#4 International Now-Here


Olesya Turkina, Petersburg

Posted in #4 International Now-Here | 0 comments

Which political role can feminism play in the contemporary world?
Which strategies of solidarity between women of different social, national, and ethnic backgrounds are possible today?


Feminism was activated in Russian during the early Perestroika, as the social, political and aesthetic orientation-points were shifting totally. On the one hand, the notion of feminism became one of the fashionable “trademark brands” of the new homo sovieticus, reborn immediately under the influence of Western democracy, which brought both freedom and Tampax to Russia . On the other hand, it became clear that feminism was not only in superficial demand, but that it was an integral part of the Western intellectual discourse that was being introduced into Russia at the time. In the late 1980s, as the first feminist conferences and exhibitions were taking place, Victor Mazin and I organized the show “The Textual Art of Leningrad” in Moscow, dedicated to Derrida’s “veil”; in Leningrad , we curated “Women in Art”. One might also remember how stockings were given away at the Bronze Horseman, Petersburg ‘s central monument. In this total mixture, one could also hear invocations like the one that astonished me when I visited the Fifth International Congress of Woman Art Historians in Hamburg in 1991: it was fashionable to address “our Eastern-European sisters”, only recently liberated from Communist captivity. At this point, many saw feminism as something quite aggressive and bellicose. But as strange as it may seem, it was also sexy. This corresponded to an overall feeling that was in the air. The sexuality of feminism conveyed revolutionary drive and fearlessness. Shocking the public with its directness, the first advertisement of hygiene products was very physical and even demonstratively seductive: the eroticism of a child, suddenly discovering sexual difference. In the late 1980s, it seemed that the “new Amazons” were fearlessly and cheerfully sweeping up the leftover principles of Soviet patriarchy. Seen as one of the most effective forces in intellectual life and politics, feminism carried a great deal of utopian hope.


Yet by the mid-1990s, these hopes had collapsed. The consumption machine had crushed the Amazons. The new Russian woman was one of the most important target groups. The market of long legs, pouting lips, perky breasts and buns expanded to hundreds of millions of former Soviet citizens. Simple-heartedly, its marketplace resounded with cries of one the most understandable principles of capitalism: invest in your body by consuming beauty products; these products aren’t only the most affordable investment; they are also the products closest to you. The first TV shows “for women” began to appear, where Maria Arbatova opposed both “traditional” Soviet values as well as the new capitalist way of life. But chaos and employment were spreading, and beauty-salons seemed a far more effective means in the struggle for survival than political demonstrations. Politico-economic stabilization, however, has brought on a new wave of Russian patriarchal discourse. It has been taking place under the advertising slogan “our mom’s so smart”. Smart mom feeds the family with chicken-broth cubes by “Knorr” and does the laundry with “Tide”. Mom is the perfect consumer; she redeems her natural fertility by becoming an insatiable consumer cannibal.


Do you feel that qualities like “vulnerability” will die out as unnecessary capacities?


“Men can only be free if women are free.” Today, this famous axiom by Mao Tse-tung seems more current than ever. Contemporary post-industrial society no longer requires the division of responsibility according to “male” and “female”. The new technologies of the post-Fordian production line no longer require specific “male” qualities of the worker; “house and hearth” have been saturated with smart domestic appliances capable of executing all forms of domestic labor. These innovations were supposed to liberate us from the model of patriarchy, in which the man earns a living while the woman serves him. Nevertheless, notwithstanding the fact that men only rarely equate their lovers to housewives, woman’s journals cradle and lull us with their bed-time-stories of a “perfect union”, in which “feminine duties” are reduced to making the body seductive (with skin-creams, scented baths, massages, or diet pills…), or to producing the “nest warmth” of the home, suffused by the aroma of fresh-baked vanilla pastry.


How can feminism convince human beings of both genders of the need for emancipation and of the benefits of real freedom?


Feminism is capable of liberating human beings (women as well as men) from the demeaning choice of being either a master or a slave. Being different without oppressing or being oppressed.


Does love have any political potential in your opinion? Do you think that there is anything specific in the feminine experience of love?


The political potential of love consists in the personal resistance of which only lovers are capable. Losing yourself in your beloved, refusing all norms and prejudices, and in doing so, breaking free of the dominant order, then finding enough strength to keep from drowning in your beloved’s blinding image, only to be born again with all differences intact. It is only possible to love the Other, the Other in yourself. The lover can never be an obedient cog in the socio-political machine, controlled by the advertisements of insatiable consumption. She-he is an agent of more vital force, capable of smashing the cynical order of reality.

Read More

Elena Zdravomysleva, Petersburg

Posted in #4 International Now-Here | 0 comments

Which political role can feminism play in contemporary Russia?


In Russia , like in other countries with transitional economies, the emergence of weak political feminist groups runs parallel to the discursive backlash toward patriarchy. This backlash confirms archaic ideas of the rightness of the male and female; its public sexism and its dreary biologizations of sexual difference are followed by the legitimization of inequality. This is actually the arena in which “our” feminism currently operates. Our main goal is to explain why feminism is such a hobgoblin to Russian intellectuals. What are they so scared of? Why do they laugh feminism off so often, without even trying to understand what it’s all about…


Which strategies of solidarity between women of different social, national, and ethnic backgrounds are possible today?
Or is it better to shift our focus from the differences between men and women in order to address different universal features, such as political power-relations or social class?


