Readers
Utopia
9 essays
Compiled by Marcus Hurwitz

A shattering interruption of unacceptable forms of everyday life is taking place. Forcing a turn of breath (Celan)—take pause and listen. How can this event be understood? How does one experience metanoia today? Utopia must (Il Faut) be a re-reimagining and transformation of this interruption: the possibility of a different form and practice of everyday life. Let us invoke a fearsome phrase of Brecht that Bloch used against Adorno: “something is missing.” Who better to imagine the way and demonstrate this “something,” whatever it may be, than artists? Before Duchamp, had anyone ever imagined using a Rembrandt as an ironing board?

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Boris Groys
The Museum as a Cradle of Revolution
Originally published in February 2020

In one of his treatises, Malevich writes about the difference between artists and physicians or engineers. If somebody becomes ill, they call a physician to regain their health. And if a machine is broken, an engineer is called to make it function again. But when it comes to artists, they are not interested in improvement and healing: the artist is interested in the image of illness and dysfunction. This does not mean that healing and repair are futile or should not be practiced. It only means that art has a different goal than social engineering.

Hans Ulrich Obrist
Manifestos for the Future
Originally published in January 2010

Anton Vidokle
Art Without Artists?
Originally published in May 2010

It is clear that curatorial practice today goes well beyond mounting art exhibitions and caring for works of art. Curators do a lot more: they administer the experience of art by selecting what is made visible, contextualize and frame the production of artists, and oversee the distribution of production funds, fees, and prizes that artists compete for. Curators also court collectors, sponsors, and museum trustees, entertain corporate executives, and collaborate with the press, politicians, and government bureaucrats; in other words, they act as intermediaries between producers of art and the power structure of our society.

Raqs Media Collective
Is the World Sleeping, Sleepless, or Awake or Dreaming?
Originally published in June 2014

Another conversation threw up a fascinating image: “During our regular night shifts, the general manager used to be abrasive with any worker he saw dozing. He used to take punitive action against them. One night, one hundred and eight of us went to sleep, all together, on the shop floor. Managers, one after the other, who came to check on us, saw us all sleeping in one place, and returned quietly. We carried on like this for three nights. They didn’t misbehave with us, didn’t take any action against us. Workers in other sections of the factory followed suit. It became a tradition of sorts.”
Faridabad Mazdoor Samachar (Faridabad Workers’ News), May 2014

Paul Chan
Progress as Regression
Originally published in January 2011

Despite ideological differences, the various factions that make up the political right in America—from the grassroots to the astroturfed to the corporate—have found common ground after Obama’s 2008 victory.[footnote Astroturf is the brand name for plastic grass. Politically, it designates a class of organizing with the appearance of being led by a “grassroots” effort when in fact it is wholly funded and controlled by institutional or corporate interests.] This ground is the past: an arid patch of mythological land that has become home to a growing organizing effort driven by anti-tax sentiments, elements of nationalism, and a vicious streak against a laundry list of undesirables.[footnote Undesirables should not be mistaken for the unwanted. When something is undesirable, it reverberates with feeling the alien in oneself. Or, put another way, the undesirable is a reminder that what is foreign may in fact be what is missing in the incomplete puzzle of the self. This is why it is so alluring. Or put in yet another way, undesirability is the pleasure principle of art.] This movement only knows one way forward: back.

Words by Franco “Bifo” Berardi
Illustrations by Andrew Alexander
The End of Prophecy
Originally published in November 2018

“Do not expect the nightmare to dissolve. Liberal democracy will not come back. It is the source of disaster.”

Pelin Tan
Beneath Our Skin
Originally published in December 2008

Geographers say there are two kinds of islands. This is valuable information for the imagination because it confirms what the imagination already knew.

Elena Filipovic
A Museum That is Not
Originally published in March 2009

One could say that everything begins and ends in Marcel Duchamp’s studio. His first New York studio is perhaps best known from a series of small and grainy photos, some of them out of focus. They were taken sometime between 1916 and 1918 by a certain Henri-Pierre Roché, a good friend of Duchamp. Roché was a writer, not a professional photographer, clearly. He was the same guy who would go on to write Jules et Jim, arguably a far better novel than these are photographs. But their aesthetic quality was not really what mattered. Duchamp was attached to those little pictures. He kept them and went back to them years later, working on them and then leaving them out for us like his laundry in the picture. Or like clues in a detective novel.

Boris Groys
Entering the Flow: Museum between Archive and Gesamtkunstwerk
Originally published in December 2013

Traditionally, the main occupation of art was to resist the flow of time. Public art museums and big private art collections were created to select certain objects—the artworks—take them out of private and public use, and therefore immunize them against the destructive force of time. Thus, our art museums became huge garbage cans of history in which things were kept and exhibited that had no use anymore in real life: sacral images of past religions or status objects of past lifestyles. During a long period of art history, artists also participated in this struggle against the destructive force of time. They wanted to create artworks that would be able to transcend time by embodying eternal ideals of beauty or, at least, by becoming the medium of historical memory, by acting as witnesses to events, tragedies, hopes, and projects that otherwise would have been forgotten. In this sense, artists and art institutions shared a fundamental project to resist material destruction and historical oblivion.

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