Florian Cramer on Thu, 22 Feb 2018 22:18:34 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> How do we govern ourselves? (was: Mechanical Turkish)

On Wed, Jan 31, 2018 at 2:27 AM, Brian Holmes <bhcontinentaldrift@gmail.com>   wrote:

> On Mon, Jan 29, 2018 at 10:18 PM, Blake Stimson <blakestimson@gmail.com> wrote:
>>  My premise is that the question "how do we govern ourselves? ... with which
>>  institutions, under which rules, backed by which constraints?" that Brian  
>>  raises can never be asked from the outsider standpoint of institutional    
>>  critique but instead can only be asked immanently. This means first and    
>>  foremost taking on responsibility in the way that Brian's “grey beard” mea  
>>  culpa wisely and graciously invites.
>> In kindred spirit and in search of specific causes for our failure to        
>> effectively the institutional question, I referred him to a recent piece of  
>> mine [http://www.abladeofgrass.org/fertile-ground/art-social-death/] that
>> tries to think through how a broadly defined cultural left has been
>> prevented from asking institutional questions less by the Kochs et al and    
>> more by its own relationship to race.
> Blake, I'm glad you took up this thread, and I'm also curious what Florian
> thinks, since he started the ball rolling.

My great apologies for replying so late - I've been under the hood with work and staying off Nettime for a while. I am probably not the right person to have any good answer to this question. These are recurring, structural dilemmas between institutional and self-organized politics. (In my own work life, I have always been involved in both.) The pitfall of any form of self-organization is that it typically relies on an assumed, but never codified political and/or ethical consensus. That consensus can often turn out to be a fiction or delusion, for example, when in a media activist project, participants turn out to be on the extreme political right, but could go along unnoticed because of a fake, shared anti-establishment politics; or when in a contemporary arts project, people side with or end up on reactionary positions because they defend the "freedom of art" against "political correctness". It can also be the opposite, not tolerating a well-founded conservative position from the extreme left, which I haven't experienced for quite some time though.

Often, these questions and conflicts are much better addressed and regulated in public institutions or, as a rule of thumb, larger and better established institutions. There are sound policies in place that tell where to draw the line and how to deal with conflict in general, and how to develop policies.

If we speak of institutional critique, it struck me - for example - how here in Rotterdam, an internationally established, institutional, white cube contemporary art space like Witte de With was much more critical and radical than most alternative and self-organized artist-run spaces in rethinking its own position in a predominantly non-white city. (This rethinking will lead to WdW changing its name.)

Blake wrote in his essay, quoting Occupy co-initiator Micah White, that "protest politics, movement politics, network politics, the politics of color revolutions, color revolts and 'rehumanizing us as a people,' [...] have gradually but no less surely forgotten a fundamental fact: that politics is about taking control of governments and then governing." Personally, I've drawn the same conclusion and became active in a political party (the Dutch intersectional civil rights party BIJ1, formerly Artikel 1). A major motivation was that I no longer wanted to stand by and tolerate the discursive hegemony of the extreme right.

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