Editorial: Turning Points: Coincidences in Prepositions

Coincidence is a moment of flourishing trivialities. Of all the liberal individualist constructions, it could be taken as one of the most forgiving subjectivities. This generosity is not only autonomous but always already on time: coincidence delayed is, basically, contemporaneity denied. The right to coincide with something is sought-after as the raw material of accumulation, so much so that the fullness of the experience is admitted to experimentation, the index of possible explanations and resolution to problems. Laboratories are founded on this premise. Think tanks and research institutes move their capital around this schedule. Coincidence is that “match” or “tap” in a dating app of knowledge production: relations are only real when they meet at one point—until then it is just a “swipe” in x direction or one of the x Reactions of a button that has reached its trajectory. Velocity is zero.

Still, even the artist and filmmaker Harun Farocki only narrowly escaped zero coincidence during his two-week stay in Manila in 1986. In his essay titled “I Don’t Think I was the Right Seminar Leader,” he returned to the time he spent in the Philippine capital as if recreating scenes on a film set when in fact he was recalling his experience as leader of a film workshop with Southeast Asian participants. Every time he elaborated upon a memory, there was a cut, a jump—“the rain that broke loose”—in his words written about the transitions of feelings  that kept him distracted as he received the steaming sensations of the tropics. His candor didn’t do much in composing a picture of a contextualized Harun: the artist arriving in the Philippines, a country on the cusp of ousting a dictatorship; the artist watching a film in a local cinema where the film was not the audience’s retinal priority; the artist substituting for another artist in transferring knowledge; the artist meeting other artists he would never meet again. These identities could not be apparent—for in this text, Farocki earmarked interaction rather than documented it—he could only link the forms of his attraction with the disappointment of being implicated in a situation he did not wish to be involved with in the first place. This is not at all surprising knowing his competing loyalties to criticality and critique: Farocki never surrendered to coincidence in this text and Farocki’s students resisted his approach because “they couldn’t see the point.”1

Readers’ invitation to the fourth issue of the Rosa Mercedes Journal may as well spring from these two histories of Harun and his workshop participants’ disappointment. Both parties had grown disinterested in established points and their vertical forms of attachment with art, which at first reading of Farocki’s text seems to surface as a somewhat private impression of his subjects, and yet, slowly, as one progresses in the essay, the participants’ voices become garbled with the artist’s predisposition to “constantly want to convey something that couldn’t be communicated in words.” Retaining the project heading—Coincidences in Prepositions—the collection of essays and artistic output, having been commissioned, republished, and adapted for public reading and circulation, form some sort of a republic of slightly off or overshot coincidences. Each contribution assembles its own urgencies, but even if only temporarily also builds on the temperament of the other authors, thinkers, and artists. Quite loosely structured, the entry-level recruitment of meanings and analyses though fairly undisciplined are yet restrained by fellowship in epistemological fractures. More accurately, the whole enterprise of this editorial endeavor can be compared with the process of incorporating a thousand tiny millenarian movements where the change perceived is not based on the comprehensiveness of a great revolution, but simply in the most banal of desires: that the powerful would have a change of heart. This mandate shows that discourse can be situated on the edges of coincidence, can derive from the feebleness of an idiom which radiates with the force of discursifying propositions and struggles to potently deliver affective justice.

We have attuned our attentions to the outpouring of voices since embarking on the method, theory, and historicism in consecutive iterations: first, through speech, gesture, and the performative in a series of discursive events on Zoom (“All the Missing Limbs of a Pre/position”); second, through the readily migratory screen emerging from a singular artistic output at the intersection of research-university-museum (Harun Farocki: Screenings,Vargas Museum, Manila); and finally, through inter-con-textual registers—published, coded, and edited virtually for a future readership in this edition of the Journal. There are concept-works that appear like hashtags— keywords, which we, the editors, offer readers to use for grouping, filtering, and/or arranging the contributions. What to others might have seemed like thematic kinship was to the “listeners” of text the sound of tonalities shifting as an expression of the experience of coherence. Therefore, the reading we propose here would be one of feeling, a reverent triviality through which one could look forward to turning points.

The unexciting passivity in the moderation of content is strengthened by our commitment to the larger program with the same title. With Coincidences in Prepositions the hope is to reveal how communities of fate can mutually constitute a “problem-space,”2 what concept-work they can instantaneously convene, and when and which of their ethical practices can fuse or diverge with the urgencies for contemporary modes of how to live together. Hosted in art, a field assumed to carry “comparison[s] in one and the same time and in consecutive times,”3 this confrontational turn within the asymmetries of the comparative—a picture of war between the republic and a sect—might be the reconciliatory position within a political program for coincidences to work together. Something divine is at work when coincidences are suddenly functional, but what really starts to happen here is that the multiple declarations of “… couldn’t see the point” are denaturalized, outlawed. This is the fabrication of coincidences that we promote here—a prayer in warfare, a kind of banditry in a given republic.

Renan Laru-an and titre provisoireCathleen Schuster/Marcel Dickhage



1 Harun Farocki, “I Don’t Think I was the Right Seminar Leader,” in Tilman Baumgärtel (ed.), KINO-SINE: Philippine-German Cinema Relations, Manila, 2007, pp. 42-47. 1

2 David Scott, Conscripts of Modernity: The Tragedy of Colonial Enlightenment, Durham, NC, 2004. 2

3 Rada Iveković, “Coincidence of Comparison,” trans. Penelope Deutscher, Hypatia, vol. 15, no. 4, 2000, pp. 223–35, here p. 228. 3



Concept, editorial and research: Marcel Dickhage, Renan Laru-an, Cathleen Schuster 

Commissioned by: Doreen Mende

Production: Harun Farocki Institut

Management and editorial: Elsa de Seynes

Proofreading: Amanda Gomez and Hannah Sarid de Mowbray

Thanks to Erfan Aboutalebi, Gian Carlo Delgado, Antje Ehmann, Dongyoung Lee.

