Johannes Bennke

Dated: January 2021

Project title

Obliterations. For a Particular Media Philosophy


The responsibility of Germany to forever be aware of its breach of civilization, when its people carried out the Shoah, finds expression in its culture of remembrance. While remembrance is essential to this awareness, it is also important to question how remembrance’s integrity can be maintained as increasingly we are generationally removed from the victims and the survivors. How is it possible to continue to signify the losses and shame of that generation into the future? How can an ethics of remembrance be implicated in artistic production that is able to forward the culture of remembrance? Can remembrance embrace a certain type of forgetting? To this end, I want to introduce the concept of ‘obliteration’ into media philosophy. Can the partial obliteration of an image, a particular destruction and forgetting, aid remembrance?

Sacha Sosno, beginning in the 1970s in France, introduced obliteration as his key art practice. His sculptures, often iconic motifs, feature either geometric voids or occluding blocks that disrupt the figure. This art practice can be understood as a variant of a citation theory, in which a known motif is handed down and actualized through intervention and recontextualization. Sosno himself, and French art criticism, describe obliteration by means of the semiotics of Umberto Eco. Contrary to this, I argue that it is possible to see obliteration through a media philosophical lens.

This perspective stems from remarks made by French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas when speaking in an interview referring to Sosno’s work. While primarily known for his ethics, Levinas also worked on an aesthetic thinking. With this understanding, he shifts the focus of obliteration away from semiotics. Rather, I show that at the heart of obliteration lies an iconic thinking that speaks both to the Jewish prohibition of images and their philosophy of time, at the center of which is a break with continuous time. This eschatology requires testimony. Such a reflection demands a method which I consider as the key media ethical impulse of the present work.

Sosno’s sculptures and Levinas’s philosophy allow me to introduce a new and genuine iconic method into Image and Media Philosophy, which I call image conjunctions. Image conjunctions open up a way to think in constellations and simultaneity rather than to think in synthesis. This method is the key reflexive movement for a media ethics which determines the specific characteristics of an aesthetics of obliteration. This aesthetic generates what I call a testimonial image epistemology. Such an image epistemology is a method for coping with contingency of the indeterminate and signifies a non-knowledge.

Finally, I examine the media philosophical dimension in the thinking of Emmanuel Levinas and the relevance of his thinking for Media Philosophy. I argue here for three theses: First, obliteration is a basic media function and a media practice. Second, obliteration initiates a media ethics which has consequences for the method of media philosophy and which itself produces its own particular forms of knowledge. I propose to call this field of knowledge a Particular Media Philosophy. Such a Media Philosophy considers theory and practice not as categorically different modes but as particular modes of knowledge. Third, Media Philosophy assigns obliteration as a key concept to a media oblivionalis, a Media Philosophy of forgetting.

Such a media oblivionalis does not only require its own method of a media archaeology but produces its own episteme: A media oblivionalis draws attention to what has been concealed, forgotten, or destroyed by media processes and their description and, in doing so, forms its own particular form of knowledge of remembering and forgetting. The culture of remembrance necessarily involves a culture of forgetting, of which too we must be conscious: the shadows of both require reflection on their methods and products. Obliteration is to be affirmed in this sense, because it insists on not merely repeating a remembering, but on continuously updating it by reflecting on media processes. Obliterate it!


Media Philosophy, Image Theory, Philosophy of Art, Theory of Aesthetics, Emmanuel Levinas, Sacha Sosno, Obliteration, Media Ethics, Particularity, media oblivionalis, Epistemology of Aesthetics.



Johannes Bennke studied philosophy, film studies and comparative literature in Frankfurt am Main, Berlin and Paris. In 2014 he finished his Master´s thesis in European Media Studies at the University of Potsdam on the term of image in Emmanuel Levinas writing (Bildkonversionen. Zum Wandel der Performativität und ihrer Episteme in künstlerischen Praktiken). During his studies he had a scholarship by the Ev. Studienwerk Villigst e.V. and he was a speaker of a working group on arts and sciences. He worked as a student assistant at the Max-Planck-Institute for the history of science and literature in Berlin. Before his studies he worked several years as a photographer and graphic designer at David Chipperfield Architects. He is associate to the PhD program "Epistemologies of Aesthetic Practices" (ZHdK, ETH, Uni Zurich) and an associate to the Selma Stern Center for Jewish Studies Berlin Brandenburg in the research group "Image Prohibition and Theory of Art."





Johannes Bennke, Building Images. The Reconstruction of the Neues Museum, Zurich: intercomverlag 2021 [in publication].

