The power of weakness

Siegfried Zielinski

June 23, 2015

Doubt is a polyvalent state of mind.1 We are at the point that we have to begin doubting the foundations of the 21st century: money, ownership, the nation-state, history, art, just a few examples. Professor Zielinski agreed that we have to re-examine the kind of ontological paradigm we need. Taking europe as an example, he believes that if there should be something like that, it should be a ‘weak’ construction, not a strong, universal, forever-lasting construction. Nothing lasts forever and nothing is bullet-proof. Accepting weakness is an honest, humane stance. Moreover, weakness can strengthen the idea of a dialogue and especially one with heterogeneities and contradictions.

Bataille argues that the civilization reveals its order most clearly in the treatment of its surplus energy. The accursed share is that excessive and non-recuperable part of any economy which must either be spent luxuriously and knowingly without gain in the arts, in non-procreative sexuality, in spectacles and sumptuous monuments, or it is obliviously destined to an outrageous and catastrophic outpouring, most often in war, but always in a manner that threatens the prevailing system. You can interpret this idea  in various ways; one could be after the likes of Warhol, Koons and Hirst. But within the same idea, we may discover a totally opposite approach. If we are poor, can we celebrate this luxury of being so in a lavish manner? There is a great number of other economies that are part of our world too, we don’t always have to focus on the dominant capitalist economy. Such is what the professor calls the economy of friendship. He has developed collaboratively many of his books within this economy, which is not even mentioned as such, and for which one needs no more than being able to give and receive hospitality and a good meal. Art is all about experience. Can we, as artists, create experiences of heterotopic situations for an alternative world within the structures of the regular one?

1.  V. Flusser, On Doubt, Flusser Archive, transl. Rodrigo Maltez Novaes, edited by Siegfried Zielinksi, Univocal


Siegfried Zielinski

Siegfried Zielinski is a German media theorist. He holds the chair for Media Theory: Archaeology and Variantology of the Media at Berlin University of the Arts, he is Michel FoucaultProfessor for Techno-Culture and Media Archaeology at the European Graduate School in Saas Fee, and he is director of the International Vilém-Flusser-Archive at the Berlin University of the Arts.

Prof. Zielinski looking at the grave of Marx

salt was difficult to obtain, so it was a highly valued trade item, and considered a form of currency by certain peoples. The word “salary” stems from the Latin word “salarium,” meaning “salt money.” The Romans paid soldiers, officers, and civil administrators an allowance of salt, and “salarium” came to be a term for military pay after salt was no longer used to pay soldiers.