e-flux journal no. 32, with contributions by
Adam Curtis / Hans Ulrich Obrist,
Gean Moreno, Hito Steyerl, Slavoj Žižek,
The Desperate Edge of Now
Curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist
Exhibition design by Liam Gillick
11 February–14 April 2012
311 East Broadway, New York
The films of Adam Curtis—a BBC journalist by vocation, but a filmmaker and information archeologist in practice—appear as conspiracy theories wrapped in historical facts wrapped in social desires. These films remind us that dominant historical narratives are not only subject to rewriting but also sites of intense confusion, ideology, and intrigue. By fusing together narrative and reportage, Curtis’s films enter an ecstatic and playful sphere where themes of power, coercion, technology, morality, and freedom assume a life of their own. This issue of e-flux journal features a rare in-depth interview with Curtis by Hans Ulrich Obrist, coinciding with the filmmaker’s first exhibition in his career, on view at e-flux in New York from February 11–April 14, 2012.
Also in the issue, Hito Steyerl concludes a three-part trilogy of texts with a close look at image spam as de facto portraiture. What do these images do to the humans they portray, and how do their floating signs form a negative image that effectively serves to repel their audience? Also, the second part of Gean Moreno’s series on the spread of nonhuman and inorganic agents in neoliberal capitalism looks at Steven Shaviro’s “accelerationist aesthetics” as an opening into forms of nonspace and a generic sublime encouraged by network topologies and global finance.
Finally, in the February 2012 issue of e-flux journal we are pleased to embark on a new project that will continue in the next two issues: the publication of the proceedings of the conference “One Divides Into Two: Dialectics, Negativity, and Clinamen,” held at the Berlin Institute for Cultural Inquiry from March 28–30, 2011, and organized by Aaron Schuster, Gal Kirn, Pascale Gillot, and Ben Dawson.
The conference deals broadly with the problem of division, and more specifically with how it relates to three domains: sexuality and sexual difference, antagonism in politics, and negativity in ontology. Its central wager is that not only is it productive to bring these diverse fields into dialogue but there also exists a fundamental challenge in thinking of a “two” that cannot be contained by a greater “one”; it stands for a kind of rupture of unity itself—whether conceived as an elusive element that sticks out of the totality; an imbalance, or asymmetry, that sets things into motion; or an unpredictable swerve or collision.
Different ways of thinking division, rupture, lack, and void are what is stake in these various presentations, with two main theoretical references. While Hegel has come to be known as the monster of totality, absorbing everything within his monolithic System, in the dialectical movement it is precisely the unpredictable and productive misfire, the failure to realize what was intended, that fuels Spirit’s restless progression. Freud too is sometimes made into a guru of psychosexual development and normative “Oedipalization”; perhaps like no other thinker, however, he elevated the glitch, the slip, and the awkward gap into the central figure for grasping the mind’s polymorphous activity.
The conference presenters—Mladen Dolar, Alenka Zupančič, and Slavoj Žižek—are prominent members of what is sometimes referred to as the Slovenian School, whose work is well known for its combination of Lacanian psychoanalysis with the problem of subjectivity in German Idealism and Marxist political theory. Each participant presented two papers, allowing for an opportunity to re-articulate and re-envision several of the crucial elements of the ambitious project. Zupančič’s “Sexuality and Ontology” and Žižek’s “Hegel versus Heidegger” appear here; the remaining contributions will be subsequently published.
—Julieta Aranda, Aaron Schuster, Anton Vidokle, Brian Kuan Wood
In this issue:
Hans Ulrich Obrist—In Conversation with Adam Curtis, Part I
I think the way forward is somehow to make it emotional, to rediscover the idea of transcending yourself and joining together with other people. If a novelist is going to come along and write the grand novel of our time, I think the sensibility will have to deal with the interaction between the desire of the individual to feel and experience everything themselves, and how that desire can also transcend the immediacy of the individual to become something else, a kind of shared experience.
Alenka Zupančič—Sexual Difference and Ontology
The reasons why feminism and gender studies find these ontologizations of sexual difference highly problematic are obvious. Fortified on the ontological level, sexual difference is strongly anchored in essentialism—it becomes a combinatory game of the essences of masculinity and femininity. Such that, to put it in the contemporary gender-studies parlance, the social production of norms and their subsequent descriptions finds a ready-made ontological division, ready to essentialize “masculinity” and “femininity” immediately.
Slavoj Žižek—Hegel versus Heidegger
With thetwentieth century interpreters of Hegel who stand under Heidegger’s influence, this contradiction between the “logical” and the “historical” acquires a deeper radical underpinning: what they try to outline is a more fundamental ontological frame that is both the source of Hegel’s dialectical systematizing, and is, simultaneously, betrayed by this systematizing.
Hito Steyerl—The Spam of the Earth
From the perspective of image spam, people are improvable, or, as Hegel put it, perfectible. They are imagined to be potentially “flawless,” which in this context means horny, super skinny, armed with recession-proof college degrees, and always on time for their service jobs, courtesy of their replica watches. This is the contemporary family of men and women: a bunch of people on knockoff antidepressants, fitted with enhanced body parts. They are the dream team of hyper-capitalism.
Gean Moreno—Notes on the Inorganic, Part II: Terminal Velocity
Accelerationism aims to rev up crisis and render it unsustainable, to pipe even more energy into processes of social fracture, to exacerbate the fragmentation of experience, and to intensify sensorial overload and subjective dispersal in order to drive masochistically toward an incompatibility between capitalism and forms of excess it can’t accommodate. Counterintuitive for kids brought up on the delights of critique and its penchant for refusing complicity with the dominant order, one no longer resists these tendencies.
The print edition of e-flux journal can now be found at:
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Scott Gallery, Emily Carr University of Art and Design Vigo: MARCO, Museo de Arte Contemporanea de Vigo Vilnius: Contemporary Art Centre (CAC) Vitoria-Gasteiz: Montehermoso Kulturunea Visby: BAC, Baltic Art Center Warsaw: Zachęta Narodowa Galeria Sztuki / Zachęta National Gallery of Art Wiesbaden: Nassauischer Kunstverein (NKV) Yerevan: Armenian Center For Contemporary Experimental Art, NPAK Zagreb: Galerija Miroslav Kraljevic / Gallery Nova / Institute for Duration, Location and Variables, DeLVe Zurich: Postgraduate Program in Curating, Zürich University of the Arts / Shedhalle / White Space.