e-flux journal issue 61: 
Politics of Shine, Issue One

e-flux journal issue 61: 
Politics of Shine, Issue One

e-flux journal

January 8, 2015

e-flux journal issue 61: 
Politics of Shine, Issue One

with Tom HolertSven LüttickenBrian Kuan Wood
Tavi MeraudAdrian RifkinNatascha Sadr Haghighian,
and Timotheus Vermeulen

e-flux journal iPad edition is now available.
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Shine and shininess are characteristic of surface effects, of glamour and spectacle, of bling-bling contingency, of ephemeral novelty, value added, and disposable fascination. Shine is what seizes upon affect as its primary carrier to mobilize attention. Shine could be the paradoxically material base of an optical economy typically (mis)understood as being purely cognitive or immaterial. Even at an art fair or Hollywood gala, surface effects are widely deployed while being categorically condemned to the domain of inconsequential superficiality, for shine is also persistently unwilling to compromise speed for substance, surface for depth, attractiveness for soul, effect for content, projection for stasis, inflationary wealth, success, and splendor for reality.

Shine and luster tend to block the view of things, while at the same time inviting fetishistic adherence. The architectures of finance and global management pretend transparency while offering glistening opacity. Likewise the impression management of art world glitz acts through the highly refined shininess of contemporary signature white cube buildings, containing tons of gleaming video equipment for costly multi-screen installations. Who’s doing the polishing of high-end Poggenpohl kitchens (when the masters are at work) or outside at the skyscraper’s window, in the limo garage or at the hairdresser’s boutique?

Indeed, it is the particular materiality of declarative shininess that we now recognize as a clear sign of paradox, as it is so often used to mediate decay and divert attention away from oncoming collapse. And as we now start to recognize how lighting effects constitute a primary function of what can only exist through mechanisms and metaphorologies of visibility, recognition, refraction, and dissemination, we might start to ask whether there is another side to shine altogether. Does shine not also serve a core planetary function of giving life to our planet, through the solar capital of the sun? We cannot afford to be idealistic here, as the sun’s light and heat do not always disclose and reveal. They cannot be geo-engineered through cool roofings at will, since they’re equally cruel and unstable. The sun’s radiance also subtracts life—it produces famine, drought, and night.

Edited together with Tom Holert, this first of a two-part issue of e-flux journal, though determined to focus on shine, surfaces, and light in all their aesthetic peculiarity and contemporary relevance, aims less at adding to the (still very slim) cultural history of the phenomenon than to rendering palpable the cross-sections of power and aesthetics in the material and immaterial discourses of shine—past, present, and future.

Although the physical behavior of smooth surfaces, the gloss of lips or the shiny coat of car metal, the hard body sheen of porn or the blaze of solar panels all continue to be experienced in the offline world of skin, glass, and steel, it would seem that shine is now predominantly produced and obtained on-screen, as a digitally calculated mimicry of (sun-)light refractions and deflections, as mediated radiance. Yet, this virtual availability of shine and gloss, of Glanz and éclat, is deceptive in its awesome ability to simultaneously neglect and conflate the material, the political and economic, infrastructure of the production of today’s fetish-artifacts.

Do we need a different discourse of light and exuberance, a counter radiance that outshines the sun that shines on the privileged, an insurgent technology of brilliance in the service of those who are doomed to do the rubbing? Perhaps this light could already be today’s version of what Guy Debord described in his 1978 In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni:

“A society which was already tottering, but which was not yet aware of this because the old rules were still respected everywhere else, had momentarily left the field open for that ever-present but usually repressed sector of society: the incorrigible riffraff; the salt of the earth; people quite sincerely ready to set the world on fire just to make it shine.”

—Tom Holert, Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, Anton Vidokle

In this issue:

Tom Holert—The Sunshine State
How much sun is needed to maintain or improve psychic and physical health? What are the repercussions of ripples in global energy markets on local labor politics? To what extent is the distribution of wealth related to the distribution of light? Questions of this order are placed in the folds of the narrative and the imagery of Dardenne’s film, and they keep haunting the western-style tale of the heroine searching for a reason among her coworkers and within herself to stay alive in the desert of the solar-industrial real. 

