Donnerstag, 30. November 2017, 18:00 - 19:30 iCal

Crowds, Power, and the Rape of the Masses

Prof. Sarah Wilson

Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London

Institut für Kunstgeschichte der Universität Wien, Universitätscampus Hof 9, Seminarraum 1
Spitalgasse 2, 1090 Wien


Within the art world orgy of Frieze-week London, two shows spoke to me most powerfully about art and

crisis: Marcin Dudek’s Steps and Marches, (Edel Assanti gallery) and Melancholia, a Seebald story, (Kings’

College, Inigo Rooms).

Dudek’s video, Interpersonal stress crowd turbulence, evoked the long story of crowds, ephemeral violence,

political uprising and change; Melancholia, the dreadful contemplation of aftermath, the impossible

dialectic of reconstruction and mourning.

With our democracies at the mercy of the ‘black box algorithms’ the rise of jingoism and racism reveal

atavistic, animal fears. It seems timely to look back to the theoreticians of crowds and power from Jules

Romains, and Georges Sorel, to Walter Benjamin, Elias Canetti or George-Didi-Huberman’s Uprisings.

Above all Serge Chakotin’s Rape of the Masses. The Psychology of Totalitarian propaganda, first published

in 1939 and its reappearance in England and Russia today speaks to the present. ‘In the description of the

disaster lies the possibility of overcoming it’. Are W. G. Seebald’s words too optimistic for our times?

Sarah Wilson is a specialist on the School of Paris and postwar European art, extending to Franco-Soviet relations,

Narrative Figuration and global conceptualisms. She supervises research on contemporary Russian, Eastern European

and also Chinese art. In 2015 she was co-curator of ‘Asia Time: Ist Asian Biennale / 5th Guangzhou Triennale’ (Guangzhou,



Historisch-Kulturwissenschaftlichen Fakultät


Marion Meyer
Historisch-Kulturwissenschaftliche Fakultät
Institut für Klassische Archäologie