VERSION 0.5 April 2005, Free Sample ISSN 1583-7440
©VERSION, THE ARTISTS AND TEXT AUTHORS, 2005
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Editors: Gabriela Vanga, Mircea Cantor, Ciprian Muresan Contributing editors: Ami Barak, Cosmin Costinas, Timotei Nadasan, Vanina Pinter, Ovidiu Tichindeleanu Graphic design: Mircea Cantor Font design: Angela Detanico and Rafael Lain Translations: Izabella Badiu Corrections: Robert Azzarello Printed by IDEA Design and Print in 2000 ex.
VERSION 0.5 April 2005 (English edition) issue coordinated by: Amiel Grumberg
Grumberg, Instead of editorial Ressler /Amiel Grumberg, Interview 10.Manit Sriwanichpoom, Protest 14.Barbad Golshri, The presence of the absence 15.Julie Heintz, The manifestation: body and image 21.Yael Bartana / Danila Cahen, Interview 23.Willem de Rooij / Amiel Grumberg, Interview 25.Pierre Olivier Rollin, Brief History of Demonstration as a form in Belgium 28.Paul Ricoeur / Hans Ulrich Obrist, Interview 31.Jeroen Jongeleen, First illegal Dutch Hate Parade 32.Brian Holmes, The revenge of the Concept 36.Bruno Serralongue, The manifestants from the “Maison des Ensembles” 40.Dan Perjovschi, Keep walking 41.Sandro Mezzadra / Anna Daneri, Transnationalisms - A Conversation 44.Amiel Grumberg, Mircea Cantor : The Landscape is changing 46.Jelena Vesic / Claire Staebler, No more reality 40.Jota Castro, Europa agricola 50.Jean Luc Moulène 52.Molly Nesbit, On the Road to Porto Alegre 54.Duo van der Mixt, Fackelzug 07.Oliver
In memoriam Amiel Grumberg, 1980-2004.
Photo: Ecomusée, Région Fourmies-Trélon
Instead of an editorial*
Fourmies, France 1891. The demonstrators in front of the church around 10 a.m. on 1 May 1891.
Autumn 1989. Revolutions in Germany, Romania, and China; thousands of children discover every night on television images of crowds gathered with one will to change, ready to move mountains and turn to dust all that they had to endure for so long. Thus, these thousands of children are confronted with the first form of historical awareness that inoculates them with the seed of many questions that are bound to emerge later on. Through multi-disciplinary approach to street demonstrations, this new issue of Version Magazine introduces a transversal reflection on
the underlying meanings and lessons in the human demonstrations, on their collective and individual impact on the memory of several generations. This issue of Version gathers authors coming from various horizons, but they all develop a reflection on the stakes of street demonstrations in their historical, sociological, psychological or media context. Texts, interviews, and images, artists, researchers, and theorists participate in a common discussion that aims at opening the debate rather than offering definitive answers. *The concept of the magazine and the list of collaborators are based on an initiative of Amiel Grumberg.
Amiel Grumberg,1980-2004, free-lance curator : "Quiksand", de Appel, Amsterdam, April 2004; "To Much Pollution to demonstrate", Apexart, New York, January 2005; "Global Tour" W139 Amsterdam, December 2005; Museum of Modern Art, Dubrovnik, January 2006. Curatorial Program De Appel, Amsterdam. Worked and lived in Paris and Amsterdam, collaborated with many magazines and journals such as IDEA arts+society, L’Oeil, Artpress, Art Review, Beaux arts magazine, Version magazine.
Interview Amiel Grumberg: Some of your recent works are based on demonstrations and on activist groups. When and how did this interest grow in your artistic work? Is it only motivated by your interests in politics?
to this wider transnational context of the counter-globalization movement. The events around a demonstration on July 1, 2001 against the WEF formed the starting point of my video “This is what democracy looks like!”.
Oliver Ressler: In 1999 I realized my first project related closely to the issue of economy, “The global 500”, which is an installation on economic globalization and transnational corporations. While this project can be seen as a form of analysis and criticism of the existing capitalist system, in further projects that followed I concentrated more on forms of resistance against this hegemonic economic model. So I became involved in the counterglobalization movement in Austria, and started research on groups in other European regions which interested me. I have to say that my interests lay not so much in demonstrations, but in the political movements, which had of course their most visible appearance through the demonstrations.
AG: The altermondialist movement seems to use the street territory as a very important platform. Itgives international activists the same free platform to evolve and an ideal position to focus the attention of the media. As you have been working with some of these organizations, how would you define their strategy towards street demonstrations?
AG: What is the history of street demonstrations in Austria. Is there, like in France, a tradition of political changes that have occurred thanks to massive collective intervention in the streets of the capital. What is now thepositionof Austrian people towards it? OR: In Austria there is almost no tradition of street demonstrations, as there is also almost no tradition to go on strikes. After the Second World War conflicts in Austria did more or less not take place openly because of a social model called “Sozialpartnerschaft”. The situation changed slightly in February 2000 when hundred of thousands of people went on the streets demonstrating against the involvement of an extreme-rightwing party in the Austrian government, and countering the political changes which followed due to this socialpolitical development. The “Donnerstagsdemonstrationen”, demonstrations on each Thursday evening in Vienna, were established as a reaction against this government, and took place for more than two years. But it is clear that the participation of the people continuously decreased after some months. Another kind of demonstration culture later developed in Salzburg in Austria, where the World Economic Forum gathered once a year. These demonstrations are related www.versionmagazine.com
OR: Maybe the most elaborate form of how to deal with the media and the street has been invented and practiced by the Italian activists of Tute Bianche, who call themselves Disobbedienti since the G8-summit in Genoa in 2001. The Tute Bianche modified the Zapatist concept of gaining more visibility in the public through hiding their faces; they wear these ski masks. The Italian activists decided to wear white overalls during the street demonstrations and other public interventions, in order to create visibility and public attention for their actions and arguments. They protect their bodies through foam rubber, tires, helmets, gas masks, and homemade shields to carry out their actions of civil disobedience, and create an appearance through that, which perfectly fulfills the wish of the dominant media for spectacle. But at the same time the Tute Bianche don’t go for compromises. They are radical; they developed, for example, actions in order to dismantle detention camps for asylum seekers and force the Italian state to close some of these repressive and racist institutions. AG: How do you position yourself when you realize these films. How to stay in a neutral position while being in front and interviewing the main participants? Oliver Ressler is an artist who carries out projects on various socio-political themes. Since 1994 he has been concerned with exhibitions, projects in public space and videos on issues such as racism, migration, genetic engineering, economic globalization, social alternatives and various forms of resistance. www.ressler.at 7
OR: I’ve never been interested in staying neutral when working on a video, and I also don’t believe in this concept of neutrality or objectivity. It is an ideological construction used and pushed forward by the hegemonic media in order to make us believe that their viewpoints can be seen as neutral somehow. The two videos “This is what democracy looks like!” and “Disobbedienti” are part of a larger series of videos I am working on, which focus on various forms of resistance against capitalism. I am only realizing videos about and in collaboration with groups I am somehow sympathetic with, so that it is possibly for me to identify with the issues which they raise. This personal identification with the groups and practices is somehow necessary as I am trying to avoid off-commentaries or any other voices but those of the activists. AG: In “This is what democracy looks like!”, you were directly part of the demonstration, filming it from the inside. How could you define this feeling of being together? How a group of thousand people becomes one unique strength while walking through Salzburg? Like at the end of the film, we can hear hundreds of people screaming together as one voice. OR: I participated in some demonstrations having my camera with me, but the demonstration in Salzburg was the only demonstration after which I decided that the material I recorded would be interesting enough to realize a video about what took place that day. I think the reason can be seen in the whole situation in Salzburg: the demonstration ban, which was a restriction of democratic rights, while at the same time the undemocratic institution World Economic Forum and its participants were protected by the police, so that the politicians and representatives of corporations assembled in the WEF could further their processes of deregulating the economy. Then there was this special situation
in which several hundred demonstrators were encircled by the police for seven hours, without any reason, without water supply or even a chance to go to a restroom. Later on these events were described completely wrong in all the large Austrian media, so I really saw the need to realize this video which included the different viewpoints on the events in Salzburg by the demonstrators only. These more emotional feelings of strength and power you describe where not of a big importance for me. If you are interested in such feelings, demonstrations in Italy or Spain are also much larger and powerful than in Austria. AG: The street demonstrations always bring a lot of attention from the media. In this regard, all that concerns street demonstrations is always manipulated: the number of participants, or you witness the “fake injury” of a policeman and an obvious manipulation of the information about the launch of brick-throwing of demonstrators. OR: The Austrian police banned the demonstration with the argument that the demonstrators would be violent-prone, and the media hysteria after the events in Gothenburg and before Genoa was helpful for the police in order to get the demonstration ban. But in the demonstration on July 1, the only thing that really happened was that the demonstrators insisted on their democratic right to march through the city. But besides some smaller provocations, there was no violent behavior from the majority of the demonstrators. At some point it seemed the police felt the urgency to prove that these people in the demonstration would be violent. So the police took advantage of the situation which one police man collapsed, probably because it was a hot summer day and he had to wear this robocop uniform, and launched this story that the policeman has been injured through an attack from a demonstrator. All the media
including the Austrian state TV reported this fictive story of a brutal act against a policeman, and even half a year later the police repeated the story, knowing it was a lie, but it was helpful for the police in their ongoing strategy of criminalizing some of the participants of this demonstration. The video “This is what democracy looks like!” contains footage proving that the police man had not been attacked by a demonstrator, and it also shows images of police men collecting bricks – maybe the same bricks the head of the police presented to the Austrian media the next day in order to declare this demonstration as violent.
This interview took place in June 2004.
Oliver Ressler & Dario Azzellini, Video stills from Disobbedienti, 54â€™, 2002.
Photo: ÂŠ Manit Sriwanichpoom
Tuesday 4 June 2002 Victim of sexual harassment: Mrs Kim-Eng (family name unknown) wishes to see Prime Minister Taksin Shinawatra, to ask him to arrest a Dr. Wutichai (family name unknown) for sexually harassing her, but the police guards at the door refuse her entry as she lacks an ID card. She is threatening to strip naked unless they let her in. Manit Sriwanichpoom is an artist/activist from Thailand, who uses photography and video to make art of a social and political nature. As well as his solo photographic pieces, he has worked in collaboration with other Thai artists and community groups to make work which critiques government policy. 10
Photo: © Manit Sriwanichpoom
Tuesday 26 November 2002 You’re not so hot: One of the protesting vendors from the new Bangkok Noi Railway Market shows his rage by squeezing an empty plastic water bottle which is standing in for the genitals of the straw effigy of Mr. Chuwit (Gui) Pitakpornpanlop, Thai Rak Thai MP, whom they believe to be the powerful protector of the vendors who have refused to be evicted from the old market site. The resulting delay in closing down the old market has caused the new site vendors to lose money for two years.
Photo: © Manit Sriwanichpoom
Tuesday 17 December 2002 I’ll spit shit in their faces: Mr. Yuenyong is the second victim of the Government Savings Bank Fund to pour shit over himself, after Uncle Chuay Kochasith attracted media and public attention to their plight by bathing himself in his own shit. In Mr. Yuenyong’s case, however, pig shit rather than human feces is used. As the pig shit oozes down over his body, he shouts, “Bring the GSB manager here and I’ll spray pig shit in his damned face with my own mouth!”
Photo: © Manit Sriwanichpoom
Photo: © Manit Sriwanichpoom
Tuesday 14 May 2002 A Thai child’s life: In a tense confrontation between the villagers and riot police, one protester shouts, “We want to meet the Prime Minister!” Another shouts, “ If we didn’t do this, who would care about our problems? We can’t wait any more!”
Tuesday 7 January 2003 Liar PM: Assembly of the Poor children raise banners and shout, “Almighty Prime Minister is a liar.” This is in reference to Prime Minister Taksin’s refusal to abolish Cabinet Decision of 1 October 2002 (to open Pak Moon Dam’s sluice gates only for 4 months a year) in spite of his oft-reiterated vow to adhere to academic advice, ie. the government-funded and initiated study by Ubol University, which recommends that the dam’s gates should be kept open all year round for a minimum of 5 years to allow the Moon River’s ecology and communities to recover. The study also assures that this would not affect the volume of reserve electricity and would benefit all parties.
Photo: ÂŠ Manit Sriwanichpoom
Photo: ÂŠ Manit Sriwanichpoom
Tuesday 25 June 2002 Police brutality: Mrs Sampim Muangmun, wearing black in mourning, holds in her arms her son Rachan, aged 23, of whom only a photograph is left. She has travelled from Singhburi with some fifty relatives and neighbours to hold a protest in front of Government House, to ask for justice after her son was beaten to death at Bangrajan police station. He had been mistaken for a methamphetamine dealer.
Tuesday 26 November 2002 I told you to retreat: A police officer is asking the 200 Bed and Bath Prestige (Thailand) workers to move up to the pavement to allow traffic flow to resume, or the full force of the law will be used against them. 12
Photo: © Manit Sriwanichpoom Photo: © Manit Sriwanichpoom
Tuesday 2 July 2002 Oppressed by globalization: Some 200 women workers laid off by Lighthouse Industries of Patumthani, producer of Samsonite luggage for export, march to Government House to ask Prime Minster Taksin to mediate for them with their Taiwanese employers, who have fired them for striking for better pay.
Tuesday 29 April 2003 AIDS medicine clearance: Two hundred HIV-infected people rally to protest the banning order by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) on production of V-1 Immunitor medicine, which FDA tests found to be ineffective against the AIDS virus. One of the 200 HIV-positive protestors massed in front of Government House cries out, “We’re half-dead already, so we’re not afraid to die here. We’re not trying to make a name for ourselves; we’re being harassed. We’ve come for the truth today. We want our license back [for the V1 Immunitor drug to resume production]… FDA
Here, in Tehran, we have never had Graffiti. We have never had wall writing as an art, because we have not had artists like Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat to create a movement. The authors of the wall-writings here are always absent. You may see many writings on walls of streets, public toilets, staircases, corridors, etc, but in fact, the audience and even the authors themselves do not treat them as art. They often consist of obscenities, names of western music bands (often with wrong spelling), names of football teams, etc. Political slogans are rare and those
martyrs dominate us by pronouncing moral commandments all over the city. Here in Tehran, it has been a while that you see many moral commandments sprayed on walls; commandments such as “O woman! Do not sell your body to strangers.” Most of them are addressed to women or about them, like this one, which is rhythmical in Persian, “Wantonness of women = corruption of the younger generation.” These commandments are signed by the dead; you can find the red colored signature, martyrs, which are sometimes accompanied by a blood-red flower,
whether it is feminine or masculine. It just says that the one is subjective persona pronoun. The word is all inclusive – and deliberately so – for every one with any messianic and fatalistic beliefs to appropriate it and put their own promised savior in the place of the subject: Jesus for Christians, Mahdi for Shiite Muslims, meschiach (méssi) for Jews, Kalki (the tenth and the last theophany of Vishnu) for Hindus, crown prince for royalists, US invasion for those who just want any change, Wovoka for North American Paiutes, Soshyant for Zarathustrians. That is to say, there are no
© Photos by Mehraneh Atashi
The presence of the absence
that are against the regime (mostly in public toilets), are erased soon. The focus of this text is on other wall writings. Here in Tehran, murals are rarely painted to create beauty. They are mostly portraits of the dead - the martyrs. You see these paintings that can be inexhaustible sources for kitsch artists all over the city and, in fact, the whole country. The objects, the martyrs, instead of waiting passively to bee seen by the subjects, control the limits of the subject’s sight. Moreover, they watch you even when you are not watching them. People are seen by the dead, by people who are absent. Thus, a reversal of the places of subject and object has taken place. The Pantheon of the dead is not silent; the Barbad Golshri, born Sept 1982, Tehran. He has had several painting, Light Art, Environmental Art and Multi media exhibitions in Iran and other countries. He has published many critical essays in Iranian magazines, newspapers and sites. He has also 2 books under press. He works and lives in Tehran. 14
often a red Tulip that is the symbol of martyrdom in Iran. These writings owe their stupendous influence to the absence. The cultural and religious holiness of the martyr itself reinforce this domination. As you see, the dead, the martyrs, have a paradoxical existence; they are absent presences. Presence of the absent – in this or other forms – has deep roots in Iranian beliefs. Like religious beliefs in other cultures and civilizations, this presence is understood through the concept of the promised savior. This presence can be found in several phenomena, but as this text is concerned with its manifestations on streets, we will not go into other areas. For the last few months, we have been seeing the message – __-___ – on some walls in Tehran. The word in Persian is something between “is coming”, “will come” and “comes”. Persian language as in this word does not donate the gender of the subject. It does not say who comes, when she/he comes, or
limits to the horizon of signification. However, according to Shiite Muslims, this savior is Mahdi and thus these fatalistic and messianic beliefs are reinforced. The whole country celebrates His birthday and we pray for his coming on Friday mornings. The city authorities put up banners for the New Year everywhere, which said, “He will come. We are one year closer to His coming.” He owes his presence to his absence. His coming will ruin His reign of presence; through out history, several Mahdis have claimed this title in North Africa, Tunisia, Sudan, Iran, Arabia, Egypt, Morocco, etc. Some died, some were killed. Some had followers, some were labeled claimants (I myself had a schizophrenic friend who thought he was Mahdi). Anyhow, we are still waiting for the last spirit to come, destroy oppression, to build a Utopia for us, and raise the sun from the west. We are still celebrating his absence; we are still waiting for the waiting.
