Open! is the online continuation of Open. Cahier on Art & the Public Domain.
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Constituent Immunisation – Paths Towards the Common
According to Isabell Lorey, it is essential to invent new forms of democracy and to understand how we are specifically governed by a perverse democratic governing system, which encourages increased precarisation. To counter this, Lorey proposes the subversive figure of the immune: constituent immunisation. She postulates that constituent immunisation stresses a renewed ordering in which the safeguarding of the political body is no longer at stake. Instead, we must turn to the constituting of those who were formerly constructed as a threat.
On the Pleasure Principle in Culture: Illusions Without Owners
Robert Pfaller, On the Pleasure Principle in Culture: Illusions Without Owners, Verso Books, London, 2014, ISBN: 9781781681749, 288 pages.
Concrete Abstraction – Our Common World
Sven Lütticken argues that it is only by facing the ongoing process of extraction and abstraction of the pre-capitalist that the commons becomes a political and an aesthetic project. He asks what contributions artistic or aesthetic practice can make to practice directed against our current regime of accumulation and abstraction. The aim would not be to instrumentalise art in the name of a political project, but to sound out possibilities for an aesthetic contestation in conjunction with a political one.
A Rehearsal of Inadequate Performances
Iratxe Jaio and Klaas van Gorkum’s experiences during the making of the video Últimas Palabras in Argentina in 2013 have allowed them to reflect on the historical and didactic nature of the political trial. The video – published at the bottom of this text – focuses on the trial and closing argument of ex-Naval Commander Alfredo Astiz (aka “The Blond Angel of Death” during Jorge Rafael Videla’s dictatorship). It is presented here as a case study that demonstrates how Astiz’s final plea can be read as an expression of power relations in society.
Concept Has Never Meant “Horse”: A Response to Merijn Oudenampsen
In his response to Merijn Oudenampsen’s essay “Lost in Translation: On the Intelligibility of Art Discourse” Steyn Bergs tries to both complicate and adjust the essentially sociological account offered by Oudenampsen from an art historical perspective. Bergs wants to offer a clearer image of some of the intricacies of the functioning of art discourse in asking after what we mean by “a more accessible language in the arts” or “a more critical, intellectual and pedagogical relation to art.”
Craft as Lifestyle
Levien Nordeman takes a closer look at the notion of craft, as well as analog or “retro” media, and argues that the current fascination with craft, which is increasingly observable in both the cultural sector and the art academies, can be understood as a way of redefining our relationships with digital technologies.
Here and Elsewhere
Mikkel Bolt Rasmussen argues that we must both continue to identify the revolutionary perspective as a communist one and continue to describe the revolution as a communist revolution. He contributes to the on-going discussion of the revolutionary position by reflecting on the relationship between revolution, counterrevolution and reformism. His essay is also contributing to Open!’s Commonist Aesthetics theme.
The Human Condition of Being Undeportable
Philosopher Marieke Borren explores the phenomenon of the undeportability of ”illegal aliens”. She argues that their undeportability results from fundamental legal and political tensions — the “paradox” of politics and democracy or a “rights gap” in international law. She also discusses the question of claiming collective agency of undeportable illegal aliens in light of these tensions, gaps and paradoxes.
Open! in 2015
Over the past couple of months, Open! published a number of new essays and book reviews, and the results and documentation of such essential projects as Beyond Allegories, which discusses the role of art within governance, political mobilisation and action. At the same time, we launched the research theme Commonist Aesthetics with texts by Marina Vishmidt, Mikkel Bolt Rasmussen and Sven Lütticken. This will soon be supplemented by new contributions from Andreas Siekmann / Alice Greischer, Metahaven, Isabell Lorey, Matteo Pasquinelli and Gerald Raunig, among others. Commonist Aesthetics is a close collaboration with Casco – Office for Art, Design and Theory in Utrecht and Sven Lütticken. Another major topic that unfolded on Open! – by way of an ongoing discussion – concerns contemporary art discourse, which includes polemical essays by Camiel van Winkel, Steven ten Thije, Merijn Oudenampsen and Steyn Bergs.
