History in Motion

The holidays were taken up largely by the effort to get my book History in Motion ready to go into the design phase. History in Motion, which is to be published by Sternberg this spring, is an investigation into the temporalization of history in a media-saturated society, in which "historical events" penetrate daily life in real time. Specifically, I analyse ways in which time-based art (film, video, performance) continuously re-models and modulates the representation and the production of history within this temporal economy. The first chapter of this book analyzes the migration of moving images (film, video) to the exhibition space in the context of various notions of the “liberation of time,” whereas chapter two discusses its dark reverse: the manipulation of the dialectic of shock and suspense in film, TV, and the Internet. The third chapter continues the analysis of television with a focus on the medium’s role in establishing a regime of “general performance,” and chapter four in turn develops this by tracing the growing importance of play in work since the 1960s. Chapter five takes up the notion of performance again in relation to that of the event, as well as that of the act, to discuss possibilities for aesthetic action. Finally, chapter six considers the ongoing event that is the new “unnatural history” in an age of global warming and genetic engineering. 

The notions used—such as suspense or the event—are exploited for their potential to problematize disciplinary boundaries and entrenched methodologies. I do not propose an abstract negation of my own discipline, art history, but this is an art history that has undergone transformation through confrontations with philosophy, cultural theory, and film and media studies—a dialogue that in turn constitutes interventions in these disciplinary formations. Artists (or, in more general terms, cultural practitioners) discussed range from Harun Farocki to Eran Schaerf, from Guy Debord to Louise Lawler, from Robert Jasper Grootveld to Hito Steyerl, from Hitchcock to Wendelien van Oldenborgh.

One of the most fun parts of making such a book is making a montage of images that illustrates but also complements and sometimes even heckles one's text. There can be motifs running through image sequence that are hardly addressed in the text, and at times there are odd little resonances that can take on the qualities of a private joke. In the coming weeks we'll see just how many illustrations we can include in the book. I'm not even sure yet if both images I post here (a photo of Neuschwanstein from Guy Debord's In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni and George Maciunas's version of George Brecht's No Smoking event score) will make the cut. Even if they do, they will they will certainly not sit side by side. Still, since somebody pointed out that one could just as well read the the text of the Brecht/Maciunas piece as "NO EMO KING" it is hard for me not to think of these two disparate images in conjunction with each other.