e-flux journal issue 37 out now

e-flux journal

September 7, 2012

With contributions by: 
Lawrence Liang, MetahavenAmelia Groom,
Nato Thompson
Claire Tancons, and
Anton Vidokle and Brian Kuan Wood

www.e-flux.com/issues/37-september-2012

It is hard to avoid the feeling these days that the future is behind us. It’s not so much that time has stopped, but rather that the sense of promise and purpose that once drove historical progress has become impossible to sustain. On the one hand, the faith in modernist, nationalist, or universalist utopias continues to retreat, while on the other, a more immediate crisis of faith has accompanied the widespread sense of diminishing economic prospects felt in so many places. Not to mention the ascension of populist and sectarian orders that now mire many of the popular revolutions of 2011 in the Middle East. Things just don’t seem to move. But as historical time comes to a standstill, lived time accelerates at a dizzying pace, leading one to wonder whether this frantic accumulation and acceleration on the level of working, social, and private life actually serves to compensate for the sense of drift and indeterminacy felt in public and political life.

Either way, this makes for a very peculiar temporality that we now inhabit—one in which looking into the past, the future, or the present seems somehow walled off. But why not play them all off against each other? Here it becomes interesting to consider Trevor Paglen’s paradoxical Last Pictures project—discussed in this issue with Nato Thompson—in which he worked with materials scientists at MIT to develop an archival disc of images of life on earth for an alien audience in the future. After traveling into space on the television satellite EchoStar XVI, the images will orbit the earth for billions of years.

Techno-libertarians are often fond of citing Deleuze and Latour in suggesting that networked communications protocols have served to provide a de facto universalism that fulfills and exceeds the promises of modernity. But as the scale of the internet has grown exponentially in recent years, its frictionless and deterritorialized spaces of free and open communication have come to be increasingly redeployed by authoritarian nation-states and massive corporations as a tool to serve their own interests. In the first of a series of essays researching the paradigmatic shift in how our current conceptions of freedom find their material support, in this issue Metahaven begin their extensive probe into the metaphor of the cloud. Also in this issue, Lawrence Liang considers the promise of the shadow beneath the totalizing utopian ideal of the library:

“If the utopian ideal of the library was to bring together everything that we know of the world, then the length of its bookshelves was coterminous with the breadth of the world. But like its predecessors in Alexandria and Babel the project is destined to be incomplete, haunted by what it necessarily leaves out and misses. The library as heterotopia reveals itself only through the interstices and lays bare the fiction of any possibility of a coherent ground on which a knowledge project can be built. Finally, there is the question of where we stand once the ground that we stand on has itself been dislodged.”

Art historian Amelia Groom revisits modern art’s love affair with the blank slate in observing a series of works that use erasure and imageless images to shift the parameters of presence and absence. It is interesting to recall that Franco “Bifo” Berardi places the first declaration of the death of the future in punk rock, when Sid Vicious screamed “no future” in 1977, two years after Margaret Thatcher became head of the Conservative Party in the UK, and two years before she became Prime Minister. In this issue, Claire Tancons follows her influential essay from issue 30 on carnivalesque protest in Occupy Wall Street with a look at how the courageous punks of Pussy Riot have used the carnivalesque as protest strategy. Finally, Anton Vidokle and Brian Kuan Wood return to Duchamp’s readymades, finding in them the unwitting prototype for the meta-system of institutional enclosure now known as contemporary art. The question of how a Duchampian contextual break could be possible today is also a way of asking how one might break the contract that underwrites the freedom of the artist, when that freedom can only be granted by authorized institutions of art.

—Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, Anton Vidokle

In this issue:

Lawrence Liang—Shadow Libraries
If the utopian ideal of the library was to bring together everything that we know of the world, then the length of its bookshelves was coterminous with the breadth of the world. But like its predecessors in Alexandria and Babel the project is destined to be incomplete, haunted by what it necessarily leaves out and misses.

Metahaven—Captives of the Cloud: Part I
The cloud, as a planetary-scale infrastructure, was first made possible by an incremental rise in computing power, server space, and trans-continental fiber-optic connectivity. It is a by-product and parallel iteration of the global (information) economy, enabling a digital (social) marketplace on a worldwide scale. Many of the cloud’s most powerful companies no longer use the shared internet, but build their own dark fiber highways for convenience, resilience, and speed. In the cloud’s architecture of power, the early internet is eclipsed.

