Notes on Rib, RibRib, RibRibRib:

PREDICAMENTS, PREDICATES, PARADIGMS, PEDAGOGY.

INTRO: GOODBYE 2018!  

An introductory note: this text continues as a kind of response on the previous text about the Rib (the place that is definitely not a gallery, and is probably best defined as “artist-run space”), written by Jack Segbars (LINK). It is highly recommended for the reader to attend to the Jack’s text before reading what follows in order to get introduced with the works produced and presented by Rib; this text continues the more general line of discussion and provides no such information.

As a part of different Rib’s moves to produce the own reflection, or what is often mistakenly equalized with institutional critique[1] and what this text would view differently, as a certain “Production of Space”,[2] this series of texts is initiated by Maziar Afrassiabi (the founder, director, curator and first of all the artist of Rib)[3]. It is envisioned as a kind of a critical debate among the several commissioned critics, but it is also allowed to immediately break lose and dissolve in the messy world of critical writing.[4] Themes, topics, methods and approaches in contemplating the existence and the consequence of Rib are left entirely open and at the discretion and sovereignty of the writers (what is not to be equalized with an “open-ended” approach; the argument for this will be proposed towards the end of this text). And so is the future of this debate; at the moment it is probably only Maziar who can be aware of all the possibilities this series of texts can bring to the fore, and in what shape and form this correspondence will surface to the public as another “production of Rib”.  

On a personal note, this particular text presented me with one yet unexperienced difficulty to bring it to (any) end.[5] Surely I am not alone in this, and it is probably so 2018 thing to say. Let’s see if 2019 offers any endings, if that is what we need for the world to be set in motion once again.  

SQUIRTING WOUND, YOURS AND MINE  

As the sequels go, this text starts by referencing what would be a certain point of condensation, if not a kind of conclusion, of the previous text. Jack’s “verdict” on Rib is probably best contained in the following paragraph (my emphasis):  

“The form of Rib as total then is an aesthetics machine, so to speak, that in a Brechtian fashion, mirrors our condition. The exhibition-program (as the core function and activity that conventionally structures the institutional presentation-platform, the exhibition-space), acts as the mere narrative of Rib, as part of the production machine. Its format of production on the other hand, is emphasized, exposing its importance that usually -in the case of conventional institutions- is kept under-expressed. The expression of its form -in dialogue with the conventional production-formats- is Rib’s artistic-political action. Independency is not to pursue freedom of action, it is a dialogue with the promise of the institutional, as constitutive form of political space. Which confirms the high ambition of art as tool qua politics, and towards the political arrangement of our space.“  

In his analysis, Jack Segbars paid a special attention to the mode of production, within which he finds that the relationships between art and life are mediated by the phenomena and the notion of “work”. “Work” here stands for all the different possibilities of interpretation that the word offers – for the very process of labor, then for the certain social and artistic process, and finally for an object that eventually condenses (or not) and mediates (or not) the certain value(s) thus formalized. So inevitably – and this is the methodological approach to remain accepted and uncontested by this text – artworks and all art, the world, even Rib, it all can and should be observed trough the paradigm of production.  

But however observed, there are limits in tracing (artistic!) work-as-object and work-as-process down the line of production;[6] from a certain point on revealing itself as “generic”, another interesting word that Segbars used albeit in a different context than how it will be used in this text, the work itself stops being able to offer the further clues and explanations in regard to what Rib actually does.[7]  

Some other vocabulary from Segbar’s text (the notions of, for example, autonomy or pseudo) will have yet another important purpose: to provide a series of triggers, or rather a departure points, to enter into the virtual polemics with myself, Segbars, history of art, you, and everybody interested. It is precisely these words – triggers – which closed some chapters of the previous text that will serve the purpose of opening the chapters of this one.  

Segbars’ detailed analysis commenting upon the most of landmarks of the history of this now more than 4-year old artist-run space could also remain a sole and sufficient description of “Rib as place”. This will internalize as an experience – true, not a “lived one” [8], but nevertheless an actual and really existing experience of “Rib as space”. So our description of Rib is in the Jack’s text. (And could hardly be more accurate.)  

“Squirting Wound”, as one of the Rib’s outlets for textual production, would be an apt name for this correspondence as well, and we can (once again) thanks Rib and Maziar for the title.  

ALL THE SPACE

In his text, Jack Segbars traces production as process, and work as object and as value. I would like to trace (in parallel with this) the production of space, not works; in order to do that, thanks to Jack doing the heavy lifting, we can speculate about a “place like Rib”.[9]  

This may also be the convenient place to reimagine some old trope, saying “where description stops, art begins”. Would that be understood as another rebuffing of art as completely reproductive activity in the service of the current state of affairs? Or as yet another attempt to exclude art from banality of what can be measured and computed, by placing it into the pantheon of inexpleinables – perhaps, incomputables? – inhabited by such phenomena as “consciousness” and “humanity” and others we have tried to measure so hard but still understand so little about?[10]  

However inexplainable the fact, perhaps there are things that really, really, never change; perhaps, by saying “art”, one will always be guilty of a certain crime.

…BUT NEVER ALREADY THERE.

Contemporary art is flat as Universe, and cool like one. That the contemporary power is all space and no time is a settled affair.


Theodor Baglama

In the best tradition of continental philosophy, in doing what follows we will probably lump together natural sciences with humanistics, and mathematics with social media[11]; so let’s at least try to laminate and discriminate in the same take.  

As we know from physics: the things of time and space are connected or rather disconnected in a way that does nor promise much if any coherence. At least not in a way we understand the word “coherence”. There is the law in physics preventing the loss of information; and there is another, preventing that information will ever be complete.[12] If we do need more art now is a valid question. [LINK] If what Rib produces is art or if it is some other (social) activity is another valid question. This text will flatly refuse to answer, in the hope that you will believe it can, but it simply won’t.  

This text also wants to propose, or rather remind, that the most significant – the main – activity of Rib is the production of a certain space, as both a concrete and a mental, abstract space. Such a space encompasses and underestimates but always exceeds the total sum of the production of artworks, events and media discourse around it, and can not be mapped or defined solely by tracing the relations of production or the trajectory of artwork as object or artwork as process/labor. (The sum here never seems complete, showing a consistent surplus that is hard to be accounted for; this surplus, or excess, or exception – or misunderstanding, or abstraction, or tendency – is probably the aspect of this space that can be named “art”.)  

***  

One of the highlights of Jack’s text is the formula describing the activities of Rib as “funneling”:  

Funneling = crafting space = performance of practice.   

The production of space, what physics confirms, is the most common, the widest spread and the grandest of scale of all the productive activity of nature. A tremendous, unimaginably large proportion of what can be measured in “reality” (the measurable reality is certainly not the same as “truth”) consists of the mysterious dark energy whose only function seems to be to create more and more of the space. Seemingly with no purpose and no meaning, just more of it. We know not much more about it but the above. In that respect, the space as in nature does resemble the phenomena of art, being something that 1: is already very big and growing ever-faster; 2: reproduces itself for the reasons unknown; 3: we understand very little about.  

But what is perceived – or what exists – as “social space”[13] seems quite different from it’s analogy of “space” as observed in nature. Viewed trough these parameters, the space as in social space has very little resemblance to art. Besides the fact that there are no doubts about at least by whom it is being produced, we also know it is something that is 1: eventually, very small; 2: reproduces itself for all the well-known reasons; 3: we know a lot, and often maybe too much about.

CH-CH-CH-CH-CHANGES  

“Nothing has changed, nothing has changed!”
Theresa May, 2017

It was rather tempting to begin this chapter with the immortal words of British Prime Minister above[14] as they describe pretty accurately the continuation of the repetition of the general narrative of The End of Times. Those in power seem not to miss any opportunity to sing this refrain ever since the 1980’s, and over time it became the only explanation on offer as to why your life – and mine – will be more of a something you will want less to have to do with. All this aims to tell the story “never told before” of a “historical” event, of a gesture so unique that it can not be repeated ever again: it is the story about the social catharsis as the consequence of a collective resolution that the most of the people should – and will – live like shit, and forever.  

