Value and Collaboration

The first part of Texte zur Kunst no. 88 (December 2012) is dedicated to "the question of value," and it looks very promising - with contributions by Diedrich Diederichsen, Isabelle Graw, Mikkel Bolt Rasmussen, and Kerstin Stakemeier and Marina Vishmidt. 

My review of Witte de With's show Surplus Authors, which problematizes the exhibition in order to examines the value(s) of collaboration in contemporary cultural production, should connect quite well with this thematic section. Because I'm a sucker for Michael Fried détournements, the review is titled "Why Collaboration Matters in Art and Elsewhere as Never Before."

Image: Falke Pisano and Ana Roldán, Dynamo, 2008-2012.

In and Out of Brussels

T.J. Demos and Hilde Van Gelder's project In and Out of Brussels took the form of a series of panel discussions about four films by Brussels-based artists that investigate the status of (post)colonial Africa in the imagery and imaginary of the west. In addition to Renzo Martens's Episode III (Enjoy Poverty) from 2009, which triggered the project, there are three new productions from 2011 and 2012: Sven Augustijnen's Spectres, Herman Asselberghs's Speech Act, and Els Opsomer's Building Stories #001 [That Distant Piece of Mine]. I participated in the discussion on Asselberghs's film. The book of In and Out of Brussels, which documents the debates and contains a DVD with film excerpts, is available now.

Inside Abstraction

Issue no. 38 of e-flux journal (October 2012) is dedicated to the subject of structural violence. It contains my essay "Inside Abstraction," which is part of a personal long-term research project that I hope to focus on circumstances permitting — when the History in Motion book, which is now scheduled for early 2012, is out of the way.


Dutch academia is in the process of being transformed into an edu-factory in which research has to suit the ideological agenda of the government or private and corporate sponsors, and either try to squeeze their research interests into whatever mega-programme is on offer or simply allow their agenda to be determine by those programmes. 

Meanwhile, there are fortunately some alternative and less market-Stalinist contexts in which scholarship and theory can survive — as forms of praxis that engage with those structures that attempt to make them obsolete.

If I Can't Dance has published an update on our project on Louise Lawler's A Movie Will Be Shown Without the Picture, which includes the introduction to (the rough draft of) my essay and an impression of the Amsterdam "screening" of A Picture by Anik Fournier. We are working on a publication, which will  contain my essay, a few shorter texts on specific aspects of the piece, and documentation.  

The Autonomy Project an informal, under-funded and highly stimulating initiative by a number of art schools, art history departments and the Van Abbemuseum is also continuing. The autonomy issue of Open contains a number of texts based on last year's Autonomy Symposium, and the recently published issue of the Autonomy Newspaper, which can be downloaded for free here, also reflects (on) this symposium. As usual with the Autonomy Newspaper, there are a number of contributions by students. We're now working on a reader with historical and recent source texts, to be published by Afterall. The Autonomy Project has also has an impact on into my upcoming book History in Motion.

No Time

Starting on September 20, the 21er Haus in Vienna is hosting an exhibition titled Keine Zeit ("no time") in German and Busy in English. Dealing with the exhaustion of the self stress, depression, burnout in the age of cognitive and "creative" capitalism, with its ideology of relentless flexibility and its erosion of old dividing lines between work and leisure. 

The exhibition foregrounds art's implication in this regime, and my catalogue essay "Autonomous Symptoms in a Collapsing Economy of Time" focuses on various forms of performance and of dance in today's "temporal economy." Continuing where my previous text "Unknown Knowns" left off, the essay homes in on the performance of symptoms and its potential and pitfalls for collaborative projects. Artists discussed include Yvonne Rainer, Jérôme Bel, Charles Atlas, Dora Garcia and Lars von Trier.

The catalogue of Keine Zeit/Busy also contains contributions by Bettina Steinbrügge/Alain Ehrenberg, Diedrich Diederichsen, Liam Gillick, and Angela Melitopoulos/Maurizio Lazzarato, among others.

Image: Dora Garcia's Real Artists Don't Have Teeth at the 2011 Venice Biennale. 