Amelia Groom—There’s Nothing to See Here: Erasing the Monochrome
Whiteness can be obliteration that facilitates; a ground cleared for a new set of relations. To erase an image is always to make another image, but to make any image is in the first place already an act of erasure.

Nato Thompson—The Last Pictures: Interview with Trevor Paglen
The Last Pictures is a paradoxical project. Its theme is paradox and the materials it uses are paradoxical. It is a montage of images whose materiality is such that it will probably last until the sun expands and engulfs Earth in fire and plasma five billion years from now. At the same time, those images are essentially meaningless, not only in the future, but in the present.

Claire Tancons—Carnival to Commons: Pussy Riot, Punk Protest, and the Exercise of Democratic Culture
The punk prayer, in its call for the removal of President Putin from office in the very cathedral where Patriarch Kirill officiates, is an updating and a doubling of the decrowning of the carnival king ritual, which is, according to Bakhtin, one of the dual aspects of the primary carnivalesque act of mock crowning/decrowning. Pussy Riot killed two kings with one song.

Anton Vidokle and Brian Kuan Wood—Breaking the Contract
The systemic enclosure of contemporary art is much larger than a consensus around exhibition codes, curatorial sensibility, and relevant artists, because the very function of cultural spaces themselves has been superseded or redeployed by a political superstructure which over the past decade has merged increasingly with the sensibilities of actual, concrete political structures that have discovered in contemporary art and culture a general a means of exhibiting liberal, enlightened, globally-conscious moral values. The artistic field is happy to serve in this diplomatic capacity, because expanding its rule allows it to bury its own ontological crisis.

