Images of Struggle, Politics and Decoloniality
Interview with Marina Gržinić
Globalization as a process/Globalization as an event
In what way thinking globalization as an event makes us understand the way capitalism operates? How this can be seen from the “privileged” position of Eastern Europe?
We are living in this present moment in global capitalism and to understand our position, as you say, as “privileged Eastern Europeans”, or to understand the functioning of the Institution of Art, it is really necessary to tackle and to ask how global capitalism functions. Saying this, it means to think capitalism as something that has history, that means that it has changed and it changed differently in a sequence of historical changes that are very palpable and material. Because we speak today about global capitalism and ten or even fifteen years ago we were speaking about multinational capitalism or if you go back to the question developed by Frederic Jameson and so on.
So I started to think in which way to approach global capitalism, -not having just a set of sociological data about discrimination, exploitation, appropriation, that are very important,- but to think, what I call, what is the logic of global capitalism, how this logic, that has to be actually put forward, is then possible to be applied to all the other levels and one of this is definitely art and culture. Strange enough I found the answer, searching for this logic, in a text or book or thinking by Spanish theoretician. That also shows that it does not matter where you leave in a certain way, that the outcome of the analysis can be produced and it’s not necessary that you actually take the centre stage in certain realm of theory.
The author that I made a relation to is Santiago Lopez Petit, and he was writing quite a lot until 2009, when he published a book, called, translated into English, “Global Mobilization, Brief Treatise for Attacking Reality”. In this book he offered quite unusual and important thinking about global capitalism. First he said that capitalism has to be historicized, and secondly, that the process of what is going on today in global capitalism is not really the question of a process but it is the question of an event. And this is also interesting for us because the event is one of the mayor paradigm that is coming from contemporary theory, especially French theory, and has quite an important role in understanding many questions of politics, ethics, ways how actually we go back in history and try to think this history. So Lopez Petit said that global capitalism presents one, just single event, and this is the situation when capital itself is actually without a leash, is unrestrained and this unrestraint condition of capital is what repeats over and over again. This is for Lopez Petit the only event of global capitalism. So what does this imply? It implies a kind of a paradoxical circularity of what we know that is anyway going on, that also historically, capital all the time just tries to reproduce itself, it tries to find the possibility over and over again to make a proper reproduction. But Petit states that now all this possibility came just to one single moment. This moment in itself is the only event of global capitalism and this is repeated constantly and practically almost without a border.
“Eastern Europe is actually a repetition of Western Europe.”
How do you define the process of repetition within the European space, how does it work and what is being repeated?
So in one way this repetition has a kind of double repetitive mode. Because, if it would be only one repetitive event, that means, it would in one way repeat something that was going on historically. But Lopez Petit emphasize this so called repetition, or what he calls a very paradoxical spatialization of two repetitions that are going on at the same time. One part of this repetition, of this double repetition is something that we know from the 70s and this is what he calls foundational repetition. In foundational repetition, all is always actually repeated, the centre and the periphery, and practically we see this constantly. For example, one of the last point of this is just what was uttered yesterday, that means the 25th of May 2011, when Barack Obama stated; “It’s time that the West takes it’s leading role”. So if we think about this, what does this mean? It is a pure foundational repetition, the West had this role historically, but then he uttered in London, it is time that actually we retake this position. So practically he asked for this repetition, of this foundational division, that divides in a certain way the world in two.
But in global capitalism it would not be working in such a way. It is true that we are living in globalization, it is true and it was also uttered, for example, when it was a 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, “Come, come in the country without borders”. This are serious statements, they are uttered from this central position, but they have very serious implications, because they actually prevent to think the world in this division, simply to say, this is already the paradigm that is bringing and making the world different.
But for us, besides this what we can see palpable materially in everyday life, we can understand repetition, and this is my proposal, as a major logic that in one way repeats also the inequality, discrimination, poverty, misery, but not through division as it was in the 70s, when we had one part and we stayed on the one bank of the river and on the other side it was so called hegemonic, ideological apparatus. Today this is precisely going on through the modality of repetition. And this repetition, this double repetition, is actually all the time reinforcing and also giving us the feeling that actually the world is really without the borders.
How can we understand this process of repetition within the field of art an culture?
The consequence of repetition is repeated in the space of Europe, in the institutions, and even more, if we think now of the field that is of our interest and this is the field of art and culture, it is not by chance that performative, repetitive mechanism is becoming the major way of how art works are produced today, how art projects are actually functioning, how big projects are presented. To be correct, projects like biennal’s, documenta’s, manifiesta’s are now from this centre in one way repeated, repeating all this what we’ve seen before as marginal or let’s say as peripheric countries, that now are not seen as being peripheric anymore. Because they are organizing what was before in the centre. But the point is to understand, from my point of view, precisely, that this logic is the logic that is repeating, not only freedom, not only the equality, but the inequality, the discrimination. Because repeating means also repeating the whole framework that was already produced somewhere else and it means also that through this repetitiveness of such mechanism, many of the foundations that we had in terms of action, of resistance, of analysis, are now put on a completely different level. So while we start to attack something they tell us “no, it’s not true, you see?you have everything!”, and this is true if you think, for example, just of the context of Europe, former Eastern Europe, and so on.
