— Cultural Sources of Newness

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It is hard to stick to New Year’s resolutions. Colleagues like Fabian Lempa  do not make it any easier by inviting me to a workshop he co-organized with Lilian Seuberling  entitled “Zwischen Freiheit und Norm!? Theater in Therapie und Unternehmen.” But I am glad I decided to put aside the resolution not to work on weekends this year and made my way to the Berlin Free University’s Institute of Theatre Studies at 9am on Saturday (February 21). The workshop was organized in the context of the ERC-funded project “The Aesthetics of Applied Theatre,” directed by Prof. Matthias Warstat . I was intrigued by the provocative sets of apparent oppositions: freedom/norm and the use of theater in therapy/business.

The day’s program for the 17 participants was packed full: each of the four invited experts had an hour in which to explain and give us a feeling for their field of work, a panel discussion and world café. We talked through the lunch and coffee breaks, and were definitely ready for a glass of wine (and more conversations) by the evening. The project team will surely share their insights after they have worked through the recording of the day, here I simply provide a brief overview.

Organizers and experts of the workshop

Organizers and experts of the workshop

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Before my day began in earnest this morning, I ran across a BBC radio 4 program called “Embracing idleness.”  Very tempting, I thought: it might offer some inspiration for my work, or—even better, given that I am tired—some legitimation for not working. However, although the program did encourage taking some “idle” time, it only gave positive examples of artists doing so, not social scientists. Somewhat disappointed, I dug into the Spanish data on artistic interventions that I urgently needed to analyse before going out to a concert this evening: The ensemble für neue musik zürich  was scheduled to perform at the Ackerstadtpalast in Berlin. It promised to be a stimulating experience with a conductor I like. The space was intimate. A beautiful collection of instruments awaited us.

Instruments for work and play (photo ABA)

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John Hartley (Curtin University, Australia and Cardiff University, Wales), currently a visiting fellow in our unit at the WZB, is writing a book with Jason Potts  (a former visiting fellow of ours) on“Cultural Science”. As he points out, it is quite unusual and challenging to write a book about a science that does not yet exist but that needs to be envisioned and realized. In a seminar today John explained that he sees culture as the evolution of meaningfulness, and he gave us glimpses into the work-in-progress on the book. Here I share a few glimmers of those glimpses.

 

John Hartley explaining "What's New?" January 16 2013, WZB

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