Image: Guan Xiao video at K60, Wilhelm Hallen, Berlin Gallery Weekend
The Issue 4 is shorter than I would have liked.
This release is short for obvious reasons: I noticed that “coping” was added to the tabs of the COVID warning on Google. Presently, surrounded by right-wing nationalists and anti-vaxxers who are using their freedom of speech to storm Reichstag, I am also watching, from a distance, on Telegram and online, something like Revolution, or possibly annexation by Russia, tbd. The uprisal in the country I am from, Belarus, that so many english-language media outlets deem as “sudden”, is long time coming, ignited by years of economic austerity, health crisis mismanagement and too many virus-related death. This, besides 26 years of fraudulent elections. The whole thing is testing my ideas of nationality, belonging, togetherness. Wearily, I eye swirling pairs and groups at the Potsdamer Platz solidarity action, wrapped in, and sashaying, white-red-white flags that are banned in the country they are from. The flags may appear to be an obvious symbol of unity, but more so in the context of western media, they function as an indexical reprieve to the strategically supported by EU and North America political irrelevance of Belarus, too often referred to as “buffer state” (from Russia). My American friend thinks the dancing at the protest is sweet, and whispers: “but one couldn’t do that with German flags, or with American, really.” Maybe that’s the place we’d want all of our flags to be, folded away, but for now white-red-white has its purpose to serve.
My body has left Belarus at 18, but this summer showed me, that I have not. I have left the flags, and nationality as idea of community, but the tethering to the place, has remained. “If Baltics had a singing Revolution in the 90s, maybe we will have a dancing one in 2020?” — I wonder aloud. The Belarusian protesters take pride in, and insist on, remaining peaceful, using collective dress code, colour-coordinated lighting, flowers, dancing, they modifying the city and country landscape against the daily backdrop of aggression, arrests, police vehicles and fully-armed special forces in balaclavas.
Image source: Basta telegram channel, harvest, Belarus 2020
A “year of revolutions” another friend says of 2020, has been, for better or worse, undeniably also a year of having opinions. Opinions from those who previously would have coasted along with the current. A year of all times high degree of engagement. In March, million years ago, I said something like: “I’ve never felt so connected to the rest of the world.” The bottom fell out, and collectivity reappeared, not fixed, propped, or leaning, but floating in a shared, rancid, amniotic fluid.
The giant highlighter, hovering over the data we have been collectively writing onto the motherboard, the grand reveal, a portal, as Arhudanti Roy called it: what did the pandemic unearth, that we didn’t already know?
The fantasy of the takeover-come-true. In a recent conversation Boris Groys (in Russian) suggested that the Pandemic is the moment of meeting an ideal face to face: a personal encounter with the viral project so many of his students confided to have dreamt of devising.
This exalted self-propagation, the expansion, has at last become unavoidably spectacular, sharply lit in its full dysfunction. Complicating matters, at the time when the global human population is anxiously awaiting a vaccine, is there a room to consider how the current infection and the speed of its dispersion runs hand-in-hand with the very institution that will produce the antidote?
Harry Dodge, in recently published (and excellent!) “My Meteorite”, observes one student’s discontent when reading Karen Barad and her theories incited by work in quantum physics: “I have the opposite view, gladdened that actual science may slowly catch up with flows and systems and epistemologies that had heretofore been the domain of mysticism. The dovetailing of the two bodies of knowledge seems an ecstatic possibility to me.” He continues: “I know the students are bustling around reputading the religiosity of scientism in whose name innumerable horrors have been carried out — from withholding effective available treatment to the Tuskegee syphilis study, to Nazi war crimes, science’s “achievements” lay bare a checkered ethical registry. Additionally (and this is perhaps more important), science has imposed a way of thinking that seems to impel us to heed only to that which is provable. After all, the disenchantment of the world, according to Max Webber, was basically the prime feature of modernity. Technologies and epistemological frameworks that followed the scientific revolution ruptured and expelled the mysterious incalculable forces that characterized premodern perspectives. What I’m identifying in my students is, perhaps, a yearning to reenchant the world.”
Alongside or/and against the grain of rationalist project, the new Nacre issue, “General Public”, is stimulated by ceremonies, imperceptible and undocumented intentions, unraveling and intersectionality in place of essentializing and slogans. Shifting away from presumed, to sensory, and to what it means, collectively and individually, to participate, negotiate, bodies and all.
Berlin, September 2020