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Neolithic Childhood


Artist Matthijs de Bruijne once paid the Van Abbemuseum the highest compliment when he characterized it as one of the few museums that are worthy of being critiqued; with most institutions and their projects, it seems pointless to even engage in a critical exchange. Looking not only at the Netherlands but at Europe overall, the group of institutions that truly matter, that can be engaged with critically and worked with productively, is not exactly enormous. The Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin is perhaps foremost among those. I’ve spoken at HKW symposia and conferences a number of times over the years, and it’s a serious annoyance when I miss one of their exhibitions because my commitments don’t allow me to visit Berlin at the right time.

The upcoming exhbition Neolithische Kindheit, which is on view from April 13, focuses on the time around the year 1930 as a period of crisis when, “[for] the artistic avantgardes in Europe, the contemporary condition also became problematic; the impositions of the present led artists to break out into an imaginary realm of the archaic and the exotic— seeking out alternative origins and points of departure for humanity. […] Taking its cue from texts by the extraacademic art historian Carl Einstein, an exhibition and conference will thematize the upheavals, openings, and contradictions that became manifest in art and the humanities from the 1920s into the 1940s. The ‘Neolithic Childhood’—a concept used by Carl Einstein to characterize his understanding of Hans Arp—seemed to be a helpful fiction through which to critique the present.”

The show has been curated by Anselm Franke and Tom Holert, with an advisory board composed of Irene Albers, Susanne Leeb, Jenny Nachtigall and Kerstin Stakemeier. I contributed two short texts on the subjects of autonomy and myth(ology) to the publication, and I will participate in the conference that takes place on May 26-27.

On a somewhat related note, I’ve posted my 2016 Texte zur Kunst piece “Returns of the Stone Age” on the “Articles” page, which I will try to update more generally in the near future.

Image: Brassaï, from Graffiti de la Série VIII: La Magie (1955).


Texte zur Kunst no. 109: Stanley Brouwn

Texte zur Kunst no. 109 (March 2018) starts with a thematic section that “considers art’s relation to rules — or rather, the exceptions to them that art and its agents seem to claim. How can we speak of rules in the context of art, where transgressions are lauded even while traditional hierarchies (class, gender, race, sexuality) continue to assert their influence? And would we demand anything less of art than the promise of disobedience, rule breaking both in terms of formal restrictions and normative regulations? Therefore, in this issue we ask: by what rules does the art world play, and how are transgressions made visible/invisible therein?”


My own contribution to this issue is a review, “The Distance Between Stanley Brouwn and Yourself,” which discusses three Stanley Brouwn exhibitions that were put on in the months following his death. On the basis of these shows, I reflect on the artist’s legacy and on the critical and scholarly perspectives that strike me as valid and productive.

Meanwhile, TzK has put my essay on Günther Förg from the previous issue online. As this essay also discusses the role played by Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum in the reception of his work, as well as the current crisis of this institution, it deserves an update now that a farcical chapter has been added with a petition clamoring for Beatrix Ruf’s reinstatement as director. I will have a few things to say about this petition, which had been in the making since december and failed to get any real traction, in the updated Dutch translation of the text that will be published this spring.

By then, the Stedelijk’s Günther Förg retrospective will also be on view. As the original version of the essay was written for the catalogue of that exhibtion, only to be withdrawn in the face of populist ineptness and paranoid censorship masquerading as editing, things wil have come full circle.

Photo: Installation view of the Stanley Brouwn exhibition mens loopt op planeet aarde at the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam. The caption of another installation view that accompanies my review in TzK erroneously says “Stedelijk Museum Schiedam, Amsterdam.” Obviously this museum is in Schiedam, not Amsterdam; it is not to be confused with the more famous Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. “Stedelijk Museum” simply means municipal museum, and there’s a bunch of those in the Netherlands, even though many (including the Stedelijk in Amsterdam) are no longer truly municipal.

