e-flux journal issue 73

e-flux journal issue 73

e-flux journal

May 5, 2016
e-flux journal issue 73

with Giorgio AgambenClaire FontaineVivian ZiherlRebekah SheldonDavid Claerbout, Franco “Bifo” Berardi with Marco MagagnoliStefan Heidenreich, and Maria Iñigo Clavo
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All things have borders that make them what they are. Some borders are spatial, like the edge of a painting, and some are chronological, like the end of a play. In this issue, Vivian Ziherl and Maria Iñigo Clavo both attempt to translate modernity from a historical, chronological teleology into a spatial geography. Ziherl does this by drawing our attention to the persistence, within contemporary space, of that supposedly historical borderline, the frontier, while Clavo provides a taxonomy of the various prefixes, like post-, pre-, and anti-, that have been appended to the “modern” in order to conceal its violent distribution in space within a false sequence of time.
Often, the role of a vanguard is to deploy one kind of limit against the other. Performance took its significance by insisting on chronological borders within a visual art context. By simply ending, the thinking went, and not repeating, performance resisted incorporation, and with it, the accumulation of value, which not only drew attention to the ubiquity of that motivation more generally, but was anyway required to establish the alternative credibility necessary for certain commitments, projects, and ideas to fall into relief.
In the opposite direction, vanguard performers often self-consciously subordinated the chronological to the topological, creating visual environments that threatened, like a landscape, to endure past all inherited understanding of an event’s ending. More mundanely, institutions organized around events or objects frequently find it necessary to treat the one like the other. Despite the fact that a Pollock persists in time, one typically has to buy a ticket to the museum that owns it—a ticket which is only good for this or that hour of this or that day. The painting may not be an event, but our encounter with it usually is. David Claerbout writes about the closure of a certain technological era when photography enabled such encounters outside the walls of the museum, and the implications for authorial subjectivity in light of what he calls “the silence of the lens.”
Event-producing institutions have likewise evolved to leave a corresponding trail of props, documents, or souvenirs: objects sufficiently implicated in what has transpired to become totems capable of sustaining its otherwise vanishing legacy. The problem with a vanguard then is that it relies on the very institutional practice it would subvert to provide the rationale for its own behavior. It cannot succeed, because to do so would erase the stated reasons for its own existence. This is why the oldest and most established institutions—like museums, temples, or academies—often house the most impressively dissident tribes. To be recognized for what they are, self-conscious interventions in a social-historical process require a community securely implicated in the reproduction of that same process. “The avant-garde,” Claire Fontaine writes, “provided no credible counterpoint, for it had not adequately resolved its relationship to politics as the governing of men, as administration, and as repressive apparatus.”
This is why Franco “Bifo” Beradi and Marco Magagnoli look at the recent destruction, by the street artist Blu, of his own murals to argue that the project of abolishing the distance between art and everyday life that characterized the twentieth century should be retired. Meanwhile Rebekah Sheldon looks at the recent work of vanguard queer theorists to show how this refusal might be more difficult in practice than it is in theory.
Finally, Giorgio Agamben concludes his monumental Homo Sacer project by arguing for an ontology of style that would raise matters of taste to the highest existential reality, reuniting the subject divided by power into bare life, bios, on the one hand, and social belonging, zoe, on the other.  


In this issue:

Giorgio Agamben—Toward an Ontology of Style
Sexual life—which appears, for example, in the sexual biographies that Krafft-Ebing collects in his Psychopathia Sexualis—seems to actualize a threshold that escapes the scission between the two lives. These biographies, which are by all appearances miserable and have been transcribed solely to bear witness to their patho­logical and infamous character, testify to an experience in which the life that has been lived is identified without remainder with the life by which it has been lived. In the life that the anonymous protagonists live, what is at stake in every instant is the life by which they live: the latter has been wagered and forgotten without remainder from the beginning in the former, even at the cost of losing all dignity and respectability. The short-sighted summaries of medical taxonomy conceal a sort of archive of the blessed life, whose pathographic seals had each time been broken by desire.

Claire Fontaine—Our Common Critical Condition
We live like this with no hope for political change (however necessary) in our lives, nor a common language capable of naming this need or allowing us to define together what is particular to our present. This condition is new, no doubt unique in Western history; it is so painful and engenders such a profound solitude and loss of dignity that we sometimes catch ourselves doubting the sincerity of artworks that are created under such conditions for we know that their fate is uncertain, and will most likely disappoint.

Vivian Ziherl—On the Frontier, Again
There is a question arising from the urban swamps of the global age: What happens to the frontier once its cartographic line collapses as the singular force of its horizon is overwritten by satellite grids and by the air, sea, and data routes of global commerce? How, where, and for whom does the frontier rematerialize as a territorial condition? And what form does it take in the era that follows formal politico-juridical decolonization; a period that has witnessed a proliferation of nation-states swiftly followed by the deterritorialization (denationalization) of their currencies and markets?

Rebekah Sheldon—Queer Universal
We are in the midst of a new queer particularism. While universalizing theories engender powerful explanatory structures, queer particularism is less committed to knowing things than it is to feeling them. Under the sign of epistemology, humanists and social scientists have staked their claims for political efficacy on the ground of vigorous, truthful, and well-formed descriptions of urgent social problems, with the tacit assumption that such descriptions will engender changed attitudes and actions. Queer particularism takes root in the several schools that have arisen to challenge this assumption, most notably affect theory, new materialism, and speculative realism. These schools seek to evade the closed circle of knower and known and to allow for the agency of other-than-human forces. 

David Claerbout—The Silence of the Lens
There will be a perfect equivalence between our gaze onto the world and the signals emanating from it, with no gap between the two where we might locate definitively the specificity of our own contribution. The emancipatory, modern, human point of view—which includes lovers of contingency and the mythical magic of photography—will hate this terminus, because it resembles so much what we understand to be utter and total madness.

Franco “Bifo” Berardi and Marco Magagnoli—Blu’s Iconoclasm and the End of the Dada Century
The separation of art and daily life was the enemy of the Mao-dada rebels. We—for I was one—did not care so much about politics, governments, and power. Our mission was to break the separation between art and daily life, on behalf of Tristan Tzara, the Romanian French poet who was later accused of being a provider of odalisques, narcotics, and scandalous literature.

Stefan Heidenreich—Freeportism as Style and Ideology: Post-Internet and Speculative Realism, Part II
Anti-correlationism frees art from aesthetic considerations and the involvement of a beholder. Under these ideological premises the existence of an artwork neither requires human perception nor consciousness. Very much like the arche-fossil that Meillassoux constructs as a hypothetical 465-billion-year-old object, the artwork may live for an indefinite amount of time in eternal darkness without losing its real existence.

Maria Iñigo Clavo—Modernity vs. Epistemodiversity
Given that the ultimate goal is to question modernity, does it not seem contradictory to dispute which side holds the patent to it? If Western and Latin American postcolonial thinkers agree that modernity was the origin of all colonial evils, why should we insist on being acknowledged as part of it?

The print edition of e-flux journal can now be found at: 
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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 Sydney: Artspace Tallinn: Kumu Art Museum of Estonia The Hague: Stroom Den Haag Toronto: Art Metropole / Mercer Union / The Power PlantTorun: 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 VigoVilnius:Contemporary Art Centre (CAC) Vitoria-Gasteiz: Centro Cultural Montehermoso KulturuneaVisby: 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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