It is one thing to think, speak, post about the coronavirus crisis as an occasion and a subject of media, visual, social and discursive production. This type of analytical-critical approach is well rehearsed. Based on the more or less well-functioning interplay of mental-cognitive reflexes, this methodology ensures that A is considered to be the expression, representation, metonymy, allegory, image, etc. of B, and thus observed accordingly. But it would be something quite different, if everything had to be looked at in a radically different way, if the phenomenologies of the crisis had to be revisited in order to check if they themselves have not been caught up in the crisis.
As sociologist and activist Sandro Mezzadra writes in a widely read and shared blog entry (in Italian on Euronomade, in English translation on the Verso homepage), this global pandemic and the measures taken by the Italian government against it are in fact “merely exacerbating tendencies that have already existed for a while”. Seen from this perspective the pandemic itself would have become an organ or a medium of perception. Ultimately, it would have brought to clear and brutal visibility what until recently had been covered up, ignored, overlooked (and had to be, since the ideological operating systems on which the capitalist world system ran until recently could not have been maintained).
So, what if the crisis is not the “image” of something else, but is itself enabling vision? What if the irreversible situation in which the “world community” is now being united, forced to reimagine itself, has entailed a sudden leap in visibility regarding the global accumulation of crises – not primarily as a result of tireless research, political organizing, artistic productions etc., but rather as correction of the collective sensorium on a gigantic scale? TH
March 20th, 2020, 02 / Rosa Mercedes
Sara Ahmed on the perfomativity of disgust (from The Cultural Politics of Emotion, 2004): “To name something as disgusting is to transfer the stickiness of the word ‘disgust’ to an object, which henceforth becomes generated as the very thing that is spoken. The relationship between the stickiness of the sign and the stickiness of the object is crucial to the performativity of disgust as well as the apparent resistance of disgust reactions to ‘newness’ in terms of the generation of different kinds of objects. The object that is generated as a disgusting (bad) object through the speech act comes to stick. It becomes sticky and acquires a fetish quality, which then engenders its own effects.”
November 7th, 2020, Tom
David Graeber (1961-2020) on What Would It Take (from his The Democracy Project. A History, a Crisis, a Movement, 2013, p. 193): “We have little idea what sort of organizations, or for that matter, technologies, would emerge if free people were unfettered to use their imagination to actually solve collective problems rather than to make them worse. But the primary question is: how do we even get there? What would it take to allow our political and economic systems to become a mode of collective problem solving rather than, as they are now, a mode of collective war?”
September 7th, 2020, Tom
T.J. Demos on why cultural practitioners should never surrender, via tranzit.sk: “For artists, writers, and curators, as art historians and teachers, the meaning-production of an artwork is never finished, never fully appropriated and coopted, in my view, and we should never surrender it; the battle over significance is ongoing. We see that battle rise up in relation to racist and colonial monuments these days in the US, the UK, and South Africa. While the destruction of such monuments results from and is enabling of radical politics, it’s still not enough until the larger institutions that support and maintain their existence as well as the continuation of the politics they represent are also torn down. This is urgent as well in the cultural sphere, including the arts institutions, universities, art markets, discursive sphere of magazines and journals, all in thrall to neoliberalism, where we must recognize that it’s ultimately inadequate to simply inject critical or radical content into these frameworks, which we know excel at incorporating those anti-extractivist expressions into further forms of cultural capital and wealth accumulation. What’s required is more of the building of nonprofit and community-based institutions, organizing radical political horizons and solidarity between social formations.”
August 21st, 2020, Tom