When Hurricane Sandy tore through the Eastern US on the eve of the presidential elections, it seemed that a certain fatigue had found a strange mirror image in the libidinal force of completely absurd weather patterns, that a tired resignation to a lack of options in the political sphere had actually mutated into an apocalyptic revolution in the atmosphere. It was as if a negative omen had come with the prospect that the next global insurgency could arrive by way of non-human forces altogether—totally external to markets, but also to people.
In this issue, we return to an essay by Jodi Dean from 2009, before the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement, in which the political theorist warns against the deep pitfalls of taking democracy for granted as the absolute horizon of leftist political thought. For Franco “Bifo” Berardi in this issue, it is through the deployment of language as poetry that we can resist capture. Bifo has often traced the current sense of doom back further, to a death of the future that accompanied the economic stagnation of the 1970s. For Bifo, crucially, the future in the mercantile West was always pegged to economic growth and the promise of increasing wealth. But even in the case of the state-controlled economies in the East whose future prosperity was pegged to popular social and economic ideology, the future arrives as a kind of absolute currency. It is poetry that reactivates another sensation of time in the singular vibration of the voice.
Here we can also look to the resilience and sublime integrity of the works of Michael Asher (1943–2012), who passed away in October. In this issue, Michael Baers remembers Asher as his mentor at CalArts and through a final, unfinished work on the adaptive re-use of industrial factories by contemporary art institutions. Also in this issue, Mark Beasley reflects on Mike Kelly’s music projects as a search to recapture a popular voice offensive to the piety of tradition, but also to the formatting of the popular. And Jalal Toufic looks back to find a form of life that surpasses the terms of death in the story of Christ: “What is impossible for Jesus Christ as the life? Is it to “heal the sick” and “raise the dead” (Matthew 10:8)? No, such actions are possible for a God who is the life; therefore they are not miracles for him. What is impossible for Jesus Christ, the life, is to die … ”
Also, and this is a message from the future in December 2013: e-flux journal no. 39 now contains an essay by Cédric Vincent that should have been published in this issue, but was only conceived and written some months later. It focuses on an announcement sent on November 6, 2012 for one, or two, biennials in Benin and that showed how information spins the globalized art world in many directions simultaneously, for better or for worse.