How does the relation between form and content operates today?
Therefore this repetitive, what I called repetitive performative mechanism, that is part of global capitalism, in this way of thinking about the logic, has one process that in a way works radically, precisely on the level of art, on cultural level. In which way? We always talked about the content and the form, and practically this performative, repetitive mechanism attacks precisely the form. What was going on if we think of avant-garde movements? In the past there was a situation, that I can say very mechanically, very schematically, where avant-garde movement was actually rooted in the form, or if you think about the conceptual movement… let’s take a conceptual movement as an important movement that came in a certain time, in the 60s, and actually tried to put upside down the Institution of Contemporary Art.
At that moment, because the Institution of Contemporary Art was behaving as completely open and as capable to give freedom, artists realized that the institutional framework is working on the reverse. That what was there presented as freedom was actually a kind of a very stiff institutionalization of the whole framework of art and cultural field and the 68’ was a response to precisely this harsh institutionalization, not only of art and culture but also, for example, of educational system. So, what was the outcome of this? That the Conceptual Art was based on a demand to attack this on a level of form. The attack was coming through the gesture of asking for the dematerialisation of art. In which way? In the way of making works that were not a classical type of works, that could not be immediately integrated in the art market.
But today I think that this process is actually paradoxically reversed. We see unbelievable stories of poverty and discrimination all around us. Everything is put forward by the media, and I call this that the content is abnormal. Practically there is no news on television, no report from mass-media, from Wikileaks on …or just going back to Wikileaks. It does not matter if we discuss about it, but just to read what was there presented as something secret we see the abnormality of the world and we know this in the way of our life. But on the level of the form, on the level of the artwork, practically, everything is packed and everything is presented in such a way that the form normalizes what is abnormality.
In what way this repetitive performative mechanism is related to de-politicization? How the process of de-politicization function in global capitalism?
Why I’m positing this? Because this is actually taking us to the complete impossibility to ask for a political demand, how and what to do as an artwork? Because while we see falling apart all around us, the artwork in itself, the institutional framework, is behaving as “everything is ok”. Everything is actually possible to be set in a certain catalogue of, so to say, Mcdonald’s,- of formats that are actually easy to grasp. And one of this is a performative gesture, that is saying, “ok, but why are you preocupied? This is only an artwork, this is just only an uttering, nobody can really be affected”, and because of this, what we have as an outcome, is a complete de-politicization.
In a different way, I say that what is attacked is a kind of a brutal situation. Before we had some materiality of our histories, knowledge, and this is connected to the former Eastern Europe, but today, practically what was before material is just presented as a playground. It is actually said and delegated to the level of imaginary and the consequences are really, so to say catastrophic. Catastrophic for what? First, and I can make again the relation to what Lopez Petit said, for reality. Because reality is just something that is visible, circular, but on the other part, this has a big consequence for our political interventions. Because, we don’t have anymore this materiality, this ground. And this performativity is not just a game, it is already the ideological framework of what is actually the framework of our art and cultural processes, of our art and cultural works, of our entering in a certain social and political space. As I said, this is really the feature of global capitalism.
_ Contemporary Art Research, Education, Publishing, and Exhibition Project (2008–2013)
One another case, to make things very palpable and almost scholarly visible, but also to antagonize even more this space, the project that can be a great description of this process and which is of course then duplicated, changed and re-changed on many different levels,- I’m talking now about the logic that I am interested in,- is for example an art project, that is called an “International Art Project of Art, Theory and Intervention”, entitled “Former West”.