I don’t think that it makes much sense to supply a universal answer to the quesiton of whether to give a priority to feminine solidarity or to any other kind of status-solidarity. I feel that solidarity “pulsates” in dependance of the social problems at hand. I immediately experience solidarity when women are prohibited from singing on a stage in some country because of their sex, when I hear people legitimizing rape, when I find out that a schoolteacher announces that girls are – by nature – less intelligent than boys, when girls are deprived of the chance for higher education some place in Central Asia… However, other contexts will activate other aspects of identity, leading to the solidarity of class, age etc.


Do you feel that qualities like “vulnerability” will die out as unnecessary capacities?


Understanding the Other, the ability to perform emotional labor, the ability to listen: are these weaknesses? Or strengths? If no one were to do this form of work, we would soon be left with nothing but a factory of robots in place of humanity… However, these qualities-resources can become hidden means of manipulation whenever they are declared as secondary, when they are not valued and rewarded according to achievement. Both men and women use the manipulative practices that you describe. Furthermore, they are used by underlings and all of those who are sure that they will be put down and shut up. The tactics of manipulation allow you to reach your goal in a society that will fail to hear you otherwise.


Or is it possible to engage in a certain revolutionary politics of vulnerability?


Of course, these are beautiful words. The revolutionary politics of the weaker sex? The demonstrative vulnerability of geisha-girls and spies? Weakness as an explosive strategy? Having been nominated as the weaker and gentler sex, women either violently reject weakness to step forward with emancipatory pretences, or admit that they are weak, propagating the slogan “You’re the head, and I’m the neck…”


How can feminism convince human beings of both genders of the need for emancipation and of the benefits of real freedom?


Feminism’s point of departure is the fact that patriarchy’s “treasures” are not accessible. The hopes for a masculine protector or an economic provider are ephemeral. Still, the desire to be protected is an undying dream for most Russian women. But counting on help from the strong often leads to complete bankruptcy and collapse. With many of the weaker sex’s representatives, this is often the case. While economic and political fragmentation erase the hope for patriarchy’s benefits, they also preserve and heighten patriarchy’s ills, such as symbolic racism, chauvinism, violence, and dependence. In order to avoid them, we need to reach independence and equality. Of course, the choice is not a simple one to make. But who said that freedom is pleasure? “It’s better to be needed than to be free” – this is something I know from experience. A line from a children’s song. However, we can’t count on always being needed by someone. We only need ourselves…The advantage of freedom is the lack of deprivation and the gain of a readiness to cope with problematic situations on one’s own. But there are so many situations like these. What we actually need is a balance of economic and political freedom and emotional dependence, which is actually a part of any human existence’s base. This is why love is a dependency that should not be discarded.


Does love have any political potential in your opinion?
Do you think that there is anything specific in the feminine experience of love?


I find it difficult to talk about love in such categories. I think that love has many faces. Furthermore, the currency of love’s different forms varies according to the different phases of an individual’s life. It is extremely dangerous to politically manipulate emotions, which bring on collective passions, collective love, collective rage, and then, collective guilt, collective atonement… Love is a personal matter, but its political potential is dangerous…

Read More

Irina Aktyuganova, Petersburg

Posted in #4 International Now-Here | 0 comments

Which political role can feminism play in the contemporary world and in Russia specifically?
Which strategies of solidarity between women of different social, national, and ethnic backgrounds are possible today?
Or is it better to shift our focus from the differences between men and women in order to address different universal features, such as political power-relations or social class?


Feminism is fate. No matter how the circumstances of your life or your inner attitudes develop, feminism is something you can never ignore, once you have been drawn into its discourses. Feminism is struggle. And if we want to reach some positive goal in society and politics, we cannot make do without its intellectual and political successes, its potential possibilities, and, in the final analysis, without its experience. More concretely, for us, the feminist frontline has shifted, becoming internal. Hence, it runs through our heart and our minds. Our only hope for transmitting all that occurs on this inner line-of-conflict, our only means, our only medium is culture.

Read More

Keti Chukhrov, Moscow

Posted in #4 International Now-Here | 0 comments

Which political role can feminism play in the contemporary world?

The goal is not to achieve simply to achieve legal equality; instead, we need to transform the problem of sex, bringing it beyond the system of binary oppositions. In my opinion, feminism has a great future, since it has proven capable of not only opening discourses on gender and its socio-economic backdrop, but also touches upon an ontological problematique. By asking questions of the feminine sex, feminism also raises questions as to its various modes of co-existing with the masculine part of society. Is the woman really an Other in relation to the (masculine) Others? This is probably one of the most fundamental questions that feminism has been able to ask. For the woman has always been no more than a narrative: she could even be the central object of an artwork, but her ontological status of Otherness, as the existence of the Other, was displaced from society’s communications at large, only to surface briefly in the event of love, which, in turn, could only present itself as an artwork. A contemporary reposing of feminism’s question cannot be reduced to criticizing the masculine or criticizing the feminine. Communication needs to be re-marked in non-binary terms, as does the event that occurs when the two sexes meet, even in this meeting’s erotic option. This does not mean that communication needs to become unisexual or purely based in groups. Instead, it means that we need to get beyond the phantasmal sexual expectations associated with the Other.

Which strategies of solidarity between women of different social, national, and ethnic backgrounds are possible today? Or is it better to shift our focus from the differences between men and women in order to address different universal features, such as political power-relations or social class?

