The Entire World as Our World
3−4 December 2020 | 3−5 p.m. CET
Moderna galerija / Museum of Modern Art, Ljubljana and the World Wide Web
International conference, part of the programme of the Igor Zabel Award for Culture and Theory 2020
Organizers: Moderna galerija, Ljubljana and Igor Zabel Association for Culture and Theory with the support of ERSTE Foundation
The international conference The Entire World as Our World – prepared in collaboration with Igor Zabel Association – reconsiders the universal during the era of global capitalism and pandemic, and aims to rethink our common future and the presence of art in the (entire) world that is (not yet) our world. Speakers include: T. J. Demos, Boris Groys, ruangrupa, Apolonija Šušteršič, Alberto Toscano, and Alenka Zupančič.
The time of the coronavirus pandemic has accumulated and more clearly exposed various crises – the environmental crisis, the migrant crisis and the crisis of public systems, especially of healthcare, education and culture – which all have a common denominator: global capitalism. Times of crises – typically exploited by those who use them to make a profit – give birth to authoritarian regimes and lead to increased violations in universal human rights and the rights of nature. To this list, we could also add the crisis of politics or, more precisely, the crisis of political alternatives capable of drawing up programmes that, in view of the abovementioned, must today function universally.
Throughout the decades of the post-modern critique of totality, grand narratives, and utopias and the emphasis on the significance of particularity, difference, polycentrism, etc., universalism as a political and ideological project of social progress in the modern age has been devalued. In fact, the very concept of the universal has lost some of its meaning. Parallel with this devaluation and loss of meaning, the project of neoliberalism has been equated with globalism, becoming the absolute force that – according to the measure of the market – determines the world.
The coronavirus pandemic, at least seemingly and temporarily, has shaken the main premises of neoliberalism. It has shown that what was only yesterday unimaginable, the slowing down of the economy, for example, is possible. It has shown that the problems of rapid economic progress and growth and the destruction of nature and the environment – long-warned by their critics – have truly been brought to the extreme and that the pandemic is their consequence. The pandemic has given us a lesson on the meaning of solidarity and co-dependence. It has shed light on the urgent need for public goods, the public sector, cooperation with civil society and sustainable and close-to-nature development.
And how has the pandemic that has shaken the entire world impacted art and its institutions? What does the “entire world” mean in these concrete circumstances? How much is this entire world also our world?
Throughout the 20th century, many considered that art had to be universal and it had to search for generally valid patterns, an (abstract) art language beyond national borders and cultural differences, beyond the particular. What we have also learnt from this period is that particular – hegemonic, imperialistic, and colonialist – interests can hide behind the concept of the universal. Today, when the art world is oriented towards geographical and cultural differences and racial, sexual, and other particularities, capital has taken over the task of abstracting. Artistic imaginaries follow both; just as we have increasingly more “realisms” and community-based projects, so the artists engage in the visualization of the dominant abstract forces of capital.
The conference will focus on two broader topics in the framework of the conditions described above:
· The first concerns the particular questions that, through art and its system, touch on various agencies and micro policies – from advocating for the rights of various minorities and communities and all sorts of improvements in local environments to the fight against racism, the growing nationalisms and populisms, the destruction of nature, etc. Today, we certainly cannot imagine the concept of the common without addressing the question of the particular. Must art and its institutions thus remain more committed to particular and concrete topics, or can they connect them into a transversal critical platform?
· The second tackles the question of how art today imagines universalism and how it represents the all-encompassing forces, such as the force of global capitalism. How can artists represent totality, the universal, today? What can historical social and artistic projects on the universal teach us about the needs of the present time? How does art represent the fact that we live in a time of digital abstraction and the rule of abstract capital?
We invite artists, theorists, and curators to join us in reconsidering the universal in the time of global capitalism and the pandemic and in rethinking our common future and the presence of art in the (entire) world that is (not yet) our world.
Thursday, 3 December 2020, 15:00–17:00
Panelists: Boris Groys, Alberto Toscano, Alenka Zupančič
Panel 1: how art today imagines universalism and how it represents the all-encompassing forces, such as the force of global capitalism
15:00–15:15 Introduction by Zdenka Badovinac (Moderna galerija) and Urška Jurman (Igor Zabel Accociation)
15:15–15:35 Alenka Zupančič
15:35–15:55 Boris Groys
15:55-–16:15 Alberto Toscano
16:15–17:00 discussion moderated by Dražen Dragojević
Friday, 4 December 2020, 15:00–17:00
Panelists: T. J. Demos, ruangrupa, Apolonija Šušteršič
Panel 2: on the relation between the particular and concrete and the universal in the field of contemporary art
15:00–15:15 Introduction by the moderator Dražen Dragojević
15:15–15:35 Apolonija Šušteršič
15:55–16:15 T. J. Demos
16:15–17:00 discussion moderated by Dražen Dragojević
Programme, 3 December 2020
Moderated by Dražen Dragojević
Introduction by the organizers, Zdenka Badovinac, Moderna galerija and Urška Jurman, Igor Zabel Association for Culture and Theory
Alenka Zupančič: The Art of Surprise
Is art “of this world” or “not of this world”? Does this question even make sense outside of a religious perspective? The presentation will propose that art is at its strongest when it opens a perspective onto the world in an indirect way, from the new and surprising reality that art itself creates. Art, which doesn’t surprise us at all but rather shows us what we expect, fails precisely at establishing a relation with the world rather than being merely commentary or reflection on it. In this sense, art is perhaps always the art of surprise, which, from an unexpected perspective, constitutes the world as the world.