This project was started in 2009 and I think there is no major institution in the whole space of Europe, that means European Union, that is not taking part in it. Practically, it is a type of project in which, if you are not taking part, you are not existing anymore. So this project that started in the Netherlands, by Maria Hlavajova, Charles Eche and Kathrin Rhomberg, and includes an unbelievable number of theoreticians, artists, institutions,… it is very difficult to name them because, it is almost as Beatriz Preciado would say, “all of us”, except some of us that are not taking part, but we are not important. So this project got, I’m sure, an enormous quantity of money that was given from the European Cultural Foundation, things that we cannot put anymore outside of the picture, because the European Cultural Foundation is the institution that in one way gives the line of what is cultural policy in Europe, what is to be a topic, what is ‘In’ and what is ‘Out’. And this “Former West”, I read it in a very ideological way. It does not matter how many, so to call symposia and how many of the processes will be carried on under this title. Besides, the title is not a question at all, it is presented as a positive. This title doesn’t say, Former West and the question mark, but it is given to us as a positive paradigmatical situation. And “Former West”, what it is doing? It is replaying precisely the former East. What is the name of that part of Europe, that was not part of the European Union, and it was existing before of the fall of the Berlin Wall? It was Eastern Europe. What happened after the fall of the Berlin Wall? It was called former Eastern Europe. But this, “former”, at that moment when it was generated and also because of the historical and geopolitical division of Europe, had actually and has a big weight, because at that point after the fall of the Berlin Wall it was the question of; How we will read this space? What are the histories, realities and agencies that were produced there and how to read them? What does it mean to think Europe without borders while half of the European states are not part of the EU? I mean these questions are not rhetorical, these questions are precise questions that has to be posed with the name together. Yes, it’s about former Eastern Europe, but what this former means it’s not without quotation marks. It’s a former to think about a certain sequence in time and space and this means to think of certain materiality of this performative former. But it also means to think what is former and what kind of history is put outside of the history. I think these are very important questions.
In the moment when the “Former West” is proposed as a project, without any question mark in a proper title, and a title is functioning in this performative repetitive way, practically what was there as a place holder is completely nullified, everything what was part of this. What does this mean? While you are talking you are former, we are also former, so the question is then; Who is actually organizing this space of the former? Who is actually deciding in a present, historic and future way, which histories will not be former. It is obvious that not anything can be former. And I’m coming in this reading so far to say that maybe the impact of this “Former West” is actually the impact of de-politicization of the whole space of Europe. De-politicization that will have again a catastrophic outcome for the whole Europe, because Europe is not capable to think about a proper history, about a proper historical sequences, what was going on, what was the position. But the story is concluded while it is not even open, so it’s again made as a neutral space, while this neutrality is not possible to be played in such a way, and even more, as I said, everything what was before material, it’s just an imaginary play, it’s just this ideological framework. But what was the difference? The difference was two different systems, socialism and capitalism, and this things cannot be, so to say, put in the history without asking what this means, what means a former socialism, while obviously, we are all living in global capitalism.
So another theoretician that is important for my work, Achille Mbembe, theoretician from Africa, said something very important at this point. He talked about the fictive decolonization, and I think that this relation about the former is precisely this fictionalisation, but not fictionalisation as a narrative, but making fictive precisely the materiality of our history, of our agency, of what we do and why we do it, and also making the question of the ideology something banal. But we know that we cannot be outside of the ideological, so the question is, what are the consequences of this fictive ideological move that is given precisely in this repetitive, performative mechanism that is implied in this division and is presented as not existing anymore.
How theory, art and culture are related to bio/necropolitics? What is biopolitics, what is necropolitics?
In one way, going always back to global capitalism, it is possible to say that global capitalism presents a certain intensification, a certain radicalisation, as I said, the relation of radicalisation, for example, between form and content, but also radicalisation, as Lopez Petit is saying, of something that was actually just a logic and is now becoming the only thing everywhere. The only thing that actually matters. Therefore, it is not anymore about the new territories, let’s say, like in a past capitalism, but this logic is the only thing that matters. Therefore, I asked myself what does this mean, because there is a lot of talk about another very important mechanism of global capitalism, and this is biopolitics. Before there were many sectors in the history of capitalism that were left out from the exploitation, because there were other places or other territories or other sectors that were taken for producing profit. And going back to the avant-garde art movement, the questions about utopia weren’t really coming as a surprise. In the beginning of the previous century, the possibility of avant-garde to think about utopia was a realistic one. Because the profit was done on every other sector and art in this bourgeois perception was actually put outside of this demand at that moment. It was actually presented as a place to think freedom, to think autonomy, and everything else at that moment on a different scale was actually part of making profit and of the major and only logic of capital and this is privatisation and making profit.
These are the only, so to say, major things that are the drive of capital, but it changed historically. So because of this, and because of this uttering, global capitalism today is attacking life and taking life at its centre. That means that nothing is divided. It is not that you go to the factory and work eight to ten hours, fifteen hours, come home and at home you have your free time. Global capitalism functions with a complete appropriation of life, 24h per 24h. Precarity is not just a psychological mode, it is a way of making profit, including every level, every moment, also our free time that was before seen as a free time, restricted of course, but as a free time, is now taken as a place for making money, for making profit. Because of this I was very interested to think about, of course through theory, how this life enters into the whole story of global capitalism.