Are there any chances for feminine solidarity in contemporary Russia? I don’t think so. As paradoxical as it may sound, such possibilities were far more frequent during the Soviet period. In any case, even if the woman was a secondary part of society, the universalizing model of the homo sovieticus was still in effect as something she could share with men. Today, business (i.e. finance) serves as the symbolic model for reaching equality. Some say that during the post-Perestroika period, women received their independence, along with the right to self-determination and the right to display their own inventiveness. All of this may be true. However, if one examines the sources of the start-up capital in the feminine business-world, one sees that this capital was probably a gift , and what’s more, a gift presented by a man to a woman on the strength of her sexual characteristics and not her qualities as a business partner. To put it differently, woman’s business in Russia is still highly eroticized. In professional life, women are likely to exaggerate their feminine qualities, viewing other women as competitors. In this situation, there can hardly be any talk of solidarity as far as women are concerned.

Do you feel that qualities like “vulnerability” will die out as unnecessary capacities?

The qualities of vulnerability cannot die, since they are not sexuate qualities but psychological states. Nevertheless, weakness is a symbolic category well-suited to manipulative use by both women and men. In Russia , feminism is not only unacceptable to many men, but also seems intolerable to many women: men actually represent one of the most important stages of a woman’s formative process in both economic and social terms. It is interesting that – despite all of the nominal improvements – the woman is not capable of refusing her own phantasm, even (or because) it makes her an object, waiting for the man to present her with some selfless gift. This situation’s corruption does not lie in its expectation of such “alms”, but in that women come to expect this gift in the name of their sex; they are incapable of separating their persona from its sexuate projections. In other words, the woman defines herself by cultivating her sexuate traits. Her sex is the motor of her personal semiotic machine.

Or is it possible to engage in a certain revolutionary politics of vulnerability?

Revolutionary politics as well as any form of protest can be constructed according to any semiotic model. The image of vulnerability is one such model. However, this image will hardly be feminine. If it is, we will no longer be talking about politics. I am afraid that politics cauterize or burn out any feminine plasticity completely. This is not because they elevate masculinity above all else. Instead, politics do not tolerate the intimate or the sacrificial image of the Other. In fact, sacrifice is something apolitical. Of course, this brings Antigone to mind. Does she carry out the burial of her brother as a political or a familial claim? Is her protest political, or does it attempt to extrapolate the essence of femininity and every-day feminism, long since realized in the framework of rituals? Unfortunately, this question demands a more extensive answer. As far as revolutionary politics are concerned, it is only possible to play out the revolution by counterpoising a given quality to the system at hand, but not through strategic methods of re-politicization. This counterpoise might consist of becoming vulnerable, becoming an animal, a woman, a bum etc. Yet these have little to do with the “politics of weakness”, which are an oxymoron.

How can feminism convince human beings of both genders of the need for emancipation and of the benefits of real freedom?

The possibility for liberation is something that begins in our minds. The relationship between the sexes, their erotic conflict, is based upon a phantasm. This phantasm is fed by narratives (cinema, literature), history and culture. (There is also dreaming: in dreams, the problem of sex exposes itself in all of its nudity). This is why I can only think of feminist liberation in a futurological key. In the first place, it would lie in freeing ourselves of the phantasm that produces the well-worn consumer clichés of physicality, speech, language, communication, and, finally, socio-economic relationships. Yet this is actually rather utopian, since “liberation” from the phantasm presupposes being freed from the greater part of desire. But desire is actually contemporary consumer-society’s main trick, since its satisfaction creates the illusion of immanent, authentic freedom.

Does love have any political potential in your opinion?

Do you think that there is anything specific in the feminine experience of love?

Love is an ontological problem. It only becomes a problem of gender or politics later on in the game. This is why love is so complex. We should remember how often narratives on love are intertwined with death: the aesthetics of love are thanatographic. In this sense, politics plays the role of an obstacle. Creon’s political demands on Antigone are more than justified. After all, he is trying to keep society’s peace. When Antigone carries out the ritual of burying her brothers, she is not motivated by love, but by a sense of obligation. She sacrifices love in the name of a ritual that serves an older society and its political system, its ancien regime. In the cases of both Creon and Antigone, politics bury love. Creon suppresses his love for his niece in favor of his responsibility to society at large. Antigone’s fulfillment of the ritual burial of her criminal brothers is – in a sense – also a political act, but it aims at an electorate that has already passed away. In both cases, the projections of love and eros undergo a drastic castration. Is love possible as something that takes place among couples or families, but that is “open toward society”? Probably. But I am afraid that such descriptions are very similar to the notion of a “civil society”. While the civil society is a wonderful institution, it is based on the Kantian ethical paradigm, which is only relevant thanks to its exclusion of any erotic ecstasy.

Nevertheless, communality based on love is possible through an attentive understanding of Christianity (cf. Slavoj Zizek, “13 Attempts on Lenin”). I do not think that the everyday experience of the relationship between people – especially if it is only based on respecting the Other – has much to do with love. The experience of “stepping out to meet the Other” is not that easy, since help often requires the sacrifice of personal interest. Human love – though virtual and universal – immediately constructs a hierarchy of greater and lesser intensities. The different intensities in the relationships to objects that come from differing subject are actually what compose love’s most painful problem. Only god can love everyone in equal measure. When it comes to the question of extrapolating love to society, political honesty and revolutionary ideals don’t help much. Let us at least remember the excellent film “The Communist” or Ostrovosky’s novel “How the Steel was Tempered”: like many other similar narratives, they are talking about real physical sacrifice and heroic self-effacement. And yes, this is probably love. Only it has very little to do with sex or gender, not to mention coitus.

