International Conference of the Igor Zabel Award 2020

02.12.2020 - 03.12.2020

The international conference reconsiders the universal during the era of global capitalism and pandemic, and aims to rethink our common future and the presence of art in the (entire) world that is (not yet) our world.
Speakers: T. J. Demos, Boris Groys, ruangrupa, Apolonija Šušteršič, Alberto Toscano, and Alenka Zupančič.

Organizers: Moderna galerija, Ljubljana and Igor Zabel Association for Culture and Theory
Supported by: ERSTE Foundation


15:00  ⁄  Introduction by the organizers

Zdenka Badovinac, MG+MSUM
Urška Jurman, Igor Zabel Association for Culture and Theory

15:15  ⁄  Alenka Zupančič  ⁄  The Art of Surprise

Is art “of this world” or “not of this world”? Does this question even make sense outside of a religious perspective? The presentation will propose that art is at its strongest when it opens a perspective onto the world in an indirect way, from the new and surprising reality that art itself creates. Art, which doesn’t surprise us at all but rather shows us what we expect, fails precisely at establishing a relation with the world rather than being merely commentary or reflection on it. In this sense, art is perhaps always the art of surprise, which, from an unexpected perspective, constitutes the world as the world.

15:35  ⁄  Boris Groys  ⁄  The Universal Subject of Care

In contemporary society, there exists a universal mode of work – it is the care work. The securing of human lives is regarded by our civilization as its supreme goal. Foucault was correct when he described modern states as biopolitical. Their main function is to take care of the physical wellbeing of their populations. However, our culture is also permanently producing extensions of our material bodies: artworks, books, photographs, documents, videos, emails, websites, etc. All of these objects and documents are kept for some time after our deaths. Cemeteries, museums, libraries, historical archives, public monuments, and places of historical significance are maintained. Cultural identity, historical memory, traditional urban spaces, and ways of life are preserved. And we care for ourselves – our own survival and our cultural afterlife. The universal subject is itself a subject of care.

15:55  ⁄  Alberto Toscano  ⁄  Quantities of the Past – Photography in the Aftermath of Capital

The talk will return to a previous discussion about the relation between photowork, landscape, and logistics in Cartographies of the Absolute (with Jeff Kinkle, 2015), and extend it to include reflections on the following three recently published books of American landscape photography: Richard Misrach and Kate Orff’s Petrochemical America, Mitch Epstein’s American Power, and David Maisal’s Black Maps: American Landscape and the Apocalyptic Sublime. The presentation will consider environmental devastation and its nexus with racial capitalism in light of Fredric Jameson’s arguments about “dead labour” in his 2011 book Representing Capital.

16:15  ⁄  Discussion

The conversation between Alenka Zupančič, Boris Groys, and Alberto Toscano will be moderated by Dražen Dragojević.

Alenka Zupančič

Slovenian philosopher and social theorist, Alenka Zupančič works as research advisor at the Institute of Philosophy of the Scientific Research Center of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences. She is also a visiting professor at the European Graduate School in Switzerland. She is particularly known for her work on the intersection of philosophy and psychoanalysis, and is the author of numerous articles and books including The Shortest Shadow: Nietzsche’s Philosophy of the Two (MIT Press, 2003), The Odd One In: On Comedy (MIT Press, 2008), Why Psychoanalysis: Three Interventions (NSU Press, 2008), Ethics of the Real: Kant and Lacan (Verso, 2012), and, most recently, What is Sex?

Boris Groys

Art critic, media theorist, curator, and philosopher, Boris Groys is currently Professor of Russian and Slavic Studies at New York University and Professor of Philosophy and Art Theory at the European Graduate School in Switzerland.

Groys’s work focuses on the avant-garde as well as contemporary art and art theory. His curatorial projects include the Russian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale (2011) and his work as co-curator of the Shanghai Biennale (2012). He also curated the 8th Triennial of Contemporary Art U3: Beyond the Globe, at the Moderna galerija, Ljubljana (2016). His books include: History Becomes Form: Moscow Conceptualism (MIT Press, 2010), An Introduction to Antiphilosophy (Verso Books, 2012), Under Suspicion: A Phenomenology of Media (Columbia University Press, 2012), On the New (Verso Books, 2014), In the Flow (Verso Books, 2016), and Russian Cosmism (MIT Press, 2018).

Alberto Toscano

Reader in Critical Theory and Codirector of the Centre for Philosophy and Critical Theory at Goldsmiths, University of London. He has been a member of the editorial board for the journal Historical Materialism: Research in Critical Marxist Theory since 2004 and is series editor of The Italian List for Seagull Books. He is the author of The Theatre of Production (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), Fanaticism: On the Uses of an Idea (Verso, 2010; 2nd edition, 2017), and co-author of the Cartographies of the Absolute (Zero Books, 2015). Toscano, also a translator of Negri, Badiou and others, has published widely on critical theory, politics, and culture.

Dražen Dragojević

Dražen Dragojević moves between Berlin-Ljubljana, culture-theory-media, concepting-producing-communicating-engaging, books-television-stage-galleries-film-clubs. He collaborates with the cultural festivals Indigo, Sonica, and Grounded as well as projects in development Gallery Cukrarna and European Capital of Culture Ljubljana 2025.

