Issue #81
With: Alexander Kluge, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Yuk Hui, Xin Wang, Vivian Ziherl, Chen Chieh-jen, Arthur Jafa, Tina M. Campt, Elizabeth A. Povinelli, David Morris
Art cannot solve the problems of 2017, Alexander Kluge says to Hans Ulrich Obrist in this issue, but it can start solving the problems of 2036. Though it may begin in the affective work of mourning, art moves towards a rational archeology and a realistic anticipation. We could call this “futurist realism,” a vision of the coming decades as a series of problems to be solved, rather than as a source for transcendent salvations or damnations of whatever fashion. Unlike the ecstatic or...
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9 Essays April 2017
What Art Can Do
Alexander Kluge and Hans Ulrich Obrist

We wouldn’t be celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the Russian Revolution now if it weren’t for the one in 1905, without which the one in 1917 wouldn’t have happened. We should reassess the 1905 revolution. A group of people, and then those that came after them, worked continuously and tirelessly starting in 1905 to eventually bring about the revolution of 1917. That gives us hope. That’s resistance in reality. There is no resistance in the moment of despair. In 1928 I could have created conditions with eight hundred thousand teachers that would have prevented me from sitting powerlessly in a basement in 1945. I can start now to solve the problems of 2026, which my children will live to see. And if we set up this working group now, it’s better than only doing it in 2036, in mourning for what went wrong in 2026.

Regardless of which Christian sect we ascribe it to, universalism remains a Western intellectual product. In reality there has been no universalism (at least not yet), only universalization (or synchronization)—a modernization process rendered possible by globalization and colonization. This creates problems for the right as well as the left, making it extremely difficult to reduce politics to the traditional dichotomy. The reflexive modernization described by prominent sociologists in the twentieth century as a shift from the early modernity of the nation-state to a second modernity characterized by reflexivity seems to be questionable from the outset.

To think that Hollywood (or any other highly visible, immensely powerful American, European, or—dare I say—Chinese institution) is anything but provincial, or that it is any real benchmark of cosmopolitanism—assumptions that continue to underlie debates on representation and identity—is delusional and unproductive. The “othering” gaze will never admit that it only likes to see what it wants to see. This is why embarrassing, bikini-waxed exhibitions claiming to present and represent creative endeavors from culturally and geopolitically volatile regions still take place in established cultural institutions. Efforts to further tighten control over narrative and framing reflect an institutional anxiety about faltering credibility and a diminishing influence over the dominant discourse.

What formalism at, or on, the frontier does is to rotate or reorchestrate the point of view of the classical world. What is radical in the center may not be so from the periphery. The frontier is an artifact of modernity that most concerns its modes of contact. The frontier is the place where the soaring ideals of the Enlightenment touch down and slow to a grind against the earthly contingency of global expansion. In this morphology of touch, exposure, and exchange, the frontier signifies how modernity’s outside is produced, exploited, and policed. From this formal view of the frontier—as demonstrated by artists working at, and on, the frontier—it is possible to chart a fourfold articulation. That is, the cosmology of time, being, and belonging produced through the fourfold categories of the natural, the female, the racial, and the prior.

Are these dispatched workers not the new colonized slaves of bourgeois democracy and its internal colonialism? When empires that disseminate neoliberalism also try to guide people around the world in how to take action, while intentionally blurring the tremendous class disparity that separates citizen from citizen, is this not a “New Losheng Sanatorium,” one that uses labor flexibilization to implement an alternative form of exclusion under the guise of “freedom” and “democracy”? Now, however, the isolated and excluded are no longer just leprosy patients; they are everyday people forced to live in a neoliberal society.

Love is the Message, The Plan is Death
Arthur Jafa and Tina M. Campt

It’s one of the reasons I’m not generally interested in making films about white folks. I’m really interested in making work that is always foregrounding black people’s humanity, bad guys or good guys. I like the alien. I’m a big fan of the alien. I’m a big fan of Hannibal Lecter, who I think is black and passing. Fundamentally, I just want to see black people who are complex. And competent at what they do, even if they’re mad geniuses or whatever.

The Desert does not refer in any literal way to the ecosystem that, for lack of water, is hostile to life. The Desert is the affect that motivates the search for other instances of life in the universe and technologies for seeding planets with life; it colors the contemporary imaginary of North African oil fields; and it drives the fear that all places will soon be nothing more than the setting within a Mad Max movie. The Desert is also glimpsed in both the geological category of the fossil insofar as we consider fossils to have once been charged with life, to have lost that life, but as a form of fuel can provide the conditions for a specific form of life—contemporary, hypermodern, informationalized capital—and a new form of mass death and utter extinction; and in the calls for a capital or technological fix to anthropogenic climate change.

David Morris

A grouping of artists and artist groups, an apartment-exhibition space, a sequence of shows in an apartment and outdoors, a movement and a collective project, APTART’s actions were described by its participants as “working expositions,” “anti-shows,” “exhibition-nonexhibitions,” or—following the Socialist Realist dictum that art must be nationalist in form and socialist in content—as “apartment art” by “nationality.” The name is a contraction of “apartment art,” as well as a play on the Russian APT, meaning ART: a kind of stutter, “ART ART,” a repetition of “ART” across Russian and English.

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