Asger Jorn

Preparing History in Motion for the press is taking up most of my non-teaching time, but the slightly delayed July-August 2012 issue of New Left Review (no. 76) contains my review of a recent collection of writings by Asger Jorn, Fraternité Avant Tout, which focused on his writings on art and architecture from the late 1930s to the late 1950s. Titled "Dialectic of Dionysus," my review/essay analyses some rather unzeitgemäße aspects of Jorn's materialist critique of functionalism and rationalism: his use of the dichotomy of the Apollonian and the Dionysian and his rather questionable use of Engels's Origin of the Family. As arcane as some of Jorn's concerns of the 1940s in particular may appear obsolete; however, they not only announce concerns that he would bring into the Situationist International, but also demand attention for the way in which Jorn has worked with his medium as a writer: 

"[Many] of the concerns and references dominating the essays in Fraternité now seem archaic. Furthermore, the artist-author often engages with other theorists not through a careful parsing of their arguments, but by mimicking their mode of writing and détourning their phrases, reworking their language just as he reworked flea-market paintings. It is here that the problematical nature of these writings becomes productive, rather than merely symptomatic. Jorn’s materialism manifests itself in the way he reworks texts as materials, rather than in a careful deployment of the analytical tools provided by Marxist (or any other) theory. What is dialectical is not so much his reasoning as his treatment of text as a kind of texture. His texts are textiles, and in some ways they find their most perfect expression in what might appear to be a parergon: the illustrations."

"If the essay ‘Apollo or Dionysus’ is hard to swallow, a single page in which Jorn uses artworks to develop his take on the Apollonian and Dionysian, and reads the mythological gigantomachy as class struggle, prefiguring Peter Weiss, is nothing short of brilliant. These jump-cuts are not as remote from contemporary viewing and reading habits as the essays may appear to be; with his montages, Jorn creates rhythms that seem more compatible with them, while still posing fundamental challenges to the viewer/reader—as they should. More than anything, the fact that Jorn’s essays are picture essays prevents them from becoming a monde perdu—to invoke the title of his 1960 painting, with its title recalling Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, that supremely Anglo-Saxon imperialist vision of atavistic survivals."

Interrupted Performance

This pseudo-blog is on a bit of a summer-induced hiatus, but I extended the older post "Performance, Live or Dead" with some musings on territorial battles between disciplines and on performing the role of the bogeyman for other scholars.

The Imaginary Museum

When Krijn de Koning had an exhibition at the Musée des Moulages in Lyon, I wrote an essay for an accompanying publication that never saw the light of day. Now Bart van der Heide of the Kunstverein München has used this text, "The Imaginary Museum of Plaster Casts," as a point of reference for his show The Imaginary Museum, which opens on 14 July. Before the war, Munich's collection of plaster casts after antique statues used to be on display in the spaces along the Hofgarten that now house the Kunstverein; Bart is reconstructing one of these spaces and combines the casts with photo and video works by contemporary arists.

My essay relates the phenomenon of the plaster cast collection to Malraux's notion of the musée imaginaire constituted by photography (Malraux himself already made this comparison, but I develop the point). I reworked the text substantially for the Kunstverein's newsletter, including a discussion of artistic practices that were absent from the original version, such as Arnoud Holleman and Gert Jan Kocken's, as well as Sean Snyder's Index project; the latter is also featured in the exhibition. In some ways, the essay is a pendant of the "Viewing Copies" article, and both are part of the research project on objecthood and thingness on which I will hopefully be able to focus a bit more in the coming year(s), once my upcoming book History in Motion is out of the way.

Daan van Golden

The catalogue Daan van Golden: Apperception is out now - published by Wiels and Roma Publications. 

The adjacent image shows a spread from my essay.

On 27 June there will be a book launch at Wiels, with curator Devrim Bayar and Willem Oorebeek among the participants.


A Movie Without the Picture at The Movies

On 12 June, Louise Lawler’s A Movie Will Be Shown Without the Picture was non-screened at The Movies in Amsterdam. In the case of the original 1979 version at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica and in some later iterations of the piece, the movie shown was The Misfits (1961); in 1983 in New York, it was The Hustler (also 1961), preceded by the Chuck Jones cartoon What’s Opera, Doc? In 2012, the film selection has progressed to the late 1970s: as most audience members will have realized instantly upon hearing the first notes of the soundtrack in the darkened theater, this time the film was Saturday Night Fever (1977). 