The desired effect of such tropes of “not changing” (which arrive as the confirmation and “materialization” of the previous senseless mantras of “no alternative”[15] by the May’s historical predecessor of Thatcher – is to try to validate the claim that the very principle of history had dramatically changed, and that from the certain (convenient) point on, there is some new, “ahistorical” and static history now, to inherit all of the historical dynamics and dialiectics that were history as we knew it.[16] But there is a certain truth in all this: such history will indeed never return, as nothing ever returns.  

Probably reflecting the conservative view that this eternal and dramatically asymmetric bond between the rulers and the ruled resembles what is traditionally understood as marriage (as something “natural, inevitable, reproductive”), this trope of “nothing have changed” seems to be the cousin of the romantic and equally meaningless sentence often spoken at weddings, to “speak now or forever remain silent”.  In this new paradigm the world became suddenly paralogical, introducing among others the today normalized constructs like “prescribed changes” or “alternative by nature”, what should just mean “alternative forever” [LINK]. The people couldn’t raise much questions about the lack of meaning in all this, as they had to dispense with “meaning as category” in order to even get to this point.  

In addition, most of the artistic and activist attempts to challenge the power of artworld on “the own terrain” will be, from the side of what should be friends and allies, met with probably well-intended but certainly not very useful criticism of integration, recuperation, acceptance, and in more dramatic renditions, of corruption and treason.[36] The problem here again can be Rib’s (childish?) refusal of each and any predicate (we will address the predicates later), that to some critical circles may bring the unsettling reminder of the similar but not the same epidemic of “inconcreteness” as it happened in 1980s. Let’s remind and re-traumatize.  

As the 1980’s went towards the completion of it’s grand project of “alternization” of everything, the end of that decade held a lot of surprises for the particular ideology of the generations of “eternal youth”and “endless possibilities”[17] as emerged during the 1960’s. To change – to rapidly and endlessly change – until 1989 meant to be alive, to be “forever young”, what then meant to break away with all the subjectivities, structures and canons of yesterday, with everything that appeared as a “given” state of affairs. (Importantly, this sense of “break with” is of a qualitatively different kind then the one discussed in Lefebvre under that and other names.[18]) After the collapse of “emancipatory individualism” (neo-liberalism, that is) and the grand return of conservatism of traditional (mythological) kind, the traces of this view remained embedded in the generations emerging after 2000, who still thought that life should be about “moving fast and breaking things”, but now only as long as it is not their things that should be broken.[19]  

Regardless if reality would be evaluated by someone’s personal position and stimmung, to say, or by someone’s informed “drone view” of the state of society today, “nothing has changed” would be the message from a different planet than the one Guido Alfani[20] and Thomas Pickety[21] repeatedly measured to be growing more and more unequal over time.

A stronger, more clear and more direct language is necessary now: as recently noted by FB Bifo, the inequality reached “nonsensical” proportions. But if meaning and sense stop, can language continue, or it hits the same wall as they share borders? Is making such a document as Alfani or a statement as Bifo also the most that language can do? Is it the last thing to be said before any abstraction collapses to the material reality that knows not for words, but only deeds? It is surely not the most that humans can do. Or the most that art can do. Lets insert another imagined old trope here: “where words stop, art begins”. (Or something along the lines…)

If this was only about the economy, what with autonomy, with political equality, with all the liberties and freedoms and progression and emancipation? What about ecology, both in atmosphere and in media, what about biology and how it loses more and more pace with whatever abstraction we challenge it with? Can technology solve this, and if not, what can? What can be actually solved by technology alone? Eventually, what’s art got to do with it?[22]  

***  

What the (ex-)situationist and philosopher Lefebvre wrote in 1974 could also serve to describe the contemporary state – or better, the sense, the zeitgeist of contemporaneity – almost in details, and it may be well worth to remind of the exact formulations (therefore, we use the full and unabridged quote):  

“Few people today would reject the idea that capital and capitalism ‘influence’ practical matters relating to space, from the construction of buildings to the distribution of investments and the worldwide division of labour. But it is not so clear what is meant exactly by ‘capitalism’ and ‘influence’. What some have in mind is ‘money’ and its powers of intervention, or commercial exchange, the commodity and its generalization, in that ‘everything’ can be bought and sold. Others are concerned rather with the actors in these dramas: companies national and multinational, banks, financiers, government agencies, and so on. In either case both the unity and the diversity – and hence the contradictions – of capitalism are put in brackets. It is seen either as a mere aggregate of separate activities or else as an already constituted and closed system which derives its coherence from the fact that it endures – and solely from that fact.”
Lefebvre, p.9/10

This uneasy sense of being under the siege we can now recognize as a reoccurring sentiment, what can bring the immediate but modest relief.  

***  

To play it back once again: you should know that regardless of any individual interest or intention conveniently accidentally realized trough all this, the mess of 2018 is actually the wish, the desire and the decision brought by the people upon themselves (the good people of power can protect us from anything but ourselves!), and you should always remember this: from the certain (convenient) point on nothing, absolutely nothing – nothing, we say! – will ever change.  

The consequences of such a substantial change produced – as to be expected – the environment in which capitalism started being defined, but more importantly perceived, as “all space there is”, perhaps quite similarly (but again not “quite as”) with Lefebvre’s observations and descriptions of the sentiment of 1970’s/post-1968 world.  

If we can be sure about one thing, it is that no one, even her own party, trusts Theresa May.[23] Everything changes, always was, always will. We just know it is a lie; no one ever stays silent, on anything, and it is just a matter of time.[24]      

THE PREDICAMENT OF RIB  

You may wonder why Theresa May arrived in the middle of the text about the Rib artist-run space, opened in the former slaughterhouse in the Rotterdam’s district of Charlois. Rib was born in 2015, and immediately after the delivery it was wrapped in such a predicament – that “nothing has changed”, and nothing ever would/will. That’s a hard thing for a newborn to learn: that the world they just entered will stay oblivious to whatever they may try to do, and will run its own course as if there is no one out there. Rib was seemingly allowed to exist only under the unavoidable XXI century entrepreneurial approach of creative development towards de-industrialized (and de/re-materialized) parts of cities-as-sustainable-companies. But we know the likes of Theresa May are not to be trusted. There must be more than what meets the eye.[25]  

This is not to say that the change that did happen was not for the worse. David Harvey, who in 2003 introduced the very term of accumulation by dispossession[26] in parallel with the well-known phenomena of Richard Florida’s advancing of the “Creative Class” concept, announced this escalation of a creative approach towards urban development some 15 years before its grand execution of 2000’s. In his 1989 analysis “From Managerialism to Entrepreneurialism”[27] in what he called “entrepreneurialism” Harvey had seen a great danger[28] that:  

“Avantgarde municipal socialists will find themselves, in the end, playing the capitalist game and performing as agents of discipline for the very processes they are trying to resist.”  

To paraphrase yet another aphorism, “the worst that can happen to anyone will (eventually) happen to everyone.”[29] It already does; as writer Bruce Sterling said in 2017 in another of his signature talks[30]:  

“The new economy – it’s terrible, it’s a curse. Everyone hates and fears it, no one is optimistic about it […] Musicians suffer terribly; whatever happens to musicians will happen to everybody else”.  

Today, we all seem to be both the witnesses and the products of the results. But we can use Lefebvre’s advice once again to understand this as yet another form of illusion – as he observed in 1974[31]:  

“Does this imply the coming into being of a clearly defined space – a capitalist space (the world market) thoroughly purged of contradictions? Once again, the answer is no. Otherwise, the ‘system’ would have a legitimate claim to immortality. Some over-systematic thinkers oscillate between loud denunciations of capitalism and the bourgeoisie and their repressive institutions on the one hand, and fascination and unrestrained admiration on the other.”    

