Exit or Activism?

Symposium on Sustainability and Contemporary Art

Central European University Budapest
29 February 2008

This symposium investigates the current state of thinking about sustainability in the light of the continuing mutations of post-Fordist global capitalism and its devastating effects on the environment, society and the individual. The axis of discussion will revolve around the strategic possibilities for resistance offered by tactical withdrawal versus relentless activism through contemporary art. On the one hand, the dilemma gives rise to a conscious decision to slow down, decline to participate, to seek a way out, or ‘exit’ as envisioned by Paulo Virno, or on the other, there is a passion to overcome political exhaustion and confront head on rampant injustice, environmental degradation and lack of liberty.


Emanuel Danesch is based in Vienna. As a poly-media artist in the broadest sense his projects and documentary films cover issues of cultural, economical and political transformation. At the symposium he will present his new film LiveSafelyinEurope.

Ivan Ladislav Galeta is an artist and head of the multi-media department at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb. He is a noted avant-garde film maker, conceptual artist and explorer of sustainable practices. He will present his NOART EARTH DAY project at the symposium.

Gene Ray is a critic and theorist living in Berlin and working at the intersections of art and radical politics. He is a member of the Radical Culture Research Collective, author of Terror and the Sublime in Art and Critical Theory (2005) and editor of Joseph Beuys: Mapping the Legacy (2000). His presentation is entitled 'Exit, Radical Culture and the Re-Composition of Struggle.'

Oliver Ressler is an artist and filmmaker based in Vienna, who organizes theme-specific exhibitions, projects in the public space and videos on issues such as global capitalism, forms of resistance, social alternatives, racism and genetic engineering. He will present his projects "100 Years of Greenhouse Effect" (1996) and "Sustainable Propaganda" (2000).www.ressler.at

Tamara Steger is director of the Centre for Environmental Policy and Law at CEU and a specialist in environmental justice and sustainable development. Her paper is entitled ‘Fin de Siecle to Stuckism: Reclusiveness and Social Activism for Sustainability’.

Adam Sutherland is Director of Grizedale Arts where he has developed a wide ranging artist centred programme that incorporates the local cultures of the Lake District - historical, political and economic.www.grizedale.org

Yanina Taneva is Art For Social Change Programme Manager at The Red House - Center for culture and Debate, Sofia. Her paper is entitled: ‘Does Concrete Blossom? Environmentally-Conscious Art in Present-day Bulgaria as Political Statement’

Alan Watt is a lecturer in environmental philosophy and the development of environmental thought at the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at Central European University. He will speak on ‘Sustainability as a Political Ideal’.

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