This book began as a two-part issue of e-flux journal devoted to the question: What is contemporary art? First, and most obviously: why is this question not asked? That is to say, why do we simply leave it to hover in the shadow of attempts at critical summation in the grand tradition of twentieth-century artistic movements? A single hegemonic “ism” has replaced clearly distinguishable movements and grand narratives. But what exactly does it mean to be working under the auspices of this singular ism? “Widespread usage of the term 'contemporary' seems so self-evident that to further demand a definition of 'contemporary art' may be taken as an anachronistic exercise in cataloguing or self-definition. At the same time, it is no coincidence that this is usually the tenor of such large, elusive questions: it is precisely through their apparent self-evidence that they cease to be problematic and begin to exert their influence in hidden ways; and their paradox, their unanswerability begins to constitute a condition of its own, a place where people work.” e-flux journal: What Is Contemporary Art? puts the apparent simplicity and self-evident term into doubt, asking critics, curators, artists, and writers to contemplate the nature of this catchall or default category. Contributors Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, Anton Vidokle, Cuauhtémoc Medina, Boris Groys, Raqs Media Collective, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Hu Fang, Jörg Heiser, Martha Rosler, Zdenka Badovinac, Carol Yinghua Lu, Dieter Roelstraete, and Jan Verwoert e-flux journal Series edited by Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, Anton Vidokle
If all things in the world can be considered as sources of aesthetic experience, then art no longer holds a privileged position. Rather, art comes between the subject and the world, and any aesthetic discourse used to legitimize art must also necessarily serve to undermine it. Following his recent books Art Power and The Communist Postscript, in Going Public Boris Groys looks to escape entrenched aesthetic and sociological understandings of art--which always assume the position of the spectator, of the consumer. Let us instead consider art from the position of the producer, who does not ask what it looks like or where it comes from, but why it exists in the first place. Boris Groys is Professor at New York University and Senior Research Fellow at the Academy of Design, Karlsruhe. He is the author of many books, including The Total Art of Stalinism, Ilya Kabakov: The Man Who Flew into Space from His Apartment, Art Power, The Communist Postscript, History Becomes Form: Moscow Conceptualism. e-flux journal Series edited by Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, Anton Vidokle
Leading artists, theorists, and writers exhume the dystopian and utopian futures contained within the present “I am the supercommunity, and you are only starting to recognize me. I grew out of something that used to be humanity. Some have compared me to angry crowds in public squares; others compare me to wind and atmosphere, or to software.” Invited to exhibit at the 56th Venice Biennale, e-flux journal produced a single issue over a four-month span, publishing an article a day both online and on site from Venice. In essays, poems, short stories, and plays, artists and theorists trace the negative collective that is the subject of contemporary life, in which art, the internet, and globalization have shed their utopian guises but persist as naked power, in the face of apocalyptic ecological disaster and against the claims of the social commons. “I convert care to cruelty, and cruelty back to care. I convert political desires to economic flows and data, and then I convert them back again. I convert revolutions to revelations. I don’t want security, I want to leave, and then disperse myself everywhere and all the time.”
How the shift from montage to navigation alters the way images--and art--operate as models of political action and modes of political intervention. Navigation begins where the map becomes indecipherable. Navigation operates on a plane of immanence in constant motion. Instead of framing or representing the world, the art of navigation continuously updates and adjusts multiple frames from viewpoints within and beyond the world. Navigation is thus an operational practice of synthesizing various orders of magnitude. Only a few weeks prior to his untimely death in 2014, Harun Farocki briefly referred to navigation as a contemporary challenge to montage--editing distinct sections of film into a continuous sequence--as the dominant paradigm of techno-political visuality. For Farocki, the computer-animated, navigable images that constitute the twenty-first century's "ruling class of images" call for new tools of analysis, prompting him to ask: How does the shift from montage to navigation alter the way images--and art--operate as models of political action and modes of political intervention? Contributors Ramon Amaro, James Bridle, Maïté Chénière, Kodwo Eshun, Anselm Franke, Jennifer Gabrys, Tom Holert, Inhabitants, Doreen Mende, Matteo Pasquinelli, Laura Lo Presti, Patricia Reed, Nikolay Smirnov, Hito Steyerl, Oraib Toukan, and Brian Kuan Wood.
