Wiels | EN

Open School #4

WIELS gathers different practices in a recurring series of encounters hinged on the notion of sovereignty.


Arne De Boever – Smears; or: Against the Artist-as-Sovereign

Who still believes that artists and art are exceptional? It turns out that many still do. With that belief comes the defense of an artistic freedom—the freedom of the artist and art to do whatever they please. And who could disagree? Still, that defense has entered into troubled political waters today, with the intensification of freedom as a cause of the alt-right (consider the defense of free speech, for example) and the characterization of the left as a “woke mob” enforcing “cancel culture”. Those debates take place at the crossroads of aesthetics and politics, and come together in the political concept of sovereignty, which is arguably active in exceptionalist articulations of artists and art that insist on a certain kind of artistic freedom. This talk will criticize such sovereign understandings of the artist and art by considering two cases—one from the U.S., one from Europe—where the limits of our conceptualization of the artist as sovereign are laid bare. How to defend another kind of artistic freedom, rooted in the unexceptionalism of artists and art, that would not tap into the dubious causes of the alt-right? What other understandings of sovereignty might such a project yield?

Arne De Boever teaches American Studies in the School of Critical Studies and the MA Aesthetics and Politics program at the California Institute of the Arts and has been a Visiting Professor in Comparative Literature and Architecture and Urban Design at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the School of Experimental Art at the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing. He obtained his PHD at Columbia University (2009) and is (co-)editor and author of multiple publications and academic journals. In 2019, De Boever published Against Aesthetic Exceptionalism (U of Minnesota Press) in which he exposes the notion of aesthetic exceptionalism to describe the widespread belief that art and artists are exceptional. Engaging with sculpture, conceptual artwork, and painting by emerging and established artists, De Boever proposes a worldly, democratic notion of unexceptional art as an antidote to the problems of aesthetic exceptionalism.

Soumaya Majdoub - Wonder Woman & The Climate Migrant










In this presentation Soumaya Majdoub will reveal the common denominator among these themes that at first sight have no accordance.

Soumaya Majdoub is an author and doctoral researcher at the VUB and the Universitat de Barcelona School of Economics. Her research lies at the intersection of demography, social geography, political economy and ecology, with a focus on the relationship between population growth and pressure, economic development and international migration on the one hand, and the political and public discourse on migration on the other. She is the founder of Women In Urbanism and is involved in the broader interdisciplinary research project ‘Cities & Newcomers’ at the VUB. She is a member of the BCUS (Brussels Center for Urban Studies), BIRMM (Brussels Interdisciplinary Research Center for Minorities & Migration) and the Imiscoe Migration Research Hub. Soumaya Majdoub recently published the climate essay Consumeren als Konijnen ("Consuming like rabbits”) in which she corrects the dominant narrative about overpopulation and shifts the focus to the core of the (climate) problem: overconsumption and the need for a paradigm shift.