e-flux journal issue 81

e-flux journal issue 81

e-flux journal

Eldar Zakirov, The Hermitage Court Chamber Cat revised, 2014. This painting is part of a series originally comissioned by the Hermitage Museum in honor of their pet cats. Most recently, the images have been circulating as “alt-right” memes. 


April 5, 2017
e-flux journal issue 81

with Alexander Kluge and Hans Ulrich Obrist, Yuk HuiXin WangVivian ZiherlChen Chieh-jenArthur Jafa and Tina CamptElizabeth A. Povinelli, and David Morris 
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Art cannot solve the problems of 2017, Alexander Kluge says to Hans Ulrich Obrist in this issue, but it can start solving the problems of 2036. Though it may begin in the affective work of mourning, art moves towards a rational archeology and a realistic anticipation. We could call this “futurist realism,” a vision of the coming decades as a series of problems to be solved, rather than as a source for transcendent salvations or damnations of whatever fashion. Unlike the ecstatic or dispirited futurisms we are accustomed to, futurist realism looks forward with no false regrets. Bad-faith futurism, by contrast, is exemplified by those who, at the moment of Occidental eclipse, cynically claim the bankruptcy of that which the Occident never stood for in the first place. Yuk Hui argues that these men—and they are all men—are trapped in a moment of “unhappy consciousness,” wallowing in feelings of loss rather than conceptualizing the global changes taking place around them. Feelings, Hui reminds us, are a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for knowledge. Without this understanding, neoreactionary melancholia quickly gives way to Silicon Valley–inspired “sinofuturist” fantasies that project a fantastically smooth, anti-political existence onto an entirely polymorphous set of cultures and histories.

In “Asian Futurism and the Non-Other,” Xin Wang draws on the work of the novelist Liu Cixin to show that the same recuperative approach underlies art-world attempts to represent other cultures as other. In the same way that, for the neoreactionaries, Asian cultures happen to perfectly fill in the holes they see in the Western fabric, so too do teams of art luminaries scour the globe in search of what is exotic by that same standard. In both cases, an apparent focus on the non-Occidental in fact preserves the Occident at the center of the story. The alternative, Wang avers, would be to recognize things for what they are. Under such conditions, productions like the Hollywood version of Ghost in the Shell would “just be a regional homage to the Japanese classic.” Meanwhile, Vivian Ziherl, in “The Fourfold Articulation,” continues to deepen her own engagement with the significance of the frontier for the metropolitan imaginary, reanimating the Marxist—or is it Maoist?—conception of “articulation” to describe the work of thinking and representing the in-between.

Providing a concrete history of just how the inside enlists the outside to project its own stability, Chen Chieh-jen discusses the overlapping imperialist histories of Taiwan’s Losheng Sanatorium and how these relate to his own work as an artist and filmmaker. The movement to save the sanatorium becomes a struggle to articulate—that word again—an adequate testimony to the character of everyday life in the twenty-first century. This emphasis on the importance of listening to images is underlined by Arthur Jafa and Tina Campt, who discuss movement, motion, dance, Christian sectarianism, and the mechanics of empathy in “Love is the Message, the Plan is Death.” What do we owe images of suffering? And how does the scale of our encounter with representation change our experience and understanding of life and death? Elizabeth Povinelli revisits this theme to offer a glimpse of the deep history behind the institutionalization of the distinction between life and nonlife.

Finally, David Morris gives us the history of the autonomous Russia-based Cold War collective APTART as an example of one way that art practice has tried to solve a certain kind of problem in the past. By running together the Russian and English words for art, APTART reminds us that we are never without resources for crossing even the most well-defended of our inherited frontiers.



In this issue:

Alexander Kluge in Conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist: What Art Can Do
We wouldn’t be celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the Russian Revolution now if it weren’t for the one in 1905, without which the one in 1917 wouldn’t have happened. We should reassess the 1905 revolution. A group of people, and then those that came after them, worked continuously and tirelessly starting in 1905 to eventually bring about the revolution of 1917. That gives us hope. That’s resistance in reality. There is no resistance in the moment of despair. In 1928 I could have created conditions with eight hundred thousand teachers that would have prevented me from sitting powerlessly in a basement in 1945. I can start now to solve the problems of 2026, which my children will live to see. And if we set up this working group now, it’s better than only doing it in 2036, in mourning for what went wrong in 2026.

