1. What are (were) the most exciting and powerful examples of collective organization in art?
Marina Grzinic:I can put forward four examples that also mark four different forms of collective organization in art and that bridge three different socio-political and historical periods: the socialist ex-Yugoslavia, post-socialist Slovenia, and the neoliberal global capitalist reality of the present.Going back to the 1970s and 1980s, I would emphasize two different examples. One took place within the Croatian art scene (ex-Yugoslavia), where in the 1970s an important post-hippy/pre-punk conceptually built artistic organization or community was established. I am referring to the Basement artist working community. It really translates this way from the Serbo-Croatian: radna zajednica umjetnika Podrum. Basement implied that artists are workers, especially those whom this status was denied by the socialist ideology.
They were also conceptual artists, and they were involved in the new art practices movement of the time in Croatia. Some names at the core of Basementfor example, Mladen Stilinovicare very well known today. This was an important project that connected countercultural activities and conceptual art.In the 1980s in Ljubljana, Slovenia (ex-Yugoslavia), we had another movement, based on punk ideals and the power of subculture, that was known as the Ljubljana subculture or alternative movement. It was very much connected with the gay coming out scene and clubbing culture of the time. Parallel to it, in the 1980s, NSK (Neue Slowenische Kunsta new Slovenian art collective that consisted of the music group Laibach, the fine arts group IRWIN, and the theatre group known mostly through the theater director Dragan Zivadinovwas being established. In the 1980s, NSK started with a political art project that unmasked the totalitarian ideology. Socialism regulates first and foremost the space of the social through direct control and subordination.
In capitalism, this direct control is camouflaged through the art market.The third example is situated in the 1990s. It is the squatting of an empty barrack military complex of the ex-Yugoslav army in the centre of Ljubljana when the army left Slovenia in 1991. This squatting happened in the center of Ljubljana, when art and cultural groups entered the army barracks on Metelkova Street. It was named Metelkova Net, but soon it renamed itself MetelkovaCity.The collective art and social organization that was established in the post-socialist period figured itself as a city within the citya powerful paradigm at the time. Metelkovas status vis-à-vis the city administration and the state has still not been clarified after more than fifteen years of its persistent existence.Today I would offer our platform, REARTIKULACIJA, as the fourth example. REARTIKULACIJA is wholly situated, sad to say, in the neoliberal global capitalism of todays Slovenia. (If you think of these four cases as a specific genealogy, then you will also get a sense of the over-rapid conversion of socialism into capitalism.)
In Slovenia, which is over-exploited by the neoliberal capitalist economy and ideology, REARTIKULACIJA, as ajournal and online platform https://www.reartikulacija.org/english.html, was initiated in 2007 by four members (Leban, Kleindienst, Passoni and me). From the very beginning it aimed for political alliances with important lesbian and queer positions in Ljubljana, as well with writers, activists, and artists from the former Yugoslav republics who are capable of a direct political rereading of global capitalism and the EU.REARTIKULACIJA is not a ghetto of oppositional forces but a force of contamination in between art and politics, a kind of interval activist and theoretical space that wants to establish a division, separation, a difference in art, political and social, while rearticulating the possibility of changing the neoliberal capitalist logic, which today yields only three clear processes. To quote Achille Mbembe, these are necro-politics, necro-capitalism, and necro-economy.
2. Is there any perspective for artists, as the most precarious producers, to build new sustainable organizations that would oppose the profit-driven logic of the market and the economization of cultural production?
Grzinic: One perspective to be endorsed in order to embark on the vision that you are proposing is to stop thinking of ourselves as artists, to ask for a new agency or definition that says that artists have first and foremost to be political subjects to have any relevance today. This requires that we strongly engage in the process of de-linking ourselves from speculative stories of arts and artists as geniuses, creators, etc.that is, the idea that we are in the world only to develop inventive actions and give a free rein to the imagination. Actually, I can affirm that contemporary art and culture is a very oppressive system of rules and codes, trends and representational forms that are not at all invisible, but on the contrary clearly visible and experienced. We have to de-link ourselves from these formats. One way is to develop a clear agenda that visibly reconnects art and power mechanisms through processes of past and present colonial histories and neocolonial realities.
