Project 1975

 
The book Project 1975: The Postcolonial Unconscious in Contemporary Art documents Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam's two-year research and exhibition project, the title of which references the year in which Surinam gained its independence from Holland. The Dutch cultural and intellectual scene has been marked by a curious dearth of critical engagement with the country's colonial past, and colonial unconscious. Project 1975 was an impressive attempt to remedy this at least to some extent, with a number of group shows, lectures, and a series of commissioned essays in the SMBA newsletter. I don't quite understand why some of the latter have not been reprised here, or some of the design decisions, but it is still a worthwhile documentation of Project 1975 - including a series of interviews, an essay on "Mapping Empire" by Ashley Dawson, and my own "Piet Zwart & Zwarte Piet."

The text revolves around two historical cases: Piet Zwart's original photomontage for the cover of Anton de Kom's anticolonial manifesto Wij slaven van Suriname (1934), which ended up not being used, and Petra Bauer and Annette Krauss's recent project about the tenacious phenomenon of Zwarte Piet or Black Pete, which landed the artists and the Van Abbemuseum in hot water for daring to attack "Dutch culture" and "Dutch identity." And yes, being able to use this punning title was pure gravy.

Images: the final cover design of Wij slaven van Suriname (1934) and Links Richten no. 9 (1933).

Commonist Aesthetics

Open! has launched a new series of essays on "commonist aesthetics" (that's not a typo). I'm on Open's editorial board, which involves meetings at Jorinde Seijdel's kitchen table a couple of times per year, and I wrote a brief introduction. At this stage we don't know exactly how long this series will run, and exactly where it will take us, but we have some excellent authors lined up.

Come Spring: Paul Chan & Hito Steyerl

On April 11, Paul Chan's exhibition at the Schaulager in Basel will open; the next day sees the opening of Hito Steyerl's show at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven. I wrote texts for publications accompanying both shows. More incisively than most, these two artists engage with the mutations and contradictions of contemporary cultural production and circulation. 

For Hito's show, I wrote a catalogue essay "Postcinematic Essays After the Future," a short version of which has has appeared in the museum's newsletter, Radically Yours. The catalogue is to be published by Sternberg Press. My texts deals with the migration of the essay from text to video to live performance, and with Hito's notion of "circulationism" as the digital sequel to productivism. In addition, I engaged in an e-mail conversation with Hito for Metropolis M that has just been published in the April-May issue under the title "Glitches of an Exhibition." (Although the title is still in English, the actual text was translated English, or from International Disco Latin, into Dutch.)

  
Paul's Schaulager exhibition features Volumes, his installation of 1005 mounted and painted book covers. The show is accompanied by three different publications, published by Paul's Badlands Unlimited. One of these is called the New New Testament - a massive volume collecting all Volumes, with short accompanying texts. I contributed a brief essay on Paul's various book- and font-related works and activities, and with changes in publishing and the status of writing at the far end of the Gutenberg Galaxy. 

Top Image: still from a rough edit of Hito Steyerl's Liquidity Inc. (2014). Bottom image: detail of Volumes (2012) and the New New Testament cover. 


History in Motion review

History in Motion has been reviewed by Tom Holert on the Open! web site. I won't try to respond to this insightful and incisive review right now, other than to say that his entirely predictable and fully justified point about the dearth of explicit discussion of postcolonial, feminist and queer temporalities in History in Motion is well-taken. Self-imposed limitations are needed to keep things manageable, but they come at a cost - and demand to be negated in the next phase of the ongoing process of self-education and autocritique that any scholarly or theoretical practice should be.

Theory, Culture & Mousse

Two new articles are online (though one is probably behind a paywall), resulting from very different production processes and temporalities. The first, "Liberation Through Laziness," is the result of an invition by Bureau Publik in Denmark to speak on Paul Lafargue's The Right to Be Lazy. As I had a request from Mousse magazine to contribute something I decided to turn my Copenhagen lecture into an article for them. The great advantage of art magazines can be their dedication to the moment, and the possibility for producing texts and constellation of texts that articulate that moment, hopefully in a manner that allows one to think a bit beyond it. I'm quite happy with this essay on those terms, though I hope I can return to it at some future point and develop a few aspects a bit further, and more rigorously.

Far removed from the speed of art magazines is the glacier-like pace of academic journals. In the autumn of 2011, after the Autonomy Conference at the Van Abbemuseum, Nikos Papastergiadis asked me to submit an article on autonomy and Rancière to a special issue of Theory, Culture & Society he was editing. Since I was already working on an essay for the Autonomy issue of Open, and didn't feel up to the task of producing something completely different on the same subject right after finishing the Open text, I felt I either had to bow out or develop my Open essay a bit further. I was asked to do the latter. Of course, this text/these texts were also to become (parts of) one chapter of my book History in Motion, which came out in the fall of 2013. This, it turns out, was actually before the publication of my TCS article, "Autonomy as Aesthetic Practice," which has only now been "prepublished" online, ahead of its publication in print. (I'm not sure if this link will lead you to the full article if you're not affiliated with an institution that has a TCS subscription; probably not.)

Between production cycles that take less than two months and those that take more than two years, it can be rather tricky to develop a pace of work that works for you. Of course, all magazines and journals are likewise caught up in the contradictions of our economy of time, and occupy a niche that works for them. What cannot be valued enough are those working relationships with magazines, reviews or journals whose durations and rhythms can be brought in synch with yours, at least intermittently.

Speaking of the Autonomy Project, that loose collaboration between various art schools, universities and the Van Abbemuseum, which straddles different economies (of time): I am currently editing the Art and Autonomy reader, as head of an editorial team that also comprises Autonomy Project colleagues. The reader is to be published by Afterall, which itself is situated in something of an art world/academia nexus. We're trying something rather different from the standard reader format with this one. As a denizen of Old Europe I don't like to show my excitement too much, but the book is taking shape rather beautifully. The aim is to finalize the edit after the summer and have the thing out before the end of the year. We shall see.

Across the Broad Atlantic

As of January 2014, a mere four months after the fact, the American distributor has actually managed to make History in Motion available on amazon.com

There are lots of larger and smaller projects in the works, some of which should see the light of day in 2014. I'll keep you posted. Perhaps this year I'll even get around to switching to a site and software that will allow me to upload more PDFs, which I'd love to do but blogger won't allow.

Texte zur Kunst no. 92: Joseph Beuys

Issue no. 92 of Texte zur Kunst contains my review of H.P. Riegel's biography of Joseph Beuys. The text's punning title, "Cleves and Tartars," was an inspired find by the editors.

I take this German-language biography as an occasion to discuss the reception of Beuys's work in general, which has long been marked by a deadlock between uncritical adoration and complete critical rejectionIn recent years, this has started to change somewhat. 

Riegel's biography might spark a throwback, as the author has diligently gathered incriminating evidence that makes it really tempting to dismiss Beuys as an inveterate mythologizer and liar, dabbler in esoteric nonsense, and friend of right-wing creeps. 

While this material obviously needs to be taken into account, I argue that biographical reductionism must be avoided when coming to terms with the remains and the afterlife of Beuys's practice. The review is online here




Image: Joseph Beuys, Kitschpostkarte 2, 1980.