Yuk Hui—On the Unhappy Consciousness of Neoreactionaries
Regardless of which Christian sect we ascribe it to, universalism remains a Western intellectual product. In reality there has been no universalism (at least not yet), only universalization (or synchronization)—a modernization process rendered possible by globalization and colonization. This creates problems for the right as well as the left, making it extremely difficult to reduce politics to the traditional dichotomy. The reflexive modernization described by prominent sociologists in the twentieth century as a shift from the early modernity of the nation-state to a second modernity characterized by reflexivity seems to be questionable from the outset.

Xin Wang—Asian Futurism and the Non-Other
To think that Hollywood (or any other highly visible, immensely powerful American, European, or—dare I say—Chinese institution) is anything but provincial, or that it is any real benchmark of cosmopolitanism—assumptions that continue to underlie debates on representation and identity—is delusional and unproductive. The “othering” gaze will never admit that it only likes to see what it wants to see. This is why embarrassing, bikini-waxed exhibitions claiming to present and represent creative endeavors from culturally and geopolitically volatile regions still take place in established cultural institutions. Efforts to further tighten control over narrative and framing reflect an institutional anxiety about faltering credibility and a diminishing influence over the dominant discourse.

Vivian Ziherl—The Fourfold Articulation
What formalism at, or on, the frontier does is to rotate or reorchestrate the point of view of the classical world. What is radical in the center may not be so from the periphery. The frontier is an artifact of modernity that most concerns its modes of contact. The frontier is the place where the soaring ideals of the Enlightenment touch down and slow to a grind against the earthly contingency of global expansion. In this morphology of touch, exposure, and exchange, the frontier signifies how modernity’s outside is produced, exploited, and policed. From this formal view of the frontier—as demonstrated by artists working at, and on, the frontier—it is possible to chart a fourfold articulation. That is, the cosmology of time, being, and belonging produced through the fourfold categories of the natural, the female, the racial, and the prior.

Chen Chieh-jen—Dissenting Voices of the Unwashed, Disobedient, Noncitizens, and Exiles in their Own Homes
Are these dispatched workers not the new colonized slaves of bourgeois democracy and its internal colonialism? When empires that disseminate neoliberalism also try to guide people around the world in how to take action, while intentionally blurring the tremendous class disparity that separates citizen from citizen, is this not a “New Losheng Sanatorium,” one that uses labor flexibilization to implement an alternative form of exclusion under the guise of “freedom” and “democracy”? Now, however, the isolated and excluded are no longer just leprosy patients; they are everyday people forced to live in a neoliberal society.

Arthur Jafa in Conversation with Tina Campt: Love is the Message, the Plan is Death
It’s one of the reasons I’m not interested in making films with white folks. I’m really interested in making work that is always foregrounding black people’s humanity even when they are bad guys or good guys. I like Alien because I’m a big fan of the alien. I’m a big fan of Hannibal Lecter, who I think is black and passing, basically. I just want to see black people who are complex. And competent at what they do, even if they’re mad geniuses or whatever.

Elizabeth A. Povinelli—Geontologies: The Concept and Its Territories
The Desert does not refer in any literal way to the ecosystem that, for lack of water, is hostile to life. The Desert is the affect that motivates the search for other instances of life in the universe and technologies for seeding planets with life; it colors the contemporary imaginary of North African oil fields; and it drives the fear that all places will soon be nothing more than the setting within a Mad Max movie. The Desert is also glimpsed in both the geological category of the fossil insofar as we consider fossils to have once been charged with life, to have lost that life, but as a form of fuel can provide the conditions for a specific form of life—contemporary, hypermodern, informationalized capital—and a new form of mass death and utter extinction; and in the calls for a capital or technological fix to anthropogenic climate change.