The internet does not exist. Maybe it did exist only a short time ago, but now it only remains as a blur, a cloud, a friend, a deadline, a redirect, or a 404. If it ever existed, we couldn't see it. Because it has no shape. It has no face, just this name that describes everything and nothing at the same time. Yet we are still trying to climb onboard, to get inside, to be part of the network, to get in on the language game, to show up on searches, to appear to exist. But we will never get inside of something that isn't there. All this time we've been bemoaning the death of any critical outside position, we should have taken a good look at information networks. Just try to get in. You can't. Networks are all edges, as Bruno Latour points out. We thought there were windows but actually they're mirrors. And in the meantime we are being faced with more and more—not just information, but the world itself. Contributors Julian Assange, Franco “Bifo” Berardi, Benjamin Bratton, Diedrich Diederichsen, Keller Easterling, Rasmus Fleischer, Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, Ursula K. Heise, Brian Kuan Wood, Bruno Latour, Geert Lovink, Patricia MacCormack, Metahaven, Gean Moreno, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Jon Rich, Hito Steyerl e-flux journal Series edited by Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, Anton Vidokle
“What Was I Thinking? is an initiation into thinking. With a mind that is extremely analytical and yet extremely capable of rendering all kinds of knowledge and experiences permeable to each other, Jalal Toufic creates here a 'summa,' but an open-ended one. He looks into the arts as if they were the privileged site of thinking, even when they inevitably fail, and still confronts his insights/thoughts with texts taken from the traditional religions and mystics of the past. He has reached in this work an Olympian attitude—tuned to his basically Dionysian temperament—that announces the beginning of a detachment, of a remarkable serenity (a joy in thinking that Nietzsche had already understood). Jalal Toufic is today, and has been for some time, the most original thinker on the planet. He assumes the challenge stated by Heidegger in What Is Called Thinking? by his own thinking (by writing this book). To imagine the best possible worlds, to go into uncharted territory; these worlds are eminently those of the arts (as he practices them, as he delves into their layers, their paradoxes, their darings, ever admitting their maddening inbuilt inaccessibility). His kind of an endeavor takes a tremendous courage. And a unique freedom: letting his mind go into unpredicted ascertainments, so that his writing 'does not fall apart two days later.' Situated somewhere close to the spirit of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity and Nietzsche's breakthroughs, we can say that Jalal Toufic is indeed a 'destiny.'”—Etel Adnan Series edited by Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, Stephen Squibb, Anton Vidokle
Jalal Toufic is a thinker and a mortal to death. He was born in 1962 in Beirut or Baghdad and died before dying in 1989 in Evanston, Illinois. This second edition of a collection of his essays whirls around the appearance of the unworldly in art, culture, history, and the present.
In Hito Steyerl's writing we begin to see how, even if the hopes and desires for coherent collective political projects have been displaced onto images and screens, it is precisely here that we must look frankly at the technology that seals them in. The Wretched of the Screen collects a number of Steyerl's landmark essays from recent years in which she has steadily developed her very own politics of the image. Twisting the politics of representation around the representation of politics, these essays uncover a rich trove of information in the formal shifts and aberrant distortions of accelerated capitalism, of the art system as a vast mine of labor extraction and passionate commitment, of occupation and internship, of structural and literal violence, enchantment and fun, of hysterical, uncontrollable flight through the wreckage of postcolonial and modernist discourses and their unanticipated openings. e-flux journal Series edited by Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, Anton Vidokle
A singularly authoritative—yet also anti-authoritative—gathering of a life's work in art, education and activism. For more than half a century, the artist Luis Camnitzer has been concerned with the same things. The essays gathered in this book outline a radically democratic and frequently provocative vision of both art and education. In the first essay, written in 1960, Camnitzer proposes curricular change of the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes in Uruguay, part of a collective effort to bring the school up to the ideal level Camnitzer and fellow artists, students, and educators desired. And in the final essay Camnitzer sums up what he would want an art school to be if he applied to one today—suggesting (with typical dry wit) that the first effort to improve art education may not have succeeded. Working across such mediums as printmaking, sculpture, language, and installations, Camnitzer's work investigates how power is exercised and can be challenged in society. An influential teacher, over the six decades covered by this volume, he has interrogated the power structures inherent to the practice of art at the same time as he explores its liberating potential. Many of these texts are published here for the first time. The book offers a singularly authoritative—yet also anti-authoritative—gathering of a life's work in art, education and activism.
