[iDC] activism now and

saul ostrow sostrow at gate.cia.edu
Thu Dec 8 22:31:35 EST 2005

No I don't have a program - though I am trying to figure  out the 
conditions for one-reconceive the terms so that I might understand what 
is I imagine is desirable - rather than repeating worn phrases and 
empty slogans and sustaining beliefs that have no material base - to 
understand what has become a fetter not only on the means and forces of 
production - but also our minds  - these days I am interested in what 
may be retained and what must be discarded - rather than merely 
critiqued or declared dead - the dead seems to always haunt us -- they 
return,  no matter how much we mean to deny them --  it is because like 
a virus we replicate what we oppose -- because we do not think about 
our processes only our goals -- we have become instrumental rather than 
pragmatic - today I think about how I have contributed to the present 
situation by not having been self-critical -- blaming the other for 
having out maneuvered me - when in actuality I had failed to see their 
strategy because I was to busy advancing MY cause and belittling theirs 
- in other words I had become a nominalist and failed to learn from my 
own mistakes -- in other words I was reactive - in retreat - defending 
what had been won in the name of ideals like self, individuality and 
personal freedom that may once having been gained  were worthy of being 
discarded -- in the name of resistance.  What may be the greatest 
contradiction today is  that our 18th century values continue to order  
the productive means of the 21st century -- in other words the fetter 
on the productive forces is our mind set - post structuralism  was an 
attempt though it was quicklyharnessed and applied to 19th century 

On Dec 8, 2005, at 8:09 PM, Brian Holmes wrote:

> saul ostrow wrote:
>> What is really interesting about this thread is that spontaniety, 
>> resistance, activism, media, etc. are being fetishized, while no one 
>> has raised the question of political program and leadership.  Are 
>> these unnecessary in our fragmented and decentered world, or is the 
>> type of essentialism that these decontextualized categories of 
>> reaction represent,  along with the desire to relocate the political 
>> to the cultural sphere a sign that we have not moved beyond the 
>> reified modernist vision of the enlightenment project.
> Now that's quite a declaration.
> Leadership, in the contemporary media-populist electoral democracies, 
> has been so bad that I think even a little bit of sympathy for the 
> people writing here would excuse them for not desiring it.
> However, I personally am very sympathetic to the call for a political 
> program. The only ones I see being floated basically involve going to 
> war or sparking hostility among different groups of citizens to avoid 
> dealing with basic economic and ecological contradictions.
> Do you have a political program to propose? Seriously, I'm interested 
> and you're right that it's lacking, not just on this thread. Only a 
> real political program can produce decent leaders and limit the scope 
> of their arbitrary power too.
> I tried with other members of the journal Multitudes here in Paris to 
> produce one for a while, centered around equality, access to tools and 
> rights to difference in the knowledge economy. But now our generous 
> visions look so distant from the basic public disourse that clearly 
> it's time to work on something more simple and below the belt.
> best, BH
Saul Ostrow
Visual Arts and Technologies Environment
Chair of Painting
The Cleveland Institute of Art

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