e-flux journal issue 55
out now

e-flux journal issue 55
out now

e-flux journal

May 7, 2014

e-flux journal issue 55
out now

with Oleksiy RadynskiChus Martinez
Gleb NapreenkoLiu Ding and 
Carol Yinghua Lu
Jalal Toufic
Luis Camnitzerand Grant Kester


e-flux journal iPad edition is now available.
Free download here.

We are increasingly faced with premodern foundation myths coming from right-wing propaganda and grassroots movements alike. They tell us that some things don’t change and they ask us to think about how original communities are constituted. And we start to wonder whether these original communities are new synthetic fabrications concocted by the limits of communication and exchange, by the failed promises of a liberal democracy or a thriving economy that does not reach people who thought they were entitled to it, and who thus start to look elsewhere. Or do these communities actually contain some real claim to a historical line that was violently interrupted by economic and geopolitical shifts that became most pronounced in the 1990s? Have we simply gotten so high on a period of information fever and lateral planetary spread that we simply forgot about entire swaths of the globe that have basically been on another wavelength the entire time?

In Beirut there is a nightclub called B 018 that architect Bernard Khouri designed in the late 1990s. In addition to being a great club, it is also well known for its macabre design: built a decade after the end of more than fifteen years of constant fighting in Lebanon, the building is set completely underground and is reminiscent of a crypt. The site of the club is also the site of a refugee camp that saw a massacre of its Palestinian, Kurdish, and Southern Lebanese inhabitants at the hands of local Christian militias in the late 1970s. Even if the club is a memorial to the dead and a chilling parody of amnesiac Lebanese frivolity, its most cruel joke is ultimately on the claims of public memorials to speak to collective memory in general, especially in a place where the civil war never reached any formal conclusion.

In place of a naive belief in the possibility of ever memorializing a collective loss, at B 018 there is a dress code, and on most nights you can hear the club responsibly pumping out the hits of the ’80s, ’90s, and 2000s. It doesn’t claim to resolve all contradictions into a kind of hopeful utopia to be eventually used against you, but actually explodes them further, and hands them to you as they are. No one is trying to nationalize your desires into any kind of heroic totalitarian mythos. This is no small feat, considering that it is typical for people who fear for their safety and survival to seek out symbolic forms of belonging and togetherness that appear to stabilize their families and communities. People begin to ask for the nation, the race, the creed, the sectarian, the rooted, the indigenous. The old greatness must be restored. Sentimental resources are called in to keep the community together when material resources fall short.

What is clear in these new origin myths is that the nation as a functional structure is less and less of an actor, regressing either to a role as manager and regulator of a market economy, or as a fragmentary or backward fossil playing host to corruption and opportunism. Even today’s most unapologetically authoritarian states are little more than an umbrella for the whims of an inner circle of rulers. But when faced with the question of what a state should or could be, and what its responsibilities are, we simply don’t care. And yet we have to admit that when the idea of a nation breaks off from the structural base of the state, things start to get extremely weird. The nation starts to morph into a floating signifier for all manner of original communities—and can be used by original and synthetic communities alike to recompose and assemble a myth of togetherness for whatever end they please.

Whatever is causing this to happen in so many places, it appears that fewer people are immune to its effects—in spite of education, class, and wealth—that it moves in many directions simultaneously. For artists and artworks this poses a problem of representation whereby a reinvigorated need to explore cultural origins will not assume any fixed or easily discernible form familiar to traditional authoritarian declarations. Rather, it will seize upon artists’ own lives and priorities, infusing the content of their work with sentimental origin quests, and it will inflect the decisions made by collectors, acquisition departments, and curators. It will accent the way an artist situates his or her work in relation to the world, and to other places in the world where these works may circulate. Everything might look like business as usual when a massive gravitational shift builds itself firmly into already existing lines of thought in artistic discourse, with contextual specificity and cultural sensitivity ascending from artistic strategies or signs of curatorial good faith to become dominant criteria and battleground sites of proxy wars waged in museum auditoriums. A responsible artist might consider carrying small arms to the opening in case anyone has a problem with large-format C-prints of landscapes from a certain corner in that dark cavernous place where you should not go.

