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Populism. A Dialogue on Art, Representation and Institutions in the Crisis of Democracy


A ghost is haunting our contemporary and convoluted world, and that is populism. The term has a much polarised and disputed meaning. It has been used by the new left to propose an horizontal construction of society and by the alt-right to defend an antisocial return to authoritarism. But what really is populism and how is this political notion affecting the contemporary art museum in its role to represent civil society and articulate alternative narratives of the contemporary?

In this Dialogue, Chantal Mouffe and Didier Eribon explained two antithetical understandings of the term. Mouffe, a philosopher and theorist, argued that since the traditionally conflicting ideas of liberal freedom and equality have been replaced by absolute financial capital, the growing power imbalance between oligarchy and a society that has been dispossessed of its agency needs to be addressed. Populism is the tool for building a new radical hegemony from the lower demands. On the contrary, Didier Eribon, writer and sociologist, argued against these simplified binaries, positing that the diverse social body needs to return to the notion of difference in order to maintain a capacity of imagination born of the so-called cultural wars of the 1970s.

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Recorded at Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid, 8 June 2017

Project direction: Chema González

Coordination: Sara Buraya

Video and edition: Javi Álvarez

Cameras: Jose Luis Abajo and Javi Álvarez

The views and opinions published here mirror the principles of academic freedom and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of the L'Internationale confederation and its members.

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