Bernhard Siegert – “Permeable Borders: On the Nomos of Modern Aesthetics”

Bernhard Siegert – “Permeable Borders: On the Nomos of Modern Aesthetics”


Space reports back these days ― in a brutal way. While we are told that Europe’s external borders have stopped to exist, old legal-political concepts loom in the background of the current discussion on the Decline of the West: mare nostrum, mare clausum, res omnium, and the (impossible) Nomos of the Sea.

With the dangerous concept of res omnium an ominous figure is back, too: the pirate, the enemy of mankind, the terrorist in the disguise of the refugee. Linked inseparably to the birth of the concept of the state itself (by means of exclusion), this abysmal figure underwent a number of significant shifts since the enlightenment era, like the sea itself. Already in JF Cooper the pirate became a metasign, designating the readability of signs as such, the recognizability of figures, and the birth of the nation. The lecture therefore pushes forward the thesis (by drawing on art, literature, and media history at the same time) that the media and crisis history of the nomos of the sea underlies the concepts of representation and aesthetics of our modernity. The order of sense making, the order of the recognizable (i. e. aesthetics) and the possibility to discriminate between friend and foe are neither ontologically nor transcendentally “given” in the modern era but dependent on media, and therefore are permanently related to the danger of becoming indiscriminate. Hence, the ultimate metasign is the seascape.

Bernhard Siegert is the Gerd Bucerius Professor for the Theory and History of Cultural Techniques at the Department of Media Studies at Bauhaus-University Weimar and Director and Co-Founder of the International College of Cultural Technologies and Media Philosophy at Weimar. His books include Cultural Techniques: Grids, Filters, Doors, and Other Articulations of the Real(2015) and Relays: Literature as an Epoch of the Postal System(1999). He is a leading scholar of German Media Studies.

Friday, March 4, 2016 from 4:15PM to 6:15PM in the History Corner (Building 260), Room 307

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