Open no. 23: Autonomy

Issue no. 23 of Open is dedicated to autonomy in and between aesthetics and politics. As member of the Autonomy Project, I guest-edited this issue alongside editor in chief Jorinde Seijdel. The issue contains essayssome of them based on talks given at the Autonomy Symposium at the Van Abbemuseum by authors including Joost de Bloois, John Byrne, Andrea Fraser, Peter Osborne, Gerald Raunig, Hito Steyerl and myself, as well as an interview with Franco "Bifo" Berardi by Willem van Weelden and a dialogue between Jacques Rancière and Thomas Hirschhorn. As always, there are a few blemishes, including the inevitable tiny-but-irritating editorial oversights. People were using up their energy reserves, and it shows. I suppose, given the issue's subject, these glitches can be said to posses a certain recursivity.

The same might be said for the issue's horrendous full title, "Autonomy: New Forms of Freedom and Independence in Art and Culture," was in fact imposed by the publisher, as was the questionable cover image. Still, as a rich collection of texts that think through the complex history as well as the potential of the notion of autonomy, this is a good penultimate issue for Open, at turns rigorous and imaginative, and occasionally both at the same time. My own essay, "Autonomy After the Fact," problematizes the relation between aesthetic and political conceptions of autonomy, and discusses Harold Rosenberg's notion of the act as well as Institutional critique and the "performative turn" made by its more recent manifestations, and recent forms of collective action in and beyond art. The essay is also part of my History in Motion project; the book is being readied for publication this autumn.

There will be one more issue in the current form, after which Open will be (as Brian Holmes put it) closed and hopefully reopened. SKOR, the foundation that co-published the journal with NAi publishers, will soon cease to exist as a result of the Dutch funding cuts, and the editor is busy trying to ensure some sort of restart. The new Open will probably be an online platform first and foremost, which would at least mean that the text can be accessed by a potentially wider readership than the  old Open, which suffered from a minimal and shambolic distribution. My essay from the autonomy issue is online here. (Note that the caption on p. 98 incorrectly gives 1952 as the publication year of these images; it is in fact 1960.) The print edition is available at amazon, and even at select bookstores! 

The Autonomy Project has also published a series of "Autonomy Newspapers," mostly written by students; issue no. 3 is online and can be downloaded here

Image: A black box, in homage of Hito Steyerl's essay in Open 23.