18:00 Inke Arns, On Re-Reading Avant-Gardes and Becoming Alt-Right, lecture
20:00 Keti Chukhrov, Evil, Surplus, Power – the Three Media of Art, lecture
On Re-Reading Avant-Gardes and Becoming Alt-Right
With the advent of the Alt-Right there’s a new subculture on the block. Some claim that the avant-garde tactic of transgression is now exclusively to be found on the right. What used to be punk in the 1980s today is alt-right. Although there certainly is some truth to it (see for example the alt-right’s ex-poster boy Milo Yiannopoulos bathing in pig’s blood at a NY gallery opening), we must question the linear inevitability suggested by the title of this lecture. Transgression, irony and shock tactics are neither left nor right, but rather lend themselves to various uses. Today, the alt-right uses them to strategically shift the Overton window to the right.
The lecture will present findings made while researching the exhibition The Alt-Right Complex – On Right-Wing Extremism Online (HMKV, until 22 Sep 2019). Curated by Inke Arns (HMKV), the international group exhibition deals with forms of right-wing populism, which, especially today, use the Internet and “social media” to disseminate ideas. The Alt-Right Complex traces the development from a (sub)culture of transgression in online forums such as 4chan to platforms such as Breitbart News. The artists deal with memes (e.g. Pepe the Frog, probably the most famous symbol of the Trump followers), with figures such as Steve Bannon and Peter Thiel, the prepper scene, White Supremacists and Dark Enlightenment.
The Alt-Right Complex presents twelve projects by 16 artists from twelve countries: Germany, France, Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Switzerland, Serbia and Slovakia. Included are a wide variety of artistic media: comics, wall paintings, videos, (video) installations, posters to take away, game instructions, net art, an artists' book, a speculative museum and a flag machine. The exhibition is accompanied by a critical glossary with more than 30 entries that briefly explains the most important terms.
Evil, Surplus, Power – the Three Media of Art
In the avant-garde rhetoric internalized by contemporary art, the ideas of social involvement and artistic achievement are almost identical, claiming that after art’s self-sublation such involvement is art’s principal goal. Yet despite such internalization of avant-garde's socially-oriented legacy, already in the 1960s, the principal episteme and achievement of art became not the social involvement but the conceptual surplus. The negative antisocial and vicious genealogy, inherent in art since the early modernist practices, fostered various manipulations with this conceptual surplus that gradually so easily turned into a surplus-value – “the metaphysical index” of art’s economics, as D. Diedrichsen put it. Regardless of whether this surplus is an artistic cognitive gimmick, symbolic capital enhancing the cultural impact of an artwork, or a financialized abstraction simply increasing the cost of art, it functions as a hidden power of art in contemporaneity and is effectively disguised by art’s emancipatory good intentions.