This article proceeds from an introductory polemical exchange on the viability of the European project between the DiEM25 activists Franco Berardi and Yanis Varoufakis. It proceeds to an overview of Brexit from its roots in England’s history of civil strife to the 2016 referendum and the secession from the EU. There are inquiries into populism, Jeremy Corbyn and Labour’s left-wing 2017 Manifesto, the feasibility of Lexit – the so-called ‘left exit’ from Europe – and Enoch Powell’s right-wing ‘Rexit’ resistance to the Common Market in the 1970s. A reconstruction of the ‘Great Debate’ of 1971 (and the referendum of 1975) follows which united the entire spectrum of the left – from the CPGB to militant Marxist groups and the Labour left – in opposition to Europe and gave first expression to Lexit. ‘Nexit’ is briefly considered – an eventual collapse of Brexit and (another possible referendum) return to Europe. The article ends with the populist phenomenon of Donald Trump’s presidency and his support for Brexit in reversal of former US geopolitical policy which had always encouraged Britain’s participation in Europe.
So, imagine me in a stuffy little room, a bit like a kitchenette. The kitchen is chockful of old ugly furniture, with the smell of fried eggs, onions, and that invariably rancid cooking oil still lingering in the air, to boot, as if I were somewhere, God knows where, back there, in nowhere land, some forsaken hellhole, in Serbia, let’s say in Belgrade, let’s say on upper Cvijićeva Street, by the overpass, or by the underpass – as you please, as you like it – actually pretty near Roosevelt Street, that would be the second Roosevelt, Franklin D, and not that first Roosevelt, Theodore; basically, near ex-Cemetery Street, right at number 115, and on the fourth floor, no lift, of course. When you finally reach that illustrious fourth, and last, floor, your soul shoots right through your nose, and floats upwards, completely upwards, straight into the cosmos, settling among the stars and the idle angels. And while the chubby little honey-cheeked angels are playing cards, betting on beans and worn-out buttons, your soul disintegrates into a billion invisible particles, but the absorbed winged youths do not care about any of it.
The decision of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, to ‘Brexit’, appears as a traumatic shock. Here this shock is examined in the context of the national imaginary of ‘Englishness’ and its relationship to theory. I focus on the theoretical tendency known as accelerationism, which suggests we embrace abstraction and modernity to transcend the limits of contemporary capitalism into a new post-capitalist society. Accelerationism embraces the future and modernity, in contrast with the seemingly backward-looking imaginaries of Brexit. The desire of accelerationism to transcend national limits, including these backward-looking imaginaries of Englishness, is actually shaped by these imaginaries. In this way, accelerationism and the debates around it offers ways to unlock the social, psychic and theoretical formations that condition Brexit as well. What they reveal is the way in which Brexit is shaped by a particularly ‘English’ form of modernisation.
This article considers the impact of a range of contemporary political factors on the future role and status of English art schools, with a focus on questions of diversity, international student recruitment, globalisation and curriculum development. These factors primarily comprise: the Brexit vote in 2016, the UK government’s related hostility to international student recruitment (based on the erroneous idea that these students are surreptitious migrants), the election of Trump and the ambiguous rise of populisms on the left and right. Given the turmoil already present in the UK university system – related to the raising of fees and the creation of an apparently consumerist ‘Office for Students’ replacing the Higher Education Funding Council for England – how have art schools responded to this crisis in the purpose of education, the role of contemporary art and its place in and as part of globalised a world?
In this article, I consider Brexit as the expression of a more general ideology – Brexitism – which I explore through commentary upon a series of quotations drawn from speeches, newspapers, propaganda material and social media. This method is appropriate because Brexitism is itself a kind of quotation – a repetition of half-remembered actual and fictional past political gestures, which allude to something deeper. Exploring fragments which illustrate three different elements of Brexitist ideology – Heroism, Time and Distinction – I suggest that these can be read as expressions of an underlying, dynamic and ‘productive’ conceptual field, similar to what Max Weber described as a ‘stand toward the world’. This is the ‘metaphysics of Brexit’ apart from which it cannot be fully understood.
