e-flux journal issue 78

e-flux journal issue 78

e-flux journal

Photo: Lily Lewis.

December 8, 2016
e-flux journal issue 78

with Maurizio Lazzarato and Éric Alliez, Liam Gillick, Amelia Groom, Kirsty Robertson, Elizabeth A. Povinelli, Franco “Bifo” Berardi, Geert Lovink and Hui Yuk, Étienne Balibar, and Stephen Squibb
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In Poland, the Law and Order Party has fired a curator for promoting Jewish themes. A Catholic Nationalist is chief adviser to American president-elect Donald Trump. Hungary’s right-wing government threatens the Lukács archive with destruction. Modi’s BJP arrests a college student president for insulting “Mother India.” Theresa May replaces paintings in 10 Downing Street with framed pictures of her own quotes.

The curtain rises on the second century since the Russian Revolution to reveal a lifeworld beset with problems shocking in their undead familiarity. It is true that the future is unknown and invisible, but not everything invisible and unknown contains the future. The invisible unknown includes both what hides backstage, waiting to emerge, and what persists silently outside the theater of our perception without becoming either past or future. For the urban form-of-life, the political rematerialization of the fascist program is horrifying in the proper, supernatural sense. Natives of an undiscovered country, the undead are only the unknown invisible made visible but still unknown. Maybe zombies are just what angels look like to those who are still breathing. Maybe worship is the safest kind of fear.

Montesquieu thought that principles were decentralized forces like electricity or heat: to the extent that we generate virtue, we live as a republic; to the extent that we generate honor, we live in a monarchy; and to the extent that we generate fear, we live under despotism. Defeating despotism means reducing fear—a process that begins by locating the necessary concept. Every horror movie knows this to be true: each monster-villain has a logic that, once deciphered, lets them be neutralized. Synthesizing images into concepts is how we work to keep each other safe. In this vein, Liam Gillick considers the derivative architecture of Trump Tower in Manhattan to emphasize its minimal familiarity.

Amelia Groom gives new meaning to the term “permanent collection” when she visits the Ōtsuka Museum of Art, where images of the art-historical canon have been printed onto indestructible ceramic plates. The militant corpse of reanimated nationalism insists on a similarly compulsive vitality, albeit with far more sinister intentions. Earlier this year, Hito Steyerl made the connection between contemporary art, hoarding, and the current fascist resurgence. In a very real sense, the art world is a form of international monetary sovereignty that does not answer to the national kind. Art is a sort of counter-distribution by global social fiat: a clear and present example of the irreducibly collective moment in any process of material validation. Art’s inclusion in the hoard—deep in the belly of the freeports—is evidence of an actually existing international socialism, however limited, corrupt, or unconscious. When value exceeds its grasp, capital makes war, as Maurizio Lazzarato and Éric Alliez address in their entwined history “To Our Enemies.”

The relative independence of the value-process is one reason why artists and intellectuals must resist the temptation to join the orgiastic production of fear—not because things are safe, but because they are so dangerous. Artists are empathy dealers, after all, as Kara Walker has recently reminded us. George Eliot insisted that we are only democratic to the extent that we generate empathy, because it is only by force of empathy that law can rule. Democracy is always available to us, in every circumstance; it is only as far away as the next moment of empathy. Étienne Balibar locates a similar, supplemental logic in the contradictory concept of equality lurking beneath the “Hyperbolic Proposition” that was the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. With “Geontologies,” Elizabeth Povinelli gives us a concept worthy of the reality, an effort to consider not the living and the dead, but the presence of both life and death on the one hand, and their total absence on the other. What does it mean to think the extinction not of a given species but of the categories of life and death in toto?

Decentering these figures means considering other forms of agency. In “The Coming ’17,” Franco “Bifo” Beradi argues that we cannot recreate the past century’s revolution, but must look to a new class of dispersed digital laborers for the architecture of emancipation. In this spirit, Geert Lovink interviews Yuk Hui about the status of the digital object and what the phenomenological tradition can teach us about how we stage our understanding of data. Kirsty Robertson observes a different kind of hybrid object in the trajectory of “Plastiglomerate,” the strange material made when beach bonfires fuse sand and plastic garbage. Are these personworks Mother Earth returning Smithson’s favor? Has Gaia already begun making art from residual human matter?


