Archivio Conz and the team behind the research project Activating Fluxus are pleased to announce the event "Fluxus Fetish" taking place at the Archivio Conz, Berlin, Germany, on November 2-3, 2023.
“You have to remember that I’m a fairly curious sort of collector. There’s an awful lot of fetishism in the way I go about it.” - Francesco Conz
The term “fetish” encompasses a range of meanings depending on the context in which it is being used. It begins with an object believed to possess magic, protective or assisting powers, often regarded with reverence and intense devotion, marked by preoccupation and emotional attachment. In some cases, the term “fetish” has been used to describe intense devotion or veneration of a specific object or idea within a group or cult-like setting. This can involve rituals, ceremonies, or practices centered around the fetish. It also takes on a modern connotation associated with sexual fetish and gratification, representing an object of fixation - a body part, an object, or activity that goes beyond what is considered typically normative. Finally, and in a broader sense, a fetish can refer to any object, idea, or activity to which a person develops an unusually strong and obsessive attachment or devotion. This can manifest in various ways, such as collecting specific items, fixating on certain topics, or engaging in particular behaviors repeatedly.
Fetishism can be described as the act of redirecting one's desires and fantasies towards substitute objects or specific body parts, like a foot or a shoe, in order to avoid dealing directly with the complex psychological issue of castration. Sigmund Freud, in his essay on "Fetishism," came to realize that individuals with fetishistic tendencies are capable of simultaneously believing in their fantasies while acknowledging them as mere fantasies. Surprisingly, this recognition of the fantasy's unreal nature doesn't diminish its hold over the person. Octave Mannoni expressed this contradictory mindset as “je sais bien, mais quand-même” or “I know very well, but nevertheless.”
Slavoj Žižek further builds upon this concept when exploring the nature of ideology, which follows a similar paradoxical logic. Julia Kristeva takes this idea to the extreme by suggesting that all language is intertwined with fetishism. She argues that when a person confronts the artificial nature of their relationship with objects and stands at the point where desire originates, the fetish becomes a temporary but essential lifeline. In this sense, language itself might be considered our ultimate and inseparable fetish. Language, in essence, relies on a form of fetishistic denial (“I know that, but just the same,” “the sign is not the thing, but just the same,” etc.), and it defines our fundamental nature as beings who communicate through speech.
Co-organized by the teams from SNSF Activating Fluxus and Archivio Conz, our event, Fluxus Fetish, aims to delve into the concept of the fetish from several angles. Firstly, we will explore it through the lens of Archivio Conz's unique collection of fetish objects. This exploration will encompass the vibrant archival life and the latent potential residing within these objects. Secondly, we will engage with the notion of fetish as something possessing distinct agency, investigating how certain objects acquire the ability to exert influence over other objects, individuals and practices. We will draw connections between affect and care, bridging the gap between Fluxus fetishes and other emotionally charged objects, for example, so-called “ethnographic objects.” Thirdly, we will examine the act of collecting artworks as specific objects as a form of fetishism, or how objects become fetishised in the collection through ritual practices of preservation and care.
We will ponder questions like: What desires do these objects harbor, and do they define their own conditions of care? How does a fetish object impact the archive that houses it? What happens when a collected object becomes fetishized within the collection it belongs to? Can we activate a fetish, or conversely, how do fetish objects challenge the notion of activation? Grappling with the paradoxical notion of “knowing, but just the same” we will ultimately explore what these fetishes stand in for and what remains elusive, as well as how they challenge the theory and practice or caring for art.
"Fluxus Fetish" is part of a two-day Fluxus Study Day that will take place at Archivio Conz, Lise-Meitner-Straße 7-9, 10589 Berlin, on November 2 and 3, 2023. On November 2, we plan an activation of a Fluxus Cabinet, which is closed to the public. On November 3, 3:30 pm - 20:00, we are organizing a public panel centered around the idea of a Fetish Tisch (English: "Fetish table"), featuring selected objects from the collection, along with responses from invited speakers: Clémentine Deliss (KW Institute), Horst Bredekamp (Humboldt University), Ayesha Fuentes (University of Cambridge) and Patrizio Peterlini (Fondazione Bonotto). The panel will be introduced by Hubertus von Amelunxen, director of the Archivio. Please note that public attendance for this panel on November 3 is by invitation only, with limited spaces available to the general public. If you wish to attend it, you will need to register through our Eventbrite page (https://www.eventbrite.com/e/713023792357?aff=oddtdtcreator) on a first-come, first-served basis. To accommodate any last-minute cancellations, we will establish a waiting list, so we kindly request that you make your reservations responsibly.
Activating Fluxus is a research project that started in April 2022 at the Institute of Materiality in Art and Culture, Bern University of the Arts (HKB). Funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, the project consists of an interdisciplinary team of researchers, including Prof. Dr. Hanna B Hölling (project lead), Dr. Aga Wielocha (postdoctoral fellow), Josephine Ellis (doctoral candidate), Marcus Gossolt (artistic collaborator), and a network of associated researchers: Johannes M. Hedinger, Sally Kawamura, Elke Gruhn, Stefanie Mathey and Émilie Parendeau. Together they are investigating the transitory international lives and afterlives of Fluxus objects, events, and ephemera created from the 1960s - 1970s, not destined for preservation.
Archivio Conz is a Berlin-based research institution dedicated to the presentation, promotion, and research of Fluxus, Concrete Poetry, and Lettrism. It holds one of the largest collections of Fluxus art in the world, amassed over five decades by visionary collector, publisher, and photographer Francesco Conz (1935-2010).