What about your milieu? How would you describe it? Which images, words, commodities, animals, things, and information come
to mind? How do you feel, how do you move, how do you communicate with and think about your environment? And how does your
environment relate to you? The exciting thing is that a milieu is something other than a fixed context or an inevitable situation.
It is an intertwining and allows forming a theory of living relationships. Living beings and milieu are linked to each other
and involved in a dynamic of permanent debate leading to reciprocal adaptations and transformations. This dynamism takes place
in small and big things, in biological, physical, and sociological terms, and it applies as much to a single cell as it does
to a movement or an entire society.
There are milieus on which everyone immediately has an opinion. They are covered in the press and discussed in talk shows;
for example, the workers’ milieu used to vote for the Communist Party, today it votes for the Front National—a tendency that
goes beyond the borders of France, as is known. In this context, Didier Eribon writes that people have lost their historical
class consciousness. But inequality is more than the criterion of being left behind. No milieu can be consistently defined
based on shared interests and goals, independently of time and place, especially against the background of a world of work
that is undergoing constant change. According to Eribon, the challenge consists of taking the step from knowledge to action,
joining heterogeneous battles, and enduring the tensions.
Theories of the environment are always also theories of possible worlds. In this sense, the term milieu describes both possibility
conditions and permeabilities. It focuses on what is conceivable or inconceivable under specific conditions, raising questions
about the perceptibility and representability of the environment. That is indeed reminiscent of art. The view of humans to
their environment is thus a view that is itself determined by this environment; it is a corporeally determined view. Milieu,
then, describes the relationship between body and environment, the interpenetration of the environment, and that which is
in the environment. Are you aware that you are simultaneously a component and viewer of a state? That sounds pretty fictive
and otherworldly! You inhabit the milieu, and the milieu inhabits you. Precisely the engagement with this other makes the
milieu conceivable, writes Maria Muhle, thus defining the place where the norm of life develops. It is autonomy and heteronomy,
determination and agency, tension and complicity, susceptibility, and dissolution of boundaries — complicated conditions and
palm trees in Kreuzberg.
Here, our milieu is that of the exhibition. We are interested in the specifications of this exhibition milieu, the actions
that enable it, and the interrelations it produces. The relationship established between the living being and the environment
is like a debate to which the living being brings its norms of assessment of situations, in which it dominates the environment
and adapts to it, writes Georges Canguilhem. What kind of dynamism unfolds between inside and outside? Where are the boundaries,
and how do the mutual references of body, material, and environment take effect? How are transitions between natural circumstances
and artificial ones that mimic a natural process visualized? We observe ourselves to create counter-effects, determine the
milieu, and temporarily set it in motion. Nice that you can join us!
Franziska Brons, “Unter Druck: Medien am Meeresgrund,” Cologne Media Lecture, February 8, 2017, http://memo.phil-fak.uni-koeln.de/27888.html;
last accessed on 04/27/2018.
Definition of milieu: http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/milieu; last accessed on 05/05/2018.
Georges Canguilhem, “The Living and its Milieu,” in: Grey Room, Issue 3, Spring 2001, p. 7-31 [French original 1965].
Didier Eribon, Returning to Reims, Cambridge, 2016 [French original 2009].
Fabiola Rodríguez Garzón, “Die Widersprüche der Arbeiterklasse,” in: Frankfurter Rundschau, online, 02/02/2017
http://www.fr.de/kultur/literatur/didiereribon-die-widersprueche-der-arbeiterklasse-a-744349; last accessed on 04/27/2018.
Florian Huber, Christina Wessely, “Milieu. Zirkulation und Transformation eines Begriffs,” in: same (eds.), Milieu. Umgebung
des Lebendigen in der Moderne, Paderborn, 2017, p. 7–17.
Johannes F. Lehmann, “Welt als Umwelt. Zur ästhetischen Erfindung eines wissenschaftlichen Konzepts bei Diderot, Goethe und
Büchner,” in: Huber, Wessely, loc. cit., p. 121–135.
Maria Muhle, “Mixed Milieus. Vom vitalen zum biopolitischen Milieu,” in: Huber, Wessely, loc. cit., p. 35–48.
Laurent Stadler, “Milieu architektonisch. Die ‚Wissenschaft der Planbildung’ als Form von Umgebungswissen,” in: Huber, Wessely,
loc. cit., p. 72–87.
Michael Vester, “Die Gesellschaft als Kräftefeld: Klassen, Milieus und Praxis in der Tradition von Durkheim, Weber und Marx,”
in: Huber, Wessely, loc. cit., p. 136–175.