VAXXINE  

Critical thinkers, and many artists, seemed to frequently be able to remain unaffected by this epidemic of desperation (and of perception), and to often propose what we could call “antidotes”, or better, “vaccines”; as noted in the 2007 study on alternative, avant-garde and artist-run spaces by Jacqueline Cooke[32] (the abridged quote):  

“[…] Lefebvre’s advice that a new space must be created as the precondition of a new life in the form of ‘contradictory space’ is key to an idea of radical space, or critical space. This idea is useful in order to analyse the creation of ‘alternative spaces’ documented in some art ephemera (as both symbolic and material spaces). […] He proposes a simultaneous juxtaposition of space, rather than distance, as a critical strategy.”  

In one of the rare detailed surveys of such defined “art spaces”, Cooke defines their tendencies as “radical”; this seems to contrast the mission statement of Rib[see] in which it seems that there is nothing to make anybody accuse it of anything. But, as we will see further, this is precisely the thing for which it may be frequently accused of.

Precisely to counter the feeling and the depression of capitalism being all there is – and that art means merely administrating the aesthetics of it – this text would propose that we could still look harder for the position if not “outside” than at least in a certain sense “bracketed from” what appears as “all there is”. Does this present a reversal, in a way; does an artist-run space trough such treatment reverts to the status of “open studio”? Is it the sign of artists “claiming back” the space of art as the sovereign (and private?) space of artists? What happens when artists at the same time take a step back from the“artworld” and much publicity, but also push their artworks further, into the very field of public? Is détournement a means, or is it also an end? It is surely a fun thing to do.  

What if what Rib does is to indeed add a bit more capitalism to capitalism, that comes in the form similar to a vaccine – this would be a “rump capitalism” [see], always with at least one of it’s elementary functions altered or entirely absent. A “weak”, “incomplete” instance of it. Like what they put in vaccines to foster the production of antibodies. What would be its formula? You already know that this text doesn’t answer such questions. [But, we couldn’t skip on this one.]

As recently proven by cosmologists, all humans have to make at least one funny thing per day in order to keep the Universe afloat. Let’s never forget this duty – we owe it to, surely, everybody.    

BEST SHIRT: GENERIC/WHITE; BEST DRESS: GENERIC/BLACK  

So the predicament of Rib, or any “place like Rib”, is revealed to be even worse than the deceptive and meaningless slogan of “no change”. Sometimes, or often, “an artist-run space is just an artist-run space” to paraphrase the old trope.[33] Well, maybe not Rib, as we will see further.  

Yet another interesting possibility for a place like Rib not accessible to previous generations is, of course, RibRib; for all what I know, the existence of the brick-and-mortar Rib is only supported by the images shown on RibRib, that could as well be a stock – or generic – photos of any given former slaughterhouse. So what would be a “real Rib”? What would something like TripAdvisor for Art Spaces say? A slightly backwards neighborhood of a well-known touristic and cultural destination – check. A derelict industrial location restored for a cultural purpose – check. A “Dutch-designed” website[34] – check. To make the things even more generic, Rib does not manoeuvre around it – quite the contrary, these facts are frequently underlined, without uneasiness, and mostly without comment (And there is a good reason for this.) Does it make the Father Florida at least a bit uneasy?  

Rib arrived in post-sceptical times, when it already became clear that the apparent horizontality of social networks was both a false premise and a false promise; it came after the burial of the idea that an independent artistic social media profile could be on equal terms with the similar profile by MOMA or Tate, or Stedelijk or Rijks. Or with reality-show stars or reality-politicians, for that matter. Everybody knows better now (but nothing gets better, still.)  

It is precisely the ability of abstraction to produce the tool to reveal Rib as a spatial and temporal expression and examination of the problematic of society, and not an abstract statement of need expressed by a certain alliance of artists.[35] What Rib seems to seize, to open, to produce, are spaces, or rather, the space (of Rib, of RibRib, and we are yet to see what RibRibRib will be. But maybe this is what we need not really know.[36] )  

***  

If (all) “work” is now generic and not the common denominator of various different things and processes in the orbit of “a place like Rib” (yesweknow that Rib is singular and particular, and that, paradoxically, there can not be “a place like Rib”), where to look for any concreteness, any specifity – originality? – in order to distinguish Rib? What discrimination can be used use in order to, to paraphrase Lacan, “call Rib by its name”?  

Can it be said that Rib stand for generic ideas, addresses the generic audience, in pursue of generic solutions for the (quite particular) future? Or against the very generic future? Is it where we can discuss/detect/think of the certain “pedagogy of Rib”?   So is this the proposition: generic art of questioning against all silence? Generic dismissal of aesthetics – the one “dead to the world” [37] – against all ideology?  

Perhaps there are “levels of reality” as Bourriaurd suggests, and perhaps there is one in which aesthetics do play a pivotal role in understanding this reality; but Rib is not bound to this particular realm.  

To make the things (just a bit) more complex, Rib, being (also) an artist-run space, was positioned to address the conditions of its possibility of existence trough the means of art – not politics, not economy, but art. So it accepted the challenge, what meant to start carefully dealing with the most important constituent and category in the perception of (contemporary) art; the predicates.    

THE PREDICATE OF RIB (Love is a Bourgeois Construct)

“Nothing has changed” may also describe pretty accurately the current perception of the perception of art. It seems that art-as-phenomena simply can not evolve further in the public mind from its XX century-settled set of binomes and to depart from the tropes of if it is about some essence of humanity, or of nature, or not; if it is exclusively about the aesthetic and form, or not; if it is exclusively about politics, or not; if it is a product or a process of production, or what. (Especially this: if it is just about production as with everything else, or not, what would make it an exception hardly acceptable to most of the current critical analysis[39], and perhaps only accessible trough a certain artistic analysis[40]). So the true art – which can only be “the only art” – is always also defined by its negative polarity, by the aspect of it that has to be opposite to the aspect of that other thing that deceivingly also calls itself art.[41] The attributes of it would be what the other art is not.[42]  

Contemporary art does not only demands, but requires predicates; [43] it can be critical, or market-based, radical or traditional, conceptual or figurative, participatory or performative or conservative and decorative, site-specific or media, street or collective, anonymous or reproductive or revolutionary – or alternative – but it cannot be “just art”. [44]  

Can still “a space be just an artist-run space” then? Let us see. What exact predicate would stick to Rib art? Or, what kind of predicate would do it justice?  

The predicament of Rib as discussed previously is what has to define the set of its possible predicates, which is always much wider than it seems. Here, I would claim that Rib made the risky decision to accept all and any predicates possible, thus invalidating the entire realm of “predicate art”. Call it a childish form of rejection, or however you like, but Rib seems to have done it. Try sticking a predicate to it and see if it holds. (And this is probably not the least because the predicates do arrive in a pretty gloomy fashion in the recent seasons. Lest’s briefly remind.)    

THERAPIA  

After the shock of 1980’s – that brought, among other “paradigm breaks”, the dramatic change in aesthetics and media – the 1990’s had split the mainstream development into the (finally official) post-modernism[45] and a certain “post-historicism”, or “end-historicism”.[46] All this eventually collapsed into the actual historical defeat by “Jeff Koonsing” or “Damien Hirsting” the realm of commercial art, while the critical art started producing the series of acknowledgements of defeat in its mission towards the better, more sensible world. Once again, it was all too easy to turn any shock into (temporary & commercial) addiction. Now we seem to witness critical art in the attempt to find its new purpose as a kind of therapy, social or communal work, as a para-academic discipline and within various different activities of what is, decisively, not art.  