3.How is the struggle of artists related to general issues of social and political struggle? How can they be made to connect with each other?
Grzinic: One has to focus, as Sefik Tatlic says, on the very nature of the sovereignty of the capitalist state, on its truth. This means unmasking or exposing the hideous democratic/consumerist ritual as a totalitarian ritual. Such a stance also requires that we break completely with what I call the privileged position of alienated subjectivity as a supposedly politically subversive position. Alienated subjectivity (as manifested by a misfit member of a subculture or some drug-addicted celebrity everybody loves to hate) is mainstream today. I think that we have to be clear that alienated subjectivity legitimizes itself through a right to choose and presents not an alien but a sensualised alienated position to the point that it becomes an attractive, stylish, alienated subjectivity. The position of the alien is not an embellished position; it does not represent some decorative, romanticized role that should be coveted; above all, it is not an alienated figure, but a real political subject.It is also important that we be ready to dismantle a process that is becoming a reality here and now with its disastrous effects of deregulation.This state of things was recently precisely formulated by Angela Mitropoulos on firstname.lastname@example.org. I will simply quote her: If there is a sense in which it becomes important to look again (and differently) at the history of the New Deal/Keynsianism, its in the ways environmental theology will be hitched to attach to a moral economy of forced labour schemes, saving, deferring, postponed or delayed, demand management. Prepare for a more enthusiastic cycle of puritanism, normfare, belt-tightening, heteronormative productivism. But to be very blunt those who enthuse about the return of Keynsianism, and calls for re-regulation, or some New-New Deal, or who regard the problem in the terms of fictive, unproductive, or parasitic capital are either stupid, or worse.
4. What kind of political organization do cultural workers need today? Trade unions? Soviets? Art movements? Networks?
Is it time to think about something radically different from all that we have known before?
Grzinic: I do not know if this is something radically new, but as we are living in a time of de-politicized politics, obscurantist preaching, moralization, in a future that is already operative, I would definitely say that one of the most urgent tasks for any new organization or collectivity is to mark out a clear political position within the social and political. I want a unmasking of the power relations, of the regulation (which also takes the form of total deregulation) imposed by capital. Further, it is necessary to insist even more than ever on the political grounds of divisions within the artistic space, to form alliances but through a clear political stance. This is possible to build only through a precise analysis of capitals power and economic relations. I am in favor of a political organization that exposes and rearticulates its political demands constantly, that does not desert the space of the political and the social in the name of a fake unity, while capital exploits and expropriates our lives and rights constantly.
5.To put it more simply, what is that artists can and must do together?
Grzinic: First, we should be involved in a process termed by Walter Mignolo (and developed by Madina Tlostanova and others) the decolonization of knowledgethat is, we have to de-link ourselves from the history of colonialism and slavery. The wealth of the EUs core members is founded on colonialism and slavery. On the other hand, it is necessary to de-link ourselves not only from an ideology but even more from economic wealth based on racism.
Three major agendas of work can connect us: analyses of the financialization of capital, of the military industry and neoliberal freedom, and of Quijano’s coloniality of power. The last presents a unity of the production of race (and its subsequent racism) and modern Eurocentric epistemology. We should seek to de-colonize them both.
Or, as Sebastjan Leban has stated, it is necessary to dismantle the new era of neoliberalism, which upgrades the current market ideology policy with a supposedly socialist logic of operation which is, however, not socialist, but exclusively elite- and class-oriented. It is time to start a new class struggle that will not seek differences (racial, gender, religious, etc.) within itself, but one that will rather, pace Leban, be able to localize the hegemonic structure of oppression, increased class discrimination, and social poverty produced by capital.
MG, Ljubljana, 13.11.20081.
Marina Grzinic, philosopher and artist, editor of newspaper ReArticulatsija, professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna and researcher at the Institute of Philosophy at the Research Center of the Slovenian Academy of Science and Arts, Ljubljana, Slovenia.