with contributions by Geert Lovink; Zdenka Badovinac, Eda Čufer, Cristina Freire, Boris Groys, Charles Harrison, Vít Havránek, Piotr Piotrowski, and Branka Stipančić; Anton Vidokle, Ilya and Emilia Kabakov; Hu Fang; and Franco Berardi Bifo
After an all-night conversation with an old friend, you are ready to start the revolution together. But the next day, discussing the finer points over breakfast you realize, no, it’s impossible—in fact, this friend is actually a fascist. Their sentiment is right but the strategies could be disastrous. In order for the revolution to succeed, you will probably have to kill them. And this friend is thinking the same thing of you—a cowardly ideologue who hides behind an antiquated idea of historical progress to feel like a good person. Your grand political project from last night starts to move closer to the dustbin. The eggs are delicious. Your friend is as sweet as ever, it would be a real pity to have to kill her over something like this. Maybe you should not be having these conversations in the first place.
You are struck by how, in a single day, your comrade has become your political enemy—your nearly identical, compatible views have become mutually exclusive. Your ideas on class, capital, art, cultural difference, literacy, ethics, life, the role of the state, simultaneously merge and cancel each other out. Time is moving so fast that a revolution has taken place and been recuperated in a matter of hours, and you don’t know whether you are going forwards or backwards. You are dizzy; maybe you drank too much.
Now is the time to look carefully at a work by Yoko Ono from 1966 entitled Play it by Trust—a chessboard on which all chess pieces are the same color. To play the game, you must play together, but to what end? Forward movement becomes completely confusing after leaving the safe harbor of a single side. You must play the game using what may be your opponent’s pieces, without any sense of direction. There is a new sense of stasis, but in fact you are exhausted from making moves all the time. Historical progress and political movement continue on the board, but in order to play together with an Islamist, a US president, a hipster, a museum director, an oligarch, a techno-libertarian, an artist, a budget-cutting bureaucrat, or a thousand facebook friends, you must look deeply into the opponent’s eyes as they look into yours, and try to understand: What is actually at stake in this strange new game?
—Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, Anton Vidokle
In this issue:
Geert Lovink—What Is the Social in Social Media?
If the social is no longer the once dangerous mix of politicized proletarians, of the frustrated, unemployed, and dirty clochards that hang out on the streets waiting for the next opportunity to revolt under whatever banner, then how do social elements manifest themselves in the digital networked age?
Zdenka Badovinac, Eda Čufer, Cristina Freire, Boris Groys, Charles Harrison, Vít Havránek, Piotr Piotrowski, and Branka Stipančić—Conceptual Art and Eastern Europe: Part I
There was this feeling that something was giving way, that the old order was becoming defensive and dogmatic in an effort to protect its boundaries, and that modernism itself was a type of orthodoxy fraying at the edges. I remember my colleague and friend Michael Baldwin talking about that period. He was an art student in the mid-1960s. “Modernism had become like shifting ground,” he said. “You put your foot on it and it would float away from you.” The system was breaking up. Sol LeWitt’s announcement in 1967 was like the manifesto of a movement. What mattered was not the appearance of the object, but the vitality of the idea, and that was its crucial, distinguishing characteristic.
Anton Vidokle—In Conversation with Ilya and Emilia Kabakov
Despite the fact that everything has changed, there is no such perception of the end of the old world. The new world was supposed to carry the perception of the cosmic. A new cosmos. All ideas come from the cosmos, and not from social life. The Russian avant-garde believed that a new cosmic era had begun. Technology, steamships, airplanes, steam engines were all perceived to be signs of the cosmos. There was no such cosmism in the West. Italian Futurists come the closest to this, but they are too technological.
Hu Fang—The Door to Sunset
With these tangible and intangible encounters, we enter into a context saturated in contradictions and vitalities. Over there, slight changes in thinking would lead to consequential effects in reality, like the butterfly effect. So far, we cannot distinguish its beginning or end; our senses of the progress of time are limited, and our understanding of haste is as limited as that of speed.
Franco Berardi Bifo—Nightmares and Screens: Notes on Two Movies
Should we take shelter? Should we go to the bank and ask for a loan, and invest in protecting our future? Should we take our premonitions seriously? Should we accept the idea that paranoia is the proper understanding of a danger we cannot dispel, or should we avoid paranoia? Nichols answers our questions: investing our energy in building shelter is the way to fall into the trap, to accept the dilemma of depression and catastrophe. When the tempest comes, we won’t be home anyway. We’ll be too far away from the shelter.
The print edition of e-flux journal can now be found at:
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