The French word “manifestation”, feminine noun, comes from the Latin “manifestatio”, which is masculine. And it expresses two things. First, “manifestation” is an action through which one wants to manifest something: for example, speech is the manifestation of thought, and here the manifestation is seen as an equivalent for expression, it makes an abstraction concrete just like form makes manifest the idea or the intention. The second meaning of the word is also an action, but this time a people’s gathering in the streets in the form of a more or less large procession of individuals who carry or not banners, slogans, emblems and shout or not. This kind of “manifestation” often expresses a discontent, a contrary opinion or a claim. In German and English, Anglo-Saxon languages, a “manifestation” is called “demonstration”, and it has to be taken as a demonstration of anger or protest, that often goes along with physical acts or vindictive words. “Manifestation” is hereby considered a demonstration of the capacity to put into practice ideas and actions, to deal with both the imaginary and the mediation through expression of motti orally uttered or written on banners, or just to identify the groups associated to the event, whose name are made public. The demonstration is thus an obvious thing and an expression of legitimacy. Its methods are declarative and media oriented, but it gets hold of them through direct street approach. Consequently, demonstration is something that goes public, is to be seen and defends a public cause. Corpus delicti To demonstrate in the street is “to go out there”. Physically. “Where does the human body begin”2, without a question mark, is the significant title of Pierre Fédida’s book subtitled “Return to the regression”. To demonstrate in the street, to join the procession physically, deliberately replacing the intimacy of one’s body with the crowd of other bodies in the public area, in the mass of social and political humankind, means to accept regression, to turn away from the experienced difficulties in order to distinguish in one’s inner self the individual and the ruptures of the family, to recognize the possibility of a return www.versionmagazine.com
The manifestation: body and image
Félix Vallotton. The Manifistation/ La Manifestation. 1893. Woodcut, 20.3 x 32 cm
to the magma of the beginnings through the idealization of the social body, to accept to melt with the origins, to join the others against whom one strives to differ. To demonstrate, to demonstrate one’s belonging to the flux of the inform everything, with all the dissemblances and contradictions experienced in one’s own body, within one’s own movement is to accept to be one body with the other; and also, incredibly, to accept that the other can be a constitutive part of oneself1. The question of body integrity is obviously in the heart of the demonstration issue. Firstly, the demonstration, in a religious meaning, is the first incarnation of the invisible and has to manifest through the body. Secondly, the political demonstration itself starts from this very process as it really embodies the ideal of a system or of the conception it defends: to demonstrate one’s opinions is to embody them in the proper meaning of the term. In fact, the demonstrator has no fear in the physical confrontation with the other: first in joining his body to the number of the other bodies, then by accepting implicitly to confront it if necessary with those of his opponents. Incarnation. Incorporation. Involvement. And, difficult to avoid, the militarization as a corollary. Regression in terms of order. But, thirdly and
inversely, the badly taken and painful blow calls back the sanctity. Its contemporary image has become the blow with a truncheon from ‘68 and the following years, that is the secularization of the pike blows suffered by Christ from the Roman soldiers. Regression in terms of the Western Christian world history. Last, another interesting phenomenon: demonstration image control. Either by the Police who piles up the surveillance files of the individuals, or by the photographers or press who try to protect their own sources. Or, in recent times, by the individuals themselves who protect their own image or see it as a genuine personal profit source or a constitutional right. But beyond personal protection or police control, so well described by Michel Foucault, the image of the demonstration as a whole is part of the violent Julie Heintz is a professor of art history at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris-Cergy. She worked several years as a curator at the Centre Georges Pompidou where she collaborated for various exhibitions (such as Joseph Beuys in 1984) with Harald Szeeman. She organised one of the first exhibitions in the former East Germany with the support of AFAA. Since 1999, she is leading EN COURS, a laboratory for artistic research. 14
Realist painting, like photo in the newspapers of the time, made people speak of the workers’ « silent dignity ». Inversely, some ten years later, the visual explosion of Carlo Carrà’s futurist painting « Interventionnist Demonstration » (1914), in favor of Italy going into war, is nothing but a collage of words, titles and newspaper headlines, wherein noisy onomatopoeias such as « Zang, Rumb, Tuum » form the image of a bellicose street that we suppose (or hear) crowded. Apparently, no people, no street, no police, no soldiers, hence no blood. Only visually, a spiral of words taken from the futurist literature and considered as « lo splendore geometrico e mecanico e la sensibilità numerica ». Here, war is beautiful again. It is young, happy, waltzing. Carrà speaks indeed of a changing world, wherein the excerpt and the fragment replace the thing, wherein allusion and metonymy dominate, wherein journalism thinks that the announcing effect makes the event. Carrà deals with the demonstration as an off-scene, not only in terms of sound and allusion substituting the banal view of press photos, which are not telling a story anyway, but also in poetic-political terms as he destroys syntax and frees the words following Marinetti’s declaration in 1912. It is a kind of words demonstration. Metaphorical attitude? Why not. Because the first free words were the graffiti in the streets in ancient times because they can be found in large number in Pompeii, often drawn by an impatient and anonymous hand on the walls of the cites that don’t keep their promises. Graphic, engraving, trace of the hand upon urban support, built in its turns by hand and the desire of man to dominate and to be vertical. The graffiti is for the white wall what Nietzsche’s Dionysian is to the smooth Apollonian surface. It is the manifestation of vitality and non-order, of resistance and joy of expression in an urban environment that is vainly searching for order and equilibrium. On the wall, on the tiny limit between private and public, the graffiti is posted like the demonstration occupies the middle of the street. Old photos from the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th, such as Atget’s, show the two sides of demonstration in the city: the long exposure time has made movement of the people disappear, regardless of their number or their organization on the condition they move, in the benefit of the perennial buildings and posters and advertising. From this viewpoint, street demonstration is a form of temporary posting, a slogan in movement at community scale, which disappears because of its own movement and all that remains, at best, are the historical leitmotivs. So I think of Jean-Luc Nancy’s first sentence in his book « La communauté désoeuvrée » (The Inoperative Community)7: « The gravest and most painful experience of modern world, the one that maybe gathers all the other testimonies assumed by the era, by virtue of some unknown decree or necessity (because we also testify for the exhaustion of history), is the testimony of the dissolution, the dislocation or the conflagration of community ». The images of demonstrations taken by television cameras today emphasize on the effect of human urban mass while the shooting techniques would allow for more detail. But the very conception of image popular contradiction can be conceived only as a mass phenomenon and not as the convergence of individual positions. We shall equally insist on the current television image of the extent of the crowd, on its absence of limits on the fringes of the image, on its density and continuity, which eliminates any identity or conscience. And we shall not insist, despite William Klein’s work as described above, on the physical details of the persons and their specific expressions. Only the average expressions will be caught, as they are representative in particular of the unifying quality generally attributed to the whole gathering. images and as such it can be forbidden by any coercive system. In such cases the right to information diffusion and the right to expression come in. All of a sudden, in the middle of terrorism, one thinks that the image might kill and the image is forbidden in its turn or at least regulated by law. Marie-José Mondzain shows the nonsense of such an undertaking2. In “manifest” there is the presence of hand. To manifest means in fact, in the ancient fashion, to express an opinion by presenting the hand, or to remind a commitment by raising the hand. In Latin “Manifestus” comes from “manus”, hand, and from “festus” with the meaning to strike, to touch, so to manifest is everything we can designate with the hand, that is what we can grasp, what is obvious, what hand could touch and whose truth is striking. The German nazis, thanks to the Italian fascists who still remembered ancient Rome, have excellently staged this ancient meaning of the hand as a proof of force and truth any time that the need to gather in great unity – for example the Great Germany – used to come up; on the scene of huge sport fields or political terrains, but also in day-to-day life, at every encounter, on every doorstep. To manifest that we are on 16
the same side, of the same conviction, of the same blood. To give physical proof by the raised hand of one’s total commitment in the group whose legitimacy one thus confirm. To raise the arm means also to raise the hand up high, over one’s head for the greater good. The German fascists have constantly hinted to the Middle Ages and the knights. They have kept the raised arm of the lord, of the honorable man, of the one who swears or had sworn; the juror, the one who recognizes the law and his personal moral and physical commitment, the fusion with the community of a higher order. The sworn right. The right granted by God. A procession is to march together in front of God. The origin of demonstration, the effect of both respect and anger that it triggers, is to be found in the religious procession. The demonstration is an action that reminds of the law in cases when it is no longer applied or it is perverted, or it doesn’t answer any longer the expectations of the crowd as it becomes encoded. The demonstration is not the law but it reminds the initial commitment and the expectations of a few for the greater well. It reminds that there is res publica, the public thing. So the demonstration is speech, body and a reminder of the law. A trinity.
Carlo Carrà Interventionist Demonstration, 1914
Religiousness. The Middle Ages processions, when saint statues were carried and the banners of brotherhoods and the church drama pinpointed the route, are themselves remakes of the ancient religious processions wherein “manipules” were carried, a kind of vertical large banners with the signs of the companies and with the famous Roman SPQR. Heirs of the medieval religious processions, the workers’ demonstrations in the 19th century have merely replaced, since the industrial age, the saint idols and brotherhood banners with slogans and the trade unions’ trumpets. Still carried by the crowd, the words have kept all their magic virtue, they still embody the gods evoked with spoken litanies in religious processions that are known since the Panathenians and the Orphic or Dionysian rituals. We can also find the ancient relic preservation in photo taking of the ideology heroes since the French Commune until the present martyrs of altermondialism. The Western world remains Christian but ignores it. The demonstration is a social form that enables us to remember this and also to be cautious. In the 19th century, the raised hand of sworn commitment has turned into a raised fist in anger and resistance. The French Revolution had taken the rights away from God in order to give them to man. But it had replaced it with the class struggle. Demonstration is a neverending struggle. The demonstration of the ‘60s, a new style The ‘60s still are the dominant model for the large demonstrations in the present western world. They have been studied in depth and we would like to highlight here a few aspects. Thanks to two French researchers – MarieChristine Granjon3 , who has dealt with the study of the American campuses and the American new leftwing, and Eliane Elmaleh4, senior lecturer at the Universities of Maine (USA) and of Le Mans in France, specialist in “Women’s studies” – we know better today the anti-establishment years in the USA and in Europe, as well as their impact on the overall public life. Their commitment to the feminist
After the “events” in May-June 1968, France more than any other country in Europe, adopts this “style” of demonstration in the years of order restoration. The demonstration becomes at that particular moment a genuine meeting place of solidarity in counter-culture. It can be considered a political and urban derivate of the great gatherings around music in the image of the festival that brought together in 1969 several thousands of young people on the island of Woodstock. The photos from that time are eloquent: “sitting” and non-violence have replaced the workers’ procession of the pre-war period, the class struggle vanished in the benefit of exhibited relaxation, but not less determined for that matter, which expresses the paradox of individualism within the human masses: without underestimating the true political commitment of the protesters the important thing is also that of “having been there” – somewhat of a different form of exhibition. The depoliticization starting with the ‘80s, in connection with the increase of unemployment and security policies, has left for trace only this www.versionmagazine.com
Giuseppe Pelizza Da Volpedo, La processione, 1894-95, oil on canvas
Giuseppe Pelliza da Volpedo, close to the Machiaiolis, Italian realist painters of the 19th century, has painted in 1901 a large canvas - 3 m height per 6 m large -, exhibited today in Civica Galleria d’arte moderna in Milan, and that has served as a background for Bertolucci’s film « 1900 » credit titles; a film about the degradation of peasants and workers condition in parallel with the rise of fascism in Italy. According to different sources the canvas is entitled either « Fiumana » (Human river), or « Il quarto stato » (The Fourth State). In dominant brown colors one can see men marching toward the viewer. The painting is occupied on all its length by the group of some fifty men under the dusty sun, all of them in working shirt and pants forming a crowd taking up the whole scene and hindering the horizon. Unlike the religious processions that Pelliza da Volpedo had painted before, the crowd is not seen in a fluid form but compact. Few lines and few people, but shoulder to shoulder and blocking the horizon, suffice to express the will and size, the cohesion. But if one can easily see that this is a demonstration, it is hard to tell whose exactly? Peasants or workers? Nothing in their appearance enables the difference: no working tools, no chasuble or cap to help recognize them. The absence of objects or tools indicating a specific professional activity takes them away from production and avoids any corporatist spirit, subscribing to the idea that there is only one class, that of human beings. Young, adults or old they march ahead. A woman with child goes in front with them, another one on the side and they seem like both wives and allegories, typical for the period, of need or victory. The demonstrators’ arms are not up but down, pointing to the ground or toward the spectator. But the hands are carefully painted and in a variety of gestures. Wide open, they carry nothing and express unemployment, restlessness, the bodily energy and the Italian kind of speech with lots of gestures. The bodies are drawn frontally but the heads are turned to each other in animate dialogs. Little space separates these demonstrators, determined but calm, from us spectators facing the canvas. Captivated. We are captivated in front of the workers marching on toward us, workers that we know nothing of: not who they are, nor why they demonstrate. We are on the other side, cut off from them. They are coming and we are struck with immobility, the immobility of the spectator. He sees but is not in the middle of action, he is at a window, he cannot intervene, he sees something coming to him but cannot or knows not influence it. He is powerless but he is summoned to take a stand. Bourgeois because he is not moving in the same direction and he even opposes his immobility to the movement, but also because he is outside the scene, art amateur who just looks at a painting. Even today, the pseudo-democratization of the view created by the demonstration scenes seen from all angles on television is based on the class struggle perspective belonging to the previous century, but the bourgeoisie has extended to society as a whole and any person watching television thinks of himself marching in a demonstration.
The student demonstrations haven’t started in the ‘60s. In fact, they are the accomplishment of the rise of cultural movements in the US in the ‘20s, which have triggered a major increase in the number of students in universities. Thus, American universities have become rapidly active ideological centers, real barometers of the evolution of ideas in the American society. In reaction, the methods of the American administration concerning students have become more and more repressive, especially with students having political commitments and with communists. The application of quotas for minorities, either black, Hispanic or Jewish, has considerably limited the political activities in campuses. After the period of apathy and consumerism of the ‘50s, the new generation of the ‘60s has rebelled throughout the western world against the dominant materialist and bellicose behavior of the US, both within the country concerning the issue of civil rights and in Vietnam in an unfair war marked by particularly inhuman behaviors. The sympathy for pacific and contemplative oriental philosophies largely develops amongst intellectuals in the big universities. They have considerably contributed to the increase in number of participants to the large demonstrations and found in these the opportunity to join the pacifist and anti-racist movements, such as the one lead by Martin Luther King. A new impetus is given: the demonstrations are no longer the huge aggressive social mass machines as before the war. Now, they are characterized, quite on the contrary, by new attitudes moved by the inversion of the historical practices of demonstration: they use the multiplication of individual forms and humor, they display friendly or seducing attitudes and use the force of inertia instead of attack. The result would be disarming indeed.
discourses and to the identity policies had some incidence on the contemporary art, regardless if it was American or European.
Giuseppe Pelizza Da Volpedo, Il Quarto stato, 1901, oil on canvas.
Hans Haacke : « Oelgemaelde, Hommage à Marcel Broodthaers », 1982-83. On the first wall his installation presents a bust portrait, oil in golden frame, of Ronald Reagan, chief of the conservative party and president of the United States at that time. Protected from the public with a cord between two columns, this painted portrait is linked through a red carpet to the opposite wall where there is a large size photo of a street demonstration with a compact crowd and banners. The size of it point to the fact that important technical means have been put into work. The title of the installation just kike the disposition send immediately to Marcel Broodthaers’s “Département des Aigles” (Eagles’ Department) and suffice to say that he wanted to remind that the eagle, symbol of power, is not a brave bird but a merciless predator. Broodthaers didn’t take a stand against the US at the time, but against all the systems that alienate man, including the museum. Hans Haackem on the other hand, develops here a frankly political attitude opposing the old and the new, political conservatism and the raise of human rights, the dictatorial attitude of one man in front of a nation. Let us just add that the oversized photo of this urban anti-nuclear demonstration gathering black and white people is presented as a photo chosen in a photo index. Bearing the usual technical inscriptions of photographic processing as well as the perforated margin of the film, the photo is designated as a news photo document, in opposition to the oil painted portrait that evokes conservatism, slowness and inadequacy of the means to deal with urgent issues. The tension between tradition and modernism with Hans Haacke goes through the classical opposition of the media: painting and photography. But the use of photography here is also a political and critical position wherein the black and white are symbolically associated in order to make an idealized image of reality. The spectator is standing on the red carpet between the two conceptions and is invited to make a determinant choice, like in all American elections when democrats and republicans represent the continuity as opposed to innovation, order as opposed to social evolution, elitism as opposed to mass movements. It is obvious that the choice, thus presented, is impossible and that the reproach of simplification often addressed to Hans Haacke is justified. All in all, many things are stated here on the relation of the photographic medium to the political and social subject. exhibition effect. The demonstrations of the 70s have left, contrary to the reality, an impression of “hippie”, a concept invented afterwards and carefully promoted by the rise of the new rightwing. This post-mortem conception has been almost instantly recuperated by advertising, which has overtaken immediately the street space left vacant. Sometimes, in the past decade, advertising images have come up again hinting directly to the “happy times” and aiming this time to the fifty-year old ideology in the benefit of some “environment respectful” car or mobile phone. Political apathy and social sympathy. However, a new kind of demonstration was born out of the combination of individualism and the new technologies: the e-mails sent out on the net in record time and across huge distances in space that are difficult to span for the time being. The gatherings are no longer physical but electronic, they don’t happen in the streets any longer but in the virtual, immaterial space. Nevertheless, the need to be physically present with other people hasn’t disappeared for that matter and large street demonstrations still go on as soon as differences pertaining to body need to be
William Klein “Grands soirs et petits matins”, released in 1978 18
defended such as gay-pride, the right to retirement (to be old), against GMO or for peace (against death). The struggle of ideas ends up on the Internet and the pleasure of bodies in the street. The public place is twofold today. The festive character of demo remains intact, and so is its legitimacy. Filming ‘68 The documentary “Grands soirs et petits matins” by William Klein5, released in 1978, is a collage of footage taken in Paris in the Quartier Latin and in the suburbs during the events of May ‘68. From the beginning of the film, an animated discussion in the streets brings together a group of persons of various ages and conditions: they try to asses the cultural level of France in 1968, incomparably higher, according to the group, than that of the 1917 revolution in Petrograd, and they are wondering about the need for a revolutionary movement in France. From the start of the “May events” the tone is set: the revolution is in the street and it is a cultural revolution. We have seen develop numerous permanent discussions start off then as an absolutely new form of speech manifestation. These “demonstrations” of positions and opinions generated a generalized confrontation of ideas and very often a fundamental interrogation on the methods to be developed. This street phenomenon, this gathering without a march, has enabled the open meeting of individuals in a common space where they found out all of a sudden that, obviously, the present swept off any social hierarchy, or so it seemed. This unexpected fusion has been later qualified as “romantic”, in denigration. Whilst ideas had already taken the “road to freedom” through speech and escaped any realistic confinement in the benefit of the “imagination in power”, the material organization of day-to-day life remained effective enough so as to put the entire France on general strike and seriously worry the political power.