Edited Volumes

Johannes Bennke, Virgil Brower (Eds.), International Yearbook for Media Philosophy, Volume 7, Mediality/Theology/Religion, Berlin: de Gruyter 2021 [in publication].

Johannes Bennke, Dieter Mersch (Eds.), Levinas und die Künste, Bielefeld: transcript 2021 [in publication].

Johannes Bennke, Johanna Seifert, Martin Siegler, Christina Terberl (Eds.), Das Mitsein der Medien. Prekäre Koexistenzen von Menschen, Maschinen und Algorithmen, Paderborn: Fink 2018.


Bennke, Johannes: Genesis and Medium of Media Philosophy, in: Ação Midiática, 6/2019 [im Erscheinen].

Bennke, Johannes: „Vorwort“, in: Emmanuel Levinas, Die Obliteration. Gespräch mit Françoise Armengaud über das Werk von Sacha Sosno, übers. v. Johannes Bennke, Jonas Hock, Zürich/Berlin, diaphanes 2019, S. 7-28.

Bennke, Johannes: “Foreword”, in: Emmanuel Levinas, On Obliteration. An Interview with Françoise Armengaud Concerning the Work of Sacha Sosno, transl. by Richard A. Cohen, Brian Alkire, University of Chicago Press 2019, pp. 7-26.

Bennke, Johannes: "Testimonial Image Practices as a Politics of Aesthetics after Levinas", in: Religions, Vol, 10 Nr. 3, (2019).

Bennke, Johannes, Krtilova, Katerina: “Technology of Senses - Towards Philosophy of Digital Media: An Interview with Mark Hansen”, in: Iluminace. The Journal of of Film Theory, History and Aesthetics, Vol. 29, Nr. 2 (2016).

Bennke, Johannes, “…and One Day It Will All Fit Together. An Interview with Georges Didi-Huberman”, in: Iluminace. The Journal of Film Theory, History and Aesthetics, Vol. 28, Nr. 1 (2016), S. 123-128.

Bennke, Johannes, „Die Erschütterung des Humanen“, in: Cargo, Nr. 30, Berlin: Cargo Verlag 2016, S. 54-62.

Bennke, Johannes, „Zur Ethik des Bildes bei Emmanuel Lévinas“, in: figurationen. gender literatur kunst: Visuelles Denken/Visual Thinking, hrsg. v. Dieter Mersch, Nr. 1 (2016), Zürich: Böhlau 2016, S. 93-114.

Bennke, Johannes, “Tagungsnotiz: Performance Philosophy. Staging a new field, 11.-13.4.2013”, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK

2011 - 2016 Filmkritiken für FRAGMENT FILM und


Levinas, Emmanuel: Die Obliteration. Über die Kunst Sacha Sosnos, transl. by Johannes Bennke, Jonas Hock, Zurich/Berlin: diaphanes 2019.


11/2018 Obliteration und Bilderverbot, Kolloquium „Bilderverbot und Theorie der Kunst“, Selma Stern Zentrum für jüdische Studien Berlin-Brandenburg.

05/2018 Obliterations in El Mar La Mar, docusophia, Tel Aviv.

04/2018 Obliteration. Emmanuel Levinas als Medienphilosophen lesen, AG Medienphilosophie, Zürcher Hochschule der Künste.

02/2018 Sensorische Objekte im Dokumentarischen, FFK, Universität Bochum.

01/2018 Objekte der Sensorischen Ethnographie, Filmreihe zu Objekten der Sensorischen Ethnographie, Bauhaus-Universität Weimar.

10/2017 Das testimoniale Bild. Medienphilosophische Zugänge zur Sensorischen Ethnographie
Jahrestagung der Gesellschaft für Medienwissenschaft 2017, Universität Erlangen.

12/2016 Bild und Ähnlichkeit. Eine Geschichte vom Ursprung der Bewegung
„Workshop Ähnlichkeit“, Kooperationsoworkshop des Graduiertenkollegs Automatismen (Universität Paderborn) & KOMA - Kompetenzzentrum Medienanthropologie (Bauhaus-Universität Weimar).

11/2016 The Documentary Real. The Films of the Sensory Ethnography Lab and the Conversion of Media Philosophy
„The Real of the Reality. International Conference on Philosophy and Film“, Symposium, 2.-6.11.2016, ZKM | Centre for Art and Media Karlsruhe.

09/2016 Spiegeln ohne Reflektion. Zur Performanz der Projektion
„Ernst Kapp und die Anthropologie der Technik. Eine interdisziplinäre Tagung“, 22.-23.09.2016, Internationales Kolleg für Medienphilosophie und Kulturtechnikforschung (IKKM) in Kooperation mit dem KOMA - Kompetenzzentrum Medienanthropologie (Bauhaus-Universität Weimar).