David Morris—Anti-Shows
A grouping of artists and artist groups, an apartment-exhibition space, a sequence of shows in an apartment and outdoors, a movement and a collective project, APTART’s actions were described by its participants as “working expositions,” “anti-shows,” “exhibition-nonexhibitions,” or—following the Socialist Realist dictum that art must be nationalist in form and socialist in content—as “apartment art” by “nationality.” The name is a contraction of “apartment art,” as well as a play on the Russian АРТ, meaning ART: a kind of stutter, “ART ART,” a repetition of “ART” across Russian and English.


Further material related to this issue will be published on e-flux conversations. Stay tuned.

The print edition of e-flux journal can be found at:
De Appel arts centre / Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten Andratx: CCA Andratx Antwerp: M HKA Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst / Kunsthal Extra City Århus: Kunsthal Aarhus Athens: OMMU / State of Concept Auckland: split/fountain Austin: Arthouse at the Jones Center Baden-Baden: Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden Banff: Walter Phillips Gallery, The Banff Centre Barcelona: Arts Santa Mònica / MACBA Basel: Kunsthalle Basel / Museum für Gegenwartskunst Basel Beijing and Guangzhou: Vitamin Creative Space Beirut: 98weeks Belgrade: Cultural Center of Belgrade Bergen: Bergen Kunsthall / Rakett Berlin: b_books / Berliner Künstlerprogramm – DAAD / Bücherbogen am Savignyplatz GmbH / Books People Places / do you read me? / Haus der Kulturen der Welt / Motto / Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (n.b.k.) / Pro qm Belfast: Platform Arts Bern: Kunsthalle Bern / Lehrerzimmer Bialystok: Arsenal Gallery Bielefeld: Bielefelder Kunstverein Biella: UNIDEE - University of Ideas, Cittadellarte - Fondazione Pistoletto Onlus Birmingham: Eastside Projects / Ikon Gallery Bologna: MAMbo – Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna Bregenz: Kunsthaus Bregenz Bristol: Arnolfini Brussels: WIELS Contemporary Art Centre Bucharest: National Museum of Contemporary Art Bucharest (MNAC) / Pavilion Unicredit Cairo: Beirut / Contemporary Image Collective (CIC) / Townhouse Gallery Calgary: The New Gallery Cambridge: Wysing Arts Center Castello: Espai d´art contemporani de Castelló (EACC) Chicago: Graham Foundation / Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts / The Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago Cologne: Kölnischer Kunstverein Copenhagen: Overgaden Derry: CCA Derry~Londonderry Dijon: Les Ateliers Vortex Dublin: Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane / Project Arts Centre Dusseldorf: Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen Eindhoven: Van Abbemuseum Frankfurt: Städelschule / Portikus Gdansk: Łaźnia Centre For Contemporary Art Geneva: Centre de la photographie Ghent: S.M.A.K. Glasgow: CCA Centre for Contemporary Arts / Glasgow Sculpture Studios Graz: Grazer Kunstverein / IZK Institute for Contemporary Art, TU Graz / Kunsthaus Graz / Künstlerhaus KM– / para_SITE Gallery / Grijon: LABoral Centre for Art and Creative Industries Groningen: University of Groningen Hamburg: Kunstverein in Hamburg Helsinki: Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma Hobart: CAST Gallery / INFLIGHT Hong Kong: Asia Art Archive Iași: theartstudent at the University of Fine Arts, Iași Innsbruck: Galerie im Taxispalais Istanbul: BAS / DEPO / Galeri Zilberman / SALT Johannesburg: Center for Historical Reenactments Kansas City: La Cucaracha Press Klagenfurt: Kunstraum Lakeside Kristiansand: SKMU Sørlandets Kunstmuseum Kyiv: Visual Culture Research Center Leeds: Pavilion Lisbon: Maumaus, Escola de Artes Visuais / Oporto / Kunsthalle Lissabon Ljubljana: Moderna galerija Llandudno: MOSTYN London: Architectural Association—Bedford Press / Calvert 22 / Chisenhale Gallery / Gasworks / ICA / Serpentine Gallery / The Showroom / Visiting Arts Los Angeles: REDCAT Loughborough: