Lauren Berlant, the brilliant theorist of “cruel optimism” and related issues, died of a rare form of cancer on June 28. The following, devastatingly optimistic quote is from a 2016 essay on the commons as “infrastructures for troubling times,” part of a book that they worked on with the typically double-edged title On the Inconvenience of Other People: “What remains for our pedagogy of unlearning is to build affective infrastructures that admit the work of desire as the work of an aspirational ambivalence. What remains is the potential we have to common infrastructures that absorb the blows of our aggressive need for the world to accommodate us and our resistance to adaptation and that, at the same time, hold out the prospect of a world worth attaching to that’s something other than an old hope’s bitter echo. A failed episode is not evidence that the project was in error. By definition, the common forms of life are always going through a phase, as infrastructures will.”
Some basics from the Strike MoMA site: “Campaigns, actions, and letters chip away at the regime’s facade from the outside. Inside, every time workers organize, defy the boss, care for a coworker, disrespect secrecy, or enact other forms of subversion, cracks are created in the core. Cracking and chipping, chipping and cracking. As the walls that artificially separate the museum from the world collapse, we reorient away from the institution and come together to make plans. Let us strike in all the ways possible to exit from the terms of the museum so we can set our own.”
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
The Harun Farocki Institut (HaFI) is a charitable foundation trust established in 2015. Its official bodies, in accordance with the Articles of Association, are the Board of Directors, the Harun Farocki Institut Board, and the Friends of the HaFI, which is currently being established. The Board of Directors is composed of Tom Holert, Doreen Mende, and Volker Pantenburg. The members of the Harun Farocki Institut Board are currently Antje Ehmann, Anselm Franke, Holger Glinka, Christian Petzold, Doina Popescu, Stefanie Schulte Strathaus, and Bertold Schmidt-Thomé. Day-to-day operational business is managed by Elsa de Seynes.
The idea for the founding of an institute in and with Harun Farocki’s name arose shortly after his sudden death in the summer of 2014. That the gap that he left could not be filled was clear to all the participants. However, his painful absence was connected with a responsibility, the fulfillment of which is as consolatory as it is productive. The institute is to serve as a medium, point of contact, and organizational form for the large, international network of family, friends, colleagues, and cooperation partners.
The founding of the HaFI is linked to the goal of developing forms of theoretical and visual work which build on the ideas of Harun Farocki’s cinematic praxis. The principles and procedures of the essay film, the Marxist analysis of images, the activation of images for genuine visual research, the observation of work, the development of a filmic literacy, the analysis of subjectification in technical-military dispositives, or the critique of the relations of production in film, television, and other visual industries form the basis upon which the HaFI conceives and carries out its own projects.
The HaFI is dependent on voluntary engagement. A small office in the silent green Kulturquartier forms the base station. At the moment the HaFI can only afford a half-time manager position, and must scale its projects accordingly. We make every effort to respond to queries and to do justice to the interest in Harun Farocki and our work, however we ask for your understanding if we do not answer immediately.
Bit by bit the HaFI is accessing Harun Farocki’s estate, part of which is already housed in the immediate vicinity of the institute in a separate section of the new archive rooms of the Arsenal – Institut für Film und Videokunst in silent green Kulturquartier. This is being carried out together with the compiling of a complete catalogue raisonné, which in addition to the film, television and video works will also include Farocki’s text and radio pieces.
The institute’s research projects are, on the one side, immediately linked to the archival work on his estate, and on the other, build upon certain questions and methodologies which we connect with Farocki’s praxis. Such research can be expressed in exhibitions, text and image production on the website, smaller printed matter, public discussions, screenings, and other forms of pedagogic work.
Furthermore, every year the HaFI, in cooperation with the Goethe Institut, nominates a candidate for a Farocki residency.
Films, videos, and installations from Harun Farocki can still be requested directly from the Harun Farocki GbR. However, in individual cases, those tasks which exceed the capacity of the small film production company founded by Harun Farocki and Antje Ehmann, which following his death has been continued in the form of the Harun Farocki GbR by Antje Ehmann, Anna Faroqhi, and Lara Faroqhi, can be assumed by the Harun Farocki Institut.