#4 International Now-Here


Love Corporation, Iceland

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Which political role can feminism play in the contemporary world?


We see feminism as a strong tool to strengthen individualism and self confidence. If people feel that they are in charge of their life they function better in all ways. If people stop looking at themselves as victims but start to figure out ways to control their surroundings and their lives everything becomes more optimistic and better.


Which strategies of solidarity between women of different social, national, and ethnic backgrounds are possible today?


Respect and creative dialogue between women of different background is the key. All individual characteristics and peculiar wisdom of different social backgrounds should be cherished.


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?


People should talk together with the focus to learn more about life. Man and woman working together is the ideal.


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


To us feminism strives for equality but not uniformity. The politics of feelings are super important and should not be suppressed. If you feel free to express your feelings in a healthy manner it makes you feel better and stronger.


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


All artistic expression creates certain vulnerability. Artistic expression at it’s strongest addresses universal human experience on a personal level. So telling the truth can continue to be a revolutionary act as it has always been.


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


By showing this in reality and a encouraging self-confidence in all manner. And refusing to be put into categories or labeled in anyway.


Does love have any political potential in your opinion?


Yes. Love conquers all!


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


We hope that every human being experiences something specific and personal in love throughout their life.

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Viktor Mazin, Petersburg

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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?


I feel uncomfortable about writing for women. And this isn’t because I think that I am a man. Hell no! I can’t speak for men either, even more so because I don’t even want to speak for them. I don’t feel comfortable about speaking for anybody of any category at all. Speaking for women (for the elderly, for children) is a task that can be left to the politicians and their “masculine” mugs. After all, they need to go on and on chopping their teeth in order to divert our attention from the Black Flag. In this sense, I agree that feminism is “an integral part of neo-liberal ideology”, or to be more precise, of “neoliberal” oligarchy. But this does not mean that the “liberal” does not turn into a patriarch at home, nor does it imply that the laws passed by “liberals” have any pro-feminist quality. Was the trial of the American president’s phallus really a perfect example of in how far feminism has spread to the American legal system? In the end, the President didn’t only launch his rockets into the open mouth of bureaucracy; he also fired some missiles at the Third World, even if this wasn’t the only reason. Phallocracy may well wrap itself in the cloak of feminism, but does it ever really succeed? Isn’t the entire neo-liberal discourse perforated by rockets, missiles that you will never be able to hide?


Perhaps we should remember that any talk that addresses the variety of feminism will still be refering to a mass of highly complex theories, of variagated interweaves of Marxism, psychoanalysis, criticism, deconstructivism etc. In sum, the American capitalization of feminism, even in its legal guise, is nothing more than camoflage for neoliberal ideology. In this context I remember this one thing that happened in Rio de Janeiro. One guy from America, a professor for psychoanalyis and feminism, totally turned “the discourse of the Left” upside down. One night, he happened to find himself in a certain club, which was actually a whorehouse. By morning, he had already forgotten all about how the girls had reached this place. With a shaking voice, he was babbling deliriously: “They’re all mine, if I want them, they can be mine and mine alone”… I don’t want to pass judgement on him. I also don’t want to talk about what the United States have done to Brazil. Read Chomsky. I simply want to emphasize the following: discourse is commerce, among other things. Discourse can be exchanged for money. Discourse helps you to valorize yourself, reserving a place in society’s structures. That American was just plowing the fields of feminism. Feminism is a way of making money.


In Russia, “feminism” is perceived as a four-letter word. Patriarchal “men” will say that it is because of feminism that women have gotten out of hand, that they have become incapable of doing anything, which is why the family as such is falling apart and the whole country is going to hell, that our only hope is a strong president and so on. On the other hand, some “women” who call themselves “feminists” are ready to tear apart any “man” who dares to hand them their coat or to light their cigarette. It would be great if we could start by really understanding what “feminism” and “feminists” actually are. I am rather pessimistic as far as this is concerned, even if books on gender-studies are being published, even if Irina Arikhstarkhova or Irina Zherebkina are prolific writers…How many people actually read these books? And how many people listen to the psychologist who says that women should serve both men and god, because this is how psychology works? How many people listen to the biologist who says that nature has adapted women to hearth-keeping, monogamy and subordination? And how many people read woman’s magazines and watch woman’s TV, all of which have been inculcated with positions rather distant from any kind of feminism. More often than not, TV shows for women provoke little more than horror and disgust. It is as if they only had one goal, namely either to emasculate women or to transform them into slaves. One constantly has the feeling that these TV-women live by the Lacanian equation of “Woman = Other = thing”. They do everything to make the woman into a Thing. A Thing on the same level as a car, a mobile-phone or a thick gold chain, belonging to a “real man”. “Wow, if I had something like…” As far as the differences between “men” and “women” is concerned, this has always been and still is a very difficult question. The only thing I can say with certainty is that the differences between “men” and “women” do not take place between “men and women”. Wherein does this difference lie? In the social construction of gender-roles? Not only. In the biology of childbirth and monthlies…? Not only. In psychic structuring in relation to the phallus? Not only.