Brexit re-asserts England’s dominance over ‘Britain’, the ‘United Kingdom’, and the eccentric political accretion ridiculed by Tom Nairn as ‘Ukania’. ‘Brexitania’ is a volatile crucible for a social settlement, with profound implications for Britain, Europe, and especially Ireland. Since the referendum, a mythology of Empire has re-emerged as England’s primary political imaginary. Its historical task of distraction from constituting in law a modern ‘British Nation’ has been renewed. Such a feat of collective imagination is once again displaced by resort to ‘national’ over-definition against perceived inferior or dangerous Others, including Welsh, Scots, Irish – and ‘European’ – people and polities. The radically ambiguous ‘will of the people’, expressed at the referendum on leaving the EU, eclipses the will of some of the people expressed in ‘constitutional’ referendums on the Good Friday Agreement (1998) and Scottish Independence (2014). This article uses a postcolonial perspective to explore changing meanings of ‘unity’ and ‘union’, and their implications, among Brexit’s proliferating contradictions.
During the Second World War, Germany established its southern front or Südwall, running from the Spanish to the Italian borders and following the Marseille coastline, as a defensive line against an Allied invasion. The defenses served the Wehrmacht, who occupied the area from 1943, and to this day remnants of the military bunkers and forts can be seen in Marseille, on the white rocky coast of the Calanques and on surrounding islands, such as the Îles du Frioul. Unlike the Atlantic bunkers in Brittany and Normandy, the history of the Südwall is not well known. My series of photographs seeks to unearth these fortifications, which, because they are built of concrete, are virtually integrated into the rocky landscape of the coast. Were it not for the colourful graffiti and images that adorn them, they would vanish into the landscape, like camouflaged soldiers. I am not interested in a study of anthropomorphic forms, but in the form of the landscape itself as an environment for the bunkers, which through their stonelike character have become the landscape. The Südwall has changed over the decades from a fortress to ruins and architectural relics. Nature and man-made construction have become woven together into a unified matrix. Some bunkers were later transformed into homes in which people now live. In one of my images there is a stone memorial that reminds us of the victims of war – three resistance fighters who died young and are now present only by name: Jean Odelin, seventeen years old; Serge Loiseau, nineteen years old; and Jacques Baby, twenty-three years old. The Südwall is a memorial to the conflicted history of Germany and France and the catastrophe of two world wars. This former line of defence – part of Hitler’s Fortress Europe – reminds us that the Europe of today, a peaceful union of different countries, cannot be taken for granted. It is fragile.
‘Brexit’ is a shocking new political-cultural-psychological archetype, so rich in metaphorical potential that it is difficult to know how to ‘hunt’ its deeper meaning. Therefore, it seems fitting to look backwards and seek folkloric parallels to illuminate the gathering cultural darkness. The ‘Wild Hunt’ is a pan-European myth that is also present in English culture. Applied to Brexit, it symbolises the vengeful, bloodthirsty unleashing of euphoric violence, reflecting some of the (so far) mostly unspoken desires of Brexit ideologues. This article argues that Brexit represents not just a pre-modern, but a neofeudal love of the chase and the kill as ends in themselves. Specific goals and policies are simply decorative elements similar to the animal furs that adorned the halls of feudal warlords. Brexit embodies pure political chaos and is the first time that Balkanising ‘National Anarchist’ tendencies have manifested so clearly in the former Western bloc.