For a hundred years now and more, each great artistic figure or a movement, especially from the tradition of avant-garde, tried in this way or another to “kill art”.[47] The task remains, as ambitious and sublime – perhaps as revolutionary – as ever. Art needs to die! But in a recent, and rather disheartening development, in the latest remix of the contemplation on “the use of art”[48], this ultimate artistic task gained a gloomy Dystopian remix. Art is seen as commercialized beyond hope, and as a machine to reproduce the advancing fascism.[49] There are views that art should (or perhaps will have to[50]) become a kind of reserve pool of various different voluntary social infrastructure labor. Increasingly, there are views that art should provide a kind of therapy after the impending social collapse,[51][52]No doubts that art is all that, and can be all and any of that.[53]

But what is disturbing is the horizon of expectations, in which art becomes either the storage of value, an investment, similarly as how David Harvey describes what is happening with the the city properties today[54], or tries to heal minds and bodies devastated by the grinding forces of contemporary capitalism. The annual auctions continue breaking records in sales, while what gets funded is the fascist kitsch. Art does not gloriously fall in some final attempt to change the world, but reproduces the agony in various different ways. It doesn’t get killed by some ultimate detournement but fades away, coopted, in dementia. Does, in this reversal of everything, Dystopia really becomes Utopia, the artists indeed become the reserve army of voluntary therapists or social workers or ecologists, and all society a product of a “failed revolution”[55]?

If life is never how it appears in art, could the reverse be true, that art is never how it appears in life?[56]      

AUTONOMIA / TRANSGRESSIŌN  

Can we demand that art has to produce “real”, material effects in mitigating capitalism, but consider art in general as abstract, as immaterial, as “autonomous” (as in “emancipated from life”)?  Here, a caution needs to be applied in order not to laminate the concept of artistic autonomy with the one of political autonomy.[57] (Similarly as was the case with the notion of representation, as argued by Steve Edwards[58]).  

As the solution for our problems and the answer to the contemporary situation is, as Bifo writes, precisely “the unpredictable you”[59], we need to understand our artistic autonomy in a different sense than we define political autonomy – that is, we need to forget about it in the terms of any precise definition. It can not be canonised in any imaginable way, and needs to be tested each and every time.[60] In regard to art, one autonomy at least seems to be confirmed over and over again: like the proverbial Chuck Norris, so the art will never have to chose at crossroads – it creates them.    

The conservative view is expectedly horrified by the very idea of artistic autonomy, as it, finally, can not be “faithful” or “responsible” to anything. For the freedom it has to give itself goes beyond the one of science or academy, to be “free to inspect and research and comment upon”; artistic autonomy is able to, if it wishes so, negate the object of research and use another as it choses, deny the given task and propose a different question it thinks is valid, or to abandon the entire thing and declare it worthless and decide to look at something else. For example, this is how Luis Camnitzer sees the “art thinking” (something “much more than art: a meta-discipline that is there to help expand the limits of other forms of thinking”)[61] as compared to scientific methods of analysis, that are “bound by logic, sequencing, and experimentation with repeatable and provable results”:  

“Art is all of that, plus the opposite. It stays in both modes simultaneously. It creates itself while it allows the play with taxonomies, the making of illegal and subversive connections, the creation of alternative systems of order, the defiance of known systems, and the critical thinking and feeling of everything.”  

Precisely because of its immense power and the current cases of mususe, the artistic autonomy should never be mistaken for any form of political autonomy or any right to free speech.[62] It is nothing similar. Any further confusion and misuse will only produce more toxic media outlets and more toxic tweets.        

PARADIGM / PEDAGOGY  

The Paradigm of Rib, RibRib, RibRibRib…  

In a way, we can take the predicaments and the predicates offered by a certain herenow as a dominant paradigm. That is, if the predicament of certain times is in how it sees the own possible futures, and if the predicates of a certain times would be the set of words able to describe the expectations of what the world is now, we can take it as the total sum of the possibilities of a certain moment to state what it is and to create the own continuity of existence by creating a certain where in which it may exist and, as the mission statement of Rib says, “evolve”.[63] (Here, predicament can be exchanged with worldview, and predicates with the canon; what is created is a certain paradigm, trough which reality is constructed (or understood) as a possible mimesis, possible interpretation.)  

We could try to understand not only the real tendency and motivations of Rib, but it’s very inate expression, as the consequence of limitations experienced and examined, and the way of overcoming them not from the position of power. As David Harvey writes:[66]  

“The static and finally achieved spatial/institutional forms of classical utopias are jettisoned as either unachievable or, if achieved, unstable and still in transition to something else yet to be defined … The reader is not, therefore, introduced to a stable world already made and discovered, but is taken through the dialectics of making a new socio-ecological world.” Harvey, 189/190.      

A MATTER OF CORRECT DISTANCING 

“At the same time it follows or is constrained by the logic of cognitive capitalism, in that it does not or cannot step out the conditional frame of production, nor is the critical function really opened up to a public, and does this inclusion of the critical function remain curated by the institute. These conditions though, that are the root of and that shape the institutional apparatus, are hardly ever addressed.” Segbars, p. 18    

“A long time ago it was observed that “criticism is a matter of correct distancing. It was at home in a world where perspectives and prospects counted and where it was still possible to take a standpoint.”[67]    

“Will It Blend?” is the series of YouTube videos started in 2006 by Tom Dickson, serving as a “viral campaign” to promote the line of blenders produced by his company Blendtec.[68] As the description says, “in each episode of the series, Dickson attempts to blend all sorts of items that can fit inside the container, from Chuck Norris action figures and Barbie dolls to iPods and camcorders”. If “blending” is here seen as a certain method and the things put in the machine seen as various different objects of examination and analysis, this is to illustrate the point that whatever is being submitted to such a rigid method can be known in advance to yield the same result – to end up as a pile of ashes, or as a mud of sludge. After a while, the execution of the method itself becomes unnecessary, because the answer on the question “will it blend?” will always be the same – “yes, it will”.      

ConLeft

When for the very first time the critical thought spelled out aloud the sentence saying that “something was better before” and called for the people to “return to (any given) point”, the Universe had to break and split to at least two. The critical thought has to be (structurally, historically and meaning-wise) a proposition, a project, a tendency. In the paralogical construction of the World past-1980s, it is of no surprise – as no surprise as category is possible anymore – to look now into something what can be named “conservative Left”.

OH YES IT’S THAT FUNNY  

In this hectic mess of contemporary, Rib appears as neither ironic nor hysterical. Rather, it is straight-faced; it seems it wants to be seen as quite flat in revealing any cards. Is it Just An Art Space or a serious form of questioning of not only the consequences but the very causes of capitalism – a kind of vaccine, as mentioned earlier in the text? And what exactly makes it into one? Does this text keep not answering on such questions?  

It is certainly not a temporary withdrawal into a kind of Heterotopia[69], even if such a space would be structurally possible to exist today. The stakes are already too high, the moment is of urgency, but fear never helps.  

Rib is perhaps a risk, or a kind of a long shot, but not really an “open-ended” experiment (this very tendency renders it as rather a “properly” Utopian than Heterotopian venture). It is aware of the dangers of the approach of “open-ended experiment”; as said by Montaigne,[70] “no wind helps him who does not know to what port he sails”. When it happens, Rib will recognize the space it aims to produce.[71]  

*** 

There is hope, as there ever was. Guess what book is the most requested title from the foundation of British Library ever since it was founded in 1994?[72]. According to the Lefebvre’s advice, the future is still as open and as possible as it ever was. But he also sees the stakes very high this time:  

“Space as locus of production, as itself product and production, is both the weapon and the sign of this struggle. If it is to be carried through to the end – there is in any case–no way of turning back – this gigantic task now calls for the immediate production or creation of something other than nature: a second, different or new nature, so to speak. This means the production of space, urban space, both as a product and as a work, in the sense in which art created works. If this project fails, the failure will be total, and the consequences of that are impossible to foresee.’” Lefebvre, p. 110  

The advancing powers of extinction can fall prey to the own methods.[73] There are “places like Rib”. There is this space. There is you reading this now.    