Do you feel that qualities like “vulnerability” will die out as unnecessary capacities?
Or is it possible to engage in a certain revolutionary politics of vulnerability?
How can feminism convince human beings of both genders of the need for emancipation and of the benefits of real freedom?


Contemporary Russia’s means of mass disinformation have market-launched two saleable models for “femininity”. The first model is indepedent, self-assured, strong, and aggressive. The self-made woman , to put it differently. This ideological ready-made is called the “Self-made Woman”. Recently, I was reading a magazine and saw that one of the two or three most popular women of this type is Condoleeza Rice. In how far can this aggresive model can be called “feminine”? Well, friends, it’s up to you. It’s still a mystery to me how this political monster could have ever become a role model for women in Russia. Maybe you’re right: “coldness” is considered cool, while human qualities like patience, passivity, and the ability to understand the Other are totally out of fashion. At the same time, I remember the Tao and its finely argued victory of the weak, passive, and flexible, all of the things that do not correspond to the Western model of the “real man/terminator”, “Condi Rice”, but they do correspond to the Russian model of “tobacco and a three-day-beard reeking of vodka”. What you call “the revolutionary politics of weakness” sounds incredibly attractive to me. But I don’t think that weakness will die out, since it is actually no more than a phantasm of the “strong”, self-assured paraoiac, taking on “responsibility” for the fate of the other, bringing phallocentric “freedom”, which supply “women” with goods and production or making lots of little bunnies (the Russian version of “coolness”).


The second mass medial model transports the woman as a thing. This market brand can come in two variants. One of them is custom-tailored to the majority of Russian women, who are stilled keyed into the patriarchal order. This type feeds on the discourse of “tradition”, on “nature” or “that’s the way things are” and “it was always like this”, or “this has been the Russian way since day of old”. This is the functional type, the “woman” who cooks and cleans well, the woman that raises offspring. Under more recent circumstance, she functions much like a refridgerator, a vacuum cleaner, a washing machine or some other appliance. She is the hearth-keeper (while he is the “bread-winner”, the “hunter”). This “woman-thing” caters to broad segments of the working-class. The other type caters to the businesspeople and the oligarchs. As a rule, it is connected to the marketing of the modelling business and its schoolyard, the so-called “Golden Youth”. Unlike the first type of “thing” model, the second type has already been objectified beyond belief. According to the media of mass disinformation, especially those that serve the “Golden Youth”, this “woman thing” has already been robbed of any capacity for thought and speech; she has become a purely decorative element. This “thing” does not have to function properly as a house-wife. Instead, she works for the business-views of her partner and competitors. This type has replaced the older type of the femme fatale who will drive you out of your mind, a phantasm thought up by “knights”, poets and Don Quixotes, “unreal men”, that is. But in the economy of total consumption, it is impossible to drive anyone out of their minds. From what mind can you be driven? The real man is a brand manager.He still has “that thing”. This is the business-perspective that the women’s magazines and women’s TV shows all propogate: get “that thing”, what’s it called, you know, like…


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


Sex+sentimentality instead of love – this is how Jean-Luc Nancy has characterized the “American way of life”, i.e the image that they offer us as something that is better by default, since there is no alternative. A quick roll in the hay, a few tears from a cheap Hollywood melodrama, and it’s off to work, out into real “life”, down to the Golden Calf. Love will only distract you from your work. Show me a lover that makes a good worker. What the hell is he thinking about? He’s supposed to be working. So, dear friends, it seems like love has a great deal of political potential! Love and death force us to consider what our lives actually mean. Love forces you to reconsider the values that have been imposed by the American ideology that has come to dominate Russia today. Love is what allows subjectification. Love is the one horse upon which you can place all of your stakes, e.g. your career, all your money, your effectivity, your success. “Everything” will suddenly seem petty and unimportant, nothing more than a “paper sword”, according to the poet Shnur (=the lead singer-lyricist of the rockgroup Leningrad). But in a society that forces you to love the bodies of products, where you dream of BMWs and Motorolas, it seems unthinkably difficult to love. It is so unthinkably difficult because already prerequires subjectification. The vicious circle: to love, you need to be a human being, and to be a human being, you need to love.