Read More

Jacques Derrida // The New International

Posted in #4 International Now-Here | 0 comments

“The time is out of joint”: time is disarticulated, dislocated, dislodged, time is run down, on the run and run down, deranged, both out of order, and mad. “The time is out of joint.” Theatrical speech, Hamlet’s speech, Hamlet’s speech before the theater o f the world, of history, and of politics. The age is off its hinges. Everything, beginning with time, seems out of kilter, unjust, dis-adjusted. The world is going very badly, it wears as it grows, as the Painter also says at the beginning of Timon of Athens (which is Marx’s play, is it not). For, this time, it is a painter’s speech, as if he were speaking of a spectacle or before a tableau: “How goes the world? It wears, sir, as it grows”.

Read More

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels /// The Expansion of World Capital

Posted in #4 International Now-Here | 0 comments

The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere. The bourgeoisie has, through its exploitation of the world market, given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. To the great chagrin of reactionaries, it has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood. All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilized nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the production of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations. And as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature.

From the Communist Manifesto, https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto/index.htm

Read More

Vladimir I. Lenin /// Russian Resolution

Posted in #4 International Now-Here | 0 comments

At the Third Congress, in 1921, we adopted a resolution on the organizational structure of the Communist Parties and on the methods and content of their activities. The resolution is an excellent one, but it is almost entirely Russian, that is to say, everything in it is based on Russian conditions. This is its good point, but it is also its failing. It is its failing because I am sure that no foreigner can read it. I have read it again before saying this. In the first place, it is too long, containing fifty or more points. Foreigners are not usually able to read such things. Secondly, even if they read it, they will not understand it because it is too Russian. Not because it is written in Russian—it has been excellently translated into all languages—but because it is thoroughly imbued with the Russian spirit. And thirdly, if by way of exception some foreigner does understand it, he cannot carry it out.

Vladimir Lenin. Five Years Of The Russian Revolution And The Prospects Of The World Revolution. Report To The Fourth Congress Of The Communist International, November 13, 1922 . https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1922/nov/04b.htm

Read More

Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari /// Now-here

Posted in #4 International Now-Here | 0 comments

Philosophy takes the relative deterritorialization of capital to the absolute; it makes it pass over the plane of immanence as movement of the infinite and sup­presses it as internal limit, turns it back against itself so as to summon forth a new earth, a new people. But in this way it arrives at the nonpropositional form of the concept in which communication, ex­change, consensus, and opinion vanish entirely. It is therefore closer to what Adorno called “negative dialectic” and to what the Frankfurt School called “utopian.” Actually, utopia is what links philosophy with its own epoch. In each case, it is with utopia that philosophy becomes political and takes the criticism of its own time to its highest point. Utopia does not split off from infinite movement: etymologica1ly it stands for absolute deterritorialization but always at the critical point at which it is connected with the present relative milieu, and espe­cially with the forces stifled by this milieu, Erewhon, the word used by Samuel Butler, refers not only to no-where but also to now-here. What matters is not the supposed distinction between utopia and scientific socialism but the different types of utopia, one of them being revolution. In utopia (as in philosophy) there is always the risk of a restoration, and sometimes a proud affirmation, of transcendence, so that we need to distinguish between authoritarian utopias, or utopias of transcendence, and immanent, revolutionary, libertarian utopias.

Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, “What is Philosophy?”, New York : Columbia University Press 1994, p. 100

Read More

Sarat Maharaj // In Other’s Words (Interview with Daniel Birnbaum)

Posted in #4 International Now-Here | 0 comments

THAT SARAT MAHARAJ IS A BIT TOO INTELLIGENT for the art world, as a friend of mine recently claimed, I cannot accept. Without the presence of a few minds like his, the whole business would be just too dull. A biographical remark in a recent publication notes that the South African-born art historian, based in London since 1976, “has lectured and published throughout the world on cultural translation and difference. He is an authority on the work of Richard Hamilton, Marcel Duchamp, and James Joyce, and his experimental writings include essays on textile art, sound work [Maharaj’s “Xeno-sonics”] and visual theory constructions [the essay “Monkeydoodle”].” The contibutor’s note doesn’t mention his incredibly articulate manner. The pleasure I get out of listening to Maharaj is always countered by the depressing realization that I will never handle the English language–or any other–with such precision.

I met up with Maharaj at Berlin’s Humboldt-Universitat, where he became the first Rudolf Arnheim Professor of Art History last summer. He is spending a semester away from London’s Goldsmiths College, where he has taught art history and theory over the last decade. His seminars in Berlin are already famous, attended not only by academics in the city but by critics, architects, and artists as well. On the Thursday evening that I sat in on his lively class, two of the fastest talkers in the business, architect Rem Koolhaas and curator Hans-Ulrich Obrist, bombarded the audience with more information than a university student typically receives in a semester. In another seminar, Maharaj discussed problems that originate in the analytical philosophy of science and branch out into domains as various as cognitive biology, the writings of Marcel Duchamp, and globalist economics. The author of such essays as “The Congo is Flooding the Acropolis: Black Art and Orders of Difference” (1991) and “Perfidious Fidelity: The Untranslatability of the Other” (1994), Maharaj has recently left the semi-obscure confines of advanced critical theory to join the group of curators assisting Okwui Enwezor in preparing and www Documenta11, which opens in Kassel this June. (The art historian has devoted a seminar titled “Thinking Documenta and Doing Documenta” to creating a reflective space for the critical assessment of this mega-event.) This year will also see the publication of two new books by Maharaj: an extensive collection of essays designed by Ecke Bonk and given the Joycean title Works in Progress: Experiments in Think-speak-write Sequences 1 (INIVA) and A Strife of Tongues: Richard Hamilton/Marcel Duchamp/James Joyce (Typosophic Society), which Hamilton is designing. Maharaj’s theoretical competence, combined with his willingness to bring the concepts of cultural, diversity and difference to a more public forum, makes him a key intellectual voice on the Continent today.