Radar, Loughborough University Luxembourg: Casino Luxembourg Madrid: Brumaria / CA2M / PENSART Maastricht: Jan van Eyck Academie Marfa: Ballroom Marfa Melbourne: Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) / World Food Books Merrylands: Cerdon College Mexico City: Librería Casa Bosques / Proyectos Monclova Milan: Fondazione Nicola Trussardi / HangarBicocca Milton Keynes: MK Gallery Minneapolis: Walker Art Center Monaco: Nouveau Musée National de Monaco Moncton: Fixed Cog Hero (a bicycle courier company) Montreal: Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) Moscow: Garage Center for Contemporary Culture Munich: Haus der Kunst / Museum Villa Stuck / Walther Koenig Bookshop New Delhi: Sarai CSDS New York: e-flux / Independent Curators International (ICI) / Printed Matter, Inc / McNally Jackson Nottingham: Nottingham Contemporary North Little Rock: Good Weather Gallery Omaha: Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts Oslo: Kunstnernes hus Oxford: Modern Art Oxford Padona: Fondazione March Per L’Arte Contemporanea Paris: castillo/corrales – Section 7 Books / Centre Pompidou / Les Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers Philadelphia: Bodega Pori: Pori Art Museum Portland: Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA) / Publication Studio Porto: Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves Prague: DOX Centre for Contemporary Art Prishtina: Stacion – Center for Contemporary Art Prishtina Providence: AS220 Reykjavik: Reykjavik Art Museum Riga: kim? Rio de Janeiro: Capacete / A Gentil Carioca Rome: MACRO Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Roma / Opera Rebis Rotterdam: Piet Zwart Institute / Witte de With | Center for Contemporary Art Saint-Nazaire: Le Grand Cafe, centre d’art contemporain Salzburg: Salzburger Kunstverein San Antonio: Artpace San Sebastián: Centro Internacional Cultura Contemporanea São Paulo: KUNSTHALLE São Paulo / Master in Visual Arts, Faculdade Santa Marcelina Sarajevo: Sarajevo Center for Contemporary Art (SCCA) Seoul: The Books / The Book Society Sherbrooke: Foreman Art Gallery of Bishop’s University Singapore: The Ngee Ann Kongsi Library Skopje: Press to Exit Project Space Sofia: ICA-Sofia / Sofia Art Gallery / SWIMMING POOL St Erme Outre et Ramecourt: Performing Arts Forum St Louis: White Flag Projects Stockholm: Bonniers Konsthall / Iaspis / Index - The Swedish Contemporary Art Foundation / Konstfack, University College of Art, Craft and Design / Konsthall C / Tensta konsthall Stuttgart: Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart Tallinn: Kumu Art Museum of Estonia The Hague: Stroom Den Haag Toronto: Art Metropole / Mercer Union / The Power Plant Torun: Centre of Contemporary Art Znaki Czasu in Torun (CoCA) Toowoomba: Raygun Contemporary Art Projects Trieste: Trieste Contemporanea Trondheim: NTNU University Library Umeå: Bildmuseet, Umeå University Utrecht: BAK, basis voor actuele kunst / Casco – Office for Art, Design and Theory Vaduz: Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein Valencia: IVAM–Biblioteca Valletta: Malta Contemporary Art Foundation Vancouver: Artspeak / Fillip—Motto / Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, University of British Columbia / READ Books, Charles H. Scott Gallery, Emily Carr University of Art and Design Venice: The Biennale Library-ASAC Vienna: Kunsthalle Wien / Salon für Kunstbuch—21er Haus Vigo: MARCO, Museo de Arte Contemporanea de Vigo Vilnius: Contemporary Art Centre (CAC) Vitoria-Gasteiz: Centro Cultural Montehermoso Kulturunea Visby: BAC – Baltic Art Center Warsaw: Zachęta National Gallery of Art Wiesbaden: Nassauischer Kunstverein (NKV) Yerevan: Armenian Center For Contemporary Experimental Art (NPAK) Zagreb: Galerija Miroslav Kraljevic / Gallery Nova / DeLVe | Institute for Duration, Location and Variables Zurich: Postgraduate Program in Curating, Zürich University of the Arts / Shedhalle / White Space

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