The main objective of this article is to call into question the critical purchase and universal validity of the vocabulary used in discussions on art activism. Through an examination of what Charles Mills calls ‘Ideal Theory’, I argue that a new lexicon for socially transformative creativity is all the more urgent. Such a new lexicon would help in articulating alternative genealogies and histories of radical aesthetics. The task of provincialising and historicising the genealogies of art arises as a crucial tool to challenge the increasing specialisation and institutionalisation of socially transformative creative practices. This article identifies in Rasheed Araeen’s conceptualisation of collaborative aesthetic as a strategic task a valuable alternative to this normalised use of a lexicon for art activism.
‘Shaping one’s life artistically’ implies the principle ‘I live as an artist when all my actions, and my expression in general, in connection with any content whatever, remain for me a mere show and assume a shape which is wholly within my power’ (Hegel). Drawing on Hegel, the ‘young’ Marx advocated ‘production in accordance with the laws of Beauty’ (‘artistic work/life’), as a kind of work which, inasmuch as it was ‘free’, provided a model for the elucidation of the presupposition of human emancipation. ‘True Art’ appears to be work performed under the umbrella of a ‘free community’, where the division between masters and slaves, working class and capitalists, emancipators and emancipated, is abolished. Does the conception of ‘living artistically’ (still) have a critical emancipatory value, and how can it be formulated under the conditions of a global market economy and post-Fordism, where every critical act, event and activity is appropriated?
I examine cases of ‘activist aesthetics’ in the artistic acts, practices and works related to contemporary political and social activism of progressive and left-wing movements and groups in the post-Yugoslav region. In order to understand the variety of activist aesthetics – including contemporary art, performance, choir recitals, theatre, poetry, mural painting, cinema, and protest art, as well as the specific influence of socialist heritage – I build upon Hans-Thies Lehmann’s distinction between ‘the aesthetics of resistance’ and ‘the aesthetics of rebellion’. I show how artists productively use and combine these two aesthetics, as well as how activist citizenship and radical democratic experiments display certain aesthetics of emancipation.
This article responds to the rise of nationalism in Europe by adapting Jacques Derrida’s ‘hospitality’ concept to analyse contemporary art projects from the former Eastern Europe. It will appropriate Derrida’s argument about the mutual acceptance of the host and the guest, and argue that every relationship is about the possibility to be changed by the other, by considering the Croatian philosopher Srećko Horvat’s take on Alain Badiou’s ‘In Praise of Love’ theory. By analysing András Cséfalvay’s ‘Compsognation – a dinosaur’s view on the nation state’ (2013), Ztohoven’s ‘Citizen K’ (2009–2010), Hybrid Workspace’s ‘Deep Europe Visa Department’ (1997) and Kateřina Šedá’s ‘From Morning till Night’ (2011), the article will ask whether these art projects can open up a discussion about the uncomfortable encounter with ‘the other’? It will argue they cannot change hospitality or nationality issues, but they can invite us to dialogue through which we can negotiate the gap between self and other.
This article begins with the counter-celebrations of the Bicentennial of Independence of various countries in Latin America in 2010, where a number of artists took part in an array of organised events and actions. I will present here a portrait of that moment of change of paradigm in the methodologies for researching and curating ‘Latin American (Art) History’ that was developed in the following decade. I will focus on some actions and exhibitions that shared four common interests: 1) A concern in analysing how official representations of (modern) History had been constructed; 2) To show the historical contributions to independence and ulterior construction of the ‘national’ by collectivities that had been until then ignored by national narration: Indigenous peoples, peasants, African Descendants and women, in order to rename modernity; 3) To defy classic curatorial strategies in order to question the conventional format of the exhibition and art display, by fostering networks of people, alternative circulation tactics or rumours typical of popular culture strategies; 4) A reflection on the concept of Nation as a modern manifestation, as a continuation of the colonial order.
This article examines the organisation and methodologies of current art and cultural collectives in Malaysia, with resonance for Southeast Asia, through the lens of socially engaged and public participatory art theories. The article proposes an inclusive aesthetics that looks at the complementary effects of dialogue, reciprocity, transitional meaning and durational process in responding to the everyday. It employs the framework of Art-Led Participative Processes, a concept-based cross disciplinary critical framework that I have constructed to raise discussion. The works of Buku Jalanan will be mapped out within the contexts of Kuala Lumpur, those of inherited postcolonial structures that prescribes current usage of public spaces, acts of expression and activities, paying attention to a particular form of ‘distant subjectivity’ that informs contemporary cultural values called ‘functional harmony’ that is prevalent in Southeast Asia. The experiences of BJ, while not treated as representational of other collectives, are used to launch discursive points for coming to terms with open-structured, socially engaged, public participative and democratic activities.