The piece’s anachronistic update was one subject of the conversation that I moderated afterwards (in the cinema’s café) with Eric de Bruyn and Andrea Fraser—with Louise herself in the position of “fact checker.” Moving from the dying days of Old Hollywood to a rather remarkable hybrid of gritty 1970s urban drama and neo-“cinema of attractions” blockbuster spectacle that is almost contemporaneous with A Movie will be Shown Without the Picture itself, Lawler gave us much food for thought. 

As Andrea rightly stressed, Saturday Night Fever teems with metaphors of psychological and social projection, and it brings a new form of precarious masculine performance into play. Meanwhile, what was noticeable across a range of audience reactions—from audible snoring, relaxed beer-drinking and talking to smartphone use—was the way in which the non-picture foregrounds audience performance. Andrea once remarked that you don’t simply look at a work by Lawler: you are addressed and interpellated by it. A Movie spawns forms of audience performance without making grand claims about activating or emancipating the spectator. 

While the piece can obviously related back to various avant-garde attacks on the cinema and the filmic image, as a performative intervention in the cinematic apparatus it can also function as an anticipatory critique of much later relational and “social” art practice. Hollywood producer Samuel Goldwyn allegedly once bowed out of a project with the malapropism “Include me out!”, and the paradoxical effect of A Movie Will Be Shown Without the Picture is that it does indeed include the spectator out. Or does it exclude her in? If, referencing Louise’s phrase Why Picture’s Now?, we ask “Why A Movie Without the Picture now?”, this gently insidious quality would certainly have to be part of the answer. 

Eric raised the issue of the term picture itself, which is obviously both very specific and heavily connoted in the context of late-1970s art practice. Why the “picture” (as opposed to, say "image") in A Movie Will Be Shown Without the Picture? We did not get around to fully addressing this, and as usual a lot of loose ends remained. I will continue to work on this piece and the aim is to end this “Performance in Residence” project with a small publication. Many thanks to Louise, Andrea, Eric, Frederique Bergholtz, Tanja Baudoin, Ann Goldstein and the Stedelijk staff members and everybody else who made this possible—including the audience members.

Let's Fake History

Texte zur Kunst no. 86 (June 2012) contains a short text of mine titled "Let's Fake History." It's a response to the current Berlin Biennale, but it does not claim to be a review. In many ways, this show is beyond reviewing. Instead, I comment on one egregious aspect of this Biennale: its historicist (re)presentation of "Big History," particularly of Polish-Jewish-German history, as well as of contemporary Occupy activism. 


Image: A relaxed moment after the Battle of Berlin, which (in its reenacted form) raged for a full twenty minutes.

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.

I Can't Work Like This

A picture from May Day: Johan Hartle and me working (badly, in my case) on Natascha Sadr Haghighian's 2007 piece I Can't Work Like This, as part of Casco's project of the same name. This artwork and this phrase feel extremely timely right now.

Willem de Rooij

Willem de Rooij's permanent installation for Bentheim Castle, Residual, features a transparent display case with one of Ruisdael's paintings of the castle, situated in Germany near the Dutch border. In addition to seeing the painting, both as image and as object, one sees the technical equipment that normally remains hidden. In many ways this work recalls Michael Asher's projects of the 1970s, it does not intervene in a recognized gallery or museum. More than functioning as a rather problematic retro-version of Institutional Critique, the piece announces a potential space for art; the intention is to turn Willem de Rooij's project into the starting point for an artist-in-residence project, with young artists being enabled to produce and exhibit in situ. 

