Speaking Volumes

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This winter sees the publication of quite a few edited volumes in which I’m represented. Some of these have been in the making for years, so that what seems like a flurry of activity is in reality a bit of a fluke. While I’ve written new texts for some of these, others contain versions and variations of existing articles. The latter is the case with the second volume of Marc James Léger’s The Idea of the Avant Garde and What It Means Today (Intellect Books): it contains my “Cultural Revolution” essay, among many contributions by artists (from Pauline Oliveros to Martha Rosler to David Thomas) and theorists.

Sanneke Huisman and Marga van Mechelen edited the clearly though perhaps not thrillingly titled A Critical History of Media Art in the Netherlands: Platforms, Policies, Technologies (Jap Sam Books):

This edited volume offers an in-depth exploration of Dutch media art from 1985 onwards from many different perspectives. Through early access to the Internet, state subsidies and dedicated institutions and festivals, a vivid counter-cultural environment and a cosmopolitan artistic and intellectual scene the Netherlands hold a unique position in regards to the development of media art.

I contributed an essay titled “Talking Back and Looking Ahead,” which places the 1985 Amsterdam-based project Talking Back to the Media in international genealogies of media art and activism. Meanwhile, the first volume in the new series of Basics readers, which BAK publishes with MIT Press, is titled Propositions for Non-Fascist Living, and I contributed an essay titled “Abdicating Sovereignty.” It traces the afterlife (or resurgence) of the figures of national and individual sovereignty in recent politics, theory and art.

Borrowing from Michel Foucault’s notion of “non-fascist living” as an “art of living counter to all forms of fascism,” including that “in us all… the fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us,” the book addresses the practice of living rather than the mere object of life. Artists, theorists, activists, and scholars offer texts and visual essays that engage varied perspectives on practicing life and articulate methods that support multiplicity and difference rather than vaunting power and hierarchy. Architectural theorist Eyal Weizman, for example, describes an “unlikely common” in gathering evidence against false narratives; art historian and critic Sven Lütticken develops a non-fascist proposition drawn from the intersection of art, technology, and law; philosopher Rosi Braidotti explores an ethics of affirmation and the practices of dying.

And then there’s the long-awaited fourth volume in the Cultures of the Curatorial series edited by Beatrice von Bismarck and Benjamin Meyer-Krahmer, titled Curatorial Things (Sternberg Press), which contains my essay “Fetishize This!,” a critical re-engagement with the concepts of the fetish and fetishism through a number of contemporary art practices.

The meaning, function, and status of things have changed decisively over the past two decades. This development can be traced back to a growing skepticism since the second half of the twentieth century that culture can be presented through things. The questioning of thingness is an integral part of presentation and has informed and shaped the social relevance of the field of the curatorial. Immanent to presentation as a mode of being (public) in the world, the curatorial has the potential to address, visualize, and question the central effects of the changing status and function of things. The presentational mode has played a generative role, vitally participating in the mobilization of things through its aesthetic, semantic, social, and, not least, economic dimensions. Intertwining transdisciplinary discourses, transcultural perspectives, and methods of practice-theory, the anthology Curatorial Things is a new orientation of the analysis of things.

This is not everything, but I’ll stop here for now!


Deserting from the Culture Wars


From November 13 to 17, BAK in Utrecht will be hosting Propositions #9: Deserting from the Culture Wars, a week-long series of trainings, lectures, and panel discussions that I curated.

The program seeks—through forms of enactment and performative approaches—to actively evade the current moment of ever-more polarized ideological combat, often characterized as a return of the “culture wars.” Propositions #9 brings together artists, theorists, and writers in a range of formats to actively reflect upon and work toward a tactical desertion from the cultural conflicts being waged today in a theater of war demarcated by the (far-) right through aggressive hypersensitivity, injured entitlement, angry rants, and memes about “cultural Marxism,” immigration, climate change, and feminism. What possibilities would be opened by a refusal to play these war games, and commit desertion—not as a withdrawal into a realm of apolitical privacy, but as a pursuit of different strategies, tactics, and coalitions?

Deserting from the Culture Wars is a “temporary spin off” from Jeanne van Heeswijk’s ongoing BAK project Trainings for the Not-Yet. The full programme is here.

e-flux journal no. 103: Toward a Terrestrial


The October issue (no. 103) of e-flux journal is out, with my essay “Toward a Terrestrial.” This text is part of a series of texts that respond to transnational neofascism, while at the same time trying be more than reactive. Among these pieces is the “Cultural Marxism” essay in Afterall, “From Fact Check to Counterattack” in the Steirischer Herbst volume Volksfronten, and the essay “Abdicating Sovereignty” in the forthcoming BAK/MIT Press reader Propositions for Non-Fascist Living.

In November, I will also be co-convening a week of talks, training sessions and discussions at BAK in Utrecht under the title Deserting from the Culture Wars.