 

KEYS & WORDS:  

No sense of defeat.

Straight face.

Preservation and defense of resources and meaning.

Delivering a “vaccine” – a faulty capitalism in the form of “rump” objects and narratives.

Time. Just wait, and give Rib some time.

REPEAT THIS: A kind of subversion so subtle that it almost subverts itself.

                                                         

ENDNOTES      

[1] This according to the formula: Institutional critique = ouside of institutions = interventionism, Institutional Reflection = inside of institutions = reformism (credit: Jelena Vesić).  

[2] In the first part of this text, Rib will be observed as a “production of a (certain) space” (any and all references to the Lefebvre’s book intended), and will offer a more direct response and dialogue with Jacks’ text. The second part will be purely speculative, and hopefully also propositional. Or it will be the other way around. Let’s find out along the way.  

[3] This alone makes Maziar Afrassiabi a proper curator and not just an enabler, a producer or manager, a middleman with a vision and an entrepreneurial urge or capacity or instinct. The role of the function and of the figure of “curator” will be examined further in this text. Probably.  

[4] [This is how I imagine was the perspective of Maziar during the previous 18 months or so: the entire “writing project” became a kind of immediate transfusion of the particular problems and dysfunctions from one realm to another. The writers will want to answer on the questions no one actually asked in the volumes not comprehendible nor manageable by the artists or any other humans, finishing their work way later than anyone expected. What was supposed to be a quick affair of instigating the chain of responses to what seemed a (relatively) straightforward question of Rib became a long and exhausting campaign to extract and make sense of any particular statement from the exhausted but also exalted pool of half-mad writers.]  

[5] It has been a year ago when I started filling page after page with both how I imagined what a “response” to Jack’s text should be – I have never tested this procedure formally before – and with what I thought is something I could bring to this debate. All these pages appeared, eventually, at odds with the ways of the world and the facts of life, rapidly collapsing into a single dark spot, both as a cold measurable fact and as a personal, subjective affair. Nothing I wrote seemed relevant anymore. The sense of helplessness and depression can be perhaps explained, but is hardly understood; on the other hand, the experience of 2018 is something we understand as happening, but seems not easy to explain. Eventually I decided to archive my non-understandable research and response HERE, in the hope it will make sense once; what remains are the non-explainable parts, as you are about to witness in this text.  

[6] “Any attempt than to localize ‘work’ as attempt or ambition to a natural life than -within this web of accountabilities and regimes of quantification, in relation finally to the overall condition of capitalist production – becomes almost impossible to re-trace or process, complicating the task -on an institutional scale- to address the possibilities of artistic production as a matter of ‘life’”. (Segbars, REF)

[7] By looking at the product and the (formal) process of production, have we learned enough to feel we know what Rib (as a certain “artist run space”) does? That’s the tricky part, where a lot of blanks will have to be filed by a certain “generic” understanding of how contemporary art operates, based on our singular experiences. So we can test a different attempt of analysis: to try to look not what or how Rib produces, but what it DOES. It should be done from the perspective that views the matters of life and art as separated in the way that requires mediation; it will see it as mutually non-interchangeable. (What doesn’t mean mutually exclusive; one can still be an artist and be alive! :- )

[8] After all the “virtualization” of everything, including art, is visiting an art space, any art space, today something like a Heineken factory tour; a rare occasion to see where one’s daily doses of art – or of beer – are coming from, without dispelling “the magic of brewing” that remains “a secret”? Does it produce the feeling of inadequacy, probably of a slight disappointment, when compared with its incarnation of digital archive where all what ever happened continues to happen now, in carefully selected images presenting the “highlights” and “best moments”? I am yet to visit “Rib as place” in it’s actual Rotterdam setting; but it doesn’t feel awkward or wrong to write about the art space I never entered in material, physical reality.  

[9] This, and other challenges of contemporaneity, point to the usefulness of abstraction of thinking about “the place like Rib”, of making a generic attempt to socialize such phenomena while being aware that “there is no place like Rib”, and that no constellation as the particular one could ever be repeated in a verbatim manner. (We then abstract all shape, colour and time specific for anything Rib – or anything else in particular – and dwell on the possible consequences, the widest and furthest in time those could be simulated.)  

[10] There seems to be no other mystery involved in this but the one of what can be measured, or not; the idea of physical space is experiencing rapid evolution, from being perceived as stable, as inert and eternal, then as a kind of ethereal “container” for stuff, all the way to the contemporary understanding of space as something constantly fluctuating, something that creates itself much faster than it is able to undo itself, and something inseparable from time.  

[11] “And yet lingering in the background of this theme was the continental European tendency to short-circuit debates about culture with those on biology and ‘human nature’, embodied in phrases such as ‘cultural evolution’. Implicit in such an idea was that history is not man-made, but rather contains an internal logic that remains unseen and unknown by us, the ignorant citizens. The artist-engineers that discover these laws at an early stage will become the new rulers, whereas the rest will have to obey.” Geert Lovink, Sad by Design, 2019, p. 122  

[12] “Whether or not I keep up with everything happening everywhere, all the time, I know that the information exists; that awareness alone is fatiguing. It’s very easy to succumb to fatalism, which is perhaps the logical extension of compassion fatigue – believing that we’re screwed no matter what we do is mysteriously tempting.” – Elisa Gabbert, “Is compassion fatigue inevitable in an age of 24-hour news?”, The Guardian, August 2, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/aug/02/is-compassion-fatigue-inevitable-in-an-age-of-24-hour-news

[13] “The fields we are concerned with are, first, the physical – nature, the Cosmos; secondly, the mental, including logical and formal abstractions; and, thirdly, the social. In other words, we are concerned with logico-epistemological space, the space of social practice, the space occupied by sensory phenomena, including products of the imagination such as projects and projections, symbols and utopias.” Henry Lefebvre, p.11  

14] This is complicated a bit. At the same stroke, Theresa May tries to explain that she actually never redrew from the so-called Conservative manifesto that she announced four days ago, meaning perhaps that she redraws from her immediate announcement of withdrawal after the public outrage caused by her speech. She also tries to explain that there will be practically no changes from the present system of social and elderly care, while her manifesto announced dramatic changes that would mean introducing financial caps on services delivered and the repossession of old peoples property. After this, not a single journalist or analyst could understand what they should report about, while her insistence that “nothing has changed” became a bitter meme in the media. Theresa May never bothered to clarify this, the Conservative program seems to be silently implemented, while two years later the confusion is still absolute, reflected in the headlines like “What’s happened to social care plan? Social care ‘national scandal and disgrace’.” (Hugh Pym, BBC Health Editor, March 2, 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/health-47444870) Recorded at Welsh Conservative manifesto launch, May 22, 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/may/22/theresa-may-faces-chaos-and-confusion-claims-after-social-care-u-turn

[15] The first of the paradoxes that came as the integral part of ‘alternative turn’ was its ability to operate as ‘non-ideological ideology’. The term came with internal contradictions already built-in; the Alternative as presented by Reagan and Thatcher was construed as the vessel to introduce the ‘impossible’ blend of religion and opportunism, a neoconservative ideology enwrapped in the principles of neoliberal market (de)regulation (the contradiction of using neo and liberal in regard to capitalism being another element of inverse logic of this construction). But the ‘great communicators’ themselves added the additional layer of opaqueness (deregulating the very sense of meaning), by communicating ‘alternative’ in negative or paralogical terms (e.g. as Thatcher’s ‘no alternative’, or Reagan’s ‘the only alternative’). (add TINA foot, alogical-paralogical. ADD that it is from the similar category and with a related paralyzing effect as what Left did when started to talk about the “better past”.) Jelena Vesić & VJ Vlidi, “The Long 1980s (Constellations Of Art, Politics, And Identity A Collection Of Microhistories)“, Editors: Nick Aikens, Teresa Grandes, Nav Haq, Beatriz Herráez, Nataša Petrešin Bachelez, Valiz Books / L’Internationale, 2018.