So the first analysis goes back to Foucault, at least from my point of view. Why? Because Foucault coined in the 70s, in the time of fordism, but in the move to post-fordism, the specific mode of how capitalist state is managing life, managing those who are seen as citizens of capitalist states and he called and named this biopolitics. To this, then, it was in the process of development also attached biopower and biocapitalism. And the question that I posed to myself was precisely that in a certain moment in the 90s, it became obvious that we cannot talk about biopolitics without taking in this analysis Agamben. But how can we think about Foucault if we don’t take in this re-thinking what Agamben produced. And what Agamben did in the 90s? Agamben did an unbelievable move. Before in the fordism we were always talking about this division, and as I said, it was in one way easy, although it was very difficult, but it was in one way easy because there were two poles, in capitalism of course, and it was also the division in Europe between East and West. West had an agenda, East didn’t exist, but the division was really about two poles. But when Foucault is talking about biopolitics, he is talking about life as life. There is not a question about the degradation of life, it is just life or you have death.
Biopower: to make live and let die
I said to myself that maybe it is possible to read Foucault mechanically and precisely in this way to say that biopolitics, biopower or biocapitalism, for the First Capitalist World, that actually produced biopolitics, – it is possible to be read in such a way; “make live, let die”. And “make live, let die” means that in First Capitalist World, biopower, biopolitics are actually taking care for proper citizens, not for those who are not proper citizens, but for proper citizens. Welfare state is actually very clear example of this. Good possibility to be a consumer, some kind of social democracy, schools, social health, all this things. This was a big idea of a Welfare State Capitalism, but what means “let die”? Everything else. Everything outside of this does not matter. And practically this was the case if we think of the crisis, especially of Africa and Latin America, if we think of all the changes, in Latin America we have so called dictatorial regimes, and this is a big world that was actually left out of story, not even intervening in a certain way, just “let die”.
So Agamben did another move in the 90s that was not possible to be thought in the 70s. He said, -precisely in relation to the change to postfordism, to global capitalism, where the borders are not anymore, “are you alive or are you dead”, -that the life itself (again in the First Capitalist World, we have to be very precise, about which kind of world they are both writing) started to be divided into two. So it’s not a question of being dead, but life in itself started to be a question of a division, of a fragmentation. Not, so to say, “are you alive?”, but what kind of life do you have, what is the form of your life. And because of this, life in itself, -in the sense “you are alive or you are dead”,- was divided into two situations. This two situations were, a life with a form, and the naked life. This division was the beginning of global capitalism, of all this stories that we really have to take very seriously, because it implicated a certain formalisation of life.
Achile Mbembe gave us the possibility to re-politicize biopolitics.
How biopolitics and necropolitics work together in the European context?What are the new modes of governmentality and why do you inscribe them into the necropolitical?
It was obvious that this, what was going on in so called First World, with the crisis in 2008, had to be re-thought again. Because at that moment the crisis made a situation, where naked life, not having life, started to be a major point. People without jobs, big protests, big demands for social and political restructuring, also in the First Capitalist World. And I made a relation at that moment to a book that was written in 2003, it was actually a text to be precise, by Achille Mbembe, called Necropolitics. My point was that in the moment when somebody uttered and put into circulation such a paradigmatic coinage, obviously in relation to biopolitics, but actually is capable to change the ‘bio’ with the ‘necro’, this means a new term, and we cannot behave as this text was not published. Unfortunately it is a paradoxical situation that in Europe today all the big talks are going on about biopolitics, nobody talks about necropolitics and I found this even more interesting. What is Achille Mbembe saying?
Achille Mbembe is saying that in the position of Africa, when you look on Africa, not as something that is outside of the colonial past but, actually, he coined a new paradigmatical or conditional framework for Africa. He talks about post-colony, the post-colony is not a historical term, the post-colony is a term of reality of the present of Africa, that means something that is not anymore just connected to colonialism, but it is as well not a post-colonial situation. So, he said that because of the war, the machine of war that is implemented in Africa, because of the brutality of how the space of Africa is actually governed, because of the murderous and genocidal politics, from Darfur on and the way how the states are, etc. the power is changed in the way how international forces are looking at Africa, in the way how they are implemented, with many formats of military interventions, because of the raw materials in Africa. What is going on there cannot be termed anymore with biopolitics, this is not a biocapitalism, this is not a biopower, it is not about taking care of the proper citizens. The same radicalisation as it is implemented in global capitalism has to be put in this process, and necropolitics precisely presents this radicalisation, where death and not life, as it was in biopolitics, becomes a major logic of the whole space. And because of this my relation was that we can talk about necropolitics as a certain historisation of biopolitics. Historisation in which way? That practically in the space of Europe we started to see the necropolitical and the biopolitical working together and repeating at once. What was not possible to be termed before, and examples are numerous, after 2008 the examples are really big, let’s look at Greece, let’s look at Spain today, this is the revolt towards precisely the necropolitical. And what means the necropolitical? How can we define the necropolitical in relation to the biopolitical?
Necropower: to let live and make die
_To “make live” and to “let live” present two different biopolitics.
I define necropolitical; “let live, make die”. So we have biopolitics “make live, let die”, and necropolitics, “let live, make die”.