Alenka Zupančič is a Slovenian philosopher and social theorist. She works as research advisor at the Institute of Philosophy of the Scientific Research Center of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences. She is also a visiting professor at the European Graduate School in Switzerland. She is particularly known for her work on the intersection of philosophy and psychoanalysis, and is the author of numerous articles and books including The Shortest Shadow: Nietzsche's Philosophy of the Two (MIT Press, 2003), The Odd One In: On Comedy (MIT Press, 2008), Why Psychoanalysis: Three Interventions (NSU Press, 2008), Ethics of the Real: Kant and Lacan (Verso, 2012), and, most recently, What is Sex?
Boris Groys: The Universal Subject of Care
In contemporary society, there exists a universal mode of work – it is the care work. The securing of human lives is regarded by our civilization as its supreme goal. Foucault was correct when he described modern states as biopolitical. Their main function is to take care of the physical wellbeing of their populations. However, our culture is also permanently producing extensions of our material bodies: artworks, books, photographs, documents, videos, emails, websites, etc. All of these objects and documents are kept for some time after our deaths. Cemeteries, museums, libraries, historical archives, public monuments, and places of historical significance are maintained. Cultural identity, historical memory, traditional urban spaces, and ways of life are preserved. And we care for ourselves – our own survival and our cultural afterlife. The universal subject is itself a subject of care.
Boris Groys is an art critic, media theorist, curator, and philosopher. He is currently Professor of Russian and Slavic Studies at New York University and Professor of Philosophy and Art Theory at the European Graduate School in Switzerland. Groys’s work focuses on the avant-garde as well as contemporary art and art theory. His curatorial projects include the Russian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale (2011) and his work as co-curator of the Shanghai Biennale (2012). He also curated the 8th Triennial of Contemporary Art U3: Beyond the Globe, at the Moderna galerija, Ljubljana (2016). His books include: History Becomes Form: Moscow Conceptualism (MIT Press, 2010), An Introduction to Antiphilosophy (Verso Books, 2012), Under Suspicion: A Phenomenology of Media (Columbia University Press, 2012), On the New (Verso Books, 2014), In the Flow (Verso Books, 2016), and Russian Cosmism (MIT Press, 2018).
Alberto Toscano: Quantities of the Past – Photography in the Aftermath of Capital
The talk will return to a previous discussion about the relation between photowork, landscape, and logistics in Cartographies of the Absolute (with Jeff Kinkle, 2015), and extend it to include reflections on the following three recently published books of American landscape photography: Richard Misrach and Kate Orff’s Petrochemical America, Mitch Epstein’s American Power, and David Maisal’s Black Maps: American Landscape and the Apocalyptic Sublime. The presentation will consider environmental devastation and its nexus with racial capitalism in light of Fredric Jameson’s arguments about “dead labour” in his 2011 book Representing Capital.
Alberto Toscano is a Reader in Critical Theory and Codirector of the Centre for Philosophy and Critical Theory at Goldsmiths, University of London. He has been a member of the editorial board for the journal Historical Materialism: Research in Critical Marxist Theory since 2004 and is series editor of The Italian List for Seagull Books. He is the author of The Theatre of Production (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), Fanaticism: On the Uses of an Idea (Verso, 2010; 2nd edition, 2017), and co-author of the Cartographies of the Absolute (Zero Books, 2015). Toscano, also a translator of Negri, Badiou and others, has published widely on critical theory, politics, and culture.
Discussion moderated by Dražen Dragojević
Dražen Dragojević moves between Berlin-Ljubljana, culture-theory-media, concepting-producing-communicating-engaging, books-television-stage-galleries-film-clubs. He collaborates with the cultural festivals Indigo, Sonica, and Grounded as well as projects in development Gallery Cukrarna and European Capital of Culture Ljubljana 2025.
