Speaking Volumes

Screen Shot 2019-10-28 at 18.47.12

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!