Exhibiting a Ruisdael painting at the site depicted on the painting, and exhibiting the exhibition of this work in a way that foregrounds its status as material artefact in a transparent case full of visible machinery, Residual can be seen to reflect on the relation between physical picture and immaterial image, and between thing and network.  In my essay for the accompanying publication, I move from Barthes to Simmel and from Victor Stoichita to Craig Owens in order to analyse Residual's take on both seventeenth-century and contemporary "visual economies." From the final part of the essay:

'In the pre-industrial seventeenth-century Dutch Republic, painting showcased and 'doubled' the accumulation of wealth derived from Dutch mercantile capitalism. In the post-industrial Netherlands of the early twentieth century, visual production and the 'creative industries' are often presented as a partial replacement of industries that have moved overseas. Instead of manufacturing televisions or producing steel, the Netherlands now exports TV formats and fashion. In 2011 it became apparent that 'difficult' contemporary art is not part of this, as the Dutch government relentlessly cut funding for a number of crucial institutions, including the Rijksakademie, which Jeroen de Rijke and Willem de Rooij attended. New art isn’t as profitable as old art. The Rijksmuseum is hawking its wares even at Schiphol Airport, with the Rijksmuseum Schiphol, where Ruisdael and d’Hondecoeter are regularly featured. 

"Of course Willem de Rooij’s practice is implicated in the current political-economic constellation. How could it be otherwise? De Rooij is a producer of surplus value through 'immaterial labour'; his work is part of the 'culturalized' economy. However, compared with blockbuster shows with readymade themes and famous names, this practice is too inefficient and marginal for the economistic Dutch cultural policy, which uses 'subsidised art' as a populist whipping boy alongside others, creating enemies for its perceived clientele of 'hardworking Dutchmen'. In such a situation, art can only be framed in two ways: either it delivers an unproblematic message of “Dutchness” or it is immediately and spectacularly successful as a cultural commodity. Preferably both. While the Rijksmuseum is hawking its blue-chip Dutch wares in its overdesigned box inserted into the bustling airport, Willem de Rooij’s counter-space at Bentheim castle – on the margins of the old water-merchandise complex, on the long train line that connects Berlin to Amsterdam – foregrounds its own properties and contradictions, and those of the object and the subjects that it contains."

This small essay is part of my "thingness" research project (as are recent texts on design, transparency, and on artists such as Daan van Golden and Stan Douglas). I hope to intensify this strand of research and develop what are so far mere sketches once the History in Motion book (which should see the light of day this fall) is out of the way. 

Residual will be inaugurated on May 4 as part of the raumsichten exhibition project. The book is published by Walther König and can be ordered at

Coming Soon

On the 12th of June, a new version of Louise Lawler's 1979 work A Movie Will Be Shown Without the Picture will be presented in Amsterdam, as part of a "Performance in Residence" project I'm doing with the curatorial platform If I Can't Dance, I Don't Want to Be Part of Your Revolution. The Stedelijk Museum is also a partner in organizing the Amsterdam version of A Movie.

From the If I Can't Dance site: "Performance in Residence ‘hosts’ a performance-related (body of) work for a substantial period of time, allowing a researcher to engage in an in-depth inquiry. A public presentation marks the start of the research, and the conclusions are presented at the end of the period in the form of an essay, exhibition, performance or other. With this programme, If I Can’t Dance aims to research performances as case studies and proposes to connect archival research to practice."

A small initiative such as If I Cant Dance's "Performance in Residence" research initiative is much appreciated at a moment when Dutch universities are actively demolishing pockets of research and reflection that had not yet been brought into line with the prevailing ideological-economical imperatives; it doesn't matter what you do and if it makes any sense at all, as long as it somehow pretends to stimulate "the creative industries."

A Movie Will Be Shown Without the Picture at The Movies, Haarlemmerdijk 161-163, 12 June, 7 PM. There will be a discussion following the piece, with contributions by Andrea Fraser and myself, among others.

Image: Poster for the 1983 version of A Movie.

Gert Jan Kocken

The Office in Berlin has a series called The World According to, and The World According to Gert Jan Kocken is out now. It takes the form of a Bilderatlas compiling and arranging aniconic and iconic images of Godincluding of course His Incarnation. 

Since I had a tiny advisory role, I guess I can plug the project here without turning this into an actual blog.

The publication can be ordered here.

Image: studio wall, February 2012. 

