11th International Studio Program of the ACC Galerie and the City of Weimar

The Culture of Fear

11th International Studio Program 2005 "The Culture of Fear"

Mandy Gehrt (Deutschland)
Kyoko Ebata (Japan)
Oscar Tuazon (USA)

Kontakt - Contact:

"Fear is the organ through which a person takes suffering to heart, internalizes it, assimilates it. It is the channel of energy through which suffering bores its way into the human heart. Yet its effect is not arrow-like but successive in character, not over and done with once and for all but constantly unfolding." (Theodor W. Adorno)

Fear - as an emotional state and as a concept - has become an omnipresent life companion. The production of fear, e.g. through the crisis infotainment broadcast by the media, dominates entire branches of industry; fear has become a key technology of power. At the same time, the process of fear's production has changed our perception of danger and our way of coping with fear - although life has not actually become any riskier. The machinery of fear is booming; the continual generation of new sources and contents of fear has endowed it with the status of a historical process, accompanied by a continually transforming consumer demand for means of understanding, controlling and/or warding off alleged new risks.

An economic factor, an object of cultivation: Fear has become a fundamental pacemaker, an essential survival strategy of the late capitalist society. It is a "cultural asset," a luxury possessed by societies which have overcome the constant struggle for survival or at least banned it to the margins. Characteristically, it is fear of the fall and not of the fallen which is the chief focus of the middle-class-oriented media society. An effective means of coping with personal fear is nevertheless an indispensable weapon in the struggle to secure one's existence in the neoliberal, strongly individualist society. According to the US-American sociologist Barry Glassner, author of the 1999 bestseller The Culture of Fear, individualization, government cutbacks in social security and the increase of fear are directly interrelated.

The production of fear serves as a strategy of constant societal self-renewal. In a certain sense, the culture of fear is thus a reflexive response to the inability of the political elite to lead society. Politics fails to counter the problems of society with its own visions, motivations and solutions; it fails to bring people closer by means of mutual understanding and diplomacy. On the contrary, politics intimidates us and constantly reminds us of our own vulnerability. The campaigns against terrorism have resulted in nothing but a deepening of mutual mistrust and an intensified sense of helplessness and isolation.

Characterized by an immense potential for growth, the fear of crime and terrorism has become a viable, market-trend-setting instrument for the sale of dubious products. Among other things, it has taken the place of the fear of communism which accompanied the Cold War. Private business and public interests stand side by side in the struggle to fulfil a twofold objective - profit and social control. Ideologically, they justify their actions to the public with the promise of protection against fear, threat, violence and terror. And against the perpetrators who must be demonized in order to justify the use of the taxpayers' money to repress and imprison them.

How do artists deal with the culture of fear? More specifically, how do they deal with it in view of the contradiction between artistic self-realization and economic survival in times of growing political arbitrariness, immense economic pressure and the exploitation of art through politics and business? What alternative, innovative concepts for thought and action do artists have at their disposal in the attempt to remain conscious of fear and the multifarious means by which it is generated? Artists who wish to formulate answers to these questions are cordially invited to apply for participation in the Eleventh International Studio Program of the ACC Galerie Weimar and the City of Weimar.