Toxic masculinity, generation X, the angry black woman, or the super rich who don´t pay taxes: Socio-political clichés threaten to limit human rights and freedom of speech as much as they trigger and frame necessary social debates. We build and consolidate these signifiers in different social spheres: In the news, on the street, and more increasingly as hashtags on social media. The foreshortening of a social identity suggested by the cliché calls for a close analysis, one that will include etymological, historical, phenomenological, as well as psychoanalytic considerations.
This working group aims at scrutinizing the term “cliché” from its roots in media archeology in order to open up the question how the arts subvert or solidify the social cliché. While the notion of the cliché calls for a critical investigation of such key aesthetic concepts as representation, image, documentation, and storytelling, our working group takes its starting point from the original usage of the term “cliché,” namely as a typecast used in early printmaking. A token of technological reproducibility, the cliché therefore suggests a specific time frame that ranges from the period around 1900 to the present. We define the “cliché” first and foremost as a medium, i.e. a container that stores and transmits a certain set of socio-political information. In other words, the cliché can be read as symptomatic of paradigmatic shifts in the history of social interaction.
Putting a strong emphasis on the contemporary era, the working group undertakes a discourse analysis of recent phenomena that witness a rising petrification of social clichés concomitant with iconoclastic tendencies in both the high and low culture of visual media. We are currently experiencing a vast stream of image production in conjunction with continual destruction and restitution of visual content, which often reduces the definition of “art” to a mere platform for documentation and identification. Further to art’s dominantly representative function, one can observe a backlash in existing debates about inclusion and diversity. Prominent examples are the various polemics around the #MeToo movement, an increasing number of lawsuits and public campaigns against artworks such as Dana Schutz's "Open Casket," or the growing attention for (post-)migrant auto-fiction on global bestseller lists. Investigating the history of the double bind between social typecasting and freedom of expression, the working group makes an effort to expose the structural shortcomings of image proliferation and sedimentation in the digital age in order to examine the symbolic foundations of community-building in the past and present.