[-empyre-] re/claiming and unsettling / continuing artistic practices

Irina Contreras poopstarr at yahoo.com
Thu Mar 15 10:11:56 EST 2012


I am not sure if this is the best way to do this but....

Can someone update my email address to colaconcontra at gmail.com

Thanks so much!


 From: Eduardo Navas <eduardo at navasse.net>
To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au> 
Sent: Thursday, March 8, 2012 9:13 PM
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] re/claiming and unsettling / continuing artistic practices

Re: [-empyre-] re/claiming and unsettling / continuing artistic practices 
First I want to thank Ana for inviting me to participate in this month’s discussion. I have been part of this list for many years, but I don’t write every month.  I do read most material that comes to my box, as I’m always interested in the discussions.  So it is good to have a commitment to write more consistently from time to time.  Thanks again.

I have read the postings so far, and I’m a bit overwhelmed by the diversity and complexity of the material covered.  Discussing issues from Fukushima to the middle east, the Americas and other parts of the world so far mentioned can be a bit dizzying; but at the same time, it also feels quite natural.  This could be taken as one of the symptoms of a globalized world.

Regarding the concept of resilience and resistance, I wanted to share a few points of my own.  I usually like to begin evaluating a subject based on its denotative definition and to then move on to its connotations, which is where most people spend their time debating the meaning of things in terms of cultural understanding.

Resilience basically means that the material/subject/object is able to bounce back or recover fast/well.  This term may be linked  to resistance, which as we know means that a material or object may be tough to destroy.  The terms are easily interchangeable as synonyms under the right circumstances, and in terms of cultural critical practices, I believe that they are complementary.  This is more or less what I also sense in the post so far contributed.  

One thing that struck me, though, as I read the posts is that perhaps we should consider how the meaning of the terms in discussion may be different in our times from others.  Some posts have recalled the movement of 68 and its relation to the occupy movement. Other posts have discussed and provided links to different manifestations of urban resilience.  But one of the challenges of a critical position, in my view, is to be able to adjust itself to the changes of the system it aims to critique.  In particular, I find the role of technology fascinating in this respect.  I think of the Arab Spring and how it arguably would have been very difficult for it to come about as quickly as it did if it were not for the appropriation of social media.  I know Ana mentioned that what happened in Tahrir Square would have happened, but I really wonder if this is really true.  Didn’t technology have such a role that without it, it would have been quite difficult
 to pull off such a decentralized, yet well organized event?  You can read my reflections on this if you are interested in this text published on the Levantine Review:

It would be great to hear your views on how resistance and resilience may often be redefined for each generation.  I think people (we) do have the tendency to reference these terms as though they are stable forms, but are they?




On 3/8/12 7:45 PM, "Ana Valdés" <agora158 at gmail.com> wrote:

