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Times of the Event: On the Aesthetico-Political in West Germany and Austria circa 1968


In what ways do the cultural fields of aesthetics and politics transform each other, and how does this relation change under specific historical circumstances? How is it possible to evaluate the history of activities that occur at the intersection of aesthetics and politics? How can we account for the way in which such practices are able to alter the very criteria by which they might be recognized or judged?

This dissertation responds to such questions by tracing the emergence of a distinct field of cultural production in West Germany and Austria in the years leading up to and through 1968, designating this field as "aesthetico-political." It seeks to determine the various conditions of possibility for these emergent forms of activity, and to examine the different models of political agency, aesthetic experience, and subjectivation they proposed. The analysis focusses on four distinct transformations: politicizations of the aesthetic (a term including but not limited to the arts); aestheticizations of politics, especially through the mediatization of the public sphere; the reorientation of artistic practices away from modernist models; and the ascendance of New Left movements. The dissertation's test cases primarily concern activities that I term "events": durational occurrences taking place in the space between aesthetics and politics.

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