New e-flux journal readers

New e-flux journal readers

e-flux journal

Muriel Quackenbush in a surf chair at Washington Bathing Beach, June 24, 1922. Photo: National Photo Company Collection (Library of Congress) 

November 24, 2020
New e-flux journal readers
Loot and Looting, Strike, Withdrawal, Togetherness, Studentship and more!

Hello friends,

Warmest greetings from the beginning of the end of 2020. At this moment, we are glad to share ten new e-flux journal readers with you. These collections, sent in between late summer and last week, span themes integral to these long seasons. The readers we are publishing today—five from Goldsmiths MFA Curating programme, and five from the journal’s readership—signal various ways of being, experiencing, and acting together.

The first group of readers below, titled Loot and Looting, Togetherness, and Studentship, were developed by students of the Goldsmiths MFA Curating programme studying with Helena Reckitt. Reckitt compiled two readers of her own with longstanding collaborator, Gabrielle Moser, titled Strike and Withdrawal.

We are eternally keen to hear your proposals for further e-flux journal readers. The essays contained in 114 issues of e-flux journal can be grouped in infinite ways, and are freely available online. Your suggested reader should include a one-word title, a short abstract (100 words), and links to 8–9 e-flux journal texts. Please send your suggestions to: reader [​at​]

Loot and Looting
Compiled by Jessie Krish, Margaret Loane, and Stephen Mercer

In Stealing Beauty (2007), Guy Ben-Ner writes: “Children of the world, unite. Release the future from the shackles of the past. My peers, it is our time to steal. Not in order to gain property but in order to lose respect for it.” Widespread protests and insurrections across the globe have given new urgency to conversations concerning property, possession, and looting. From a television in a Best Buy to a tank on a pedestal, the political meanings of loot and looting change with object, actor, and context. This reader moves between the street and the institution, following the actions of individuals, the masses, and the state. It considers the inherent tensions within the museum: working hard to circulate duty-free art, to guard national loot, and to develop convincing and inclusive postcolonial narratives. As museums seek to reflect the lives and struggles of marginalized populations, does looting take on a new guise? What role will museums and galleries play in providing counter-narratives to fascist rhetoric and policies? And can we imagine a museum divested from collections, commodity, and property?

Compiled by Gabrielle Moser and Helena Reckitt 

The strategy of withdrawing productivity has historical roots in labor politics, anti-colonial activism, and feminist practices, characterizing official as well as wildcat workers’ strikes, public protests, and more subtle acts of refusal in private and domestic spaces. But what does it mean to “strike” when work itself is increasingly fragmentary and immaterial, disconnected from sites of production, while also permeating every facet of life? These texts explore individual and collective refusals of labor, abstract strikes, and strike work within and beyond the economies and ecologies of contemporary art. Suggesting the critical potential of unproductivity, immobilization, and refusal, they also highlight the activity of those on strike to create conditions under which progressive alternatives can flourish.

Compiled by Gabrielle Moser and Helena Reckitt 

Emphasising individual acts of retreat within the context of collective resistance, this reader begins with an account of subjective withdrawal: a strike against the self and its complicity with repressive institutions and systems. Understanding withdrawal to encompass rest, retreat, exile, and insurrection, the authors of the texts selected here reflect on the generative aspects of non-participation, opacity, disappearance, and slow down. Furthermore, considering the dark side of withdrawal, the reader ends with a caution against a libertarian free-market logic for which an exit from transparency and accountability entails an exit from the social contract as well.

Compiled by Jorge Van den Eynde Gray, Wan Yi Sandra Lam, and Frederike Sperling 

How to be together otherwise? This recurrent question hints at some of the complex ambiguities that different forms of being-with and becoming-with epitomize. Togetherness, as a shared sense of belonging, has become a contested term indicating extremes and in-betweens of agency and subordination, of exclusion and inclusion, of death and survival. For some, togetherness may imply an element of physical warmth which differentiates it from a similar word: connectivity. Realities-in-common today tend to require, more than anything else, a shared software. Such an infrastructure is oftentimes coded by homophilic algorithms erasing traces of social difference and cultivating purified relations. Hence, the very search for novel modes of communality, of more livable futures for both humans and non-humans, continues to be crucial for the continuity of our many worlds.

