e-flux journal issue 129

e-flux journal issue 129

e-flux journal

The Party of the Dead, public action, St. Petersburg, 2022 (We Don’t Leave Our People Behind, Only Their Corpses)

September 9, 2022
e-flux journal issue 129

with Saulius Sužiedėlis, Elizabeth A. Povinelli, Richard Bell, Organ of the Autonomous Sciences, Su Wei, Genaro Amaro Altamirano, and Carolina Caycedo

In this issue of e-flux journal, Carolina Caycedo explains that so many climate activists in South America are murdered by the state that their friends and families have coined a new term for this loss: the dead aren’t killed so much as they are “sown,” like seeds. Their legacies are a source of abundant energy and knowledge to be used in continuing struggles against the collusion of extractive corporations and necropolitical states. But Caycedo points out that such a conversion of the meaning of death into a continuing source of strength is also a delicate matter, since it demands a certain political and poetic sophistication, as well as a richness of spirit willing to understand and practice a unity between human life and the earth underneath our feet.

Harvesting the radiant energy of the sun for human needs might initially seem like a less delicate matter. But Elizabeth A. Povinelli considers how the sun’s incomprehensible power can still be converted ideologically by rendering all its unharnessed energy as wasted productivity—“the singular manifestation of settler-capital disavowal.” In the toxic homecoming of liberal capitalism, according to Povinelli, what scorches us will be what cools us.

Also in this issue, the Organ of the Autonomous Sciences reports on attempts in Scandinavia to fuse neofascism and twentieth-century avant-garde aesthetic strategies. Citing an obnoxious faction of “artists suffering from extreme self-adulation” who were expelled from the Situationist International, today’s version exploits the avant-garde’s radical contrarianism to pander to spectacle and deliberately target immigrant communities with the “post-shame” nihilist irony of the global alt-right movement. 

In an essay that, like Caycedo’s and Povinelli’s, was originally commissioned for our summer issue on food and agriculture, Genaro Amaro Altamirano speaks of land, water, and soil as being on par with human beings. In “Where Will Our Food Come From?” he gives an account of a community and a museum’s effort to renew the transmission of agricultural knowledge and practice for surviving what is to come.

Lithuanian Holocaust scholar Saulius Sužiedėlis draws up a detailed portrait of Jonas Mekas’s activities as a young artist living under German and Soviet regimes before leaving Lithuania, putting to rest the allegations against Mekas that surfaced just prior to his death.

In an essay written just before his participation in this year’s documenta fifteen, the artist Richard Bell warns against the immanence and political strength of Indigenous art dissolving into a market, land, and world brokered by imperialist whiteness. Bell’s piece is a continuation of his famous 2002 essay “Bell’s Theorem: Aboriginal Art—It’s a White Thing!,” which reads Western art and aesthetic appetites for Aboriginal art as an index for larger colonial machinations.

In the first of a two-part essay, scholar Su Wei uses emotion as a key to understanding the complex and often contradictory demands that Chinese artists contended with in the decades following the country’s 1949 revolution. Placing personal feelings in the service of nation-building in a tumultuous and radically forward-looking period meant also drawing from the same feelings to create socialist-realist works. Such works expressed strength and vision at a time when—not unlike today—their artists felt great uncertainty.



Saulius Sužiedėlis—Portrait of a Poet as a Young Man: Jonas Mekas in War and Exile
Many in the art world are observing the centennial of the Lithuanian-born poet and filmmaker Jonas Mekas (1922–2019), a founder and icon of avant-garde cinema. Cultural programs, exhibits, and conferences are marking the occasion. But not everyone is celebrating.

Elizabeth A. Povinelli—The Wasted Earth: Excess, Superabundance, and Sludge
In the current climate crisis, the brilliant sun promises to purify the contaminated horizon of pure possibility. Its sheer radiant incomprehensible power aligns with the dream of pure profit based on the bounty of wasted matter—the singular manifestation of settler-capital disavowal. What scorches us will be what cools us.

Richard Bell—Bell’s Theorem (Reductio ad Infinitum): Contemporary Art—It’s a White Thing!
Europeans love nothing better than to indigenize their racist humanism when they themselves are in crisis—it is one of their most dearly loved moves. While the Western world has now fully penetrated the globe with their model of universal competition, the political economy they’ve violently assigned our communities cannot address the situation that any of us now face together. There is no more planet or time left. 

Organ of the Autonomous Sciences—The Resurrection of Nashism: Report on the Emergent Forms of Spectacular Fascism in Scandinavia
The rise of neo-Nashism serves as a peculiar, stinky example of a much broader, even global form of flesh-indulging fascism that circles around the historical avant-garde’s rotting corpse.

Su Wei—Emotional Patterns in Art in Post-1949 China, Part I: Community of Feeling
Although recognition of the artist as a creative individual is important, refusing to investigate the multidimensional nature of relationships and cultural interactions between the system and the people is tantamount to failing to attend to the pulse of history. Such practices can only result in an alienated past becoming an imaginative resource decoupled from history and present alike.

Genaro Amaro Altamirano—Where Will Our Food Come From?
Onésimo believed that, when a future social crisis came to pass, people would have to make use of traditional knowledge in order to produce food in any available space: vacant lots, terraces, patios, fields. But when that time came, it was entirely possible that people would have already forgotten how to work and relate to the land.

Carolina Caycedo—La Siembra – The Sowing
La siembra, or “the sowing,” is an expression used by communities in Latin America when one of their members, leaders, or elders is killed for their activism in defense of territory, water, or life. The murder of an activist sows a legacy, because the person who is buried—planted, in a manner of speaking—becomes a seed for the ongoing political and organizational processes of the community. The person who is sown is part of a resistance that takes place on all levels of life, including on the level of language.

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September 9, 2022

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