Everyday life provides us with a mass of attractive constructs of itself, a kind of defensive army that blocks our access to the space where the quotidian would really be – or is – unbearable. On the level of routine, habitual security, even if we position ourrselves “on the left” – capitalism continues to function as a theoretical crutch, an abstraction that allows us to explain and rationalize reality, which is absurd in and of itself. On the level of political opposition, reality is ritualized, transformed in theatrical gestures of repeating self-representation.Its apogee is a peaceful demonstration, an essentially sacral space, whose limited and strictly reglemented time allows the individual to express him-herself. Here, he-she can say what exactly he-she considers to be shit. Yet from the very beginning, this “what exactly” is kept from ever reaching its referent by the police-force that accompanies the demonstration, surrounding it from all four sides.
Escorted triumphally by the authorities (as a convoy), the peaceful demonstration is a travesty of the collective autonomous subject, which can only enjoy its freedom to the extent that it understands its limitations. Blocked from all sides, captive, this active movement must consider everything outside of itself as its mortal enemy, particularly its closest neighbour, the silent man with the gun, the living wall. Behind this wall stand the government offices, generously decorated with outdoor advertising, demonstrating a reality of alienated consumption, whose cheap glamour conceals a reality of alienated production as though there was no alternative.
Nevertheless, kept to its own limits, the peaceful demonstration is a space of extreme tension, saturated with affective energy, which connects its participants into an united community. It thrives on collective exitement, easy ecstasy, and on the illusion that the revolutions phantom will never come to pass, but will be instantly transformed to a slogan. This, in turn, allows the demonstration to reproduce itself continuously as a peaceful act.
The peaceful demonstration is actually a metaphor for any alternative community, or, to be more precise, the forms a community can take in the contemporary social situation. This state of affairs seems so intolerable because it how it is, when it actually could (and should) be different: to be intolerable means to demand change. The most unbearable thing is that the borders of the existing community’s autonomy are strictly given and practically impenetrable. The autonomous zone will remain as a “ghetto” until the concept of autonomy is reconsidered in general with reference to the other, extremely segregated, segmented “zones” of nео-liberal space, a space in which everyone has the right to short-circuit, even within the limits of a community.
Under these circumstances, the art community is simply compelled to live and reproduce itself as an autonomous “zone” in its spatial sense, namely as something limited from the very beginning. On the one hand, it is limited by market laws that are simultaneously “natural” and totally unnatural, both inducing condition and absolute obstacle of artistic autonomy. Like a parasite, the community feeds on this contradiction: despite its impossible reality, art cultivates its own impossibility in a self-reproducing illusion of unity.On the other hand, the art community is limited to art itself. And even if the coordinates of this space actually mark a wide field, this field is still restricted to the realm of aesthetics. Within this field, any free gesture is possible as long as it is a gesture of self-expression, which is one of the liberal freedoms. Objectively, this gesture is irrelevant.
Essentially, art represents and enriches the images of capitalist society, which it serves and reproduces in any of all possible cases. The liberal conception of art’s autonomy goes back to the ideology of the nuclear, alienated subject who asserts its own exclusiveness, as long as it not called into question. In this sense, art as an autonomous “zone” is in the nature of things. Perhaps under these circumstance, it becomes a tautology, robbing itself of any meaning.
Still, the very simple but almost unsolvable question whether free action is possible in an unfree society becomes more and more significant, especially to the artist, since he-she will need to deal with this reality, which provides him-her with an unlimited set of means for demanding a change. For the artist, this reality becomes a creative material. When the goals of his/her work overstep the borders of his personal engagement, then the questions of market restrictions and the convertibility of the artistic product disappear by themselves. When all is said and done, it is down to the artists good will to overcome the aesthetic borders, and to leave the limits of its own autonomy. In other words, he must abandon the liberal freedom that forces him/her to define himself as an “artist” and pushes him/her into the frameworks of this identity.
No action and no zone can be free in a world where at least one person is not free. In this case, one objectively cannot stop speaking about exploitation, even if one is conscious of one’s own exclusiveness, even if one believes the illusion of collective albeit limited opposition to the status-quo. Free action is an action which only aspires to freedom, to universal emancipation. Global capitalism does not leave any legitimate zone for such action, allocating revolution a place near to itself, keeping it within the safe confines of a convenient theoretical discourse or a pleasant collective illusion.
As an active subject of history, the artist is strong enough to abandon these given conditions. No matter what his/her creative imagination produces: there is always a utopia and the risk of its realization. Revolution as an art project is a very real alternative to the revolution as a theoretical construct or a pleasant illusion. Its utopia and risk are the loss of the limited autonomy and “artistic” identity in favour of active political action, from within the aesthetic realm but directed at the social sphere. Concrete, irrevocable, negative realism, social in the highest sense.