The world that surrounds me inheres in me (Journal of Visual Culture & HaFI, 13)
This is the thirteenth instalment of a collaborative effort by the Journal of Visual Culture and the Harun Farocki Institut, initiated by the COVID-19 crisis. The call sent to JVC’s editorial board, and a wide selection of previous contributors and members of its extended communities, described the task as follows: “There is a lot of spontaneous, ad hoc opinion-making and premature commentary around, as to be expected. However, the ethics and politics of artistic and theoretical practice to be pursued in this situation should oblige us to stay cautious and to intervene with care in the discussion. As one of JVC’s editors, Brooke Belisle, explains: ‘We are not looking for sensationalism, but rather, moments of reflection that: make connections between what’s happening now and the larger intellectual contexts that our readership shares; offer small ways to be reflective and to draw on tools we have and things we know instead of just feeling numb and overwhelmed; help serve as intellectual community for one another while we are isolated; support the work of being thoughtful and trying to find/make meaning…which is always a collective endeavour, even if we are forced to be apart.'” TH
The world that surrounds me inheres in me
By Yve Lomax
No matter the hubris that would claim so, human life isn’t a form of life that preeminently stands above all others. Human life is inextricably immersed with myriad forms of life and to the extent that sometimes it is even hard to say human life. Yet there is no denying that a phenomenon called Man came about; he would posit a centre and, placing himself there, give himself the entitlement to ravage everything since everything belonged to him. And this Man would become a spectral being. It would haunt what is called human and not only its exploits but also as being there beyond all versions and giving measure to what is deemed the superior and the inferior, the finest and the worst.
How tired the world has become of this human and its spectre.
The cry is heard in the silence of the drilling having stopped, the planes not flying, the roads empty of fast cars and the vibrations of the daily trudge become hush.
How tired of humanity we are.
In the silence, again: enough.
No form of life or mode of being can ever stand separately as above all others. All forms of life are immersed in a world where life is nothing other than its possibilities. And the same configuration can be found if I say, the world has no existence outside of its expressions. But of this world I cannot say where it begins or where it ends, and the same goes for life. However, I can say that you are that expression.
For sure, forms of life can meet dead-ends and know catastrophe, but what never stops coming are possibilities that are remarkably unauthorised. Each possibility of life (world) has nothing preceding it and to which it refers for identity and definition or, come to that, haunts it as the purest of possibilities.
Life isn’t the same no matter the shape or size. Always arising as a being of potential, life is said in many ways—this is what life can be. Some put it like this: life … is always already homonymically shared in a plurality of forms.
The prevailing silence makes this mode of sharing palpable; the atmosphere is thick with it and, believe me, no spectre haunts it.
Here I am, immersed.
Yve Lomax, 4 May
Yve Lomax is a writer, visual artist and editor. Her most recent publications include: Nearness (2019); Figure, calling (2017); Pure Means (2013); Passionate Being: Language, Singularity and Perseverance (2010).
May 5th, 2020 — Rosa Mercedes / 02
Hyperallergic on the environmental impact of blockchain referring to recent NFT (non-fungible token) art sales: “This is not the first time the art world has come under scrutiny for being on the wrong side of the climate conversation. Artists and activists have protested everything from the carbon footprint of physical art fairs to the fossil fuel money funding major museums. But some say the energy consumption of cryptocurrencies is particularly egregious, and research shows it’s relatively easily quantifiable. A study by Cambridge University, for instance, estimates that bitcoin uses more electricity per year than the entire nation of Argentina. (Ethereum mining consumes a quarter to half of what Bitcoin mining does, but one transaction uses more power than an average US household in a day, according to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.)”
Nicholas Mirzoeff on “Artificial vision, white space and racial surveillance capitalism”: “Based as it is on ‘epidermalization’ (the assertion of absolute difference based on relative differences in skin color), AI’s racial surveillance deploys an all-too-familiar racialized way of seeing operating at plan-etary scale. It is the plantation future we are now living in. All such operations take place in and via the new imagined white space of technology known as the cloud. In reality, a very material arrangement of servers and cables, the cloud is both an engine of high-return low-employment capitalism and one of the prime drivers of carbon emissions.”
Sara Ahmed on the performativity 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
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
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