brian.holmes at wanadoo.fr
Sat Dec 10 11:25:06 EST 2005
saul ostrow wrote:
> what is our object/ subject include -- that we wish to resist
> what does that subject/ object exclude -- what do we wish to preserve
> what is the terms and conditions of its (the subject/ object's) present
> situation we wish to change
> what will the terms and condition of the subject/object be as a result
> of our resistance or actions
> what effect will this change have on us
I have done a bit of work on exactly these questions, as it
happens. Because Saul is right: you have to ask yourself
these kinds of questions. Or let's say, it helps if you do.
So I have taken time out, as I told Saul that I would, to
make a systematic answer.
1. From my perspective there are currently quite a number of
nasty looking developments things to resist, including: the
new forms of fascism; neocolonial racism; the total
colonization of culture,and indeed of subjective experience,
by networked capitalism. I actually think these three things
are linked into a system, they are codependent. However, for
what concerns those of us working with art and new media, I
will focus on the last one, which I've written about under
the headings of "the flexible personality" (the ideal-type
of contemporary middle-class alienation) and the so-called
"creative city" (the everyday environment of same).
The flexible personality describes a cynical opportunism,
the disposition to actually take the controls of the
contemporary networked labor regime, with all its
surveillance techniques in particular. Note that this
"taking the controls" means exploiting, oppressing,
dominating the other as an object, through the use of
sophisticated tools and strategies.
The "creative city" (a term I did not invent) describes the
aesthetic environment in which the flexible personality
feels good, finds its legitimacy, claims a "creative" or
indeed artistic role, as an expressive subject. More
recently I have began looking into what I call "the
urbanization of blindness."
For more on these ideas, see my archive at
www.u-tangente.org, particularly the text "The Flexible
Personality" (in the "Hieroglyphs" section); and the text
"Reverse Imagineering" (in the "Unleashing" section). Anothr
text, closer to specifically art concerns, is "Reflecting
Museums" (in the "Hieroglyphs" section).
2. What I personally wish to preserve and foster is a quite
different disposition, which entails opening oneself up to
what might be described as "the time of the other." This is
something that a society has to cultivate, it requires
initiatives, institutions, spaces both physical and mental.
It is indeed a dis-position, in the sense of a shift. In a
very real way, it puts you outside your own skin,it helps
you understand the outside - the other - that is yourself.
In the spirit of this kind of exchange, when the Tangent
University website was being created, I invited the
Brazilian psychotherapist and art critic Suely Rolnik to put
her text archive there, where you can read further about
this. A good place to start might be the text we wrote
together, basically by intermixing our existing work, under
the title "Through the Looking-Glass." I just put it up in
Suely's archive, English section, u-tangente.org, specially
for you all.
3. There are a lot of specific terms and conditions to be
changed, and when your subject is... the qualities and
processes of subjectivity, you have to take an ecological
view of the processual inseparability of subject and
environment. Therefore the focus on the urban environment
that I mentioned above. As people involved in art and/or new
media, our social cohort has had a lot of influence on urban
environments recently. Or more precisely, we've been heavily
instrumentalized by capitalist processes which have had a
lot of influence on the urban environment. So how to change
one's availability to this kind of instrumentalization?
Under that old practical idea that change starts by cleaning
up at your own doorstep, I tried a while ago to respond to
an invitation to contribute to the catalogue of the
"Biennial of Young Yugoslav Art" (which potentially would
concern a lot of people I know and care about) by writing a
text entitled "Emancipation." It was directed to cultural
producers, and was about how to overcome alienation in
respect to the market (and also the institutional market).
The principle ideas included a concern for autonomy in
taking of decisions about what to produce (here I don't want
to go into the theory of autonomy, but let me stress that it
is relative and only make sense when as a group process); a
capacity to build cooperative environments; and a
responsibility to the work once it is in circulation.
Actually I had the 16 Beaver Group in mind, as an
inspiration, when I wrote that text. It is in the
"Unleashing" section of my archive.
4. Concerning what can be achieved - the subject/object as a
result of our actions - one of the things I have worked on
is trying to reconceive art shows, museums and works as what
might be called "social analyzers" - ways of bringing both
the objective forms of social environments, and the
subjective qualifications that orient them and make them
what they are, into question and into public debate. I have
written a lot about this, and I have always insisted that
conflict - the kind provoked by symbolic interventionism, or
what we have been calling "activism" - has an important role
to play in sparking these processes of public questioning.
Most of my own work has for that last reason been very
provocative. However, now I'm finished with that kind of
work, due to the general exhaustion of the vein (the fad we
were talking about) and also because the stakes of
negotiating life in common have gotten a lot more serious
since 9/11 generally.
A compact version of these speculations about the museum can
be found in "A Rising Tide of Contradition" ("Unleashing"
5. What effect such changes would have on us? Well, let's
take the idea of changing the museum and certain
expectations about what art practice is or can be. All I can
say - and this has a lot to do with where I live - is that
the art world here in France is so closed to anything that
immediately matters, so dependent on trends and a prestige
economy, or on the other hand so plunged into academic art
history, that's it's almost not worth participating in.
However, since around the time of Documenta X which I was
involved with, I have seen the art discussions in Europe
become really a lot more interesting, for all kinds of
different reasons, and notably because of the contributions
of symbolic interventionism and also the new space given to
sociological and culture-critical discourse in the writing
that surrounds art. Since 9/11 in the US, and especially
since Bush's re-election, I have remarked time and again a
new interest in the kinds of activity that have been going
on in Europe. But what is now desired in the US is not
European import but something practicallly useful in the
This is the great effect that we could have on ourselves:
giving our lives some meaning by making work that is
actually useful for other people.
I am sorry to have been so lengthy and to have so immodestly
supplied an annotated bibliography of my own writing, but I
didn't see how else to answer Saul's question with any
degree of precision.
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