Dear all, I am very happy about the broad range of our discussion! Next week we are going to have two writers and I am delighted to see some of them (Leandro, Alicia) already participating...
>The examples raised by Alicia, the publisher house Eloisa Cartonera and their Uruguayan syster, La propia cartonera, are indeed examples of arte povera and they were invited to the Sao Paulo Biennal some years ago, to present their work in a artistist context. I attended the Biennal and talked to them and they impressed me with their very political way of concieve the publishing business, a business overtaken by bif multinationals and the old media.
>But I am sure Alicia and Sabela are going to present more examples of resiliance and resistance generated here at Rio de la Plata.
>On Thu, Mar 8, 2012 at 10:34 PM, Johannes Birringer <Johannes.Birringer at brunel.ac.uk> wrote:
>dear all
>>Kamen's response   – regarding the "spirit of recession" -  is so evocative and striking that I want to just let it stay here,
>>and take more time reflect further, on what you yourself wonder ...."The question is how to continue being a moving target,
>>shifting gears, adopting new tactics, new approaches, new practices"  and what you pose to interrogate, namely whether
>>there is "a critical aesthetic practice which could be truly adequate to these phenomena and to the historical moment we're
>>experiencing,"  rather than a  "contemporary art sphere [that] was responding to [the political & activist movements] with the received wisdom and the aesthetic language
>>of critical art practices from the 1960's and 1970's of last century. Not an inspiring sight".....
>>What artistic critical practices of tactical receding would that be?
>>The thoughts on  Slajoy Zizek's lecture will have to wait... (I had planned
>>to mention his reference to Greece, to see what  Aristide Antonas might reply (after he suggested  "Athens is emblematic for the future" - why?) .
>>Strangely, Zizek went for a (mythopoetic?) analogy, in his critique of how the new political activist uprisers or occupiers misunderstand global capitalism's totality,
>>and he mentioned Sparta.  It was a truly strange moment in his lecture to hear him reflect back on the ancient military struggle between Athens and Sparta.
>>interesting feedback from  Ethel, Pablo and Alicia & Ana,  and Ana's proposition of an "autogestionated culture"  (experiencia autogestionaria) -  as Alicia i think references the handmade books (Eloisa Cartonera) --cannot but raise
>>questions that point in the direction, perhaps, of what Kamen or Pablo interrogated.  but the notion of "handmade" also seems to be caught perhaps on the "received wisdom and aesthetic languages" of the past? (of institutional
>>critique or arte povera?), artistic civil disobedience always has a somewhat bad taste attached, no?
>>johannes birringer
>>dap lab
>>Kamen schreibt:
>>Ah, indeed, retreat as recession (= "to recede").
>>This is actually slightly off-topic here, especially with regards to
>>pin-point the nuances that distinguish resistance, resilience,
>>recalcitrance, etc.
>>But, yes, in the light of the 15M movement in Spain last summer, and
>>the Acampada Sol phenomenon - and ESPECIALLY the late reaction and
>>poor performance of the different Culture Commissions in different
>>occupations all over the country - I started pondering the idea of
>>what might define a critical aesthetic practice which could be truly
>>adequate to these phenomena and to the historical moment we're
>>My initial impression - which was later confirmed by the
>>OccupyWallStreet phenomenon - was that the contemporary art sphere was
>>responding to this with the received wisdom and the aesthetic language
>>of critical art practices from the 1960's and 1970's of last century.
>>Not an inspiring sight.
>>Some of the strongholds I came accross in this process came from
>>critical thought, and some of them manifested themselves in actual
>>direct activist practice.
>>On the one hand, already back in 2009, Hal Foster, David Joselit, and
>>Yve-Alain Bois launched an open call for discussion on the notion of
>>"Recessional Aesthetics". The resulting debate was later published in
>>"Recessional Aesthetics: An Exchange", October 135, Winter 2011, pp.
>>But, back in 2009, Paul Chan published his talk "The Spirit of
>>Recession" (October 129, Summer 2009, pp. 3-12.). There, he attempts
>>to outline an aesthetic understanding of the current recession, and
>>resorts to an interesting etymological reading of the term, and,
>>eventually, finds an empowering aspect to it in the significance of
>>the recessional hymn in church service:
>>"For the other definition of recession has to do with the church,
>>namely, the time after church service when the clergy departs and the
>>people who make up the congregation are left to themselves. As the
>>church authorities leave, a hymn is sung. This is called a
>>recessional." (Ibid., pp. 10-11)
>>"And it is here, in the act of leaving and singing, that the idea of a
>>recession gains its transformative potential. For a church without
>>authority is blessed indeed. The end of the service announces the
>>beginning of another kind of time: no more commands for sacrifice and
>>expressions of faith; no more sermons from the book of Progress; no
>>more exchange of prayers. Time holds no more duties and returns to the
>>poeple a sense of being neither guaranteed nor determined, and inner
>>composition unburdened by the anxiety of influence, one which finds
>>its own shape only when power recedes. This is the time when thoughts
>>turn away from the authority that captures their attention from above
>>and from within, and toward the radical demands of life after church."
>>(Ibid, p. 11)
>>Now, in an (apparently) wholly unrelated context, I was deeply
>>impressed at the events surrounding Acampada Sol between August 2nd
>>and August 5th 2011.
>>In preparation for the Pope to Madrid, the authorities, fearing the
>>response of activists, decided to cordon off Puerta del Sol and this,
>>somehow, "behead" the protest movement. Partly, this was done with the
>>assumption that, this being August in Madrid, most people would have
>>left on holiday. But the authorities must not have been reading the
>>salmon pages in the newspaper - most of us were skint and had to stay
>>in Madrid for the summer, so Sol was soon besieged by a crowd of over
>>10 000 demostrators, demanding access to the square.
>>Of course, the principle of non-violence upheld by the movement meant
>>that forcing our way through the riot police cordons was not an
>>option, so for most of the first day, it was mostly a stalemate.
>>Then something interesting happened. Frustrated at the impossibility
>>of moving forward, and following someone's chant os "Ciao! Ciao! Ciao!
>>¡Nos vamos a Callao! (We're off to Callao!)", all of us followed suit
>>and left the main square behind to concentrate on the nearby square of
>>Callao. Then, a demonstration started from there and proceed to block
>>the traffic and take over most of the major avenues and streets of the
>>city centre. The operation was repeated the following three days,
>>until, eventually, on the 5th of August, the demo reached Puerta del
>>Sol, only to find the police cordons had disappeared and access to the
>>square was open. So, the demo entered the square triumphantly, held a
>>long general assembly, partied for a while, and, like an exceptionally
>>lenghty flashmob, abandoned the square once more.
>>There is nothing exceptional about this, historically. Retreating from
>>a position, abandoning a stronghold in order to regroup is old hat, at
>>least in terms military tactics. In the West, this idea of
>>strengthening one's hold on a position not by taking it over but by
>>retreating from it, was exemplified in Napoleon's maneouvre at
>>Austerlitz, where he abandoned the tactical centre of the battlefield
>>- the Pratzen Heights - only to make the Russo-Austrian forces weaken
>>their positions by extending their frontline.
>>But, re-reading Paul Chan's "Spirit of Recession", and the debate in
>>October, this made me try to relate these urban action tactics with
>>aesthetic approaches.
>>And this is how far I've gone in this sense. I've entered
>>correpondence with a number of artists, trying to gauge their response
>>and working on how to articulate a project from this standpoint. But
>>it's all work in progress, nothing definite in sight.
>>Regarding Alan's skepticism - why, he has every reason to be
>>skeptical. As we have already seen, slogans, methods, tactics are
>>quickly appropriated and defused, nothing new here. This is, in a
>>sense the resilience of power you mention.
>>To my mind, the question is not in finding an approach, a method, or a
>>practice which can somehow be immune to assimilation and
>>appropriation. The question is how to continue being a moving target,
>>shifting gears, adopting new tactics, new approaches, new practices,
>>and remaining a few steps ahead of the riot police (and, for that
>>matter, the contemporary art biennales).
>>empyre forum
>>empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
empyre forum
empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
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