Curatorial Text

 

This project is not an “account” of an art about which one could say in exact notions that it is anti-utopian. It represents neither a chronological progression or a documentary act, nor the prospect of any exhaustible art theory. anti-utopias is rather the attempt to see the utopia of art in its negative, and thus to expose, at least in part, its subtending dread. The theoretical abundance where art in general can claim itself from surely raises the pertinent question regarding what exactly we understand “about” art if it has turned into this generic name given to such a large diversity of expression. I will not attempt to answer this question, and even least to propose a curatorial project at the end of which I could enunciate a surety regarding art’s utopias. Such concerns do not fall within the scope of this project. The very claim to provide art with concepts is increasingly dangerous. Howbeit, this project tries to emphasize the horizon of a historical disaster that the contemporary art cannot break, remaining captive in its unsuccessful modernities.

The works have been grouped into nine “categories” the extensions and ramifications of which surely pass way over the possibilities to contain the thematic ensemble in the unitary way that each “subject” in part would presume. From this perspective, the curatorial project opens more in the guise of a continuous building site, lacking any finality that would close its horizon. Three “kits” outline the discoursive structure: a) an inner frame that deals with the various forms of inner and self constructions (Bodies – Identities – Narratives – Spiritualities), b) an exterior frame that deals with various forms of exterior manifestations and the influence of mechanisms we use to design our reality (PoliticsGlobalization – Technology – New Natures), c) a frame that investigates the way the articulation of these frames creates structures, objects and representations of ourselves, reality and our surroundings (Structures, Objects, and Representations).

Anti-Utopias, or Hardly the beginning of a discussion

The idea of a project announcing two major discursive pressures from the very title seems daring at first view. First, because of the issues involved by the unsuccessful attempt to give an answer to an utopia other than by formulating another one; second, because the prefix anti- [1] itself bestirs a number of critical reflexes and exercises. There is no exit from utopia. The historical utopias or history as utopia give place today to the rigorous “program” to go beyond utopias, and often end up in utopias of the refusal or in the utopias of some alter-constructions. The use of the plural cautions and adverts to a terminological displacement, yet anti- seems to have remained tributary to the uninterrupted chain of replaceable prefixes which lie anchored to their referent . Therefore, anti-utopias should not claim themselves from a refusal or from a counter-position. They do not represent the transgression of utopia or the “post-”utopias specific to the historical currents, which would otherwise oblige them to build utopianly on end.

Anti-utopias belong to a paradox, furthermore, to a multiple paradox, even if by saying “paradox” we already give ground in the field of the self-referential. Is the claim for an authentic self detachment, for the annulment of any referent, or for the expulsion of principles a pertinent one? Anti-utopias should stop grafting themselves on a construct, which is always the stake of every utopia, of every specific anti-utopia related exclusively to it, and of every anti-anti-utopia. Anti-utopias should refer to a dismantling of the construct, to the construct’s exposure to what defines it in its most fragile way and in what it makes it fragile.

We are living utopianly because we still pay tribute to the reflexive constructions – self-constructions, in ourselves, about ourselves, for ourselves… We are perpetuating utopias because we keep trying to occupy an impossible habitation, being engaged into an “economy” of the primal insufficiency, of the subject’s native deficiency, of its constitutive failure. But then doesn’t utopia refer exactly to this architectured and aestheticized attempt to build (ourselves) into the outside, hoping we might retrieve a self we could saddle with all our reflex(ive) ideals? And then shouldn’t art be expressing not the refusal, but the negative of the current tendencies to evade the state of present being left only with the hope and the illusion of some alternative constructions? We seem doomed to execute the future, in the “historical” meaning given by Sloterdijk to this term. We are being delivered to the “historical” task of having to perform history at the price of repeating it, without being able to give up the prosthetic constructions of the self. Art itself has turned into this prosthetic construct through which we carry the same battle with asynchronous [2] and intermittent modernities. Yet how could we then ex-pose it? Utopia today no longer refers to a projection of the future, which is increasingly brought into the present, but to constructions meant to disarm the resistance, to push the streak of constructions incessantly.

