Dereck Jarman, 1991

29.07.2008, 19:00 at Frankfurter Kunstverein

The Film Blue by the English film director was the next to last film he produced before his passing away. At the time of the making of Blue, Jarman was blind due to AIDS and Blue consists of a single long shot of a rich blue color. The color fills the whole screen and is accompanied by a background soundtrack composed by Simon Fisher Tuner. It was shown in British TV on Channel 4.

Southland Tales, Richard Kelley, 2006

30.07.2008, 19:00 at Frankfurter Kunstverein

This movie, set in the futuristic date of July 4, 2008, features three main characters, two of which are in the movie industry and one who is a police officer. The backdrop for the events is the nuclear attack that happened in the year 2005 partially wiping out Texas and subsequently increasing the control of the virtual police over citizens’ lives. The actor and the porn star keep finding themselves in a situation where they have to incorporate the political situation surrounding themselves into the scripts and screening that they are involved in.

Free Class Semester, Summer 2008