In July 1995, Yosefa Loshitzky and Haim Bresheeth (žabner) went on a honeymoon trip to Europe. What may have looked like a traditional destination choice for a newly married couple was, in fact, nothing of the sort for Haim and Yosefa, two Israeli dissidents living in London. Among their more predictable choices of conventionally attractive places such as the French countryside, the Swiss Alps and the like, their trip also included visits to the Treblinka, Majdanek and Auschwitz-Birkenau camps, as well as to the birthplaces of their Polish Jewish families who were exterminated by the Nazis: Sokolow Podlaski in northeastern Poland, where Yosefa’s family came from, and Ostrowiec świętokrzyski in Galicia, where Haim’s parents came from. Tracing the origin of their lost families and visiting some of the places where their parents stayed during and after World War II, prior to their migration to British Mandate Palestine (which later became Israel), turned for Haim and Yosefa into a roots journey to the void left by the destruction of European Jewry. When they returned from their European tour to their home in London, they jointly designed and constructed a memory box where each compartment visually and symbolically represents a place of memory (lieu de memoire) from their trip.
The papers are full of debates and opinions on Brexit; yet despite this seemingly endless commentary nothing seems to make any sense. The debates associated with Brexit seems to imply that we can ‘control’ or even ‘manage’ through this turbulent period with ideas of progress, change and development. Brexit seems to embody and reflect a period which many critical observers have described as the Postnormal Time, a period ‘where old orthodoxies are dying, new ones have not yet emerged, and nothing really makes sense’. More crucially, it is a period ‘when little out there can be trusted or gives us confidence’, or, more importantly, the spirit of our age is characterised by uncertainty, rapid change, realignment of power, upheaval and chaotic behaviour.
Faced with institutions, languages and prospects that continue to run the world in tired reproductions of the past – a Britain that cannot give up its imperial imaginary, a Europe that refuses to break with its nationalist deadlock – rational argument and disciplinary logic are pushed to the edge. The provincial knives of racism, fear and hate cut easily into the supine and bloated body of unrepresentative democracies. The facade of politics is increasingly peopled by ghosts – both those subjected to the colonial terror once thought to have been laid to rest, and those who continue to direct and define the present. In this scenario, the contemporary migrant becomes the political question of our time. Despite the walls, barriers, emergency legislation and necro-politics, she and he insist and persist. Her presence exposes the hypocrisies of vaunted humanist values and systems of justice now drowning at sea or bleaching in the deserts of the Sahara and North America. Ideas of freedom and citizenship unravel and snarl up in the narrowing path to the right to have rights (Hannah Arendt). This is accompanied by an order of accredited knowledge that increasingly appears to be the syncopated minion of a brutal and impugnable order. The colonial formation of modernity continues to block movement towards a freer historical and cultural order. Perhaps only among the signs and sounds of the postcolonial arts does there remain an open a door on radical futures and their cultivation of the present.
Trump’s campaign slogan forces us to ask a simple question: when was America great? Surely, what he has in mind here is the America of the post-war Fordist and Keynesian social welfare models, which saw both the rise of the new suburban middle class and the rise of the white patriarchal figure, the Oedipal agent of the ‘father who knows best’. But the coming post-Fordist society has figured the dismantling of the welfare model under the austerity regimes of neoliberalism, at the same time displacing the phallic signifier of paternal authority. Is it possible to bring back white masculine power and the model that made possible the suburban middle class? Or is ‘America’ the lost object that cuts into the Trumpian imaginary? The American utopia in ‘Make America Great Again’ is the very nothingness out of which the loss constitutive of Trumpian ideology consists, turning it instead into an American nightmare.
‘Whatever’ as the ethical ground for the potentiality of a ‘party without party’ (Partei ohne Partei). Herman Melville’s Bartleby, the scrivener, says ‘I would prefer not to’ three times. This famous speech act constitutes the ur-text ‘what if/ever potentiality’ of Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben’s ethics for the contemporary philosopher (as) scrivener; the one who likes the party without party (senza il partito) member, may engage in ‘an experience of the possible as such’. Does this privileging of potentiality in the political process coincide with the renunciation of the creative will to power in Guy Debord’s famous line from his film ‘Critique de la séparation’ (1961)? Taking his cues from Aristotle’s ‘Metaphysics’ – ‘thought thinking itself, which is a kind of mean between thinking nothing and thinking something, between potentiality and actuality’ – Agamben affirms the anaphorised potential of Bartleby’s speech act: ‘I would prefer not to prefer not to’. What if conventional party politics, partisanship left/centre/right divisions were a thing of the past? Now to the Dead Letter Box and the potentialities of a Partei ohne Partei (party without party)! Barber’s détournement of the original Surrealist map is a situationist enterprise and related to the question of building arbitrary barriers such as the ‘Trump wall’ between the US and Mexico and the relinquishing of the open borders implicit in the European project initiated when Charles de Gaulle stated ‘Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals’, which in 1967 implicitly included Great Britain.
