Bureaucratic structures are invisible until we do not fit into them. Whether it is an online form that does not accept the non-English spelling of your name, or a missing stamp in your passport that denies you entry, in these moments we grasp the arbitrary nature of powers that control our existence. Depending on who you are, bureaucratic powers may cause mere frustration, or confront you with a decision of life and death. In this talk, we will consider how artists and writers from Nikolai Gogol to Adrian Piper, and from Franz Kafka to Sung Tieu treated bureaucracy as a symbol of unaccountable power: and where hope of resistance might lie.


Vid Simoniti is a Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Liverpool, where he also directs MA Art, Philosophy and Cultural Institutions. His book Art Against the World, investigating the place of contemporary art within the democratic public sphere, is forthcoming with Yale University Press in 2023.