[16] Even further, this is to claim that whoever thinks in (former) historical terms and still sees the future as open and possible, as the product of a particular dialectics of today, thinks in radical and extreme, but first of all in futile and obsolete terms  

[17] A negative aspect that Pynchon retrospectively found in the hippie cultural and literary movement, both in the form of the Beats of the 1950s and the resurgence form of the 1960s, was that it “placed too much emphasis on youth, including the eternal variety.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Pynchon). That was then; now is worse

[18] “What term should be used to describe the division which keeps the various types of space away from each other, so that physical space, mental space and social space do not overlap? Distortion? Disjunction? Schism? Break? As a matter of fact the term used is far less important than the distance that separates ‘ideal’ space, which has to do with mental (logico-mathematical) categories, from ‘real” space, which is he space of social practice. In actuality, each of these two kinds of space involves, underpins and presupposes the other.” Lefebvre, p.14  

[19] Or, perhaps better described, it was about the exclusion of the specific set of things to be affected by the struggles and contingencies of life – about the emergence of a different kind of individualism. We should discuss about the problematic of putting things in sets, which are, by definition, never generic and always specific.  

[20] Since the 1950s the inequality is, globally, once again on the steep rise. Depressingly, according to the latest “big data” analysis of January 2017, the only periods when inequality was not on the rise in the (former) West since 1300 were the Black Death plague of XIV century and the two World Wars. See: Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2014, (also see: http://piketty.pse.ens.fr/en/recent), and Guido Alfani, “The top rich in Europe in the long run of history (1300 to present day)”, VoxEU.org, February 15, 2017, http://voxeu.org/article/europe-s-rich-1300.  

[21] “Piketty points to “pay-setting institutions and corporate governance” as factors. He adds, “Above a certain level, it is very hard to find in the data any link between pay and performance.” In Britain and France the overall rise of inequality is less dramatic, but in those countries something else is happening that could be even more worrisome: accumulated wealth, much of it inherited, is returning to relative levels not seen since before the First World War. Privately held wealth in some European countries is now about 500 to 600 percent of annual national income, a level approaching that of the early 1900s.” David Rotman, “Technology and Inequality”, MIT Technology Review, October 21, 2014, https://www.technologyreview.com/s/531726/technology-and-inequality

[22] I hope you haven’t seriously expected this text to offer any definite answers to the questions above.  

[23] “Still, nothing has changed. Nothing has changed. At one point, the Prime Minister even insisted nothing had really changed while being forced to watch a video of herself saying the words nothing has changed. … Somewhere, in a parallel, and altogether fairer universe, the ground did the decent thing and swallowed the Prime Minister up. But even there, from the fiery depths there rose an echo: “Noaaoooothing has chaaaaaaaaaaaaa….” Tom Peck, “Nothing has changed. Nothing has changed. Theresa May is still terrible at every aspect of her job”, Independent, October 1, 2017, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/theresa-may-tory-party-conference-andrew-marr-nothing-has-changed-a7976866.html

[24] “I guess it was me being sort of arrogant. It’s sort of baiting an audience, isn’t it? It’s saying, ‘Look, I’m going to be so fast you’re not going to be able to keep up with me.’ It’s that kind of perky arrogance of youth. You think you can get away with anything when you’re young.” (as quoted in Nicholas Pegg, The Complete David Bowie, “Changes”, 2002)  

[25] While at the very surface of Rib all seems to be true to how it appears, and the whole thing may look at times as a great forensic operation or as a kind of a “disinterested activity” in examining this or that data from the archive or a formal detail, it is not what eventually turns out to happen.  

[26] David Harvey, “The ‘New’ Imperialism: Accumulation by Dispossession”, Socialist Register, vol. 40, 2004, http://www.socialistregister.com/index.php/srv/article/view/5811; see also David Harvey, The New Imperialism, Oxford University Press, 2003.  

[27] David Harvey, “From Managerialism to Entrepreneurialism: The Transformation in Urban Governance in Late Capitalism”, in Geografiska Annaler. Series B, Human Geography: The Roots of Geographical Change: 1973 to the Present, vol. 71, no. 1, 1989, pp. 3-17.  

[28] Harvey, ibid, p. 5.

[29] “Mokokoma Mokhonoana is a writer of aphorisms. Some are funny. Some are profound. And some are both. Subscribe to get his NEW aphorisms, via EMAIL, 2 weeks BEFORE he publishes them, every other SUNDAY: www.mokokoma.com/aphorisms.”  

[30]

“Musicians suffer terribly; whatever happens to musicians will happen to everybody else. And music as it’s played on contemporary digital hardware sounds worse than it did on analog hardware 40 years ago. The new economy – it’s terrible. It’s a curse. Everyone hates and fears it, no one is optimistic about it, even the very few guys, the very few guys who really made out like bandits are afraid of the new economy. Nobody is happy with it.”

Bruce Sterling, SXSW Festival keynote, March 2017, https://soundcloud.com/officialsxsw/the-future-history-that-hasnt-happened-yet-sxsw-2017 [06:50].  

[31] Lefebvre, p.10  

[32] The full quote:

“The Marxist philosopher Lefebvre’s advice that a new space must be created, as the precondition of a new life (Lefebvre, 1991) in the form of ‘contradictory space’ is key to an idea of radical space, or critical space. This idea is useful in order to analyse the creation of ‘alternative spaces’ documented in some art ephemera (as both symbolic and material spaces). In contrast to Jameson, he proposes a simultaneous juxtaposition of space, rather than distance, as a critical strategy. Lefebvre sets out his “conceptual triad” of space, in the first chapter of The social production of space, ‘Plan of the present work’ (Lefebvre, 1991, 33).” Cooke, Jacqueline, Art ephemera, aka “Ephemeral traces of ‘alternative space’: the documentation of art events in London 1995-2005, in an art library”, Chapter 2: The alternative, the avant garde and the artist-run space, Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London, 2007, p. 31, https://research.gold.ac.uk/3475/1/intro-1.pdf OR https://core.ac.uk/display/89094

[33] From the FAQ section of the former website of The Freud Museum in London: “Where did Freud say, “Sometimes a cigar is only a cigar.”? If you know the answer to this one, please let us know because we have no idea…”, http://archive.li/RR8ym

[34] “Dutch design is simple and powerful”, according to Hugo van den Bos, strategy director of Dutch graphic design studio Koeweiden Postma. Author and journalist Tracy Metz notes that, “The Dutch have the ability to make fun of themselves. Also it’s a matter of combining things that usually don’t combine at all. Dutch designers are good in using materials that look worthless. The designers give them a new value.” (Wikipedia)  

[35] Rib is also careful not to be devoured by abstraction alltogether, aware that, as Bifo writes, “paradoxically, the insertion of abstraction into social life and the cycles of the natural environment is leading to the extinction of concreteness, and of life itself”. (Franco “Bifo” Berardi, Op.cit)  

[36] “As Debord insisted, tomorrow’s revolutionaries should practice some intentional amnesia, ‘not bringing us up as a reference, forgetting us a little.’ That’s the crystal of today’s act of organization.” Lovink, Op.cit, p. 150

[37] “Thus, the three thousand year old archetype of the thinker as one who is dead to the world, is now itself dead. The thinker is today seen as one who is both active and involved in the world through various political and sociological projects that have debased and undermined the building of transcendent castles in the air.” – John David Ebert, “On Peter Sloterdijk’s The Art of Philosophy”, December 2012, https://cultural-discourse.com/on-peter-sloterdijks-the-art-of-philosophy, the review of Peter Sloterdijk, The Art of Philosophy: Wisdom as Practice, Columbia University Press, 2012.

