Border Documents 9-11 Nov 2009 Copenhagen

Border Documents @ CPH:DOX

Border Documents: A scholarly/activist workshop on the crossings of borders and documentary films.

Border Documents is the third in a series of events run as part of the international research network Beyond Borders.

Preamble: In “Sonic Border” (London Nov 2008) we explored the way sound crosses the border differently, provoking a rethink of the border’s location – not just in ports, but between us all, in conversations, in ideas – an oppressive structure of language, meaning, representation, and a cry of protest and the music of solidarity across divides. Sound problematized the geographic and visual location of the border regime.

In “Theatre Border” (Berlin April 2009) the performative, tactile and ritualistic force of the border as staged power suggests we rethink connection, touch, proximity and co-responsibility. The theatrical exclusion of others manufactures a charade populated by demons, caricatures and monstrosity. We don’t want to be cast in such dramas.

In “Border Documents” (Copenhagen Nov 2009) we will join the CPH.DOX documentary film festival to consider the border as it unfolds in time/screen based media – what does thinking about border activism and the telematic offer us? Possible topics include the border in television news, the in-focus out of focus role of CCTV in detention centres, the scanning screens of the immigration check, the civilian phone-cam exposé of deportation and ‘Torture Taxi’ (special rendition) flights, and more.

We are interested in new perspectives on the status and function of the documentary forms today, as they cross the ontological divide between fiction and truth, art and reality (objective/subjective, social, political, ethical etc) and frame alternative ways of seeing, witnessing, representing, archiving and experiencing ‘the elements of truth’ (Steyerl, 2003). Can we understand documentation not as paper passports or mere representation but as docketing the (re)construction of (new) social and political realities – we are interested in time and screen formats that offer access to critical recontextualization of the reproduction of borders, and of unfolding new agents of social and political (ex)change. On a more formalistic note, how does the documentary form carry a politic, an ethics or epistemology and how can the documentary film help us see and act differently? Does the time of the border transform its place, or its performative character? Does border activism lend itself to the cinematic? Can we film another way across?

Beyond Borders is a collaborative venture between the Copenhagen Doctoral School in Cultural Studies, the Friei University Berlin InterArts, Jadavpur University (India) Film Studies and the Centre for Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths University of London, and with guest participation from Clandestino Festival (Sweden) and Migrant Media (UK), among others. Beyond Borders is funded by the AHRC UK Beyond Text program.

PROGRAM

9th November 2009

11.30-12.00 (Seminar room)
Prof Frederik Tystrup & Prof John Hutnyk:
‘Introduction’ to “Border Documents”

12.00-13.30 (Seminar room)
Lecture by Mathias Danbolt:
‘Queers Without Borders: Activist Travels in Elliat Graney-Saucke’s Travel Queeries’
ravel Queeries (2009) by Elliat Graney-Saucke is the first feature length documentary film portraying radical queer culture in Europe. Produced by queer filmmakers from the U.S., Travel Queeries takes us on an extensive tour of queer communities in ten major European cities – from London to Warsaw to Belgrade and Copenhagen. The travels alluded to in the film’s title do not only refer to the U.S. filmmakers’ travel with a camera to and through Europe, as it also points to the travels of activists within Europe, where people circulate between squats, festivals, and other social and political gatherings. In this paper I will focus on the way in which Travel Queeries queries activist travels. By looking into the way the film represent – as well as take part in – the circulation of concepts, repertoires, esthetics, and politics, I will discuss how travels and translation have been central to the development of the transnational (Euroamerican) queer activist community. Informed by the activist group Queers Without Borders fight for free movement for all in relation to crossings of gender, sexuality, and national borders, I will focus especially on the border issues raised by and evident in Travel Queeries, touching upon question of racism and activist tourism.

Presentation and screening by Maria Finn: ‘A Technical Problem’ (DVD, 16. min).
After having studied the films of Michelangelo Antonioni I grew interested in his writing and found Unfinished Business, a collection of his never realized screenplays, where Technically Sweet was mentioned as one. I have used this screenplay as a starting point for a video where I travel to the sites in Sardinia that should have appeared in the film. The video from that trip, A Technical Problem, can be seen as a reflection over how fiction is constructed by including excerpts from the screenplay, and through the documentation of these places that itself produces a fiction. Film locations become virtual archaeological sites, which Laura Mulvey describes in Roberto Rossellini’s Journey to Italy/Viaggio in Italia (1953) from her collection of essays, Death 24x a Second (1996). Rossellini used the archaeological sites in Naples for his film to reflect over how the present is fossilized on film. I will use Mulvey’s essay to investigate how movies functions as an archive over places, some ruined and some still existing, and how visiting these places affects us.

