Spring readings

Spring readings

e-flux Notes

Sung-hee Jo, Space Sweepers (still), 2021. View of Rainer Maria Rilke, Life and Songs

May 29, 2024
Spring readings

It’s a little scary how time flies. We just realized that we have been publishing e-flux Notes for nearly four years. While it began as a spontaneous response to the sense of isolation created by the Covid-19 pandemic, Notes has developed into a regular, twice-weekly publication that commissions and edits new texts, translates important articles not previously available in English, and covers a broad scope that includes art, film, culture, philosophy, psychoanalysis, and politics. Starting in June, Notes will become thrice-weekly: we will run a regular Monday column titled Film Notes. Edited by Lukas Brašiškis, Film Notes is dedicated to historical documents, theoretical essays, and scripts related to experimental cinema and video art. Here is a roundup of texts we’ve published over the past few months.

In a brilliant short essay, Miri Davidson shows how the far right has adopted the language of decolonialism and perverted it for its own nationalist and imperialist ends. Davidson traces the logic of this appropriation back to Carl Schmitt’s distinction between “bad” seafaring empires and “good” land-based ones. Tamta Khalvashi reports on the mass protests against the Russian-style “Foreign Agents” law in Georgia (which was subsequently passed by parliament and then vetoed by the president, whose veto was in turn overridden), highlighting the stakes for Georgian civil society. And feminist theorist Biljana Kašić, in “Witnessing War(s) Amid an Ethical Double Bind: Ukraine and Gaza,” writes of her experience presenting at a “Feminist Summer School” for young left-wing activists in Ukraine. Posing difficult questions about how leftists see the war, and what victory might mean, she concludes by citing an open letter from Ukrainian academics, activists, and artists expressing their solidarity with the Palestinian people: “The letter shows that it’s necessary to oppose the hierarchization of war victims and human suffering.”

In “Artists, Educators, and the Generation Gap in Taiwan,” the collective Hide and Seek Audiovisual Art discusses its educational strategies—developed with schools, museums, and cultural institutions—for dealing with political differences emerging with youth in Taiwan. Agnieszka Kurant and science fiction author Ted Chiang engage in a wide-ranging conversation about artificial intelligence, cosmotechnics, energy-based currency, and predictions about the future: “There is the well-known sentiment, popularized by Fredric Jameson, that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. But we should also remember what Ursula Le Guin said about capitalism: ‘Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings.’”

In the world of cinema: Pietro Bianchi delivers a two-part report from the Cannes Film Festival, highlighting the meta-cinematic turn of a number of films as an expression of the crisis of cinema in the era of the digital image and the ubiquity of screens. Jacques Rancière writes about the politics of Sylvain George’s radical documentary films, which explore themes of immigration and social movements. Boris Buden’s book Past: An Introduction to a Problem—Želimir Žilnik on Film, Communism, and the Former Yugoslavia, dedicated to the work of director Želimir Žilnik (one of the major figures of the Yugoslav Black Wave film movement), was recently translated into English; we reprinted Buden’s introduction to this new edition. Isadora Neves Marques considers the politics of transgender robotics and love in the Korean sci-fi blockbuster Space Sweepers, from 2021. 

Canada Choate reviews Hal Foster’s extended interview with Benjamin Buchloh, Exit Interview, in which Buchloh assesses, not without melancholy, his career and the future prospects of art theory. Isabel Jacobs writes about the new translation of Andrei Platonov’s masterpiece Chevengur, a “proletarian revamping of Don Quixote” banned by Stalin, which lays out a “a phenomenology of poor spirit” where “different temporal modes clash: vegetal, cyclical time is contrasted with revolutionary progress.”

Notes has also published a number of excerpts from recent books of major theoretical interest: Jason Read’s The Double Shift: Spinoza and Marx on the Politics of Work reevaluates the classic problem of voluntary servitude in light of the compulsion to work. Ben Ware’s On Extinction: Beginning Again at the End critically examines contemporary apocalypticism, with its fantasies and anxieties about the end (we excerpted a section on “Kafka and the Politics of Despair”). Anna Kornbluh writes a searing polemic against the different modes of anti-theory—including autotheory—popular today, in Immediacy, or, The Style of Too Late Capitalism. The volume A Thousand Little Machines: A/traverso and the Movement of ’77, edited by Jamila Squire and Seth Wheeler for Agit Press, revisits the politics of the Italian autonomist movement, through the archive of Franco “Bifo” Berardi. And Evan Calder Williams and Alberto Toscano enter into an expansive dialogue about Toscano’s Late Fascism: Race, Capitalism and the Politics of Crisis. 

Art theorist and critic Marina Vishmidt passed away on April 26. e-flux journal editor Andreas Petrossiants penned a beautiful tribute to her life and work, writing, “As an ardent anti-fascist, she never shied away from naming where today’s fascisms are produced, whether in jails, occupation checkpoints, union-busting law firms, or university restructuring consultancies. She is there with us to fight today.” In an essay forthcoming this Friday, “Marina’s Cues,” Kerstin Stakemeier offers a personal reflection on Vishmidt’s theoretical writings and critical sensibility.

Finally, Boris Groys continues his regular column with us, with “Diversity and Its Shadow,” “Critique and Complaint,” and an essay that presents a unique take on the impasses of identity politics, “The Mirror Stage of the Upper Class.” The latter describes the shift from the struggle for a classless society to one whose goal is “a class society in which the ethnic and gender composition of the upper class reflects the ethnic and gender composition of the lower classes.”

—the e-flux Notes editors

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