For the meeting of 11 May, we are reading two texts that relate affect to the act of witnessing. One is an essay by Jan Verwoert from his recently published essay collection Tell Me What You Want, What You Really, Really Want. This essay is titled ‘You Make Me Feel Mighty Real – on the Risk of Bearing Witness and the Art of Affective Labor’. Jan Verwoert is a critic and writer on contemporary art and cultural theory based in Berlin. He regularly contributes to magazines such as Afterall, Metropolis M, Springerin, and artists’ catalogues. In the essay we are reading, Verwoert writes about experiencing art as a form of witnessing: as a social economy of transference where feelings can be shared.
In addition, we are reading ‘Witnessing Michael Landy’s Break Down: Metonymy, Affect, and Politicised Performance in an Age of Global Consumer Capitalism’ by Jen Harvie. She is Professor of Contemporary Theater and Performance at the University of London. In this article Harvie writes about performance as a possible disruptive force, and uses the case study of Michael Landy’s work Break Down to think about social relations that are established through witnessing the performance.