e-flux journal issue 57:
The End of the End of
, Issue Two

e-flux journal issue 57:
The End of the End of
, Issue Two

e-flux journal

September 9, 2014
e-flux journal issue 57:The End of the End of History, Issue Two

with Arseny ZhilyaevJonas StaalHassan Khan,
Miran MoharSotirios BahtsetzisEduardo
Bilal KhbeizSuzana Milevska,
Keti ChukhrovKnut ÅsdamEdit András, and 
Ilya Budraitski


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Francis Fukuyama, and even his mentor Alexandre Kojève before him, warned of boredom, stasis, and homogeneity being characteristics of the “universal homogenous state” that would mark the end of history. As Fukuyama put it: in the post-historical period there will be neither art nor philosophy, just the perpetual caretaking of the museum of human history. And indeed, the phase of contemporary art has also been characterized in discussions over recent years as a reformatting of time into a perpetual present. The contemporary is the now that never ends, the art that circles itself at the tail end of history looking back on defunct ideologies, archiving and polishing them for a future that never arrives.

Something else also happened around the time of Fukuyama’s proclamation. Because another side of the end of history might have to do not only with the collapse of a certain notion of humanist progress but also with a whole other shift in temporality that made it doubly unsustainable. And it also took its structure from the liberal tradition as well as the US military. It has to do with radical advances in communication technologies that we also call the internet. In fact, Fukuyama’s mistake may have been in seeing a global Pax Americana in traditional geopolitical terms, when in fact the end of history is then not only the end of a certain era of political thought but also the beginning of a new phase of extreme spatial and temporal compression. It is marked by a perpetual sense of dislocation that alters the way we experience places and events, and by extension the way time and causality function—certainly not in terms of any accumulative continuity that would make historicization possible. Instead, everything happens as if simultaneously, even contemporaneously. We thought Fukuyama was talking about ideology, but it was also about how we stabilize an idea of one thing following another in the most basic sense.

So maybe the function of contemporary art is not so much to drift aimlessly in the melancholic haze-time after the end of ideological progress and humanist time. Instead, why don’t we look at a renewed function of the contemporary arts as actually developing methods of training the body to withstand the stresses of temporal dislocation, of what is in essence time travel? After all, if the contemporary conditions of flexible labor and self-managed time are so truly unbearable, then forget about jet lag and try to think about astronauts who need to train their bodies to withstand the pressures of entering and exiting the atmosphere. Slowly and painfully, we may be learning how to disintegrate and reconstitute ourselves over and over again as we go to visit our parents in the motherland, take the kids to school, attend stupid conferences and openings, show up at work, get drunk, write a novel, all at the same time and with all limbs intact. It is not only about the violence of an endless economic now or the stresses of sitting in place imagining myriad scenarios in order to speculate on property values, but also about learning how not to fall apart while moving at warp speed. If we can get it right, we will be untouchable to fascists. We will move so fast they won’t even be able to see us.

The only catch is that speed might already have become an outdated notion. We thought we had to be moving fast in order to cover these long distances, but it might just as well be that the world is shrinking, and we are not in fact moving as fast or as far as we had thought. And we are not so much at risk of fragmenting into a cosmopolitan mess, but of actually being compacted. If space and time are actually compressing, then something totally outside of our control would actually be consolidating all of our fragmentary contradictions on its own until we are completely resolved as a single thing. And this resolved state of being might use the strong name of a nation, tribe, sect, religion, or race to crowdsource votes or as a talisman to ward off further invasions trying to beam in over YouTube or Skype. Some of us may be convinced by these names, because they are very real. And some of us may go to war over these names. Even while knowing that they are not at all what they claim to be.

The September issue of e-flux journal is the second part of a double issue on the end of End of History and the reemergence of origin myths. From Hungary to Russia to Egypt to Syria-Iraq to India to France to the UK to Norway and elsewhere in Scandinavia, to Japan, China, South Africa, and beyond, many of these emerging movements tend to look on the surface like the old fascism, but something is very different this time around, and it marks a profound change in the nature of representation in general, whether in a political or artistic sense.

—Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, Anton Vidokle

In this issue:

Arseny Zhilyaev—The Places of History
Just think: Can a bone from a mammoth really invoke in us the complex experience of humanity’s millenia-long struggle for survival? We can have this experience only by recognizing the bone’s extreme insignificance compared with the mass of matter that has undergone countless metamorphoses over that time. And Hitler’s towel? The fact that the villain was a simple man of flesh and blood only throws into starker relief Hitler’s deeds as a historical person.

Jonas Staal—To Make a World: Ultranationalism and the Art of the Stateless State
The ultimate outcome of ultranationalism is the disappearance of the state altogether, and its replacement by power structures that do not recognize any form of democratic control by the very people these structures affect. Nor do these structures restrict themselves to what used to be known as national borders. This reality of globalism after the annihilation of the nation-state forms a dark and perverted version of that other dream of decentralized powers that reaches beyond the nation-state: the progressive project of stateless internationalism.