Funded by the Visual Arts Project Fund of the Goethe-Institut.

In partnership with the Harun Farocki Institut, Philippine Contemporary Art Network (PCAN), and UP Vargas Museum. 

Every effort has been made to clarify all rights of use with regard to the publication of the images and texts used in this issue. In a few cases, despite intensive research, we have not been able to calrify the rights holders. Please contact the Harun Farocki Institut in case of any legal claims.

May 16th, 2022 — Rosa Mercedes / 04

Olena Lyubchenko on Whiteness, Expropriation, War, and Social Reproduction in Ukraine (via LeftEast): “[…] when we hear on the news that ‘Ukraine is fighting a European war’ and ‘Ukraine is defending Europe’, amid images of fleeing ‘poor white’ women with children prioritized over racialized ‘Others’, ‘Ukraine’ is being made ‘white’ in the global imaginary. That is, “the injunction to ‘return to Europe’ by way of Europeanization is enabled and conditioned on the mythologies of Western civilization, and that Europeanization at once marks (promulgates) and unmarks (naturalizes) racial whiteness” [Nadezhda Husakouskaya and Randi Gressgård]. The paradox is that Europe’s existence as such has only been possible precisely because of the exploitation of global working peoples through expropriation of resources and today neoliberal economic reforms and reproduced by feminized labour.”

Vasyl Cherepanyn about the “inertness, hiding behind the European Wall” (via L’Internationale): “Many Western institutions that have been claiming ‘radical political engagement’ for years, have simply resorted to a white cube radicalism and self-satisfying humanitarianism, too afraid of acting politically beyond their comfort zone and unsettling their publics and authorities by attempting to affect the decision-making process regarding the Ukrainian cause.”

May 28th, 2022

Tatsiana Shchurko on the War in Ukraine, Entangled Imperialisms, and Transnational Feminist Solidarity, via LeftEast (May 2, 2022): “[An] uneven knowledge production and the many implications of the war against Ukraine reveal the dire need to develop a feminist anti-capitalist critique of multiple imperialisms. This language should grow from within the occupied and suppressed communities of Eastern Europe and Eurasia. An anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist feminist positionality grasps that the local is part of a global in an effort to build transnational connections of mutual aid and support against state and corporate violence. For example, statements of solidarity with Ukraine expressed by the International Committee of Indigenous Peoples of Russia and Native American communities along with the anti-war feminist march in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) on March 8, 2022, pointing out that the war in Ukraine should be of concern for a broad transnational community, may serve as instrumental examples of alternative anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist solidarities that stretch beyond state regulations and macro-politics and foreground decolonial perspectives, necessary in addressing entanglements of multiple imperialisms. Such solidarities also bring to light hidden interconnections of the past that allowed for distant communities to survive and support each other against the violence of imperialist intervention and its attendant capitalist exploitation. Thus, the march in Bishkek reminds of the socialist roots of the International Women’s Day to call for internationalist, intersectional, class solidarity against imperialism and militarism.”

Vasyl Cherepanyn on that “It’ll take more than tanks to ease Germany’s guilt” (via Politico): “Since the Soviet Union’s collapse, Germany has been imposing neocolonial optics on its Eastern European ‘peripheries,’ and on the post-Soviet space in particular, where Ukraine was long considered a gray buffer zone about which the EU was ‘deeply concerned.’ Germany didn’t bother itself much with differentiating between former Soviet countries’ pasts. Even until recently, any Ukrainian agenda in Germany was often ‘balanced’ with a Russian perspective, so as to not exclude the latter by any means.”

An unnamed anarchist and art scholar, who joined the Territorial Defense Forces, quoted by Olexii Kuchanskyi in an essay on “Digital Leviathan and His Nuclear Tail” (via Your Art and e-flux notes): “At dawn, Dima and I talked about cinema. Dima believes that cinema is inferior to literature as a means of expression because you spend much more time with a book than a film. It’s a really interesting point, something to dig into. I studied at the department of art theory & history and I never thought of it. Dima served in the military after school and worked at the factory all his life. He listens to rap, smokes pot, and tries to have fun. He is thirty-eight, his child was born last year. He likes Wong Kar-wai and is a fan of Asian cinema in general. Dima communicates by quoting Omar Khayyam, Confucius, and other awesome guys.”

April 20th, 2022

Vasyl Cherepanyn (Visual Culture Research Centre, Kyiv) on Putin’s “World War Z” and the West’s deadly “foot-dragging”, via Project Syndicate: “The main feature of this Western condition is constant belatedness. The West has always been too late, incapable of acting ahead and instead just reacting to what has already happened. As a Ukrainian joke went at the time, ‘While the European Union was taking a decision, Russia took Crimea.’ Then as now, Ukrainians wondered, ‘What is the West’s red line? What will compel the West to act instead of waiting and discussing when to intervene?’”

Barbara Wurm on Lithuanian director Mantas Kvedaravičius, killed in Mariupol, via Die Welt: “Kvedaravičius unfolded a whole spectrum of visual anthropology over a decade with only three films [Barzakh, Mariupolis, Parthenon]. It now awaits evaluation and exploration. The time will come. The films themselves make possible an infinite immersion in the matter of the world, between dream and reality, horror and everyday life, facts and phenomenal imagology.”

April 5th, 2022
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