Programme, 4 December 2020
Introduction by the moderator Dražen Dragojević
Apolonija Šušteršič will talk about the contradiction between the particular and the universal based on her position as an artist who works with local people and environments from a non-local perspective. How does a method developed in a particular case apply and influence a new situation and produce a new work? What kind of displacement is possible when discussing the context-specific art project? Why and how do we recontextualize an art project that has been created for a specific place, time and, situation, years later in another place and situation that is historically and politically divergent? Is recontextualization the right method to create a new work that has a relevant and updated relationship with an existing but new context in time and place?
Apolonija Šušteršič is an architect and artist. She graduated from the Faculty of Architecture in Ljubljana (1992) and completed her postgraduate studies in art at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam (1996). She worked as a professor and the head of the Monumental Department (Department of Public Art) at the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm from 2003 until 2008. She completed her PhD at the Malmö Art Academy of Lund University in Sweden in 2013. She has been a professor at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts since 2014.
Šušteršič develops transdisciplinary and participatory projects for and within the public space. The following are some of her works: Home Design Service (Casco Projects, Utrecht, 2001), Garden Service (with Meike Schalk, Edinburgh International Festival, 2007), SUNSETCINEMA (with Bik van der Pol, Luxembourg, 2007), Community Pavilion Hustadt (Bochum, 2011), and Neighbours and Citizens (Gävle, 2015–). She has exhibited extensively, including at Moderna Museet in Stockholm, the Berlin Biennale 3, Moderna Galerija in Ljubljana, the Generali Foundation in Vienna, the Tirana Biennale 3, Muhka in Antwerp, and the 12th Venice Biennale of Architecture.
ruangrupa is a Jakarta-based collective established in 2000. It is a nonprofit organization that supports the idea of art within the urban context by involving artists as well as people from other disciplines such as social sciences, politics, technology, and media to provide critical observations and views on Indonesian urban contemporary issues. ruangrupa also produces collaborative works in the form of art projects, such as exhibitions, festivals, art labs, workshops, and research as well as publishing books, magazines, and online journals.
In 2018, ruangrupa co-initated GUDSKUL: a contemporary art collective and ecosystem studies. GUDSKUL is a public learning space established to practice an expanded understanding of collective values, such as equality, sharing, solidarity, friendship, and togetherness.
As an artistic collective, ruangrupa has been involved in many collaborative and exchange projects, including participation in large exhibitions such as the Gwangju Biennale (2002, 2018), the Istanbul Biennale (2005), the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (Brisbane, 2012), the Singapore Biennale (2011), the São Paulo Biennale (2014), the Aichi Triennale (Nagoya, 2016), and Cosmopolis at the Centre Pompidou (Paris, 2017). In 2016, ruangrupa curated transACTION: Sonsbeek 2016 in Arnhem, NL. Most recently, ruangrupa has been selected as the artistic director of the documenta 15 (Kassel, 2022).
T. J. Demos: Radical Futurisms. Insurgent Universality, Solidarity, and Worlds-to-Come
With reference to three international examples of contemporary art—those of Thirza Jean Cuthand, The Otolith Group, and Black Quantum Futurism—this short talk discusses current modelings of radical futurism and worlds-to-come that refuse surrender to capitalist realism. Where radical imagination meets radical praxis is in the material forces of solidarity, the political form of belonging more than ever necessary today in the collective battle against international fascisms and global neoliberalisms. While acknowledging the bankruptcy of Eurocentric universalisms, this presentation defends approaches to insurgent political formations beyond identitarian fragmentation, including a political aesthetics of abolition—ultimately of racial and colonial capitalism.
T. J. Demos is the Patricia and Rowland Rebele Endowed Chair in Art History in the Department of the History of Art and Visual Culture, at University of California, Santa Cruz, and founding Director of its Center for Creative Ecologies. Demos is the author of numerous books, including Against the Anthropocene: Visual Culture and Environment Today (Sternberg Press, 2017); Decolonizing Nature: Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology (Sternberg Press, 2016); The Migrant Image: The Art and Politics of Documentary During Global Crisis (Duke University Press, 2013) – winner of the College Art Association’s 2014 Frank Jewett Mather Award – and Return to the Postcolony: Spectres of Colonialism in Contemporary Art (Sternberg Press, 2013). Demos co-curated Rights of Nature: Art and Ecology in the Americas, at Nottingham Contemporary in January 2015, and organized Specters: A Ciné-Politics of Haunting, at the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid in 2014. During 2019–21, with the Center for Creative Ecologies, and as a Getty research institute scholar, he’s working on a Mellon-funded research project, art exhibition, and book project dedicated to the questions: what comes after the end of the world, and how can we cultivate futures of social justice within capitalist ruins? His new book, Beyond the World’s End: Arts of Living at the Crossing was recently released by Duke University Press.
Discussion moderated by Dražen Dragojević