In this issue:

Maurizio Lazzarato and Éric Alliez—To Our Enemies
There is a flagrant imbalance between the war machines of Capital and the new fascisms on the one hand, and the multiform struggles against the world-system of new capitalism on the other. It is a political imbalance but also an intellectual one. Our first thesis is that war, money, and the State are constitutive or constituent forces, in other words the ontological forces of capitalism. The critique of political economy is insufficient to the extent that the economy does not replace war but continues it by other means, ones that go necessarily through the State: monetary regulation and the legitimate monopoly on force for internal and external wars. To produce the genealogy of capitalism and reconstruct its “development,” we must always engage and articulate together the critique of political economy, critique of war, and critique of the State.

Amelia Groom—Permanent Collection
The museum’s full-time guide is a friendly faceless blue robot named artu-kun—“Mr. Art”—whose belly is branded with the Pocari Sweat logo. Part of his job is to remind visitors that it’s okay to touch the artworks here, since they’re indestructible objects. I walk around the museum, photographing and touching the artworks. I stroke the cheeks of Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, and I press my face against Klimt’s Kiss. But the closer I get, the further away they seem. Does it still count as touching if my touch is guaranteed to have no effect?

Liam Gillick—A Building on Fifth Avenue
Framelessness is a dream fulfilled as we enter the regime of the minimal within architecture. This is where the aesthetic coding of this place starts to align with the values of car production and kitchen design more than it does with the notion of work or social exchange. The car is the place of individual fulfillment where luxurious materials are deployed towards the crude representation of desire. The advanced kitchen is also a place where cabinetry and appliances start to lose their handles, hinges, and frames. The car and the kitchen are the two legacy aspects of advanced modernism that carry individual desire and have the potential to be replaced. The building under consideration deploys the logic of the car and the kitchen in its aesthetic clues.

Kirsty Robinson—Plastiglomerate
Plastiglomerate clearly demonstrates the permanence of the disposable. It is evidence of death that cannot decay, or that decays so slowly as to have removed itself from a natural lifecycle. It is akin to a remnant, a relic, though one imbued with very little affect. As a charismatic object, it is a useful metaphor, poetic and aesthetic—a way through which science and culture can be brought together to demonstrate human impact on the land.

Elizabeth A. Povinelli—Geontologies: The Figures and the Tactics
But are the concepts of biopolitics, positive or negative, or necropolitics, colonial or postcolonial, the formation of power in which late liberalism now operates—or has been operating? If concepts open understanding to what is all around us but not in our field of vision, does biopolitics any longer gather together under its conceptual wings what needs to be thought if we are to understand contemporary late liberalism? Have we been so entranced by the image of power working through life that we haven’t noticed the new problems, figures, strategies, and concepts emerging all around us, suggesting the revelation of a formation that is fundamental to but hidden by the concept of biopower? Have we been so focused on exploring each and every wrinkle in the biopolitical fold—biosecurity, biospectrality, thanatopoliticality—that we forgot to notice that the figures of biopower seem to be inflected by or giving way to new figures: the Desert, the Animist, the Virus? And is a return to sovereignty our only option for understanding contemporary late liberal power?

Franco “Bifo” Berardi—The Coming ’17
The dynamics that led to the ascent of the Nazis and then to the Second World War are back. Contemporary nationalist parties are echoing what Hitler said to the impoverished workers of Germany: you are not defeated and exploited workers, but national warriors, and you will win. They did not win, but they destroyed Europe. They will not win this time either, but they are poised to destroy the world.

Geert Lovink in conversation with Yuk Hui: Digital Objects and Metadata Schemes
I would not say that Big Data is boring, but rather that it is truly suspicious, and we will have to transform this practice of Big Data. This is why the digital humanities haven’t risen up against this monstrosity. Many digital humanities projects are part of this paradigm. When you visualize the co-relations between hundreds of thousands of images, you are employing the same logic as the Big Data industry (albeit harmlessly) and you are exhibiting its aesthetics. This kind of digital humanities is reaching the end of a transitional stage. Data is by no means our “Big Enemy.” We should be aware of the history of data, which has been a subject in the humanities for a long time without being thematized. It is now time to enter a new stage by taking the question of data and the organization of data further. It seems to me that this has to be the task of the future “digital humanities.”