Read More

Olesya Turkina, Petersburg

Posted in #4 International Now-Here | 0 comments

1. How important is it to appeal to the Communist roots of globalization today?

Communism and globalism are two myths, one of which died before our very eyes as the other was born. It is not so important to search for the new myth’s roots in the old; instead, we need to develop a critical relationship to generalization, to the way the socio-economic order breaks into cultural praxis.

 

4. In how far is the experience of new local communities that draw their linguistic legitimacy from global pop-culture? In how far do they influence the development of contemporary art?

New international communities appear as pockets of resistance; then, pop-culture legitimates them. You might consider art as one of these communities; in some cases, there is a direct connection between art and resistance, as is the case with graffiti. But neither hip-hop, punk nor rap are capable of exerting any real pressure on art; the source of the pressure is actually consumer society. The speed with which consumption makes its appropriations is constantly growing.

 

5. Is international style the only relevant possibility for addressing the local problematique? Is there any room left for creative misunderstandings, lost in translation, experiences that are both subjective and local? Which experiences have you made in highlighting the uniqueness of a local cultural context as something of general relevance?

Throughout the 1990s, translation was one of the single most important themes that our journal “Cabinet” addressed. What seemed important was not to translate literally, from one language to another, but the problematique of the shift. We have all been witnessing such “shifts” in the spheres of politics, economics, and aesthetic for the last 15 years.
…There is a further aspect of contemporary art that has currently captured my attention to an unusual degree. This is art’s capacity for re-creating a milieu through mimicry. This milieu changes constantly and is unique from place to place, depending on whether you are in New York, Baghdad or Saint-Petersburg. This creates what I hope is yet another productive illusion, namely that relations such “global vs. local” or “master vs. slave” are actually extremely instable. Art does not really need to adjust to the dominant language, not even with the best intentions for mutual understanding.

 

See the Russian version of the site for the author’s complete answer.

Read More

Vladimir Salnikov, Moscow

Posted in #4 International Now-Here | 0 comments

1. How important is it to appeal to the Communist roots of globalization today?

As the 1990s have shown, the essence of the contemporary situation is that capitalism is not able to cope with globalization. At the beginning of a new decade, very little has changed in this regard. Capitalism cannot cope with globalization, because it (i.e. globalization) does not originate in reason, but in political partitioning and greed. Only Communism, in its appeal to reason, can fulfill true globalization in the interest of all nations.

 

2. Which chances do you see for the ongoing democratization of art? Is it possible to break out of the framework of market hierarchy and exclusive global representation?

It is high time to smash the entire international system of contemporary art completely, only to build it anew. The goal of this reconstruction cannot be the goal of Western expansion, but justice, as far as all of the world’s different cultures are concerned.

 

See the Russian version of the site for the author’s complete answer.

Read More

Guia Rigvava, Stuttgart/Moscow

Posted in #4 International Now-Here | 0 comments

1. How important is it to appeal to the Communist roots of globalization today?

I’d rather argue for continuity. Capitalism is so ugly that no single drop of criticism can be too little. However, no strategic form can be eternal. At the time, the International was a very attractive and promising strategic direction since the connections between national states were evident. [The worker’s movements] were acting in similar ways within their own countries and it made sense to co-ordinate action internationally. The contemporary global world is different. Today, the division between the rich and poor within national states are no longer decisive. The whole world is divided into two: the places where capital is concentrated (the centers) and the places where there is no capital (the peripheries). There is a difference of interest between those who have no access to profit in the places where capital is concentrated and those poor in places where there is no capital. Furthermore, these latter places of no capital are highly differentiated. Still, the borders of the nation state cannot limit the field of action.  Nowadays, one can already observe organized groups doing things elsewhere, in this or that region, pursuing particular aims and outcomes in completely other places. This looks more poly-national, if one still prefers to stick to a notion of nation rather than community.

 

2. Which chances do you see for the ongoing democratization of art? Is it possible to break out of the framework of market hierarchy and exclusive global representation?

The ongoing democratization of art is something that I probably fail to recognize. Instead, I tend to agree with those who observe the crisis of art’s utopia in parallel to the crisis of civil society’s utopia. The institutions make the art system function. For their part, the institutions are founded by society and perform according to the interests of that particular society. As soon as this society changes, its institutions will also change. It is not the other way around. And artists can and need to fly on the wings of desire. Someone said that capitalism is unable to cope with desire; it has a place only for interest.

 

3. How important is it today to stop the conveyors of big events, opting instead for internationalist work on location? 

Unfortunately, the peripheries are deprived of many things including art, including philosophy. To make the world more just is a wonderful intention but that is too complex an issue. What does one do with big events? Should one ban them? Should one boycott them? I don’t have anything against big events. They have their positive function. International work on location – which location? If you bring Russian and American artists together in some center, all the problems of the division between rich and poor will manifest themselves instantly. On the other hand, bringing projects to peripheries is like having people with empty stomachs watch MTV. Is this so nice? I don’t think so. The real problems lie beyond these two forms of activities.