07/2015 Disciplinary Power, Control Power, Psycho Power. Mediality of Technical and Physical Feelings "media:feeling", 6th Conference of the Master´s Degree Program in Media Studies at the Bauhaus-University Weimar.

06/2015 Imaging as an Act of Destruction, "The Image as an Argument in Science", Working Group on Arts and Sciences, Ev. Studienwerk Villigst e.V., University of Arts Berlin.

03/2015 Image Conversions and its Signaturs in Artistic Practices "This is an image! ", Workshop of the Working Group Media Philosophy of the Society for Media Studies, 12th/13th of March 2015, Aby Warburg House, Hamburg.

07/2012 We are all Necronauts! - Art und Democracy in the International Necronautical Society, "Aisthetic Dimensions of the Performative", Public Workshop with a presentation of Kristiane Hasselmann (Free University Berlin) at the University of Potsdam.

03/2012 Morphology of the Humane – An Essay on Body Regimes in Film „Body - Between Knowledge and Perception Working Group on Arts and Sciences, Ev. Studienwerk Villigst e.V. (Berlin) 

02/2012 Ethical Dimensionen of the Performative in Herman Melville´s "Bartleby" "Ethical Dimensions of the Performative", Public Workshop with a presentation of Barbara Gronau (Free University Berlin) and Alice Lagaay (University of Bremen) at the University of Potsdam.

Teaching Experience

WiSe 2015/2016: Media anthropological Scenes, Lecture Session at the Bauhaus University Weimar

WiSe 2015/2016: On the Media Ethics of the Image, University of Potsdam

SoSe 2014: The Inoperative Community (Jean-Luc Nancy), in cooperation with Dr. Maurício Liesen (University of São Paulo), University of Potsdam

WiSe 2011/12: Writing on Film at the threshold of Film- and Media Studies, University of Potsdam


01/2018-02/2018 Objekte der Sensorischen Ethnographie
Koncept und Organisation einer Filmreihe am Lichthaus Kino Weimar zusammen mit Susanne Wagner.

02/2018 Experimental Ethnographic Film and the Mediterranean Museum Workshop mit Prof. Dr. Michaela Schäuble, Philip Cartelli und Fabian Tietke.

06/2016 KOMA Tischgespräche: Szenen des Teilens und Tauschens im Film.

Kultursymposium Weimar 2016, Goethe-Institut

06/2014 WE DON´T GIVE, WE JUST TAKE. PARALLACTIC LABORATORY I (Schwerte, Germany) Participative Exhibition, Working Group on Arts and Sciences, Ev. Studienwerk Villigst e.V.

09/2013 STOFF[WECHSEL] - Metabolism. A multidisciplinary research workshop (Könnern, Germany) Working Group on Arts and Sciences, Ev. Studienwerk Villigst e.V.

06/2013 Inspection of Interdisziplinary Workshops (Berlin/Potsdam, Germany) Working Group on Arts and Sciences, Ev. Studienwerk Villigst e.V.

10/2004 - 01/2010 Quick Flick World, Monthly International Shortfilmfestival (Berlin, Germany/ Paris, France) Organisation of „Masterclass-Events“

Selected audio visual projects & projects on the threshold of art and science

09/2014 AEROGRAPHIE (Zurich, Switzerland)
Drawing experiment at the wind tunnel of the research center for transdisciplinary studies at the Zurich University of the Arts, Working Group on Arts and Sciences, Ev. Studienwerk Villigst e.V.

Start of a series in practices on medial and aesthetic differences, Working Group on Arts and Sciences, Ev. Studienwerk Villigst e.V. 

- Parallaxen (10 minimal films in 2 Frames, 8fps & 12fps)
- Time Parallaxe
- In the witness stand (Tow-Channel-Video-Installation)
- Ko-respondenz (writing performance together with Dr. Maurício Liesen (University of São Paulo))
- Anarchiv. Collection of documents on „The Inoperative Community“ (together with Dr. Maurício Liesen (University of São Paulo))
- The social bond (Performance, together with Dr. Maurício Liesen (University of São Paulo))

03/2014 DOOR TO NOTHINGNESS (Berlin, Germany)
Soundperformance together with Christina Sporr, part of an event series called Living in empty spaces #1, Berlin

08/2013 ANGELOMETRIE (Berlin, Germany)
Soundperformance together with Tamara Rettenmund, performed at ETI Berlin.

10/2012 BLACKBOX//SPACE OF POSSIBILITY (Potsdam, Germany)
Installation together with Stephan Orendi, exhibited at the Syntopic Salon, Potsdam.