Texte zur Kunst no. 108: The Idiom and Contemporaneity of Günther Förg

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Texte zur Kunst no. 108 (December 2017), which has been guest-edited by Susanne Leeb and Miriam Thomas, is out and looks very promising. It is decidated to the idiom(s) of art:

In art historical and art critical texts, the concept of “idiom” – an expression or mode of speaking that cannot be translated – is frequently used, even if it is rarely spoken of as such. TZK issue 108 explores how the idea of “idiom” might allow us to coherently engage with art’s disparate materialist and iconographic connections at a time when the vitality of historical Western-centric cannons are fading (see: Documenta 14) and the traditional relations within and among artistic systems are ever less self-evident. The “Idiom” issue of TZK asks: What languages does art speak?

My essay “Modernist Memories: On the Contemporaneity of Günther Förg” discusses the ambiguous and often contradictory reception of Förg’s reuse of forms associated with modernist idioms, in his paintings, photographs and wall paintings and installations of the 1980s and 1990s. Analysing curatorial and critical responses to his work in the Netherlands during this period, the text also discusses the current state of an institution strongly associated with Förg’s career, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, to ask the question what kind of contemporaneity Förg’s work stood and stands for, and what “contemporary art” has become in the course of the past couple of decades.

Image: photo from Förg’s 1988 Barcelona Pavillion series. Unfortunately, in the print issue a different image has recieved the wrong caption: the 1981 “Wandmalerei mit 2 Fotografien“ is incorrectly ascribed to Galerie Barbara Grässlin in Frankfurt, whereas the correct location is Galerie Rudiger Schöttle, Munich. This will be corrected in the online version.

Aesthetic Cinemarxism


After a lengthy gestation process, Samir Gandesha and Johan Hartle’s volume Aesthetic Marx finally sees the light of day this month, courtesy of Bloomsbury (of Harry Potter fame). The book sees aesthetic questions—in the fundamental sense of issues pertaining to the body and perception, appearance and abstraction—as inherent in Marx’s work and indeed as central to it. I contributed the essay “Filming Capital: On Cinemarxism in the Twenty-first Century,” in which I discuss projects by filmmakers and artists including Sekula/Burch, Alexander Kluge, Farocki/Ehmann, Hito Steyerl and Zachary Formwalt.



In late September, the Volkbühne in Berlin was briefly occupied. For the web site of Texte zur Kunst, I wrote a short piece analysing some of the media discourse surrounding the occupation, and sounding out the implications of the action itself and its reception.

New Left Review no. 106: The Juridical Economy

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Issue no. 106 of New Left Review (July-August 2017) not only contains an exchange between Nancy Fraser and Luc Boltanski and Arnaud Esquerre on value in contemporary capitalism, but also my article “The Juridical Economy,” which is a significantly extended and developed version of my essay “Legal Forms, Value-Forms, Forms of Resistance,” which was commissioned by Contour Biennale.

Image: Forensic Architecture’s reconstruction of the murder of Halit Yozgat in Kassel (2006), commissioned by the tribunal NSU-Komplex aufklösen/HKW/Documenta 14.

Wer macht die Nazis?

This summer, a German group of artists and writers calling themselves Eurogruppe published the first issue of a zine titled Intercity (a self-described “Zeitschrift für Föderalismus und Polyamorie”), for which they translated my 2016 e-flux journal essay “Who Makes the Nazis?” The magazine is apparently distributed for free within certain networks in Germany. The editorial address is listed as BRD Exil, c/o CONRADI, Rue de la Régence 67, 1000 Brussels. Not much seems to be going on at https://eurogruppe.be yet.


The essay was originally published in e-flux journal in October 2016, so still in the pre-Trumpocene. I was guest-editor for this issue, titled “Perfect Storm,” and on September 30 I sent in a draft for the editorial, which started as follows: “On November 8, 2016, Donald J. Trump will win the American presidential election.” I was told that this would never happen, and the editorial was published without the offending opening salvo.

In an accelerating catastrophe, texts responding to political urgencies can date quickly. “Who Makes the Nazis?” is no exception, yet like the “Perfect Storm” issue as a whole it still provides elements for a fundamental analysis of the rightward drift of American and European politics. “The Powers of the False” from Texte zur Kunst is a more recent sequel of sorts.