Hans Haacke : « Oelgemaelde, Hommage à Marcel Broodthaers », 1982-83.
Astutely, an ulterior plan edited by William Klein presents the great demonstration on May 24, with students singing the International and shouting “Student, workers, together”, followed by leitmotivs such as “Down with De Gaulle”, plus funny and subtle: “Nationality: Citroën”. For it was necessary to distinguish in the May ‘68 events the “spontaneity” or, at least, the reactive and improvised character of the sidewalk discussions and the organized character of the big demonstrations of the time. Method issue. Truly, the sidewalk discussion gathers many people but few can really hear or participate in the debate, words often get lost in the middle of the commotion. But everyone is there and even those who are only at the margins where very few words from the discussion are heard have the feeling that they participate in the general debate and often recreate parallel subgroups of discussion. We should note here that this is exactly the method that Joseph Beuys would use in the ‘70s in Germany with his “Straßengespräche” (provoked street discussions). The great student demonstrations, especially the last ones in that time, were conceived on the model of the working class demos, rooted in the 19th century, in order to join the line whereas the mass-media and the political class led people to believe that it was a young age crisis and not a deep social and cultural movement. The International was a unifying air, a link of solidarity across history, contesting both the communist class struggle and the liberal social division and thus creating a music fusion for bodies also caught in social constrains. If the sidewalk (or street, without vehicles for once) discussion makes visible in W. Klein’s film the chaotic and disjointed character of the discussion, the demonstration presents the
reverse, the real organizational force and the rigor whenever necessary, contrary to the later widespread idea by the detractors of the movement. For it is in a much more strict order than the one in the 1936 demonstrations that people paradoxically shout the slogan “Freedom of expression” well in line and in a rhythm visibly inherited from the Communist Party. This paradox has created the strong effect of these demonstrations wherein, after confrontations and things or pavement stones thrown by young students and workers, the general strike has collected the various classes of intellectual or material production in the same protest movement. Freedom of expression was indeed a question of method. It stated that “power is in the street”, reminding the place of demos at the origin of democracy. Besides, the same phenomenon was to be identified again in 1989, immediately after the fall of the Wall, in the great demonstrations from the various eastern bloc countries, such as in Leipzig where the protesters were marching on the Ring, the ring road of the town, chanting “Wir sind das Volk” (“We are the people”), contesting once again the hierarchy of power. Obviously there is a militarist character to it (its root is common with the word “militant”) that can be also found in the notion of “commitment”, in certain slogans such as the famous “This is only the beginning, let’s go on with the fight” or in the brief but rapid movements of running in lines. However, quite often behind these mono-bloc demonstrations there were groups chanting other slogans in the same time, more difficult to identify but constituting a new counter-power. And even farther behind, or on the rears, there were those who would be called the “autonomous” and later the “casseurs” because their non-codified behavior seemed impossible to assimilate in the general movement. But this totalizing, troubling character of the demonstration, coming from its history, fades out during the events in favor of the playful, unreal character that reigns everywhere in that time and that is very likely connected to the speed of events succeeding, to the decision making and the initiative, to the freedom of speech, action and event. So that even if the overall form remains rigid in its first expression, it is nothing but the external form of the procession, an urban appearance because the faces filmed by W. Klein are merry, laughing, even hilarious, the movements are rapid and agile, the evolutions unexpected and the overall image complete. From the inside, the demonstration has become, joyfully, the “demo”. Its massive shape has been absorbed by each individual in it and everyone is behaving as if in a huge urban choreography, a phenomenon that the media would keep repeating and exploiting in order to discredit then romanticize it a posteriori. W. Klein’s films, like Jean-Louis Camolli’s, are more representative for the mood, for the seriousness and pleasure, than those shot by the cameramen of the official televisions of the time. Their camera loves the bodies, the meetings, the exchanges, the contacts, like the ones www.versionmagazine.com
Joseph Beuys stages in Basel in 1968 the action “Feuerstätte” (“The Hearth”) with the group Alti Richtig who organized a carnival in the streets with lots of pipes and tambourines. Each participant was dressed by Beuys in a velvet costume and had a brass walking stick. By the end of the march everyone had abandoned their costume and stick, which were gathered in a heap that was left in the street. The ensemble was later purchased by the Basel Museum where it was again exhibited from January to March 2004. Just for the record, let’s note that two of the greatest architects alive were present at the “Feuerstätte”: Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron. And we also remind that Claude Gaignebet’s8 and Emmanuel Leroy-Ladurie’s9 works on the importance of carnival festivities for the creation and preservation of social unity are crucial. Another of Joseph Beuys’s actions is even “more demonstrative”. It was the sweeping, on the 1st of May 1972, of the Karl Marx Alley in West Berlin. First, Beuys watches calmly the long procession pass by with their banderoles and big red flags floating in the wind and singing the International or chanting the usual slogans. All this time Beuys remains still leaning on a red broom turned upside down. He has an African student and an Asian student with him who will help him sweep up after the demonstration all the papers left behind (slogans, flyers, Kleenex, cigarette butts or bonbon wrappings) by the demonstrators who by then are long home. He sweeps the papers in small heaps patiently, systematically with his red broom. The garbage is then put in plastic bags on which he had printed before hand and recto-verso the detailed plan with the principles of the Theory of Social Sculpture. Beuys would say later of this action that he had stand by the procession in order to be present for this popular movement but that he hadn’t wanted to be a part of it because he thought that the issue was not so much to know whether one should join the proletarian dictatorship or not but rather to refuse to get carried away by ideology regardless of which one it is. His upside down red broom expressed his skepticism and his conviction that the questions were wrongly asked and that they would bring about such contradictions that the demonstrators, stuck between the eastern communist ideologies and the western liberal ones, would not be able to solve. So he decided to sweep off the contradictory relics of the demonstration, which were in fact a large amount of garbage inherited from the consumer society but stamped with the egalitarian communist slogans that all those present have chosen not to follow.
"Sweeping of Karl-Marx avenue in Berlin on 1st May 1972", 1st partof action of Joseph Beuys. Image Ute Klophaus published in Harlan, Rappmann, Schata: "Soziale Plastik", Achberger Verlag, 1976
experienced inside the demo and just as the demo loves them too. It is no longer about physical and visual exaltation but about discovery of warmth, fusion and games. The struggle is loving, free and attractive, the purpose is uncertain, multiple-faced but always rejoicing. The demo is a body of desire, a manifesto of its time, the time of Deleuze, Foucault and of the happy and open message of the American hippies. Sartre who had got it all wrong, found himself on the side of the stiff Maoists. The demo reveals itself as the apparition of a new and complex body, associating history and present, continuity and invention, codification and surprises. But it didn’t lose the seriousness of its claims for that matter. On the contrary. Its becoming more complex has largely outrun the traditional
themes of claims but its form has made possible their easy and extremely effective transmission. William Klein’s camera moves swiftly inside the demo from one face to the other and takes over the screen frontally one head after the other crossed by other physiognomies, vivid eyes, open mouths and moving shoulders, capturing in a split second each persons particular expression. They walk in front of the building where L’Humanité newspaper has its offices, the commies are on the balcony and instead of insulting them the demonstrators invite them to join the march and applaud or shout “Hurray!” as in the days of Jules Vallès. Later, in the grand amphitheatre of the Sorbonne, after De Gaulle had launched his 19
Johan Grimonprez : « Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y », 1995 film presented at Documenta X in Kassel 1997, wherein the author mixes archives from television reports such as airplane hijacks or street demonstrations to real scenes that he remakes himself, as well as various other materials such as digital photo or sciencefiction films. The procedure of fitting together reality and fiction through editing enables a new approach of what we can call today « the real » when it is soaked in virtual and media spectacular, and mostly it enables a critical perspective that makes us rethink what we have been calling « the time », « the knowledge », « the memory », and what we might not call any longer « the history ». François Piron describes this phenomenon in 2001 in connection to someone else’s film: « Serge Le Squer is rather interested in the fictionalization of the world: in one of his videos, he films a demonstration marching in front of a merry-go-round. Accidentally (?), armed paladins on horseback spring in front of the camera as they just got out of a film shooting. Three degrees of reality are here confronted, three contradictory times come together, for a few seconds, in astonishing choreographic synchrony. »
Goupil would pay a tribute to Michel Recanati, one of the CAL (Comités d’Action Lycéens) leaders in his film “To die at 30”6, wherein replayed actions and archive images are mixed and connected trough the narrator’s voice off. The teenage friendships and political commitment are constantly closely associated until Recanati’s death that Romain Goupil tries to explain and to find its causes in the political movement that used to bond them. One of the militants narrates: «Michel Recanati was in high spirits. He had been to Berlin for the international demonstration supporting Vietnam. He told me enthusiastically: thousands of demonstrators from every country, meetings, discussions. Rudi Dutschke, the famous leader of the German students, his way to prepare the demo, to explain the route, the why and the how. A practice that changed radically our methods inherited from the communist party. He brought back from Berlin ideas and projects, totally disrupting our habits. The comrades of the JCR, 250 to 300 of them, had brought back from this demonstration of February 18, 1968 in Berlin a very rich experience that they reinvested directly soon after. Rudi Dutschke comments: “Do not forget
dogmatic character. Klein, apparently exterior, had succeeded in capturing equally well the unfolding of the events and the change of ambiance during those days. He perceived the sound of chants, of explosions, the shouting in assault, the police and ambulance sirens, followed by the next day’s silence and the low voiced commentaries in the street about the previous day. The dispersion. Translated by Izabella Badiu
Notes: 1. Pierre Fédida : « Par où commence le corps humain. Retour sur la régression ». P.U.F., 2000 2. Marie-José Mondzain : « L’image peut-elle tuer ?» Ed.Bayard, 2002 3. Marie-Christine Granjon, « La tradition radicale américaine et le mouvement contestataire des années soixante-dix aux Etats-Unis : Tome 1: Histoire du radicalisme américain Tome 2 : Le mouvement des années soixante Tome 3 : Le mouvement et l'histoire » 4. Eliane Elmaleh « Les étudiants américains et l’activité politique », La revue LISA Vol.II n°1/ 2004 5. William Klein : « Grands soirs et petits matins », 1978 6. Romain Goupil: « Mourir à 30 ans », 1982 7. Jean-Luc Nancy : « La communauté désoeuvrée », Ed.Bourgois, 1990 8. Claude Gaignebet, « Le carnaval », Payot, Paris 1974 9. Emmanuel Leroy-Ladurie « Le Carnaval de Romans », Gallimard, 1979
Johan Grimonprez Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y, 1997 (video still)
call to order and his injunction to the students to study, to the teachers to teach and to the workers to work, a speaker would remind in his turn that whenever there is no police around the demonstration is peaceful. Daniel Ben Saïd would say about the movement from March the 22th, rallied around the JCR (Revolutionary Communist Youth): “It is through concrete action, street demonstrations, that we have broke down the game of parliament legality (…) and we have enabled the elements unbound to the communist party or to the government to regroup”. De Gaulle himself would legitimate his staying at the head of the State with the end counter-demonstrations in his favor and the cease of the strike. He would finally call “the French women and men to unite around their president through their vote”. From that moment on the power won’t be in the street any longer. Almost fifteen years later, in 1982, Romain 20
the side streets…” and they draw on a blackboard the plan of the main and the secondary streets. The militant continues: “February 21. Posters, … and the famous banner with letters of fire. We had to invent everything. Coyotte, Michel, Baptiste and I, we had our examples. I used to admire the leaders of the security service. They knew everything and before everyone else. The secret. The power. We demonstrated against Foucher [minister of education at that time], against selection, against the barracks-like high schools”. The demonstration with both Goupil and Klein ends up in barricades guerrilla, assaults and burnt cars, but Goupil’s vision is less connected to the events and more to the way in which they are lived intimately. This way of making the events interior makes him less attentive to their exterior shapes and that gives the film a
Danila Cahen: Most of your work up untill now deals with Israel. It often shows the friction between personal and national identity and questions the intentions of the state to inform and control people’s sense of self, purpose and patriotism. What for you is a binding factor in the works?
commemorate something you could also commemorate on your own, at any other time. My interest in Trembling Time was how to gradually, artificially stop time. I chose the image of traffic at a standstill, to represent the state’s power over society, both collectively and individually.
Yael Bartana: If I look back it’s interesting for me to realize how my works from the last three
DC: Low Relief II is about demonstration.
in the demonstrations, I had a strong sense of missing a point, of not being able to go beyond the ´wall´ of fascism. Demonstrating - as a powerful act in the manifestation of the democracy - is important and has the potential to bring awareness and influence over society. But in my perception, unfortunately, it´s a Sisyphean act. In Low Relief II I was interested in how it could be manifested
Interview years relate to each other. They are all dealing with state, religious or social rituals in society. Even if it’s not a ‘direct’ ritual, I create one. For example in Profile I filmed the event of soldiers shooting at target practice. This is not a real ritual. But the mechanism of holding a gun, aiming and shooting is a collective experience that in its practice becomes a ritual in itself. Here I focused on one individual, a figure we don’t know anything about. For me, that soldier becomes a symbol that reflects my own feelings and emotions about the situation. I try to keep the viewer as an outsider and observer, and hope that this separation will allow them to connect to their own emotions as well. I have a lot of curiosity about how society structures its conditions of living. In relation to my work I try to pose questions. I’m always searching for the truth of what I’m filming, and for methods and techniques of presentation that allow me to get closer to my question. In Trembling Time I filmed on Soldiers’ Memorial Day, during a moment when all activities come to a halt to have one minute of silence. My question here was how the state could possibly stop you for this moment, make you share this collective experience and
Yael Bartana Low Relief II, 2004 One channel video installation DVD/ Colour/ Sound; 5.30 min Soundtrack by Daniel Meir Courtesy Annet Gelink Gallery Amsterdam www.versionmagazine.com
What did you want to accomplish with this work? YB: When we hear the word “demonstration” we have very specific images in mind of people shouting, holding flags, carrying signs and so on. With Low Relief II I wanted to deal with a demonstration, to question what it means to demonstrate in Israel today. On my visits to Israel, I often go to demonstrations against the occupation. When I was filming, both Arab and Jewish organizations were demonstrating, and it was very frightening to see the amount of violence between the people and the police. In Israel people demonstrate nearly every day. It´s very scary, and normal at the same time. DC: Could you also see this as some kind of ritual? YB: Yes, you can. Demonstration is part of the everyday life in Israel, but I question its effectiveness and see its impotency. The ones aware for the need to change are the same ones who are protesting, so they demonstrate almost for themselves. At the same time, the issues are critical and need attention. While participating
visually as a timeless, endless emotional act. DC: In most of your films up till now you kept close to a sense of reality. Low Relief though seems to be manipulated in a completely different way. The figures look stone-like, like a moving sculpture. Why did you do this? YB: Relief is an old technique used in ancient times to tell a story about an historical event. It represents a transition between painting and sculpture. By using this technique, I tried to portray people as “monochromatic” in their existence, as one entity without borders. I wanted to create a moving monument to the everyday reality of how it feels to live in Israel. And for some reason when I looked at the original footage I filmed, it was too familiar. Most of my works are very direct. With this one I wanted to have the images quite far, have a kind of filter that makes you feel very far. In Low Relief II the situation and the people are becoming symbols. Working with the technique of relief enabled me to transfer the event to an unrecognizable place, a timeless situation. The only thing that makes you feel connected to reality is the sound.
