May 6, 2011 - e-flux journal - no. 25 out now
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May 6, 2011

no. 25 out now

issue no. 25

May 2011

Surprisingly few people have flinched at the way Osama bin Laden was disposed of. Even for the most wanted man in the world, one imagines that it would have been both ethically and politically more expedient to stage a trial before his execution, similar to the way it was done in the case of Saddam Hussein. But such an expectation would risk overlooking the degree to which, for states and individuals alike, much political activity now takes place outside of official channels and beyond the jurisdiction of formal legal bodies.

This does not only concern CIA “black sites,” but an array of secretive and extraterritorial practices that have become the accepted, yet exceptional, channels for bypassing the accountability of democratic, public, or transparent decision-making processes. For better or worse, the privilege to secure one’s private interests in the gray area between state jurisdictions now becomes available not only to offshore banks and tax havens, but to private armies, pirates, terrorists, mercenaries, journalists, and politicians alike. And it is interesting to note how these extrajudicial practices threaten to bring things full circle back to tribalism—the nightmare of postwar internationalist hopes for universal ethics embodied by organizations such as the United Nations and the International Criminal Court, which were founded primarily to stand as a collective conscience against large-scale street justice.

But it now seems increasingly impossible to resort to universal ethics when these objective bodies have themselves become highly suspect political commodities. (Who gives a Nobel Peace Prize to an American President conducting a war on foreign soil?) Yet, at the same time, fascinating new forms of checks and balances have emerged to counterbalance the impunity of state-level opportunism. Beyond the anti-regime demonstrations in the Middle East, the most notable transnational phenomenon by far has been WikiLeaks, and in this issue we are honored to have the first part of Hans Ulrich Obrist’s extensive interview with Julian Assange, in which Assange articulates the fascinating theory of political movement that underpins WikiLeaks’ philosophy of forging accountability.

Taken from the geopolitical level down to street-level, the same mandate to informal negotiation translates to another figure familiar to many millennial cities: the creative worker. With some structural similarities to the mercenary, the pirate, or the private militia, the cultured flexible workers of the creative class comprise a target demographic with which the neoliberal metropolis advertises its cosmopolitan character. But, in Martha Rosler’s conclusion to her ambitious three-part series, a class-conscious reading of the figure of the creative worker reveals a clear and somewhat inflexible manual for marketing postindustrial economic gloom (also known as poverty) through a logic of cultural renovation and do-it-yourself innovation—tailored for artists and other socioeconomic groups that can afford to be up to the task.

Key to the sanitized, creative city is a notorious evacuation of class-conscious political awareness, replaced by the narcissism of self-promotion. In this issue, Diedrich Diederichsen considers the resulting fetish for radicalism in the form of Oedipal patricide, for the grand gesture of defaming one’s master as the marker of freedom. But if one is self-employed, or chooses one’s own masters, as many do, the “hollow intensifier” of radicality becomes increasingly problematic as a criterion for art, and we find that even the narcissistic production of one’s own self may contain far more progressive potential than performed ruptures against projected or fictitious forefathers.

Finally, Suely Rolnik articulates how an “anthropophagic subjectivity” can function simultaneously within and against the fluid, flexible, and hybrid nature of cognitive capitalism. More commonly understood as cannibalism, the practice of anthropophagy can be related to the Tupinambá, one of the indigenous groups who inhabited today’s Brazil, who were known to devour their enemies in a long and rigorous ritual in which the executor would carve the name of the devoured enemy into his skin, as well as change his own name. Having been invoked more recently as a micropolitical model of cultural absorption in which otherness is consumed, but also allowed to recreate the consumer, the fluidity of the concept that once promised movement has now been itself absorbed into the logic of neoliberalism. How do we then go “through the elaboration of the wound in the potency of creation” to reactivate a poetic-political vitality?

—Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, Anton Vidokle

In this issue:

Diedrich Diederichsen—Radicalism as Ego Ideal: Oedipus and Narcissus
The fact that a more narcissistic generation of artists initially seems to have no interest in generational conflict may be seen as a result of social progress, but it may also be viewed as the institutionalization and reification of that progress as a production standard in post-Fordist and neoliberal societies. For narcissistic artists, the foundation of their work is a point of stability produced by a self-relation, and that position is already in place before they begin to tackle the outside world.

Hans Ulrich Obrist—In Conversation with Julian Assange, Part I
Some of the information in this tremendous field, if you look at it carefully, is faintly glowing. And what it’s glowing with is the amount of work that’s being put into suppressing it. So, when someone wants to take information and literally stick it in a vault and surround it with guards, I say that they are doing economic work to suppress information from the world. And why is so much economic work being done to suppress that information? Probably—not definitely, but probably—because the organization predicts that it’s going to reduce the power of the institution that contains it.

Suely Rolnik—Avoiding False Problems: Politics of the Fluid, Hybrid, and Flexible
In these contexts, paralyzed by the micropolitics of dictatorships, such experimentalism was reactivated with the establishment of cultural capitalism only to be directly channeled into the market, without going through the elaboration of the wound in the potency of creation, which would be a condition for the reactivation of poetic-political vitality.

