Seminar: “The Theatre of Migration, or: Affect, Biopolitics, and Spectacle in Christoph Schlingensief’s Ausländer Raus!”

The talk focuses on Christoph Schlingensief’s 2000 performance Bitte liebt Österreich/Ausländer raus! (Please Love Austria/Foreigners Out!) – a six-day event with complex mediatic structure designed as a political critique against the Freedom Party of Austria’s inclusion into the Austrian government (marking the first time since World War II that a far-right anti-immigration party had been incorporated into a European governing coalition). Schlingensief’s artistic intervention consisted of erecting a container camp in Vienna’s Herbert-von-Karajan-Platz for six days, housing twelve asylum seekers. Ausländer raus! was staged as a game show based on the Big Brother television format, inviting the Austrian public to vote eleven of the participants out, with the winner receiving the possibility to become an Austrian citizen. The asylum seekers were put under constant surveillance, as the events in the container could be seen on CCTV and through a live stream online while peepholes in the construction allowed passers-by to also “peek in.”


The talk will address the complex intersectionality of biopolitics, media spectacle, and social critique at the core of the performance. It will connect Schlingensief’s intervention with discussions of gamified entertainment culture and surveillance under neoliberalism (Gilles Deleuze) and will argue that by foregrounding the power imbalance between citizen and outsider, Schlingensief both challenges and redefines the stakes of the classical model of the public sphere as conceptualized within the framework of Critical Theory. The talk will also maintain that Schlingensief’s performance is heavily invested in the critical potential of emotion and in mirroring and critiquing prevalent affective regimes associated with migrant subjects, contrary to Frederic Jameson’s verdict of postmodernity’s disinvestment in affect.


Irina Simova received her PhD from the Department of Comparative Literature at Princeton University and is currently serving as an editor for the Alexander Kluge-Yearbook. Her scholarship addresses twentieth- and twenty-first-century Germanophone film, performance, and literature, focusing specifically on interdisciplinary problems of globalization, neoliberal governance, biopower, gender, and media often in reference to French and affect theory approaches. Her first book in progress, The Optical Unconscious of Capital: Biopower and the Performativity of the Neoliberal Self, explores aesthetic works in the Germanophone sphere that make late capital and its effects on subjects legible by investigating affective profiles developed around endurance, anxiety, fear, exhaustion, self-responsibilization, risk management, and precarity. She has previously written on Alexander Kluge, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Julia Kristeva, Lauren Berlant, Harun Farocki, Karl Marx, G.W.F. Hegel, and Martin Heidegger, among others. Her work has been supported by the Fulbright Commission, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), Goethe Gesellschaft, and the Princeton University Institute for International and Regional Studies. Her next project focuses on global political shifts reflected in filmic and theatrical performances since 2000 that mobilize multi-media approaches as well as forms of negative and ambivalent emotions to conceptualize and challenge persisting exclusionary narratives about national identity and minoritized and migrant subjects in Germany and Austria.