Compiled by Rachel P. Kreiter, Nikos Akritidis, and Ciar O’Mahony as the Goldsmiths MFA Curating Action Group

This collection of essays reframes studentship as a liminal state of transformation. Students hold the grim distinction of simultaneously being the consumers, byproducts, and sine qua non of education. Why are we treated as passive bodies filling enrollment quotas when we play an active role in shaping the institution and generating social change? Our transitory position has been refracted and exacerbated by the pandemic’s effect on higher education. To be a student is to represent uncertainty, potentiality, futurity, and a time to come when inequity is rectified. We want to do that work together.

Weather, Trust, Violence, Breathe, and Dispersal were compiled by the journal’s readership:

Compiled by Nastia Volynova

Lockdown measures imposed to prevent the further escalation of the Covid-19 crisis have led to a slight decrease of anthropogenic emissions into the atmosphere. However, behind these seemingly positive environmental effects lie mass losses of human life. These events point to the realities of contemporary weather conditions which allow some communities to flourish while forcing others to languish. Black Studies and Feminist scholar Christina Sharpe proposes an expansion of the meteorological notion of weather to consider the socioeconomic, political, and cultural climates tethered to the histories of (neo-)colonialism. What infrastructures sustain modes of weather making? How do residues of various environments settle in the bodies? In what ways have collective microclimates enacted resistance against certain weather conditions? The texts selected in this reader provide careful observations, critical remarks, and subversive comments in response to these questions.

Compiled by Natalie King 

Trust is the bedrock of all relationships and solidarities. Whether through models of collaboration between indigenous and non-indigenous participants, trust is part of the process of reparation and reconciliation (Terry Smith, “Yirrkala, Northern Territory, 1962–63”). Moreover, during this pandemic, the most prescient metaphor of the present is how everything is interdependent and intertwined. So what is a collective life based on mutuality, generosity, reciprocity, and trust? (Raqs Media Collective, “Planktons in the Sea: A Few Questions Regarding the Qualities of Time”). This is the trust dilemma for institutions, especially museums: trust in collaborative practices and alignments; trust in images and digital photography; trust in archives; trust and co-existence; relational trust. These are just some of the invocations of trust and loyalty, but also its converse: betrayal.

Compiled by Annalisa Pellino 

In its epistemic, symbolic, and material forms, violence is an integral part of the (in)visible regime that rules the relationship between institutions, knowledge, and subjectivities that are gendered, sexualized, and racialized. In his 1921 essay “Critique of Violence,” Walter Benjamin distinguishes legal/institutional violence from revolutionary violence, questioning the erroneous separation of “legitimate and illegitimate violence.” No wonder the German word Gewalt means both violence and power, intended etymologically as potestas: the authority of state apparatuses. Violence occurs both flagrantly as trauma, horror, or brutality, and, more subtly, as systemic and structural violence. This latter kind of “original violence” can be user-friendly and portable; it haunts everyday life and penetrates our collective unconscious, imaginary, and language, supporting the patriarchal, racist, and classist discourses inscribed on our bodies.

Compiled by Giulia Colletti 

In a time when a global pandemic takes our breath away, as systematic abuse chokes people of color, and noxious environmental policies asphyxiate the planet, an ultimate, vital act of sharing is to take in the world and to inhale. Respiration is a physiological process which can also be trained. We take a deep breath when we want to express something or when we brace ourselves for a difficult task. What does contemporary art have to say as freedom of speech is jeopardized yet overabundant, and dissenting voices are left unheard? How can we learn to detect the whispers arising from archives of breathlessness and apneic bodies?

Compiled by Love’s Remedies 

Modeling the catalyst of an event (the pandemic, e-flux journal’s call for readers) and its subsequent—diffuse, diverse, anticipated, and unforeseen—consequences on subjects both isolated and in communion, we invited interested artists to respond to the articles “Is It Love?” by Brian Kuan Wood (selected by BRD) and “The Unthinkable Community” by Paul Chan (selected by Hannah Varamini) as points of departure for selections of their own. Christina Valentine, Babsi Loisch, Fiona Yun-Jui Chang, Hanieh Khatibi, Elizabeth Preger, Rachel Kerwin, and Silvi Naçi enact Love’s Remedies’ principle of expansive and recursive connectivity through this game of relay and diffusion. The selections revolve around questions of agency, labor, commitment, and participation as artists operating in a dispersed mode of affiliation.

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