13.30-15.00 Lunch

15.00-16.30 (Seminar room)
‘Border performed’ – Workshop, led by Filmmaker Dr Hito Steyerl
3 recent video art works will be screened (Amar Kanwar’s “ A season outside”, plus work by von Wedemeyer and Mik) and discussed in relation to their relation to border and performance.

17.00-19.00 (Tent)
European Premiere screening of “Musafer: Sikhi is Travelling” with Q@A with one of the directors Kushwant Singh (the other director is Michael Nijhawan)
Musafer is an independent documentary film that has been shot in Frankfurt, Paris, London, Delhi and San Francisco between 2003 and 2009. The film portrays the interconnected lives of a younger generation of diasporic Sikhs by giving emphasis to their artistic expressions and in-depth conversations about the meaning of Sikhi in times of political upheaval and social uncertainty. Musafer does not attempt to portray the Sikh tradition (Sikhi) in its multifaceted forms, but instead sheds a light on the inner and outer journeys of particular individuals, their homing desires, as well as their boundary crossing endeavours.

20.00 (venue to be decided) dinner

10th November

11.00–13.00 (Seminar room)
Round table discussion on ‘Borders and Selves’

Heidi Hasbrouck:
‘Personal Borders: The Filmmaker’s Family through the Lens’
This paper aims to explore the re-formation of boundaries when the filmmaker turns the camera to her personal life. Historian and film critic, Paul Arthur, writes of the relationship between the filmmaker and the subject as a negotiation where borders are shaped. “An ethical compact of sorts, an explicit or tacit ‘transaction’ between observer and participant, is negotiated; its terms regulate what can be recorded, what form the recording will ultimately take, and how the filmmaker intends to portray social actors who agree to appear (Arthur, 876).” What then happens when those borders must be re-shaped from a previously formulated relationship? Between the filmmaker and her film? Between the filmmaker and the audience when the story is a personal one? Furthermore, how does turning the camera on one’s own family change the ethics or politics of the documentary itself? Through the exploration of multiple personal documentaries, including Hara Kazuo’s “Extreme Private Eros: Love Song 1974”, John Maringouin’s “Running Stumbled”, recently released Kurt Kuenne’s “Dear Zachary”, and new filmmaker Marianne Hougen-Moraga’s “My Mother’s Promise”, I aim to resolve my own qualms as a documentary filmmaker torn between the boundaries of my family and a potential documentary about our ‘darker side’.

Elena Papadaki:
‘Even better than the real thing: when fiction becomes more convincing than the truth – Stefanos Tsivopoulos’ documentaries’
Stefanos Tsivopoulos is a visual artist engaged with the documentary format. He uses archival material, historical footage and real-time events in order to create his own -often pseudo- narratives. Among others, his work challenge journalistic conventions and the meaning of an “objective” historical narrative (Gray 2008) (Interview, 2007. He commissioned a BBC reporter to interview a war veteran from Serbia; then asked a Serb filmmaker to take the transcript and create a fictional version of the same interview, shot at the same location. Both interviews were projected at the same time in adjacent rooms, with the fictional one looking more convincing than the real documentary) as well as the power of mediated news and propaganda (The Remake, 2007. He uses archival material from the Greek national television and from events that took place during the dictatorship in Greece [1967-1974] with his own shooting of recreated scenes from the television studios at the time). According to Tsivopoulos, the “visualisation of history and reality can be interpreted and misinterpreted at the same time” (Tsivopoulos 2008). His interest lies in the way in which we, the spectators, consume the information that exists within the visual imagery and accept the validity of the “archive”. Where do we draw the line between fiction and reality? How does his work (re-)create a new social and historical imagery? A selection of clips from Tsivopoulos’ work will be shown during the presentation.

13.00 Lunch

15.00-16.30 (Seminar room)
Round table discussion on ‘Framing Border’

Ray Ganz:
‘Radio Verité and Acoustic Osmosis’
Field recordings and found sounds are still one of the major sources of radio artworks, in spite of Raymond Schafer having introduced the concept of soundscape and developed the World Soundscape Project more than 30 years ago. The present article examines the different contemporary artistic uses of field recordings and found sounds within the Radia network during the last three years, according to Schafer’s concept of schizophonia and Feld’s notion of schismogenesis. It argues that although radio occupies a privileged position in the current media landscape to broadcast acoustic decisive moments and documents, it is during the aural osmosis of different soundscapes (diegetic and non-diegetic in relation to the listener’s existence) allowed by the radiophonic experience that field recordings and found sounds become radio artworks.