How students get the materials they need as opportunities for higher education expand but funding shrinks. From the top down, Shadow Libraries explores the institutions that shape the provision of educational materials, from the formal sector of universities and publishers to the broadly informal ones organized by faculty, copy shops, student unions, and students themselves. It looks at the history of policy battles over access to education in the post–World War II era and at the narrower versions that have played out in relation to research and textbooks, from library policies to book subsidies to, more recently, the several “open” publication models that have emerged in the higher education sector. From the bottom up, Shadow Libraries explores how, simply, students get the materials they need. It maps the ubiquitous practice of photocopying and what are—in many cases—the more marginal ones of buying books, visiting libraries, and downloading from unauthorized sources. It looks at the informal networks that emerge in many contexts to share materials, from face-to-face student networks to Facebook groups, and at the processes that lead to the consolidation of some of those efforts into more organized archives that circulate offline and sometimes online— the shadow libraries of the title. If Alexandra Elbakyan's Sci-Hub is the largest of these efforts to date, the more characteristic part of her story is the prologue: the personal struggle to participate in global scientific and educational communities, and the recourse to a wide array of ad hoc strategies and networks when formal, authorized means are lacking. If Elbakyan's story has struck a chord, it is in part because it brings this contradiction in the academic project into sharp relief—universalist in principle and unequal in practice. Shadow Libraries is a study of that tension in the digital era. Contributors Balázs Bodó, Laura Czerniewicz, Miroslaw Filiciak, Mariana Fossatti, Jorge Gemetto, Eve Gray, Evelin Heidel, Joe Karaganis, Lawrence Liang, Pedro Mizukami, Jhessica Reia, Alek Tarkowski
Let's be clear about something: it is infuriating that most interesting artists are perfectly capable of functioning in at least two or three professions that are, unlike art, respected by society in terms of compensation and general usefulness. Furthermore, when the flexibility, certainty, and freedom promised by being part of a critical outside are considered as extensions of recent advances in economic exploitation, does the field of art then become the uncritical, complicit inside of something far more compelling? e-flux journal Series edited by Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, Anton Vidokle Contributors Franco "Bifo" Berardi, Keti Chukhrov, Diedrich Diederichsen, Antke Engel, Liam Gillick, Tom Holert, Lars Bang Larsen, Marion von Osten, Precarious Workers Brigade, Irit Rogoff, and Hito Steyerl
Illustrated essays that consider emergent consistencies and overarching issues that defined the first decade of e-flux journal. Wonderflux brings together a group of longtime contributors and graphic artists to collaborate on illustrated essays that develop a new pictorial language around some of the emergent consistencies and overarching issues that defined the first decade of e-flux journal. These pieces ask: what is a mirror for? How does time come to be? They introduce us to faceless people; shapeshifting, omnipresent eyes; workers and robots; and twentieth-century American food riots. They ask us to consider the relation between the mind and the speed of events. They demand we resist hope, refuse prophecy, and hasten the mortality of value. Contributors Liam Gillick, Reza Negarastani & Keith Tilford, Keller Easterling & Meijia Xu, Hu Fang & Mojo Wang, Franco "Bifo" Berardi, Elizabeth A. Povinelli & Clara Bessijelle Johansson, Raqs Media Collective & Freddy Carrasco, Martha Rosler & Josh Neufeld
In light of current discourses on AI and robotics, what do the various experiences of art contribute to the rethinking of technology today? Art and Cosmotechnics addresses the challenge of technology to the existence of art and traditional thought, especially in light of current discourses on artificial intelligence and robotics. It carries out an attempt on the cosmotechnics of Chinese landscape painting in order to address this question, and further asks: What is the significance of shanshui (mountain and water) in face of the new challenges brought about by the current technological transformation? Thinking art and cosmotechnics together is an attempt to look into the varieties of experiences of art and to ask what these experiences might contribute to the rethinking of technology today.