Anti-utopias must oppose and occupy the ruins of vision, they must abandon the tactical position in relation to the referent they expose, denoting the negative and the resistance, the transcription of the disaster in the infinite threat of which we remain to inhabit. If art still has something to show, it most show the impact directly and “the construction of the disaster”. It must ex-pose its own régime of (in-)visibility. I think that a nostalgic living in the laterality of art does nothing but nurture itself an agony and a past retrievability that art should rather express, thus expressing the dread in front of “the immobile disaster that lets everything remain” (Blanchot) [3]. If I invoke this “final” image of the disaster, it is precisely because I’m trying to emphasize a dead end in front of which art remains captive in all its constructions and unconstructions. Anti-utopias can at most be – and any other claim would be questionable – diversions that expose and hereby try to “belie” the tactical possibilities through which art occupies and institutionalizes its own spaces and constructions, not so as to impose a new régime or a new program, but to constantly undermine the possibility of a monumentalistic edification. There is no absolution through refusal, but only the terrain of a continuous undermining in front of the constituent powers. Art can only survive (itself) by assuming the prodromal condition of a post-conflictuality in front of which it must ceaselessly give ground so as to avoid the trap of becoming a “preemptive art”. Art does not actually speak of what it is or would be, but of what remains, and therefore it can also “orchestrate” the disaster of its vision.

In front of the offence and vindication of constructions, anti- still represents a defensive. Anti- is an “anti-example” in the sense programming gives to this term, a “poorly written” code that does not follow the accepted standards and procedures, that does not build upon counter-constructions resting on other constructions, and which would in fact continue a rhetoric of the exception or replicated exceptions. More than being a simple adversative or an absolute negation, I understand anti- in the sense of a contrast and less of a reaction, let it be opposed or lateral, that could fall into the trap of substitutions. I don’t think of negations or “alternatives”, but negative utopias, the assumed negative and negativity of an utopia.

Two are the major traps the notion of anti-utopias could fall into, both of which are caused by conceiving the term in the sense of a “concept”. First, the “metaphysical” claim that anti-utopias would constitute an anti-metaphysics; second, a certain political claim that anti-utopias would constitute themselves as a means of counteracting, as a strategy, patterned upon the so-called “anti-crisis measures” taken against the current crises.

If contemporary art is obliged to strive for the narrations of our “antique” modernities and specific post-histories, it is equally condemned to the non-spatiality of representations and a post-geography set in pursuit of and the production of continuous exteriorities. This pursuit and this production lead to the conceptual discharges deployed around the eventual subjects with whom society negotitates its permanence. What contemporary art must assume is exactly the disturbance, the dis-orientation and aura of its errors and slips. Anti-utopias are the errata of narrations through which art still seeks to justify its appeal to the late modernities. And if among the works gathered for this project there are also works that fall into the trap of these modernities, it is precisely their mirroring that will thematize the exposure of the fragility, the dysfunctionalities, and the “imposture” of art in front of its own attempts. These attempts culminate in the appeal to technology, as projection and re-projection appliance, in the shadow of an existential design and the modelling of life.

What art needs to thematize (for itself) is precisely the broken frame. And through it, through its own ruin, to break the dread of its impermanence. The human is the infrastructure of this impermanence, a continuous archaeology; not so much a “site”, but mostly a building site, yet one which is always turned towards the past, where we try to build the exteriorized signs of the future. The human is, eventually, the biggest utopia, whose self construction expresses the disaster art must expose. In its struggle, art must thus interfere where one can find the end of the global stories through which the mondiality regulates and politicizes the narrations, framing up every time the latest Great Narrative. The utopian and impossible place of art is exactly the place where literature has become the control and self-control space of the literary subject, the mandatory and inevitable place of a repeated failure. The utopia of contemporary art is that of believing it has avoided or it can build against the historical imperialism of modernity: history is “our lost referential, namely our myth” [4], towards which we’re heading every time.

(February 2012to be continued)

 

__________

[1] A full discussion of the prefix anti- and an archaeological theoretical approach can be found in the first volume of anti-utopias, which will be launched in the late summer of 2014. Fragments from the analyses carried out will be soon published on www.anti-utopias.com.

[2] I use this term in the sense computer science gives it when talking about a computer, where each operation is triggered by a signal provoked by the termination of the previous operation.

[3] “Dread, the subterranean world where waking, sleep, cease to be alternatives, where sleep does not put dread to sleep, where, waking, one awakes from dread to dread: as if dread had its day, had its night, its galaxies, its ends of the world, its immobile disaster that lets everything remain.” Maurice Blanchot – The Step Not Beyond, translation of Le pas au-delà, translation and with an introduction by Lycette Nelson, State University of New York Press, Albany, 1992, p. 120.

[4] Jean Baudrillard – “History: a retro scenario”, in Simulacra and simulations, Romanian translation by Sebastian Big, Idea, Cluj-Napoca, 2008, p. 35. The original text appeared in Simulacres et simulation, Éditions Galilée, Paris, 1981.

__________

Text and translation by Sabin Bors. Translation reviewed by Adina Pop Coman

Editions Soon

Copyright © anti-utopias / Xpose Art Collective 2011-2016. All rights reserved.