 

4. In how far is the experience of new local communities that draw their linguistic legitimacy from global pop-culture? In how far do they influence the development of contemporary art?

The fact that a local community can “go global” cannot be overestimated. First, it is produced by a convention to which anyone can subscribe, no matter who and where he/she is, thus identifying himself/herself as raver, hip-hopper. This, in turn, can also lead to the appearance of a more substantial identity. The possibility itself of such identification through such an unlimited mechanism can be seen as a challenge for any artist, intellectual, politician, revolutionary or anybody who has a project.

 
5. Is international style the only relevant possibility for addressing the local problematique? Is there any room left for creative misunderstandings, lost in translation, experiences that are both subjective and local? Which experiences have you made in highlighting the uniqueness of a local cultural context as something of general relevance?

Internationalism was perverted, but not discredited. The Soviet experience was a unique, valuable lesson. It taught us how and what to do, and what not to do. As to for art that is “national in form and socialist in content”, I don’t see anything wrong with it: it was a good formula for that place and time. Here, language was also already being unified in painting and sculpture, combining the genre basics of early European 19th century modernism with the elements of classicism. The style itself differed depending on national aesthetic preferences. I would say that nowadays we have the same situation. Of course, there is one big difference – there is no socialist content. But then again, there is no content at all. Just as socialist politics were trying to fill the work of art with a particular content, capitalist politics drain artworks of any content. All productions of meaning are constantly aborted. The world is cluttered with individualities, whereas presence is not tolerated as an identity.  Here, I don’t mean paper-controlled identity, but authentic identity, an identity which has something to say. If people could ultimately tell themselves “I am the one who…” instead of humbly occupying their places in the existing order, it would anticipate a different social climate and we could actually expect something to change.

I myself work on a particular ground – on the territory of a deterritorialized subject. The material I work with is my localized experience. I believe it is generally relevant. What I am doing can be asked anywhere, whenever the discourse of deterritorialization or adjacent discourses are brought into focus. I would say that I am committed to “highlighting” the experiences spotlighted by my identity. I guess I am not too far from the issue of “highlighting the uniqueness of a local cultural context as something of general relevance” which I think is not a wrong idea, it can work when things are done elaborately. But the question is how can any work be done elaborately on the peripheries? There are so many things missing there that unfortunately, usually, one ends up with no more than painful frustration.

 

 

Read More

Elena Petrovskaya, Moscow

Posted in #4 International Now-Here | 0 comments

1. How important is it to appeal to the Communist roots of globalization today?

I do not think that the concrete, historical form of international solidarity can be revived in a situation whose conditions have changed so fundamentally. The same goes for what is known as capitalism in contemporary Russia. If we superimpose any conventional raster – even a Marxian one – we understand very little of what actually makes up the uniqueness of the situation as it has come about here.

 

2. Which chances do you see for the ongoing democratization of art? Is it possible to break out of the framework of market hierarchy and exclusive global representation?

The possibilities for democratization are coded into art itself. Although art is excellent in that it calls all firm artistic or institutional conventions into question. I will take the liberty of saying that today’s artist is a private person, realizing his individual project, a project which may indeed never be shown anywhere. But if the artist is able to reflect or express the emotional dominant of his-her contemporaries in the process of his activity, if he finds a language, or more accurately, an authenticity of images, there is only the pre-semantic openness of time experienced together. At this point, he is not only being faithful to his community, but is giving his-her community the chance to emerge.
…Of course, the market attempts to capture even such “private” efforts, dividing its value into shares. This runs contrary to the “community” from which it emerged. Yet the artist also exists in a place where he resists this subjugation, this translation into the language of “big” art, even if he is exhibited everywhere, becoming a symbol for his country or his epoch. If this artist has any real format, even if they hang him on museum walls or show him in special spaces, his works will resist by confronting the compulsory context with some kind of senseless or inappropriate non sequiter.

 

3. How important is it today to stop the conveyors of big events, opting instead for internationalist work on location? 

I think the problem is that regional artists already don’t want any kind of local integration, that their audience has changed decisively. Their success is made or unmade somewhere else, on the international biennales or at exhibitions in the “First World”, for an example. It is impossible to retain (gain) an identity without tapping into the transnational flow. This is actually quite problematical, since it takes place through adaptation in the broader sense of translation.  What is actually becoming a part of the network? Under which circumstances is it being hooked up? Your ethnography, your post-colonial (or simply your colonial) burden, the fact that you’re an eccentric? Does the predefined placement of regional artists into special places reserved for them in the international art world represent a full-fledged integration into the real global context, constantly expanding? A context, one might add, whose distribution of power is obvious, where politics play their usual role, corrected slightly to meet the changed international power balance. I think that the current tension consists in the fact that too much is being constructed in advance, following predefined lines and routes. The artist is not free to choose which path to take. How is it possible to find one’s place, evading these templates or at least exchanging them, bringing confusion to the hordes of professional art dealers? This, to me, is an open question.

 

4. In how far is the experience of new local communities that draw their linguistic legitimacy from global pop-culture? In how far do they influence the development of contemporary art?

