e-flux journal issue 56:
The End of the End of History

e-flux journal issue 56:
The End of the End of History

e-flux journal

June 16, 2014

e-flux journal issue 56:
The End of the End of History

with James T. Hong, Nina Power, LaborinArt
(Önder Özengi, Pelin Tan)
in conversation with
Franco “Bifo” Berardi
, Sabu Kohso, Oleksiy
, Oxana Timofeeva, Walid Raad, Boris
, Lawrence Liang, Raqs Media Collective,
Szabolcs KissPál, Liu Ding and Carol Yinghua Lu,
and Daniel Birnbaum


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In the summer of 1989, Francis Fukuyama published his infamous essay declaring the global triumph of free-market liberal democracy over communism as the end of ideology as such. Not only that, but he also claimed the world was on the cusp of realizing what Fukuyama’s mentor Alexandre Kojève called the “universal homogenous state,” which would be the climax of a particular Western idealist tradition stretching back to Hegel. It would be the endpoint of a human consciousness based in accumulative historical progress that also grounded the thinking of Marx himself, who pegged his own philosophy to a conception of time and human advancement as a constant moving towards a projected endpoint. But seriously, regardless of whether this endpoint has been reached, how advanced do you really feel? How many artworks have you seen in recent years that even struck you as being relevant as art? And the insane proliferation of regressive ultranationalist and ethnic or sectarian violence hardly points to historical progress either. This phenomenon is spreading nearly everywhere, from the EU parliament elections, to India, Iraq, Hungary, Russia, Japan, and so forth. The list is endless.

Since Fukuyama wrote his essay, he has been considered primarily a free-market ideologist seizing an early chance to declare the dismantling of the Soviet Union as the definitive moral victory of Western capitalist democracy—a kind of master ideology to end all ideologies. But those who once disregarded him should now look more closely at his essay, because it is absolutely prophetic. Of course, Fukuyama was not only writing as an intellectual, but also as a senior policymaker at the US State Department and a former analyst at the RAND Corporation. And while his essay did not officially reflect the views of the American state, it was nevertheless written by a man who was not only close to power, but also possessed the means to implement his declarations. So if it comes across as prophetic, it wouldn’t be a coincidence. The essay now reads as a crystal-clear blueprint for a peculiarly murky apolitical nonideological condition that has proven to be incredibly difficult to work from—particularly for artists.

And yet what rescues Fukuyama’s intellectual integrity from those who prefer to set him up as a free-market huckster is how he so beautifully expresses reservations about the very posthistorical condition he professes. He closes the essay by writing:

“The end of history will be a very sad time. The struggle for recognition, the willingness to risk one’s life for a purely abstract goal, the worldwide ideological struggle that called forth daring, courage, imagination, and idealism, will be replaced by economic calculation, the endless solving of technical problems, environmental concerns, and the satisfaction of sophisticated consumer demands. In the post-historical period there will be neither art nor philosophy, just the perpetual caretaking of the museum of human history … Perhaps this very prospect of centuries of boredom at the end of history will serve to get history started once again.”

History is coming back, but not in the way we understood it in the idealist tradition. If Kojève’s universal homogenous state (which is probably also the EU) is characterized by unbearable boredom and stagnation, it starts to make sense that the only political horizon available to not only the wishy-washy centrists of electoral democracies, but also to the uprisings and Occupy movements of recent years, was liberal democracy in its present form. And yet we are increasingly bumping up against the utter failure of liberal democracy to account for the bankers and corrupt regimes who commit their worst crimes from within the logic of economic freedom and electoral democracy. So even as we feel the people around us becoming more comfortable making racist remarks, we also start to sense our political consciousness shifting, because it seems clear that the consolidation of free-market democracy is starting to buckle completely. It might be that we are only now seeing how it was a Ponzi scheme all along. History is not beginning again, because it never really ended. Rather, the idea of a homogenous system built on idealism has become unsustainable and has given way to the many identitarian battles that it has had to suppress in order to keep itself going. Only the end of history is ending.

