[iDC] Re: Art

Grant Kester gkester at ucsd.edu
Mon Dec 12 13:37:04 EST 2005

Dear All,

It's certainly understandable that one would want to engage with the
"macrosphere" but I'm not convinced that this is possible without
artist/activists working in conjunction with broader movements for social
justice. There is a lingering avant-garde fantasy (like Sorel's general
strike or May '68) of single-handedly producing the image/event that would
transform political forces in an instant. This sort of specular logic is
hard for us to get past. But it is precisely the aggregate effect of
conservative rhetoric and action (not it's singular moments) that gives it
power. One of the reasons the US government has been driven so far to the
right (certainly not the only one) is the long-term, grass-roots organizing
efforts of evangelical Christians (over the past twenty-plus years),
beginning at the local and state level (school boards, county councils,
etc.). There are other, complex reasons for their success (having to do with
the corporate Republican need to peel off working-class voters from the
Democrats), but they have been working steadily at taking control of public
institutions for decades at the cellular level. At the same time, they were
connected to a larger movement (extending back to the logic of Powell Memo
in the late '70s) with national, and international connections. As I result,
I would question the apparent division between working locally/situationally
and having a global, or national, impact. This relates in turn to the
question of duration in engaged art practice (something I've been trying to
analyze for some time, since it runs against the grain of conventional
avant-garde thinking in the arts).


On 12/12/05 9:37 AM, "john sobol" <john at johnsobol.com> wrote:

> On 12-Dec-05, at 11:09 AM, Brad Borevitz wrote:
>>  it is easy to say "TAZ," to say "route around
>> it" - but the precariousness of these solutions and their isolation
>> betray
>> them, their limits, their selfishness.
> There have been so many deeply felt and deeply insightful posts to
> these recent threads that I hesitate to attempt any kind of
> simplification, but I do think that this point of Brad's brings us back
> to the core of this discussion. Despite calls for a useful political
> platform, for leadership, for ambitious strategic pragmatism, despite
> valuable rememberings of insights from past rebels and visionaries,
> despite appeals to grassroots populism and ancient generative energies,
> we still find ourselves (or at least, I do anyway) stuck wondering how
> to transcend the Temporary Autonomous Zones (TAZ) of artmaking and
> honest acts of local resistance to fascistic tendencies in myself and
> my world. How do I engage with the macrosphere of global politics in
> all its self-destructive glory without buying into its endlessly
> co-optive temptations? Are there legitimate alternatives? If so, what
> are they? Who can we turn to to guide us and what direction do we want
> to go in? Or is it just me and my family, my friends, my school, my
> neighbours, trying to work out a decent community in a fearful age?
> (Not that this is in any way an unworthy thing, just, according to most
> of us on this thread, less than what is currently needed.)
> At the risk of sounding hopelessly naive, and also knowing full well
> that many people on this list were part of the great techno-dreamings
> of the recent past (and their fracturing as well) in much more engaged
> ways than was I, it seems to me that we are overlooking something. Why
> have we abandoned ­ or at least retreated from ­ the notion that the
> Internet itself may eventually provide the critical mass, the economic
> levers and the social dreams that will enable and impose progressive
> movements. Not utopically, and not inevitably and not easily, but to
> some extent organically, as a consequence of the introduction of this
> extraordinary new enabler of peer-to-peer communication?
> Again, I know that this kind of determinism is terrible out of fashion
> but I remain convinced that the social destabilization resulting from
> this new technology has barely even begun to emerge. We're thinking in
> terms of days, weeks, years, a couple brief decades at best, whereas
> real social change happens mostly in terms of generations. As leaders
> (surely many if not most of us are) of minds and dreams in the
> ascending sphere of new media, should we not look first to the children
> who will not just inherit our technological world but who will in large
> measure create and control it? What and how are we teaching them, what
> alternatives are we offering them, where will we be positioned (old
> guard, prophet of yore, trusted advisor, party leader) when they mature
> and make choices that will shape our future? Where are we now?
> For one thing we are all online. In the online sphere if we do not have
> the advantage over the killing machines then we are at least on a more
> equal footing. Why should we not continue nurturing this realm with
> constructive and liberating discussions such as this, all the while
> taking stock ­ as we are doing ­ of both past and present, seeking
> allies, building bridges? Similarly, I would argue that just as we need
> to enable young people to leverage their techno-power wisely, we who
> seek justice should also look to those who are suffering injustice as
> allies in the virtual sphere, and as potential partners in collectivist
> movements therein. I'm thinking here of developing nations and the
> tremendous opportunity that digital networks may afford them. What if
> eBay had been a Brazilian company that early on had been nationalized
> and that now generated billions annually for the people of Brazil?
> It may sound anachronistic to say that children and disenfranchised
> workers are our only real hope for the future, but i actually think
> that it's true. When it is their time, if we are lucky and have worked
> hard and wisely, it may also be our time.
> With gratitude and tempered optimism...
> john sobol
> --
> www.johnsobol.com
> bluesology € printopolis € digitopia
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Grant H. Kester
Associate Professor, Art History
Visual Arts Department, 0084
University of California, San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, California 92093-0084
(858) 822-4860
gkester at ucsd.edu

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