At the other end, as you exit, toward West Street, another uniformed man is obliged to spend his day telling kids not to stand on the benches in the memorial park. “You, there! Down.” It doesn’t occur to the kids that standing on the granite plinths could be an offense, and they wonder at first whom the guard could be addressing. They look bewildered—you mean us?—and then descend. The idea that we celebrate the renewal of our freedom by deploying uniformed guards to prevent children from playing in an outdoor park is not just bizarre in itself but participates in a culture of fear that the rest of the city, having tested, long ago discarded.
Morrison has said that he will “not allow people smugglers to try and exploit and manipulate Australia’s support of these conventions as a tool to undermine Australia’s strong border protection regime that is stopping the boats and the deaths at sea”. The flawed justification for saving lives at sea is that it’s acceptable to return people – who have come into our care and to whom we owe obligations – to certain torture or harassment. It hardly seems a fair swap.
The ignorant schoolmaster is ignorant, above all, of inequality – which is to say that he or she sees it everywhere, because it is everywhere, but not in the very people he or she is supposed to ‘stultify’ as Rancière puts it, to keep in their place, to make docile for the service of the economy and the preservation of social order. The ignorant schoolmaster does know a couple of things, however, namely that what is crucial in any emancipatory project is a notion of capacity, and a notion of will. Capacity because everyone is capable – and has already learned how to speak in whichever way one can. And will, because will is needed to break through both the misconception of the teacher that his or her student is incapable of knowing as much as they do, and to convince the unconfident student that he or she is precisely capable of knowing as such.
There’s nothing wrong in itself with the demand that art give up its modernist ‘autonomy’ and become medium of social critique, but what goes unmentioned is that the critical stance is blunted, banalized, and finally made impossible by this requirement. When art relinquishes its autonomous ability to artificially produce its own differences, it also loses the ability to subject society, as it is, to a radical critique. All that remains for art is to illustrate a critique that society has already levelled at or manufactured for itself. To demand that art be practised in the name of existing social differences is actually to demand the affirmation of the existing structure of society in the guise of social critique.
Schlingensief also describes his modus operandi as: ‘inviting a multitude of systems to gather in a dance and that dance becomes the picture’.
This undecidability with regards to its position is also what Slavoj Zizek pinpoints as the strength of the strategy of over-identification. As he writes about Laibach and their in-breeding of Stalinist and Nazi symbols: ‘By means of the elusive character of their desire, the indecidability as to “where they actually stand”, Laibach compels us to take up our position and decide upon our desire.’
This constant shifting between opposing positions – between over-statement,on the one hand, and mockery or critique, on the other – is an express attempt by Schlingensief to ‘produce the contradiction’, which is how he defines the task of artistic resistance. Or, as one commentator put it, Schlingensief creates situations that not only are not clear, but also cannot be made clear.
There are some people here who have been waiting in centres around Europe for years only to have their asylum request rejected. They stand to lose everything – they’d rather jump off the building than get caught.
Across the world, the operating procedures of contemporary financial capitalism render many aspects of everyday life beyond the necessities of social interaction and negotiation. As theorist and activist, Franco Berardi, repeatedly emphasizes, finance capital is not simply about exotic forms of exchange value but rather the elaboration of mathematical languages as the primary means of reading the world, of assessing what is important and of making decisions. Determinations of efficacy are taken out of the realm of messy human everyday deliberation and instead rendered as probabilistic calculations, algorithmic screenings of increasingly massive data sets, which situate human actors as an ensemble of interoperable profiles and coding systems. As such, precarity is not simply the increasing informalization of labor, but the stripping away of the capacities of people to desire and imagine ways of being with each other, of feeling empathy for each other. For Berardi then, the important feature of the urban commons is to revitalize ways for inhabitants to be able to imagine acting in concert. For, it is impossible to act collaboratively unless the potential participants can envision such collaboration, to imagine it, to sense its incipient outlines. A large part of this effort then is to live amidst things, people, situations, and materials that do not seem to go together, to use inhabitation itself as a device that keeps things in some kind of proximity. In maneuvers that anticipate the logics of financialization but are not of them, the discordant need not be integrated in some kind of overarching perspective, but rather be sufficiently related so as to pay attention to each other, to be available to different uses.
What’s at the core of a lot of disquiet within mainstream Australia is that unannounced boat people violate people’s sense of sovereignty - that is, they’re choosing us rather than we’re choosing them