e-flux journal issue 89

e-flux journal issue 89

e-flux journal

Film still from Alain Resnais’s 1968 movie Je t’aime, je t’aime.

March 7, 2018
e-flux journal issue 89

with Tam Donner, Dena Yago, Ben Davis, Marco Baravalle, Natalya Serkova, Anastasia Gacheva, Travis Diehl, and Alexander R. Galloway
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“The end justifies the means. But what if there never is an end? All we have is means.”
—Ursula K. Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven, 1971

In Ursula Le Guin’s 1971 novel The Lathe of Heaven, a seemingly unassuming young white male begins effective dreaming. Desperate to stop altering realities by night, George Orr borrows other people’s pharmacy cards (the world is overpopulated, resources heavily rationed) to obtain more than his share of dexedrine and barbiturates. Landing himself in the hands of an oneirologist, he becomes a tool—a proxy to make the doctor’s megalomaniacal utilitarian fantasies real. The doctor suggests, and George dreams. “This was the way he had to go; he had no choice. He had never had any choice. He was only a dreamer.”

Whose effective dreams are we living in now: A hoaxter, broker, autocrat, or warrior? A meal-replacement entrepreneur, or a pedophilic sculptor of language and form? A gentleman farmer, almanac full of pop-up weather events; a scientist who dreams of not detonating the germ bombs that he goes on crafting anyway? Maybe we’re caught in the dreams of somebody much more benign, or much more terrifying: cannibal, gallerist, curator, class warrior, populist, physicist, philosopher, artist, capitalist. Just wondering what phase of ideology’s public trade on the subconscious (art) market we’re in now.

It’s been said that talking about dreams is incredibly boring to the person who has to listen. But dreams bear repeating as reality shifts under the weight of them (some more than others). Surely the officially registered daydreams of certain ancestors resemble almost exactly the night terrors and centuries-long waking atrocities of others. Yanomami spokesperson and shaman Davi Kopenawa explains, “The white people, they do not dream as far as we do. They sleep a lot but only dream of themselves.”

There are no concepts without consequences. In The Lathe of Heaven, Orr’s psychologist, mad with power, commands the dreamer under augmented hypnosis to erase racial tensions. Twisted by Orr’s subconscious, this directive turns everyone’s skin dull, gray. Maybe soylent green is soylent gray—gray people. Travis Diehl pours into this issue the fact of soylent as rebranded substance, like so much science of former fiction, in the techno-creative-class present. Liquid removes the inconvenience of taste: gray, beige.

The present threatens to make hungry ghosts of anyone who survives to see the future. Certainly not all humans have had such luck. Whoever’s dreams we—the dead, the outsiders, the cosmists, the content producers’ content producers, artists—collectively find ourselves caught in, perhaps we can agree to enter tomorrow’s nightmare, this time more lucid.

If so, to what end? All we have is means.

Let’s take a look at the state of the influencer’s union. “Today, everyone is a culture-producer, producing culture for every other culture-producer,” Dena Yago tells us in this issue of e-flux journal. But being an influencer doesn’t pay, so please don’t forget to tip. Yago suggests that we must demand payment for any content created for a brand. We assume this includes #museums (12,933,587 hashtagged posts on Instagram). There are 3,292 posts hashtagged #curatorfindme. None tagged #curatorpayme. 52,834 #museumselfies, plus 15,700 #museumselfieday. Curator fin(e)d me indeed.

Also in this issue, Ben Davis’s found document from 2027, a classic of art futurology by the presumable 2100s, predicts a future art when “the ‘aestheticization of capitalism’ is complete.” At this point, “cultural life has largely migrated into various mediated and virtual platforms, all controlled by quasi-monopolistic corporations. The market for new singular art objects craters, as interior decorating trends favor the ultra-minimalism that best serves as a background for various forms of customizable augmented reality experiences.” Contemporary artists live on only for “bespoke mythmaking,” decorating daydreams of the ultrarich.

But maybe it doesn’t, or didn’t, have to be this way.

Tam Donner—who, along with Le Guin, inspired this short reflection on dreaming—“nightdreams of people dismantling a fascist state”; then she “nightmares” that the end of human time has already come, making that dream impossible. Donner brings to this issue a vital vision, a searing history—both a dream and a lucid waking account of the present.

Anastasia Gacheva details the transformative stratagies devised by Nikolai Fedorov and his fellow cosmists for overcoming death through art. Natalya Serkova maps cosmism’s extended life through body modification and fusion with machines, to the point where a “hybrid, mutuating cosmist project” will bring into the sunlight the “cosmist worm with a thousand eyes.”

