… “In a world paralysed by the comforts of polarisation, stereotype and pseudo-tolerance, the Institute of Idle Curiosity for Elements of Seduction researches that critical human condition that would allow an untainted intellectual solidarity and a consolatory decadent aesthetics of life.”…
Thursday the 9th of April (7pm till midnight) – Opening seminar starts at 8pm
Dates & hours / venue / flyer
Happening – “Melancholies of Modernity”
Thursday the 16th of April (6pm till end)
6:45pm – Intro
7:00pm – Film screening ‘A Journey into the Land of the 4th Dimension’
8:00pm – Salon ‘An evening with Paul Otlet and Gaston de Pawlowski’
Melancholy is not depression neither pessimism. Drawing on interpretations from the pre-modern Romantic and Decadent Era, it can be described as the aesthetical consolation that comes with the awareness of the impossibility of pure beauty, unity and harmony, and of the inevitability of imperfection, decadence and uncertainty. The idea however is that melancholy is not a detached but an ethical experience, and that this became apparent with modernity: melancholy is the human condition resulting from a deliberate awareness of the limits to rational instrumental reason in a context of social appeal. That social appeal may either be love, friendship or lust, or social or political engagement. The implications of modernity rendered melancholy with a social meaning: the impossibility of pure beauty, unity and harmony, and of the inevitability of imperfection, decadence and uncertainty, is not experienced by way of detached observation, but in a reflexive way in social interaction.
In this vision, the ‘end state’ of melancholy is still aesthetical consolation. But that state is not passive, as it arises from an ethical demand. In its recognition of the intrinsic ambiguity of human interaction and of the inherent complexity of social organisation and cohabitation, it is an intellectual withdrawal from the delusion of grandeur of a society obsessed with rationality, security, efficiency, predictability and competition. In its disdain for complacency, it is a consolatory practice of leaving the comfort zones constructed around strategies of conformism, positivism, populism and profitism. But as an active state of resignation, melancholy is not evasive. Its decadence is in the eyes of the conformists. Layered on reflexivity as an ethical experience, it feels the anger towards the detached. And as a meta-state of concern, it is aware of the fragile potential of intellectual solidarity among the capable, and of the melancholy of the capable as vulnerable.
Melancholy is practicing the aesthetics of imperfection, decadence and uncertainty, although with a constant awareness of – and care for – the possible of human possibilities.
Confronted today with its adverse consequences, modernity is traditionally characterised as the era of a growing obsession with rationality, security, efficiency, predictability and competition. That picture is incomplete, as it overlooks the early signs of ‘reflexivity as an ethical experience’ of socially-critical individuals and groups, and of the state of melancholy in which they operated. Understanding modernity is understanding the melancholy of resistance against modernity in modernity.
Text: Gaston Meskens