Note that we’re not talking about being in love. Those in love are prone to the hysterical and even psychotic consumption of goods and services. I call this behaviour psychotic, because this kind of consumption is connected to the disorder of narcissism. In this context, consumption is a kind of supporting treatment, preventing complete collapse. The “branded” girls of the so-called “Golden Youth”, its “golden lionesses”, constantly live in this state of psychosis. The male world of capitalism has turned them into products. In this final analysis, this means that they can only see themselves in shop-windows, as tradeable goods. But in a society of consumerism and information, products are fluid. The environment is subject to constant change. In this industrial zone of constant obliteration, it is nearly impossible to stabilize any image at all. This is the world of patriarchy, but simply no more than a patriarchal hallucination.

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Elena Petrovskaya, Moscow

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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?


I must note that feminism has never paved its way under the aegis of universalism. Quite on the contrary, feminism has always emphasized the multiplicity of differences. As an event, universalism is an idea that stems from an alternate interpretation of difference and its role in political struggle. To be concise, one could express this as follows: why should we strive for difference if it already exists, if we encounter such a great variety of genders, ethnic identities, faiths etc.? As strange as it may seem, the truth is what is never given in advance, which is why it demands universality. Yet this universality does not come first but last: universality demands nothing more and nothing less than a change – a liberation, if you will – of subjectivity itself.


However, I do not think that it is feminism’s contemporary vocation to fulfill universal goals: instead, local problems usually take center-stage. In our country, for an example, even traditional forms of feminism are still extremely marginal. I would even say that they are unwanted. As ever, one must bear the burden of the elementary discrimination against women, which is but poorly camouflaged on all layers of social life. This means that women themselves will need to play no small role if they are ever to face the purely practical side of these issues.


Do you feel that qualities like “vulnerability” will die out as unnecessary capacities?
Or is it possible to engage in a certain revolutionary politics of vulnerability?
How can feminism convince human beings of both genders of the need for emancipation and of the benefits of real freedom?


It makes little sense to oppose weakness and strength to another. By doing so, we involuntarily substantiate weakness, transforming it into a variety of presence (in the philosophical sense). But weakness is actually related to a different situation, namely to a situation in which objectification fails to take place, where there is only a redistribution of power. In philosophical jargon, we call this the situation of immanence. Weakness is good in that, in failing to become political (i.e. a figure for power), it present a challenge to the hierarchies that social language calls ‘success’. Weakness is a way of life that circumvents the powers-that-be, which include the much-cited bounding of gender-roles. Weakness does belong to femininity, especially if one understands the latter as a quality color-coded by gender. Non-violence is a well-known variety of weakness; furthermore, it is weakness recast politically. But on the other hand, the politics of non-violence are highly questionable, because they – and more broadly, weakness – do not contain any form of teleology. Weakness means the positive absence of goals, of goal-acquisition, and of the pretence to power. In this sense, weakness is not simply a form of “defenselessness” in the face of “masculine” aggression.


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


I doubt that everyone knows the experience of love. Love does not only consist in stepping out to meet the Other; it also means that you are permanently ready to become an Other yourself. The experience of love is the experience of becoming. In this sense, it contradicts love’s existing institutions. For an example, marriage’s socio-economic components are quite concrete, setting the boundary for love’s anti-social aspects. And love really is anti-social. Yet we all indulge in love’s culturally illuminations and in its psychological experiences. To understand its liminality, its anti-sociality is an impossible undertaking. More often than not, our experiences of love are as pre-scripted as contracts. This even applies to love’s more odious guises. But if these experiences were not predetermined, they would not be experiences. This brings us back to vulnerability. To be unafraid of losing, to love with any guarantee, without any certainty that this will ever happen again, to love at full risk… Is this what makes up the specificity of “feminine” love? It may well be.

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Martha Rosler, New York

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Feminists far more theoretically sophisticated and politically engaged than I have addressed the questions you have posed, or variations of them, over the past few decades. My answers can be only a pale echo of what they have to say. The particular strains of feminism that have motivated me have not sought simple economic, and perhaps social, parity with males in society because that leaves open the possibility of simply passing along women’s unequal burdens to those who are of a lower class and economic status –or even to other countries where the wage base is lower. Instead, feminism has consistently demanded a broad reorganization of society so that wealth and privilege are not the determinants of who reaps society’s rewards, on the one side, and who must take up its least desirable or lowest paid tasks, on the other.