Yael Bartana, artist, lives in Amsterdam Danila Cahen, free lance curator, based in Amsterdam 21
Yael Bartana Low Relief II, 2004 One channel video installation DVD/ Colour/ Sound; 5.30 min Soundtrack by Daniel Meir Courtesy Annet Gelink Gallery Amsterdam
Amiel Grumberg: How did you decide to start working with the topic of street demonstration? There seems to be a long tradition of demonstrating in the Dutch context but the reasons to do so have considerably evolved over the past two decades. Street demonstration now seems to be used as an important parameter to get visibility from groups of all
substantial statement about the meanings of a street demonstration. How did this long term process go, and what was in a more detailed way your process of selecting those images? WDR: The amount of images used in the piece comes to some 500, but I collected about 3 times as much. In the final selection I tried to
AG: "Where does vandalism meet activism?" It is clear that violence is part of street demonstration, that in any case is produced by a feeling of anger. But then, it is interesting to see how a street demonstration that leads to changes is called revolution when it remains as a riot or activists attack when controlled by the authorities. How did you observe that
Willem De Rooij: I was interested in both the phenomena you observe: I was struck by the fact that people seem to be more and more inclined to share their emotions with strangers in public, and the way these people choose to set up, visualise, their aims, and their emotions. At the 'receiving end' the media probably get what they want, or ask for a specific image, and are therefore co-responsible for the way these events unroll. But what attracted me to these images in the first place was their beauty: while key photojournalistic tasks are taken over by amateurs (Abu Ghraib), the products of professional photojournalists become more and more 'artistic': visually gratifying (in its references to classical compositions and theme's, often derived from the tradition of painting), layered, and conceptually complex (as opposed to what used to be seen as documentary style: direct, rough, close to the subject, not bothered with conventional aesthetics). Also, news-images seem to become more and more staged, to an extent where they seem like small film productions, shoots or sets, following small but detailed scripts. I saw a great news item about the architecture of the republican convention in New York last autumn, where all major American TV stations had a private balcony providing the best possible view of the centre stage, unlimited free internet, printing, mail, massage and catering facilities etc. In other words: there were no unhappy journalists on that convention. Large groups of public are able to read increasingly complex imagery. A parallel movement can be seen in the gentrification of the alternative film: "American Beauty" works with a full commercial budget but takes unconventionally long to explain what an image of a floating plastic bag means. AG: You worked on this project with a regular and almost conceptual approach. By reading the newspapers almost everyday during two years, it seems that you also found a way to stay one step ahead of the actuality itself, so as to produce a much more general and www.versionmagazine.com
achieve an even geo-political spread, but I also used aesthetic criteria: colours, greyshades, diagonal lines. AG: Now to some questions you wanted to raise : "where does political commitment become populism?". France has experienced this kind of phenomenon in 2002 with the fear created after the first tour of the presidential election. During two weeks, the street has been used as a space for mea culpas against fascist reminiscences and turned into a benefit gesture for a new president quickly seen afterwards as a saviour or at least as the only possible compromise. Everybody felt a need to react but this citizenship move crashed immediately after, as nobody took the time and the energy to analyse what had happen in a deeper way. The same goes for the Iraq war against which everybody reacted by pointing to the responsibility of the US, and worst to one single man, who can be seen as a puppet afterwards. The same goes now the collective fascination that brings the Michael Moore's movie "Fahrenheit 9/11" which is only playing with a same kind of propaganda and using the fear and hate of the USA that remains in Europe since the 2nd World War. Can you consider part of street demonstrations as a collective mea culpa somehow manipulated and generated by the media's and actuality? WDR: One of the many things I found out during this project, is that one protest-march can mean many things. The reason for a protest Raleigh does not always coincide with its subject. I collected images of footballsuporters who - after the murder on Dutch populist leader Pim Fortuyn - carried Fortuyn's portrait out on the footballfield and flagged them next to their Feyenoord shawls and banners. Silent marches are not only moments to mourn a deceased loved one. They're used to express dissatisfaction with how safety issues are dealt with by local authorities, or to express dissatisfaction with politics or politicians in general. Many times, all these motivations blend into quite a non-specific intuitive emotional mix, after which another mechanism gets triggered: the infectious effect of shared emotions.
ÂŠPhoto: Willem De Rooij
sides while the media use it for the seductive and spectacular images it is able to produce. On which categories did you decide to focus, and why?
Willem De Rooij Riots, Protest, Mourning and Commemoration (as represented in newspapers, January 2000- July 2002) Installation view, Magazin4, Bregenz, January 2005
phenomenon while working and collecting images from different newspapers? To use your terms, "when does grief becomes aggression?" WDR: What you're talking about seems to be a semantic difference. This especially became clear after the fall of Baghdad: how should we call the Iraqis who don't accept American presence in their country? Most TV channels choose for insurgents, looters, rioters, where they might have called them freedom fighters as well. AG: The question of silent marches being an advertisement for peace or for hate is of deep interest. In Asian philosophies, walking in silence functions as a starting point for selfconfrontation and meditation. Even when collective, marches are then ways to go deeper in you own understanding of yourself. We all know that in street demonstrations, you definitely forget yourself in the group, which can lead some quiet people to some terrible and violent action because they feel the support of the group. I assume you experienced some of these silent marches (I never did) and am curious what you felt in such a context? WDR: I did not have any personal investment in protest-culture, and I never experienced a silent march before I started this project. When Willem De Rooij, filmmaker, based in Amsterdam.
I was about to finish collecting my images, I walked my first protest-march, right before the US attacked Iraq in the spring of 2002. I carried a self-made pamphlet that read ‘DIPLOMACY’. It was hard to walk in a group and know that my personal opinion would get lost. I found the group-spirit and its unpredictability frightening, and the impossibility for nuances, details and ambivalence to survive the translation into mass-language even more so.
©Photo: Willem De Rooij
AG: The role of the media: essential. Street demonstrations produce the most exciting and powerful images and reports for a reader or a TV watcher. It is original, spectacular, and even much more direct than war images in general. I have always been surprised of the interest from the media for these kind of images. Looking at the political situation of Népal, a TV channel will show a street demonstration in Katmandou, but is the image an illustration of what is going on or is it the starting point for a visual experience, and that the comment on the situation is finally that important. Then, it is always interesting to hear how street demonstrations are provoking any kind of manipulations, often based on numbers: 15000 people for the organisers, 1500 for the police... What conclusions can you make after having followed during two years the way street demonstrations are depicted in Dutch newspapers.
Willem De Rooij Riots, Protest, Mourning and Commemoration, Panel III (May - July 2000)
WDR: What became clear to me is that these events were orchestrated to be photographed. Appearing in the media, in whatever context or for whatever goal, appeals to the large majority of people. Demonstrations by their nature have a need for media coverage, so the personal and the political need for attention meet in the protest-raleigh. The result is an interesting mix between the way people want to be portrayed, and the way the media want them to be seen. It is exactly this co-dependency that makes these images so enigmatic: both parties equally invest in the precise staging of these events. AG: The collective moment: a way to both express and experience emotion. Can you state anything about the way it is connected and especially the way it is or not reproduce by the images taken during the demonstration?
©Photo: Willem De Rooij
WDR: I think the images I chose function on two levels. As a group, they shed a light on their staged character, and the way the subjects as well as the media pre-plan the photographic result. But most of the individual images show another side: whichever emotions people experience during these group-meetings are real, and the images often touching and beautiful.
Willem De Rooij, Riots, Protest, Mourning and Commemoration, Panel III (detail)
Can one write the history of a country or a region exclusively on the grounds of the social conflicts that had happened there? At times, some historians have applied such a perspective and thus contributed to the creation or the reinforcement of regional or national identity based on social struggle. But this is a biased and fragmented perception of history and, in France for instance, it has been criticized as such by the school of historical anthropology Les Annales. Nevertheless, the comparison of works tackling social issues and, more precisely, the two historical forms of
Far more interesting, an engraving by Félicien Rops exceptionally focuses on, by special inclination of the artist, a feminine character, very present beside the men in the very heart of the procession of strikers. The artist commits a double sacrilege: he legitimates a form of work rebellion and gives the main role to a woman. In Belgium, deprived of political and civil rights until 1948, the women are part of all the social combats but their representations (social, political, artistic, literary, etc.) are always widely minimized. Only the iconoclast erotomaniac dares this discrete provocation.
Rather class portraits than individual ones, Meunier’s pieces establish the hero-worker model. This doesn’t agree with the typology highlighted by Roland Barthes, between the representation of the poor-proletarian, alienated twice because he is subject to his natural needs and thus dependent on the patron, and the more positive representation of the proletarian who is aware of the historical contradictions of the capitalism. Meunier’s model is on the contrary antique: that of the epic hero, if we are to take up Hegel’s classical distinction, an exemplary worker struggling with exterior forces that are
Brief History of Demonstration as a Form in Belgium contestation – the demonstration and its corollary the strike – can reveal itself enriching. Because both – even if the first one at a larger extent – are signs, signifying forms that make possible characteristic interpretations. Hence, a history, even brief, of the demonstration as a form in Belgium is a history of its perception by the Belgian artists to begin with. Let us note from the very beginning that it is easier to represent a demonstration than a strike. Jean Baudrillard has accurately reminded us that the first feature of a strike is to produce nothing, to make it so that something doesn’t take place. Or, how else can one represent something that doesn’t take place than by a strike of representation? The will to represent the strike inevitably has to resort to the illustration of its anecdotes or to what we call today in the world of media the “pretextimages”; thus a lithography attributed to Robert Robert KOEHLER et H. GEDAN, La grève au pays de Charleroi, 1886 Köhler, illustrative of a vivid discussion between a patron and the workers in an American coal field, has been later labeled Nonetheless, during the last two decades of the fatal to him but never rebelling… Meunier’s Strike in the Charleroi County (in Belgium). works will be largely disseminated, in a truly 19th century, Belgium goes through numerous Besides, as they didn’t go through the strikes and demonstrations, especially aiming at pre-media way, through low quality engravings “Commune” in their history but vaguely, the that gave to these images the role of fearsome universal suffrage, which are violently Belgians don’t have the iconographic State ideology machinery. repressed. But, except with the anarchist mythology of the barricade. Consequently, painter Maximilien Luce, who would live for a there are no “grand boulevards” in Brussels… One of Eugène Laermans’ rare paintings also long time in the Belgian industrial areas, the deals with demonstration; it depicts a crowd theme never developed in a trend. Ensor takes The demonstration, on the other hand, is a wherein a few elements are individualized. It is refuge in his dreams and nightmares; Rops tangible, measurable and representable not exactly a human bloc with precise devotes himself to literary-erotic engraving; phenomenon. Not only it is possible to demands, but rather a sum of individuals, Meunier produces a heroic image of the formalize it in different ways in order to obtain painted in a strange way reminding of Breughel workers inspired by the classical statuary and an image, but also it is an autonomous form as and that some authors have explained by the mythology. such, subject to being exploited by the artists. artist’s deafness. The demonstration is precisely The socio-economic crises from the end of the political as the red flag points it out. One can trace here the beginnings of an association that 19th century have lead the artists to approach will have a tough road ahead: the one between this subject selectively. For example, two rare the workers’ claims and the obsession of drawings by Constantin Meunier and James insurrection, which will be later denounced by Ensor deal with a demonstration. In both cases the privileged approach is that of repression, accent being given to the victims with Pierre-Olivier Rollin is director of B.P.S. 22, something of a compassionate feeling; but Space for contemporary creation, Charleroi, there is no durable commitment: the themes are Belgium. He is responsable for the exhibitions isolated in the production of these artists and and the collection of Province de Hainaut. they are approached through drawing instead of Independent curator, art critic and collaborator the “noble” media such as painting or sculpture for different publications. at that time. La grande grève de l'hiver 1960-61
James Ensor, La grève ou Le massacre des pêcheurs ostendais, 1888
Jacques Rancière. Fundamental freedom of the Belgian law, the demonstration as form is organized – hence, is represented – according to the Marxist logics of contradiction,between the friend and the foe, between “them” and “us”.
demonstration is always a claim), rare stylized faces singularizing (for empathy) a collectivity which is, first and foremost, artistic form, viewpoint outside the procession, heavy sky for setting, etc.
The interwar years: exacerbation of the demonstration as form and participation
This poor usage of the demonstration as motif can be explained perhaps through the change in the artist’s status and role, a change whose vector has been the reporter photography, predilection field of the first political commitments. As opposed to the 19th century, the vision now comes from the inside: the photographer is “in” the procession. The artist poses as an activist from now on: it makes no sense to represent the demonstration one has to become part of it, even organize it within the collectivity like the interventions of some surrealist Belgian artists attest it. During the interwar years, the action often prevails over representation. From this troubled period comes the mythical Misère au Borinage, slogan-film by Henry Storck and Joris Ivens, à la Dziga Vertov.
It is surprising that the interwar period, yet so intense in Belgium and Europe, has given so few painted representations of the serious conflicts that have devastated the country. Some exceptions, such as Pierre Paulus, who astonishingly comes out of his Christian dolor in order to compose a Strike whose iconographic conventions are by then clearly established, even academic already: black rectangular of the human crowd in order to highlight the occupation of a public space area (streets, places, etc.) temporarily “taken”, so ineffective, in red touches to mark the political position of the crowd (just like the “bad guys” in the American catch, the demonstration is “red“), simple and readable banners (a
The multiplication of such an astonishing means of expression as the spoken chorus is symptomatic of the artist’s role transformation. A spoken chorus occurs whenever several voices or groups of variable size recite a text in a certain rhythm, sometimes in a hall but most of the times in a public space. It can start with a street sketch and end in a true crowd “choreography”. Form of an art conceived by and for the collectivity, operating the shift of art from the private area to the public area, the spoken chorus, with its political bias, has been a combat weapon, the voice (among others) of an increasing force opposing the bourgeois hegemony. The “actors” used to be militant groups, workers, amateurs, the so-called autoactives, dedicated to agitation outside the theatre but by theatrical or para-theatrical means. With the spoken chorus, the demonstration is an autonomous body, a form as such, carrying intrinsic significations in close correlation (ideally) with the formulated claims. Such a choral principle obviously ruins the lead of the individual and of the psychological game inherited from the bourgeois art of the 19th century, even if sometimes it can integrate it in order to feed on it. A bond is created with the esthetics of revolutionary gatherings, either 1789 fashion or October 1917. An accomplishment of this theatrical demonstration is Leni Riefensthal’s cinematography wherein the procession is an artistic form that participates to the construction of the filmed image. Besides one can foresee something of its beginnings in the abstract crowds of workers in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. The regular usage, by the totalitarian régimes, of the demonstration as artistic form (the “esthetization of the politics” denounced by Walter Benjamin) will lead however to its disappearance as soon as the war ends. Moreover, in France as in Belgium, the strategies of cultural policies will favor the diffusion of “major” heritage works to the detriment of mass expression. This option, reinforced by the classical cinema, will go back to the lead of individual expression to the detriment of collective forms. The post-war period, the birth of a “mythology of the demonstration”
Pierre Paulus, La grève, 1928 26
In the post-war years, Belgium goes through two major crises: the royal Question, that would lead to the collaborator King’s abdication in 1951 and the strikes during the winter ‘60-’61 on the adoption of the unique Law that would lead to a climax in the social movements. A photographer like Jean-Lou Sieff will make one of his most pertinent reportages; legend has it that Guy Debord took part in it. This period is at the same time the apogee and the decline of the demonstration as a form of political protest because Belgium hasn’t gone through May ‘68, except in Brussels partially as the Palais des Beaux-Arts (there was no Museum of Modern Art) was occupied by artists as different as Marcel Broodthaers and Roger Somville.
Piero Vita, Grève de Clabecq, 1997, Collection Province de Hainaut
The occupation belongs to the repertoire of resistance forms with its set of artistic or paraartistic interventions. In thirty years the Belgian and western society have changed deeply under the associated effects of several events and phenomena. The fall of the soviet world, the globalization of financial transactions, the development of new technologies have lead to a new world geopolitical order that Ignacio Ramonet used to define as “the geopolitics of chaos” and that is described by an indefinable transformation of the power forms, of the conflicts and new types of menaces, of the destabilizing unbalances, of the considerable technological developments, etc. In such a context wherein the referential models of the past have become obsolete and wherein the new ones prove to be extremely fluctuating, the demonstration as a form is also questioned. From its origins associated to the working class it equally suffers from the transformations undergone by this social class. The labor world is in fact fragmented, denied and reduced to a form of muteness evoked by Hervé Leroux in his film Reprise: “They are twice excluded: their factories are closed down and they are deprived of speech as if they were erased “, quotes Patricia Allio in the magazine Mouvement. So the demonstration as a form is devoid of its collective meaning; and it often turns into a sum of individual rebellions like in Jozef Legrand’s performances-demonstrations with intimate slogans. The Belgian status quo being quite similar to the French one, the myth of the demonstration as the perfect form of contestation, effective both politically and esthetically, will be built on this new fallow land. Based on an original ferment endowed by time and remembrance with a miraculous virtue, the demonstration becomes a mythological political form, a direct political expression wherein each actor used to have the sublime conscience of participating to the history in progress… Hence the exponential multiplication of images taken by the demonstrators themselves! The strikes in Clabecq, last of the great worker demonstrations in Belgium, mark the end of worker demonstration as a form; just like the Genoa days for alter-mondialisme. For, as www.versionmagazine.com
power dissolves in a multitude of ramifications and more and more invisibles bodies (the markets, the shareholders, etc.), as the tangible signs of the power become empty (the Capital, the Parliament, the Government headquarters, etc.), the symbolic space that the street used to be is more and more easily given away. The big capital cities have a demonstration every day. But, as a corollary of such easy access, the demonstration as a form is more and more legal, hence restrained and inoperative.
