8 essays
Compiled by Andrew Stooke

In today’s isolation, the social world and its art are atomized. The situation has thrown into relief the intimate confusion of relational geniality and its mechanisms of exclusion and privilege. Now all places of meeting are gone, the stratified guest list, presaging access to a shared welcome, is torn up. Its fragments fill the air.

The e-flux journal texts in this reader archive the leak between hospitality and colonial mindsets, where separation promises resistance.

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Kim Turcot DiFruscia
Shapes of Freedom: A Conversation with Elizabeth A. Povinelli
Originally published in March 2014

Isabell Lorey
Becoming Common: Precarization as Political Constituting
Originally published in June 2010

The discourse on precarization that has emerged in the past decade, primarily in Europe, rests on an extremely complex understanding of social insecurity and its productivity. The various strands of this discourse have been brought together again and again in the context of the European precarious movement organized under EuroMayDay. This transnational movement, in existence since the early 2000s, thematizes precarious working and living conditions as the starting point for political struggles and seeks possibilities for political action in neoliberal conditions. What is unusual about this social movement is not only the way in which under its auspices new forms of political struggles are tested and new perspectives on precarization developed; rather—and this is striking in relation to other social movements—it is how it has queered the seemingly disparate fields of the cultural and the political again and again. In the past decade, conversations concerning both the (partly subversive) knowledge of the precarious, and a search for commons (in order to constitute the political), has conspicuously taken place more often in art institutions than in social, political, or even academic contexts.

An Architektur
On the Commons: A Public Interview with Massimo De Angelis and Stavros Stavrides
Originally published in June 2010

An Architektur: The term “commons” occurs in a variety of historical contexts. First of all, the term came up in relation to land enclosures during pre- or early capitalism in England; second, in relation to the Italian autonomia movement of the 1960s; and third, today, in the context of file-sharing networks, but also increasingly in the alter-globalization movement. Could you tell us more about your interest in the commons?

Ana Hoffner ex-Prvulovic
Non-Aligned Extinctions: Slavery, Neo-Orientalism, and Queerness
Originally published in February 2019

Recently I found myself at the Clark Art Institute in Massachusetts, standing in front of an orientalist image. Together with a colleague I was looking at The Slave Market by Jean-Léon Gérôme, painted in 1866, only one year after the official abolition of slavery in the US. The caption of the painting said the following:

Jonas Staal
Comrades in Deep Future
Originally published in September 2019

The word “propaganda” originates from biology, literally referring to the reproduction and duplication—the propagation—of plants and animals. In this time of catastrophe on earth and corporate and nationalist schemes to export that very same catastrophe to other living worlds, Haraway’s rethinking of propaganda offers a precondition for collective survival and the perseverance of new socialist forms of living. Neo-constructivist, cosmist, and assemblist training camps and biospheres: these are the terms for a morphological vocabulary of a hyperempathic propaganda art that makes living worlds of comradeship in deep past, deep present, and deep future imaginable and realizable.

Yates McKee
Occupy and the End of Socially Engaged Art
Originally published in April 2016

“We strike art in order to liberate art from itself.”

Nato Thompson
The Insurgents, Part I: Community-Based Practice as Military Methodology
Originally published in September 2013

This is a story about counterinsurgency as well as community organizing. It is a story about getting to know people as an occupying force, and getting to know people as neighbors. It is a story, ultimately, about the military entering the terrain of that thing called culture. This story has fascinating, hardworking protagonists such as General David Petraeus, socially engaged artists like Suzanne Lacy, and anthropologists-turned-military-consultants like Montgomery “Mitzy” McFate. It is laden with historical examples from Baghdad to Oakland to El Salvador. This story compares writers such as David Galula, a French officer who fought in the Algerian War, to the left-wing community activist Saul Alinsky. For all that, it is also a story that doesn’t pretend there is any causal connection between the world of the military and the world of nonviolent community organizing. General Petraeus did not read anything by Suzanne Lacy, and it seems unlikely that Lacy has ever read the Counterinsurgency Field Manual that Petraeus coauthored in 2006.

Liam Gillick
We Lived and Thought Like Pigs: Gilles Châtelet’s Devastating Prescience
Originally published in May 2019

To Live and Think Like Pigs is an account of two dominant ideas from the 1990s that have now, two and three decades later, become markers of crypto-freedom in the hands of global data boys and have led to tragic inequalities of movement. It is a book against the way chaos theory, nomadism, and anemic underdeveloped concepts of difference were used throughout the 1990s as an enlightening model—and against poorly deployed mathematics-as-theory in general. To Live and Think Like Pigs is an account against a nomadism that appeared as a liberatory metaphor at the end of the twentieth century, yet in the twenty-first has become a dominant model of the cultural class in permanent motion, and a concomitant growing underclass penned in and restrained. It is a book against the “rational” individual as human data unit. It is against the political “market.” It is against the self-policing of all aspects in life. It predicts the envy culture of “rhinoceros psychologies and reservoirs of the imaginary for the pack leaders of mass individualism.” And roundly mocks them. And in so doing, also roundly mocks our 2019.

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