The prescription opioid crisis in the United States is among the worst human-caused public health disasters in modern history, with over 500,000 dead and by some estimates almost 5% of the American population ‘misusing’ these drugs. This article supplies some unusual resources for understanding that crisis and the way it inherits a legacy of empire, now transfigured for a corporate age. From the museums funded by the sale of these drugs, to the British-led Opium Wars and the present-day racialised dimensions of the epidemic, much can be gained from dwelling with its tangled and haunted complexities. The article concludes with a consideration of Susan Buck-Morss’s reading of Walter Benjamin’s meditations on the aestheticisation of politics in an age of what she calls ‘capitalist anaesthetics’.
In 1898, and again in 1943, the US military invaded the Philippines; in 1890, US troops invade Argentina; in 1891, they invade Chile; in 1891, Haiti; 1894, Nicaragua; 1898, the US Navy invades Cuba and Puerto Rico; 1903, Marines invade Honduras; 1906, troops in Cuba; 1907, Nicaragua again (also in 1910, 1912–1933); 1923, US troops in El Salvador; 1947, Uruguay; 1954, Guatemala; 1950, US military massacres civilian refugees in No Gun Ri, Korea; 1968, US military massacres civilians in My Lai, Vietnam; 1983, US troops invade Grenada; 1988–1990, US Air Force and troops invade Panama; 1992–1995, US-led intervention in Somalia; 2003, US military invades Iraq; 2002 to the present day, US carries out ongoing lethal drone strikes and special operations in Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan.
This article begins with a brief discussion of the 2018 Italian elections, which resulted in institutional crisis first and immediately after in the formation of a populist government. From there, it tackles the global rise of contemporary populism as a symptom of our post-political unwillingness, or inability, to confront the fetishistic core of the capitalist valorisation dynamic, which has long encountered its historical limit and is currently languishing in a state of terminal crisis. The article argues that at the heart of our populist predicament there lies the progressive evaporation of the value-form (economic value originating in living labour), the matrix of all values within capitalist modernity. While discussing the ongoing impact of technological automation on the creation of economic value, and capital’s resulting escape into the financial markets, the article contends that capitalist societies are effectively digging their own grave. If populism is a symptom of this self-destructive condition, what remains to be probed is the role of the left in confronting ubiquitous automation and the reinvention of its old ambition to socialise the means of production.
Postfascism is very much a cultural phenomenon. And the conflicts of today occur less as class struggle than as cultural battles. Why is that? I propose to use Fredric Jameson’s classic text on postmodernism (as the cultural logic of late capitalism) as a framework for considering the new postfascist tendencies that have emerged during the last few years in the USA and Europe (Trump, Brexit, Alternative for Germany, Pegida, Le Pen, Wilders’s Party for Freedom, the Danish People’s Party, etc). Jameson’s analysis of postmodernism supplies us with a ‘take’ with which we can start mapping these reactionary or postfascist phenomena and embed them in an analysis of changes in late capitalism.