Natascha Sadr Haghighian—Disco Parallax
The English word “pig” refers to the animal raised and sold by farmers, while the French-derived word “pork” refers to the edible meat from the pig. The gap between these two words relays the class dimensions of the animal, its producers, and its consumers. The dual use of wording marks the distance between those who produce and those who consume: the prosperous Norman conquerors who could afford to eat porque from the pig raised by the underprivileged Saxon farmers. Japanese philosopher and literary critic Kojin Karatani refers to this very gap as the parallax dimension—a phenomenon that appears when we are confronted with irreducible antimonies and the opposed positions they produce.
Tavi Meraud—Iridescence, Intimacies
When speaking of intimates, there is an emphasis on the proximal, in the emphatic, spatial sense of the word—those who are close to one another, those who are close to me. It describes—in a phrase—the logics of proximity. This superficial closeness, literally proximity understood through the metrics of how much of my private sphere comes into contact with that of another, is rather a foil for an even deeper sense of spatiality, that of interiority.

Timotheus Vermeulen—The New “Depthiness”
But what the line from Girls hints at is that, just maybe, we are seeing the first stage in another history of another kind of deepening, one whose empirical reality lies above the surface even if its performative register floats just below it: depthiness. 

Adrian Rifkin—Yes, That’s What I think
Stricken almost speechless, my friend managed to say only, “Hello, big, isn’t it?” To which the tutor replied, “Yes, and shiny too,” and passed on without more than a glance at the supposed masterpiece. Was it a judgment on my friend’s simplemindedness, or maybe on his incapacity even to have registered the shine? Or on the painting that was thus relegated to some storeroom of Adornian kitsch, even disqualified and misattributed, precisely on account of its shine, its over-varnish? A Caravaggio, even?

Sven Lütticken—Shine and Schein
In his early essay on Wagner, written during the Nazi period, Adorno characterized Wagner’s music theatre as “phantasmagoric” precisely because of its basis in commodity fetishism. In trying to create a seamless illusion and a dream-like atmosphere, Wagner prefigured later, more technologically advanced manifestations of the culture industry, while his tableaux on stage recalled contemporaneous displays of consumer goods. In the phantasmagoria, “wird der ästhetische Schein vom Charakter der Ware ergriffen.” Wagner’s operas are dependent on the concealment of labor, a prerequisite of commodity fetishism. 

Brian Kuan Wood—Is it Heavy or Is it Light?
Under a regime of visibility that usurps older notions of substance, what figures can we use to affirm its surface effects, to understand its refractive powers, to crack open its hidden energies and make its calculus work for us and not against us? How has this new superficiality realized and flipped the politics of spectacle described by Debord? And why should we take a closer look at the sun?

The print edition of e-flux journal can now be found at:
Amsterdam: De Appel arts centre / Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten Andratx: CCA Andratx Antwerp: M HKA Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Århus: Kunsthal Aarhus Athens: OMMU 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 / do you read me? / Haus der Kulturen der Welt / Motto / Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (n.b.k.) / Pro qm Bern: Kunsthalle Bern / Lehrerzimmer Bialystok: Arsenal Gallery Bielefeld: Bielefelder Kunstverein 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 Dubai: Traffic 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 / 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 / Cda-Projects / DEPO / SALT Johannesburg: Center for Historical Reenactments Kansas City: La Cucaracha Press Klagenfurt: Kunstraum Lakeside Kristiansand: SKMU Sørlandets Kunstmuseum 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 Mexico City: Librería Casa Bosques / Proyectos Monclova Milan: Fondazione Nicola Trussardi / HangarBicocca Milton Keynes: MK Gallery Minneapolis: Walker Art Center 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 Nottingham: Nottingham Contemporary 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 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 Sydney: Artspace 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 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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