Texte zur Kunst no. 85: Agency

Texte zur Kunst no. 85 (March 2012) contains a thematic section called "Art History Revisited" as well as a number of Mike Kelley obituaries, and of course the review section. I contributed a short review of Agency's exhibition at Objectif in Antwerp. From the review:

"As Agency is an agency with a generic name, so its exhibitions have a generic form: cheap foldable tables with one numbered 'thing' per table, represented by an object or image (labeled 'specimen'), lit by a single lamp hanging directly above the table, with a clipboard holding some sheets with information on the property lawsuit connected to the object in question. This generic format does in fact allow for a great variety, and when the number of tables is sizable, as it is here, the effect borders on the bewildering. Speculation on the protection of ideas leads Matthys to investigate both a robotic teddy bear and one minute of silence on a CD, both a logo for Olympic TV coverage and an abstract mural (which is, naturally, presented on the wall rather than on one of the tables). To one side, there is a wall of shelving with boxes containing additional things, which may be consulted by visitors.

"The visual appearance of Agency’s installations recalls the commodity art of the late 1980s, Haim Steinbach’s shelving in particular – with a hint of Mark Dion’s taxonomic displays. In fact, one of the boxes in the stacks contains thing 001574, a bookend based on Koons’ Balloon Dog sculptures. The producer was sued by Koons for copyright infringement—a remarkable turn of events, given that Koons was often on the receiving end of lawsuits. More recently, it was Richard Prince who was adjudged to have broken the law with his use of images from a book on Rastafarians. In general, Appropriation and Commodity art have increasingly been at odds with intellectual property law (copyright, trademarks, patents), which has taken on an ever greater importance in post-Fordist 'semiotic' capitalism. Contemporary art is of course an integral part of this regime, as reflected by the legalistic turn inaugurated by Conceptual art, when what was sold was no longer an object but a certificate, a protocol. This development is in fact at the roots of Agency’s interest in the contested nature of commodities."

Afterall: Wendelien van Oldenborgh

The Spring 2012 edition of Afterall (no. 29) contains articles on Wendelien van Oldenborgh by Emily Pethick and by me. My essay focuses on her three slide pieces Après la reprise, la prise (2009), Pertinho de Alphaville (2010) and Supposing I love you. And you also love me (2011).

The text is online in its entirety here.

Daan van Golden

A master in the art of the delay, Daan van Golden achieved a certain level of success in the Pop decade of the 1960s only to retreat from public activities following the 1968 documenta, using the Dutch subsidy system to make a living rather than a career. Having recommenced exhibiting his art around 1980, Van Golden's renown remained largely confined to the Netherlands until recently, with exhibitions at the Camden Arts Center, Greene Naftali, and now a carefully curated retrospective at Wiels in Brussels. Van Golden's work thus seems poised to arrive in the present, in the present-day culture industry. I was invited to contribute an essay to the catalogue of the Wiels exhibition, and I decided to use this opportunity reflect on the complex role of Van Golden's practice in (and often against) developments in the cultural economy since the 1960s.

From the introduction: "Daan van Golden’s works are marked by precise attention to the properties of the mediums employed by the artist. This would seem to invite a formalist analysis, or rather a structuralist one—for van Golden’s early Pop abstractions, the “handkerchief” and “wrapping paper” paintings, already mock the limitations of formalism, playing off form-as-form against form as a codified, signifying structure. While such works thus make it abundantly clear that they should not be regarded as self-sufficient forms, I want to argue that, since the 1970s in particular, van Golden’s work also frustrates structuralist readings that disparage the social context as extraneous to the production of meaning. What I propose to do here is analyse van Golden’s practice in the context of changing economical and social conditions—globally, but also, and specifically, in the Netherlands. Of course, the aim is not to read art as a mere superstructural or ideological reflection of an economic and social base. If anything, the point should be that the economy’s increasing dependence on intellectual and cultural labour makes the problematic—or dialectic—relation between these two more complicated than ever. Van Golden’s works can be seen as constituting a series of interventions in the changing conditions of cultural production."

The retrospective at Wiels is on view until 29 April; the catalogue will be ready towards the end of the show's run. The image shows an installation view with a dialogue between two exercises in framing and ornithology: an untitled 1965 collage in the foreground and Birds (1986) in the background.

[A note on the name: In Dutch the full name is "Daan van Golden" with a lower-case v, but when only the the last name is used it is "Van Golden" with a capital V. Since this is rather confusing to the majority of the world's population, Wiels consistently uses "van Golden."]

