The photographs of the US ‘Kill Team’ smiling next to dead Afghan civilians are taken as deeply symptomatic of a broader shift in American culture away from compassion towards a barbarous pleasure in spectacles of pain and torture. American popular culture increasingly manifests a ‘depravity of aesthetics’ through eagerly consuming displays of aggression, brutality and death. Connecting an ideology of hardness and the economy of pleasure it justifies to current neoliberal policies across all sectors, it suggests that this disturbing new sadistic enjoyment in the humiliation of others – far from representing an individualised pathology – now infects US society as a whole and bespeaks the imminent death of the social state.
This article discusses the film La Negra Angustias (1949), directed by Matilde Landeta. Angustias was a poor mulata country girl who joined the Mexican Revolution at its beginning and became a colonel in the Zapatista army. The film was directed by a pioneer of the film industry in Mexico. It tells a fascinating story of great aesthetic quality, and is also a critical film in terms of gender, race and class. The treatment of the relationship between genders and the way of understanding the feminine are exceptional in Mexican cinematography of the first half of the twentieth century. Matilde Landeta was one of the few directors of social conscience to empower women and to show the hidden face of poverty, racism and social injustice in general.
Ina Blom's 2007 book On the Style Site: Art, Sociality, and Media Culture is the most sustained attempt so far to analyse, from the perspective of post-autonomist debates concerning biopolitics and immaterial labour, the work of some of the most prolific international artists to emerge during the 1990s. This article specifies Blom's claims before examining in greater detail the key theoretical assumptions underlying her argument that the ‘style site works’ of Pierre Huyghe, Philippe Parreno, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster and others are most attuned to contemporary possibilities for critical practice. Blom's defence of these artists' immanent engagements with spectacle and style, namely the biopolitical mantra that life-time and work-time have become indivisible as a result of the proliferation of media technologies into every corner of contemporary life, is at best parochial and at worst contradictory. Blom's theory rests on the problematic claim that communication and sociality – characterised by plenitude – are today productive of surplus-value, which in the classical Marxian analysis results from the variability of supply, and hence fundamental scarcity, of labour.
The artist has been both fascinated and repulsed in unequal measure by images of himself; the idea of self has been a recurrent theme in his work. His feelings about being photographed border on the phobic and he felt compelled to make works that could loosely be termed self-portraits, but showing those things about himself that cause him the most unease. For a recent show at the John Hansard Gallery, Southampton, he showed Once Bitten, a large photographic close-up of his badly-bitten finger nails. Smith states: ‘I hate this part of me, but at the same time I think I needed to expose it.’ The images on these pages show the artist when he had a very short haircut to discover what kind of head he had: ‘Well, it turned out to be a disappointment, but as usual I had felt the urge to out this image by publicly sharing it. Maybe this is what art does, it allows us to rid ourselves of our failings and explore the dark side. Whatever the reason, the following pages are my answer to a question no one asked of me.’
Beginning with a critique of Thierry de Duve's return to Kantian aesthetics in order to rescue art from a commodified culture exemplified by the art biennial, this article argues that the globalised proliferation of biennials is a symptom of a broader problem: the hegemony of the exhibition form in the public's encounter with art. The analysis focuses on the concept of globalisation and what it hides from view; participatory art and the post-documentary artwork, with video essay as an example, as two radical tendencies associated with experiential, co-operative knowledge generated in the social field; and the rhetoric of specific exhibitions – ‘Documenta XI’ (2002) and ‘Altermodern’ (2009) – addressing globalisation. The continual reproduction of the exhibition form performs an important role in post-Fordism and ensures a transcription of art as immaterial, affective labour, marginalising the more complex forms of labour that produce the artwork when globalisation becomes the latter's production site.
Contemporary Honduran artwork often incorporates dissident discursive elements. They refer to the unjust social conditions suffered by many Hondurans today and seek to engage the critical subjectivity of viewers through their open-ended configuration. Artists seek the active participation of spectators in the elaboration of meaning, so that the sense given to recent events in Honduran history by dominant institutions can be contested on a popular basis. This trend in contemporary Honduran art desires to generate, through a dialectical counter-positioning of the self-contradictory discourses of the state and its clients with the sober reality known to the sixty-five per cent of Hondurans who live beneath the poverty line, a new sensibility that would resist and lead beyond the false forms presently representing the nation's reality.
This article argues that the films of Abbas Kiarostami and Pedro Costa propose new forms of political subjectivity which hover between the real and the fictional, the present and the future. What distinguishes their films is a focus on marginalised groups that resists representing them either in a predetermined ‘documentary’ manner or in a ‘fictional’ form in which identities are granted psychological ‘interiority’. In their films ‘real’ characters play themselves rather than simply ‘be’ themselves. This is cinema that insists on what Gilles Deleuze calls ‘the power of the false’, which allows a character not to be ‘represented’ but to become-another. The films are thus emblematic of recent theoretical efforts to articulate a political form of subjectivity that will not be subsumed under a unified form of representation.
Paul O'Kane's Dutch Diary is a report on a visit to several cities in the Netherlands exploring the art, history and politics of cultural diversity that has become increasingly contentious in the so-called post-colonial societies of twenty-first century Europe. The Diary employs an empirical, creative writing approach related to Walter Benjamin's tradition of the flâneur to dramatise current issues rooted both in art history and contemporary art.
The journal is published in print and online by Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.