Jennifer Otter:
‘[Dancing In] Isolation: Joy Division Tribute Bands Transmission of 2.0’s Melancholy’
Manchester’s iconic Joy Division officially disbanded almost thirty years ago, after the untimely suicide of lead singer Ian Curtis. Yet many people point to this seminal group as one, if not the, forefather of modern rock in its present incarnation. Bands such as The Killers, Fall Out Boy and Interpol blatantly rip off the Mancunians’ riffs, style and sentiments through out their own manipulations of musicality. However, some people feel that just paying accolades to the fallen heroes through interpretations of their own new music is not enough. They believe that only the original music of Joy Division truly expresses the spirit of the troubling times we are living in, a world reflective of Ian Curtis’s own bleak Manchester of the late 1970s. For this tribe of people, solely by creating their own group to play exclusively and inclusively the music of Joy Division can they express their own situational oppression, of a world that is simultaneously connected via the world wide web and instant messenger, yet more alienated, with people staying inside their homes more, hidden behind a computer screen and “mediated reality.” Tribute bands and interviewees from a variety of geographic and socioeconomic groups have been included in the project, spanning Mexico City, London, Macclesfield, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Iraq, Australia, and Bosnia, illustrating a true breaking of borders and staying power of the foursome from the North not often illustrated by artists of today.

17.00-19.00 (Seminar room)

Lecture by DR Bhaskar Mukhophadhyay:
‘Ritwik Ghatak Documentarist’
Largely unknown and unacknowledged in the West and misunderstood in India, one of the masters of twentieth century cinema, the Communist director Ritwik Kumar Ghatak’s cinematic oeuvre revolves largely around the after effects of the Partition of Bengal which displaced thousand and left deep wounds that never healed. Ritwik’s cinema is about the monumentality of this catastrophe though as a theorist of postcolonial culture and a Communist cultural worker, he never allowed nostalgia to take over his sense of engagement with the present. As a cultural theorist, Ritiwik rejected the Soviet model of Social Realism and the European radical avant-garde aesthetic politics of high Modernism. His uniquely postcolonial vision of culture entailed a renewed engagement with the epic and the vernacular and a re-enchantment of the machine through a renewal of the ‘primitive.’ In cinema, his renewal of melodrama fused majestically with his revival of the epic, leading to an aesthetic of vernacular modernism that has no precedent or parallel anywhere in world cinema.
As political film-maker, Ritwik’s treatment of Partition is multi-layered which interrogates and confronts borders at many levels. Himself a refugee, he had little illusion about culture’s holism. He depicted with compassion the class-logic of the inevitable but historic disintegration of the colonial Bengali bhadralok in the aftermath of the Partition and the continued presence of the sealed-off border in the affective landscape of the subcontinent. In Ajantric, a film about the animistic beliefs of tribals and an old automobile that takes on human attributes through the affective engagement of its owner, Ritwik plays on the cognitive-affective borders between fetishism and disenchantment, between the human and the non-human, between the sensible and the intelligible. My presentation will focus on two of his major films, Ajantrik (1957-58) and Subarnarekha (1962) through the optic of ‘border’ in order to situate Ghatak in the wider cultural politics of our times.

Lecture by Abhijit Roy
‘Documentary Diversions? Factual Popular and the Reality Debates’
This presentation talks about how the televisual genre of the ‘factual popular’ and the debates around reality shows can help us revisit the ‘documentary’ form and its legacies. It would like to engage with recent theorizations as evident in John Corner’s coinage ‘documentary diversions’ and Keath Betty’s ‘documentary display’, and also the classical/Griersonian school of documentary practice, to pose the age-old, somewhat hackneyed, debates around the ‘border’ between fact and faction in a new light. While the factual popular, in its form, and in its mode of address (posing as the neo-progressivist messiah of the late-capital, citizenising agent etc.) enters into interesting dialogue with the documentary tradition, particularly with its ‘classical’ mode, the current trends in documentary filming and dissemination, in turn, get highly interjected by the factual popular. Contextual, in this regard, could be a recent practice in documentary diversion: that of creating incessant audiovisual archives (foregrounding therefore a certain idea of ‘beyond text’) and circulating across the de-territorializing space of internet. The ‘publics/users’ of both of these trajectories intersect in various ways. Tickling the network, generating circuits of fandom and activism defying national borders, have become major trends in both of these.