First of all, to be fair, the following observation: any subculture, all the more so a subculture with pretences toward “radical chic”, is already not a community. In general, the theme of the community actually arose through Communism’s concrete institutional materializations. In materializing as a bureaucratic system, Communism successfully discarded this kind of togetherness, since it is impossible to express in an institutional form such as party, social institution, state etc. The community’s togetherness resists being frozen or transformed into a registry of easily identifiable institutions and norms. In other words, this society is on the edge; marginality is the experience it endures. As we all know, artists and revolutionaries experience this most intensively. Such new communities and their experiences are only interesting to the extent that they remain subversive. The degree of their subversive potential can be determined by measuring how many of their signs are doubled by the dominant culture – which is not necessarily pop.
On to pop-culture. Many intellectuals have a relation to pop that is ambivalent to say the least. You can examine pop as an object. But can you really love it? May the Lord preserve us from such misery. At the same time, the sharpest among today’s contemporary artists are those who come from this craziness in one way or another. Pop-culture is capable of saying more than one can even imagine about communities that accept clich?s apriori. The fact of a clich?’s use is something we won’t argue about.  On the other hand, in this form of consumption, for the shortest possible moment, the clich? is interpreted freely; culture does not control the direction of its effects. When the clich? dematerializes and loses itself in the power of significance, it suddenly becomes a substitute for memory and even for experience altogether. Then, an artist arises and expresses this experience. The experience of togetherness already exists, the clich?s are already present; the newcomer reveals the clich? in its new quality.

 

5. Is international style the only relevant possibility for addressing the local problematique? Is there any room left for creative misunderstandings, lost in translation, experiences that are both subjective and local? Which experiences have you made in highlighting the uniqueness of a local cultural context as something of general relevance?

Intranslatability is one of communication’s prerequisites. In my opinion, the unification of language and style is little more than a big utopia. Of course, things flow together into some common language de facto, be it in art or in international communication in general. Ideally, “big events” demand a special language for their reconstruction or their translation. To put it differently, “big events” lead to a certain idiom; they also face the other, the representative of another culture, another language. Thus, their idiom will not be too difficult to understand. In any case, it is not necessary to adapt anything “for them”. There are no two languages, neither “dominant” nor “marginal”. There is, however, a field of problems. The researcher tries to think about these problems, while the artist attempts to express them. Since these problems are not particularly local – is any problem really “local”? – they will certainly be able to generate some form of interest.

 

See the Russian version of the site for the author’s complete answer.

Read More

Anatoly Osmolovsky, Moscow

Posted in #4 International Now-Here | 0 comments

1. How important is it to appeal to the Communist roots of globalization today?

An appeal to Communist roots of globalization is practically impossible, since the grounds for such an appeal – the Communist International – do not in fact exist. Naturally, this does not change the following historical fact: Western European Social Democracy initiated the first global project. The Third (Communist) International was formed as this project was already in a state of decline; as we know, Stalin disbanded it in 1943 in favor of opening a second front. At the same time, contemporary globalization – overcoming national boundaries and striving to unify all markets – is a great danger. It is necessary to withstand this process, not through the obvious return to an ideology of national exclusion (or locality), but through some alternative view of globalization. Regrettably, the ideas of class solidarity in defense of the weak or solidarity as freedom do not enjoy any support from the masses. The right of force rules almost everywhere, be it in Russia openly or more secretively in the USA. Intellectuals (most of all in Russia) use their own force without feeling any “false” pangs of conscience; in this way, they legitimize the right of the stronger overall.

 

2. Which chances do you see for the ongoing democratization of art? Is it possible to break out of the framework of market hierarchy and exclusive global representation?

…The art world is exclusive. This question is too difficult and there is too little room here to launch upon any exploration, which would really have to address the question from a number of angles. I would just like to say that the exclusiveness of visual art is a very important factor. As paradoxical as it sounds, it is necessary to work with this factor, using it in the process of democratizing culture.

 

3. How important is it today to stop the conveyors of big events, opting instead for internationalist work on location? 

Personally, I am quite skeptical of global events in the art world because they often fail, resulting in nothing more than overt representation. However, I like to think of my skepticism as a negative means to a positive end. After all, big events reveal new tendencies in art; sometimes, it is even possible to realize ideas that are very interesting there. However, global events need to be real (not representative) materializations of international cultural communication. Moreover, this field is always open for experimentation; the only thing that we really need is the political will of its organizers.

 

4. In how far is the experience of new local communities that draw their linguistic legitimacy from global pop-culture? In how far do they influence the development of contemporary art?

In my view, it is quite na?ve to attribute some kind of radicalism to punks and ravers. What’s so radical? That you smoke dope, have an extravagant haircut, that you own a brilliant bijouterie, or that you dance until the morning? One can probably speak of everyday radicalism when it comes to certain political groups. Some artists (like the Situationists) were successful in conducting special experiments in this field, but these were very limited experiences.
By the way, such experiences are closely related to exclusiveness. As far as pop-culture is concerned, I see that that the problematique of its influence on critical culture has exhausted itself long ago. The sale of the German music-journal SPEX, at the very latest, has put a close to any further inquiry. As we know, this publication tried to understand these or those segments of pop-culture as a part of critical culture. In my opinion, it is already clear today that the way they related to pop was an exaggeration. Pop culture is closely connected to the entertainment industry, which exerts a great deal of pressure onto art; most of the time, this pressure is extremely negative. With every year that passes, it becomes harder for us to resist.

 

5. Is international style the only relevant possibility for addressing the local problematique? Is there any room left for creative misunderstandings, lost in translation, experiences that are both subjective and local? Which experiences have you made in highlighting the uniqueness of a local cultural context as something of general relevance?