America’s native peoples have been forced to be both inner and outer emigrants since the arrival of Europeans, including British, to Turtle Island. The founding of the United States was arguably the first Brexit, with the following twist: the violent withdrawal of British colonists from the kingdom of Great Britain was also a wholesale withdrawal of British identity in favour of an ‘American’ identity conjured from opposition to taxes and a race war for Indian land. During that British civil war, George Washington – known as Hanödaga:yas (Town Destroyer) in our Iroquois language – sent his generals on a scorched-earth campaign calling for ‘the total destruction and devastation of their settlements… that the country may not be merely overrun, but destroyed’. Fifty of our villages, and extensive farm fields, storehouses and orchards, were burned to the ground. More than five thousand of our Haudenosaunee ancestors fled as war refugees, homeless, hungry and dispossessed, from their own lands. Mantle is a large-scale, site-specific earthwork honouring Virginia’s Native American nations that has recently been dedicated onsite at the Capitol in Richmond. I based its form on the shell beadwork of Powhatan’s Mantle, the deerskin object in the Ashmolean Museum thought to be part of Powhatan’s gift to King James in 1608, its thirty-odd spiral-embroidered disks are symbols of the villages and tribes of his chiefdom. In an uncharacteristic move in January, Trump signed a bill granting long-overdue federal recognition to six of Virginia’s tribes. Despite this gesture, the Trump administration has proven as hostile to America’s Native peoples as it is to its current immigrants – through its rushed approval of the Dakota Access Pipeline, threatening of sacred sites by shrinking Bears Ears National Monument, and a plan to impose work requirements on Native American Medicaid recipients in direct violation of treaties.
This article focuses on migrants, borders and border control in the ideological, political and cultural domains. It considers UK statist attitudes to border control through its representation in The Border Force National Museum, Liverpool; and it observes borders disassembling and reassembling in ‘Belgique’ (2017), a sequence of images by artist Joan Key. Finally, it watches as dominant images of migrants are dismantled and reconfigured in the film ‘On the Bride’s Side’ by Antonio Augugliaro, Gabriele Del Grande and Khaled Soliman Al Nassiry (2014). These examples illuminate different ways in which migration, borders and boundaries can be broached.
Postnormal times thinking is introduced here as a lens for understanding contemporary disorientation. Using the examples of two very different but historically linked places in the world – Hoboken (Belgium) on the European continent, and Lubumbashi (the Democratic Republic of Congo) on the African continent – the uncertainty that is characteristic of postnormal times is illustrated with attention for industry and artistry. The argument of postnormal times theory, that artists may have a crucial role to play in the polylogues that we need to engage in to find our way, is explored in relation to these examples.
This is a fragment from an interview with the free-spirited and non-conformist writer and cultural producer Patrick Mudekereza, the director of Waza, Centre d’art de Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The interview was part of a series of Statements for Europe inside the ‘Imagine Europe: In Search of New Narratives’ project by the Centre for Fine Arts BOZAR, Brussels. Mudekereza makes a strong statement about the position of Europe as a crossroads and proposes a scenario of decolonisation of the spirits in Europe. He emphasises that the relationship between oppressor and oppressed, in which only the oppressed must be liberated, is false and calls for ‘moving forward together’.
Brexit is an unforeseen consequence of the global economic crisis. It is driven by neoliberal fantasy and populist doctrines of the heartland, boorish towards periphery in all its complexities. This article examines the idea of the periphery. It considers the legacy of the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland and a broken projector in the Red Room where the author teaches Critical Theory as platforms for inquiry. It looks to the Red Room as a principle to challenge the wider ramifications of Brexit. At root, it is to imagine durable forms of resistance within conditions of severe confusion, doubt and despair.
The people have spoken (but only, of course, when they were spoken to). And having spoken, they have discovered that their desire, hitherto so inconsequential, has unleashed a historic duty of fidelity to an event that has not yet and can never take place. Magical political thinking – self-delusion – demands that impossibility be made possible, now. In Northern Ireland, the people are less readily or certainly invoked. Journalistic interpretations of esoteric political processes proliferate and are shared, critiqued and fine-tuned on social media. Constitutional certainties disappear. A peace agreement directly quoting Irish deconstructionism has given birth to conjoined, vividly competing Northern Irelands, which share overlapping physical territory but have mutually exclusive political imaginaries. The sophistry of European bordering is nowhere more agile than in Northern Ireland after the Brexit referendum. Within all of these Northern Irelands, magical economic thinking attempts to will the post-conflict into being. What a time to be a futurologist!
