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.

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Aesthetic Cinemarxism

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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.

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.

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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.

Future Caucus

On May 20, Eric de Bruyn and I are presenting a “Future Caucus” as part of the Van Abbemuseum’s ten-day programme Becoming More.

Not too long ago, Fredric Jameson’s phrase that “it has become easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism” was widely quoted and taken as proof of a decline—or indeed collapse—of the utopian imagination, which Jameson himself has analysed so compellingly in its literary (science-fiction) manifestations. Today, there is an abundance of neofuturisms, futurologies, speculative philosophies and accelerationist scenarios. What seems at stake here is a fundamental split between a “capitalist realism” that encapsulates the future in an ever-expanding process of accumulation, and a tendency that in the face of a looming planetary catastrophe attempts to imagine another future, which can be conceptualized as the liberation of human potential or, alternatively as the proliferation of posthuman alterities.

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The tropes of “the end of history” and  “the end of the future” are now replaced on the one hand by crisis-laden motif of the “end of the earth” or the  “end of labour”, and on the other hand by a return to the future through a series of recent, themed exhibitions, festivals and biennials as well as a resurgence of artificial intelligence and automation in the popular imagination. Despite this return to the future, the temporal horizon of our present moment is perhaps more aptly characterized by the “shrinking future” of just-in-time production, risk management, high-frequency trading, and the futures market. “Speculative” artistic and intellectual practices seem little inclined to problematize their implication in a speculative market whose movement is marked precisely by a perpetual extension of the present and a colonization of the future.

The ‘future caucus’ is convened to address the following questions: Could it be that the total privileging of a radically different future (itself a modernist move) over various pasts and presents is not itself a dangerous impoverishment? What can be learned from historical futurities and potentialities? Do we need to distinguish between a return to the futurity of utopian thought and revivals of a specifically modernist, utopian imagination? Is there a repressed content of utopian thought to be discovered that might speak to our current predicament?

Speakers and moderators are McKenzie Wark, Maurizio Lazzarato, Ana Teixeira Pinto, Diederich Diederichsen, Marina Vishmidt, Doreen Mende and Kodwo Eshun. There are also pleasing connections with some of the other days; on the 21st, for instance,  Graeme Thomson and Silvia Maglioni will present a session of their Cinema Tarot.

Image:  Joachim Hellwig / Claus Ritter, Liebe 2002, DEFA futurum, 1972.

Van Oldenborgh in Venice

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You’d never know it from the official announcements and press releases sent out by the so-called Mondriaan Fund, which carefully omit any mention of my name, but I contributed an essay to the catalogue of Wendelien van Oldenborgh’s exhibition in the Dutch Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, Cinema Olanda. The biennale and hence Wendelien’s show have just opened, though I won’t be able to visit until later this year.

Photo by Vivian Ziherl.