New Left Review no 66: Playtimes

Issue no. 66 of the New Left Review (November/December 2010)contains my essay "Playtimes" (pp. 125/140). The text grew out of a talk I gave in a seminar on games and play organized by Eric de Bruyn in Groningen, and like many recent texts it is part the work on my book-in-progress History in Motion, on the representation and production of history through moving images in film, video, and performance.

"Playtimes" discusses various moments in history of the theory of play - of play as something opposed to modern capitalist society, as an activity more at home in the distant past or in a possible future. From Schiller to Kaprow and from Huizinga to Debord, play was seen as an anachronistic presence in modernity.

This essay analyses various forms that such theorizing took, from early Romantic-Idealist utopias and their collapse in the later phases of the French Revolution and during the Restoration to Huizinga´s conservative pessimism and neo-avant-garde´s attempts, in the 1950s and 1960s, to unleash a revolution of play unhindered by rules - of play freed from any basis in conventional games.

By now, play seems to have caught up with the present, or vice versa; post-Fordist capitalism seems to have made a "ludic tun" echoing that of the 1960s neo-avant-garde. But if the modern theory of play is itself something of an anachronism in the age of game studies, this text argues that it may be a productive one.

Image: Rod Dickinson´s version of Debord´s Game of War, made for Class Wargames.

January e-flux journal

The January issue of e-flux journal, edited by Paul Chan and myself, will be a report on the political situation in Europe and the US. Paul and I have been talking on and off since the US midterm elections this past November; it struck us that One of the right-wing movements in the US (the Tea party, for instance) echo in words and in deeds right-wing movements in other Western European states. From Wilders in Holland to Sarrazin in Germany to Sarkozy’s anti-immigration turn to any number of political personalities and groups that have taken the political stage in recent years, in particular after the great global financial collapse of 2007-2009. These politicians and movements seem to profit from widespread unease about globalization and the excesses of financial capitalism, yet their agenda is usually one of market liberalism combined with ideological attacks on convenient, visible scapegoats. We have asked various authors to write from their national/regional context on the rise of these nationalistic, xenophobic, sometimes homophobic, and financially dubious movements and analyse how (if at all) contemporary art and thinking intersect with these movements. The deadlines are insane and no doubt this will ruin the holidays for all involved, but it just had to be done. I will work some of the materials from my lecture on neo-nationalism in the Netherlands, slides of which were posted here for a few weeks, into my own contribution to this collective assessment of the present situation.

Twenty Years of Texte zur Kunst

The new issue of Texte zur Kunst, no. 80, contains my review of Falke Pisano's exhibition at Extra City in Antwerp. In addition, to mark the magazine's twentieth anniversary, two anthologies of writings from the past two decades of Texte zur Kunst will be published (in German) in the Fundus series. The second volume, Erste Wahl: 20 Jahre »Texte zur Kunst«, 2. Dekade, contains my essay "Leben mit Abstraktion."