We are presently investing a great deal of time in the realisation of Open!’s new website and content management system in close collaboration with the Amsterdam-based design office Mind Design. This new site will be launched at the beginning of 2015 and promises to be a truly dynamic discursive environment that will focus on the changing conditions of the public domain and the consequences that the recent privatisation, mediatisation and globalisation processes have on our social, cultural and artistic practices. It will function as a living archive and will include the complete contents of Open. Cahier on Art & the Public Domain 2004-2012. It will also optimise the publishing, researching and reading experience online. We look forward to working with the new Open! site and hope that you will join us in using and exploring it.
All Shall Be Unicorns: About Commons, Aesthetics and Time
In the following set of reflections, I would like to draw out the implications of the proposition “commonist aesthetics” in relation to time. The first step is to describe the cluster of practices and theories associated with “commons”. The second is to juxtapose this with “communism”. I finish with a view towards the consequences for a theory of the production of art as a revolutionary, or, at minimum, transformative practice. The overall hypothesis throughout is that temporality — or, a practice oriented towards the future as the promise of both another way of organising society, but also as the horizon of another experience of time — is key to approaching current conditions from the standpoint of their elimination. That is, the future is contingent on a distance from or refusal of the present rather than on a practice that favours melioration or more rational reproduction. This leads us into a view of temporality as a framing condition for thinking “commons” as a practical and affective project that traverses politics and aesthetics.
The following propositions were developed on the occasion of the Beyond Allegories debate, for which 250 artists, politicians, union representatives, university professors, dramatists, representatives from refugee organisations and NGOs, journalists and students gathered together for seven hours in Amsterdam’s City Council to discuss the role of art within governance, political mobilisation and action. This debate was organised by Ann Demeester (De Hallen | Frans Hals Museum), Carolien Gehrels (until recently Alderman for Art & Culture, PvdA/Labor Party Amsterdam) and the artists Hans van Houwelingen and Jonas Staal in an effort to forge new progressive alliances. The texts will be part of the DVD-book Beyond Allegories, a collection of the resolutions and videos that resulted from the project, which will be published later this year. The videos are also published here, as well as a critical essay on the project by writer E.C. Feiss.
Essay by E. C. Feiss
On Beyond Allegories
Salima Belhaj & Wunderbaum
Plea for a Free Zone
Mariko Peters, Metahaven & Jonas Staal
Towards an Extra-Parliamentary Democracy!
Yoonis Osman Nuur & Ahmet Öğüt
Political Representation Beyond Citizenship
Dirk Poot & Foundland
Mapping the Deep State
Carolien Gehrels & Hans van Houwelingen
The Creative City: A Blessing for Administration but a Curse for the Arts
Ron Meyer en Matthijs de Bruijne
De Democratisering van de Kunst
Ron Meyer & Matthijs de Bruijne
Democratising the Arts
On Beyond Allegories
Everyone is a politician.
There are no political gains, measurable ones, without sacrifice. Beyond Allegories was a congress held at Amsterdam’s city hall in May 2014, which introduced six propositions (published in Open!) concerning the use of art in directly addressing societal injustice, each of which were then formally challenged by four respondents. The event is one of a number of outcomes of a multi-year collaboration between Labour Party (PvdA) politician Carolien Gehrels, artist Hans van Houwelingen and artist Jonas Staal. The congress followed the exhibition and programs of Allegories of Good and Bad Government at W139 in 2011 in Amsterdam which also, albeit in a form more akin to an artistic experiment, tried to strengthen the relationship between art and progressive politics at a time of — what is now seen to be perpetual — crisis in the Netherlands.