Kojève proclaimed that art would disappear in the universal homogenous state, and it probably did. No wonder funding is being pulled and artists are concerned with strategic withdrawal—everyone is bored sick of the waves of inflationary and depressive episodes of large-scale, bombastic zombie exhibitions. And yet swaths of participating artists pull out after realizing their works are being produced by a weapons manufacturer or the security company managing internment camps. It seems art does not end only because it has flowed into life, but also because its conditions have become too contradictory to be contained any longer. On the one hand, we might wonder whether a Sunni or Shia militia commander would say something similar about the internal contradictions of a puppet regime it seeks to topple. But, on the other hand, it is now being reported that the Sunni Isis militia is partly financed by antiquities taken from archeological digs in the crumbling state of Syria, and we might also wonder whether Kojève’s predicted disappearance of art was more of a preface to an entirely new kind of art dealer.

In December 2010 and January 2011 we published a double issue (guest-edited by Paul Chan and Sven Lütticken) entitled “Idiot Wind,” which took a strong political stance against the rise of right-wing movements in so many places in the world. What was clear from the issue was that the situation had become unbearable, and yet we were all surprised to find it coming out at the start of the Arab Spring. Now the picture looks a little different and it seems like a moment to step back and try to understand how history and notions of progress seem to be twisting back on themselves. Origin myths are proliferating while identitarian and sectarian movements guided by advances in communication technology might have more in common than we think with the private business interests that someone like Narendra Modi’s ultranationalism in India answers to. Enjoy the World Cup.

—Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, Anton Vidokle
In this issue:

James T. Hong—The Nationalist Thing Which Thinks (Toward a Genealogy of Ultranationalism)
The end of the Cold War failed to bring about the end of history as the liberal world order, and liberal democracies have failed to reign in the excesses and instabilities of global capitalist markets and to rid the new world order of primitive ideologies and political enmities. The threats to “forms of life,” to the will to life, continue to exist. Stateless people and groups are exceptionally vulnerable to “disappearing.” There can be no effective movement for collective self-preservation without the proper political determination.

Nina Power—Rainy Fascism Island
Thus institutions end up filled with those who want nothing more than to destroy them—the European Parliament a shell stuffed with people shouting about how pointless it all is and how the whole thing should just be abolished. It is consequently possible to imagine every existing institution occupied by those who most want it abolished—prisons are already such a place, or schools, perhaps—but the banks are not yet filled with anticapitalists.

LaborinArt (Önder Özengi, Pelin Tan)—Running Along the Disaster: A Conversation with Franco “Bifo” Berardi
Resistance is futile, as the mutation is transforming everything in the deep fabric of subjectivity. Obviously, people will struggle for survival, and you can call it resistance. Small islands of temporary social autonomy will resist, but the conditions for social solidarity have been cancelled by the pervading precarity. We should stop deceiving ourselves: the only resistance to global financial capitalism for the time being is the identitarian force of localism, identity, and fascism.

Sabu Kohso—Mutation of the Triad: Totalitarianism, Nationalism, and Fascism in Japan
I call this culture driven by nationalistic spectacles and the denial of historical facts “pornographic fascism.” It is based on a dynamic of revealing and hiding, of exhibitionism and denialism: revealing private life (of the imperial family), one’s own dying body (in media spectacle), and the graphic language of racism, while hiding the dirty secrets of history. Pornographic fascism is driven by the desire to perform martyrdom for the homogenized territory of the mass media.

Oleksiy Radynski—Maidan and Beyond, Part II: The Cacophony of Donbas
What the protesters perceived as sublime works of art turned out to be a random collection of luxurious items, most of which were actually gifts presented to the former president by his cronies. Now these gifts were filling the empty rooms of the National Museum—all artworks had been evacuated when the fierce street fighting with the riot police began. Meanwhile, the Mezhyhirya residence itself was opened to visitors, who flooded its enormous territory in the thousands, exemplifying a bourgeois interest in the wellbeing of the upper classes rather than a spirit of revolutionary destruction. In Paris and Saint Petersburg, revolutions gave birth to public museums. In Kyiv, the revolution’s outcome was an art show.

