Adorno and art festivals

Nothing escapes the attention of radically socialized society, which further effects the culture of which it seizes control. This can be illustrated in simple fashion. Sometime ago a small publication appeared, a pamphlet, apparently written for the needs of those who undertake cultural trips through Europe – of whatever use such a brochure could possibly be. It offered a concise catalogue of artistic festivals during this particular summer and the autumn as well. The reason for such a scheme is obvious: it permits the cultural traveller to divide his time and to seek out that which he thinks will be of interest to him – in short, he can plan his trip according to the same principle which lies behind the organization of these festivals. Inherent in the idea of the festivals, however, and of the artistic festival as well, no matter how secularized and weakened it might be, is the claim to something unique, to the emphatic event which is not fungible. Festivals are to be celebrated as they come; they are not to be organized only from the perspective of avoiding overlapping. Administrative reason which takes control of them and rationalizes them banishes festivity from them. This results in an intensification into the grotesque which cannot escape the notice of the more sensitive nerves present at these so-called cultural offerings – even at those of the avant-garde. In an effort to preserve a feeling of contrast to contemporary streamlining, culture is still permitted to drive about in a type of gypsy wagon; the gypsy wagons, however, roll about secretely in a monstrous hall, a fact that they do not themselves notice. (Adorno, 1978, pp.117–118)

  • ADORNO, Theodor (1978). Culture and Administration. Translated by Wes Blomster. In The Culture Industry. London: Routledge, 1991. pp.107–131.
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