The City as Interface: How New Media Are Changing the City
Martijn de Waal, The City as Interface: How New Media Are Changing the City, nai010 Publishers: Rotterdam, 2014, ISBN: 9789462080508, 208 pages
Solidarity or Solo – A Collection of Alternative Atlases of the European Union
Only a disappointing 43% of Europeans voted during the May EU 2014 elections, which highlights the problematic disengagement between the European Union and its citizens. From the results of the elections, we also witness an increasing popularity of right-wing parties in France, Greece, Finland, Denmark, the United Kingdom, among others, as politicians tend to capitalise on Eurosceptic and xenophobic sentiments.
Portrait of a Recipient as a Door Handle, After a Drawing Produced by an Anonymous Philanthropist
Portrait of a Recipient as a Door Handle, After a Drawing Produced by an Anonymous Philanthropist takes the form of a door handle that is intended to be affixed, as standard, to the entrances of various competing banks in central Rotterdam. The first handles were installed at the Blaak 333 branch of Rabobank in February 2014.
Annunciation.On Chris Evans’ Portrait of a Recipient as a Door Handle
Chris Evans’ 2014 piece for Sculpture International Rotterdam is located on the elegantly named street, the Coolsingel in Rotterdam, which, according to Sculpture International, betrays itself, “an ugliness which is paraded in all shamelessness…” The “ugliness” in question leads back to the city’s appetite for repeatedly erasing and re-erasing its own textures, which means that the very bank that sponsors and harbours the new sculpture “is probably about to disappear too”. Indeed, it is “against the backdrop of these historical and future developments [that] Sculpture International Rotterdam is commissioning artists to develop a work that anticipates these transformations”. Programmatic amnesia, pre-emptive oblivion.
A Heteroclite Excursus into the Currency that Lives
In an interview with the curator Franscesco Manacorda some years ago, artist Chris Evans summed up the difference between two then recent works in the following terms: “The School of Improvement has the intention of forcing a voice upon those who need one whereas the sculptures following the conversations with the politicians could be the consequence of giving a voice to those who already have one”. In the background details for the work Portrait of a Recipient as a Door Handle, After a Drawing Produced by an Anonymous Philanthropist installed on the street door of the Rabobank in Rotterdam’s Blaak in February 2014, we learn that the piece is the outcome of conversations with an anonymous philanthropist who decided to draw a recipient of the philanthropist’s generosity as seen in the moment that this recipient had overcome their reluctance to accept their gift. Such a reluctance can be formulated as the fear of exploitation, of consequences or “strings” to the gift, which may be apprehension about the expectation of return or of being bound in some kind of relation of servitude – a fear which has good material basis at a time when large financial institutions typically sponsor cultural institutions with one “hand” while throwing mortgage debtors out of their homes with the other.
Lost in Translation: On the Intelligibility of Art Discourse
Animosity and mutual miscomprehension have come to characterise the relationship between journalists and the modern art world in the Netherlands. At the core of this discord is a recurring discussion on the intelligibility of art discourse. The more recent point of departure was a much-maligned exhibition of the Prix de Rome in 2013, one of the foremost Dutch art prizes. Newspaper critics complained about the difficulty of the artworks on display, which were deemed not visually appealing enough and therefore sure to repel the ordinary public. Not long thereafter, another journalist, Ernst-Jan Pfauth, decried the abstract, jargon-filled nature of the texts that accompanied exhibitions in the Stedelijk Museum.
Caring for Benjamin: Fragments of Life and Work
Howard Eiland and Michael W. Jennings, Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press: Cambridge and London, 2014, ISBN: 9780674051867, 768 pages
Double Crisis: Architecture and the Good Cause
The Good Cause, 09 mrt ’14 – 01 jun ’14
Stroom Den Haag
Hogewal 1-9, The Hague
In recent years, a number of exhibitions have aimed to retrace, reformulate and restore the social dimension of architecture. In some instances, this desire for social urgency manifests itself in dreams of bigness: future bigness in the case of new “smart” cities and sustainable tech-towns, past bigness in the case of nostalgia for historical examples of strong public architecture or urban design, for instance in the post-WWII planning apparatus in the Netherlands, or in the anonymous public works of the 1960s and 1970s applauded in the exhibition by OMA, Architecture by Civil Servants at the last architecture biennale in Venice. More commonly, however, “architecture of consequence” (to echo the title of an exhibition at the former Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAi) in Rotterdam) is envisioned within the domain of architectural acupuncture: well-placed, site-sensitive and bottom-up interventions. The 2010 to 2011 Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) exhibition Small Scale, Big Change, for example, showcased a selection of handpicked projects from the four corners of the world that according to the museum’s press release “signal a renewed sense of commitment, shared by many of today’s practitioners, to the social responsibilities of architecture.”
