[-empyre-] "what is to be done" - Lenin's words

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What is to be done? –(education)
The third leitmotif for documenta 12 by ist artistic director Roger M. Buergel is posited in the form of a question. („After all, we create an exhibition in order to find something out.“ Buergel in his artistic statement) He will not by chance have chosen „What is to be done?“ as a quotation of V. I. Lenin’s famous book from 1902 with the subtitle „Burning questions to our movement.“
Let’s read Buergel’s statement as a comment on Lenin’s text, if not a formula of how to trump Lenin’s theoretical and practical notion of a proletarian revolution, as today’s world’s order seems to have proven Lenin wrong.
When Buergel writes:“ Artists educate themselves by working through form and subject matter; audiences educate themselves by experiencing things aesthetically,“ doesn’t this optimism regarding the abilities of artistic and aesthetic approaches to ‚things’, ‚forms’ and ‚subject matters’ echo Lenin’s way of freeing the approach to ‚things’ as ‚forms’ and ‚subject matters’ in philosophical scientific, and political ways by generalized application of the self education of the working class? When Buergel concludes, (already having found the answer to his third question): „Today, education seems to offer one viable alternative to the devil (didacticism, academia) and the deep blue sea (commodity fetishism),“ one can’t withhold the suspicion any longer that maybe Lenin’s project is meant to be finally fulfilled, with a simple switch from revolution to education.
When Leinin promised the awakening of the worker’s class, he already relied on self training, on education by the ‚things’ themselves: „Or do you think that our movement cannot produce leaders like those of the seventies? If so, why do you think so? Because we lack training? But we are training ourselves, we will go on training ourselves, and we will be trained! […]The time has come when Russian revolutionaries, guided by a genuinely revolutionary theory, relying upon the genuinely revolutionary and spontaneously awakening class, can at last – at long last! – rise to full stature in all their giant strength. […]And we will achieve that, rest assured, gentlemen!“ (What is to be done?, Chapter iv, The Primitiveness of the Economists and the Organization of the Revolutionaries)
Only that Buergel’s contribution on a new and viable historical and dialectical materialism does not credit didacticism (the ‚devil’) and commodity fetishism (the ‚deep blue sea’) as true constituants (‚Bildner’) for his own articulation of ‚education’ as such, (dialectically speaking and more). The commodity fetishism then returns as personal trade mark as the ‚great educator’, which is revealed by a phrase that has been partly omitted in the english translation of the third leitmotif for the documenta: „To educate/constitute an audience does […] mean […] indeed to provide for a public sphere.“ Didacticism in the sense of mass media’s compatible style perfectly allows an understanding of education as conservation of values or if preferred as justice finally done to the particularity of ‚things’. Why not posit „Education is empty like a mathematical set can be“ as an alternative to the third documenta leitmotif, freeing it from the empty promise of a possible general knowledge, accessible at least to the artistic director and author? What is to be done...

Claudia Reiche

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