Activist Neuroaesthetics
SFSIA 2021 | Berlin

in collaboration with
July 2021

Faculty to be announced…

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The brain and mind are the new factories of the twenty-first century in what is referred to as cognitive capitalism, where workers have transitioned from proletariats to cognitariats. Here, the brain not only refers to the intracranial brain consisting of neurologic matter, but also the situated body and the extracranial brain composed of gestalts, affordances, linguistic atmospheres and socially-engaged interactions. Just as the pioneers of cognitive capitalism (such as Tony Negri, Maurizio Lazzarato, and Mario Tronti among others) realized the coming digital economy would have serious consequences for labor and the production of subjectivity, the transition from the information economy to the neural-based economy (or neural capitalism) is a new moment of crisis with even greater challenges. Activist Neuroaesthetics questions what neuro-enhancing drugs, new technologies (like brain-computer interfaces that link the brain to the internet currently explored by companies like Facebook and Neuralink), and the transition from artificial neural networks to Artificial Intelligence will do to our sense of self and freedom. 

Activist Neuroaesthetics understands that our capacity to consciously and directly affect our complex environment of evolving relations through artistic interventions is key to an emancipatory ethics. By consciously refunctioning and estranginging the environment, we are estranging and refunctioning our material brain’s neural plastic potential – literally enhancing its capacity to ‘think outside the box.’ This cognitive activism forms the basis of Activist Neuroaesthetics which resists new forms of subjugation at work in neural capitalism. Activist Neuroaesthetics is more than simply an aesthetic response, but is also a way of reengineering what aesthetics as a philosophical concept means. As such, Activist Neuroaesthetics pro-actively forms a counter-insurgency against the tactics of the neural economy which attempts to privatize and normalize the suppression of free thought and produces a regime which further weakens the cognitariat and makes obvious neural capitalism’s totalitarian tendencies.

This year’s SFSIA program in Berlin will take place in collaboration with ACTIVIST NEUROAESTHETICS, a celebration of the 25th anniversary of Founded in 1996, consists of The Journal of Neuroaesthetics and Chaoid Gallery and was established by Warren Neidich and Nathalie Angles with an online launch in 1997. Over the last 25 years, has developed alternative vocabularies and practices with which to rethink the fields that describe sensation, perception and cognition. Since 1998, Neidich has continued the project and developed the term Activist Neuroaesthetics to describe an enactive approach to neuroaesthetics that not only understands the importance of neural plasticity in the material brain, but recognizes art as a generator of diversity which has the capacity to induce complexity and variability – which in turn is an important factor for understanding, and consciously enacting, social and political transformation. 

ACTIVIST NEUROAESTHETICS is a year-long festival of events including a three-part exhibition (Brain without Organs, Telepathy and Neural Capitalism), conference, screenings, lectures and publications, developed by lead institution Verein zur Förderung von Kunst und Kultur am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz e.V. along with various local partners that will take place at different venues on Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz over the course of 2021.

Program Overview

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