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Collective Agency in an era of Authoritarian Automation

Anna Ådahl & Stefan Jonsson

Will democracy survive the 21st century? Through artistic practice and theoretical dialogue this project explores how collective protests, migration and authoritarian populism shape today’s politics while also being modelled by digital regimes and automated systems that apparently forecloses the political agency of collectives as well as individuals.

Our aims:

  • To understand the impact on today’s democracy of collective protest, authoritarianism, migration and computational modeling.
  • To investigate the ways in which collective behaviour generated by digital technologies align crowd behaviour with political programmes and market strategies that defy democratic values.
  • To investigate how embodied subjective agency and collective assembly interrupts such processes of collective automation.
  • To show how artworks can spark conceptual development, innovative methodologies and theoretical insights into the relation of aesthetic expression and democracy.

Speculating over future scenarios – including the deployment of digital tools and quantum computing – we seek to make abstract processes concrete. The project is articulated through installation, performance, sculpture, drawing, film, and writing; it will organize workshops, performances and theoretical debates, gradually shaping a theoretical investigation and artistic montage of the 21st-century crowd and its algorithmic modelling.

Collective Agency, funded by the Swedish Research Council, is a Linköping University/REMESO project run in collaboration with the Royal Institute of Art. (2022-2025)