Are Flagan on Sun, 1 Sep 2002 03:14:11 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: <nettime> Freedom and Documentary

On 8/30/02 21:53, "Brian Holmes" <> wrote:

> How, why and when do you join "the delinquants out
> on the lawn," or out in the street? And another is: How much do you
> enjoy the sting of the tear gas, and the sensuality of the night air?
> And yet another is: How do you explain your own so-called
> delinquancy, or your own so-called reformism - "in public"?

What these questions essentially propose are a series of possible
crossings that, in turn, imply a network of borders. These differential
tracings are, as Brian Holmes points out, familiar and the failure of the
"public" space of art to reform itself (and its surroundings) returns to
the relinquishing of function in favor of rewarding formal mastery, which,
in slightly different terms, comes down to the assimilation of subversive
art into the mainstream in order to direct its instrumentality, rather
exclusively, toward the reformation of art. Barthes, to paraphrase
broadly, called it doxa. The argument becomes more problematic when the
"No Border" movement is posited as the trespassing jester that both breaks
with the enclosed seriousness of Documenta (bringing funny to depressing)
and infringes on the surrounding lawn to complicate any "the grass is
always greener" scenario that erected this Pantheon (while supposedly
dismantling such structures internally). We are introduced to Brian
Holmes's "conspiracy theory" number one, stating that Documenta, true to
its ideology, has turned the usual trick that renders post-colonialism a
buzz word for the art press and African prisons another pleasurable
aesthetic incarceration--it's about the fallout of corporate
globalization, but it's really about reinventing art for the avant-garde.
The second and ensuing "conspiracy" announced is that the "No Border"
people were in on the act. They "collaborated" and thereby once more made
the border an erosion prone demarcation rather than a secure crossing
worthy and demanding of the admission price charged by Documenta. If this
sounds a little like theoretical slapstick, it is because it pivots
identities vigorously around binaries.

I would suggest that this important set of questions should perhaps be
succinctly recast as both the propriety, in the name of doxa, and
transgression of _migration_; the usefulness and necessity of crossing to
contest and define the lines and fields that are constitutive, but also
the recognition that it is always this movement that breeds the changes in
and the states of presence. The avant-garde would always formulate any
such shift as a transformation, but this works on the level of divides not
crossings.  (Consider here, for example, the many authors, like Rousseau,
who declared their own death the ground of their writing, Lacan's mirror
phase, Foucault's musings on the same encounter, and so on and on). This
multiple rewording of the border problematic that Brian Holmes introduces
is, of course, also highly relevant to the overarching theme engaged by

The nettime debate has in my view been somewhat limiting on the grounds
that it has persistently valued the border over the crossing, although it
has perhaps facilitated or even enacted many possible breaches. What
sparked and perpetuated it was essentially complaints about the proper
emotional range Documenta (an exhibition recast repeatedly by various
interpretations) was allowed to elicit/solicit. With Brian Holmes latest
post in mind, perhaps it is now fair to say that Documenta is indeed
somewhat depressing from just about every perspective introduced thus far?
I think it signals a certain disillusionment, at least on my behalf, with
the potential function, calling autonomy and action into play here, of art
within venues and practices that officially fall under that dedicated
rubric. (I wonder about the SI.) It seems we persistently need the
"border" encounter, like we need a campground of difference for the Publix
Theater Caravan, in order to explore and conjure up the possibilities of
the "public" and of "art," but the resume and paperwork required to cross
without prejudice ultimately secures only safe passages. And, not to
forget, sanctioned arrival is subsequently greeted and muted by pompous
fanfare. But, then again, I always liked the guy who threw black ink into
the sheep tank more than YBA'er Hirst, artistically speaking that is.


>When does the 
>spectator of such works become an actor? Or to put it another way:
>How long can the strict border between artistic representation and
>sociopolitical intervention be maintained?

My contention for the latter: always. Hence the need to focus on migration
rather than the (re)tracing of lines in the sand. The sociopolitical realm
is always afraid of a properly "public," and by inference shifting, space
of contestation, so no viral infusion is entirely futile, even if immunity
is theoretically assured and structurally secured. To blend nettime
posts/concerns: Why is Cheney speaking about war to decorated veterans and
taking only screened questions? Why is Bush wildly chopping cedar for a
month when the heat is, literally and metaphorically speaking, 95 degrees
F? Why are the energy task force documents still held hostage? Why do we
need secret trials? Surveillance without accountability? Why is a
supposedly democratic government none of the electorate's damn business?
Like with art, we need to look for spaces where such questions can be put
in a position where they need to be accounted for within the emergence of
the "public." The problem arises when both art and politics, in their own
way, take leave of such concerns and ignore the crucial questions that
Brian Holmes asked to essentially prepare our entry as individuals into

Thanks for asking,


#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: contact: