Bjorn Melhus
The theory of Freedom III
International Film Festival Rotterdam
24.01.2015, 10:30
Debate with: Liesbeth Levy, Joost de Bloois, Hedwig Fijen, Pascal Gielen, Stefan Heidenreich, & Bjørn Melhus.
(read more about the speakers and the debate)

Debate at the Kunsthal, 06.02.2015
Within the framework of The Theory of Freedom, the debate Me Against Us is held as part of Art Rotterdam’s VIP program.

The debate Me Against Us questions the feasibility of the autonomous artist in today’s society. Does the artist represent the ideal productive individual, or must he or she continue to empathise with society in order to reflect it in their work?

Moderated by Liesbeth Levy with Joost de Bloois, Hedwig Fijen, Pascal Gielen, Stefan Heidenreich, and Bjørn Melhus, respond to these questions to generate a debate around the role of the artist in contemporary society. Themes that are touched upon include artistic labor and precarity, the global perspective on autonomy, empathy and the institution systems and networks, and the artistic perspective on autonomy.

‘The Theory of Freedom’ at Kunsthal Rotterdam is open for a special viewing before the Me Against Us especially for the debate audience. To join the viewing and debate kindly send an RSVP email to or use the reservation form.
Liesbeth Levy is the Director of Lokaal, Rotterdam an organisation that has earned its reputation in the world of culture and politics. She is a philosopher specializing in dialogue and debate. Levy began 22 years ago as a program maker at the cultural center Rode Hoed in Amsterdam. In 1996 she moved to Rotterdam, a decision which it has had no regrets yet. She joined the Rotterdam Art Foundation, where she was responsible for the department debate. In 2001 she was seconded as a staffer for Rotterdam Cultural Capital. Since 2008, she was next to her work for the Rotterdam Council for Art and Culture (the successor to the RKS) also artistic director of the Zaal de Unie.
Joost de Bloois is assistant professor at the University of Amsterdam, departments of Cultural Analysis and Comparative Literature. He has published extensively on the nexus between art and politics in a.o. Volume, Metropolis M, OPEN. He is the author of Alain Badiou. Inesthetiek: Kunst, politiek, filosofie (Octavo, 2012) and Badiou (Boom, 2013).
Hedwig Fijenis the Director of Manifesta, the European Biennial of Contemporary art since the nineties. Under Fijen’s direction Manifesta has developed into one of the most important large-scale art events in Europe. Before Manifesta, Fijen worked as a curator in the Netherlands, Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, Cuba and many other countries. Fijen is currently working on Manifesta 11, which will take place in Zurich, Switzerland in 2016 and Manifesta 12 to be held in 2018.
Pascal Gielen is director of the research center Arts in Society at the Groningen University where he is Professor of sociology of art. Gielen has written, edited, and contributed to many publications on contemporary art, cultural heritage and cultural politics. Some of these include Being an Artist in Post-Fordist Times (2009/2011), Community Arts. The politics of Trespassing (2011/2013), The Art of Democracy (Krisis, 2011, vol. 3), and Repressief liberalisme. Opstellen over creatieve arbeid, politieke en kunst (2013) among many others.
Stefan Heidenreich writer, theoretician and art-critic. He works as researcher at the Center for Digital Cultures, University of Lüneburg and teaches Media Studies at Basel University. Fields of research include network and media theory, economy, and art.
Bjørn Melhus is a media artist and has been presented and awarded at several international film festivals. He has had screenings in Tate Modern, London, LUX, London, Museum of Modern Art, New York and Centre Pompidou, Paris. In the exhibition context, he has shown at 54th Venice Biennale, Whitney Museum, New York, 8th Istanbul Biennial, as well as solo and groups shows at FACT Liverpool; Serpentine Gallery, London; Sprengel Museum, Hannover; Museum Ludwig, Cologne; ZKM, Karlsruhe and Denver Art Museum amongst others.