When Mozambique gained independence in 1975, film became one of its most important cultural projects, second only to radio. One of the pressing issues of the new government was to create an idea of nationhood in a country where many ethnic groups, cultures and languages coexisted. With a literacy rate of only fifteen per cent, film became an important tool in the creation of national identity, by serving as a vehicle for imagining a new community, in the sense described by Benedict Anderson in ‘Imagined Communities’. In 1976, the government created the Instituto Nacional de Cinema (National Film Institute) – INC. In this article, I discuss how the new nation was imagined through cinema, in particular in the ‘Kuxa Kanema’ series, and the impact that it had on the idea of Mozambican nationhood.
The article describes the multiple discursive and actual connections between ideas of a ‘Black Aesthetic’ in both the South African and the US-American contexts during the mid-twentieth century. It is centred on knowledge produced between 1965 and 1985, when the Black Power/Black Arts and Black Consciousness movements gained prominence among urban intellectuals. Specific debates and argumentations that focused on black and African aesthetics and the respective groups of actors involved are depicted. The article follows the development of the discussions to the early 1990s, to conclude on actual similarities and differences and the factors that arguably produce them. Throughout, the study follows an actor-centred approach and ultimately counters the broad narrative of a ‘United States–South Africa’ connection that is circulating in academic and public spheres and questions more generally the focus on geographical locations to understand Black and African ideologies and their entanglements. By doing this, the article wants to contribute to the question of how we can approach engaged or radical views of black and African aesthetics comparatively and the presence of those legacies today.
Recent protests against colonial racism and power at the University of Cape Town have engaged specific forms of ‘formal’ artwork found on the campus. The burning of paintings during the Shackville protests in February 2016 raised a number of fundamental questions. The shack built by protesting students and referred to as Shackville was later demolished by university authorities and security but bears potency as a creative intervention. In this article, I discuss Shackville as well as ‘Echoing Voices from Within’, the RMF exhibition at the Centre for African Studies (CAS) gallery in 2016 as transformative creative intervention. Drawing from the notion of ruination developed by Anne Stoler, I argue that both forms of art intervention illustrate the current incommensurability of racialised spaces in South Africa. Navigating a post-apartheid complex terrain, creative protest engages with different notions of ruination and what it means to live within interminable colonial conditions.
Ecological change at the hands of humans is strikingly evident in Tierra del Fuego, and so, too, is human transformation at the mercy of geography. This mirroring between the human and the ecological is what captured my attention when I first visited in early 2010, and it has been the driving force for my curatorial practice ever since. What does it mean for the work of a curator to be motivated by an archipelago? How does it transform the definition of curatorial practice? What does curating for an archipelago entail? To answer these questions, I explore the relationship between myself and my subject of study in a literary manner. In what could be called a fictocritical style (see Stephen Muecke, ‘What is fictocritism?’, in ‘The Mother's Day Protest and other Fictocritical Essays’, Rowman and Littlefield International, London, 2016, p xiii), I address Tierra del Fuego as an ‘actant’, in the Latourian sense of non-human entities that have agency (as explained in Bruno Latour, ‘On Actor-network Theory: A Few Clarifications’, Soziale Welt 47, no 4, 1996, pp 369–381) or as a hyperobject. This term refers to objects so massively distributed in time and space as to transcend localisation – such as climate change, Styrofoam and the wind. I classify the archipelago of Tierra del Fuego within this category of hyperobjects as defined by Timothy Morton (in ‘Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World’, University of Minnesota Press, London, 2013) and tell it stories. By revealing how I came to know my subject rather than what I know about it, I aim to enact a practice of transversal ecological address. This article is one of a series of multi-versed approaches to writing on Tierra del Fuego. In other essays, I adopt different tones of voice when addressing different ‘characters’. These tones of voices are not just metaphorical, but performative for each essay and are forged through dramatised rehearsals of past or possible encounters.
THIRD TEXT is published in print and online by Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group