19.00 dinner (1 hour)

20.00 (Tent)
European Premiere screening of “Understanding Trafficking” plus Q&A with the director Ananya Chatterjee Chakraborti
Legend goes, there is a magical line that Laxman drew around Sita, which no woman is supposed to cross. If any woman dared to cross the magical line, she would risk being kidnapped by Ravan the demon.
Women have for centuries been discouraged to cross the line, to remain indoors, and within limits. The lines and limits of their existence have always been defined by patriarchy.
So what happens if a woman does cross the line? By circumstances, through need, or just by a desire to dare the magical line?
Camera Joydeep Bose, Sound Sukanta Majumdar, Editing Saikat Sekhareswar Ray, Direction Ananya C. Chakraborti
Reviews here: http://www.cinemawoman.in/review.html

11 November

11.00–11.30 (Seminar room)

Ruth Hogarth: Beyond Text Program Co-Ordinator. ‘The Wider Program’

Mary Claire Halvorson (Goldsmiths Director of Professional Development): ‘Alterity, mobility and rhizomatic model of learning’

11.30–13.30 (Seminar room)

Dr Dietmar Kammerer:
‘Official, unofficial, invisible – the role of the filmic document in “Operation Spring”’
“Operation Spring” was the name of the first (and later widely publicized) undercover police operation in 1999 that made use of covert surveillance technologies in order to collect evidence against an (allegedly) international ring of drug dealers. “Operation Spring” is also the name of a documentary film that years later put in question the police operation and the subsequent trials and convictions of more than in ehundred people, mostly immigrants form Nigeria. The documentary became one of the rare cases, where a film actually sparks a political debate and was discussed in the national parliament. In my presentation I want to argue, that the political and persuasive power of this film can – among other factors – be explained by its use of the filmic document. Three types of images can be made out in this film: official, unofficial and invisible images. What counts as a document or as evidence, is always to be seen within a strategy of power.”

Renate Wöhrer:
‘How (Not) to Be Seen. Contemporary Attempts in Social Documentary to Contradict Hegemonic Discourses on Labour’
In my contribution to the workshop I would like to discuss the documentary art project ‘Chat(t)er Gardens: Stories by and about Filipina Workers’ (2002-2008) by the Austrian artist Moira Zoitl. It is not a film but an installation, in which video plays a major part. It consists of videos, photography, text, embroidery, sculptures and/or spatial constructions. The project documents the working and living conditions of Filipina domestic workers in Hong Kong and London as well as their political and social activities. It is conceived as a platform, where different kinds of expressions – also by different authors – are possible. In this documentary the border is at issue in three different ways: First of all the depicted migrant workers are confronted with borders between nation states. In their “host country” they also have to deal with social borders. Due to their special working and living situation migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong make this social border visible. Since they mostly live at their working places, which are the private homes of their employers, most of them don’t have a private space of their own. Therefore they spend their rare free time in public places, which they use differently than the majority society. They create a public visibility, which contradicts their hidden existence in everyday life. In Hong Kong as well as in other industrialized – or better: post-industrial – countries the economic systems relies on the exploitation of domestic workers. But neither the exploitation nor the domestic workers should be a public issue. The system is based on the concealment of these facts. On the one hand the workers counteract this kind of suppression (in taking public space as well as in political demonstrations, celebrations, etc.) on the other hand Moira Zoitl brings up the issue (and the efforts of the workers) in the public of the art world via her documentary. So the third kind of border, which is at issue within this documentary project, is the border drawn by hegemonic practices to demarcate what can be said, shown, discussed, etc. within a society and what’s excluded from public discourse. In my paper I will examine Moira Zoitl’s methods and artistic strategies to undermine dominant regimes of visibility. In analyzing this project as an example I will discuss the problems and possibilities of documentary to produce and initiate counter-hegemonic discourses.

13.30 (Lunch)

15.00-17.30 (lecture room)

Raul Gschrey

Between Fact and Fiction. Artistic Works on Visual Surveillance.

Documentary approaches play a major role in artistic works on visual surveillance. This becomes most obvious in the mockumentary ?Citizen Cam? (France/Iceland, 1999), a satire on a fictional TV-channel in Reykjavik. Artistic projects which focus on the topic often include phases of research on the extend and possibilities of CCTV systems and their utilisation. Some artists use the original pictures produced by surveillance systems, but through the process of editing the material becomes fictionalised. During performances and interventions in spaces under surveillance, usually there is not only the CCTV camera present but also further cameras, which document the action and form a means of counter- and self-observation. In these situations, the presence of the camera also changes the reaction of the audience and the authorities. The borders between the documentary and the fictional become porous.