In 2016, Welsh artist Iwan Bala launched a controversial exhibition entitled ‘Dyma Gariad, fel y Moroedd’ (Here is a Love, Deep as Oceans), in which he depicted a series of startling maps and caricatures about Brexit, from the perspective of a Welsh Remain voter. The collection, which included distorted maps of the United Kingdom and Europe, was described by Bala as a direct response to what he termed the ‘political madness’ of the recent Brexit referendum. Among the more controversial pieces was a crudely-drawn map of England and Wales, accompanied by an accusation that both nations were effectively ‘self-harming’ in a bid to ‘take control of [their] own demise’, along with other images in which Wales had become severed from the rest of Europe. This article explores whether Bala’s overt objections to Brexit have been seen more broadly across Welsh culture since June 2016 and how Welsh writers and artists might seek to resist the form of inner-emigration feared by Bala. Looking ahead, the article considers whether, as Wales withdraws politically from the European Union, Welsh culture will adopt an inward gaze, or follow Bala’s lead in rejecting the concept of self-isolation and using their creative work to reassert a new sense of Welsh identity in the wake of Brexit.
This work presents tercets from ‘Là Buidhe Bealltainn’ in a visually totemic form and framework that iterates the more ancient vibrations present in Rody Gorman’s work. This is augmented by a broad series of ‘Scottish’ iconographic images influenced by the notions of ‘imperial fantasy’ that have surfaced in the Brexit debate and the fallout surrounding Scottish national identity and the power of democracy in the aftermath of the recent referendums on the future of the nation. A hybrid Actaeon/Charles Edward Stuart/landowner figure and Brittania (from Walter Crane’s occasionally subversive ‘Imperial Federation Map of the World Showing the Extent of the British Empire in 1886’) preside over the visual interplay. Any concomitant narrative is at the viewer’s discretion.
This article responds creatively to the dictum ‘America does not begin from suffering but from its ending’, and to Robert Charlebois's poetic figure of ‘presqu ‘Amérique’ (nearly America). Principally, I contend here that ‘America’ (and the Americas at large) was the projection plane for European ideologies, but also that, at the same time, these ideologies became short-circuited – in other words, they ‘ended’ in America. They were not quite like European ideas any longer, and did not fulfil their historical destiny – or in a rather different way (ie American vs French Revolution, etc). Thus, ‘America’ also turns into a ‘presque l’ Europe’ (nearly Europe) – for example, in Argentina, which represented a kind of America of the South for Le Corbusier and other modernists, and the ‘almost Europe’ for its immigrant inhabitants. Against this background, three short études or sketches are presented: 1) the European projection of ending onto the New World, exemplified by Le Corbusier’s visit to Buenos Aires in 1929, and his drawings and city plan; 2) transit between Europe and Argentina encapsulated in the sea voyage of emigrants; and 3) the ‘real’ New World as a place of abandon, epitomised by recent artworks by Cyrill Lachauer on Paiute territory and the wastelands of former nuclear test sites in Nevada.
This article takes a complementary look at the key concept of Presqu’ Amérique, which is one of the main aspects of this special issue and underlined by its title, ‘Lost in Europe’. The article offers a close study of Jacques Derrida’s ‘Specters of Marx’, in part a critical reading of Francis Fukuyama’s influential 1992 publication, ‘The End of History and the Last Man’, which contends that liberal democracy is the ‘end’ towards which history has progressed – the only viable option in the post-cold War world after the collapse of all other rival ideologies. Derrida’s vitriolic criticism of this essentially American gospel of triumphalist capitalism seeks to reconnect us to the living heritage of Marx and summon a new international left to oppose the outrage of neo-liberal globalism.
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