Readers
Movement
10 essays
Compiled by Jaroslava Tomanova

Whether it is the coerced restriction of the free spatial movement of citizens, the shifting movement of individual and collective priorities, the rise of the number of infections and deaths or the fall of national economies, the notion of movement becomes urgent at the point of pandemic stasis. Is the digital hyperproduction we are witnessing a symptom of the psychotic restlessness under the sudden condition of captivity or rather the natural predisposition of the social body to keep moving? Perhaps stillness is the new movement, and the global halt an opportunity to contemplate the next move.

The following selection of e-flux journal texts revolves around the act of moving.

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Angela Mitropoulos
Art of Life, Art of War: Movement, Un/Common Forms, and Infrastructure
Originally published in April 2018

The Serpentine Dance hinted at an exoticism, but was often read as sublimation in the chemical sense: a phase transition between a solid body and a gaseous apparition, without quite passing through a liquid state. If the Serpentine Dance emerged in the turbulence of transatlantic crossings and the ports of empire, its characterization as a rapid circuit from a fixed body to air would treat liquescence as an inclination or step toward the figural, a referential tendency toward the affirmation of ideal forms rather than delight in afformation.

Chen Chieh-jen
Dissenting Voices of the Unwashed, Disobedient, Noncitizens, and Exiles in their Own Homes
Originally published in April 2017

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.

David Riff
Was Marx a Dancer?
Originally published in November 2015

You wouldn’t think of Marx as a dancer. The image of him waltzing in his overcoat and with his beard is absurd, the next best thing to having him play in a Monty Python football match. For decades, Marx was as static as his Highgate headstone, a toppled monument to a struggle consigned to the ash heap of history, which itself was prematurely declared to be over. But history continues and repeats itself with a vengeance, even if the movements are faster, broader, and deeper than ever. The basic laws of motion still apply; capital still circulates objects, people, and memories as commodities, and that includes Marx himself, who is once again in his element, in perpetual movement.

Hito Steyerl
In Free Fall: A Thought Experiment on Vertical Perspective
Originally published in April 2011

Imagine you are falling. But there is no ground.

Editorial: “Navigation Beyond Vision, Issue One”
Originally published in June 2019

Today one may complain that life has been reduced to points in a matrix of relations—cities, territories, and historical narratives prematurely refined into categories of known and unknown, real and virtual, concrete and abstract space. And yet, when we need to locate a crucial resource (or ourselves, for that matter) who can afford not to search the grid for what everybody knows to be there?—the Italian restaurant, the emergency room, the ancestor, the terrorist. This is not simply about seeing; by definition, navigation organizes timescales and orders of magnitude that cannot be visualized simultaneously. Furthermore, in attempting to map and record various terrains and domains, contemporary navigators are themselves mapped and recorded at the same time. Super-modernity’s expansive enclosures of global infrastructure, time-zone logistics, and data behaviorism become external abstractions as much as computational and territorial facts.

Boris Groys
On Art Activism
Originally published in June 2014

Current discussions about art are very much centered on the question of art activism—that is, on the ability of art to function as an arena and medium for political protest and social activism. The phenomenon of art activism is central to our time because it is a new phenomenon—quite different from the phenomenon of critical art that became familiar to us during recent decades. Art activists do not want to merely criticize the art system or the general political and social conditions under which this system functions. Rather, they want to change these conditions by means of art—not so much inside the art system but outside it, in reality itself. Art activists try to change living conditions in economically underdeveloped areas, raise ecological concerns, offer access to culture and education for the populations of poor countries and regions, attract attention to the plight of illegal immigrants, improve the conditions of people working in art institutions, and so forth. In other words, art activists react to the increasing collapse of the modern social state and try to replace the social state and the NGOs that for different reasons cannot or will not fulfill their role. Art activists do want to be useful, to change the world, to make the world a better place—but at the same time, they do not want to cease being artists. And this is the point where theoretical, political, and even purely practical problems arise.

Patricia Reed
Orientation in a Big World: On the Necessity of Horizonless Perspectives
Originally published in June 2019

There are those who champion, or who actively seek to amplify, the navigational turbulence produced by this decentered human position at the planetary scale, making for an urgent battle over claims on orientation. Such tendencies thrive among several techno-neoreactionaries, who, in denying absolutely any form of planetary navigability from a resituated human position, ultimately advocate for the stripping of humanity’s cognitive-political agencies to transform given frames of reference. Paradoxically, what is often perceived as a form of techno-fetishist futurism is nothing but an unimaginative conservatism that celebrates the preservation of existing frames of reference. These existing frames are defended as if they are an immutable fact of nature, a world “naturally” oriented by nineteenth-century navigational frameworks, now augmented by twenty-first-century AI, smart cities, and iPhones. Implicit endorsements for dehumanization can be found in this destructive negation of these capacities. At this juncture, it becomes evident that the struggle for orientation at nth-dimensionality coexistence demands intervention on this artificial plane, in order to dislodge naturalized conservatisms that are often disguised as blinking futurity.

Irmgard Emmelhainz
Self-Destruction as Insurrection, or, How to Lift the Earth Above All That Has Died?
Originally published in December 2017

My taxonomy of images of alterity from the twentieth century—ethnographic, militant, and witness—is not opposed but rather transversal to Rancière’s. What I am interested in, firstly, is tracking the kinds of discourses underlying images of Western alterity in the aftermath of the postcolonial critique of the ethnographic image, the demise of the third-worldist militant image, and the exposure of the limitations of the witness image, which often serves to perpetuate the figure of the “victim.” These visibilities have perhaps become the “visual” in Daney’s sense. Second, I wish to consider the possibility of an image of soulèvement—in the sense of an image of an other that could threaten Western imperialism and capitalist absolutism, a system this is consensually driven by the desire and need for visibility, and that legitimates social Darwinism with racism and misogynist speech in the public sphere.

Arthur Jafa and Tina M. Campt
Love is the Message, The Plan is Death
Originally published in April 2017

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.

Elizabeth A. Povinelli
Horizons and Frontiers, Late Liberal Territoriality, and Toxic Habitats
Originally published in April 2018

Two imaginaries of space have played a crucial role in the emergence of liberalism and its diasporic imperial and colonial forms, and have grounded its disavowal of its own ongoing violence. On the one hand is the horizon and on the other is the frontier. These two spatial imaginaries have provided the conditions in which liberalism—in both its emergent form and its contemporary late form—has dodged accusations that its truth is best understood from a long history and ongoing set of violent extractions, abandonments, and erasures of other forms of existence, and have enabled liberalism to deny what it must eventually accept as its own violence.

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