Ludwig Drosch

Aesthetic practices of nonsense

If an expressive act or activity is labeled nonsense, this is tantamount to a condemnation: the event does not satisfy a demand or desire for meaning that is judgmentally applied to it. From a certain perspective, nonsense is characterised here as deficient or absent sense. However, the performative effect of the exclamation "Nonsense!" immediately reveals a dynamic, undecidably destructive and productive twist: it intends to bring about a shift of consciousness in the person concerned that strips what appeared to be meaningful from their perspective of this very appearance and instead opens up a new articulation of meaning. In this moment of nonsense, nonsense and sense are no longer mere opposites, but enter into a dynamic, oscillating and entangled relationship that points to the possibility of destruction as well as freedom, of laughter as well as the uncanny. To deliberately and skilfully produce such moments of nonsense is in turn far more difficult than to label something nonsense: almost everything is meaningful in some respect, and the merely senseless is not nonsense, since it does not enter into a dynamic relationship with sense.
In my dissertation, I want to explore this ambivalently destructive-liberating potential of nonsense as well as its conditions of production by examining aesthetic practices of nonsense: creative, performative, sensuous practices that specifically produce and deploy moments of nonsense. I would like to proceed in three steps:
1. a theoretical elaboration of the concepts of "nonsense" and "nonsense practice" with special emphasis on their perspectivity and corporeality; 2. a treatment of the philosophical-spiritual nonsense  practices of the Cynics, Daoists and Zen Buddhists. Special attention will be paid to the Zen Buddhist koan and shikantaza practices, which represent extraordinarily rich and refined forms of nonsense practice as a practice of liberation; 3. exploration of selected contemporary aesthetic nonsense practices: for example, the experimental poetry of Christoph Tarkos, the theatre of Herbert Fritsch, the mythopoetic, sense-twisting Gesamtkunstwerk of the jazz musician Sun Ra or examples from meme culture.


Studies in Mathematics (B.Sc.), FU Berlin 2011-2014 // Studies in Philosophy (M.A.) FU Berlin and ENS Paris 2016-2020 // One-year stay in the German-French Sōtō-Zen monastery Ryumonji near Strasbourg, Alsace 2020-2021, work as an interpreter French-German, French-English and German-English there and since then // Since April 2022 research associate in the DFG Research Training Group 2477 "Aesthetic Practice".