All _Editorials


Codes: Power and Subversion

Codes can be read or written, imposed or resisted, performed or enacted; they can be broken or switched, made explicit or implemented covertly, can reinforce binaries or explode into multiplicities. Codes hold power over subjectivity and the individual, to shape relationships and the social; they are socio-technological assemblages and tacitly give structure to cultures. Often, it is only when codes are altered that we become aware of their cultural power.


Self-representation, Othering, and Power in Visual Culture

When we, the guest editors of this issue, had our first look at the picture of the inter-medial installation Susanne fotografiert mich beim Bade [Susanne Photographs Me Bathing] (2011/2012/2018) by Viennese artist Hannahlisa Kunyik, we were immediate-ly intrigued by the image’s ambiguity. Looking at the picture, even if it is just a detail of the artwork which now figures as the cover of this On_Culture issue, has spurred questions that have preoccupied us during our studies of in_visibilities and representation: what or who becomes in_visible here, why and how?

Editorial: Ambiguity

Conditions, Potentials, Limits

1_Ambiguously Lured Although the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic can be described, inspired by Pauline Boss, as trigger for an “ambiguous loss,” [1] a collectively experienced loss that remains unclear and undefined and thus lingers indefinitely, especially in times of crisis simple answers to complex questions seem to be growing in popularity. Instead, in this issue we as the Editorial Team plead for a “near-sighted, case-study oriented analysis with ambiguity-pragmatic intention,” [2] thereby focusing on the following questions: Are there different stages, degrees, levels [3] or variations of ambiguity, and can they be differentiated terminologically and analytically? Is there a connection between ambiguity and (socio-)political engagement? [4] How can we include ambiguity’s historicity in our conceptual reflections and theoretical discussions? To what extent are the production, perception, transformation, and functions [5] of ambiguity shaped by the occidental Western tradition of thought, and what are the challenging phenomena? Fig. 1: Tim Lorenz, NordWest 2.03, 2019. © Courtesy of the artist To make it a bit more concrete: The teaser image (Fig. 1) to this issue persists in an associative mode of aesthetic ambiguity [6] with a corresponding mode of reception that Verena Krieger identifies as a “continuous cycle of searching for meaning, but this search remains, in the end, unresolved.” [7] Because NordWest 2.03 (2019) by Tim Lorenz is characterized by a striking ambiguity on a formal-aesthetic level (due to its abstract design vocabulary together with its focus-and-blur relations), it triggers a variety of associations in our Editorial Team: I see a nice warm summer day with green spots as grass. (Çiçek Tanlı) My first association was energy and power, I specifically had to think of energy and glowing wires inside a light bulb; my second association was movement, flying particles, sudden moves and turns of flying animals defying expectation and prediction. (Jens Kugele) The yellow reminds me of a flower in the sun. It gives rise to a feeling of comfort, which is then disrupted by the green-black scratches. (Eva Zimmermann) My immediate impression was that of power, energy or electricity (due to the vibrant colors, but perhaps also because the green lines vaguely remind me of wires), chaotic potential, movement, or even rage which has the power to transform the status quo and trigger chaos which results in new possibilities. Relatedly, I’m also thinking of the process of emitting light — which kind of resonates with the notions of hope, creativity,…

Editorial: Illness, Narrated

Stay healthy, stay safe. The new closing remark to many emails, phone calls and conversations is telling of a radical change in the perception of illness that took place during 2020/2021. Living and working through the COVID-19 pandemic have given a new urgency to the commonplace phrase, adding weight to an offhand farewell. This new signature does more than wish the other well; it also acknowledges a communal present that affects everyone, from the individual to national societies and global relations. Health, and its precarious situation, has found its way into people’s homes, where incidences, virologists’ opinions and mutant forms are discussed over dinner. “Stay healthy” indicates our hopes for the other not to be infected; “stay safe” marks our hopes that they keep viral threats at bay. The realities of constantly being on a spectrum of health and illness has intruded on daily life and gone beyond conversations with medical professionals or intimates to become ‘the talk,’ a communal and shared present.

Metaphors of Migration: An Introduction

Currently, migration represents one of the most challenging problems to which societies are called to respond. This guest-edited issue of On_Culture engages with some of the less-explored facets of migration, focusing on the idea that the lived reality of migration is always also framed by discursive formations, and that metaphors can function as creative devices therein to establish a broader perception of what migration could or even should mean in the first place. Taking this perspective, where imagination and lived migration are intricately linked through layers of discourse, should allow us to shed some new light on the topic of migration.