The exhibition The Good Cause: Towards an Architecture of Peace—initiated as a research and publication project by Dutch architecture platform Archis in 2010 and presented at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal before travelling to Stroom Den Haag—clearly taps into this trend. Duplicating both the emphasis on architectural micro-makeability and its projection of big-scale change, the show focuses on eight projects of architectural peacekeeping and social stability that tackle the role of architecture in territories engaged in or following periods of conflict. In turn, these case studies are linked to maps, schemes and diagrams of post-WWII wars, international laws and UN-based pacification methods—which in the case of this iteration of The Good Cause are connected to See You in The Hague, an umbrella program initiated by Stroom Den Haag that aims to shed light on the city of The Hague as a global centre of justice. In doing so, the project makes a claim to march towards a twofold goal: “on the one hand it aims to influence governmental political and military decision-making with regard to peace- and reconstruction missions; on the other hand it wants to provide architects and urbanists with extra tools and with insights into their action radius.” This goal resonates with the “forums” and “fields” method as developed by the research project Forensic Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London, which, among other things, extends architecture beyond the built object and nudges it into a network of discussion platforms and interventionist toolboxes.
The Good Cause similarly transposes architecture into a broad cultural domain: projects range from a historical reconstruction of a public garden to a manual for building typologies and regulations; architectural tools vary accordingly. Still, the feeling cannot be done away with that the main thematic of the show somehow neutralizes or at least papers over the interesting elements of these cases. For what is “the good cause”? Should not this category be questioned in each and every project, rather than assumed as the basis for their selection and presentation (as— the accompanying folder to the exhibition describes these as cases of “good practices”—is being done now)?
In an introductory note to the project’s website (www.architectureofpeace.org) the Archis team justly acknowledge that “reconstruction is a highly political process in which every step that is seen to favour one side over another can ignite new violence,” adding that “unbalanced reconstruction can create new inequalities, which would lead to new grievances.” Further, in an Archis publication that precedes this exhibition, Volume’s theme issue Architecture of Peace (2010), social scientist Gerd Junne is equally cautious about making big claims toward “architectures of peace”, which he fears are often at risk of capsizing into architectures of conflict: “You build in the wrong place, or with the wrong people, or with the wrong symbols … there is a very great chance you’ll get it wrong.” Indeed, it is the reversal of the exhibition’s title, Architecture of Peace: Towards the Good Cause, which would start to reflect on “the good cause” as an epistemological, sociopolitical and ethical horizon, and concurrently, begin to ponder the precarity of local works that reach towards a quasi-theological and, in fact, idealist goal. Before advancing micro-makeability as a panacea against all possible ills, this approach could chart the possibilities, challenges and limitations of practicing and/or placing architecture in communities plagued by a lack of resources, social sensitivities and other difficulties. Most of all, however, it would acknowledge the tension in connecting local projects to something as vague and universal as the good cause, which contends to inject these projects with architectural meaning and significance.