coined, new forms of resistance and participation are to be invented permanently. Emergent artistic practices, such as the ones Patrice Loubier calls “furtive tactics”, mix naturally with the new forms of contestation: coordination, infiltration, festive disobedience, e-contest, hacker, carnival and festive occupation, etc. In this vast and necessary effort of permanent redeployment, the artists must never quit their duty. Translated by Izabella Badiu
Spontaneous in the old times or grossly sketched, the demonstration becomes “academic”: it is stuck in the formalism imposed by the legal dispositions and thus it is devoid of its substance, which is to demand. It is merely the effect of a contesting style whose least “excess” is severely condemned by justice, politicians and media. It has become political esthetics. Its representation becomes stiff, set by the photojournalism agency or television; only the documentary sometimes grants it some vigor through the “distant intimacy” that the art of montage enables (especially Gêne(s)ration by Alexis Mital Toledo). At a time when, more than ever, the local, national and international situations impose the intensification of resistances, their political practical and esthetic means are to be redefined. Survival Guide, the demonstrator’s guide made by Jota Castro for the Venice Biennial, an exercise of highlighting the unexploited possibilities of the demonstration, appears all the more emblematic. Today, all forms of opposition and taking over the decision making are susceptible to be reinvested, new political concepts have to be
Sven 'T Jolle, Global empowerment, 2000, Collection Province de Hainaut 27
Interview, Paris 1999 Hans Ulrich Obrist: My first question, concerning your book Ideology and Utopia about research in social and political science, is: how was this book born, how did you start this work? Paul Ricoeur: As it is said in the preface, the topic was imposed, as it was a PhD course I delivered at the University of Chicago. The topic was ordered and it was part of an interdisciplinary program in a center called The Committee on Social Thought, which has been created by Hannah Arendt, and that interconnects sociology, general history, human sciences, philosophy and political sciences. HUO: As you remind it in your book, since Karl Mannheim in 1929, there hasn’t been another attempt to link the notion of utopia – in most cases dealt with in a literary context, in architecture or even arts – to the notion of ideology, which is mostly dealt with in sociology and political sciences. How do you explain the absence of such a comparison? Can it be connected to a lack of pluridisciplinarity or to a fear of it? PR: No, but firstly I believe that the term utopia has been hidden by ideology as the ideology has been imposed by Marxism and in any post-Marxist discussion. So the topic had to be rehabilitated because it had been very powerful before Marx in what was called the utopian socialism. But, precisely, a major part of Marx’s work goes against this infantile malady that was communism. So I went back to a concept that had been very strong in the field of political sciences because its origin is well known: Thomas More’s Utopia. I had then to connect a traditional concept of the political science with the binary concept sociology/ideology, quoting Karl Mannheim. But there was another reason for my interest, Paul Ricoeur, born 1913 (Valence) is a French philosopher best known for his attempt to combine phenomenological description with hermeneutic interpretation. Hans Ulrich Obrist, was born in May 1968 in Zurich, Switzerland. Currently lives and works in Paris. He is editor in chief of Point d’ironie, published by agnes.b and curator at Musee d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris. 28
namely a large investigation on the imaginary: my idea was that what we call the imaginary is the denial of the reality function, the opposite of reality, the unreal. And beyond that I intended to go back to Sartre’s concept on the imaginary as a function of the unreal. But I saw the imaginary unfolding as individual imaginary going as far as hallucination, as literary imaginary in fiction and as social and political imaginary, in other words utopia. This classification of the imaginary lead me to the specifics; I isolated the socio-political imaginary and kept understanding the imaginary as the function of the other than the real, which can cover the possible, the fantasy in the Freudian meaning of the word, plus the figurations of future projections. HUO: And also as potential, not the imaginary as something impossible but as a thing that can be made real? PR: Exactly! I tried to structure utopia in parallel with ideology, because my theory is that ideology functions at three levels: on one hand there is what Marx denounced as a kind of false vision of the society, some kind of deceit, but under the ideology of falsification and misrepresentation, to quote young Marx’s terms in German Ideology, there is what I have called the symbolic structuration of action, and I uphold my theory with the sociology of symbolic forms and the root of all this is my repetition imaginary. I use the Kantian distinction between imagination as reproduction, that is ideology and imagination as production or creation in the social field, that is utopia. So I thought that the imaginary, the utopia could be structured in the same way: if I go backwards, I find the ability to get out of the real and utter something different than the real, at a second degree, that of institutions, I find the production of specific religious, family and other figures that are all figures of contestation or alternative figures, and in the end it is the rigid spirit, in its degraded form, stuck in its categories, closed in the unrealizable: it is an unrealizable unreal. A kind of utopia path can thus be drawn starting from the fundamental utopia, which means to represent the other than real, going through a middle, institutional level wherein the projection of figures such as the family, the Church, the State, the property, etc.,
takes place and, in its superficial form, corresponding to the falsification form of the ideology, the utopia presents itself in the inflexibility of its own patterns. HUO: What about ambiguity then, this other recurrent term in your book whenever you say that utopia and ideology are highly ambiguous phenomena, each with a positive and a negative side, constructive and destructive... PR: But I have nothing to add to my previous answer, which justified the ambiguity. It is not a language or thinking mistake but it is a constitutive part of the phenomenon. The phenomenon is ambiguous, that is to say it has several meanings and the idea of a hierarchy of signification was, in my opinion, my contribution to the discussion. HUO: Consequently you talk about a circle that becomes a spiral. What is the relation between the notion of ambiguity and this spiral? Does this spiral dismiss ambiguity or does it keep ambiguity? PR: In order to answer that, we should take a look first to the historical functioning of utopia, because there we can find a typology of utopias. We would have to go all the way back in history to Thomas More’s utopia, which is a political utopia, a utopia of the political. In the 19th century we can find social utopias because of the importance of property since Rousseau’s speeches on the inequity amongst men: in fact this is Rousseau’s problematic in his two main Speeches on inequity, which have directed the political utopia into the social field. Besides, there are the effective demands of the socialist movements, but also the projection of the perfect City, which used to fascinate at that time. But we can also find other roots in the Renaissance, such as the City of Sun in Campanella’s work and we should go in the great Christian eschatologies with their medieval and Renaissance projections. We have a very fertile field of research here and I have mentioned only the tip of the iceberg. HUO: What I find particularly interesting about the notion of perfect City is the research side, its relation to uncompleted artistic projects. I realized that, aside architecture and
urban planning, we keep on talking about utopian, never made projects whereas in architecture and urban planning knowledge is built up through publication of uncompleted projects, which in 97% of the cases are too expensive and remain utopian in this senses. PR: Yes, but I think that the idea of utopia can survive only by getting rid of the illusion of perfection, and assuming an alternative function as compared to the real institutions. So, utopia has to take the perspective of denunciation and, at the same time, of reconstruction, but from a deliberately alternative position and not a totalizing one. In fact, the totalizing project of utopia has paralyzed it: wanting to replace everything instead of becoming merely an alternative. HUO: You also mention the possibility of creating a network, or at least links between the utopias and micro-utopias, or, in any case, the least totalizing utopias. This is the main reason for my wanting to have this interview with you... PR: Yes indeed, but then we should no longer take into consideration the successive historical forms, but an up-to-date classification. And there the fragmentation of the field would follow the disciplines: you quoted architecture, but another one would be poetry: since Rimbaud and the Surrealism we have a literary form of the utopia. I would say that the Surrealism is the non-political or even antipolitical face of utopia. As a proof there are the difficulties encountered by André Breton with the Communist Party and because he had to face the competition between the old utopian socialism and Marx’s so-called scientific socialism, an antinomy reproduced in Leninist and Stalinist times. HUO: Have you known Breton? PR: No, no. But I am a big fan of L’Amour Fou. HUO: In relation to that what was and mostly what is now your approach of art and artists? Have you had dialogs with any artists? PR: But this is not a personal issue, I’m talking www.versionmagazine.com
about the things I have been working on and not about myself. I think that the Surrealism is interesting because it’s an experiment in the language but starting from the psychoanalytical resources. It is precisely the exploration of fantasy, which is not only hallucination, so not pathologic but owning creative resources. Hence, it is utopian because it takes a stand in the denunciation and refusal of logics and grammar constrains, to make it short, of everything that makes of language an institution: the anti-institution aspect appears again at language level. Automatic writing, transcription of dreams, usage of mescaline and other drugs, and consequently the exploration of para-psyche: there we can find a confluence between the literary, the psychoanalysis and what can be called soft pathologies recognized by the artist. HUO: This takes us to the notion of distortion that you often mention in this book, distortion of reality, non-congruence with reality. A few years ago, Cedric Price was tackling this aspect in a text discussing not only spatial distortion but also temporal distortion... PR: Yes, but the word distortion is quite pejorative, as if there was a set order, which is dis-torted, and this belongs to the panoply of accusations either against ideology or against utopia. This concept is mostly used by Marx against the utopian forms of socialism: according to him this distortions of reality present him with the true reality. Another image used to be familiar in the times of photography invention, around the 1840s: the idea of a reversed image in the camera, as a model for distortion or, in Marx’s terms, the man walking on his head that should be turned standing on his feet again. So we deal with a purely negative conception of utopia, and Marx’s cunning was to present utopias as ideologies because when he speaks of the German Ideology it’s in fact utopias: he says that utopia is nothing but ideology, that is a false language. Thus utopia is deprived of its strength in denunciation but also in projection and invention. HUO: When Cedric Price, since the ‘60s, uses the term distortion in a post-Marxist meaning, he does so in order to value it, so in a positive
way. For instance, he uses it in relation to the garden madness in order to show that along the history of garden madness, in fact, one can witness a space and time distortion used in a positive manner. PR: Yes, but you are using the word madness, which is interesting because one can take it as a purely pathological concept, pertaining to the asylum, the psychiatric ward. But there is also a great tradition of madness, going back as far as Plato’s mania, and then you have the ongoing éloge de la folie (madness praise) throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance... So a positive concept of madness as an alternative to reason and not reason in all its vastness but the rationalizing reason purely formal and cut off from reality. In the end we get the idea that with madness we come close to something essential for the human condition that cannot be attained through clear, mastered thinking. HUO: In the history of architecture, the garden madness plays a far more important role than we generally think. As compared to Sir John Soane – the English architect of the 18th/19th century –, for example, only in the garden madness, out of time and space, or in the positive distortion of time and space, the architect has got the freedom to experiment. So the idea of experimentation comes up, particularly in relation to the alternative you mention: the possibility to try another idea. How do you see this aspect? PR: Well, first I should remind that time and space in their physical conceptions, such as in the Euclidian geometry and later in Newtonian physics, do not exhaust the resources of time and space experience. It is only a grid area, organized by a kind of rationality, which pertains to classical geometry and classical physics, but this rationality is overthrown by non-Euclidian geometries and mainly nowadays by non-Newtonian physics. So we can say that the notions we used to call classical are destabilized themselves at scientific level and not merely at the level of mad imagination. And maybe there is some secret complicity between what we just called madness and these non-Euclidian and nonNewtonian figurations. 29
HUO: All of this in relation to the emergence of contemporary science? PR: Yes, here I join your interview with Prigogine I suppose. The most daring and most destabilizing resources of physics have, in many ways, a kind of hidden kinship with the capacities of time and space to deconstruct classical forms. HUO: Now that we have reached these scientific questions, maybe we can come back to the notion of inter-disciplinary or rather of trans-disciplinary. What do you think of these today given that, since always, there have been moments of disciplines converging in the cultural field? PR: Yes, but that requires great competence since one has to be cautious with, let’s say, improvised forms such as trans-, para-, etc. So a prerequisite is for one to have a good mastery of one’s own domain and a few adjacent domains, which can be done only in team. One single mind cannot combine Prigogine with André Breton, etc. It is possible only by working together. And then maybe it is people like yourself who can play the role of mediator and make them communicate. But it is very difficult and one should avoid counterfeits. HUO: Which are for you the successful examples of the kind? I think of your book with Changeux as of a very successful example... PR: But in the same time it is not successful because at a large extent it is a parallelism of declarations. The book in itself is transdisciplinary, but our dialog isn’t, it is largely a mere juxtaposition of approaches. HUO: What are then the possibilities to overcome such difficulty? PR: One simply has to carry on. Carry on with great patience. Because, as I see it, the philosophers don’t dare take their chances in front of scientists and the scientists have gut mistrust about philosophy. There are prejudices in any discipline, due firstly to the fragmentation of knowledge, but mainly to the university education. After all we have a 30
tendency to project on the disciplines something that describes merely the situation of university departments. Plus everyone is hunting the State financing and there is really a battle with everyone else for it so that something quite petty and sordid is going on at that level. So, when it comes to professional success, we need independent minds. This is why I’m saying it is difficult, and one has to be cautious with improvisers and crooks. HUO: Now I would like to ask you a question about silence. You referred to Thomas More’s utopia, which is in a way silence, nowhere, an empty spot. In an interview, Gadamer has spoken a lot about this silence, including in relation to the fact that this silence won’t be transcribed in the interview. What would be your approach of silence, especially in relation to utopias? PR: Well, utopias are not silent, they are thundering in many ways. But the possibility of an alternative to the known forms of language, of institutions, supposes that there are voids and not just as intervals. But silence is first the background, so to speak, on which we can speak if there is noise, silence is the non-noise but it is not the non-speech. There has to be silence in order to record something and, secondly, there has to be silence between words and maybe silence between thoughts. So, in this sense, besides silence as cover for speech, you have silence as interstice and interval. HUO: The interstice and the interval bring us to the question of dispersion and fragmentation of utopias. We are trying to gather a large number of utopias that are usually very fragmented precisely in order to start working on the interstices, on the links between various utopias. How do you see the possibility of such new spaces? PR: I totally support your endeavor and I hinted at it earlier when saying that there was need not only for confrontation between competences and specialists, but also for mediators. I think that this is your function. HUO: Finally, there is a somewhat personal question that I always ask at the end of each
interview I make, the only one they all share: do you have an uncompleted project that you care about? PR: I like this question because I function like that; I mean that each of my books left a residue behind, something for me to continue in the next book. For instance, I have been working on a vast book, which was Temps et Récit (Time and Narrative), and then I discovered that there was a residue: I have been discussing time and narrative but not memory and oblivion, and consequently I worked on this residue. And now there is definitely a residue that I foresee: the idea of recognition, either self-recognition, recognition of the others, or recognition (reconnaissance) in the French meaning of gratitude. This is my residue and probably impossible to carry out. So, this is my utopia. Translated by Izabella Badiu
Influenza / First Illegal Dutch Hateparade, Rotterdam 2001
Influenza / First Illegal Dutch Hateparade, Rotterdam 2001 is an experimental intervention during the Heineken Danceparade in Rotterdam. This Danceparade is a big-budget promo-copy of a copy of a copy of the original Berlin Loveparade, that also became such a monstrous over-done commercial megamillion frenzy that some local people (artists, activists, indep.musiclabels,etc.) decided to organise a counter-event to redicule this whole event: the hateparade. This alternative Berlin-party-parade later became more known as Fuckparade. It was forbidden by the Berlin council in the year 2001. In this proposal people are invited to intervene (participate in an intervention) with their own demonstrations in the large
parade itself. Undermining elementary D.I.Y.principle: â€˜donâ€™t consume. Produceâ€™. During the First Illegal Dutch Hateparade, panels where carried with fragments that were ripped from club-posters. The same clubs that provided the music for the Danceparade. After the last truck we closed the line with our demonstration. After the last truck passed the thousands-people audience that was standing along the roadside joined in and walked alongside us. The panels, which were the parades own language, were an excuse to take the danceparade as a free podium to do a
groupaction. Normally for any groupmanifestation you need a permission from the citycouncil and police. They then give you a location for your (demonstration) event. In this parasite action we invited ourselves without permission, being camouflaged by the event we surrounded ourselves with.
Jeroen Jongeleen, Artist based in Rotterdam http://flu01.com
The Revenge of the Concept Artistic Exchanges, Networked Resistance https://pzwart.wdka.hro.nl/mdr/pubsfolder/bhrevcon/view
Demonstration in San Francisco. Image: http://indybay.org
Quebec, Summit of the Americas. April 2001. Image: BH.
Among the events of recent history, few have been as surprising, as full of enigmas, as the coordinated world demonstrations known as the Global Days of Action. Immediately upon their appearance, they overflowed the organization that had called them into being: the People's Global Action (PGA), founded in Geneva in February of 1998.1 This transnational network of resistance had adopted a new concept of solidarity advanced by the Zapatistas, who encouraged everyone to take direct action at home, against the system of exploitation and oppression which they described as neoliberalism. As early as the month of May, 1998, the PGA helped spark Brian Holmes is cultural critic, activist and translator, living in Paris. He is a member of the editorial board of the journal Multitudes, contributes regularly to the magazines Springerin and Parachute; most of his essays appear on the Interactivist website, http://slash.autonomedia.org. 32
demonstrations against the WTO whose effectiveness lay both in their simultaneity and in their extreme diversity: street parties in some 30 cities around the world, on May 16; four days of protest and rioting in Geneva, beginning that same day; a 50,000-strong march that reached Brasilia on May 20; protests all over India after a huge demonstration in Hyderabad against the WTO on May 2. The following year, London Reclaim the Streets launched the idea of a "carnival against capital" in financial centers across the world for the day of the G8 summit, June 18: there were actions in over 40 cities, including a ten-thousand-strong "carnival of the oppressed" by Niger Delta peoples against transnational oil companies. In the face of transnational capitalism, a networked resistance was born, local and global, tactical and strategic: a new kind of political dissidence, self-organized and anarchist, diffusely interconnected and operating only from below, yet able to strike at the greatest concentrations of power. What is the strength of such
movements? The improbable and serious appeal to a "do-it-yourself geopolitics": a chance for personal involvement in the transformation of the world. These kinds of actions are about as far as one could imagine from a museum; yet when you approach them, you can feel something distinctly artistic. They bring together the multiplicity of individual expression and the unity of a collective will. That is their enigma, which sets up a circulation between art and solidarity, cooperation and freedom. But this enigma stretches further, into the paradoxes of a networked resistance. Since their surprising beginnings, we have seen the movements change, we have seen them globalize. Activists from the South and the North travel across the earth in jet planes, to demonstrate next to people without money, without work, without land or papers â€“ but who may know the same writers, the same philosophers, the same critiques of contemporary capitalism. The
transnational network-based protest movement represents a significant threat to those sectors that are slow in shifting from local and centralized hierarchical bureaucracies to flat, networked organizations."
The Karnataka State Farmers' Movement (KRRS), "Cremate Monsanto" campaign. Karnataka, India, 1998. Image: weareeverywhere.org
intensive use of the Internet by the movement of movements means that dissenting messages take the pathways used by financial speculation. Sometimes you wonder whether the two can even be distinguished. What are the sources of this networked resistance? And what exactly is being resisted? Is revolution really the only option – as one could read on a banner at the carnival against capital, on June 18, 1999, in the financial center of London? Or do we not become what we resist? Are the "multitudes" the very origin and driving force of capitalist globalization, as some theorists believe?2
Two British critics, Anthony Davies and Simon Ford, posed exactly those questions, with direct reference to art. They pointed to the way that artistic practice was tending to integrate with London's financial economy, particularly through the vector of specially designed "culture clubs" where artists sought new forms of sponsorship and distribution, while businessmen looked for clues on how to restructure their hierarchical organizations into cooperative teams of creative, autonomous individuals: "We are witnessing the birth of an alliance culture that collapses the distinctions between companies, nation states, governments, private individuals – even the protest movement," the two critics claimed.3 They perceptively drew a link between contemporary artistic experiments – those dealing with the use and appropriation of complex signs and tools, or with the catalysis of interactions between free individuals – and the politicized street parties of the late 1990s. But their analysis opposed these new movements, not to transnational capitalism, but to the outdated world of pyramid-shaped hierarchical organizations. Thus their image of the June 18 carnival: "On the one hand you have a networked coalition of semiautonomous groups and on the other, the hierarchical command and control structure of Pink & Silver march, Prague. September 26, 2000: a deliberate and wildly successful attempt to the City of London police force. Informal change the style and meaning of street protest. networks are also replacing older political Image: www.indymedia.org. groups based on formal rules and fixed organizational structures and chains of command. The emergence of a decentralized www.versionmagazine.com
Conceived at the outset of the year 2000, this alliance theory was mainly concerned with distinguishing a "new economy" from the old one. It combined a network paradigm of organization, as promoted by Manuel Castells,4 with a description of the culturalization of the economy, as in British cultural studies. But what it demonstrated was more like an "economization of culture." Everything seemed to be swirling together: "In a networked culture, the topographical metaphor of 'inside' and 'outside' has become increasingly untenable. As all sectors loosen their physical structures, flatten out, form alliances and dispense with tangible centers, the oppositionality that has characterized previous forms of protest and resistance is finished as a useful model." These kinds of remarks, which came from many quarters, were already confusing for the movements. But they took on an even more troubling light when the Al Qaeda network literally exploded into world consciousness. On the one hand, the unprecedented effectiveness of the S11 action seemed to prove the superiority of the networked paradigm over the command hierarchies associated with the Pentagon and the Twin Towers. But at the same time, if any position could be called
Carnival against capital. London, June 18, 1999, Image: BH.
