© Jasmin Krakenberg / Goethe Pop Up Seattle

Following the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA in 2018, I embarked on a year-long quest to try to discover and illuminate some of the deep undercurrents that were roiling American society at that time. I met with scholars at the Goethe Institute, the Hannah Arendt Center at Bard College, and with Seattle curator, artist, and poet David Francis to help think about the project.
Given the rising influence of social media during this time, I was especially interested in teasing out the relationship between "seeing" (images on Facebook, for example) and "thinking" (how we process those images), and how we could express those ideas through art.
Over the course of my exploration, I identified five scholars and artists whose ideas and expertise seemed especially relevant this topic. These individuals very graciously agreed to participate in an online salon.
The outcome of this effort was an online salon called "Unsettling the Apparatus", which was hosted by and presented with very generous support by the Goethe Pop Up Seattle. With an audience of Seattleites combined with followers of the Goethe Institute from around the world, we had well over 100 viewers participate in the salon.
The word "Apparatus" comes from the works of Vilém Flusser, who was a Jewish, Czech-born Brazilian philosopher, and refers to the automatic nature of events that can subsume society. A full definition of the concept was presented during the salon by Flusser scholar Andreas Ströhl.
Our salon featured five artist/scholars each presenting a 10-minute discourse accompanied by a short essay on their topic. This was followed by a 10-minute Q&A session.

Click on any image below to view the presenter's video and essay.
What is an Apparatus?
Flusser expert and Regional Director of Goethe-Institut North America (currently head of the sub-Saharan Africa region Goethe-Insitut)
Andreas presents on the meaning of "the Apparatus" in Vilem Flusser's work, and its relationship to American culture in the 2020's.

How do images work in our mind during the thinking process? Where are we when we think? How does thinking appear?
Assistant Director of the Hannah Arendt Center and Visiting Professor of Political Studies at Bard College, New York (Samantha is currently an independent author and critic, writing books about Hannah Arendt).
Samantha also takes special note of the George Floyd murder that occurred days before the salon.
Are there ways of seeing that can create empathy and foster change with regards to inequities and oppression?
Professor and Artist, Visual and Performing Arts, Michigan Technological University.
How did the experience of nomadism effect Flusser and his work?
Professor of Critical Studies in the School of Visual Arts, Pennsylvania State University
How does a curator work?
Independent Curator, Professor of Fine Art, Seattle Central College and Renton Technical College
Questions & Answers moderated by Arabelle from Goethe Pop Up Seattle
Managing director of Goethe Pop Up Seattle.

June, 2020 Promo for the Salon
"Even as the uncertain societal impacts of a global pandemic start to manifest, America in the past four years [as of 2020] has been gripped by a panoply of divisive and disruptive events, from disputes about historical monuments to mass shootings, from online election interference to a presidential impeachment, and more, all occurring amidst a growing threat of violence from fringe groups in the population. Populist movements are on the  rise, and people are disconcerted.  
Is it appropriate in times like these to seriously consider the possibility of a rise in authoritarian rule, or even, eventually, totalitarian rule? What are the warning signs that these forms of government might emerge and gain traction, as they did in Europe during the 30’s and 40’s? Are there unique characteristics of our world today that  make these outcomes possible or even likely? Is there anything that we can do about it? How are artists and thinkers responding to the political moment? 
Join us on June 8th, 2020, for an online digital salon, hosted by the Goethe Pop Up Seattle, to discuss these timely, important, and fascinating questions. We will explore the topic through the lens of two crucial mid-century philosophers, Hannah Arendt and  Vilém Flusser, both German-speaking Jews who fled the Nazi totalitarian regime in Europe. Arendt, in her monumental classic on the “Origins of Totalitarianism”,  explored many facets of these movements in Germany and the Soviet Union. Flusser looked deeply at our technology driven media culture, and he developed a concept of  “the apparatus” to help understand the functioning of our current world. 
“Unsettling the Apparatus” will bring together Arendt scholar Samantha Rose Hill and  Flusser scholar Andreas Ströhl, who will present some of the key ideas of each of these  theorists. We will then hear from and see work by artist-theorists Anne Beffel and  Brazilian born Simone Osthoff, to learn something about how artists respond to their  individual political moments. Finally, we will round out our discussion with Hasaan  Kirkland, an independent art curator, who will help us to pull these ideas together from a curator’s perspective."
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