[38] ”Love Is a Bourgeois Construct” is the third single from the Pet Shop Boys album Electric, released on September 1, 2013. The song is based on the 1982 instrumental “Chasing Sheep Is Best Left to Shepherds”, a minimalist piece by Michael Nyman, initially based on a hook by Henry Purcell.  

[39] Is art not always an exception, and sometimes even theorized as such (e.g: Agamben, Lazaratto, Dimitrijević, Bourdieau)? How often are people prepared or willing to deal with genuine exceptions – or how open for exceptions are our theories, ideologies, and other instruments of abstraction?). One of the more inspiring definitions:

“Most fundamentally, “exception” suggests a limit: on a rule, to fulfil its mandate; on reason, to make sense; on logic, to be consistent with itself. Concomitantly, it suggests transcendence: the omnipresence of the ineffable, a lurking regime of permanent negation. The exception is everything but: the non-law, the state of emergency, the other, the negation of what holds-in-all-circumstances, the impossible, the unthinkable, the aporia, the utopia.”

Rebecca Gould, “Laws, Exceptions, Norms: Kierkegaard, Schmitt, and Benjamin on the Exception”, Telos: A Quarterly Journal of Politics, Philosophy, Critical Theory, Culture, and the Arts, No 162, 2013.  

[40] “Je vous salue, Sarajevo” (1993) is a three-minute photomontage in which a photograph from the Bosnian War is broken into smaller images and edited to present segments of the photo, one by one, before the whole is revealed. In a voice-over track, Godard contrasts a sphere of culture to a sphere of art. He says that culture (“cigarette, T- shirt, TV, tourism, war”) is the rule, and art (“Flaubert, Dostoevsky, Gershwin, Mozart, Cézanne, Vermeer”) is the exception. Everyone speaks the rule, but no one speaks the exception.” [This description of the Godard’s work taken from Phillip Roberts, “Godard in Sarajevo: Media Control in Deleuze and Virilio”, in Cultural Politics, Volume 10, Issue 3, November 2014, Duke University Press, p. 338]  

[41] What artist in their right mind thinks that what makes Jeff Koons, for example, is really art? In return, no admirer of Jeff Koons-the-artist would recognize as artists what they see as activists, if they see them at all. So “name your art” goes on, by carefully choosing predicates.  

[42] Importantly, the art is always true, always at least two, and always aware of the own bipolarity in regard to that it is always two – what it is, and what it is not; these nominations, as in all things bipolar, are mutually exclusive and deny each other trough the predicates, while the subject remains contested or elusive.  

[43] Socially sensitive and ambitious art, most often recognized as critical art (here we must programmatically reject any mention of the concept of “responsible” in relation to art) is trying not to be commodified, not to be autistic, but also not to be utilized or instrumentalized, frequently taking the risk of remaining inaccessible or entirely unknown to the audiences mediated by the very machine it aims to deconstruct; while market-oriented art (where this orientation is of the programmatic nature) tries not to judge (but to shock or instruct), not to be explicit in elaborating views (but to elaborate aesthetics instead), and, probably most important of all, not to stay unnoticed by whatever means possible.

“Everyone’s immortal until they’re not.” (Quote from Victoria Schwab, A Gathering of Shadows.)  

[44] The perception is usually either even more polarized – the particular art being recognized as “the only valid” at the moment, or as “not art at all”. The formal/aesthetic aspect itself is just one of the numerous possible elements included in the evaluation of art, and frequently not the one bearing the utmost importance.  

FutureEverything 2015: Warren Ellis – “Some Bleak Circus”, Manchester Town Hall

[45] “It is the crucible of modernism, which we can very loosely describe as the process of making only those things that fit and speak of our ever more complex times, creating new things for a new world. Postmodernism, which has probably lasted longer than modernism, is the process of interrogating the aesthetic discourse, disrupting the narrative. Modernism says that things can be right. Postmodernism says that nothingcan be right. So if you ever wonder why nothing new ever seems to happen anymore, find a postmodernist and beat the shit out of them.” Warren Ellis: “Some Bleak Circus”, FutureEverything 2015 Conference, https://youtu.be/9cfAmvdeZD4?t=245 [04:04].  

[46] (The important difference being that post-modernism in confusing the history of artistic development of the previous era, while “post-historicism” negating it entirely, both undoing the modernist tendency of the reduction of form in favour of “meaning” as pursued throughout the XX-century.) The 2000’s brought the (expected) backlash in the series of “turns”, mainly back-dated (e.g. “educational”, “curatorial”), while the original contributions – among others – were recognized as “New Institutionalism”, “post-(fill you own)” art, or different forms of repetitive “retro chic” quotation art, with art eventually exhausting itself as “exception” by either gaining the expectedly and tiredly ever bigger statistics at the annual Christie’s or resorting to more and more arcane speculations about acceleration or “reality” on another. The (unexpected) part of this backlash was canonizing the various social, political, even medical work as the new form of art, for the first time not requiring any instance of “art thinking” (in Luis Camnitzer’s terms) as condition for the category.  

[47] This became the systemic effort to offer the final contribution in the eternal debate around the nature, meaning and purpose of art (especially since art became ‘conceptual’): to make this “wave of endless possibilities” that art seems to be to finally collapse into any “solid particle”, to use the language of physics; to be rendered into something concrete that could be then put to proper formulas of natural or social sciences, to be finally explained, inspected, evaluated, and eventually either discarded or allocated to particular, “productive”, expected cases of use. Such efforts (always excessive, always controversial) produced some among the greatest art; all the modernist attempts to reduce art as a form to basic shapes and colors, all the avant-gardist efforts to equalize it with life, all the revolutionary approaches of replacing or equalizing art with other, known, inspected and “scientifically formulated” activities, only managed to produce (mainly by excess?) more art. But a lot of things have changed since.  

[48] “The use of” proved to be a challenging method of evaluation when applied to art. See, e.g. , Chto Delat: XXXXXX. Also, pursuing the notion of ‘value’ trough the matters of art was never an easy task, and often one ends up in strange situations, equalizing or comparing the artists with all sorts of not-artists, trying to measure artistic endeavor in labor hours or use-value, or examining the graphs tracing the millions from the latest auctions.  

[49] Hito Steyerl, “If You Don’t Have Bread, Eat Art!: Contemporary Art and Derivative Fascisms”, https://www.e-flux.com/journal/76/69732/if-you-don-t-have-bread-eat-art-contemporary-art-and-derivative-fascisms

[50] Peter Sloterdijk, The Aesthetic Imperative: Writings on Art, Wiley / Polity, 2017

[51] Jonathon Sturgeon, Art After Social Collapse, The Baffler August 10, 2017, https://thebaffler.com/the-immediate-experience/art-after-social-collapse-sturgeon

[52] The idea to stop producing art in the “global industry” manner, as proposed by Antonia Majača as an act of not only ecology and solidarity but also of reflection and reconceptualization, seems a much more interesting proposition. (Symposium 2019: Inside the Data Room / A Digitology of the Art Space, Panel 2: “The Incomputable Space – Another Future for the Museum – A trialogue between Geert Lovink, Antonia Majača and Vladimir Jerić Vlidi”, May 11 2019, Museo Correr, Venice, AUDIO: https://soundcloud.com/artdataspace/conversation-2-the-incomputable-space-another-future-for-the-museum, 29:06)  

[53] There are differences, still: Badiou wants the poetry to save the world, while Bifo wants it to heal. http://articles.latimes.com/2013/dec/05/entertainment/la-et-cm-fairouz-badiou-20131205 / Franco “Bifo” Berardi, After the Future, AK Press, 2011    

David Harvey: Right to the City, Smart City Expo World Congress

[54] “Inspirational Talk – David Harvey: Right to the City”, Smart City Expo World Congress, Barcelona, December 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cL5c600R3o

[56] This debate once again opened the valid questions of, for example, should art teach about sustainable agriculture? Or dig mass graves and investigate war crimes? Sure. Is art in chronicling, reporting, archiving (life)? Why not. Can art be the evidence of something, anything? There we have to stop, and say no. Art could only be the evidence of art. Art is not true to anything; this is the reason why it can not be responsible towards anything.

