A non-optimised utopia: Johannes Paul Raether’s education of desire

Franziska Bork Petersen

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


The article details how German artist Johannes Paul Raether performatively explores utopia as something that cannot be blueprinted but evolves in utopian actions. Whether infiltrating IKEA branches with sixty collaborative shoppers, performing a ritual as the witch Protectorama at the Berliner Apple store on Kurfürstendamm, intervening at an Icelandic aluminium smelter or a commercial surrogacy clinic in Anand, Gujarat, India, Raether creates unpredictable encounters between people, contexts and materials. The article argues that these encounters work through affective estrangement that facilitates a utopian education of desire. They escape recognition and make reactions in preconceived patterns impossible.

The article’s focus is set on Raether’s identity Transformella and two performances that concern her proposed ‘repro-communal reprovolution’ (Raether 2017). Transformella addresses aspects of both social and biological reproduction in her advocacies for collective parenting and an appropriation of reproductive technologies to unfamiliar ends. In one of the performances discussed in the article, she urges the participants to merge their genes in an act that, I argue, conjures what José Esteban Muñoz described as a ‘we’ that is not yet conscious. In striving for diversity and alternative reproduction methods, the act subverts reproductive utopias which aim at ‘optimization’ or ‘human enhancement’. The article emphasizes the implied radicality and contemporary relevance of Raether’s asking what a body can do as an open question – rather than enquiring into what it can do best. It explores the potential – and risk – associated with a conception of utopia as a preliminary ‘doing’.
TidsskriftPerformance Research: a journal of the performing arts
Udgave nummer8
Sider (fra-til)137-145
StatusUdgivet - 2020

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