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NO Rhetoric(s)

Versions and Subversions of Resistance in Contemporary Global Art

September, 13th and 14th

Bern and Zurich



Several locations, Ireland. October 2017.

Photograph by Brian Hanlon.

Courtesy a/political - Estudio Santiago Sierra.


There is talk of an unprecedented culture of protest emerging on a global scale, of new forms of disobedience and indignation. This new culture of protest frequently resorts to strategies coming from the field of art (performance, happenings, etc.), which has resulted in a growing interest of political theory in contemporary artistic strategies. At the same time, a surprising re-politicization of debates in art discourses can be observed, especially as more and more explicitly political functions are assigned to current artistic practice. Beyond a politicization of art and an aesthetization of politics, this event seeks to focus attention and problematize a neuralgic concept highly discussed and addressed in recent decades, but which has rarely become the subject of its own resistance.


“Resistance” is first and foremost a term that comes from physics, by designating a property of disposition. To its original meaning, a moral category has always been added: what actively resists opposes a natural course of things and develops an opposing force that is normatively occupied. Therefore, its Latin root, resistentia, not only refers to something that remains constant (sistere), but increases this consistency in perseverance (the prefix re- means the intensification of action). Already in modern times we experience the assimilation and instrumentalization of the concept of resistance through the various revolutions in the 18th century, along the successive anti-colonial struggles since the beginning of 19th century, as well as in the discussion of a “right to resistance”, inaugurated by Henry David Thoreau almost two centuries ago.


Facing a general discourse of resistance so fashionable today, resulting from the logics of late Capitalism, capable of neutralizing all kind of counter-force by their integration within the system, it is necessary to ask ourselves: how does the critical potential to say ‘no’ participates on the questioning rather than in the consolidation of an official discourse of resistance in which art is also responsible? Struggling between a rhetoric of ‘no’ and one of a ‘no’ to rhetoric, both the artistic and the political fields are equally spaces for debate. Nonetheless, remains to specify more precisely what their respective critical forces and agonality consist of. In this sense, the event aims to contribute to a better understanding of the different logics of resistance and to a critical look at the complex relationship between aesthetics and politics today.



Nadia Radwan is an art historian specialized in visual arts in the Middle East. She is assistant professor of World Art History at the University of Bern, Switzerland. Her research focuses on Middle Eastern art and architecture (19th-20thcentury), non-western modernisms, curatorial processes and the global museum. Radwan is one of the founders of Manazir: Swiss Platform for the Study of Visual Arts, Architecture and Heritage in the MENA Region. She authored articles about modern Arab art and architecture and has contributed to several exhibition catalogues. Her PhD entitled Les modernes d’Egypte (The Moderns of Egypt) was published in 2017 (Peter Lang) and she is currently working on her second book about concealed visibilities and the politics of abstraction in the Middle East.

Keynote Speakers



Kendell Geers

Artist Talk

September 13th, 2019



Neubrückstrasse 8

3012 Bern


Nancy Garín

Artist Talk

September 14th, 2019



Stauffacherstrasse 119

8004 Zurich

Photo: Rosario Arteaga

Guest Artists


Supported by

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