Geneva University of Art and Design / 
Palais de Tokyo


Radical Enlightenment. 
A Symposium on Cybernetics and the Soul
Stimulation through discourse, visuals, sound, 
and nourishment

Friday March 15, 2013, 1–11pm

Kodwo Eshun, Alain Kaufmann, Jelena Martinovic, 
Francis McKee, Marco Pasi, D. Graham Burnett, 
Vincent de Roguin, Pascal Rousseau, Laurent Schmid,
Suzanne Treister, and others. Organised by Lars Bang Larsen and Yann Chateigné Tytelman.

Palais de Tokyo, room 37
13, Avenue du Palais-Wilson 
75016 Paris

  Ann Lislegaard, “Time Machine,” 2011. 3D animation, 
mirror box, projector, loudspeaker. Courtesy the artist 
and Murray Guy Gallery, New York.
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Western Enlightenment was truncated by capital, traditionalism and instrumental reason. 

The radical Enlightenment we never got includes aesthetic and scientific experiments, counter-cultural movements, as well as entire modernities that have been disqualified as esoteric. 

Historically, a radical Enlightenment placed sharper oppositions between philosophy and theology, governance and freedom. On crucial points regarding human rights, colonial issues, democracy and the role of the church, the radical tendency opposes a moderate Enlightenment. As Jonathan Israel points out, “Enlightenment ‘progress’ was thus very wide-ranging and multi-faceted.” (A Revolution of the Mind. Radical Enlightenment and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Democracy, 2010.)

In this context the post-war science of cybernetics presents a critical ambiguity. On the one hand cybernetics—the science of “communication and control in the animal and the machine” according to Norbert Wiener—set the bio-political state to work through analogies of brain and computer, cell and transistor, electric circuit and nervous system, and in this way lies at the heart of today’s scientific determinism and administrative utopias. On the other hand, the fact that cybernetics rendered the contour of human life fuzzy in relation to machines, plants and other creatures became a productive point of departure for the artistic creation of new bodies, machines, pleasures, and modes of becoming.

The symposium intends to invoke the spirit of a radical Enlightenment by gauging exchanges between art, science and counter-culture. Topics addressed in the seminar include mystical experience and medical experimentation; wayward cybernetics, military theory and network theories; electronic music, television and technologies of conditioning; robotics, trans-humanism and futurology; as well as hermetic philosophies and sorcery.

A playful event with a rhythmic structure, the symposium will test the limits of discourse in an attempt to stimulate the nervous system and produce something like an enlightened metabolism in which the soul can be reinstated as a frontier in the regime of positivist physiology.

Food and drinks will be served. 

The symposium is a project by Geneva University of Art and Design (Head – Genève), hosted by Palais de Tokyo, Paris. It is part of the research project Art, Science, Counter-Culture: Perspectives on a Radical Enlightenment. It takes place on the occasion of Joachim Koester’s exhibition Reptile Brain or Reptile Body, It’s Your Animal. As part of Koester’s exhibition, Lars Bang Larsen and Yann Chateigné Tytelman have curated the micro-group show Seismology, an ambivalent homage to the Stalinist behaviourist I.P. Pavlov.

Works by Søren Andreasen & Jakob Jakobsen, Ann Lislegaard, and Henrik Olesen
Documents: Aleksei Gastev, Ivan Petrovic Pavlov, Vsevolod Pudovkin and Jerzy Grotowski
Soundtrack: Vincent de Roguin
Display: Xabier Salaberría
Graphic design: Shaffter Sahli
Palais de Tokyo, Paris, February 27 through May 20.