Caricature – anti-art and provocation

Opening event of the “Foyer Forschung” lecture series organised by the Institute for Advanced Study Konstanz (Kulturwissenschaftliches Kolleg)

In his public lecture, which kicks off the “Foyer Forschung” lecture series, Professor Thomas Steinfeld, professor of cultural studies at the University of Luzern, will offer new insights into caricature as an art form for our times. The lecture is followed by a discussion with Professor Bernd Stiegler, professor of contemporary German literature at the University of Konstanz, on the rise of this “all but extinct form of art”, which still manages to provoke, if in different ways. The public event takes place on Tuesday, 2 June 2015 at 20:00 in the Wolkensteinsaal of the Culture Centre of the Konstanz Münster. Free admission.

Thomas Steinfeld, who headed the arts section of the Süddeutsche Zeitung for many years, traces the life of one of the most controversial and contested forms of art – caricature. Its rise was closely connected to the invention of printing, which enabled its mass distribution in pamphlets and newspapers. Socially, its broad impact can be traced to the rise of the bourgeois public in 18th-century England and France and, later on, in pre-March (Vormärz) Germany. “Caricature was a form of anti-art”, Steinfeld explains. “It constituted an act of rebellion against idealising forms of painting that engaged selectively with reality”. It blossomed as a part of anti-censorship protests, exposing dissimulation, insincere posturing and mendacity in figures of power.

Even today, opinions vary widely on the topic of caricature, although it has long since lost its original spirit of protest. Why does it continue to be invoked as a benchmark for measuring freedom of speech, as it was in the wake of the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo? How can an artistic genre declared finished decades ago by Karl Kraus continue to shape the collective image of democratic societies? And what does caricature have to do with societies increasingly using images to reflect on themselves?

In the opening lecture of the “Foyer Forschung” series, Thomas Steinfeld and Bernd Stiegler will address these questions. Once every semester, the new public lecture series organised by the Institute for Advanced Study Konstanz and funded by the Center of Excellence “Cultural Foundations of Social Integration” of the University of Konstanz, invites anyone interested to learn more about its research and to join in the discussion. The Institute for Advanced Study Konstanz hosts about twenty national as well as international scholars per year who research into topics relating to the Institute’s main area of inquiry, “the cultural foundations of social integration”.