Readers
Healing
11 essays
Compiled by e-flux journal editors

At this scale, it’s like nothing we’ve seen in all our lives. As the illness and all its related destructions expand in reach and scope, today may feel too soon to talk of healing. (Sickness and healing have never existed on a clear and separate timeline to begin with, of course.) All the same, there are words of critical, crucial healing embedded in the deep archive of e-flux journal that’s grown here since 2008. We searched these online pages for the word “healing” and found moving resonances with today, whether speaking centrally or in passing to particular or overlapping issues of, for example: illness, exile, solidarity, isolation, confinement, interconnectedness, and the movement of bodies in political and artistic contexts. These pieces gathered from that initial search—essays, poems, a song—each speak directly to their particularity of time and place, and make for compelling reading in uncertain times. May the words keep you company—and we wish for safety and solidarity in solace.

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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.

Park Chan-Kyong
On Sindoan: Some Scattered Views on Tradition and “The Sublime”
Originally published in October 2010

Jalal Toufic
If You Prick Us, Do We Not Bleed? No
Originally published in December 2013

Dedicated to the living memory of Gilles Deleuze, a non-revengeful philosopher

Marion von Osten
Human Animal Song
Originally published in June 2017

cultured graded fondled
divided exhibited bred
appraised described hunted
killed pampered trained

Boris Groys
Politics of Installation
Originally published in January 2009

The field of art is today frequently equated with the art market, and the artwork is primarily identified as a commodity. That art functions in the context of the art market, and every work of art is a commodity, is beyond doubt; yet art is also made and exhibited for those who do not want to be art collectors, and it is in fact these people who constitute the majority of the art public. The typical exhibition visitor rarely views the work on display as a commodity. At the same time, the number of large-scale exhibitions—biennales, triennales, documentas, manifestas—is constantly growing. In spite of the vast amounts of money and energy invested in these exhibitions, they do not exist primarily for art buyers, but for the public—for an anonymous visitor who will perhaps never buy an artwork. Likewise, art fairs, while ostensibly existing to serve art buyers, are now increasingly transformed into public events, attracting a population with little interest in buying art, or without the financial ability to do so. The art system is thus on its way to becoming part of the very mass culture that it has for so long sought to observe and analyze from a distance. Art is becoming a part of mass culture, not as a source of individual works to be traded on the art market, but as an exhibition practice, combined with architecture, design, and fashion—just as it was envisaged by the pioneering minds of the avant-garde, by the artists of the Bauhaus, the Vkhutemas, and others as early as the 1920s. Thus, contemporary art can be understood primarily as an exhibition practice. This means, among other things, that it is becoming increasingly difficult today to differentiate between two main figures of the contemporary art world: the artist and the curator.

Franco “Bifo” Berardi
The Second Coming
Originally published in June 2017

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

—W. H. Auden, “September 1939”

Christian Nyampeta
“In the Black Color of the Night”: Theology and Philosophy in Exile
Originally published in April 2019

Supposedly, one of the many “functions” of art is to heal the ruptures of history, and to “puncture” a whole in the membrane of the future, so as to render its advent felt in the present. In other words, artworking is to invent the sense of a shared time, across geographical expanses and ideological divides. How come today’s art, or philosophy, doesn’t achieve this? The underlying question is: How come “art” or “philosophy” doesn’t prevent violence? Ultimately, artists and philosophers are reproaching each other for the failure in solving problems that belong to the fields of medicine, education, political science, architecture, history, design, engineering, psychology, anthropology, genocide studies, etc. Is it only art or philosophy that fails in the face of the Rwandan genocide? Haven’t politics, technology, science, journalism, and the list is endless, also relapsed? What aspect of living doesn’t face its limit under such marks of death? I have no illusions that mere philosophers, or artists, are able to save the world! Why reproach the inadequacies of entire societies solely upon the ethics and the aesthetics of two cultural bodies?

Alina Popa
Art after Cantemir
Originally published in February 2019

Our idea was that if life and movement have already been captured by the neoliberal apparatus, and if thought itself is movement, providing orientations in the space of the mind and being deeply connected to one’s life-form and body arrangements, then they have to be provided with different choreographies than those enforced by default. Not only have we noticed that there are life-forms imposed if one’s practices are left unchoreographed, but there is also a standard form of thought and action when it comes to overcoming capitalism. One of the reasons behind the Unsorcery project was the mental saturation with the same thought movements performed by the leftist mind: being against, exercising criticism/critique, deconstructing, etc. Not only capitalism but also its enemies seemed to have been captured in default thought forms.

Kasia Wolinska and Frida Sandström
The Future Body at Work
Originally published in April 2019

Through each action that we convey as bodies, a distribution of expressions shape common forces of radiation, enabling us to fall into, and follow closely, the shared present. Dance proclaims that it belongs to the sphere of the commons, that it can constitute the wave of joint gestures, of outward movements that become means of communication. Bound to sustaining relations, the wave forms a stream of larger movements, overflowing ideas of immobility and singularity. Through this wave, the resonances of historical and future gestures are manifested. In the commons, time slips. The underlying logics of the flow organize states of experience and codes of conduct with regard to possible encounters and collisions. The “underscores”—activated support structures—of the dance space must be tested and activated accordingly, as the dialectics of the wave, continuously contracting and releasing, constitute the world with all its relations and moving subjects. Once bodies, images, and affects are mobilized in space, the gestation of new physicalities requires time. To digest, to know, to give space to bodily responses—these transport us into a temporality that stands in strong opposition to quick formulations based on ready-made discourses that sometimes might mean the world to us, and at other times, without prior experience, might instead mean nothing. But to listen and respond through the resonance of a history that takes place and takes shape, requires waiting. As Hardt and Negri write, “Revolution needs time,” and we need support structures for what we mobilize. We need to take responsibility for the outbursts that we unleash.

Irmgard Emmelhainz
Shattering and Healing
Originally published in January 2019

But what does vulnerability actually mean? Is it being able to acknowledge a state of pain or insecurity, embracing the feeling of coming undone? I feel that it’s something I’ve tried to hide from others and from myself. At the cost of headaches, a bloated stomach, the inability to articulate a sentence. A mental-physical feeling of paralysis. I now suspect that people spend a lot of time and effort hiding in this way. Could I overcome my terror of falling apart if I allowed myself to rely on others, on you? Or should I be a “cruel optimist” and create hopeful and positive attachments, in full awareness that they will not work out?

Okwui Okpokwasili
of wishing and superheroes
Originally published in December 2019

We will have no feet
We will fly
Round and round
Our bodies shape the air like
clay in our hands

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