Freedom of the Arts #4 • Manuela Naveau: Critical Data and the Arts: How Freedom of the Arts Fosters Understanding of Digital Transformation

Freedom of the Arts • Public Lecture Series • Winter 2023/24

Lecture #4 — January 8, 2024, 18:00–19:30

Manuela Naveau
Critical Data and the Arts: How Freedom of the Arts Fosters Understanding of Digital Transformation

As artists, curators, creative technologists, and scientists, we — the Critical Data research group at the University of the Arts Linz — question data, data processing systems, and forms of knowledge associated with them. Artists can not only make visible how systems of digitalization work, but also how they do not work. We therefore critically examine the position society can take in relation to the latest technological developments. Critical Data observes how we deal with technology and explores artistic worlds in the digital cosmos that move between promise, manipulation, and conspiracy. On the basis of selected artistic positions, questions of equal treatment and the protection of one’s own data as well as freedom of opinion and information will be discussed. Art is mediating directly to its public, its audience, and recipients. But who speaks with whose voice and how can art help to make this transparent?


Univ-Prof. Manuela Naveau, PhD, is a university professor, independent curator, and art-based researcher. For almost 18 years she worked as curator and project manager at Ars Electronica Center in Linz. Since 2020, Manuela Naveau has been a professor for Critical Data at the University of Arts Linz, at the Department for Interface Cultures, which she heads since February 2023. Previously, she has held teaching positions on the topic of Art/Science at the Paris Lodron University in Salzburg and the Danube University Krems and in 2021 was invited as guest professor at the Technical University in Vienna (Future.Lab). Her monograph Crowd and Art: Kunst und Partizipation im Internet (transcript, 2017) is based on her dissertation, for which she received the Award of Excellence 2016 from the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy.


Freedom of the Arts

The lecture series inquires into the multifaceted terrain of “Freedom of the Arts” from different vantage points, each offering insights into complex contemporary challenges and their historical genealogies. The four evening sessions encompass (i) the international legal framework governing artistic freedom through freedom of expression and cultural rights, presented by Human Rights Expert Manfred Nowak; (ii) a critical exploration of ethical dimensions of the arts, navigating contentious debates on cancel culture and cultural appropriation, led by Art Historian and Sociologist Jens Kastner; (iii) an examination of artistic freedom as part of national security implications, with a focus on art subject to court cases in Russia, as unraveled by Art Historian Sandra Frimmel; and (iv) an investigation of digital transformations influencing arts and critical data, as undertaken by Artistic Researcher and Curator Manuela Naveau.

As these researchers delve into their respective domains, the lecture series aspires to spark cross-disciplinary inquiry and transversal dialogue: Which conditions are required for freedom of the arts, and which categories of rights (for an overview, see Polymenopoulou 2023) can guarantee those conditions? Which human rights treaties, codes, and instruments are relevant to the normative aspects of freedom of the arts, and what are their potential limits (see, e.g., the report on the state of artistic freedom by Freemuse 2023)? Which players and infrastructure promote and protect artistic freedom and how (on the role of the UN see, e.g., Cuny 2023)? In what socio-political climate does censorship of the arts thrive and which legitimate interests can be used to argue for a limitation of artistic freedom, balancing different interests? What ethical dilemmas emerge within the art world, and how does the broader cultural landscape grapple with issues of cancel culture and cultural appropriation? And which purpose do the “estrangement defense”, the “canonic defense”, or the “formalist defense” serve in defending the freedom of transgressive arts (Julius 2020)? To what extent are aesthetic judgments rendered (in)voluntarily when arts are debated in court (see Frimmel/Traumane 2018)? What’s the relation of the outdated distinction in free and applied arts to the “aesthetic model of freedom” (Menke/Rebentisch 2010) that developed with the discipline of Ästhetik as a sub-discipline to art history? In an era defined by digital transformation, what prospects and challenges arise for artists who intervene in algorithmic “pattern discrimination” (Apprich/Cramer/Chun/Steyerl 2018) and engage in a critical approach to data? The lecture series revolves around these questions, seeking to foster a deeper understanding of freedom of the arts through, amongst others, case study research, critical theoretical debate, and discourse analysis.

#1 Manfred Nowak: International Legal Framework: Freedom of Expression and Cultural Rights (November 13, 2023, 18:00–19:30)

#2 Jens Kastner: Between Cancel Culture and Cultural Appropriation: The Spectrum of Artistic Freedom (November 27, 2023, 18:00–19:30)

#3 Sandra Frimmel: Art as a Shield Against the Expansion of External Cultures: Why and How the Freedom of Art in Russia Plays a Significant Role in National Security Policy (December 18, 2023, 18:00–19:30)

#4 Manuela Naveau: Critical Data and the Arts: How Freedom of the Arts Fosters Understanding of Digital Transformation (January 8, 2024, 18:00–19:30)


Convenor: Lisa Stuckey, Applied Human Rights, University of Applied Arts Vienna


FLUX 1, VZA7 (3rd Floor)
University of Applied Arts Vienna
Vordere Zollamtstraße 7
1030 Vienna

Or via Zoom:
https://dieangewandte-at.zoom.us/j/62243779206 (Meeting ID: 622 4377 9206)


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