According to the nineteenth-century teachings of Nikolai Fedorov—librarian, religious philosopher, and progenitor of Russian cosmism—our ethical obligation to use reason and knowledge to care for the sick extends to curing the dead of their terminal status. The dead must be brought back to life using means of advanced technology—resurrected not as souls in heaven, but in material form, in this world, with all their memories and knowledge. Fedorov's call to redistribute vital forces is wildly imaginative in emancipatory ambition. Today, it might appear arcane in its mystical panpsychism or eccentric in its embrace of realities that exist only in science fiction or certain diabolical strains of Silicon Valley techno-utopian ideology. It can be difficult to grasp how it ended up influencing the thinking behind a generation of young revolutionary anarchists and Marxists who incorporated Fedorov's ideas under their own brand of biocosmism before the 1917 Russian Revolution, even giving rise to the origins of the Soviet space program. This book of interviews and conversations with today's most compelling living and resurrected artists and thinkers seeks to address the relevance of Russian cosmism and biocosmism in light of its influence on the Russian artistic and political vanguard as well as on today's art-historical apparatuses, weird materialisms, extinction narratives, and historical and temporal politics. This unprecedented collection of exchanges on cosmism asks how such an encompassing and imaginative, unapologetically humanist and anthropocentric strain of thinking could have been so historically and politically influential, especially when placed alongside the politically inconsequential—but in some sense equally encompassing—apocalypticism of contemporary realist imaginaries. Contributors Bart De Baere, Franco “Bifo” Berardi, Boris Groys, Elena Shaposhnikova, Marina Simakova, Hito Steyerl, Anton Vidokle, Brian Kuan Wood, Arseny Zhilyaev, Esther Zonsheim Published in parallel with the eponymous exhibition at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin. Series edited by Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, Stephen Squibb, Anton Vidokle Design by Jeff Ramsey, front cover design by Liam Gillick
A wide-ranging and challenging exploration of design and how it engages with the self The field of design has radically expanded. As a practice, design is no longer limited to the world of material objects but rather extends from carefully crafted individual styles and online identities to the surrounding galaxies of personal devices, new materials, interfaces, networks, systems, infrastructures, data, chemicals, organisms, and genetic codes. Superhumanity seeks to explore and challenge our understanding of “design” by engaging with and departing from the concept of the “self.” This volume brings together more than fifty essays by leading scientists, artists, architects, designers, philosophers, historians, archaeologists, and anthropologists, originally disseminated online via e-flux Architecture between September 2016 and February 2017 on the invitation of the Third Istanbul Design Biennial. Probing the idea that we are and always have been continuously reshaped by the artifacts we shape, this book asks: Who designed the lives we live today? What are the forms of life we inhabit, and what new forms are currently being designed? Where are the sites, and what are the techniques, to design others? This vital and far-reaching collection of essays and images seeks to explore and reflect on the ways in which both the concept and practice of design are operative well beyond tangible objects, expanding into the depths of self and forms of life. Contributors: Zeynep Çelik Alexander, Lucia Allais, Shumon Basar, Ruha Benjamin, Franco “Bifo” Berardi, Daniel Birnbaum, Ina Blom, Benjamin H. Bratton, Giuliana Bruno, Tony Chakar, Mark Cousins, Simon Denny, Keller Easterling, Hu Fang, Rubén Gallo, Liam Gillick, Boris Groys, Rupali Gupte, Andrew Herscher, Tom Holert, Brooke Holmes, Francesca Hughes, Andrés Jaque, Lydia Kallipoliti, Thomas Keenan, Sylvia Lavin, Yongwoo Lee, Lesley Lokko, MAP Office, Chus Martínez, Ingo Niermann, Ahmet Ögüt, Trevor Paglen, Spyros Papapetros, Raqs Media Collective, Juliane Rebentisch, Sophia Roosth, Felicity D. Scott, Jack Self, Prasad Shetty, Hito Steyerl, Kali Stull, Pelin Tan, Alexander Tarakhovsky, Paulo Tavares, Stephan Trüby, Etienne Turpin, Sven-Olov Wallenstein, Eyal Weizman, Mabel O. Wilson, Brian Kuan Wood, Liam Young, and Arseny Zhilyaev.