All: Discussion of the Future of Beyond Borders.

18.00 Beyond Borders Workshop after-party

bt_logo_cmyk2cmyk-lscape2

Herbert Marcuse

def0f523b6f7b89652b8df511fe899f6Am reading “The Frankfurt School in Exile”, by Thomas Wheatland. Which has reminded me how much Marcuse’s “One Dimensional Man” was touted by my politics tutor when I was in second year of uni. I didn’t find many things in ‘Exile’ that weren’t already in the many other tomes I’ve read on Adorno and his migrant intellectual mates, but at least its mostly a good read – just far too much money crunching by Horkheimer, and nothing much on Teddy in California… (sweating no doubt in the sun, mopping his brow, knocking back margarita’s like there’s no more poetry to be written… Now there was a chapter that could have been snappy). Nevertheless, Wheatland’s book improves massively when it gets to the 1960s and Marcuse, SDS, the Weathermen, Panthers and so on. Speaking of the ‘cultural revolution’ that was the flower power lifestyle choice of those who drifted away from SDS and Movement politics at the end of the sixties, Marcuse wrote:

“Co-option threatens the cultural revolution … Against this threat, the entirely premature immediate identification of private and social freedom creates tranquilizing rather than radicalizing conditions adn leads to withdrawal from the political universe in which, alone, freedom can be attained” (Marcuse 1972 “Counterrevolution and Revolt”)

I am going to read Julia Kristeva next – “Sense and Nonsense of Revolt”. I don’t expect her to be so grumpy, but I do hope the echo of Adorno’s Hegelian-inflected negativity is retained. ‘Tranquilizing’ is my italic.

This Much is True

demenezesI will be attending this important bit of theatre:

THIS MUCH IS TRUE
By Paul Unwin and Sarah Beck

On 22 July 2005 Jean Charles de Menezes was shot dead by the Metropolitan Police at Stockwell tube station. It was a defining moment in London’s history yet too many questions are left unanswered.

Award-winning writer and director Paul Unwin’s (co-creator of Casualty and Holby City) and Sarah Beck’s play is a shocking, electrifying, insight into what really happened before, during and in the years following Jean Charles de Menezes’ death.

Weaving together new and personal testimonies from senior police officers including Andy Hayman (Metropolitan Police former head of counter terrorism), Brian Paddick, Jean’s family, his friends, the legal team (including Michael Mansfield QC), THIS MUCH IS TRUE brings the tragedy to the stage and reveals much that has never been said publicly before.

Cast: Amber Agar, Stefano Braschi, Alice Da Cunha, Gerald Kyd, Beatriz Romilly, Justine Waddell.

Directed by Tim Roseman with a multi award-winning creative team including Paul Wills, Mike Walker, Knifedge, Richard Howell and Daniel Pemberton.

http://www.theatre503.com/whatson/detail/144/
www.theatre503.com
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11 theses on art and politics (#5,6,7)

IMG_2777[Thesis five, six and seven (of eleven)]:

5. Trinketization would be a diagnosis of limited responses to global reconfigurations of commodity fetishism, where affect and shopping disguise an unbroken deal with hierarchical social relations locked in, unchallenged. Where class/race/gender politics was, we now have lip-service mockery of these same themes, articulated by the celebrity/televisual machine. The contradictions of news entertainment stand starkly exposed and still without purchase. Participation in conceptual politics is voluntary and belongs to an economy of contribution (Boutang 2009) or the ‘attention theory of value’ (Beller 2006). Here circulation, valourization and expression are governed as the activity of bees – who are dying out, but architectural reflection on this process is in even shorter supply.

The contribution economy is appropriate to a Google mode of production – algorithms are enhanced by voluntary activity of ‘political’ subjects – even ones professing artistic opposition to the system. Accumulated hits (like bees visiting plants for pollen) are aggregated in the hive mind of the virtual. My attention to images accrues value for some rather than other scenes. A calculus of image and attention operates to place some scenes before us and to erase others – the significance of Mao or of the collapse of the Berlin wall would be examples.

Surplus attention, surplus value and conceptual elaboration are the machineries of representation as productivity. It is no longer a case of ‘they cannot represent themselves’ but that they are represented by way of their own activity – the algorithm is Napoleon. In the 18th Brumaire Marx offered this formula as a critique of the little nephew, not an indictment of the lumpen and the peasantry who were unorganised, but a condemnation of the opportunist organiser – that Louis Bonaparte who stood above them as their advocate, while all the time advocating only himself as Queen Bee.