"oppositional," it was now that of the Islamic fundamentalists. Their successful attack appeared to validate both the theory of a decisive transformation in organizational structures, and Samuel Huntington's theory of the "clash of civilizations." Suddenly the protest movement could identify neither with the revolutionary form of the network, nor with the oppositional refusal of the capitalist system. Loud voices from the right immediately seized the opportunity to assimilate the movement to terrorism. And to make matters worse, the financial collapse that the movement had predicted effectively happened, from the summer of 2000 onwards, casting suspicion over everything associated with the dot-com bubble – including all the progress in democratic communication. At the same time, the secret services of the most powerful countries, and especially the US, declared themselves ready to meet the challenge of the networks, by giving themselves new capacities for autonomy, horizontality, interlinkage.5 The difficulty of situating a networked resistance to capitalism within a broader spectrum of social forces thus became enormous – as it still is today. Now, this difficulty has not stopped the mobilizations, particularly in Europe. What has come to a halt, or rather, splintered into a state of extreme dispersal, are the theoretical attempts to explain them in a way that can contribute something both to their goals and to their capacities of self-organization. What I want to do here is to make a fresh try at this kind of explanation, from an anthropological viewpoint that can distinguish between the fictions of a "self-regulated market" and the reciprocities and solidarities that make it possible to live together as human beings. So we'll begin with a social and economic study of the vital need for resistance to the crises of capitalism. We will then see this resistance develop within the contemporary technical environment, without accepting any form of technological determinism. And finally, returning to the question of alliance or opposition, we can grasp some of the 34
contributions that artistic practice makes to this networked resistance, by rediscovering languages that seemed to have been consigned to the museum. I am thinking primarily of conceptual art: a practice that doesn't produce works, but only virtualities, which can then be actualized, at each time and in each place, as unique performances.
For the continuation of this text, see: https://pzwart.wdka.hro.nl/mdr/pubsfolder/bhrevcon/ view
Notes: 1.There is as yet no "history" of these ongoing movements, but information and stories can be found at www.agp.org. 2.This is the thesis of Negri and Hardt's Empire (Harvard University Press, 2000); also see Yoshihiko Ichida, "Questions d'Empire," Multitudes 7, December 2001, online at http://multitudes.samizdat.net. 3.Anthony Davies and Simon Ford, "Art Networks," www.societyofcontrol.com/research/davis_ford.htm. Further quotes are from this article and "Culture Clubs," www.infopool.org.uk/cclubs.htm. 4.Manuel Castells, The Rise of the Network Society (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996). 5.See Defense Advance Research Projects Agency, "Terrorism Information Awareness System," www.darpa.mil/iao/TIASystems.htm. Also see military strategist Thomas Barnett: ""If we live in a world increasingly populated by Super-Empowered Individuals, then we field an army of Super-Empowered Individuals," www.nwc.navy.mil/newrulesets/ThePentagonsNewMap.htm.
Antiwar demonstration in Istanbul, Turkey. February 15, 2003. The signs read: "No to war. We can stop this war." © AP/Murad Sezer. Image: www.internationalanswer.org/news/update/f15phot os.html
Starhawk in action, dancing against the tear gas. Quebec. April 2001. Image: BH.
"Those who have nothing, PAY NOTHING!" Image:http://groups.msn.com/170697/argentina2. msnw?Page=3
Carnival against capital. London, June 18, 1999, Image: BH.
Concept: London Reclaim the Streets, May 1998. Image: www.rts.gn.apc.org
Autonoom Centrum bus, European Social Forum, Florence, 2002. Image: B.H.
Carnival against Capital. June 18, 1999, Image: unknown photographer.
The demonstrations at Maison des Ensembles On January 11, 2003 I took the last photo of the weekly demonstration of the “sans-papiers” (illegal immigrants) at Maison des Ensembles. After that day, I haven’t been to Paris every Saturday in order to report on the group of some forty obstinate men claiming their right to live in France decently. So I stopped taking the photo series I had started on September 8, 2001, but I’m still interested in their story that I follow from a distance. For example, I saw on television (France 2) a report on the increase of temporary jobs and one of the demonstrators was filmed as he was entering a temporary employment agency. I thought that it was great that he finally got his papers (after 4 years of demonstration). Or, an article published in L’Humanité on June 24, 2003 reminded me through its title –“Police Evictions et Maison des Ensembles” – that nothing was settled for them. The journalist Jacques Cortie writes that “the eviction operation from this symbolic space of the sans-papiers combat has started at dawn. All the streets were blocked. In all, seven police vehicles, out of which four buses, have been placed so that no access was possible from rue d’Aligre, rue de Charenton, Malot or De Cotte, nor from the marketplace. Then, at 6
a.m. the police intervened. Mamadou Traoré, 38-year man from Mali, spokesman for the Autonomous Collective of sans-papiers, narrates: "We were more or less 200 people inside. The police burst in shouting: "Everybody out!" Some people were aggressed and few had the time to take their belongings. The vehicles and the policemen hinder any access." Another evicted says: "We are like sheep. I do have a file with all needed documents inside: how can I get it back?” Jacques Cortie continues: “In front of the police bus at the corner of rue Charenton, where the evicted and other members of the NGOs had gathered, nobody understands a thing: there was no identity control and no one has been taken into custody. "They want to break the heart of social combat that the Maison stands for", says Larbi Fertani, one of the Collective delegates. “Around them and on the sidewalks by the coffee shop “Le Rössli”, some thirty persons are sitting, rather puzzled. Some of them were able to take out of the Maison things in a plastic bag or even a suitcase. But what now? Where to go?” After that, nothing until October 23, 2003 when I find on Indymedia Paris website that after the eviction from rue d’Aligre, the
collective went to squat an empty building at 104 rue des Couronnes, and that the police have just evicted it too that very morning. Today, the “last sans-papiers” from Maison des Ensembles are 14 in number. They have been arrested. I learn their names: DIARRA Ibrahima, DIARRA Ntigui, SAMASSA Tombé, DOUMBOUYA Chekhné, BAKAYOKO Chekhna, TOUNKARA Mody, DIAWARA Thierno, TRAORE Moriba, BANE Boubou, BA Samba Mamadou, CAMARA Bouyagui, KEITA Souleymane, KONATE Ansoumane, STELLA Damien. October 24, 18h33, on Indymedia Paris site: six of them have been released by the judge for invalid procedure; two of them are still detained at Vincennes whereas one of them has agreed to willingly return to his country. The rest of them will go to court on October 25. On October 27 at 21h56, Indymedia reveals that the five persons have also been released for the same reasons: invalid apprehension procedure. The Domestic Affairs Minister decides to appeal the court decision. It is only the day after that the Administrative Tribunal was to decide whether the “Prefecture Decisions to escort to the frontier” were kept valid. No news ever since. Translated by Izabella Badiu
Bruno Serralongue, Demonstration of the “sans-papiers” at Maison des Ensembles, Place of Châtelet, Paris, 2001-2003 Ilfochrome on aluminium, frame and glass 31,5 x 39,5 cm Courtesy Air de Paris, Paris © Bruno Serralongue
Bruno Serralongue, photographer based in Paris. www.brunoserralongue.com 36
Photo: © Bruno Serralongue Photo: © Bruno Serralongue
Saturday, September 8, 2001
Thursday, October 11, 2001 37
Photo: © Bruno Serralongue
Photo: © Bruno Serralongue
Saturday, January 19, 2002
Saturday, May 11, 2002 38
Photo: © Bruno Serralongue Photo: © Bruno Serralongue
Saturday, September 21, 2002
Saturday, January 11, 2003 www.versionmagazine.com
©Photo: Lia Perjovschi, 2000
ONE At the summer Art Academy in Frankfurt, in the section coordinated by Florian Waldvogel and Marius Babias I showed some images from the nineties in Romania, when any political decision was taken in the streets or under the pressure of the streets. Although all of the images were spectacular and violent, only one of them triggered a great deal of emotion. The image was from the first mineriada. Mineriada is a term which signifies the use of a social category (the miners) against other categories (students, artists, engineers, etc) for the benefit of those in power. In June 1990, the marathon demonstration in the University Square ended in a bloody repression. An eastern European Tien An Men. For 2 months, the students and a few civic associations had occupied the main intersection in Bucharest and had been peacefully demonstrating against the neocommunist leadership, brought to power by fraud. Dan Perjovschi is an artist and journalist based in Bucharest, Romania. Editor at “22 Magazine” Bucharest, contributing editor at IDEA arts+society, Cluj. 2004 George Maciunas Prize. 2002 Henkel CEE prize for drawing and 2000 “Ursu” Human Rights Foundation award. 40
The first phase of the repression was the assault of the police and of the secret agents, and in the second, the working class (the miners) was brought to justify the massacre (the workers want peace). In the photo, one can see a young man held by a policeman by his hair and hit in the head and in the stomach by three civilians. By their mustaches, the civilians also look like cops. However, none of these caused the revolt of my audience, made up by young westerners. They also had had fights with the police, kicks in the mouth and sticks in the head coming from their democratic leadership. One thing agitated them. In the background of the photo there is a man, a citizen just like the young man savagely beaten. The man is attentively watching the scene described above, while laughing with admiration. Why is he laughing? I was asked. I have no idea. Ever since 1990, I have been looking for an answer to this question.
TWO At the beginning of the nineties, there was no single day passing without some tens of thousand of people in the streets. The squares were loaded with people. Many people, many bodies. Rallies, protests, marches, demonstrations, counter-demonstrations. Every millimeter of democratic progress was done by physical presence. And, occasionally, by blood. 15 years later, the squares are occupied by scenes for hip and occasionally hop music. Less people. And, instead of blood, beer. THREE Across the street from the Central Headquarters of the Romanian Communist Party, whose balcony was used by the dictator to address the masses, there is a building which used to be occupied only by people from the secret service. It was to close to the balcony for anyone to live there. On this building, there’s now a huge advertisement for whiskey. Keep Walking.
TRANSNATIONALISMS A conversation about international movements Anna Daneri: I would like to start by asking you few words about the global dimension of the social movements arisen from Seattle… Sandro Mezzadra: Starting from Seattle, I think a rather new movement has emerged on the global scene, a movement whose main traits are remarkably different compared to the social movements of the past. Where the most innovative element is represented by the relation such a movement has with the very dimension of space and spatiality. Of course, during the last two centuries we have already had different forms of social and political movements (first of all the working class one) promoting concrete projects of world-wide unification, but starting form Seattle we are dealing with a movement which, in a way, assumes the unification of the world as a given reality, as an implicit assumption for its very form of agency. What used to be the goal, nowadays has been in a way incorporated into the very premises of the movement's action. For this reason, I think, rather than internationalism we should have to employ the category of transnationalism. A category that doesn't consider the existence of rigorously marked national spaces as a given assumption, suggesting on the contrary the existence of spaces defining themselves as independent from/by any geopolitical division between nations, spaces that nevertheless are absolutely political. The category of "transnational", by the way, appears useful insofar as it allows to conceive the existence of political spaces which are definitely different from those we could find in conventional political cartography. A.D. Yet, I guess the reaction of the "real powers", the strong ones representing the solid geopolitical structure of globalization, has been rather violent, even in reaffirming the existence of political borders… S.M. But what you say should be also considered as further evidence of the utility of a concept such as that one of transnational. For, against each linear reading of the rather contradictory processes we refer to when we talk about globalization, the very idea of www.versionmagazine.com
transnational, in its deep semantic root, does not deny the persistence of national spaces, and of borders delimitating them, as a given reality. Actually, what we have directly experienced in the last two decades is not a linear tendency towards the overcoming of national borders – as someone had foreseen immediately after the 1989 socialist block's collapse. On the contrary, the 90s and the first years of the new century are essentially characterized by the renewed political centrality assumed by borders/boundaries, as well as by a deep transformation involving their nature. In other terms, if borders didn't disappear, it is precisely on borders – however we consider such a category – that a huge set of extraordinary political tensions converges. As the current way to rule and control the EU borders testifies/confirms. The main point is that to a certain, modern, political dimension of border (that is to a line definitely separating two spaces differently qualified in terms of sovereignty) it has been progressively substituted a new spatial dimension – playing with the words, we could say a "frontier" line – according to which borders today decompose their action, projecting themselves miles away from the territories they directly delimit, while refracting themselves within those territories and in so doing producing new radical political differences (that is differences of status) within the same territory. I repeat, what occurred in the EU probably provides us the best example. The unification process, the birth of Schengen area, as well as the following processes it determined (above all for what directly concerns the East enlargement): they are all phenomena marked by a rather effective attempt to export a specific regime of borders control – by this meaning a set of procedures and techniques of control, as well as a set of social technologies of border management. Starting from what occurred on the level of bilateral cooperation between Germany and Poland in the aftermath of 1989, the definition of these social technologies has been one of the key-point, probably the very condition of possibility, imposed to those states candidates to enter in the new enlarged EU. From this point of view, the German-Polish relation, with the direct export of control devices and
apparatuses in Poland, has really been a pilotexperience. Furthermore, those countries directly involved in such a process, have in turn made pressures on neighbouring countries (as in the case of Poland with Ukraine) and such a process has in turn determined a sort of chain-effect, whose lines of expansion are easy to be read on the Eastern external frontiers as well as on the Southern ones, on the Mediterranean area. Nowadays the Italian Government seems to be committed in the project of a big detention/"protection" center for migrants, at 300/400 km south to Tripoli. For sure we can say detention camps have been one of the key institution in such a regime of control on European borders, directly representing in its most compelling and sinister aspect the transformation that involves the very nature of borders. A.D. Concerning the idea of transnationality you suggest as a decisive dimension of the movement, can you better focus on the political practices adopted: how can we act in order to counter the radical transformations involving borders, the very idea of territory, the sense of place? S.M. When we adopt the concept of movement within an analysis about the transformations of the political dimension of space (in other terms on globalization processes), I think we have to refer to a concept that is as vague and large as possible. In other terms, we must recognize within the general category of "movement" even those practices and forms of agency that don't express a conventional "political" experience. Under this perspective, I'm sure that the attempt to bring and link together the direct experience of the movement from Seattle to nowadays with the migrants movements of the last 10/15 years – movements which are Sandro Mezzadra is Professor of Political Theory at University of Bologna. He is editor of "Studi Culturali". Anna Daneri Professor of Phenomenology of contemporary art at Accademia di Bergamo, coordinator for the Advanced Course of Visual Art by Fondazione Antonio Ratti, Como, she lives in Genoa
defined by and which directly express a global attitude – should be extremely important. But in order to affirm such an affinity, we have first of all to consider migrants’ movements in terms of social movements, and in so doing to partially reject all those explications emphasizing the push/pull factors, those explications mechanically considering only poverty, famine and wars as determining factors. Of course, those factors matter, but if we consider migrants movements as social movements we can discover how a category adopted in order to define the movement's action, such as that one of "globalization from below", could enrich itself once adopted in order to read the migrants movements of the last years (as suggested by the same title of a recent book about migrant movements, "Transnationalism from below"). Yet, what does it mean to apply such a category to a political analysis on a such a complex movement as that one of contemporary migrations? Once again the transformations and the new tensions determined on the very nature of borders should help us in answering. Borders nowadays become porous, easy to cross for capitals and even for certain categories of people, but at the same time, on a very global scale, they have been re-armed against the mobility of migrants and displaced people. And nonetheless migrants keep on defying borders, on violating and crossing them. For this reason I think a slogan as that one on "Fortress Europe" should finally reveal itself as an erroneous one, from a theoretical as well as from a political point of view. Of course it denounces an actual whole range of politics that directly fortifies European boundaries, that makes Europe a Fortress. Yet, I think such an expression contains two main risks: the first one is to suggest that the main goal (or at least the desired effect) of border policies is just to make the European space impermeable/impenetrable, to hermetically close it from inside/towards outside. Whereas it is well evident how much those politics actually work as an enormous machine of "selective inclusion", as a system of filters producing, among other things, a clandestine form of labor – i.e. a (sub)category of clandestine migrants as permanent inhabitants of the European space as well as of the other richest spaces. The second reason is that slogan such as the "European Fortress" one drives unilaterally our attention only on the realm of domination and control technologies, ending up with loosing a whole range of movements and processes that I think are the most important for us: the fact that, though at an unbelievable high price, thousand and thousand of women and men defy those borders and actually cross them. From this point of view, the social movement of migrants is thus a movement that – as the movement of movements does, starting form Seattle – directly builds up transnational social as well as political spaces. Spaces within which the direct experience of a growing number of subjects organizes itself according to criteria which are far different from those organizing the political and geographical map of the world. 42
A.D. But can we really talk about a point of convergence between these two different dimensions of movement? Where can we find such a point? S.M. Saying that such a point already exists would be too optimistic, of course. Yet, migration is becoming more and more a central issue within the movement's agenda, and even within those direct practices developing themselves within that particular space of politicization that movement is. In Italy, for instance, we had a series of rather effective struggles of "natives" and migrants against the confinement and apartheid system symbolized by detention centers and camps for migrants. But it is not only an Italian experience. There are, for example, activist groups which are intensifying the political struggle on the border between US and Mexico, as well as between US and Canada. And I think the most innovative and the richest theoretical as well as political experiences and practices of the last years were produced on and around migration. It is worth mentioning the recent constitution of a specific subnetwork of Indymedia ("Indymedia Estrecho") which is programmatically transnational, directly intervening on the Gibraltar situation and involving both Spanish and Moroccan activists. This is the best example of what a transnational space should be. And it is also a direct example of convergence between the social movement of migrants and that one of Seattle, with the second one which directing acting on a space built up by the migrants. A.D. And what about the movements in the "South", the former "Third World"? What are the specific practices adopted and what are the actual effects? How is it possible to communicate, given that the mainstream information usually tends to push back and suppress any form of echo? S.M. If we only consider one of the greatest uprisings of the last years, that one in Argentina in 2001, we find a rather meaningful example of the role played by media. I'm referring particularly to the demonstrations of December 19th and 20th, which were immediately "mediatised", particularly for the level of violence the uprising against De la Rua's government assumed. During those days, we discover the existence of a social movement, that one of the piqueteros, that was already active in Argentina at least since the beginning of the Nineties. And, once the most violent and directly "insurrectional" dimension of the uprising was reduced, the media system abandoned Argentina. But the most important aspect is that behind December 2001, there is a
far more basic process of social movements, whose actors played a central role in the current Argentinean situation. We thus have to question the real dimension of those movements within the local society, and a similar discourse can be made about other south-American realities, as well as about many African ones (particularly South Africa) or India. Forcing a little bit the schema I've tried to present above, I guess that the specific form of agency those movements adopt can be better understood starting from the renewed nature of borders. In other words, these movements continuously confront themselves with that specific effect of internal decomposition and re-composition involving borders I was mentioning above: an effect determining the birth of always new blocks and boundaries, of new lines of exclusion both within the global metropolis and in the rural areas of what has been for a long time defined the Third World – and that nowadays needs another way to be defined. The action of these movements develops essentially in everyday life, through a set of practices and experiences that we can consider in terms of social selfvalorization – re-inventing and building up forms of social relation within a territory already devastated by all the external interventions and the structural adjustments imposed by supranational agencies in the last 10/15 years. And it is precisely from here, from this point of view, that we can grasp one of the most interesting and crucial aspect of the current situation. I will provide you an example. During the 70’s or the 80’s, in Europe, the political debate about, for instance, the Salvador rather than the Nicaragua situation, found its pertinence in terms of solidarity. In other terms, it was well evident that we were dealing with problems totally different compared with the European ones. The existence of an international solidarity providing the possibility to share experiences otherwise different, far from each other. Today, on the contrary, we deal with a totally different situation: although the differences between different areas of the world still persist and probably increase, the problems the piqueteros in Argentina or the peasants in the Narmada
valley in India directly experience and talk about are problems that echo what we find in our situation in Italy or the US. Nowadays, for an Italian or an American activist it is no longer necessary to have any internationalist solidarity in order to understand what an activist form Buenos Aires or Hyderabad says to him: there is a common language, common problems. By this saying, of course, it doesn't mean to deny the existence of even enormous difference between the individual situations. Yet, a common ground exists, as well as social practices determining resonances which are stronger than the differences they immediately talk about. The most compelling and meaningful aspect of this movement is probably being the fact that, though assuming even largely different social and political expressions, it speaks a language with a set of basic linguistic and conceptual references which is really common. For this reason, a form of communication definitely more horizontal than in the past is possible nowadays. A.D. But "here", in Europe, Australia, or US, the real perception of movements as that one of the piqueteros or of the peasants in Narmada Valley is still very reduced. This is a symptom of the difficulty to communicate and translate local discourses on a global scale. How is it possible to perceive such a global common space? S.M. I think the first thing to do is to nuance every representation of the world built up on a dichotomic, polarized division between North and South. More precisely, the problem concerns a polarized representation according to which, in the "South", movements grew up starting form material problems, whereas in the "North" they express a rather more ethical or
moral content: the condemnation of the war, of the injustices characterizing the global systemâ€Ś I guess a more accurate monitoring of the different experiences converged on the last expressions of the movement should give back a far more nuanced and articulated level. Even in the places where an ethical or moral language seems to prevail, there is always a strong experience rooted into the materiality of transformation processes which have radically destructured our society in the last 15 years. Which ones should be the perspectives in the immediate future, it is not easy to say. Probably we have to recognize a point of flexion. It is well evident, for instance, that war assumes today an absolute priority for the overall global movement: a priority that acts not only in moral/ethical terms, but more pervasively in material terms, insofar as the very becoming of the movement is deeply involved in the nightmare we are fallen into in the last three years, a landscape dominated by the specter of the war. On the capacity to find common words against the permanent war, the movement is destined to spend all its credibility. But I think this is the only subject which can really express
something of radical newness (new even compared to the conventional "cyclic readings" the life of social movements are referred to), even against a radical new scenario such as that one opened up by the permanent war. If we accept the image of a plural, global, transnational dimension acting as a specific space of politicization, outside of every traditional category as well as of every conventional way of conceiving the political forms of agency, we should even concede a supplement of energy, a surplus of vitality that is simply impossible to find in all the traditional ways of conceiving politics from a leftist point of view.