And what are the differences? Just if you think about life, there was “make live”, here is “let live”. “Make live” and “let live” are completely two different conditions of life, this means global capitalism, “let live”- complete abandonment, it is actually a governmentality that is just taking care of itself, of a proper, so called, survival. All the institutions are thinking in such a way. The banks were saved until 2008, not people, workers live under unbelievable restrictions, look now in Spain, the social and political space is completely so to say dead. People want changes because they see that there are no jobs, no social security and restrictions are actually without a border. It is definitely a territory without the borders. Because of this I think that this changes in global capitalism are actually possible to be put very palpably, materially, and this has an unbelievable consequences for us. One of this consequences of our story is, if you want to go back to art and culture, that today Art Institution is a pure biopolitical machine.
Naked Freedom/ Images of Struggle: Decoloniality
The point of reference is at the same time the point of difference. On a basis of which theories do you define your position, this point of difference in your work to break the circularity of a “mad machine”, just producing and producing? In what way Naked Freedom allows us to re-think Europe?
I can start to talk about this two works, the Naked Freedom and Images of Struggles, or we also call this Decoloniality, first from a certain personal history. This two works that we made in a moment in 2010, when it became obvious that producing just art videos, because of this changes in 2008, it was not possible to do in the same way anymore. For us one of the most important point was, if it is possible to organize such an important statement in the art work, small work, -because art video is an experimental format that is very restricted, but nothing has to be put apart. Every gesture, no matter how small and not important it is, I think it cannot be just reproduced, it has to be re-thought. So when we started to think what to do, for us one point was clear. We have produced a certain analysis that is coming from a theoretical and political reading and it is necessary also to rethink who can actually take place in terms of uttering this sentences, this analysis of global capitalism, of what’s going on in our work. Because of this we decided to engage with younger generation in Naked Freedom, of positions here in Slovenia, because we found that the newer generation, though it is a very small critical mass in Slovenia, extremely small, restricted and put apart in this global capitalist big brother shows, that are going on all the time,- there might be interested. That maybe we can be interesting for them, and they are ready to actually engage in re-reading and discussing some of the positions coming from this theoretical framework. So this point, of taking this concrete bodies, concrete people in concrete space, who are not really actors, and who don’t care about video in this experimental format, or don’t even think that this is important, but are ready, for what they read in this text, to utter this, -this was for us a very important point.
Naked Freedom was done in this two or three steps. In the first part, there are many of things that I said in the beginning of this talk or interview, that are part of the work, and this is going on through the analysis also of the position of video. It is obvious that to make an art video is an idiotism, because of youtube. So we have to think what it means to make an art video, because there is a democratisation, everybody is making video. The question is what is the difference and also because of this market situation, that art videos are taken by the art market and they are sold as actually being some kind of a, lets say, arty, very original works, which is also a paradoxical situation, because everybody can copy a video.
The second part of Naked Freedom presents us another thesis. Who is giving us the possibility to think “former East and West”?
In the second part of the work, and all is intentional simply to say, it was a lot of discussion before making the work, a lot of fights, and this part was produced with another thesis. If Europe is prevented to think about itself because of East and West Europe, -that is obvious, we, former eastern Europeans, we cannot talk about former Europe, because every talk about former Europe is actually presented as “we are all in the same, what are you saying, we are also former western Europe”. So for us it was important to think who can think about this Europe, and one of the outcome of this analysis, that was coming out from my reading was, that maybe the only once who can read about Europe, are precisely African theoreticians and those who were migrants, and especially in the former Eastern European context of non-alignment, – thousands of students from Africa that went back, that were actually from the African point of view seeing what was going on in Europe in the time of the division, when it was a wall in between East and the West.
And just by chance but also through an analysis I had a chance to be invited at the meeting, at Duke University. In America specifically I think, and at the present moment, there is a big re-contextualisation of what means colonialism going on, which means postcolonialism and this is connected with majority of theoreticians and activists coming from Latin America. That this is a case is not a surprise, because in Latin America they try to re-read their past in relation to the USA, and one of the outcome of this, – in connection with Afro-American theoreticians and as well in connection with African European theoreticians- is that it is a proposal to re-think the colonial past in a different way. It is about a certain cut with colonialism, but having like in a postcolony, a present situation of coloniality.
So I went to Duke University, where the topic was –“freedom on possibility of knowledge and the possibility of thinking democracy’- and I will say, also the question of decoloniality. In this meeting that was for me extremely important, because it was a meeting in which, so to say, strictly if I can use this identitarian definition, white positions were at this meeting, we were a minority, and where the way of re-reading the global capitalism was precisely put forward through a very important, “peripheric point”, that is not peripheric from African context, European context, but being migrant in Europe, having all this history and also thinking what is going on with Africa in global capitalism and with the relation to Latin America.
What came out very visibility and powerfully was an analysis that was put forward by a theoretician based in Netherlands, Kwame Nimako, coming from Ghana, and also one of those positions, and they are actually numerous, who are re-thinking the whole question of global capitalism through what they call South- South connection. They are re-thinking the world from the point of view of Africa. The position of Africa in history, what was the possibility for Africa in the 70s, what was the possibility in the 80s, in the 90s until today, and also what is going on in the present, what we see in European Union, an unbelievable restrictive policy against Africa. Unbelievable restrictive policy against any possibility of migration, you can migrate if you have money, if you are coming just for a short period. But it is very difficult to come in Europe from the colonies, asking for a better position of life, because you are actually immediately sent back.
How are the historical hegemonic mechanisms of divisions related to the present mechanisms of inclusion/exclusion in Europe?
Kwame Nimako at that conference in his lecture, presentation, made a very interesting analysis. He said that the situation in Europe is practically the outcome of this colonial history. He pointed out that because Western Europe went to Africa, the Africans came to Europe. And this sentences were so important because he also added that the whole process from the 70s on was an unbelievable process of restrictions. And one of the outcome of his analysis was pretty harsh; he said that the EU and the idea to go to former Eastern Europe, that was part of the whole process of enlargement, was also due to a peculiar but very important moment of reproduction. What does this mean? That actually Western Europe was ready in a certain moment rather to go to former Eastern Europe, where you have actually a majority Christians and white, then to go to Africa and to open the possibility of Africa to be a kind of a partner for Western Europe. Because in this way they could protect this reproductive moment of lineage and making pedigrees.
Civilizing mission: Western Europe decided to teach former Eastern Europe
What he said to us, and we used it just as it was said for this video, was practically what is going on after the fall of the Berlin Wall. And he said this very clearly; that West, the Western Europe, or what they call them former Western Europe, practically has a civilizing mission in former Eastern Europe. They don’t want to allocate the money only, because this is not enough, especially it is not enough because they have to, from my point of view, secure the legal framework, that is one of the most important moment in global capitalism for the allocation of the money. They have to know where they are giving the money and that this money will come back with the profit of course, and that this will be secure to come back. But he also said, because of this, it is necessary to have a civilizing mission. And this civilizing mission means, in his words, if I repeat only them and they are in the work, that Western Europe decided to teach former Eastern Europe what means civilization, what means education, how to solve the question of everything else including the question of migrants. What and how to actually deal with migrants, but even more, with the black community. And one of his final statements in this questioning is, that actually as bigger is the European Union with its process of enlargement, this means that the black community is actually seen as becoming smaller and smaller, that means less and less significant for the future of Europe. And this is a quite a harsh, precise and for us really a point that we have to start to think what are the basis of this Europe of the future and also of the Europe of the present.
In what sense Decoloniality presents a new political position and why it is necessary to think in this terms?
Modernity, again in the reality of Europe today, means two points that were developed. One was the question of Enlightenment and the other was the question of Communism. Both Enlightenment and Communism, and I want to be very precise about this, were actually projects that were thinking about a certain future of emancipation. The emancipation in terms of what? The rational world, the world that will give equal possibilities, this were the goals, of humanity, agency and so on. But the outcome of both are very palpable and visible. If you go back to Enlightenment, I think you cannot think of this world differently if you don’t think actually about Holocaust. The Holocaust, if you go back historically, is really the point zero, and here I’m coming together with Hannah Arendt, Adorno,… The Holocaust, the way how it was done, in the European context, is something that cannot be for my point of view negotiated and cannot be forgotten. So I said we have to in one way all the time go back to this, especially to modernity, and we have to re-think the consequences of this two failures. And the other is Communism, but not as fascism, putting the things on the same level, I think this is completely produced. Why? To actually hide the consequences of capitalism, because in both cases, the dark framework of the Holocaust is capitalism, capitalism is in direct connection with colonialism, with the Enlightenment. Because while they were preaching about the Enlightenment you had actually the darker side of modernity and this was colonialism, and the other element of this was actually the Holocaust.
First, in the relation to the sistematicity and industrialisation of the murder and the genocidal policy in relation to capitalism, and secondly, because both were connected also with all the framework, from the way how capitalism functions, but also to all the layers of capitalism in terms of the legal frameworks and so on. Things that I think are necessary to be taken and re-thought all the time again. And for example, if we think about Agamben, many of the consequences of Agamben in thinking biopolitics and also in re-thinking what is the dead end of capitalism, like the State of Exception, are coming precisely to the relation to the Holocaust. You cannot think the question of life, the regulation of life, without the Holocaust. Biopolitics is already in a certain way not a positive entity and always has to be connected with this. There is no other way, and as I said, the other point is the question of Communism as a possibility that was also because of all the processes we know, from Stalinism on, actually put under the big and harsh criticism and also we know that after the fall of the Berlin Wall we don’t talk about Communism, we talk about theoretical possibilities and the fashionable trendy point, but not about the historical overview, especially not about what was going on in the last 50 years before of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
So in this relation and also because of this processes that are going on, the periphery, that are not peripheric anymore in this classical way, Latin America, Africa, that of the demand that colonialism has to be re-thought, that coloniality is a new way of how today through the repetition, many political differentiation are implemented in global capitalism, I thought that some points that are developed by Latin American and African theoreticians, and they are put under the umbrella of Decoloniality, can be very valuable for us. Valuable because they force us not to dismiss the colonialism, they force us to connect this and not to dismiss and try to make Holocaust something less important, with the demand, “let’s pass over”, because it is obvious that in the present moment in Europe racism and anti-Semitism are working hand in hand, they are normalized. So for me this is something that ask us to re-think what this means, how they are working together, what are the differences and how this two discriminatory processes are working and what are the effects in the European context.
