In June 2016, I gave a talk at the conference Anton Pannekoek (1873-1960): Ways of viewing Science and Society at the KNAW (Rotal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences) in Amsterdam. The organizing committee included artist Jeronimo Voss, whose installation Inverted Night Sky was on view in Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam at the time. The aim of the conference was for speakers from various disciplines, ranging from astronomy to political philosophy and the humanities, to discuss both the political and scientific aspects of Pannekoek’s work. After all, Pannekoek was astrophysicist by day, and council communist at night (or possibly the inverse). Jeronomi Voss’ work looked into precicely this constellation. Unfortunately, much to Jeronomi’s chagrin, the attempt to bring together reserachers from vastly different backgrounds proved fragile and fraught, as any whiff of “continental philosophy” made some of the conveners apoplectic. When Stefano Marino asked me to contribute to a section on “Marx 1818-2018: Aesthetic Traces of his Legacy” in the Italian journal Studi di estetica, this seemed like a good context for the article version of my talk, “Council Aestheticism? Pannekoek, the Avant-Garde and Contemporary Art.” The issue is out now and the essay is available online.
Image: a newspaper sketch of the disruption of a performance of Tankred Dorst’s play Ernst Toller (Amsterdam, 1969), discussed in my text. And as for the title of this post: yes, that would be the English equivalent of the glorious name “Anton Pannekoek.”
The new issue of Texte zur Kunst (no. 112, December 2018) contains my review of Dora García’s retrospective at the Reina Sofia in Madrid, “Enjoy Your Sinthome.” Because my text turned out too long (what else is new?), we removed an opening paragraph that was not essential to the discussion of the exhibition and the artist’s work, but that gives a sense of the artistic context I would place her in:
The work and reception of certain Europe-based artists since the 1990s is marked by a curious condition. Neither marginalized nor canonized by the art market and its retained art historians and media, they navigate the messy and ongoing transition from the old public funding structures to a project-based economy, and use the proliferation of “art worlds” and various kinds of funding and infrastructure (public grants, residencies, prizes, teaching positions) to develop practices that survive, and even thrive, while still not attaining the discursive presence of (for instance) either first- or second-generation institutional critique. As they share a networked habitus without forming a group or tendency, I can only say that my personal list at the basis of this diagnosis includes artists such as Eran Schaerf, Natascha Sadr Haghighian, Alice Creischer and Andreas Siekmann, Agency (Kobe Matthys), Sean Snyder, the Otolith Group, and Dora García. Most of them have never been given a retrospective; some of them may have problems with the format itself, and avoid it actively. This also means that there are few monographic texts on such artists, even while a veritable industry has sprung up around far lesser figures.
I sometimes feel that I don’t make enough of an effort to write monographic essays on such artists even irrespective of catalogue commissions, but reviews such as this small piece on Dora García can be one way of (partially) remedying this. Of course, there needs to be a good occassion: a somewhat substantial exhibition, which this one (its shortcomings notwithstanding) certainly was.
In other news: I assumed the second part of my e-flux journal essay on nuclear aesthetics would follow immediately on October’s first installment in the November issue, but due to the journal’s anniverary activities normal service will only be resumed in January.