Mircea Cantor: The landscape is changing Be it a charismatic leader, a social or economic reform or a marked protest against a political decision, the demonstration always has a clear reason for being. But street demonstrations often leave in their wake a trail of mystery and ambiguity. Seen live or transmitted by images, they contain a visual impact capable of shaking opinions and established structures. What do these individuals marching hand-in-hand in time signify? Where does their immeasurable determination and collective energy, threatening to bring down age-old rules in a lightening flash, come from? Why fight against this force which grasps the spectator’s attention and places him on the slippery surface of change? The instability generated by images of a demonstration in progress is always followed by a series of pragmatic indications designed to reassure the viewer about the situation. A journalistic commentary that accompanies the coverage in newspapers allows us to take a step back from this human tide which hitherto threatened to shake one’s own core beliefs. According to the account published in the Albanian daily paper Shekulli on the 31st July 2003, the inspiration for Mircea Cantor’s film The Landscape is Changing is in itself an enigma. Tirana, July 2003. The city witnesses, in a mix of indifference and surprise, the passing of a rather strange cortège. Around thirty young people cross the capital in silence, brandishing imposing mirrors in the place of the usual slogans and banners. In this former communist state, the street parade remains strongly associated with the propaganda marches, which regularly crossed the city until 1992, portraits of Enver Hoxha held high. In this atmosphere street demonstrations are met with suspicion. Indeed, individual and collective protests are rare amongst the post-dictatorship generation. However, this historical perspective, which Albania shares with most of the former communist countries, is only one aspect of the thought process which preceded the filming of Mircea Cantor, artist, graphic designer, co-editor of Version magazine. 2004 Paul Ricard Prize. Based in Paris and Cluj-Napoca, Romania
The Landscape is Changing. In fact, the Albanian context disappears after the first minute, allowing the film to express itself on a timeless and universal level. Under the guise of an ordinary street demonstration, The Landscape is Changing inverts one of the essential characteristics of this type of protest. Whereas normally the multiplication of individual enthusiasm creates an autonomous and powerful collective energy, the demonstrators in The Landscape is Changing seem to release an individual energy which escapes and surpasses them. Crossing this urban theatre, where the weight of the architecture symbolises a political omnipresence, the cortège simply opposes its inoffensive mirrors to the seats of power they pass by. Thus reinforcing their indifference to the immediate context. The variety of shooting angles and the perfect organisation of the march strengthens the unity of the cortège, which rapidly takes the shape of a moving ‘thought’. In a traditional demonstration, the agitation and cries of the crowd allow a group release of personal feelings. On the contrary, Mircea Cantor’s calm and silent cortège concentrates itself on the singular vision of the artist. Thus, the collective exclamation point is gradually transformed into a personal question mark. By simply substituting a mirror for a slogan or the portrait of a leader, Mircea Cantor carries out a crucial visual and metaphorical translation. Filmed from many different points of view, this micro demonstration reflects on the city its own reality in a flow of unsettling images and colours. Mircea Cantor plays with the ambiguity of the reflected images ; they do not reproduce an identical reflection of the reality, rather a moving, deformed universe which the viewer must constantly ‘complete’ by himself. The visual impact of the demonstrators is camouflaged by a constant play on reflection until it finally becomes forgotten amidst a thoroughly disconcerting retinal experience. This mirror game resonates, forming a ‘thought space’ stripped of its usual connotations and hence regenerated. The demonstration, drained of any direct contextual implication, increases ten-fold its poetical
strength and its political essence by stimulating a deep emotional investment from the spectator. Through the originality and impact of this aesthetic experience, The Landscape is Changing proposes an unlimited game of echoes, where imagination and spirituality find a new point of exchange. Far from a fashionable effect or the simple exploitation of a rather original idea, The Landscape is Changing and its quasi-universal resonance require only an unaccustomed honesty from the viewer. Slowly and modestly, the interior energy of Mircea Cantor takes form within the film, guided by an audio mix of city sounds and a dumb, constantly pulsating hum which effectively accentuates the physical presence of the video installation. This omnipresent, vibrating sound breaks with the documentary medium and invites the spectator to take part in an interactive experience which leans towards total introspection. This poetic journey is abruptly ended when the free images turned into a “broken mirror” editing that charges highlights of the video with a taste of propaganda. The subtle soundtrack cuts out in these last two minutes to be replaced by The dance of the Knits by Prokofiev, charging the images with strong connotations. An external, opportunistic hand seems to interfere again with the cortège, brutally shattering the introspective and regenerating experience which Mircea Cantor had delicately created. The crowd is one again manipulated by the image. The landscape is changing, again.
Amsterdam, February 2003
Mircea Cantor, The Landscape is Changing,2003 22’ color and sound, DVD-projection, Courtesy Yvon Lambert, Paris, New York © Mircea Cantor
From the art historical setting I can recall two faces of the crowd: the first one, the holder of political will (demonstrations or revolutionary masses) appearing on the numerous historical or allegorical paintings (depicting concrete historical events or summarizing a certain social state into a symbol), the second one, more neutral and more dispersive, usually connected to the representations of the city, modernity and urban life.
about sociology and psychology... In 1885, Gustave Le Bon publishes a book that will be accepted as an authority in the field of psychosociology1. “The Crowd: a study of the popular mind” [Psychologie des foules] formalizes, explains and develops the fantasies and terrors gravitating around crowd in the last quarter of the 19th century. According to Le Bon, the crowd is rather feminine in nature because of its close vicinity to “the nature” and of its versatile
become an automaton and his will is helpless in guiding him. Yael Bartana is the witness of this group alienation and mimetic in the heart of a traditional event for the local bourgeoisie who provides us with the show of a crowd that has lost control. The fascination for human behavior in group shows in the work of various artists who sometimes tend to recreate artificially the effects of such phenomena.
NO MORE REALITY (*) Crowd & performance: re-enactment, public space and collective utopia. But, the crowd is never absolutely neutral. Apparently nameless bodies, anonymous minds, ordinary settings are always producing “higher” narratives at least on the level of representation. Even impressionist chronicles that tend to be “disinterested” pictures of the law intensity mass scenes are not random outdoor frames or simple cut-outs from the street. As reportages of early modernity, they basically announce standardization of the city crowd, early control of public space and regulation of the mass behavior in the street. It seems that what happened between the impressionists’ paintings and the monumental color photographs by Andreas Gursky is the creation of a “brave new world”. Art and sport events, clubs, airports, factories, stock exchanges, libraries ... travel and leisure, finance, material production, information ... the individual is lost amid the massive and overwhelming networks. People are dwarfed either by enormous frenetic crowds or by the monumentality of architectural or natural settings. Fully integrated into their given system, they become just another part of that system’s formal elements. To talk about the crowd comes down to talking about the individual and the society, about politics, violence and the irrational, but also
Jelena Vesic (Belgrade, 1974) studied art history at the Belgrade University, Faculty of Philosophy. From 1995 to 1999, she contributed to several art magazines and radio programs. Since 1998 she has worked as a freelance curator. 2004, curator of the ‘Yugoslav Biennial of Young Artists’ in Vrsac. Lives and works in Amsterdam and Belgrade Claire Staebler (Strasbourg, 1978) is an art critic and assistant curator at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, where she has contributed to several group exhibitions and publications (a.o. ‘Hardcore’, ‘GNS’ and ‘Playlist’). She worked at the Biennials of Venice (1999) and Taipei (2000). Studied Art History at the University of Sorbonne and completed a MA program in Philosophy at Saint Denis University. Lives and works in Amsterdam and Paris 46
character. And this increases the phantasms’ force and the menace it projects onto us. But the author also asserts that the crowd is always dominated by the unconscious. Impulsive, mobile and irritable, the crowd doesn’t know the meaning of doubt or incertitude and is always extreme. The collective phenomena will be analyzed for several decades on the basis of this somewhat arbitrary description. Clichés or reality? Fantasies of our society or actual facts? We shall try to discern some of the faces in the work of various artists whose only common feature is that they are using the crowd as a starting point, as a framework or as space for their performance. In 2004, the young Israeli artist Yael Bartana made a work on a topic that perfectly illustrates the portrait of the crowd as Gustave Le Bon likes to describe it. Hysterical, excessive, vulgar, the crowd gathered for the steeplechase in Liverpool abides more than ever by the psychosociologist’s definition. You Could Be Lucky is an 8-minute film by Yael Bartana on the world famous “Grand National Steeplechase Race”. Fascinated with the ambiance and the irrationality of this fauna gathered for the occasion, the artist films the crowd and its excesses, tries to capture the excessive behaviors of a bourgeois population that gets carried away in collective madness. How can the crowd transform the individual who plunges into it at such an extent? With the followers of Le Bon, from Gabriel Tarde to Elias Canetti2, the concept of imitation has been regularly invoked in order to explain this increasing power. According to Canetti, “there is nothing that man fears more than the contact with the unknown”. Man, generally, has the phobia of contact and group. However, in the crowd man can free himself from such contact phobia. In this situation, the phobia turns into its opposite. Individuals in a crowd get a collective soul. In the collective soul the intellectual aptitudes of people and their individuality fade out. In the crowd, the individual acquires a feeling of invisible power. The feeling of responsibility disappears in the crowd. The individual in the crowd is no longer aware of his doings. He has
We can also speak about process of identification by reducing the crowd to its constituents that again reproduce a new, monumental, emotional and human face of the collective. For example, Vesna Pavlovic’s photo series “Watching” represents a chain of portraits of the people within the crowd, watching the basketball championship. Nothing like Yael Bartana’s snap shots – portraits of bourgeois people, followed by annoying colors and noises, here we see iconic and calm images of young and healthy sporty people that take on the identity of a basketball match crowd. Black and white photos depict a sequence of emotions: temptation, fear, contemplation, joy, amusement, pleasure, concentration, expectation... Concepts of fundom and imitation-behavior can be brought into connection to Guy Debord’s idea of the spectacle as theater performed by commodity-images. Suspense of the final result together with the individual emotions are also part of the spectacle and commodity performance – people present themselves in a favorable way. Presentation is also representation of who they want to be or must be for the audience, engaged in the same practice. So, Pavlovic’s and Bartana’s representations present two faces: the uniform face of the audience or wild crowd, as Gustave Le Bon would say, and the individual mirrored face who at the same time performs as an audience and for the audience. The crowd can assume various shapes or even invent some new ones. The artist can go to the crowded places but the crowd can also come to him. It is the case with the grand masses of contemporary art that have a tendency for multiplication. For example, at the last Venice Biennial, in 2003, inside the Zone Of Urgency, the Peruvian artist Jota Castro3, taking advantage of the large number of visitors, has distributed massively a survival guide for the use of demonstrators. Conceived as a daily, the guide pours out a series of practical and legal information as well as the reasons to demonstrate in contexts as different as Brussels, Istanbul, Havana, London, Dakar, Treviso... With his guide Jota Castro
turns demonstration into a form of organized and rational resistance. The public will demonstrate just like it visits a town holding a tourist guide. How to best protest in the world? What is the legislation of the demonstrations? What are its limits? The survival guide for the use of demonstrators is part of the artist’s global strategy and of his way of using his knowledge in legislation in order to avoid certain aspects but still respecting the law. Jota Castro is interested in the means to spread information on a large scale, to invade the urban space and use his position as an artist to address the masses. As opposed to the all seeing eye of the artist who places her/himself at a safe distance from the crowd - as in the case of Jota Castro -, with Skart Group or Jeremy Deller’s San Sebastian parade we have a successful placement of artists into the crowd and operating from a ground perspective. While in the previously mentioned works, the crowd is represented as someone else, as the others, here we have problems with representation: human behavior and social actions are not brought up as visual registrations, but are part of the performativity that can only be experienced or documented. The Skart group distributions of “Aid coupons for survival” – series of actions during the nineties – are usually connected to the common crowded sites like folk village fete, railway station, green market, but also during the gallery openings. Colorful vouchers with denominations: 1 sex, 1 fear, 1 freedom, 1 masturbation, 1 voice, 1 word ... were alluding to the possible exchange values within groups of people. They were meant for further distribution. The production of the cute and attractive paper objects was an occasion to experience the behavior of various groups of people in different contexts. Two of the most interesting events occurred when the crowd actually refused to follow the proposed scenario: the first happened among peasants from Beli Potok – small village near Belgrade, and the second one among the visitors of the exhibition “Inside/Outside” in Zachenta Gallery in Warsaw. Artists found themselves under the siege of the village crowd who were hoping to get what was delivered for free. When people realized that they were left empty-handed after giving their best to participate in the chain of distribution, artists were chased away. In the second case a box of coupons was placed at the entrance of a gallery space and the distribution of the coupons was more like a lottery situation – picking inside the box to get the object with a particular exchange value. Although the Warsaw public was familiar with coupons from the Socialist times, they approached them as an exhibition of curiosity objects in the cardboard box. The disciplined and decent gallery crowd, almost standing in line, was taking the bulk of different objects out of the box, reading and returning them. Since the box was not labeled, nor fixed to the wall a cleaning woman threw them away the day after the opening. I wouldn’t connect Skarts projects with an ethnographic approach of the behavior of crowds formed by different groups of individuals, but more with how a particular proposition can start an unexpected situation, and how openness and www.versionmagazine.com
control are mutually regulated. In his performances, in the collaborations he initiates, Jeremy Deller is looking for the meeting point between individual and community as well as for the moment when the according interests would meet. Contrary to other artistic projects, Jeremy Deller doesn’t turn into a community mediator at any time, or in some character who makes things get organized around him; the artist often prefers to be absent at these events whose initiator he really is. June 2003, San Sebastian. On the occasion of the opening days of Manifesta 5, the English artist organizes a parade on the main street of the town and invites all the associations and social groups to march in order to contribute to the celebration of a non-event. An unexpected show, somewhat absurd, Deller transforms the street in public space for performance by creating a totally arbitrary anniversary. As he makes possible the conditions for a “blind date” between the crowd of demonstrators, the inhabitants of San Sebastian and the visitors to Manifesta, Jeremy Deller creates a moment of confusion when nobody really knows where to look or how to look. Caught in its habits, surprised in its routine, the public can but wonder about a usage or an unexpected situation in its environment. The town becomes the frame and the limit of this action, the theatre of a gratuitous investigation in reality. If for Manifesta the artist creates the conditions of an artificial event with no historical or traditional basis, other projects demonstrate that Jeremy Deller used to be interested in the remake of actual facts. In 2001, the artist makes the “Battle of Orgreave”. This work consists of a book, a video and a soundtrack. Inspired by an event in recent history, with the help of historians and witnesses, the artist re-enacts the scenery of the battle and manages to persuade the true protagonists to “play again” the event. Probably the most ambitious participation of the crowd in the re-enactment of a historical battle was the mass performance of “Storming the Winter Palace” that took place in Petrograd in 1920 when the original event had occurred. Workers, soldiers, students and artists performed as a revolutionary crowd, coordinated by an army of officers and vanguard artists from Malevich to Meyerhold. The State commission for commemoration of the event has grown up in the most monumental transformation of living fabric of life into a theatrical one. On the other hand, the involvement of artists and the arrangement of a specific avant-garde visual setting for the revolutionary performance was probably the one and only occasion where El Lisitsky’s belief that the red army would march under the suprematist flag seem to have been fulfilled. Johanna Billing’s video “Project for a Revolution” carefully follows the behavior of a crowd of fashionably dressed young people placed inside a classroom. “Project for revolution” remakes the famous scene from the movie “Zabriskie Point” by Michelangelo Antonioni – an emblematic movie that represents the 1968 youth movements – of