Photos: Nada Žgank


15:00  ⁄  Introduction

Dražen Dragojević

15:15  ⁄  Apolonija Šušteršič  ⁄  Becoming Local

The talk will address the contradiction between the particular and the universal based on Apolonija Šušteršič’s position as an artist who works with local people and environments from a non-local perspective. How does a method developed in a particular case apply and influence a new situation and produce a new work? What kind of displacement is possible when discussing the context-specific art project? Why and how do we recontextualize an art project that has been created for a specific place, time and, situation, years later in another place and situation that is historically and politically divergent? Is recontextualization the right method to create a new work that has a relevant and updated relationship with an existing but new context in time and place?

15:35  ⁄  Ade Darmawan, ruangrupa

ruangrupa is an art collective based in Jakarta, Indonesia and currently curator of documenta 15 in Kassel.

15:55  ⁄  T. J. Demos  ⁄  Radical Futurisms

With reference to three international examples of contemporary art—those of Thirza Jean Cuthand, The Otolith Group, and Black Quantum Futurism—this short talk discusses current modelings of radical futurism and worlds-to-come that refuse surrender to capitalist realism. Where radical imagination meets radical praxis is in the material forces of solidarity, the political form of belonging more than ever necessary today in the collective battle against international fascisms and global neoliberalisms. While acknowledging the bankruptcy of Eurocentric universalisms, this presentation defends approaches to insurgent political formations beyond identitarian fragmentation, including a political aesthetics of abolition—ultimately of racial and colonial capitalism.

16:15  ⁄  Discussion

The conversation between Apolonija Šušteršič, ruangrupa, and T. J. Demos will be moderated by Dražen Dragojević.

Apolonija Šušteršič

An architect and artist Apolonija Šušterišič graduated from the Faculty of Architecture in Ljubljana (1992) and completed her postgraduate studies in art at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam (1996). She worked as a professor and the head of the Monumental Department (Department of Public Art) at the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm from 2003 until 2008. She completed her PhD at the Malmö Art Academy of Lund University in Sweden in 2013. She has been a professor at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts since 2014.

Šušteršič develops transdisciplinary and participatory projects for and within the public space. The following are some of her works: Home Design Service (Casco Projects, Utrecht, 2001), Garden Service (with Meike Schalk, Edinburgh International Festival, 2007), SUNSETCINEMA (with Bik van der Pol, Luxembourg, 2007), Community Pavilion Hustadt (Bochum, 2011), and Neighbours and Citizens (Gävle, 2015–). She has exhibited extensively, including at Moderna Museet in Stockholm, the Berlin Biennale 3, Moderna Galerija in Ljubljana, the Generali Foundation in Vienna, the Tirana Biennale 3, Muhka in Antwerp, and the 12th Venice Biennale of Architecture.


A Jakarta-based collective ruangrupa was established in 2000. It is a nonprofit organization that supports the idea of art within the urban context by involving artists as well as people from other disciplines such as social sciences, politics, technology, and media to provide critical observations and views on Indonesian urban contemporary issues.
Most recently, ruangrupa has been selected as the artistic director of the documenta 15 (Kassel, 2022).
In 2018, ruangrupa co-initated GUDSKUL: a contemporary art collective and ecosystem studies. GUDSKUL is a public learning space established to practice an expanded understanding of collective values, such as equality, sharing, solidarity, friendship, and togetherness.

As an artistic collective, ruangrupa has been involved in large exhibitions such as the Gwangju Biennale (2002, 2018), the Istanbul Biennale (2005), the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (Brisbane, 2012), the Singapore Biennale (2011), the São Paulo Biennale (2014), the Aichi Triennale (Nagoya, 2016), and Cosmopolis at the Centre Pompidou (Paris, 2017). In 2016, ruangrupa curated transACTION: Sonsbeek 2016 in Arnhem, NL.

T. J. Demos

T. J. Demos is an award-winning writer and professor of visual culture at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and director of its Center for Creative Ecologies. He writes widely about contemporary art, global politics, and ecology, and is the author, most recently, of Against the Anthropocene: Visual Culture and Environment Today (Sternberg Press, 2017) and Decolonizing Nature: Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology (Sternberg Press, 2016). Demos co-curated Rights of Nature: Art and Ecology in the Americas at Nottingham Contemporary in 2015, and organized Specters: A Ciné-Politics of Haunting at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid in 2014. He was a Getty Research Institute Scholar during the spring of 2020, and is the director of the Mellon-funded research project Beyond the End of the World, which includes, among others, his most recent book Beyond the World’s End: Arts of Living at the Crossing (Duke University Press, 2020) in which he explores how radical cultural practice can transcend catastrophism and negativity, and cultivate futures of social justice and ecological flourishing. With the Center for Creative Ecologies, he participated in Manifesta 13 in Marseille in 2020.

Dražen Dragojević

Dražen Dragojević moves between Berlin-Ljubljana, culture-theory-media, concepting-producing-communicating-engaging, books-television-stage-galleries-film-clubs. He collaborates with the cultural festivals Indigo, Sonica, and Grounded as well as projects in development Gallery Cukrarna and European Capital of Culture Ljubljana 2025.