It is extremely schematic to talk about the unification of language and style in contemporary visual art. In the international artistic context, there are at least five or six tendencies. You cannot reduce to these a single style (and if you look more closely, you can discover many more). Of course, “creative misunderstandings” are always a very valuable quality, although international communication hardly values this category at all.
As far as “making connections” is concerned: I have always seen my own praxis in a number of initiatives on the left as something inherently international. It didn’t help this position much to see that the Russian social context was being left behind on history’s roadside during the end of the 20th century. Throughout my creative activities, I have personally encountered a great deal of pressure from the liberals that have taken over many of the key positions in Russia’s cultural context. Finally, their cultural policies have led to utter bankruptcy. In Russia, religious-orthodox reaction is the order of the day.

 

See the Russian version of the site for the author’s complete answer.

Read More

John Peter Nilsson, Stockholm

Posted in #4 International Now-Here | 0 comments

1. How important is it to appeal to the Communist roots of globalization today?

One shouldn’t forget that communism had an imperialistic approach. The vision was an united world – under the same banner. On the other hand, the globalization today also has a totalarian vision. The question is if communism can make us see the shortcomings of the capitalistic globalization in the same way as globalization can make us see the dogmatism of communism? I think one can use a marxist model to understand the possibilities and problems of today’s globalization. But to fully understand it one also need a post-colonial appeal, including the former Soviet empire itself.

In our globalized world labour and production has become more seperated from where the actual consumption is taken place, something that has created an intricate and complicated relation between national states and multinational companies. Communism’s vision to give the means of production to the workers is very problematic in such a global reality, since the production chain is divided into a complex situation of different economical, poltical, ideological, cultural, religious local parts. Communist revolution might be of importance in local situations, but it has to give up its practical politics in a global sense

 

2. Which chances do you see for the ongoing democratization of art? Is it possible to break out of the framework of market hierarchy and exclusive global representation?

We’ve seen a new kind of international networks of artists and art-professionals being created over the last decades. You don’t need to live in Paris or New York anymore to be part of the “international art world”. I think this process has opened up to, in my mind, a prositive glocal art scene today. There will still be market hiearchies and global corruptness, but what is happening is that more artists have much more possibilities to be visible than ever before.

What I am afraid of is the consumption speed of today’s artists. The globalization of the art world has created an atmosphere of discovering new talents, the more in the periphery the better. There is a tendency to show cultural-geograpichal realities than to deal with purely artistic questions. But in general I must say that through art I learn more about similarities and differences in the world than what I do from, for example, today’s massmedia.

 

3. How important is it today to stop the conveyors of big events, opting instead for internationalist work on location? 

Big art events are sometimes like a circus coming to town, leaving few traces in the local community when it is next day leaving for a new town. But it can also be something that break the everyday routines and might open up the local eyes towards the world and stimulate a dialogue between the local and the global, that is – if the event has an intellectual and artistic edge and not only becomes an event for its own sake. Authentic integration in a local situation is something else. I don’t want to make a conflict between the two different approaches, I rather see them as a compliment to each other. The risk with “intergration” is always that the local is demonized. But as with big events it is a question about content rather than form.

 

4. In how far is the experience of new local communities that draw their linguistic legitimacy from global pop-culture? In how far do they influence the development of contemporary art?

It is meaningful to structure the world and the ways of doing so always seem to follow certain trends linked with the obession of defining what is now and here. I don’t see any problems if artists are interested in such processes. At least as long as thay create the trends themselves and not just become followers.

 

5. Is international style the only relevant possibility for addressing the local problematique? Is there any room left for creative misunderstandings, lost in translation, experiences that are both subjective and local? Which experiences have you made in highlighting the uniqueness of a local cultural context as something of general relevance?

In his little pamphlet “Oublier Foucault” [Forget Foucault] from 1977, Jean Baudrillard comments on the conflict between being inside or outside the society: “As medieval society found its own balance between God and the Devil, so our society is finding its own balance between consumption and defiance of it. It was also possible, however, to organise heretics and black magic sects around the Devil. In contrast, our magic is white. The heretic is no longer possible in the affluent society. We are faced with a prophylactic whiteness in a saturated society, a society with no myths other than itself.”

It is a fateful description of society that Baudrillard gives here. A claustrophobic description, in which every action becomes an action about itself, every thought becomes a thought about itself, every meaning becomes a meaning about itself, something that Andy Warhol for example also comments on in his diary in June 27th 1983: “But then, since the sixties, after years and years and more ‘people’ in the news, you still don’t know anything more about people. Maybe you know more, but you don’t know better. Like you live with someone and not have any idea, either. So what good does all this information do you?”

Well, according to the democratic principals of society, information should make us better citizens. But in today’s cyber-neurotic and satellite-stressed everyday life, there is an overload of information that make many of us feel detached and cynical towards the world. Rafael Argullol and Eugenio Tr?as develop this idea in their “El cansancio de Occidente” [The Exhausted West] from 1992: “Passivity is the hallmark of humans today. And it’s clear: if people are turned into spectators and robbed any possibility of influence, this gives rise to a passive being. But all this, of course, takes place under the guise of its opposite. All manner of pseudo-events go on amid a stream of constant activity; activity that reinforces the passive, an uninterrupted motion that fades into immobility. We speak of all the stress and hectiness in our society, but the final impression is of a pursuit of emptiness.”

The subject today has to map itself. We are learning to understand that we always are global – somewhere. The geography is broken and we have to start to navigate from our own experiences. The vehicle for such journey is not “Who I am”, but rather – “When am I?”  The answer will always change depending on the journey. To be an artist or intellectual today is to fight not only for the freedom of expressing him/herself, but also for the context to do so. If the context is local or global doesn’t matter as long as you are aware of your own position.

Read More