The walls and the floor of the church, covered by a white surface, are a background for images and can be totally marked by the visitors. Many Berlin-based artists, architects, and other professionals who use drawings in their work accepted our invitation to participate in the congress. Non-professional draftsmen are also invited. In this project, authorship, hierarchies of expertise, and qualifications are blurred into an enterprise of illustrating excess, which is free and open to all. A series of workshops furthermore will bring together different social groups with clashing interests, beliefs, or opposing views who will be encouraged to communicate in a non-verbal way. The use of visual language is democratized in a mass conversation that only looks like an exhibition.
Łukasz Surowiec’s project Berlin-Birkenau transplants baby birches from around the former death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau into private gardens in Berlin. The KW top floor is thus filled with vast swaths of the sprouts, and an ancillary video that is vaguely reminiscent of Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah (1985). Now, a ritual is a set of stylized actions, performed mainly for their symbolic value. Ritual is defined by a mode of symbolic structuring that removes the human from the clashes of antagonist history (political history) and places him on an altogether different type of temporality (the temporality of life, death, and natural cycles). That is, ritual re-inscribes human history back onto mythical history. The community structured by ritual is thus not a political community but an ethical community. Since ritual voids the political edge constituting one’s identity, one is no longer a Jew, German, nor Palestinian, just a man appearing as Man. The political difference that exists at the core and as the cause of any traumatic political event is evacuated by an all-encompassing piety, which can only maintain itself for as long as that same political difference remains suspended. All ritual is an appeasement, and is thus fully inadequate to express the sense of urgency present in political demands. The act of planting a tree to commemorate war victims speaks the language of Protocol. Planting trees is what first ladies do. To revert art back to ritual is thus to lose sight of the modern tradition of critique. The political is not synonymous with politics. Critique is the acknowledgment of this split, or, as Bertolt Brecht put it, an awakening of a sense of strangeness that forces one to reshuffle the “order of things.”
Organized under the matter-of-fact stewardship of Okwui Enwezor with the assistance of curators Mélanie Bouteloup, Abdellah Karroum, Emilie Renard, and Claire Staebler, “Intense Proximity” is essentially predicated upon the following global and post-colonial predicament: what happens when the distance between the colonizer and the colonial subject, or, in broader strokes, near and far, visible and invisible, collapses? This leads to what Enwezor identifies as “intense proximity,” defining it “as the degree of nearness in which cultural, social, and historical identities and experiences share and co-exist within the same space, while exposing the fault lines of cultural antagonism.” This is engendered by a state of contact, which right-wing conservatives, protectionist policies, and psychotic xenophobes like Anders Breivik (in case you doubted the utterly terrifying topicality of these issues) would seek to prevent as much as inhumanly possible, and for which Enwezor, on the contrary, aesthetically lobbies in the form of intense proximity.
The web might look like a giant co-operative endeavour, but it’s not. It’s an endless array of communities. Community life is relatively easy. All it takes is finding people who think like you do. Co-operation is hard because it is about learning to live with people who think differently or don’t know what they think at all. Sennett wants to remind us that this is a skill, and like any skill it takes patience and practice.
In a landmark study, “Bowling Alone” (2000), the Harvard political scientist Robert D. Putnam noted a puzzling three-decade decline in what he called “social capital”: the networks of support and reciprocity that bind people together and help things get done collectively. His work considered the waning of everything from P.T.A. enrollment to dinner parties and card games, but the core of his argument was declining civic participation. Between 1973 and 1994, the number of people who held a leadership role in any local organization fell by more than half. Newspaper readership among people under thirty-five dropped during a similar period, as did voting rates. Why? Putnam pointed to cultural shifts among the post-Second World War generation; the privatization of leisure (for example, TV); and, to a smaller extent, the growth of a commuting culture and the time constraints of two-career, or single-parent, family life. “Older strands of social connection were being abraded—even destroyed—by technological and economic and social change,” he wrote.
Good socialization is a prerequisite for life online, not an effect of it, he pointed out; without a real-world counterpart—the possibility of running into Web friends “at the grocery store”—Internet contact gets ranty, dishonest, and weird. What’s more, “real-world interactions often force us to deal with diversity, whereas the virtual world may be more homogeneous.” People lose the habit of reaching out to build bridges when they’re most needed. Technology may help us to feel less lonely, but it doesn’t really make us any less alone.
“A critique is not a matter of saying that things are not right as they are. It is a matter of pointing out on what kinds of assumptions, what kinds of familiar, unchallenged, unconsidered modes of thought the practices that we accept rest. We must free ourselves from the sacralization of the social as the only reality and stop regarding as superfluous something so essential in human life and human relations as thought… There is always a little thought even in the most stupid institutions; there is always thought even in silent habits. Criticism is a matter of flushing out that thought and trying to change it: to show that things are not as self-evident as one believed, to see what is accepted as self-evident will no longer be accepted as such. Practicing criticism is a matter of making facile gestures difficult.”—Michel Foucault, “Practicing Criticism” (via golehyas)
“Practicing criticism is a matter of making facile gestures difficult.” (via elanormcinerney)