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  • The Speed of Beauty: Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, Interviewed by Ulrik Ekman
  • Ulrik Ekman
Abstract

Professor Gumbrecht was interviewed after his visit in November 2005 to the Department for Cultural Studies and the Arts, Copenhagen University, Denmark, arranged by the Research Forum for Intermedial Digital Aesthetics directed by Ulrik Ekman. On that occasion, Gumbrecht gave a seminar titled “Benjamin in the Digital Age,” which focused on his editorial work with Professor Michael Marrinan (Stanford) on the essay anthology, Mapping Benjamin: The Work of Art in the Digital Age. The interview originated in conversations during Gumbrecht’s visit and continued to develop further ideas raised in the seminar. The interview took place mainly by email during the first three months following Gumbrecht’s Denmark seminar.

Professor Gumbrecht was interviewed after his visit in November 2005 at the Department for Cultural Studies and the Arts, Copenhagen University, Denmark, arranged by the Research Forum for Intermedial Digital Aesthetics directed by Ulrik Ekman. On that occasion, Gumbrecht gave a seminar titled “Benjamin in the Digital Age,” which focused on his editorial work with Professor Michael Marrinan (Stanford) on the essay anthology, Mapping Benjamin: The Work of Art in the Digital Age.

This interview originated in conversations during Gumbrecht’s visit and continued to develop further ideas raised in the seminar. The interview took place mainly by email during the first three months following Gumbrecht’s Denmark seminar.

This interview stretches the conventional limits of the genre in more ways than one. The initial agreement was that questions and answers would be exchanged several times, undergoing cuts or further articulation as each party found necessary, until a format and body of work acceptable to both was reached. The length of the interview as well as the scope and complexity of the questions and answers thus often exceed what one would normally expect. It has from the outset been a conscious decision to articulate and even to emphasize the participants’ differences of position or of approach.

UE: The Dubrovnick seminar on the materialities of communication not only resulted in the publication of a very rich body of work,1 it also seems to have been of lasting importance for you. You refer frequently to this event as the high point of the seminar series,2 and one can see how it prefigures, among other things, your later work on post-hermeneutics, the production of presence, and meaning-effects. What was the motivation, at that time, for bringing specific attention to “materialities of communication,” and how do you work with that notion today?

HUG: “Materialities of Communication” (back in the spring of 1987, if I remember correctly), in a still almost “Socialist” Yugoslavia, was indeed only one (the fourth) of four meetings that my friends and I organized on the Eastern Adriatic coast between 1981 and 1989. Our main motivation was, typically enough, as I might say today, to “keep alive” the theoretical and philosophical impulses in the humanities that came from the “earthshaking years” around 1970, but that we felt had been slowly ebbing since the early 1980s. I am saying “typically enough” because today, in a first and not yet totalizing retrospective, it is my impression that it has always been my task (at least my main ambition) to keep alive, and even to accelerate, intellectual movement. In those Dubrovnik years, I once said that I wanted to be a “catalyst of intellectual complexity”—and this certainly still holds true. Now, such a self-description implies that I care much less about “where” such intellectual movement will lead us. I care less about the “vectors” of our thinking than about its actual happening—and this works well with a general conception that I have of the humanities as being a (small) social system, which, rather than reducing complexity (which of course is necessary in general), adds to the intrinsic complexity of our societies. We should be less about solutions and more about producing new questions, i.e., more complexity. But back to your question, and my Dubrovnik decade—the 1980s. As I am implying, it was not very clear at the beginning of our colloquium series in which direction we could be successful with our intention...

Additional Information

ISSN
1053-1920
Launched on MUSE
2006-10-26
Open Access
No
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