Images of Struggle/Decoloniality presents the connection between Bogota, Vienna and Fantasy Island through the Borromean knot. What does Borromean knot makes us reflect on and how does it function within this video?
I’m talking now and I cannot have control of what will be presented, in a certain way, what will be put out, if anything, what will be taken out or just everything will be put online. And because of this awareness of this production possibilities, the Borromean knot was here all the time to reflect through the image. What are this elements of power, that is very present. All what is presented, all what we tried to include is about power. So, finally in this work, the image and power stayed one and the other together, they own each other, and this power is then explained. Also my interventions, when I ask questions, again, not only that I speak in the public, so what is said there is said in public, it’s no way, also if it’s cut, those things are said in the public setting and it is a counter point in this setting that actually is giving a space, saying, this was not said privately in a certain space that was modified, but the things were said, they were uttered and they were then taken. But as well the questions that were posed to the speakers were done in such a way.
One line is clear and this line was taken as the line of analysis. So you make a work in Bogota in Colombia, you just make a setting, but obviously we didn’t want to make video about Bogota. First, because we don’t have this knowledge, secondly, because we are not interested in this identity politics, third, because practically in Bogota, we can talk only about global capitalism. So our task was to talk about Singapore in Bogota, to talk about Heinrich Müller in Bogota, to talk about Nazi Germany in Bogota. And the show that was presented there is pretty paradoxical for global capitalism. Why? Because the person who is talking about whiteness and is talking about a certain harsh racialization that is done by the whiteness code in the social and political of Latin America, specifically of Colombia, Ecuador and this triangle of the Andes, is actually somebody who is using contemporary technology, is using something that is part of any kind of music, aesthetical discourse, that is seen as more alternative, underground. So because of this, we implicated also this levels, and especially we liked the idea to use certain points of re-playing or re-performing music coming from the so called indigenous context, for exposing the artificiality of performativity. Because the parts that we used inside, they were actually parts of the whole groups that are working in a genre of music analysis and What they do? Through theory they analyze what is indigenous music, what means actually indigenous music in a specific setting of an ethnology of music and practically what you see, everything what is re-performed is analyzed, everything what is re-performed is already part of a very precise construction of the point of music in a certain analysis of ethnology of music.
In which way the Borromean knot opens up the possibility for social change?
The possibility of social change for me was in the relation to Borromean knot. First, it was obvious that all you do it’s connected with the social link, all this works they want to be part of the aesthetic code but in the last instance they are actually talking about social relation. And for us this was very important, for example just the question of re-thinking Latin America. Latin America is the space that has a specific history, but what we learn in the lecture that was given by the speaker in the conference, and it was his decision to talk about this things, everybody decides to authorize in the last instance a proper position there, nobody can say I talk about this things because of the topic. So what he said to us is that already the space of Latin America was constructed in the 30s onto a certain paradigmatic space, and this was the space of Nazi Germany. So the division that was implied it was a division of discrimination, segregation, division actually of pure racial and class division of the geopolitical space, for example of Colombia. In which way this is done? It is done onto misreading but also a specific ideological reading of something what Hitler termed that is a political project. We know that this is not a political project, for us standing now today, and making this analysis. This what was done at that time is a pure racist division of a certain geopolitical space. So this racist, discriminatory, genocidal space is then actually the matrix onto this other space, social space, political space, that is actually constructed in Colombia.
Listening to such talk, to such a decision to expose this precisely there, amidst the new possibility for Colombia, amidst the institution of knowledge, that maybe think or not, that only now the possibility for the second, third, forth generation is opening, for those who were seen as indigenous, but are now scholars with very serious and very dedicated ways of thinking, for me, this was one of the most important point of re-thinking this social link. Because then we know that this space is not just a space of a division of certain identity politics, we know that this space is already constructed onto a certain space that has to be dismantled and that we are already the “children”, so to say, of this space. We already have to go into this analysis, we cannot think differently, because what we have there is already a historical division and now it is our turn to put this visible, this is this fight over the image, and not even this, to actually understand of what is called the global world. And to see actually that the repercussions are doubled. The repercussion is there and the repercussion is in the European space, because some other talks and statements in this video by a younger generation, by those who are actually coming from this indigenous background is very clear. They cannot travel to Europe. They are the 2nd grade citizens that has to smuggle themselves to come to Europe, because of not having money, not having pedigree, not having the possibilities and they know exactly that this division is very present. And these two divisions, for example, are put together in the context of the work.