Joshua Simon, Neomaterialism, Berlin, Sternberg Press, 2013. ISBN 978-3-943365-08-5, 194 pages
Revolution at Point Zero. Discussing the Commons with Silvia Federici and Tine De Moor
Last year, New York-based activist and philosopher Silvia Federici lead two days of lectures on the commons from 31 January–1 February, organised by Casco – Office for Art, Design and Theory in Utrecht, centred around the ideas raised in her book Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle (2012). In introducing Federici and announcing “Composing the Commons” as a motto guiding the coming years’ program at Casco, Casco director Binna Choi mentioned that Federici’s presentation was part of the living research project initiated in 2009 titled the Grand Domestic Revolution (GDR). Choi detailed how GDR explores communal ways of working and living involving a wide a range of activities inspired by nineteenth-century Materialist Feminism, a movement that organised cooperative domestic work. Various types of collectives or groups have been engaged in the development of GDR since, she continued, creating a network of collaborations spread throughout different countries. Where the domestic space is conceived of as a “ground zero” for starting change that can apply to a broader social realm and social systems, the commons is at the core of this change.
In addition to Federici, on the first day of lectures at Casco contributors included Tine De Moor, an outspoken voice in the Dutch discourse around the commons and director of Institutions of Collective Action and professor at Utrecht University, and initial respondents Dutch artists coalition Platform Beeldende Kunst and artist Elke Uitentuis from Artists Occupy Amsterdam. Eluding strict definitions, the commons were then discussed in presentations by Federici and De Moor and subsequent Q&A sessions with the audience. De Moor pinpointed the way in which self-organised groups or so-called private-public partnerships are often market-driven, concluding that commons are not a weapon against privatisation but an alternative which should operate in parallel. Federici’s position, on the other hand, gravitated towards how the commons—or the practice of commoning—can be a transformative form of reproduction, leading into a discussion wherein the notion of building a commons intrinsically means building a collective subject with the desire to reclaim resources.
Here follows a condensed and edited report of the conversations on 31 January and 1 February.
The SKOR Codex launched into the future. Interview with La Société Anonyme
An archive is a collection of documents and records such as letters, official papers, photographs, recorded material, or computer files that is preserved for historical purposes. As such, an archive is considered a site of the past, a place that contains traces of a collective memory of a nation, a people or a social group. Artists have always shown an interest in archives, either as inspiration for their own work, or for the use and reappropriation of its material. An archive has, therefore, become a site of reproduction.
Rwanda is Not a Piece of Art.
An Ecology of the Courtroom by Model Court
“It is shocking to see how artists normalize atrocities,” lawyer Jan Hofdijk wrote to the director of the centre for art and architecture Stroom Den Haag after attending the opening of its exhibition Model Court: An Ecology of the Courtroom and the corresponding live teleconference on the weekend of 14 and 15 February 2014. Model Court is an ongoing collaboration between London-based artists, researchers Sidsel Meineche Hansen, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Oliver Rees and architect Lorenzo Pezzani, which explores the shifting infrastructures of international justice. Central to their artistic research is the Finnish trial of François Bazaramba, a Rwandan pastor who was accused of genocide against Tutsis in 1994. Model Court’s film RESOLUTION 978 HD and live teleconference in The Hague examine the way in which the trial and the principle of universal jurisdiction on which it is based are both facilitated and interrupted by media technologies.
A spectre is haunting more than just Europe; or rather, an undead zombie is stalking the lands. The “Idea of Communism”, as the title of two high-profile conferences and books has it, is both profoundly discredited through its identifications with Moscow-brand socialism and profoundly necessary in an age of spiralling inequality and the accelerating destruction of the basis of life itself. Protests proliferate, but also quickly dry up, from the Arab Spring and Occupy to (farce following tragedy) high-profile British comedian Russell Brand coming to the conclusion that the current form of representative democracy is broken beyond repair and that a revolution is needed, only to be told by another comedian to “read some fucking Orwell”.
Keeping the Peace
There are twelve of us this morning, sitting around the big wooden table in our tent, reading The Social Contract by Jean Jacques Rousseau. It has been over a month since we set up camp at the foot of the world’s oldest stock exchange. The Beursplein, once an unimaginative square where tourists loitered, is now Occupy Amsterdam. A miniature society made up of about a hundred little tents, crowding the pavement in eclectic disorder. A field kitchen and a big white circus tent mark the edges of this attempt to create an autonomous zone in the heart of the city. It is the living laboratory in which we are reinventing democracy from scratch.