A Critical Autobiography & Spectral Colloquy: The History of My Unthought

A Lecture Performance after a concept and an idea by Sladja Blazan and a text by Avital Ronell

With Susan Bernstein, Greg Cohen, Judith Hopf, Chris Kondek, Tatjana Mesar, Orthographe, Laurence Rickels, Avital Ronell

Premiered in Berlin at Hebbal am Ufer, June 17, 2010

“You are prone to exposing your essential defenselessness. I will not allow it, Missy. On the other hand I understand what you’re up to and where you’re coming from. Theoretical practice, in a Kantian sense, is condemned, for all sorts of determined reasons, to shoot blanks, even as it stipulates and demands modification in the distressed world of social justice and political materialism. Shout out as it may, any genuinely theoretical intervention, according to Kant and his critical heirs, must renounce a secured sense of legitimacy. This renunciation is a gift. Theory, in the Kantian lineage (of which there are many split heirs, some disavowed, some brandishing his name, still others ignorant of their origin), ermerges from a condition of impoverishment and the steady loss of ground. I urge you to decline the perks of ideological homecoming events and to hold out against the retrohumanist temptation to ease off on its internalized mission statement. Good day, Ms. Jacque Hans Georg Martin Friedrich Sören Sigmund blank-shooter. Good day, Ms. Hermeneutics and Deconstruction one-night stand mutant offshoot and ectoplasmic residue. And good luck.”

The title What Was I Thinking? resonates with Heidegger’s Was heißt denken?Sladja Blazan brought together seemingly diverse fields, strands, people, imaginaries, zones of investment and expertise, artistic ranges of articulation in order to stage an intellectual process. Our path was arduous and not without complication — in part because we wanted to go against the grain of contemporary simplifications and a pronounced subservience to the domination of the such “hard” sciences as have led to objectivist and strangely reductive perspectives. Don’t get us wrong: science amazes us, but no one can deny the stranglehold it has wrongly been encouraged to have. Genuine creativity is by no means a foreigner to science. All in all, we consider literary and some forms of philosophical engagement to be an endangered species. This is our wild life preserve, modeled on Kant’s third Critique, where the philosopher creates a free zone for philosophical speculation and artistic play. Nothing is more serious than the permits granted — but by whom? by which authority or legislative branch? — for play and intellectual adventure.

Laurence Rickels at desk

Dramatis Personae

Performers: Susan BernsteinLaurence RickelsAvital Ronell

Concept and Director: Sladja Blazan

Text: Avital Ronell

Camera Obscura: Orthographe

Stage: Judith Hopf

Video: Chris Kondek

Music: Tatjana Mesar und Greg Cohen

Assistant: Laura Hörold