political unrest in the university campus and conflict between counter-culture and capitalistconformist establishment. Re-staging this famous scene is an expression of feelings of that generation as well as the youth of today. While with the first shot in Antonioni’s film we are plunged into a room overcrowded with faces and voices, into a passionate student debate that intends to be revolutionary on how to recognize the enemy, what tactics and course of action to take, Billing’s characters hang out in a university room as if waiting for something to happen, but there is nothing going on, communication is missing and the people even avoid eye contact. The silence and feeling of infinite suspense is broken by the noise of a photocopy machine, but in this seem-to-be point of culmination, instead of the important proclamation leaflet what comes out from the machine is a blank paper – pale outcome. And then the film loops from the beginning. Stadiums, marches, political demonstrations, all are for Gianni Motti playgrounds as he loves to go where there is a crowd. Invited in the exhibition Hardcore, vers un nouvel activisme4 at Palais de Tokyo, in 2003, the artist would invite the crowd to come to him for once. For several hours during the opening night, Kurd demonstrators, preoccupied by the fate of their leader, Öcalan, came to demonstrate in the heart of the establishment with their banners and slogans all over the Palais. The “Let Öcalan Free” performance transformed Palais de Tokyo in “public apparition space” – as Hannah Arendt coined it. According to Irit Rogoff5 in “WeCollectivities, Mutualities, Participation”, the public apparition space is also the space of the community when word and action come together. The spaces of day-to-day life become temporary scenes of expressivity. “It is the space of appearance in the widest sense of the word, namely, the space where I appear to others as they appear to me...” according to the German philosopher. Taking further her thesis, Irit Rogof evokes the art space as a public apparition space in Hannah Arendt’s meaning where one can engage a participatory cultural form and not just a contemplative one. Irit Rogof adds that if we can accept the exhibition space as an arena for such a show wherein the public becomes also a producer of behavior and thought by just “being” than we probably have a new potential political space. Whereas Deller attempts to invade public space with an artistic project, Gianni Motti transforms the exhibition space in a public place and brings the street inside the establishment. But the work of the Italian artist, who lives in Geneva leading an outstanding life, has numerous resources and likes to play with censorship creating the conditions for maximum visibility. Fascinated with media, Gianni Motti has also made some apparitions in a local Swiss newspaper: once in a group of teachers in summer camp, another time opening a medical lab, or in a report on domestic waste. The unknown parasitic character would soon start off the anger of the Die Neue luzerner Zeitung readers. Through the press a new kind of crowd develops: immaterial, dispersed, domestic. A new kind of public is born: listeners, viewers, 47
readers… These communication networks, these moving and unquantifiable fluxes mark a new era for the crowd, less united and more submissive. But always powerful. Between propaganda and manipulation, the media are the modern weapons. “Valium of the people” according to McLuhan, the media penetrate the intimacy of people, their family, their thoughts. Gianni Motti sets absurd and ephemeral malfunctions in the mass audience. He provokes a new kind of relation between viewer and art work, which is no longer going on in presence, face to face, but in a rather abstract system. The project “Radio Ballet” by Ligna radio group examines the sensitive borderline between demonstrators and performers while literally demonstrating how through use of media the crowd can be organized and instrumentalized in public space. The “ballet” occurred in the center of Hamburg, which for years has been subject to police control and surveillance technology. Several hundreds of people followed the invitation of Ligna to spread around Hamburg with small radio devices in their pockets. It was more public dispersion than a public gathering. The group ballet within the city was initiated by sharp bodily instructions that participants received through portable radios: sit down, stand up, hold your hand in a begging motion, turn around, dance and wave good-bye to the departing train of the revolution ... Although the event was not visually so striking as its description may be, people were mostly at a distance from each other, the movements they performed fit well within the common body language of public space and motions were not synchronized, but rather adopted by the individuals’ rhythms and sensations – it was impossible to go shopping that Sunday afternoon, without realizing that something strange was going on. Designing experimental situations with the aim of transgressing conventional and common applications of mass technology, Ligna succeeded in creating temporary public sphere. While during the 30s Siegerfried Kracauer blamed the then new medium of radio for depopulating the public sphere and keeping its listeners in their homes, Ligna turned radio reception into a public event. In the end, why ballet against surveillance? Maybe because today crowd gatherings and peaceful public demonstrations in the streets are not powerful enough to block the system and impose the initial demands. The power of the system is somewhere else than in the streets, as Critical
Art Ensemble noticed in their “Digital Partisans”, and it is probably the reason why contemporary public protests are increasingly aesthetic and carnival like. But, absence of immediate effects is probably not a strong enough reason to bring to an end all political expressions within public space, it will only show that safe secured zones have proved to be victorious over the wild zones outside control. Undoubtedly, the crowd is a major kind of being with modern humans, symmetrical to the other great way of being: the radical individualism. The crowd today, such as it is presented in contemporary art, seems to be related to an inhibited human agglomeration. We speak of mass solitude. Lacking a leader there are but inoperative human gatherings. The balance between individual, or singularity, and the collectivity is in the very heart of the “community” stake according to Jean-Luc Nancy6. “What is given, is that the community happens or rather that something happens to us in common. No beginnings, no end: something in common. Just a word, a writing – shared – share us.” With his video “No more Reality”, we wonder whether the French artist Philippe Parreno represents the crowd in the modern times of art. A gathering of children marches in the street waving banners: No more Reality. In his turn, Mircea Cantor proposes another utopian and poetic vision of the demonstration: The Landscape is changing7. The artist films a group of people demonstrating in the streets of Tirana in broad daylight waving instead of banners mirrors! The whole town is reflected in this surface and the only image conveyed, the only slogan is itself. Far from the image of a conquering crowd that frees or masters the historical time as in Delacroix’s “Freedom guiding the people” [“La liberté guidant le peuple”], today, the image of crowd remains anonymous, solitary, inoperative, “alienated”. After the times of the crowd as political icon, the artists also show the paranoid side of the crowd with the recurrent usage of video surveillance cameras in various public spaces. The crowd is observed, inspected by the eye of the camera that records the actions without being able to control this image. Behind the phantasm of a uniform anonymity of the “modern city” there is, actually, a vast underground control network. Amsterdam, February 2005 Translated by Izabella Badiu
Notes/Biography; (*)The title No More Reality has been borrowed from a performance by Philippe Parreno. No more Reality (Demonstration) 1991. 1.Gustave Le Bon, Psychologie des foules.(1895). Paris, PUF, 1963, 2nd edition, 1971, 132 p. 2.Elias Cannetti, Masse et Puissance, Edition Gallimard, 1960 3.Jota Castro, ZOU, Biennale de Venise, 2003, Italie 4.Gianni Motti, Hardcore, vers un nouvel activisme, Palais de Tokyo, Editions du Cercle d'art, 2003 5.Irit Rogoff, We-Collectivities, Mutualities, Participations, www.theater.kein.org 6.Jean-Luc Nancy, La communauté Désoeuvrée, Christian Bourgeois Ed, Paris, 1986 7.Mircea Cantor, The Landscape is changing, Quicksand, catalogue, De Appel, 2004, Amsterdam
ÂŠPhoto: Jota Castro
EUROPA AGRICOLA 2
EUROPA AGRICOLA 2, 22nd february 1999, Brussels, Belgium. During the European farmers demonstration.
Thirty-thousand European farmers gathered in Brussels on 22nd February 1999. It was the biggest gathering of that sort ever to be seen in the European capital. Strong security measures were taken around the EEC headquarters. Important decisions had to be taken on the future of the C.A.P in the frame-work of Agenda 2000 (Common Agriculture Policy). In the rest of the world, farmers were complaining because they know that any decision taken in Europe could have dramatic repercusions for them. Take Latin American bananas for example! Latin America lost one million seasonal jobs www.versionmagazine.com
because Europe protects the euro-bananas (from Antilles, Portugal and Spain) and the ACP bananas. For these reasons, I took the decision to organize my own counter demonstration. My only placard was a bunch of Latin American bananas, from the Amigo (friend) cooperative. I walked around with my bananas explaining my mission to everybody. That day, I was the embodiment of Third World farmers. Jota Castro, born in Peru in 1969. He lives and works in Brussels. 2004 Gwangju Biennale Prize 49
Documents/ Vertige, Maison Descartes, 23 Septembre 2004.
Jean-Luc MoulĂ¨ne, Born in 1955, France. Lives and works in Paris 50
On the Road to Porto Alegre
Olafur Eliasson and Israel Rosenfield
The project Utopia Station, impossible to capture as a picture, is sometimes an exhibition, sometimes a series of pages, sometimes a seminar or a website or a block party, is a combination of a no-place and a passage, an ongoing project in which nothing is fatally separated from anything else. At the Haus der Kunst in Munich this fall we have called the Station there a tower and a road, mainly because it seemed important to call it something.
jammed by this tower. It was wrapped in a sound architecture designed by Building Transmissions. It was covered, on the wall facing the platform, by the poster project done for Venice (see www.e-flux.com); on the other walls, the so-called outside walls, the designers M/M hung layers of black and white sheets of statements. These statements were culled from the ones written by the artists to accompany their posters. Only 26 were used, the statements being understood to be elements of a new order of alphabet. M/M gave each statement a new graphic level. A tower of Babel? A concrete utopia of human utterance? A series of pronouncements and cries? In any case, many voices collect.
entered the conversation—war, illness, utopia, everyone’s travels, a future. But that summer death caught up. By the end of September, Edward Said had had his last round of treatments and before we could speak, he was gone.
The tower had been developed by Rirkrit Tiranvanija from the long wooden building that gave the Utopia Station at the Venice Biennale a platform and an axis. In Munich the design was cut into three parts and stacked, the resulting tower jammed into the former Ehrenhalle of the Haus der Kunst, a hall designed by the Nazis for the purpose of giving speeches. Much about the Ehrenhalle would be Molly Nesbit is a Professor of Art at Vassar College, a contributing editor of Artforum and the author of two books, Atget’s Seven Albums (1992) and Their Common Sense (2000). With Hans Ulrich Obrist and Rirkrit Tiravanija she is organizing the ongoing project Utopia Station. 52
A point: Utopia Stations always maintain a human scale. For those of you who want to say that a Station can be subsumed into architecture, I say to you its pillars are people. In April of 2003, I called Edward Said about utopia, specifically to ask if we could make time to speak. The war in Iraq had begun, we were planning the Utopia Station for Venice in June, my sister was very ill with cancer and so was Said. He was still travelling. All this
Meanwhile he had, unbeknownst to us, been writing about utopia. In May as he completed a book of lectures, Humanism and Democratic Criticism, he was writing about the importance of taking our concepts together with our experience of the world in which we live, the world of hard realities: In short, I find myself saying that even heroic attempts (such as Fredric Jameson’s) to understand the system on a theoretical level or to formulate what Samir Amin has called delinking alternatives are fatally undermined by their relative neglect of actual political intervention in the existential situations in which as citizens we find ourselves— intervention that isn’t just personal but is a significant part of a broad adversarial or oppositional movement. Obviously, as intellectuals, we all carry around some working understanding or sketch of the global system
hypothesizes a better situation from the known historical and social facts. So, in effect, this enables intellectual performances on many fronts, in many places, many styles that keep in play both the sense of opposition and the sense of engaged participation I mentioned a moment ago. Therefore, film, photography, and even music, along with all the arts of writing can be aspects of this activity… The assumption has to be that even though one can’t do or know about everything, it must always be possible not only to discern the elements of a struggle or tension or problem near at hand that can be elucidated dialectically, but also to sense that other people have a similar stake and work in a common project.
(in large measure thanks to world and regional historians like Immanuel Wallerstein, Anwar Abdel Malek, J. N. Blaut, Janet Abu-Lughod, Peter Gran, Ali Mazrui, William McNeil), but it is during the direct encounters with it in one or another specific geography, configuration, or problematic that the contests are waged and perhaps even winnable. …What they suggest is a map of experiences that would have been indiscernible, perhaps invisible two decades ago, but that in the aftermath of the classical empires, the end of the Cold War, the crumbling of the socialist and nonaligned blocks, the emergent dialectics between North and South in the era of globalization, cannot be excluded either from cultural study or from the precincts of the humanistic disciplines. I’ve mentioned a few names not just to indicate how significant I think their contributions have been, but also to use them in order to leapfrog directly into some concrete areas of collective concern where, to quote [Pierre] Bourdieu for the last time, there is the possibility of “collective invention.” He continues by saying www.versionmagazine.com
that the whole edifice of critical thought is thus in need of critical reconstruction. This work of reconstruction cannot be done, as some thought in the past, by a single great intellectual, a master-thinker endowed with the sole resources of his singular thought, or by the authorized spokesperson for a group of an institution presumed to speak in the name of those without voice, union, party, and so on. This is where the collective intellectual [Said’s note: Bourdieu’s name for individuals the sum of whose research and participation on common subjects constitutes a sort of ad hoc collection] can play its irreplaceable role, by helping to create the social conditions for the collective production of realist utopias. My response to this is to stress the absence of any master plan or blueprint or grand theory for what intellectuals can do and the absence now of any utopian teleology toward which human history can be described as moving. Therefore one invents goals abductively—in the literal use of the Latin word “inventio” employed by rhetoricians to stress finding again, or reassembling from past performances, as opposed to the romantic use of invention as something you create from scratch. That is, one
Said would raise these arguments again in the article he wrote for Le Monde diplomatique that September, “L’humanisme, dernier rempart contre la barberie.” There he pointed to the example of William Blake breaking the chains of the human spirit in order to reach reasoned, historical reflections. No humanist, Said wrote, exists outside the world. Every domain, he said, is tied to all the others and nothing happens in isolation, nothing is uncorrupted by outside influences. He urged his readers to treat injustice and suffering in the larger context, inscribed in history, culture and socioeconomic reality. Our role, he said simply, is to enlarge the field of debate. That these ideas never rang out in person or in Venice that year hardly matters. They tell us now of the conversation that might have been. We still have them when we get to the Station. For there will be many Utopia Stations. There will be many ways for a person to be present. Voices engage other voices. After all, with utopia as a catalyst, we need not be literal about the pillars.
Fackelzug Cluj-Napoca, December 1st 2003 – Romania’s National Holliday
Public space has always been a “playground” for power. By combining simple requisites such as symbols, masses and ritual, any power can reach its goal: to confirm its legitimacy through the cathartic feeling of citizens witnessing the event. Expressing ideology could easily lead to violence of any kind. Using force as a means of doing it can assure the imminent success and this success means tabula rasa for the great majority of the subjects. In between 1992–2004, the city of Cluj had an extreme nationalist administration. One of its aims was to transform one of the city’s historical squares into an arena of nationalist shows. Using the orthodox cathedral as a backdrop for erecting a monument and a row/sequence of national flags, the scenery for the great ceremonial was ready to receive the masses.
Duo van der Mixt (Mihai Pop and Cristian Rusu) is an artist duo established in Cluj, Romania; their main focus of interest is the interaction of the public space with ideology. www.duovandermixt.ro
©All photos: Duo van der Mixt
Throughout that time, artists had recorded the events as witnesses, either by joining the ideology and cultivating it, or by criticizing it. One said that artists throughout time had only had two masters/patrons, depending on the epoch: the State and the Church. That means that the artist cannot stay away from current events - derivations from ideology, which will determine the society to evolve.