Readers
Marbles
8 essays
Compiled by Geli Mademli

The rapid acceleration of our digital transactions during the global pandemic, next to our urged reluctance to navigate physical surfaces, drastically invested the material world with more narratives of degeneration and ruination. As technology employs crisis discourse to establish practices of standardization regarding our understanding of objects, how can the “user” resist the virtual homogeneity performed by alleged accessible online archives? Equally alluding to relics of antiquity, the playfulness of a childrens’ toy, and systems gone derailed, “marbles” is an applicable term for objects and texts that manifest or contain ontological oppositions (tangible/intangible, mutable/immutable, digital/analog, multiplicity/singularity, representation/inscription, original/fake), highlighting the complexity
of our present encounters.

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Irmgard Emmelhainz
Can We Share a World Beyond Representation?
Originally published in February 2020

Along with being an index of democracy, art is also a lucrative niche for the global entertainment business. Art has thus become a form of consumable merchandise, destined to be used up. In this situation (diagnosed by Arendt and others in the 1960s), artists have either embraced this quality of art as merchandise (Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst), or rejected it in the name of politicization and criticality (Hans Haacke, Andrea Fraser, Hito Steyerl). With globalization, critical artists have been summoned to become useful by surrendering art’s (always partial) autonomy and taking up the task of restoring what has been broken by the system. So they denounce globalization’s collateral damage and contemporary art’s woeful conditions of production. They imagine a more just future, produce political imaginaries, disseminate counter-information, restore social links, gather and archive documents and traces for the “duty of memory,” etc. Perhaps, then, the prior role of the artist as a cultural vanguard has given way to a mandate to cultivate a feeling of political responsibility in spectators, in the name of self-representation and the representation of Enlightenment values.

Metahaven
Captives of the Cloud: Part II
Originally published in October 2012
iLiana Fokianaki
Redistribution via Appropriation: White(washing) Marbles
Originally published in May 2018

It has now been almost three years since the June 2015 referendum in Greece, and these three years have demonstrated an alarming acceleration of the multiple crises that Europe faces. Nationalism and the far right have rediscovered their power in the streets and parliaments of Europe, in both North and South. Even in the contemporary art world, we see the emergence of the alt-right, which audaciously presents itself as revolutionary and progressive, shouting at the top of its lungs about its right to exist.

Bilal Khbeiz
Modernity’s Obsession with Systems of Preservation
Originally published in September 2009

Modernity, the mother of many democracies, has given a great deal of attention to developing means of preservation and conservation. It has taught us to care for all that is frail and delicate. Charles Baudelaire, speaking about one of his contemporaries, the photographer Miron, said: “He photographed Paris because it is ephemeral.” Perhaps then it should come as no surprise that such an image, itself made up of only smooth paper and some ink, outlasts the cathedrals of Paris. This is not something we should attribute simply to a photograph’s status as an art object—the lasting quality of an image is not a matter of poetry, but of irrefutable reality.

Jorge Otero-Pailos
Monumentaries: Toward a Theory of the Apergon
Originally published in October 2015

Let me propose the neologism “monumentaries” to describe the notion that monuments are not just material documents of the past, but also the expression of a contemporary editorial point of view. Monumentaries are historical buildings that have been purposefully altered post facto in order to influence our perception and conception of them. Any careful observer of historic buildings knows that, in order to keep them standing over the centuries, some measure of alteration is always necessary, but that doesn’t make every monument a monumentary. We have to distinguish between alterations due to low-level maintenance, like replacing a couple shingles to fix a leaky roof, and alterations made to express an idea, like replacing a metal roof with clay shingles in order to create a more historically accurate image of the building at the moment of original construction. Only the latter type of alteration, insofar as it is justified by both a technical need and an intellectual proposition, is an intentional attempt to turn the monument into a monumentary. Monumentaries are both material and conceptual objects meant to operate discursively in various social, cultural and political realms, as well as disciplines such as architecture, art, history and others. I will focus in particular on the material that is added to monuments in order to transform them into monumentaries. This material, while often presented as a purely functional repair meant to be invisible, or at least dismissible, is in fact a very important aspect of the aesthetics of monumentaries. As modifying aesthetic, it also operates as a conceptual supplement, able to reconfigure, sometimes slightly, other times completely, the ideas previously associated with the monument. While material supplements to monuments are typically intentionally obvious and easy to see, their conceptual status is paradoxically rather difficult to decipher. Building on Derrida’s analysis of artistic parerga, the supplements described in Kantian aesthetics, I will argue that monumentaries are created through supplements that are both the same and different than those at work in other artworks: the same in the sense that they are conceptually extrinsic to the work, materials that need to be removed in order to appreciate the work, but paradoxically indispensable and therefore constitutive of it; different in the sense that they are meant to physically and conceptually protect and preserve the work for the future. What follows is an attempt to refine the concept of the supplement as it pertains to architecture by theorizing the apergon, the part of architecture that protects it until it will have been fit to stand on its own, that is to say fit to be understood.

James T. Hong
The Suspicious Archive, Part II: Every Word Is a Prejudice
Originally published in June 2017

For fake news to exist, there must be a “real news.” A lot of news, or what counts as news in Taiwan, for instance, is a weak kind of fake news, because Taiwanese news stories are frequently too trivial even to be considered news (e.g., a new restaurant forgot to include free napkins). In these trivial cases, truth or falsity does not even matter. But the “fake” in fake news has a metaphysical component. What type of metaphysics is a criterion for distinguishing fake from real news? For most people, only another story or collection of stories can prove that a particular story is factually wrong (unless one actually witnessed the news-making event). There is no way for a regular reader to go above and beyond any particular news story to adjudicate its truth value from God’s point of view, so she can only arbitrate between competing stories filtered through her own prejudices and biases. Furthermore, something is usually off about any news story—a detail, a nuance, the choice of words, implicit and explicit prejudices.

Suzana Milevska
Ágalma: The ‟Objet Petit a,” Alexander the Great, and Other Excesses of Skopje 2014
Originally published in September 2014

She just goes a little mad sometimes. We all go a little mad sometimes. Haven’t you?
—Norman Bates in Psycho

Doreen Mende
The Undutiful Daughter’s Concept of Archival Metabolism
Originally published in September 2018

Let us begin before the beginning—before the arrival of the “archon,” that is, the guardian of documents, the gatekeeper, the patriarch and the matriarch. When the undutiful daughter occupied the front room of the family home. The undutiful daughter, full of vibrant ideas not yet articulated fully, wants to provide shelter for Melly Shum, the undutiful daughter’s friend and loving aunt, who publicly declared in 1990 that she hates her job. It’s been everywhere. In the newspapers. Reporters in front of the house. On television in Teen Species. LinkedIn. Facebook. Flickr. Instagram. It’s gone viral. “Melly Shum hates her job.” On a billboard. For decades. Melly Shum. A woman of East Asian descent. Large white glasses. In her thirties. Working in an office. On her own. In Rotterdam. Pictured at work by Ken Lum. Another worker. In the picture Melly, it seems, is performing abstract labor, operating a machine to her right, maybe doing some calculations. Since 1990! Goodness. If only Melly’s abstract labor was recognized, even in retrospect—like the women trained in mathematics for the US Army’s ENIAC Project who, in the 1940s, were initially called “computers”—then she might speak again. She could speak of and against “the law of what can be said.”

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