[55] “The German-Jewish philosopher Walter Benjamin is often credited with the statement ‘behind every fascism is a failed revolution.’. Allegedly, Benjamin made this statement in his essay ‘Theories of German Fascism: On the Collection of Essays War and Warrior’, edited by Ernst Jünger, and was originally published in 1930. Although the sentence seems not to be in the essay in its short, well-known form, Benjamin tackles in this essay what he viewed as a major cause of German fascism: the loss of the First World War was never recognized, but internalized and transformed as a first stage of an ‘eternal war’.” Otto Paans, “Professional Philosophy’s Failed Revolution”, Against Professional Philosophy, February 13, 2017, http://againstprofphil.org/professional-philosophys-failed-revolution

[57] For the reasons not to be discussed here, the notion of autonomy easily gets equalized with the idea of democracy, and then democracy gets equalized with the principles of voting, or of consensus, or of other decision-making mechanism. Hence it replaces a quality with a quantity as the core approach. This unexpectedly violates the autonomy of the subject, and renders art – or anything – into a determinative, computable and predictable set of decisions.  

[58] “Here we face the problem discussed by Engels in his important essay ‘On Authority’. Engels insists, against those he calls ‘autonomists’, that ‘a certain authority’ and with it ‘a certain subordination’ are necessitated by ‘the material conditions under which we produce and make products circulate’. He suggests ‘authority and autonomy are relative things’, and ‘the autonomists’, rather than reject authority, really ought to restrict ‘themselves to saying that the social organisation of the future would restrict authority solely to the limits within which the conditions of production render it inevitable.’ Equality and non-hierarchical social forms call for delegated authority.” Steve Edwards // Two critiques of representation (against lamination), Chto Delat #10- 34, “In defense of representation”, https://chtodelat.org/b8-newspapers/12-38/steve-edwards-two-critiques-of-representation-against-lamination  

“Apocalypse Wow!”, video documentation by Ana Shametaj of a performance by Franco “Bifo” Berardi in Delphi (Greece), 17 March 2018.

[59] Franco “Bifo” Berardi, “Game Over”, e-flux Journal #100, May 2019, https://www.e-flux.com/journal/100/268601/game-over 

[60] This is not to say that the entire political and economical autonomy does not get subsumed under the notion of artistic autonomy; all the autonomies from the market or from being governed upon are granted to the artists as to all the others, and all these autonomies are being fought for and defined trough the process of emancipation and class struggle. Those are the forms of autonomy that social and political sciences are concerned about, this is what can be analysed trough the methods of political economy, what can be codified as part of the tendencies of progressive political or social agenda. The artistic autonomy, on the other hand, is what happens before, in parallel and beyond these struggles and codifications, what happens around them. It can hardly be a subject of analysis as it is the tool to probe and analyse the other phenomena. This form of autonomy can not be defined, as it can not be predicted by itself; its manifestation could be somewhat expected, by examining what is restricted or prohibited in a given society. This is why most of the legal definitions of the many acts of artistic autonomy could be found under the misdemeanour, felony or criminal law sections. As this particular autonomy it is seldomly granted by society, and is frequently not recognized, there is no other way to create it but to try and see at what point the artist will be faced with some man in black or with the angry, torch-wielding mob. Being non-codifyable, artistic autonomy often renders as transgression, an offence, a crime.  

[61] Luis Camnitzer, “Thinking About Art Thinking”, e-flux , May 2015, http://supercommunity.e-flux.com/texts/thinking-about-art-thinking

[62] Artistic autonomy is beyond codification, prediction and definition; it is the source of all useful transgression, and probably the core mechanism of freedom; it may be irresponsible and dangerous; it is neither elitist not populistic; in 2019, we also understand it is much more useful and reliable tool for keeping the check on power than any current rendition of “democracy”.  

[63] “Since its inception, Rib has employed an evolutionary logic instead of a thematic succession; exhibitions, collaborations, recurring (online) residencies, long-term projects and off-site interventions all interlock to animate this living organism.”, http://www.ribrib.nl/about

[64] The only coherent reference for the expression “rump capitalism” I could Google at August 2018: Weekly information bulletin, Number 106 (August 1947), German reactions, pp. 11-12, http://images.library.wisc.edu/History/EFacs/GerRecon/omg1947n106/reference/history.omg1947n106.i0008.pdf 

[65] Of course we can always play with imagination: Some detournement + a bit of accelerationsim (always something bitter!) + a bit of irony (never cynicism), with a little dose of surreal and the complete lack of the sense of defeat? Looks crazy/impossible enough so that it just may work.  

[66] David Harvey, Spaces of Hope, University of California Press, 2000  

[67] Walter Benjamin wrote this in 1928 and published it in German as a part of the collection titled Einbahnstraße (Berlin: Rowohlt: http://archive.org/details/Einbahnstrae). The translation in English was published in the collection One-Way Street and Other Writings by NLB, London in 1979.  

[68] (Description of the program taken from http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/will-it-blend)  

[69] “There are also, probably in every culture, in every civilization, real places—places that do exist and that are formed in the very founding of society— which are something like counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within the culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted. Places of this kind are outside of all places, even though it may be possible to indicate their location in reality. Because these places are absolutely different from all the sites that they reflect and speak about, I shall call them, by way of contrast to utopias, heterotopias.” From: Architecture /Mouvement/ Continuité, October, 1984; (“Des Espace Autres”, March 1967, translated from French by Jay Miskowiec), http://web.mit.edu/allanmc/www/foucault1.pdf

[70] “Nothing worth fighting for seems practicable, and the changes that can be readily imagined often hardly seem to deserve the sacrifice of programmatic campaigns whose time chart so often disrespects the dimensions of an individual lifetime. If all of this were not enough, the would-be program writer still has a final surprise in store for him. He will be accused – sometimes by the very people who told him a moment before they wanted alternatives – of dogmatically anticipating the future and trying to steal a march on unpredictable circumstance, as if there were no force to Montaigne’s warning that ‘no wind helps him who does not know to what port he sails’. (1987a, 443)” [Unger in Harvey, 188.]  

[71] “Yet did there not at one time, between the sixteenth century (the Renaissance – and the Renaissance city) and the nineteenth century, exist a code at once architectural, urbanistic and political, constituting a language common to country people and townspeople, to the authorities and to artists – a code which allowed space not only to be ‘read’ but also to be constructed?” Lefebvre, p.7  

[72] BL Reference Service @BL_Ref_Services Replying to @RobbieHand @britishlibrary: https://twitter.com/BL_Ref_Services/status/983993287093743618

“The most requested book since opening in 1997 is “The production of space” by Henri Lefebvre (requested 701 times). It’s impossible to calculate the % of items never ordered to a reading room, as the collections are constantly expanding, both in print and electronic formats.”

[73] “This is instructive. The alt-right’s best efforts have yielded an unexpected result: The Overton window hasn’t shifted; it’s smashed. The frame is gone, and every idea that used to be unthinkable is on the table again. Our most basic assumptions of what a society should be and do are being renegotiated. As we look to 2018, I hope that we can see the possibilities.” Lili Loofbourow: 2017 is the year when every unthinkable idea became thinkable again, http://theweek.com/articles/745125/2017-year-when-every-unthinkable-idea-became-thinkable-again