"Romanticism" is a theme that currently is omnipresent. This issue of "Texte zur Kunst", however, is not dedicated to elucidating the meaning of this notion in general terms. It is instead concerned with the fact that debates in art and art criticism, as well as in a wide range of fields associated with art, increasingly fall back on Romantic motifs. This diagnosis, for us, is reason enough to raise questions as to the way the concomitant issues are related to each other. Our main interest lies in the subject-theoretical and aesthetic implications emerging in these contexts of debate: We want to look at the return of Romantic melancholy and the way it is theoretically reflected upon in socio-psychological analyses; the oftentimes mythically-charged image of the artist as the epitome of modern individuality; the status of emotions in art and art experience, departing from way they are discussed in the context of so-called "Romantic Conceptualism"; and, finally, at what is borrowed from Romanticism and used in the intersections of the avant-garde and subcultures.
In view of issues related to the phenomenon of Romanticism, melancholy is of crucial significance, as in this mood - which has been examined in medicine, psychology and sociology since the beginning of the 20th century under the term depression - the insistency of the individual vis-a-vis society appears to become manifest. In face of the individual's status in the context of neoliberal flexibilization demands, the aim lies in questioning melancholy in regard to the altered value it possesses for the concept of subjectivity today (see the contribution by Alain Ehrenberg). The mythical role images of the Romantic artist - the outsider of society, someone who might even pay with his life for art - can be grasped as being part of this discourse. The notion of the artist as a genius in pain has been upheld for a long period of time in an historiography of art centered on authorship and, under the aegis of a return to Romanticism, is presently being updated; something which must again be called into question against the background of the demands made by post-Fordist project economies (see the contribution by Sven Lütticken).
One can indeed discern an increased interest in notions of Romanticism, especially in the field of art. A number of exhibition projects are currently delving into Romanticism; and Roger Buergel, the curator of this year's documenta, also stresses his "close ties to early Romanticism" (in the daily "Tagesspiegel" dated 01/30/2007). Art criticism has initiated a debate on the necessity and possibility of a reassessment of Concept Art enabling, beyond the differences between specific art-critical and philosophical positions, to addressing of the status of emotions in regard to the production and reception of art (see the roundtable discussion, "Powered by Emotion?") - something which, at the same time, raises the question of how emotions, in general, can be understood (see the contribution by Christiane Voss).
Finally, a different approach to Romanticism - to its "black" side, as it were - can be discussed by taking a look at subcultures such as "goth" and "industrial", which themselves look back to historical avant-garde movements, e.g. the programmatic statements of surrealism, in order to articulate "anti-normal" subject positions and models of experience; and, hence, can claim their validity, today, for the current "revival" of Romanticism (see the contributions by Dominic Eichler and Diedrich Diederichsen).
This issue of "Texte zur Kunst", developed in collaboration with Christoph Gurk and Juliane Rebentisch, thus compiles contributions, commentaries and an extensive roundtable discussion, dedicated to the exploration of the current return of Romanticism from the perspective of art criticism and art history, philosophy, sociology and artistic production. What all have in common, is the attempt to overcome the false dichotomies between emotion and intellect, or sensuousness and concept, so as to defend the critical and reflective dimension inherent to the conflictual legacy of Romanticism against its de-politicization and appropriation as an expression of an exploitable individuality. Aren't we all Romantics?
(Translation: Karl Hoffmann)