In a time when a global pandemic takes our breath away, as systematic abuse chokes people of color, and noxious environmental policies asphyxiate the planet, an ultimate, vital act of sharing is to take in the world and to inhale. Respiration is a physiological process which can also be trained. We take a deep breath when we want to express something or when we brace ourselves for a difficult task. What does contemporary art have to say as freedom of speech is jeopardized yet overabundant, and dissenting voices are left unheard? How can we learn to detect the whispers arising from archives of breathlessness and apneic bodies? 

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Compiled by Giulia Colletti
10 Essays
TAKE A DEEP BREATH by Omer Fast In the summer of 2002, Martin F. was standing outside a falafel shop in Jerusalem when it exploded. A trained medic, he went in and discovered the body of a young man on the floor. The young man had lost both legs below the waist, as well as an arm, but his eyes were open and focused. A few seconds passed while the two looked at each other. Knowing it was probably in vain, Martin F. decided to administer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation….
Much has been said of late about “the conversational” or “the discursive” in and around the field of contemporary art. 1 And yet we seem reluctant to talk about an art of conversation in the same breath. Maybe it is the all-too-powdery whiff of seventeenth-century aristocratic ladies and gentlemen, fanning themselves amidst idle chatter, whose connections to our own aspirations we would rather sweep under the shaggy carpet? 2 Or perhaps it is because we are desperately hoping to talk…
Can the Cognitariat Speak?
Isabelle Bruno and Christopher Newfield
Isabelle Bruno is a French political scientist who has written on the range of mechanisms used by the European Union to regulate and redefine the public sector. 1 Christopher Newfield is an American cultural studies scholar who has written about innovation and the fate of public higher education, including the “budget wars” over the arts and humanities. 2 They met as co-panelists at a conference in Toulouse in the fall of 2008. Organized by the association Sauvons la Recherche, the…
Is there such thing as contemporary fascism? Our major difficulty in trying to answer this question is that we rely almost exclusively on historical analogy. We are like dogmatic philosophical descriptivists who believe that the meaning of the word “fascism” was defined long ago by a certain set of descriptive features, and we now meticulously explore reality in search of similar ones. While these days reality, for its part, offers ever more socioeconomic, political, and cultural points of…

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.

“Life” in the phrase “Black Lives Matter” is defined as that which can be killed or which dies. It is also a measure of time, for however long we are alive is a life. Many human lives have been and are considered disposable, surplus, or without value, so the movement speaks of each life as mattering. When black life matters, time itself is altered, creating revolutionary time. These temporalities have become entangled with the crisis of earth-system time known as the Anthropocene. That time, known to geologists as “deep time,” is in crisis. And it’s a good thing too, because out of that crisis has reemerged the possibility of revolutionary time. No one has been more aware of this dynamic than the anti-black reactionary right. To be for revolutionary time, whatever one’s own personal history, is to be for anti-anti-blackness as the condition of transformative possibility.

You may write me down in history With your bitter, twisted lies, You may trod me in the very dirt But still, like dust, I’ll rise. —Maya Angelou (1928–2014) 1. The Carriers and the Systems I am under the impression that when a woman reaches a certain position, all the privileges that this position has implied historically are already gone. It is very often the case that a woman’s arrival at a high level of influence within an organization is also an indicator of…
Is freedom of speech universal? In what follows, I try to reflect on freedom of speech as a political structure, working through it in light of a key question: Who has the right to speech? The reflections, anecdotes, thoughts, and real-life experiences here show the power structure within which freedom of speech operates, and the paradox that confronts politically engaged artists who speak to power, or about it. Freedom of speech reveals itself as the structure that defines what is and isn’t…

The self is constituted by others; everybody is somebody’s Jew. Look to the Muslims murdered en masse in the Middle East, harassed and killed in the United States; the war against black lives carried out by cops and klans and right-wing terrorists; the classist eugenics performed on the poor by the extractive networks of capitalism; the Native victims of cultural and natural destruction via unregulated development of indigenous lands; the many displaced by the gentrification of urban space. And no matter who you are, at one point or another in your life, you are your own Jew.

The Weather As an embodied experience and agentic force, weather moves, scars, imprints. Our armpits dampen in response to the heat; our jaws and tongues stiffen in the biting cold. Like hail-damaged rooftops and sun-bleached laundry, our bodies bear the impressions of the weather-world. We could say that weather is the external conditions that structure one’s quotidian existence; this existence is felt in and as our bodies. Weather has a verbal form. 1 But is weather only a…

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