6. Art engaged with politics must engage with institutions – galleries, art books, colleges, conferences – and commerce infiltrates and orchestrates every corner of this quadrant so as to show over and over again that the connection politics-to-market is reinforced with steel. Evaluations of art are then always invested, and self-awareness a false economy, still for sale, worked by the hive-mind. In London, even the most ‘political’ of (art) institutions – the Stephen Lawrence Gallery – which at present hosts a show called ‘Re-Framed’ contrasting and dialoguing between street artists and conceptual artists – stages its own branding niche marketing commercialization for attention’s sake on the basis of the old high and low art façade. Adorno had stressed that these two halves are neither halves of any particular whole, nor either immune to the saturation of industrial processes that diminish them and threaten that secret omnipresence. His critique of Benjamin should be read in full.

it would border on anarchism to revoke the reification of a great work of art in the spirit of immediate use-values. ‘Les extrèmes me touchent ’ [Gide], just as they touch you—but only if the dialectic of the undermost is equivalent to the dialectic of the uppermost, rather than the latter simply decaying. Both bear the stigmata of capitalism, both contain elements of change (naturally never and nowhere the middle-term between Schönberg and the American film). Both are torn halves of an integral freedom, to which however they do not add up. It would be romantic to sacrifice one to the other, either as the bourgeois romanticism of the conservation of personality and all that stuff, or as the anarchistic romanticism of blind confidence in the spontaneous power of the proletariat in the historical process—a proletariat which is itself a product of bourgeois society.To a certain extent I must accuse your essay of this second romanticism. (Adorno to Benjamin 18 March, 1936).

7. But what is bad art? What judgement will be made of art when if fails in the service of politics because politics fails and falls short in terms of:

– aesthetic excellence, technical competence, significance, relevance, impact

The most political points made inside a certain frame – gallery, exhibition, border, cartoon – invalidates politics to the degree that it is art, even at its most critical. Billie Holiday only sings ‘Strange Fruit’. Bob Dylan’s times did not a change – and it is no real concern that this jingle now sells automobiles at a time when the automobile industry is in disarray.

Art as decoration is a demystifying containment. Desecration of art contains politics for the domestic. Wallpapers design is now as much a historical condemnation as was Duchamp’s urinal, as Jarry’s Pere Ubu. Merde. No-one even laughs uncomfortably anymore.

Art as insult. The occasions where inwardness or introspection makes for art that exceeds its own containment are the points at which we might be interested.

continued: http://wp.me/pcKI3-yS

11 theses on art and politics #4

dth14. There is good reason to consider the art object in the widest sense, as a mode of containment. This is true if we are talking of a literary work, graffiti on a wall, or a state monument – each can be a provocation, but each allusion to ‘politics’ can be overtaken by the real.

Politics can be contained in various forms – Berlin ‘walled’, Rushdie burned, China Wendered. Mere representation as representation (vertreten/darstellung) appears as a way of containng/erasing politics. The ‘political’ in art is a neutralization. This is more often than not a vote for order, for the status quo. Radical art must be a process, not a thing – a thing, even where critical, is compatible with wage slavery.

Even films are things. The pop promo is as much conceptual art as commercial format designed to sell records and jingles. A distraction machine even when, perhaps most often when, it is explicitly ‘political. The sensational fascination of the ‘Rage Against the Machine’ is complicit even as it enacts opposition. The overtly political is a release valve and a containment – at best a fable illustrating values that are wholly other than those its existence (and its audience) puts into play. The antithesis of political creativity, the committed artist is no better than a cornered ant. (Ants, I note, cannot pollinate flowers – there is no possible stand-in for the bees if they die out. Why cannot ants pollinate – something to do with how plants have stems…)

That the political artist offers conflict in a way that deflects conflict is not a new point. But here we do get to the issue of architect and intention. And this is not even yet to speak of those who shun this complicity in a higher-minded aspiration that belongs to art ‘as such’. Still more hygienic, conceptual art takes a distance from traditional forms (painting, sculpture) but is nevertheless governed by the same old ‘atmosphere’ that insists on hygiene – that art should remain artistic. Conceptual politics would also distance itself from sculpture, and elections, but still be caught in the logic of representation. Politics as everyday art of life trades upon sensation and eschews depth (party, programme, personality) and trends towards temporary and surface effects.

Continued:

11-theses-on-art-and-politics-567/