2013 Hannah Arendt Prize


Stéphanie Bertrand and Nate Harrison are awarded the 2013 Hannah Arendt Prize

The MA in Critical Theory and Creative Research Program is pleased to announce the winners of the 2013 Hannah Arendt Prize on the theme of “On Art and Disobedience; Or, What Is an Intervention?” The competition drew 255 entries from 34 countries around the globe, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, Venezuela, and the United States.

The judges awarded first place to Stéphanie Bertrand of Thessaloniki, Greece, and Nate Harrison of Brooklyn, New York, for their essays “Dropouts” and “Immanence of Intervention, Revival of Critique,” respectively. Bertrand was cited for her nail-on-the-head exemplification argument that art operates increasingly as a form of intervention, more specifically, as immunity. “As both a real and symbolic space,” writes Bertrand, “the art world creates an opening where transgressive artistic interventions register publically as acts of disobedience while eschewing, for the most part, the threat of lawful punishment.” More cautionary, Harrison addresses the problem of the growing abyss between operationalism and expression, warning against the squandering of our capacity of critique amid capitalism’s capacity to redeploy interventions in form alone: “It is by recognizing intervention as not only an expressive but also an operational gesture that we revive critique, and enter into what Sonia Katyal terms ‘semiotic disobedience,’ an occupation of both representations and their vectors.” Bertrand and Harrison will share the prize and the $5,000 cash award.

Second place was awarded to Marc Lombardo for his essay “On Power, Truth, and Living Statues.” Without once mentioning the word intervention, the piece makes a simple and powerful point at a time when frenzied activity is often taken as a sign in and of itself of political significance and efficacy. Third place went to Arnaud Gerspacher for “Interventions.” Avoiding cynicism, the essay “addresses the idea of the joyous intervention and the necessity to engage a certain theological residue in the form of grace: that is one way to think about a felicitous intervention—one that moves people or shifts the ground,” in the words of one of the judges. Singled out for Special Mention was S. L. Irani-Silberman’s “Interrupting Invisibilities and Bridging Worlds: An Essay on the Work of turkopticon.differenceengines.com,” with the judges citing Turkopticon as a powerful digital intervention.

We note what may be obvious: All of the submissions to the Hannah Arendt Prize bear witness to the power of the labor of thought and constitute, in and of themselves, interventions. Thought, Arendt reminded us again and again, is a fragile thing, and with this fact, she chose to conclude The Human Condition:

Thought, finally—which we, following the premodern as well as the modern tradition, omitted from our reconsideration of the vita activa—is still possible, and no doubt actual, wherever men live under the conditions of political freedom. Unfortunately, and contrary to what is currently assumed about the proverbial ivory-tower independence of thinkers, no other human capacity is so vulnerable, and it is in fact far easier to act under conditions of tyranny than it is to think. As a living experience, thought has always been assumed, perhaps wrongly, to be known only to the few. It may not be presumptuous to believe that these few have not become fewer in our time. This may be irrelevant, or of restricted relevance, for the future of the world; it is not irrelevant for the future of man.

The temptation of cynicism is strong and compelling in dark times, if sometimes subtly encoded; and it is worth remarking that many of the submissions to the Hannah Arendt Prize recognize this danger even as they suggest that the future can no longer be taken as a given. The ramifications of such a situation for human life, thought, and freedom, have yet to be fully understood or even adequately registered. In light of Fukushima and genetic engineering, the future itself may require an intervention.

In closing, we extend thanks to all those who submitted work for the 2013 Hannah Arendt Prize in Critical Theory and Creative Research, its judges, and helpers. In you, the life, work, and legacy of Hannah Arendt live on. This was our aim, as we know it was yours.

Along with Anne-Marie Oliver and Barry Sanders, the judges for 2013 include

Claire Bishop, Professor of Contemporary Art, Theory and Exhibition History, Graduate Center, The City University of New York
Judith Butler, Professor of Rhetoric and Comparative Literature, The University of California, Berkeley, and Hannah Arendt Professor of Philosophy, Europäische Universität für Interdisziplinäre Studien/EGS
Barbara Duden, Professor Emerita, Leibniz Universität Hannover
Julia Kristeva, Professor Emerita and Head of the École doctorale Langues, Littératures, Images, Université Paris Diderot, Paris 7, and recipient of the Hannah Arendt Award for Political Thought
Heike Kühn, Film Critic
Martha Rosler, Artist and contributor to the Hannah Arendt Denkraum (on the occasion of Hannah Arendt’s 100th birthday)

You can read the official press release on PNCA.edu here.

Image: photograph of Hannah Arendt, NYC, 1944. Courtesy of the Estate of Fred Stein.


By Stéphanie Bertrand, Thessaloniki, Greece

The 2013 winning essay for the Hannah Arendt Prize.

Immanence of Intervention, Revival of Critique

By Nate Harrison, Brooklyn, New York

The 2013 winning essay for the Hannah Arendt Prize.

On Power, Truth, and Living Statues

By Marc Lombardo

The second-place essay for the 2013 Hannah Arendt Prize.


By Arnaud Gerspacher

The third-place essay for the 2013 Hannah Arendt Prize.

Interrupting Invisibilities and Bridging Worlds

By S. L. Irani-Silberman

Special Mention for the 2013 Hannah Arendt Prize.

About the Hannah Arendt Prize

The Hannah Arendt Prize in Critical Theory and Creative Research is an annual prize competition for those interested in the juncture of art and creative research and in the principles at the heart of the arts and humanities, including sense-based intelligence; the reality of singular, nonrepeatable phenomena; ethical vision; and consilience between inner and outer, nature and reason, thought and experience, subject and object, self and world.

About the MA in Critical Theory and Creative Research

The MA in Critical Theory and Creative Research (CT+CR), the first of its kind in the U.S., is an accelerated, 45-credit, seminar-based program (one year + summer intensive) that prepares students for opportunities at the intersection of art, theory, and research. Located in a major center of creative risk-taking and social experimentation, the program combines the study of critical theory as a mode of socio-political critique concerning human meaning and agency with creative research as a largely process-driven form of inquiry, forcing both theory and research in new directions within the context of a 21st-century art school. The program is devoted to people and ideas and to a rethinking of the present and future of cultural production; of arts-based research and research-based arts; of curatorial practice, documentary, and the Archive; and of social and political reconfiguration in relation to major sites of contemporary contestation.

— Posted on 09/06 at 01:57 PM

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