Munich;discussion at Haus der Kunst “Intolerable: Giving Offence and the Limits of Free Expression”
by Venetia Kapernekas
Haus der kunst organized on Thursday night, Feb 13th an evening panel with three leading thinkers to engage in a discussion that tried to illuminate critical questions. Panelists were Matthias Lilienthal (director of the Munich Kammerspiele from September 2015), Hito Steyerl (filmmaker and author (born in 1966 in Munich) lives and works in Berlin) and Joachim Bernauer (director of the Goethe-Institut’s department of culture); the moderator is Okwui Enwezor, director Haus der Kunst.
“The recent killings of journalists and police guards in the Paris offices of the satirical French magazine “Charlie Hebdo” have brought to public debate fresh appraisals of the relationship between intolerance, free expression, censorship, and the right to offend sensibilities, be they cultural or religious, political, or ideological. But there is not always an easy distinction of where to draw the limit of free speech and who has the right to impose a limit on expression, regardless of how offensive such expression may be deemed.
At the same time, questions posed by the killings in Paris can be analyzed from the view of the current conflicted state of global, multicultural societies. This issue becomes urgent, particularly when giving offence converges with intolerance under the guise of free expression. But is there a point when offensive images, expressions, and representations become intolerable? Is intolerance of certain types of expression the same as censorship of thought? Can there ever be a limitless sphere of free expression in today’s increasingly plural, multicultural, transnational, and global societies? These questions are all the more pertinent within the realm of artistic and cultural practice, particularly as they meet at the point where institutions must provide an open and unrestricted space for challenging ideas and concepts.” (haus der kunst, press release)