And yet some artists who might appear to be moving back to their mythical home to purify themselves might at the same time be permanently purging themselves of the lure of origin. In the cycles of decomposition and recomposition, others might push instead for the granting of statehood to synthetic subcultural milieux which for some reason attain a legitimate status alongside more historically situated tribes and peoples. A promised land of gamers and alcoholics, for instance. A continent for indebted MFAs, rich in coltan deposits and with its own stock market harvesting bitcoin. Finally, a place gay Bolsheviks can call their own.

—Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, Anton Vidokle

In this issue:

Oleksiy Radynski—Maidan and Beyond, Part I
The scale of conspiratorial thinking in Russia is now comparable to that of the US after 9/11. But the problem with conspiracy theories is not the fact that they are false products of a paranoiac imagination, but rather that some conspiracies do exist. To reject this means to turn a blind eye to one of the many important tools of world politics. It thus seems crucial to avoid a simplistic opposition between middlebrow paranoiac thinking, and apparently enlightened reason unaware of its own blind spots.

Chus Martinez—The Octopus in Love 
I still do not know exactly what to do about this incredibly beautiful image of a rainforest installed at the core of an art institution. It embodies all the difference in the world, separated from human agency and ideology, yet it also encapsulates the source of all that. It differs from the conventions of neutrality, and through its scale and its very nature it escapes from any formal canons. It compels a form of intelligence without consciousness to erupt into the white cube. 

Gleb Napreenko—Back in the USSR
The Olympics at Sochi are like Moscow in 1980, the trials of the May 6 protesters or of Pussy Riot like the show trials of 1937, and Russia’s invasion of Crimea is the 1968 Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia all over again. Like all metaphors, such analogies are political judgements, usually informed by liberal images of the USSR as a realm of necessity and violence, in contrast to the “normal,” “Western” path of development. If one looks more closely, it is easy to see that both liberal and Putinist-conservative understandings of the analogy between contemporary Russia and the USSR are mirror images of each other.

Liu Ding and Carol Yinghua Lu—From the Issue of Art to the Issue of Position: The Echoes of Socialist Realism, Part I
Meanwhile, we narrowly define reality as that reality which exists before the eyes and in the lives of the masses. Despite the fact that the reality depicted by Socialist Realism actually includes subjective ideas and faces the so-called reality of communist ideals, Socialist Realism as a creative approach is far less definite than we have estimated and previously understood. Bureaucracy and censorship, as well as the resulting artistic views that arose in the 1940s around the principle that art should serve politics, have proven much more stable.

Jalal Toufic—A Hitherto Unrecognized Apocalyptic Photographer: The Universe
The Schwarzschild membrane of a black hole is an event horizon not only because once an entity crosses it that entity can no longer communicate back with us this side of it, but also because from our reference frame the entities at the horizon do not undergo any events, being frozen due to the infinite dilation of time produced by the overwhelming gravity in the vicinity of the black hole. Was photography invented not so much to assuage some urge to arrest the moment, but partly owing to an intuition that it already existed in the universe, in the form of the immobilization and flattening at the event horizon?

Luis Camnitzer—An Artist, a Leader, and a Dean Were on a Boat…
I’m not a strong believer in art departments or art schools. Maybe Emory’s example is a good moment to examine their relevance. It’s not clear yet if Emory’s decision foreshadows the future of academia in the US, or if it’s just a passing fad. Either way, these developments at Emory raise crucial questions: What function do art schools fulfill? Do we really need them? 

Grant Kester—Response to E.C. Feiss 
We are quite good in our field at analyzing what Feiss terms the “discursive,” but not very good at being aware of, and intellectually responsive to, the kind of social, somatic, and political encounters that occur in a process-based work. As I noted in my essay, more conventional gallery or biennial-based artworks tend to be propositional in nature, and thus lend themselves to this kind of critical approach. They can be easily enough grasped through documentation, artist’s statements and interviews, and so on. 

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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