In another mode, Alexander R. Galloway reaches into the future pages of the third volume in Badiou’s Being and Event series, Being and Event 3: The Immanence of Truths.

Marco Baravalle also offers something on which we can all focus our energies: “alter-institutions” that can help build multiple new “art worlds” outside and despite the neoliberal realities under which the current one operates. “In short,” he says, “we need to associate the word ‘art’ with different forms of life.”


Tam Donner—Homeland Security Stylesheet: Incest Font
Each user of the DHS website—grade-school teachers, businesswomen, DREAMers, cyberattack victims, job seekers, and me—is anonymous to one another. But together we users use, in MS Joanna Nova typeface; I use it to determine how the intentions of the state are visualized. In the ICE section, I note thick hands and holsters acting out narratives of white chivalry upon a collateral body of characters specified as rapists and pimps. A border economy based on captives and captors is dependent on feminine victims, actual or conjured. The feminine victim as political commodity also articulates itself in other contemporary ways, oblique and direct, ranging from the reproduction and circulation of images of wasted but pure children as a fundraising tool, to more recent instrumentalizations of conflict-related sexual violence to justify invasions.

Dena Yago—Content Industrial Complex
What is an artist to do? With an understanding of how our content, identities, and influence are valuable to and instrumentalized by brands and marketers, we can find space for resistance and refusal, or we can actively engage with existing models in an effort to ameliorate them. While it might seem like the only options are to ramp up your posting with accelerationist fervor, or delete your account, there are tactics to be learned from internet trolls, the alt-right, and institutional critique that can open space for effective critique and resistance.

Ben Davis—Three Tendencies of Future Art
As spatial segregation becomes almost complete in the twenty-first-century nation, the wealthy wall themselves off in hyper-policed gated zones. The lavish entertainment spectacles of Big Fun Art may provide more than enough on the entertainment level for both the tiny ruling class and its proximate servant class. But they do not fulfill the classical art object’s other remaining purpose: symbolizing, through its uniqueness, a ruling class’s unique status atop the social pyramid of society. The individual contemporary artist, therefore, lives on, but more in the mode of aesthetic lifestyle coaching and bespoke mythmaking.

Marco Baravalle—Art Populism and the Alter-Institutional Turn
These kinds of artistic practices invest in the creation of social relationships that are on the side of the commons and against neoliberal dictates and reactionary populism (which are only apparently in opposition). When art chooses this side, it doesn’t adhere to an ideology; rather, it questions emerging ideological tendencies and operates according to a materialistic logic in order to realize the common through the free distribution of knowledge and means of production, as well as through the creation of new algorithms and the reinvention of institutional infrastructures. Beyond neoliberal capture and against populist recruitment. 

Natalya Serkova—Learning from Machines, Seeing with a Thousand Eyes: On the Relevance of Russian Cosmism
The idea of the human body’s radical transformation and the barely perceptible doubt of cosmism itself in the humanity of transfigured beings are ubiquitously echoed a hundred years later, while the exceptionally creative nature of the cosmist movement has been intricately twisted in the mirror of a speculative present.

Anastasia Gacheva—Art and the Overcoming of Death: From Nikolai Fedorov to the Cosmists of the 1920s
Cosmist thinkers founded the “organization of world-transformation”—an organization that was meant to encompass all the types of humanity’s creative activity, all spheres of its theoretical and practical application—on the creative principle found in art. Art opens before humanity an opportunity to move away from the present instrumental, technical progress, which acts upon nature only from outside, by use of mechanisms and machines, to a new, mature type of progress that would be organic, that would transform and spiritualize the world through a living, non-mediated touch.

Travis Diehl—Soylent Beige: The Middle Gray of Taste
Add this to Joyce’s famous passages detailing the sense of a frying kidney and, at the other end, a trip to the outhouse. Maharaj argues that Joyce offers information to all of the senses in a way that “cuts across” the mind/body dualism. Artistic research is located not in digestion itself but in an overlying wordplay; language turned against language. Such research is immanent in the artist, physically and abstractly, the way food is immanent within the body—and the way an artist like Raspet is immanent within a corporation like Soylent. Or the way art is immanent not in the can of shit but in the artist’s (say, Manzoni) signing such a can. 

Alexander R. Galloway—21 Paragraphs on Badiou
Following in the spirit of book reviews written about books that do not exist, I offer here—no doubt at my own peril—a series of observations in anticipation of Alain Badiou’s forthcoming Being and Event 3: The Immanence of Truths, a book that does not yet exist but will exist at some point in the future. Already notorious for his defense of mathematics as ontology, Badiou has become a bit more evenhanded on the question of the matheme versus the poem, preferring instead to describe philosophy as poised “between” poetry and mathematics, not simply privileging the latter.

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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