The print edition of e-flux journal can now be found at:
Amsterdam: De Appel / Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten Andratx: CCA Andratx Antwerp: M HKA Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Athens: OMMU Auckland: split/fountain Austin: Arthouse at the Jones Center Baden-Baden: Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden Belgrade:Cultural Centre of Belgrade Banff: Walter Phillips Gallery, The Banff Centre Barcelona: Arts Santa Monica / MACBA Basel: Kunsthalle Basel, Museum fur Gegenwartskunst Beijing and Guangzhou: Vitamin Creative Space Beirut: 98weeks Belgrade: Cultural Center of Belgrade Bergen: Bergen Kunsthall / Rakett Berlin: b_books / Berliner Künstlerprogramm – DAAD / do you read me? / NBK, Neuer Berliner Kunstverein / Pro qm Berlin and Zurich: Motto Bern: Kunsthalle Bern / Lehrerzimmer Bialystok: Arsenal Gallery Bielefeld: Bielefelder  unstverein Birmingham: Eastside Projects / Ikon Gallery Bologna: MAMbo – Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna Bregenz: Kunsthaus Bregenz Bristol: Arnolfini Brussels: Wiels Bucharest: National Museum of Contemporary Art Bucharest (MNAC) / Pavilion Unicredit Cairo: Contemporary Image Collective (CIC) / Townhouse Gallery Calgary: The New Gallery Cambridge: Wysing Arts Center Castello: Espai d´art contemporani de Castelló (EACC) Chicago: Graham Foundation / The Renaissance Society Cologne: Kölnischer Kunstverein Copenhagen: Overgaden Derry: CCA Derry~Londonderry Dubai: Traffic Dublin: Dublin City, The Hugh Lane / Project Arts Centre Dusseldorf: Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen Eindhoven: Van Abbemuseum Farsta: Konsthall C Frankfurt: Städelschule / Portikus Gdansk: Centrum Sztuki Współczesnej Łaźnia Genève: Centre de la photographie Ghent: S.M.A.K Giza: Beirut Glasgow: CCA Centre for Contemporary Arts / Sculpture Studios Graz: Grazer Kunstverein / Kunsthaus Graz / para_SITE Gallery Grijon: LABoral Centre for Art and Creative Industries Hamburg: Kunstverein Helsinki: Museum of Contemporary Art KIASMA Hobart: CAST Gallery / INFLIGHT Hong Kong: Asia Art Archive Istanbul: BAS / CDA – Projects / DEPO / SALT Innsbruck: Galerie im Taxispalais Johannesburg: Center for Historical Reenactments Kristiansand: SKMU Sørlandet Art Museum Kansas City: La Cucaracha PressKlagenfurt: Press Kunstraum Lakeside Leeds: Pavilion Lisbon: Maumaus, Escola de Artes Visuais / Oporto Loughborough: Radar, Loughborough University Ljubljana: Moderna Galerija LLandudno: Mostyn London: Architectural Association/Bedford Press / Gasworks / ICA / Serpentine Gallery/ The Showroom / Visiting Arts Los Angeles: REDCAT Luxembourg: Casino Luxembourg Madrid: Brumaria / CA2M / Pensart Maastricht: Jan van Eyck Academie Marfa: Ballroom Marfa Melbourne: Monash University Museum of Art / World Food Books Mexico City: Proyectos Monclova Milan: Fondazione Nicola Trussardi, Hangar Bicocca, Milton Keynes: Milton Keynes Gallery Minneapolis: Walker Arts Center Moncton: Fixed Cog Hero (a bicycle courier company) Montreal: Canadian Centre for Architecture Moscow: Garage Center for Contemporary Culture Munich: Museum Villa Stuck / Walther Koenig Bookshop, Haus der Kunst Munich New Delhi: Sarai CSDS New York: e-flux / Independent Curators International (ICI) / Printed Matter, Inc Nottingham: Nottingham Contemporary Omaha: Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts Oslo: Kunstnernes hus Oxford: Modern Art Oxford Padona: Fondazione March Paris: castillo/corrales – Section 7 Books / Centre Pompidou / Les Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers Philadelphia: Bodega Pori: Pori Art Museum Porto: Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Serralves Portland: Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, (PICA) / Publication Studio Prague: Dox Centre for Contemporary Art Prishtina: Stacion – Center for Contemporary Art Prishtina Providence: AS220 Reykjavik: Reykjavik Art Museum Riga: Kim? Rio de Janeiro: Capacete / A Gentil Carioca Rome: MACRO Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Roma / Opera Rebis Rotterdam: Piet Zwart Institute / Witte de With Saint-Nazaire: Le Grand Cafe, Centre D’art Contemporain Salzburg: Salzburger Kunstverein San Antonio: Artpace São Paulo: Master in Visual Arts, Faculdade Santa Marcelina Sarajevo: Sarajevo Center for Contemporary Art Seoul: The Books / The Book Society Sherbrooke: Foreman Art Gallery of Bishop’s University Skopje: Press to Exit Project Space Sofia: ICA Sofia / Sofia Art Gallery St Erme Outre et Ramecourt: Performing Arts Forum St Louis: White Flag Projects Stockholm: Bonniers Konsthall / IASPIS / Index / Konstfack, University College of Art, Craft and Design Stuttgart: Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart Sydney: Artspace Tallinn: Kumu Art Museum of Estonia The Hague: Stroom Den Haag Toronto: Mercer Union / The Power Plant Torun: Centre of Contemporary Art Znaki Czasu in Torun Toowoomba: Raygun Contemporary Art Projects Trieste: Trieste Contemporanea Umeå: Bildmuseet, Umeå University Utrecht: BAK, basis voor actuele kunst / Casco-Office for Art, Design and Theory Vaduz: Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein Valletta: Malta Contemporary Art Foundation Vancouver: ARTSPEAK / Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, University of British Columbia / Fillip / Motto / READ Books, Charles H. Scott Gallery, Emily Carr University of Art and Design Vienna: Salon für Kunstbuch, Belvedere Gallery Vigo: MARCO, Museo de Arte Contemporanea de Vigo Vilnius: Contemporary Art Centre (CAC) Vitoria-Gasteiz: Montehermoso Kulturunea Visby: BAC, Baltic Art Center Warsaw: Zachęta Narodowa Galeria Sztuki / Zachęta National Gallery of Art Wiesbaden: Nassauischer Kunstverein (NKV) Yerevan: Armenian Center For Contemporary Experimental Art, NPAK Zagreb: Galerija Miroslav Kraljevic / Gallery Nova / Institute for Duration, Location and Variables, DeLVe Zurich: Postgraduate Program in Curating, Zürich University of the Arts / Shedhalle / White Space.