VU University Research Master's Programme

A call for applications for VU University's Research Master's Programme Visual Arts, Media and Architecture (VAMA) has gone out on the Art & Education list.

The conditions under which academic teaching and research take place are rapidly deteriorating in the Netherlands, and across much of Europe. In his farewell speech for visiting professor Jae Emerling before the holidays, my colleague Wouter Davidts invoked Adorno's short text "IQ" from Minima Moralia,  "about the fate of intellectual labor in an era of an ever-growing technocracy," in which thought is constantly disciplined by being subjected to performance checks. One should not forget that Adorno's stark and total indictments were always coupled with what is fundamentally a labour of optimism: with teaching, and in doing so making the most of the framework, bending it to meet needs unforeseen by politico-economical imperatives. 

All over Europe, faculties are trying to do just that, often against opposition from managers and members of the "support staff." As a two-year programme in which advanced students in art history and related disciplines can develop their intellectual capacities and their research skills and research agenda, I believe that VAMA is doing quite a good job at doing what matters. Due to a bit of classic bureaucratic obstructionism from a "communication consultant" employed by the university, a link to the blog that gives an impression of VAMA's activities was omitted from the announcement; it can be found

An announcement on an international mailing list such as this is itself a symptom of the economistic logic that forces us to grow or perish. But while this may not be the kind
of internationalization that we aspire to, it does have good effects on the student population, which has become more diverse and ambitious. The real problem is of course that international students are increasingly seen as cash cows, with manifests itself in rising tuition for students from non-EEA countries in particular. There is, however, the possibility of applying for a VU Fellowship. Information on tuition fees can be found here, and on the fellowship programme here.

The deadline for applications is 1 April, or 1 March if you apply for the fellowship program.

Image: Wendelien van Oldenborgh, Supposing I love you. And you also love me, 2001 (production still)

Performance and Action

One year ago, in January 2011, Paul Chan and I edited an issue of e-flux journal on the rise of right-wing populisms. In the absence of immediately successful counter-strategies, this was conceived as a first stock-taking in the form of a series of "reports." The issue's Dylanesque title, "Idiot Wind," was taken by some as a symptom of ill-advised leftist arrogance, as a sign that we foolishly underestimate the intelligence of populist strategies and the need to learn from them. One would have thought that most contributions made it perfectly clear that the desperate logic of right-wing populism will ultimately have disastrous effects even for most of those who at the moment think they stand to gain (and perhaps actually stand to gain, for the time being) from its rise. Of course Geert Wilders and Sarah Palin are smart; they cleverly boost the idiot wind.

In some ways, the outlook is now less bleak, as the second half of 2011 has seen a wave of new protest movements in a number of countries. The December issue of e-flux journal was made under the impact of Occupy Wall Street, and contained brilliant contributions by Bifo Berardi and Hito Steyerl, among others; the current (January) issue continues the analysis of the ongoing social and political upheavals as well as the economical, cultural and technological factors that shape them. It features my essay "General Performance." This text, part of my History in Motion book project, discusses both artistic performance and today's performative economy, which is undergoing a profound crisis at the moment. From the text:

"The term 'performance' is slippery even within relatively well-defined contexts. In today’s economy, it not only refers to the productivity of one’s labor but also to one’s actual, quasi-theatrical self-presentation, one’s self-performance in an economy where work has become more dependent on immaterial factors. As an artist or writer or curator, you perform when you do your job, but your job also includes giving talks, going to openings, being in the right place at the right time. Transcending the limits of the specific domain of performance art, then, is what I would call general performance as the basis of the new labor. The emergence of new forms of performance in art in the 1960s was itself a factor in the emergence of this contemporary form of labor, which is, after all, connected to a culturalization of the economy."

Later on in this essay, I examine how new forms of activism emerge within the performative regime of contemporary capitalism, exploring and exploding the contradictions of contemporary labour. That these collective acts can generate an emancipatory political narrative strong enough to challenge the relentless mythmaking on the other end of the political spectrum remains questionable, but at least there are now partially positive as well as negative examples to scrutinize and learn from.