Oxana Timofeeva—The End of the World: From Apocalypse to the End of History and Back
What really eliminates differences is catastrophe: in the waters of the Flood, everyone is equal. I am arguing not for a messianic, but a catastrophic communism, i.e., the end of the world taken in its real-time. In this time, the end of the end of history doesn’t mean that we still have a future, and that it will get better or worse. It will not get worse, it’s already worse. All of these phenomena that are associated with reality and that are supposed to reemerge after the new beginning of history—wars, repression, butchery, and so forth—are really visions of our present zombie apocalypse.

Walid Raad—Appendix XVIII: Plates 22–257
It seems that when some colors, lines, shapes, and forms sense the forthcoming danger, they somehow just leap, or jump, or drift, or somehow “abandon” their present location to take refuge in certain documents that circulate around artworks. They are no longer within those artworks, but in documents that circulate around them.

Boris Groys—On Art Activism
There is no doubt that we are living in a time of total aestheticization. This fact is often interpreted as a sign that we have reached a state after the end of history, or a state of total exhaustion that makes any further historical action impossible. However, as I have tried to show, the nexus between total aestheticization, the end of history, and the exhaustion of vital energies is illusionary. Using the lessons of modern and contemporary art, we are able to totally aestheticize the world—i.e., to see it as being already a corpse—without being necessarily situated at the end of history or at the end of our vital forces.

Lawrence Liang—Ultranationalism: A Proposal for a Quiet Withdrawal
If the excess of ultranationalism demands that we stand whenever the national anthem is played, or that we cheer in the loudest voice every act of triumphant chest-beating, it may well be time for us to continue sitting where we are precisely because we love the ground that we sit on, and to do so quietly, since sedition sometimes speaks in whispers.

Raqs Media Collective—Is the World Sleeping, Sleepless, or Awake or Dreaming?
Anxieties about alertness, agency, hypnosis, and the nightmares of a catatonic seizure of the popular will by “fascism” often rear their head in the wake of sweeping victories for right-wing parties. Are we drifting into a disaster with our eyes shut, or sleepwalking with our eyes wide open?

Szabolcs KissPál—The Rise of the Fallen Feather: The Symbolism of the Turul Bird in Contemporary Hungary
In 2004, the Hungarian parliament passed a resolution affirming the national symbolic value of many animal breeds native to Hungary. Although the Saker Falcon isn’t among the more than one hundred species traditionally bred by Hungarians, in 2006 its temporary replacement on one side of the fifty forint coin by a different design generated anger on the far right, even though this depiction didn’t resemble the historic icon of the Turul.

Liu Ding and Carol Yinghua LuFrom the Issue of Art to the Issue of Position: The Echoes of Socialist Realism, Part II
Through the repeated emphasis on the advanced status of the West and our own backwardness, we are unable to squarely face a modernization process that strays from a linear developmental model, and unable to confront the fact that the isolation, failure, and regression of the Cultural Revolution was actually a part of this modernization process.

Daniel Birnbaum—Obituary for Sturtevant
At some point, after being questioned over and over again about his process, Warhol famously replied: “I don’t know. Ask Elaine.” On the whole, Sturtevant was dismissed by the critics, and in 1974, after years of frantic activity, she decided to stop producing exhibitions. She turned to tennis. This was to give the “retards” time to catch up.

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 / 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 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 Skopje: Press to Exit Project Space Sofia: ICA-Sofia / Sofia Art Gallery 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 Umeå: Bildmuseet, Umeå University Utrecht: BAK, basis voor actuele kunst / Casco – Office for Art, Design and Theory Vaduz: Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein 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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