[-empyre-] an 'ethico-aesthetic paradigm' - in France and Argentina

brian whitener iwaslike at hotmail.com
Thu May 15 09:49:31 EST 2008

hi tim, brian, et al,

tim: i hear what you are saying. i think it's important not to lose sight of those histories. i'm sure brian would agree. and i wish i knew more about them. and obviously it would be great 

the caveat: i'm going to speak from a really ignorant place in the next sentence. personally, i'm super divided right now on the issue of listservs, the interwebs, etc. honestly, i feel like we're in a different historical moment. and that the potencia of those forms has been eclipsed a bit. ( ..like that opening/event has been subsummed...)

i think that's also why i feel like CAE (to set up the argument via an example), while i respect, support, and love their work, is not enough for this moment. maybe that's the difference brian was trying to bring out. 

i feel the catastrophe... and i feel like it's calling for a direct address. i know it's calling for a move beyond whatever happened in the 90s. do i doubt that "art" can provide an adequate address? i do. but that also make me feel light, like knowing that when you encoutner resistence you are doing something right.


> Date: Mon, 12 May 2008 21:32:07 -0400
> To: brian.holmes at wanadoo.fr; empyre at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> From: tcm1 at cornell.edu
> Subject: Re: [-empyre-] an 'ethico-aesthetic paradigm' - in France and 	Argentina
> CC: 
> >Brian,
> I'm concerned that it's a little presumptuous to assume that activist 
> artists were not also activating politically in the nineties and well 
> before, whether in demonstrations, alternative political 
> organizations, or even in mainstream organizations such as 
> universities and political parties  (I suppose what you call middle 
> class organizations) whether against racially organized political 
> systems, for feminism, for AIDS activism, against globalism, against 
> international human trade, against war, for the environment, etc.
> Of course activism might involve some risk of getting arrested or 
> being beaten by the police.  But many of us who have spent years of 
> our lives  being beaten by and threatened on and off the streets  by 
> the police also might have come to understand the value of additional 
> reflective critical practice (in contrast to simple reactive 
> action--which is certainly necessary and justified on occasion) which 
> also can entail not only the traversing of class and comfort 
> boundaries but also engagement in activities of critical spatial 
> practice and conceptual activism whose aim might be to question the 
> very notions of the comfortable "middle class" that underlie your 
> assumptions.
> Without wishing to distract us from the addditional issues posed by 
> this week's -empyre- guests, I wish to caution against the 
> assumptions of your premises that this is an all or nothing equation 
> and to counter your suggestion that activist artists of the nineties 
> somehow failed to be politically active while also being critically 
> reflective.  The reason that I questioned the avant-gardist logic of 
> your proposition was because of my concern that it carried with it an 
> implied assumption that we can progress only  by looking forward to 
> "real conflict" rather than backward to artististic circles for whom 
> politics was retrograde.    Is it a coincidence that Steve Kurtz of 
> Critical Art Ensemble (active since the mid-nineties) has faced up to 
> 5 years in prison for his critical art practice that clearly rubbed 
> American Homeland Security forces the wrong way?  Or what about the 
> artistic activism in the early nineties of Teiji Furuhashi of Dumb 
> Type who died of AIDS before being able to perform his response to 
> the AIDS pandemic in the performance, "S/N," which his troupe took to 
> Brazil?  Dumb Type understood itself to engage in political activism 
> by extending  its audiences "to an ever wide range of people, to 
> connect theater and festival staff, AIDS-concerned groups, and 
> gay/lesbian communities."  Or what about the recent bravery of the 
> performance artist Pippa Bacca who was raped and murdered while 
> rather quietly hitchhiking  to Israel with the "Brides on Tour" 
> project in an appeal for peace?
> Although the streets of France might have been quieter in the 
> nineties than they were in the sixties or more recently,I suspect 
> that you'll agree that similar commitments to sexual and political 
> activism were indeed important to the critical community of artists 
> and theoreticians.  I simply don't want us to lose sight of this 
> history nor to downplay the radical significance and critical lessons 
> of so many of these earlier interventions for the sake of delivering 
> deserved credit to current activist projects.  Call it the academic 
> in me!
> All my best,
> Tim
> -- 
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
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