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?
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 insists on the importance of a series of social “becomings” or processes of transformation rather than simply an improved status for women. Feminism, it is true, has already potentiated the recognition of previously “invisible” subjectivities and subject positions, a process that, in turn, has gone beyond the crucial questions of gender to also allow for post-colonial recognitions of the Other. The necessary solidarity of women in the face of patriarchy, thus, is only part of the story, in the face of growing income disparities in every area of the globe and the rapid pace of neo-imperialist “globalization” of labor, including the increase in sexual slavery that sends women and children across borders to the developed North and West from the former East Bloc and the so-called Third World of the global South. Feminists have traditionally included demands that affect poorer women (and children) as part of their agenda, providing a place for those women and children to voice their own concerns and provide testimony and make demands. This is the feminist solidarity that I recognize, not a reductively universalizing one. At the same time, I believe enough in universal human rights to insist that social practices in “traditional” societies (or social sectors) other than my own that damage women, such as genital cutting and mutilation, or purdah, bride burning, child marriage, and other horrors, should not be treated as local customs worthy of silent respect but rather should be investigated as onerous customs that impede women in those societies. Unlike religious missionaries and arrogant “civilizers”, what is required here is a respect for the opinions of indigenous women as well as their suggested solutions, and a long-term commitment to working with them for change.


Do you feel that qualities like “vulnerability” will die out as unnecessary capacities?
Or is it possible to engage in a certain revolutionary politics of vulnerability?
How can feminism convince human beings of both genders of the need for emancipation and of the benefits of real freedom?


My brief and perhaps superficial observation in post-Soviet Russia was that women were, by and large, allowed or forced by the Soviet State into the production process but not allowed to develop political, social and cultural power. Similarly, the productivist state was blind to the elements of “private life” that were in effect women’s domain, including not only social tasks but also the biological processes particular to women. The need to attract sexual partners or mates on the basis of appearance led to a pent-up demand for the cosmetics, clothing, and behavior that were long a part of the women’s masquerade in the West. The withholding of good information about sex and birth control seems to have preserved the prudery and folk beliefs of the general population and led to a yearning for the apparent freeing of the body from the purview of the state–its apparent “depoliticization.” The symbolic value of the naked form as one purged of the demands of citizenship helped fuel the wholesale adoption of pornographic representations of women by the male consumers of that pornography and also provided ideals for women to aim to achieve (especially since Western women’s magazines and cosmetic manufacturers posed essentially the same solutions as the pornographic ones). It was long a truism of the Left that Rockefeller (read: the richest of the rich) is as much a prisoner of class inequality as the poorest person in a capitalist society because of the inability of the individual to express his human powers fully. Women soon pointed out the same about men in a gender-riven society, namely, that the demands of “manhood” require the suppression of many human qualities and behavior–cooperation, empathy, even the ability to grieve, for example–that enhance individual lives and enrich society. In other words, strict gender differentiation with rigid (and hierarchical) models privileges one model and leads to the identification of social power with the role that successfully exhibits the requisite trait suppression. Women need to be the ones to remind society that the commodification of everything damages not only women’s identities and cripples their productive potential but also poisons the well of all forms of creativity. The price paid by all of society is the complete demotion, in favour of popular culture, of the artistic and literary forms that seemed to sustain so much of the human element of Soviet society during the depths of Stalinism and beyond. If young women see nothing that energetically challenges the mindless television and journalistic insistence on women’s hierarchical inferiority and parasitical relation to men, they will not be empowered to seek economic as well as political and cultural equality.


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


Big discourses about the transformative potential of “love” can in my opinion cater too much to the mystical New Age tendencies that Russia has historically (and more recently) exhibited (Russia is already too proud of its hypostatized “soul,” too reliant on it to explain national character or individual talents.) Although Argentine revolutionary Che Guevara famously remarked that “At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me point out that the true revolutionary is motivated by love,” it is risky to assume that anyone would understand that this notion is necessarily different from the theological, mystical, or sexual/romantic versions of love. Nevertheless, women and girls – and man and boys – should be encouraged to be value the caring and empathic behavior that contributes to romantic love and to the care and maintenance of children and families, and most importantly, to be unafraid to exhibit it. This does not mean that you have to be a sucker!


Women acting energetically together and making consistent demands for all kinds of social rectification–acting beyond traditional feminine demands and in favor of enlargement of the public sphere–Is necessary. A requisite accompaniment, of course, is the cultivation of lectures, press, and publications that applaud and support this kind of behavior without identifying activist or self-determining women as “masculinized” or unattractive, thus moving the discussion away from Being toward Becoming, away from “condition” toward action. This appears to be a necessary way forward.

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Jacques Derrida // The New International

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“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”.

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

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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

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Vladimir I. Lenin /// Russian Resolution

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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

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Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari /// Now-here

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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

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

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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.

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Olesya Turkina, Petersburg

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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.

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Vladimir Salnikov, Moscow

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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.

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Guia Rigvava, Stuttgart/Moscow

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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.

 

 

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Elena Petrovskaya, Moscow

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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.

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Anatoly Osmolovsky, Moscow

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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.

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John Peter Nilsson, Stockholm

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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.

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