In its latest issue, the acclaimed online journal for the arts, e-flux, looks into our crisis-ridden moment, and its relation to current affairs and contemporary aesthetics. In the aptly titled Idiot Wind: On the rise of Right-Wing Populism in the US and Europe, and What it Means for Contemporary Art, the editors gathered a series of dispatches from the frontline between politics and art – from the US and the UK to Germany and Austria and from Denmark and Holland to France and Spain. For whoever is interested (and we imagine that our regular readers certainly are) it is most definitely worth the while. So please do take your time to read the abundantly illustrated, inspired and, by times, angry reports.
In the following, we have included some excerpts from Brian Holmes’ essay Total Corruption, as they both encapsulate much of what we have been recently discussing on this blog and elsewhere and might serve as some kind of an appetizer for the whole of e-flux’ special edition.
Reactionaries of all stripes have not realized that the depression that started in 2007 will ultimately change the basic conditions of the neoliberal deal imposed by Thatcher and Reagan way back in the early 1980s. The crisis is likely to last a decade; but the solutions will define the next half-century of political and economic coexistence, just as the solutions to the stagflation of the 1970s launched us on the path of financial and information-driven globalization. If artists and intellectuals want to make a positive contribution to an extended process of change, first we have to analyze the current state of society and our own places in it. (…)
Today, under the threats of economic instability, geopolitical insecurity, and ecological collapse, is it really unimaginable that people could devote their lives to becoming the actors, teachers, leaders, or supporters of a twenty-first century movement for the transformation of American society? Wouldn’t that be a lot more interesting, a lot more challenging, and a lot more realistic than just sitting around griping about the reactionary rhetoric of the racist libertarian right? But at the same time, wouldn’t that require the clean break of starting with almost nothing—no guarantee and no sure way forward? (…)
0ver the last ten years, the possibility of a generously critical attitude has been blocked not only by police repression of activism, but above all by overwhelming careerist self-interest in situations where there was still quite a lot of work to be done. Today the protracted crisis is finally changing that. People are being ejected from their positions in the arts and humanities, and one of the reasons why the cuts succeed is we can no longer articulate the vital reasons for practices that have largely lost their relevance to society. (…)
If you don’t want the predictable future to take definitive hold—namely, the future of an authoritarian neoliberalism, modeled in some way after the big success story of capitalist communist China—then it becomes essential to start working on a critical, resistant, and constructive ethos for an egalitarian and ecological left, which has to be cooperative in its very essence and take imperial downsizing as a positive pleasure. What’s needed is a sharable willingness to change our own lives and our own relations to the reigning hierarchies, in order to advance principles and ways of doing things that will actually make the next half-century halfway bearable. How is such a mystical goal to be attained? Let’s at least try to begin that long and urgent conversation without the cozy irony, for a change.
Hear, hear – nothing to add…
top image: Eva Meyer and Eran Schaerf, Pro-Testing (2010; video still). Courtesy www.e-flux.com
low image: Robbinschilds, I Came Here On My Own (2011; video still). Courtesy www.e-flux.com