e-flux journal issue 131

e-flux journal issue 131

e-flux journal

Krishna’s Butterball in Mahabalipuram, Tamil Nadu, India. Photo: McKay Savage. License: CC BY 2.0.

November 10, 2022
e-flux journal issue 131 

with Mi You, Sabu Kohso and Matt Peterson, Martin Guinard, Leon Dische Becker and Cosmo Bjorkenheim, Nicola Perugini and Tommaso Fiscaletti, Su Wei, Pelin Tan, and Olga Olina, Hallie Ayres, and Anton Vidokle

In this issue of e-flux journal, deep glances at the past hope to make sense of the present by diving into history’s original abysses and early promises. Mi You brings us a refreshingly constructive analysis of this year’s documenta fifteen, its curators, its intended organizational structure, and its audiences. Olga Olina, Hallie Ayres, and Anton Vidokle chart suppressed, banned, and otherwise disappeared languages in a resource that sprawls over geography and time from 1367 to today, showing an ongoing process of erasure and survival that corresponds with the rise of nation-states.  

Sometimes it’s only possible to understand the present by seeing what was later scrubbed away. Nicola Perugini and Tommaso Fiscaletti explore fascist lineages that keep reemerging in their research of bathhouses that proletarian Italian youths were sent to each summer in the 1930s for regimens of strict hygiene, sunshine, and outward worship of Mussolini. Leon Dische Becker and Cosmo Bjorkenheim argue that some things are better left in the past, recommending against Hollywood directors mounting a fourth remake of H. G. Wells’s The Island of Doctor Moreau. Better to leave its curses and racist colonial critiques in the dust. 

In issue 23 of e-flux journal (March 2011), Bruno Latour recounted an uneven 1922 conversation between Henri Bergson and Albert Einstein, in which Einstein almost entirely dismissed Bergson’s deep, yet critical, engagement with the theory of relativity. “After Bergson spoke for thirty minutes,” Latour wrote, “Einstein made a terse two-minute remark, ending with this damning sentence: ‘Hence there is no philosopher’s time; there is only a psychological time different from the time of the physicist.’” Latour, looking at the end of the twentieth century from 2011, highlighted this typical scientist’s dismissal of philosophy, politics, and art. At the time, he asked, “Can we do better at the beginning of the twenty-first century? In other words, is it possible to give Bergson another chance to make his case that, no, he is not talking about subjective time and space, but is rather proposing an alternative to Einstein’s cosmology?” Bruno Latour died this October, and in this issue his colleague Martin Guinard shares memories of a thinker who never stopped asking massive questions and drawing connections. Through his boundless writing and expansive collaborations, he never stopped marveling at our world. 

By following okra, mustard greens, freekeh, and other flora through various times and places, Pelin Tan shares the entangled, exiled existences and resiliences of human refugees and the plants that survive with them. In a conversation between Matt Peterson and Sabu Kohso about radiation and revolution (also the title of Kohso’s recent book), Kohso traces deep, interconnected fault lines between the ongoing aftermaths of the Fukushima disaster and the Covid pandemic, as well as the imperial and also liberatory history of activist movements in Tokyo, New York, and all places where people rise up against a disintegrating world. 

In the second installment of Su Wei’s essay on emotion in post-1949 art in China, he writes explicitly about looking at the past to understand China’s present. Within this, he also describes historical, forward-looking views of late-twentieth-century artists, such as artist and theorist Zhang Anzhi and his belief that art was a force for “creating emotions for a new world.” Su Wei asks, “Might brief flashes of emotion in historical moments of uncertainty help us to see the maze that we are currently in?” 



Mi You—What Politics? What Aesthetics?: Reflections on documenta fifteen
Whether this documenta should be defended is not the question. The question is how it can be defended in a way that also allows for a constructive critique of the exhibition.

Sabu Kohso in conversation with Matt Peterson—The Catastrophe Revealed: On Radiation and Revolution 
If these post-Fukushima struggles have a message for us now amid the Covid pandemic, it is that we can and must confront these planetary flows, like radioactivity or coronavirus, in our own lives. This means that we must wage our struggles for survival not as national citizens or residents, but as planetary inhabitants. 

Martin Guinard—Homage to Bruno Latour
Introducing artworks to Bruno was a jubilant exercise, but also a risky one. Not finding the right way to describe the artwork’s sensitive displacements, the networks it unfolded, the affects it stimulated would mean immediately losing his attention, without any hope of return. On the other hand, if the work began to speak, Bruno would show visible pleasure in opening himself to a new experience, discovering previously undetectable aspects of the work, connecting it to unexpected references, and then expressing deep gratitude.

Leon Dische Becker and Cosmo Bjorkenheim—A Cursed Franchise: Reliving Colonial Nightmares Through Endless Sci-fi Remakes
In times of civilizational crisis, people turn to the old stories for guidance. Religiosity surges. Nineteenth-century conspiracy theories (and older pseudoscience) get a new futurist gloss. Even the most secular politics are inflected with apocalyptic fervor. Hollywood, in this respect, is only human. Responding to the unrest among its audience, the big studios are quick to reheat popular franchises that fit the current strain of anxiety.

Nicola Perugini and Tommaso Fiscaletti—Fascist Sunbathing and the Decolonization of Architectural Memory
According to the ministry’s description, the colony was designed “not only for therapeutic goals, but also for those of education and propaganda.” It had to be “welcoming and reassuring in order to leave an indelible trace in the mind of the Italian youth” and create fascist political consensus. 

Su Wei—Emotional Patterns in Art in Post-1949 China, Part II: Internality and Transcendence
Some controversy emerges from amid the internality/transcendence dialectic. Precisely due to this unconscious realm, both artist and framework have the space to extend their own internality, activate their own vitality, and even deny their own staleness in order to open an orientation toward the future.

Pelin Tan—Entangled Exiles
Collective learning and the creation of decolonial methodologies against slow violence, extraction, and forced eviction/migration leads to pedagogies of the commons. Following an okra plant through narratives, infrastructures, forgotten languages, and entangled exiles is not a metaphor. 

Olga Olina, Hallie Ayres, and Anton Vidokle—Muted Tongues: A Timeline of Suppressed Languages 
Linguists calculate that at the current speed, almost half of the world’s 7,151 languages will disappear before the end of this century. This timeline is an incomplete account of language politics in many parts of the world, starting roughly from the beginning of nation-states.

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November 10, 2022

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