The Sphere Of Attention: Context and Margin

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And while I told the faculty that I would not have asked for a national platform to discuss in an urgent fashion the paramount importance of creating a robust public sphere at Middlebury, I am proud that we are having this discussion. I see it as a sign of our vitality, and I would like to share with you what I said to our faculty.

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I believe that a true commitment to education must embrace an uncompromising commitment to free and open dialogue that expands understanding, challenges our assumptions, and ultimately creates a more inclusive public sphere. Controversial speech, or speech by a controversial speaker, can be challenging in a time when the very idea of a public sphere seems fragile. But they should be understood as such, and it is our responsibility to teach them and to discuss them with candor. That is the only way we can reach the truth. There are many struggles playing themselves out on our college campuses: how does one acknowledge the discomfort that a true liberal education must entail, while at the same time recognizing and respecting the often difficult and unfair experiences of our students who have walked in the American margins?

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Acknowledging and honoring those margins as real spaces is essential. Honoring the study and articulation of those experiences is crucial to our well-being as a society.


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And in honoring those margins, we must pay attention to hurt, to offense, to accumulated injury. So, how do we relate these two fundamental values—the necessary discomfort of a liberal education, and an honoring of the difficult experiences of our students who have walked in the margins? And how do we do so in the context of free speech debates? Geoffrey Stone, a University of Chicago Law School professor and First Amendment scholar, has cautioned that if we are permitted to silence distasteful views, we risk becoming silenced ourselves.

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And once censorship becomes acceptable, those most likely to be silenced are our citizens who find themselves in the minority—be they religious, racial, or political minorities. With this in mind, I believe that if there ever was a time for Americans to take on arguments that offend us, it is now. If there ever was a time for us to challenge influential public views with better reason, better research, better logic, and better data, it is now.

If there ever was a time when we needed to risk being offended, to argue back even while we are feeling afraid, to declare ourselves committed to arguing for a better society, it is now. The questions that we encounter strike at the very heart of who we are as an institution, and we should take our time to learn, to debate, to understand, and to reflect. They structure their book into four parts based 1 on the question as to how artists build transnational networks; 2 where event-based art took place; and 3 how feminist and queer performances questioned the relation between public and private realms.

The editors lay out the discourse of the public sphere and propose that the second public sphere functions as an alternative public realm for performance art, as opposed to the official socialist ideologies that determine the first public sphere. Ileana Pintilie and Christian Nae examine the oppressive and isolated situation in Romania, which serves as the counter example to Yugoslavia. The hostile political situation made any activities within the party-controlled cultural public space impossible. She distinguishes three stages of critique in Czechoslovakian performance art: subversive affirming, disturbing and disrupting the public norms.

While the formation walked through the city, state officials guarded the supposedly festive wedding guests and thus became complicit in enabling his performance.


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Thus the secret activities of artists and agents played out in the same sphere, instead of staying contained in separated spaces. Female performance artists found it complicated to formulate feminist positions because of the ideological contradictions between egalitarian socialism and patriarchal power structures. The socialist state had already provided equal access to work, childcare and equal pay.

A Robust Public Sphere

Thus, women performance artists in socialist states often did not identify with the demands for equality coming from North American feminist movement. However, Eastern European women still experienced injustices based on gender hierarchies such as a male majority in positions of power. Therefore, female performance artists did feel the urge to deal with issues such as representations of women, female sexuality, or the gendered relation between the public and private realm.

With this disobedient behavior she provoked the attention of state security agents who intervened to stop her. Feminist and queer performances in Eastern Europe often resorted to subversive methods because they had to reckon with the possibility that their claims could be regarded as being unjustified, since the socialist system had officially established gender equality. Whereas the idea of the second public sphere is more or less coherent across the different perspectives represented in the book, the concept of performance or event-based art remains more open.

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On occasion more descriptive and formal analyses would have helped readers to capture the significance and relevance of the artistic material discussed. Tags: hungary. Your email address will not be published. ARTMargins Online published its first article in — twenty years ago. Modernism and World Art, —72 — by Nikolas Drosos.