The museum of contemporary art might be the most advanced recording device ever invented. It is a place for the storage of historical grievances and the memory of forgotten artistic experiments, social projects, or errant futures. But in late nineteenth and early twentieth-century Russia, this recording device was undertaken by artists and thinkers as a site for experimentation. Arseny Zhilyaev’s Avant-Garde Museology presents essays documenting the wildly encompassing progressivism of this period by figures such as Nikolai Fedorov, Aleksandr Rodchenko, Kazimir Malevich, Alexander Bogdanov, and others—many which are translated from the Russian for the first time. Here the urgent question is: How might the contents of the museum be reanimated so as to transcend even the social and physical limits imposed on humankind? Contributors: David Arkin; Vladimir Bekhterev; Alexander Bogdanov; Osip Brik; Vasiliy Chekrygin; Leonid Chetyrkin; Nikolai Druzhinin; Nikolai Fedorov; Pavel Florensky; R. N. Frumkina; M. S. Ilkovskiy; V. I. Karmilov; V. Karpov; Valentin Kholtsov; P. N. Khrapov; Yuriy Kogan; Natalya Kovalenskaya; Nadezhda Krupskaya; S. P. Lebedyansky; A. F. Levitsky; Vera Leykina (Leykina-Svirskaya); Ivan Luppol; Kazimir Malevich; Andrey Platonov; Nikolay Punin; Aleksandr Rodchenko; Yuriy Samarin; I. F. Sheremet; Andrey Shestakov; Natan Shneerson; Ivan Skulenko; M. Vorobiev; N. Vorontsovsky; Boris Zavadovsky; I. M. Zykov.
Beyond the view that multiple, globally dispersed conceptual art practices provide a heterogeneity of cultural references, Andrei Monastyrski and Collective Actions propose much more: other dimensions altogether, other spatiotemporal politics, other timescales, other understandings of matter, other forms of life--not only as works, but as a basic condition for being able to perceive artworks in the first place. Could it be that the Moscow Conceptualists were so elusive or saturated with the particularities of life in a specific economic and intellectual culture that they precluded integration into a broader art historical narrative? If so, then their simultaneously modest and radical approach to form may present a key to understanding the resilience and flexibility of a more general sphere of global conceptualisms that anticipate, surpass, or even bend around their purported origins in canonical European and American regimes of representation, as well as what we currently understand to be the horizon of artistic practice. e-flux journal Series edited by Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, Anton Vidokle Contributors Claire Bishop, Keti Chukhrov, Ekaterina Degot, Jörg Heiser, Terry Smith, Anton Vidokle, and Sarah Wilson
In this collection of essays Martha Rosler embarks on a broad inquiry into the economic and historical precedents for today's soft ideology of creativity, with special focus on its elaborate retooling of class distinctions. In the creative city, the neutralization or incorporation of subcultural movements, the organic translation of the gritty into the quaint, and the professionalization of the artist combine with armies of eager freelancers and interns to constitute the friendly user interface of a new social sphere in which, for those who have been granted a place within it, an elaborate retooling of traditional markers of difference has allowed class distinctions to be either utterly dissolved or willfully suppressed. The result is a handful of cities selected for revitalization rather than desertion, where artists in search of cheap rent become the avant-garde pioneers of gentrification, and one no longer asks where all of this came from and how. And it may be for this reason that, for Rosler, it becomes all the more necessary to locate the functioning of power within this new urban paradigm, to find a position from which to make it accountable to something other than its own logic. e-flux journal Series edited by Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, Anton Vidokle