Inactivity – Between Aesthetic Practice and Socio-Political Challenge

A Transdisciplinary Workshop of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut and the Interdisciplinary Centre for Baltic Sea Region Research (IFZO), University of Greifswald, in Cooperation with the ICI Berlin Institute for Cultural Inquiry

Organized by Oliver Aas, Hana Gründler, Antje Kempe and Barbara Kristina Murovec

Image credit: Mladen Stilinović, Artist at Work, 1978 (detail), 8 b/w photographs © Branka Stipančić, Zagreb

The workshop examines artistic, aesthetic, and philosophical practices of inaction throughout history in response to today’s age of hyperactivity and 24/7 accessibility. It would fall far too short to perceive inactivity simply as the opposition of activity, as it encompasses various phenomena such as resistance, omission, and boredom. Equally, it might be limiting to interrogate practices related to inactivity merely as a critique of the modern conceptions of the subject and productivity. Therefore, the aim is to determine whether inaction can be considered as an agent of change, as a progressive form of ‘doing’ at a time when traditional ‘actions’ may have become obsolete. The lectures explore and question various modes of inactivity in different cultures and political systems, including those usually considered good (reflection), bad (passivity), and questionable (withdrawal). Understood as a moral and political category, we encourage a broad approach to 'inactivity' which is becoming a key aesthetic and epistemological term for the twentieth and twenty-first century.


Thursday, 11 July

14:00–14:30 Hana Gründler and Antje Kempe
Welcome and Introduction

From Withdrawal to Distraction
Chair: Simon Godart

14:30–15:00 Helen Lewandowski
‘Powerful’ and ‘Interesting’: Photojournalism and Aesthetics in Luc Delahaye’s Work

15:00–15:30 Jakub Marek
The Right to Be Distracted. On the Problem of Inactivity, Focus, and Distraction

Abandonment and Evasion
Chair: David Ventura

16:00–16:30 Ewa Macura-Nnamdi
Abandoned Lives: On Inaction in Wolfgang Fischer’s Styx

16:30–17:00 Wing Ki Lee
Tang Ping and Contemporary Sinophone: Subconsciousness, Subtext, and Subdue

Productive Inactivity?
Chair: Emir Yigit

17:30–18:00 Tobias Ertl
Artistic Inactivism: Conceptual Art and Modernity’s Productivist Paradigm

18:00–18:30 Anne Gräfe
The Ambiguity of In/Activity in John Knights “The Right to be Lazy”

Evening Lecture
Moderated by Hana Gründler

19:00 D. Graham Burnett
Apophatic Activism. Science, Politics, and Silence in the 1960s
(Livestream available)


Friday, 12 July

Chair: Valerio Aparo

9:30–10:00 Michael Krimper
“Le désœuvré, l’oisif”: The Unemployed Writer from Benjamin to Bataille

10:00–10:30 Amanda Wasielewski
Never Work Again: Creative Labor, AI and Radical Retreat

Apathy and Resistance
Chair: Oliver Aas

11:00–11:30 Josip Klaić 
Gorgona Group: Inactivity as Resistance to the Socialist Regime

11:30–12:00 Renata Salecl
Apathy, Inactivity, and Alienation: The Three Virtues of Neo-Liberalism

On Doing Nothing and Slowing Down
Chair: Michal Zechariah

13:30–14:00 Ellie Power
Aimless Drifting and Slowness in Urban Films

14:00–14.30 J. Igor Fardin and Richard Lee Peragine
(In)activity and Architecture: “doing nothing apart from…”

(Not) Sleeping
Chair: Magdalena Nieslony

15:00–15:30 Angelica Stathopoulos
Bad Sleep as Moral Good

15:30 Anne Glassner, Performance and Lecture
Active Sleep! I’m Going to Rest



D. Graham Burnett
Tobias Ertl
Anne Glassner
Anne Gräfe
Josip Klaić
Michael Krimper
Wing Ki Lee
Helen Lewandowski
Ewa Macura-Nnamdi
Jakub Marek
Richard Lee Peragine & J. Igor Fardin
Ellie Power
Renata Salecl
Angelica Stathopoulos
Amanda Wasielewski


11. – 12. Juli 2024

ICI Berlin Institute for Cultural Inquiry
Christinenstr. 18/19, Haus 8, D
10119 Berlin

At the venue: To attend in person, please register using the form on this page.

No online attendance or livestream available (in-person only). Only for the lecture by D. Graham Burnett a livestream will be available.



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