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Fearless Speech

– Reconsidering Foucault

From January 2016

“Do not think that one has to be sad in order to be militant, even though the thing one is fighting is abominable.” (Michel Foucault)

Like almost no other thinker who has published critical works from the 1960s on, French philosopher Michel Foucault inspired and thought through a variety of pertinent theoretical questions. In his studies, he investigates a great number of issues, ranging from questions of discourse, knowledge, and power, to subjectification, identity, truth regimes, and psychiatry while also tackling themes of surveillance and sexuality. In all of its efforts, Foucault’s work thus revolves around forms of emancipation. HAU Hebbel am Ufer would like to follow the traces that Foucault’s work and writing has left behind in order to examine its present-day ramifications and relevance. To counter the modern “order of things and words” with an oppositional new order, and to further expose the historical limits of rationality and the truth regimes that are often taken for granted, must also mean - if one truly follows Foucault - that one objects to a concentration of socialization, control and emphasized regulation.

“How not to be governed like that, by that, in the name of those principles” – and how to instead create new possibilities for the bustle of oppressed knowledge, of dissidence and revolt against the norms of social conduct – these are the questions that the visual arts, film, music, literature, and theatre should pursue when following in Foucault’s footsteps.

The interdisciplinary event series “Fearless Speech,” a successor to the previously presented series “Phantasm and Politics,” provides a discursive accompaniment to HAU Hebbel am Ufer’s other performative activities. With reference to and in dialogue with Foucauldian theories, the series debates the critical potential of contemporary art forms. In an inaugural event, political theorist Alex Demirović opened the discussion with a keynote lecture on Foucault’s plea for “active intolerance.” Guest speakers so far included Marina Naprushkina, Paul B. Preciado, Achille Mbembe, Rossella Biscotti, Juliane Rebentisch, Loïc Wacquant, Manuela Bojadžijev, Diedrich Diederichsen, Mark Terkessidis, Ruth Sonderegger, Roberto Nigro, and Tom Holert.

The series focuses on the function of the arts with regard to ‘parrhesia’ (“free-speech”), which Foucault understood as a mode of discourse and a way of speaking one’s opinions truthfully and frankly, without the use of generalizing rhetoric. At the same time, the series also centres on the militant intellectual Foucault himself. The critic and theorist was a fervent opponent of the prison system, the judicial apparatus, psychiatric expertise, the administrative construction of identities, the production of obedience in the context of school or factory structures, the military productivity of political murder, and the sexualization of the individual. His analyses of the forms and function of power and the ‘production’ of subjects and soul will be reinvestigated from a queer-feminist perspective, but will also be reassessed with the help of questions derived from Subaltern Studies discourses.

Throughout the series, practices of contemporary artists, whose works investigate political and ethical questions and seek to create a room in which to explore the problematic framing of social problems, will be as much a focus as art forms that break with all traditions and alliances. For Foucault, contemporary art that does not shy away from being scandalous constitutes the most immediate form of truth-telling. According to the critic, one can here observe moments of speaking that do not result from existing power relations, but instead spring from the speaker’s concern for others and him- or herself.
“Fearless Speech” is a HAU Hebbel am Ufer event series.


Fearless Speech #10
Platform Capitalism

With Nick Srnicek / Moderation: Christian Werthschulte


Fearless Speech #9
Die Waffen der Kritik. Dialektische Aufklärung heute

With Helmut Draxler, Rahel Jaeggi and Ruth Sonderegger 


Fearless Speech #8
Uproot: Travels in 21st-Century Music and Digital Culture

With Jace Clayton aka DJ /rupture (NY) / Moderation: Lisa Blanning


Fearless Speech #7
The Local and the Global: Forms of Domination and Forms of Resistance

With Didier Eribon / Moderation: René Aguigah
French with German and English simultaneous translation


Fearless Speech #6
Foucault in Bohemia and Anti-Fascist Practice

With Mark Terkessidis and Pascal Jurt


Fearless Speech #5
Leftist Aesthetics Today?

With Ekaterina Degot, Anja Lemke and Serhat Karakayali



Fearless Speech #3
The Intolerable and Literature

With Édouard Louis amongst others
French with German translation


Fearless Speech #2
The Order of the Arts

With Ruth Sonderegger, Juliane Rebentisch, Roberto Nigro, Rosella Biscotti, Ulf Wuggenig and Pascal Jurt


Fearless Speech #1
Foucault and Neoliberalism

With Daniel Zamora and others


Fearless Speech #0
With Alex Demirović