Martha Rosler—Culture Class: Art, Creativity, Urbanism, Part II
As the vibrancy of interclass contention has been quelled by the damping off of working-class politics, a sanitized version of an industrial urban experience (or some image of one) can be marketed to the incoming middle class, who have the means and the willingness to pay for what was formerly a set of indigenous strategies of survival, of a way of life. The rooftop evacuated by the laundry lines and the pigeon loft becomes an urban farm, trailing clouds of glory.

The print edition of e-flux journal can now be found at:
Amsterdam: De Appel / Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten Antwerp: M HKA Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Athens: OMMU Auckland: split/fountain Austin: Arthouse at the Jones Center Banff: Walter Phillips Gallery, The Banff Centre Barcelona: Arts Santa Monica / MACBA Basel: Kunsthalle Basel, Museum fur Gegenwartskunst Beijing and Guangzhou: Vitamin Creative Space Beirut: 98weeks Bergen: Rakett Berlin: b_books / Berliner Künstlerprogramm – DAAD / do you read me? / NBK, Neuer Berliner Kunstverein / Pro qm Berlin and Zurich: Motto Bern: Kunsthalle Bern Bialystok: Arsenal Gallery Bielefelder: Bielefelder Kunstverein Birmingham: Eastside Projects / Ikon Gallery Bologna: MAMbo – Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna Bregenz: Kunsthaus Bregenz Bristol: Arnolfini Brussels: Wiels Bucharest: National Museum of Contemporary Art Bucharest (MNAC) / Pavilion Unicredit Cairo: 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 / The Renaissance Society Cologne: Kölnischer Kunstverein Dubai: Traffic Dublin: Dublin City, The Hugh Lane / Project Arts Centre Dusseldorf: Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen Eindhoven: Van Abbemuseum Frankfurt: Städelschule / Portikus Gdansk: Centrum Sztuki Współczesnej Łaźnia Genève: Centre de la Photographie Ghent: S.M.A.K Glasgow: CCA Centre for Contemporary Arts / Sculpture Studios Graz: Grazer Kunstverein / Kunsthaus Graz / para_SITE Gallery Grijon: LABoral Centre for Art and Creative Industries Hamburg: Kunstverein Helsinki: Museum of Contemporary Art KIASMA Hobart: CAST Gallery / INFLIGHT Hong Kong: Asia Art Archive Istanbul: BAS / DEPO / SALT Kristiansand: SKMU Sørlandet Art Museum Kansas: INKubator PRESS Leeds: Pavilion Lisbon: Maumaus, Escola de Artes Visuais / Oporto Ljubljana: Moderna Galerija London: Architectural Association / Bedford Press / Gasworks / ICA / Serpentine Gallery / The Showroom / Visiting Arts / Zabludowicz Collection Los Angeles: REDCAT Luxembourg: Casino Luxembourg Madrid: Brumaria / CA2M / Pensart Maastricht: Jan van Eyck Academie Marfa: Ballroom Marfa Melbourne: Monash University Museum of Art Mexico City: Proyectos Monclova Milan: Fondazione Nicola Trussardi Milton Keynes: Milton Keynes Gallery Minneapolis: Walker Arts Center Moscow / Garage Center for Contemporary Culture Munich: Museum Villa Stuck / Walther Koenig Bookshop, Haus der Kunst Munich 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 Paris: castillo/corrales – Section 7 Books / Centre Pompidou / Les Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers / Palais de Tokyo Pori: Pori Art Museum Porto: Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves Portland: Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, (PICA) / Publication Studio 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 Rotterdam: Witte de With Saint-Nazaire: Le Grand Cafe, Centre D’art Contemporain Salzburg: Salzburger Kunstverein San Antonio: Artpace São Paulo: Master in Visual Arts, Faculdade Santa Marcelina Sarajevo: Sarajevo Center for Contemporary Art 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 / Index / Konstfack, University College of Art, Craft and Design Stuttgart: Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart Sydney: Artspace Tallinn: Kumu Art Museum of Estonia The Hague: Stroom Den Haag Toronto: Mercer Union / The Power Plant Torun: Centre of Contemporary Art Znaki Czasu in Torun Utrecht: BAK, basis voor actuele kunst / Casco-Office for Art, Design and Theory Vaduz: Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein Valletta: Malta Contemporary Art Foundation Vancouver: 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 Vigo: MARCO, Museo de Arte Contemporanea de Vigo Vilnius: Contemporary Art Centre (CAC) Vitoria-Gasteiz: Montehermoso Kulturunea Visby: BAC, Baltic Art Center Warsaw: Zachęta Narodowa Galeria Sztuki / Zachęta National Gallery of Art Wiesbaden: Nassauischer Kunstverein (NKV) Yerevan: Armenian Center For Contemporary Experimental Art, NPAK Zagreb: Galerija Miroslav Kraljevic / Gallery Nova / Institute for Duration, Location and Variables, DeLVe Zurich: Postgraduate Program in Curating, Zürich University of the Arts / Shedhalle / White Space.

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