Étienne Balibar—A Hyperbolic Proposition
Does the activity of the citizen exclude the idea of representation? This position has been argued: whence the long series of discourses identifying active citizenship and “direct democracy,” with or without reference to antiquity. In reality this identification rests on a confusion.

Stephen Squibb—This Machine Builds Fascists
The reappearance of fascism on the world scene requires a retheorization of nationalism. If the purpose of theory is that it allows us to see something safely, as Andrea Wilson Nightingale has argued—accompanying and guarding us like an old army general whose view of combat from distant elevated ground reveals patterns no fighting soldier could see—then the return of the past century’s most dangerous phenomenon indicates a theoretical failure at the heart of our strategic planning. Our inherited concept of nationalism has made navigating the lifeworld much more dangerous and difficult than it needs to be. It is either unfinished or poorly made.


​The print edition of e-flux journal can be found at:
Amsterdam: De Appel arts centre / Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten Andratx: CCA Andratx Antwerp: M HKA Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Århus: Kunsthal Aarhus Athens: OMMU Auckland: split/fountain Austin: Arthouse at the Jones Center Baden-Baden: Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden Banff: Walter Phillips Gallery, The Banff Centre Barcelona: Arts Santa Mònica / MACBA Basel: Kunsthalle Basel / Museum für Gegenwartskunst Basel Beijing and Guangzhou: Vitamin Creative Space Beirut: 98weeks Belgrade: Cultural Center of Belgrade Bergen: Bergen Kunsthall / Rakett Berlin: b_books / Berliner Künstlerprogramm – DAAD / Bücherbogen am Savignyplatz GmbH / Books People Places / do you read me? / Haus der Kulturen der Welt / Motto / Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (n.b.k.) / Pro qm Belfast: Platform Arts Bern: Kunsthalle Bern / Lehrerzimmer Bialystok: Arsenal Gallery Bielefeld: Bielefelder Kunstverein Biella: UNIDEE - University of Ideas, Cittadellarte - Fondazione Pistoletto Onlus Birmingham: Eastside Projects / Ikon Gallery Bologna: MAMbo – Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna Bregenz: Kunsthaus Bregenz Bristol: Arnolfini Brussels: WIELS Contemporary Art Centre Bucharest: National Museum of Contemporary Art Bucharest (MNAC) / Pavilion Unicredit Cairo: Beirut / 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 / Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts / The Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago Cologne: Kölnischer Kunstverein Copenhagen: Overgaden Derry: CCA Derry~Londonderry Dijon: Les Ateliers Vortex Dublin: Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane / Project Arts Centre Dusseldorf: Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen Eindhoven: Van Abbemuseum Frankfurt: Städelschule / Portikus Gdansk: Łaźnia Centre For Contemporary Art Geneva: Centre de la photographie Ghent: S.M.A.K. Glasgow: CCA Centre for Contemporary Arts / Glasgow Sculpture Studios Graz: Grazer Kunstverein / Kunsthaus Graz / Künstlerhaus KM– / para_SITE Gallery Grijon: LABoral Centre for Art and Creative Industries Groningen: University of Groningen Hamburg: Kunstverein in Hamburg Helsinki: Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma Hobart: CAST Gallery / INFLIGHT Hong Kong: Asia Art Archive Iași: theartstudent at the University of Fine Arts, Iași Innsbruck: Galerie im Taxispalais Istanbul: BAS / DEPO / Galeri Zilberman / SALT Johannesburg: Center for Historical Reenactments Kansas City: La Cucaracha Press Klagenfurt: Kunstraum Lakeside Kristiansand: SKMU Sørlandets Kunstmuseum Kyiv: Visual Culture Research Center Leeds: Pavilion Lisbon: Maumaus, Escola de Artes Visuais / Oporto / Kunsthalle Lissabon Ljubljana: Moderna galerija Llandudno: MOSTYN London: Architectural Association—Bedford Press / Calvert 22 / Chisenhale Gallery / Gasworks / ICA / Serpentine Gallery / The Showroom / Visiting Arts Los Angeles: REDCAT Loughborough: Radar, Loughborough University Luxembourg: Casino Luxembourg Madrid: Brumaria / CA2M / PENSART Maastricht: Jan van Eyck Academie Marfa: Ballroom Marfa Melbourne: Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) / World Food Books Merrylands: Cerdon College Mexico City: Librería Casa Bosques / Proyectos Monclova Milan: Fondazione Nicola Trussardi / HangarBicocca Milton Keynes: MK Gallery Minneapolis: Walker Art Center Monaco: Nouveau Musée National de Monaco Moncton: Fixed Cog Hero (a bicycle courier company) Montreal: Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) Moscow: Garage Center for Contemporary Culture Munich: Haus der Kunst / Museum Villa Stuck / Walther Koenig Bookshop New Delhi: Sarai CSDS New York: e-flux / Independent Curators International (ICI) / Printed Matter, Inc / McNally Jackson Nottingham: Nottingham Contemporary North Little Rock: Good Weather Gallery Omaha: Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts Oslo: Kunstnernes hus Oxford: Modern Art Oxford Padona: Fondazione March Per L’Arte Contemporanea Paris: castillo/corrales – Section 7 Books / Centre Pompidou / Les Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers Philadelphia: Bodega Pori: Pori Art Museum Portland: Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA) / Publication Studio Porto: Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves 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 / A Gentil Carioca Rome: MACRO Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Roma / Opera Rebis Rotterdam: Piet Zwart Institute / Witte de With | Center for Contemporary Art Saint-Nazaire: Le Grand Cafe, centre d’art contemporain Salzburg: Salzburger Kunstverein San Antonio: Artpace San Sebastián: Centro Internacional Cultura Contemporanea São Paulo: KUNSTHALLE São Paulo / Master in Visual Arts, Faculdade Santa Marcelina Sarajevo: Sarajevo Center for Contemporary Art (SCCA) Seoul: The Books / The Book Society Sherbrooke: Foreman Art Gallery of Bishop’s University Singapore: The Ngee Ann Kongsi Library Skopje: Press to Exit Project Space Sofia: ICA-Sofia / Sofia Art Gallery / SWIMMING POOL St Erme Outre et Ramecourt: Performing Arts Forum St Louis: White Flag Projects Stockholm: Bonniers Konsthall / Iaspis / Index - The Swedish Contemporary Art Foundation / Konstfack, University College of Art, Craft and Design / Konsthall C / Tensta konsthall Stuttgart: Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart Tallinn: Kumu Art Museum of Estonia The Hague: Stroom Den Haag Toronto: Art Metropole / Mercer Union / The Power Plant Torun: Centre of Contemporary Art Znaki Czasu in Torun (CoCA) Toowoomba: Raygun Contemporary Art Projects Trieste: Trieste Contemporanea Trondheim: NTNU University Library Umeå: Bildmuseet, Umeå University Utrecht: BAK, basis voor actuele kunst / Casco – Office for Art, Design and Theory Vaduz: Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein Valencia: IVAM–Biblioteca Valletta: Malta Contemporary Art Foundation Vancouver: Artspeak / 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 Venice: The Biennale Library-ASAC Vienna: Kunsthalle Wien / Salon für Kunstbuch—21er Haus Vigo: MARCO, Museo de Arte Contemporanea de Vigo Vilnius: Contemporary Art Centre (CAC) Vitoria-Gasteiz: Centro Cultural Montehermoso Kulturunea Visby: BAC – Baltic Art Center Warsaw: Zachęta National Gallery of Art Wiesbaden: Nassauischer Kunstverein (NKV) Yerevan: Armenian Center For Contemporary Experimental Art (NPAK) Zagreb: Galerija Miroslav Kraljevic / Gallery Nova / DeLVe | Institute for Duration, Location and Variables Zurich: Postgraduate Program in Curating, Zürich University of the Arts / Shedhalle / White Space

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December 8, 2016

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