So this is for me not just a semiotic reading that I think is something that we have to be very precise, but is bringing back the class division, the racial division, and if you want, also the gender division, at the core of the global world that terms this divisions as not anymore productive, they are not anymore effective, they are passé or they are not enough interesting for, as I said, a world without ideology. And we know about what kind of ideology we speak, because we speak about this ideology that is behaving like it’s already post-ideological. Like that the ideology is something that is presented as a brand, as an art work, a pure commodification, that nobody care anymore, and everything is just a kind of a playful ground for just making the art works.
In order to intervene into the contemporary processes of capitalist institutionalization, control and subjugation you introduce two concepts, in order to attack this situation; de-linking and de-coloniality. How do you relate Decoloniality to Art? Could you speak about a certain Decolonial Aesthetics?
I’m very critical about this term and when I was taking part, in May 2011, at Duke University for the second time, I was invited to take part in a workshop with a title “Decolonial Aesthetics”. And before I took part also in similar framework in Bogota in Colombia. I had a speech and I put it very clearly and this goes online, that for me decolonial aesthetics has no value. I found in decolonial aesthetics a certain, so to call, paradoxical coinage, that is actually not coming together. Why? Because “Decoloniality” for me is a political demand and “Aesthetics” is a pure bourgeois field of research, some kind of a science that came out of all this failures of the bourgeois culture of thinking beauty, thinking the aesthetical, thinking some kind of way of understanding the world that first, I think, it has to have a cut within the science in itself and then can maybe think or make the passage onto something that has the coinage with decoloniality.
Why I’m saying this? Because on the other point we cannot dismiss that aesthetics is again put forward by the theoretical framework in Europe and this is again for us to think that we cannnot dismiss anything, at least I cannot do this because for me everything in such a move ask us to think what it means. So in the moment when Rancière is coming out with the demand of the “Politics of Aesthetics” I thought this was an interesting move and then, if I think about the “Decolonial Aesthetics”, I can only think about it in this relation.
And what does he do? I took this “Politics of Aesthetics” to think that it is a new demand, coming from what he is talking about, but on a different level. I said maybe it is really a demand for a new visibility, but not of the sensual, maybe rather for a new demand of who has the possibility to be visualized in the picture today and for a new demand of the political within the picture itself. What I want to say? What kind of topic will be brought into the image? What kind of demand will be visualized in the image? There I can see something political.
So for me it is not the question of the sensual but this demand of, if you want, the percentage to be implicated in a certain political context, simply to say, it’s a work if you can make visual, for example, the colonial past. What does it mean to think about colonial to the image? Who take a central role in the image if you talk about coloniality, which people are reproduced in this images, in this way then I could think about certain potentiality of the politics of aesthetics. And also, this is important again because Walter Benjamin was talking about the aesthetisation of the political or politics, but this was almost 100 years ago, and the world changed. Therefore we can ask if this avant-garde attitude is actually still valuable.
My thesis or my conclusion is that today we have a completely different solution than Benjamin’s and that what we have today is the fight over the image, which image will prevail in the world and will actually describe this world is maybe what is called “Decolonial Aesthetics” and this political of aesthetics, and again, the answer came immediately out with the killing of Osama bin Laden by the American military and intelligence and the whole, so called, context of the American politics. What happened? It’s not the question of Osama bin Laden, the question is actually the image of Osama bin Laden being killed. That the State is taking the prerogatives to protect a proper citizens about a certain image, saying that you cannot see a certain image. For me this is the fight over the image. The image that will be actually, even a bigger image because it is forbidden, but that means, it is a certain politics of aesthetics, because now the State is taking the scissors in the hand and saying that some images can be presented and some will not be because you are not capable enough to understand some images. I think this is a new precedence in this struggles over the images or in this fight about what kind of aesthetics and what kind of the image will be taken.
The question of the video “Images of Struggles/Decoloniality” can be also connected to this last point. I said, that maybe it is possible to think today not about all this small avant-garde moves that were in one way important and described by Walter Benjamin as the politicization of the aesthetics. But if we can think today about certain aesthetics, there is a much bigger fight, and this fight is going on over the image of society and this is really strong and merciless fight, which image will actually prevail and in a certain context. Why is this important? Because of this image, this image will in one way push forward what will be every next step of ours, so it’s not just about making an avant-garde gesture, but rather about the question if we capable in our work to re-think this image.