Hassan Khan—”A Monster Was Born”: Notes on the Rebirth of the “Corrupt Intellectual”
As such, any sort of politics invested in transformation and taking rupture as its starting point will have to take into account the resonance produced by making a statement within a closed horizon of meaning that has been determined by the functionaries of the dominant order. This is not to support the statements of these functionaries, but to realize that their historical density is constitutive of the idea of meaning itself, at least in our present context. To attempt to step out of that, to practice rupture, would be to recognize this idea of meaning for what it is. One must abandon claims of “liberation” and transcendent doxas of “progress.” One must abandon the “people,” “hope,” “the dream,” “possibility”—all in the name of the transformation itself.

Miran Mohar—Why Neue Slowenische Kunst in German?
Interestingly, despite our iconography, we were not of much interest to ultranationalists in the long run. In fact, they were mostly quite disappointed and perplexed when they looked more closely at us. They attended the events of NSK and its groups because our iconography was apparently appealing to them, but its content did not meet their expectations and they did not know what to make of it. Because our artistic procedures and works did not contain a safe ironical distance that would be recognizable at first glance, we were subject, from the very start of our activity, to numerous accusations of being nationalists and flirting with totalitarian ideologies. In time, such reactions slowly died down and became very rare.

Sotirios Bahtsetzis—Democrisis: Notes on the Capitalist Imaginary of Europe
In outlining this center-left, utopian vision for a global federation (much like the politically optimistic fiction of global governance suggested in Star Trek), Attali doesn’t discuss the means for achieving such a noble goal. Along the same lines, Robert Cooper, an EU diplomat and a former adviser to UK prime minister Tony Blair, terms this global government a “post-modern cooperative imperium.”

Eduardo Cachucho—Red Berets and Economic Accomplices
A year before being officially elected South Africa’s first democratic president in 1994, Mandela opened the Cultural Development Congress by stating, “That which we collectively contribute to our national cultural identity will live forever, beyond us.” He argued for the importance of art and culture as tools for overcoming the apartheid weapons of minority rule, torture, detention, carnage, and massacre. Mandela envisioned a cultural sphere emerging in South Africa, not as a creative market of speculation, but one where social bonds would be reconstituted—perhaps a place where art could be seen as real work.

Bilal Khbeiz—The Dead Afghani before the Camera and Before Death
The Afghani prepares to meet death in two ways. First, the war on the Afghani is clearly declared, at least for those who followed the news. The second is that the Afghani starts the day without any idea of how it will end, as there are no fixed jobs, and the scarcity of rain alone might devastate the whole population. That’s why the Afghani receives death naked—no differently than a few months or days ago. The American’s time is divided into seconds, minutes, and hours, through working hours, the time to wake up, get dressed, and so forth. In this way, the American declares an accurate sense of death and death’s course, and will not be surprised. On the other hand, the Afghani who lacks these means knows that today is similar to yesterday, and that time has stopped.

Suzana Milevska—Ágalma: “The Objet Petit a,” Alexander the Great, and other excesses of Skopje 2014
A triumphal arch is a monument that supposedly has the power to collapse the time before and after the event that it celebrates; in a way, it consists of an open multitude of events—a list that can be endlessly rewritten. But the few events that have been marked by public gatherings at the Gate of Macedonia have not been so glorious: in 2011, the Macedonian national basketball team celebrated its fourth-place finish in the European Championship under the gate, and in 2012 the organization Aman gathered there to protest high electricity bills.

Keti Chukhrov—On the False Democracy of Contemporary Art
What art has lost in the long run of its modernist, postmodern, and contemporary stages is not aesthetics at all. Nor is it the direct force of transformation. Such a force belonged to the political avant-garde, i.e., to revolution, for which the artistic avant-garde could only be a satellite. Moreover, it is a delusion that aesthetics has ever been art’s chief value and can now “save” practices that are deprived of aesthetic specificity.

Knut Åsdam—Nationalism: Persistence and Political Upkeep
Just a couple of months before Anders Breivik’s attacks, I listened to a new radio documentary that claimed that the right wing in Norway had shrunk down to a handful of people whose identities everyone knew. While the virtual connectivity of Islamist radical groups had been widely observed and discussed, society as a whole hadn’t understood that the country’s far right had also gone through a similar restructuring. Even though several researchers attempted to sound the alarm about a structural change in the Norwegian right wing, the media, the politicians, and the police relied on an outdated method for identifying fascist groups based on how they operated in previous decades. They totally missed their target.

Edit András—Vigorous Flagging of Nationhood in the Heart of Europe
Concerning the arts, the goal is to achieve a traditional, conservative, Christian culture, conveying a historically rooted image of a strong and proud Hungary. Fidesz, the ruling party in Hungary, used this image on its billboards for the European Parliament elections. The message “We are sending word to Brussels: Hungarians demand respect” stood beside the portrait of the prime minister—the same portrait that is replicated fifty-seven times in Kriszta Nagy’s paintings.

Ilya Budraitski—Hope in a Hopeless Situation, translated by Thomas Campbell
The wartime “national unity” we are now headed toward derives its strength from the fear of instability, the expectation of protection from above, and the sense that subjects and rulers are ultimately in the same boat. It is hard to imagine the incredible freedom of action the state acquires with respect to citizens in this case. This victory of the ruling elite over their own society outweighs, at least in the short term, the losses from sanctions and the shame of international isolation.

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