[-empyre-] Artists' responses to the so-called "crisis"

Nicholas Ruiz III editor at intertheory.org
Wed Apr 29 04:09:05 EST 2009

dear anna...interesting comments, though I wonder if your representation of the non-representable is not a bit too theological for my taste? And transformation is such a magical enterprise... alchemically speaking, I do not suspect that attribution of a quality such as 'non-representabililty' adds or subtracts to the strategic authenticity or legitimacy of politics, responses or art, for that matter. Strategies, in other words, are always fatal...to their object, or to themselves. We all try to catch the falling the knife with each attempt at becoming, no? 

 Nicholas Ruiz III, Ph.D
Editor, Kritikos

From: Anna Munster <A.Munster at unsw.edu.au>
To: soft_skinned_space <empyre at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
Sent: Saturday, April 25, 2009 3:48:56 AM
Subject: Re: [-empyre-] Artists' responses to the so-called "crisis"

Sorry Nikos but as to your rhetorical 'no' below, I resoundingly reply NO WAY!!. There is a world of difference between responding (rather than reacting which is really what Joseph is talking about) to a social, economic and political crisis using aesthetic strategies and techniques vs. the 'arts' of finance, government or whatever other institution you want to aestheticise.
(a la Benjamin et al).

The examples that Nik and Marc are talking about (and also what Brian Holmes has been involved with) are emphatically not abut knee jerk response or reaction but are about using nonrepresentational aesthetic strategies - among a multitude of strategies which also include activist, semiotic, political, social and affective ones – to transform subjective and collective situations. These are immanent, critical, positive and productive relationships with crisis ie they do not respond to  crisis but rather work amid, through and via crisis to work with what might be transformative about crises. And these aesthetic strategies are absolutely everywhere both in and out of the 'art world' eg Critical Art Ensemble, Harwood and Mongrel,16Beaver, rebublicart project, The Senselab, eipcp, Make World, edu factory, The Thing, Serial Space (sydney -based for all you North Americans who need to get out more ;-)  etc etc etc. And these are just the
 artists/collectives/projects - there's also a wealth of brilliant art theory around this - try Hito Steyerl, Gerald Raunig, Brian Holmes, Matthew Fuller, Florian Schneider, Brian Massumi all the FLOSS+art etc etc etc 

There is NO relation between these kind of politics, responses and aesthetics and the 'art' of finance - except a relation of revulsion. On the other hand, if you want to find out about a really fantastic installation that engaged directly with the stock market and in fact used a gambling syndicate's money to trade stocks as part of the actual art work - have a look at Micheal Goldberg's documentation of his 2002 work 'Catch a Falling Knife' (http://www.michael-goldberg.com/main.html - go into Projects and select the title of the piece).

Just another point I'd like to make about this month's discussion - I  have found some of the posts scary and stupid in their absolute lack of knowledge about anything that is going on about contemporary art, aesthetic strategies and politics. I really think some people need to do a bit of preliminary research and investigation before they start sounding off about  how boring or naive the concept of aesthetically responding to crisis is,

Best Anna

On 24/04/2009, at 10:36 PM, Nicholas Ruiz III wrote:

nk...another aspect of interest is the way in which the financial realm in itself is a creative act, and artful...with all of the discussion revolving around the perception/reading parallax, I wonder how people in the artistic/academic community may not perceive/read financial creativity as art at all...I suspect such financial activity is a form of art, which contains all of the aspirations, triumphs and failures that any art project may enable, no?


Nicholas Ruiz III, Ph.D
Editor, Kritikos

----- Original Message ----
From: nick knouf <nak44 at cornell.edu>
To: -empyre- <empyre at gamera.cofa.unsw.edu.au>
Sent: Thursday, April 16, 2009 1:07:11 PM
Subject: [-empyre-] Artists' responses to the so-called "crisis"

Dear empyre,

It's strange that it's the 16th of the month (at least where I am), yet
there has been little sustained discussion of present-day artistic
responses to this so-called financial "crisis"--one that exists in a
mythical realm of numbers-that-we-cannot-perceive, but that sadly has
very real impacts on people.  Responses by students, academics, and
activists have not been limited to the resignation of acceptance, nor
abstract theorizing in and of itself, but rather have taken, at times,
forms of protest and occupation throughout the world, as well as direct
actions against banking institutions.  (See, in particular the story of
Enric Duran:
http://news.infoshop.org/article.php?story=20090319182858556 and
http://17-s.info/en .)  How then might we understand these actions
within the context of our own theorizing activities?

This should reflect a special concern as to the impact of this "crisis"
on academic and cultural institutions.  Indeed, the occupations and
protests at schools---NYU, the New School, University of Rochester,
institutions in Italy and France and Spain and...---suggest the deep
worry that many have regarding how the "crisis" might ultimately move to
transform culture and learning into more and more reified situations
governed by numbers and the market.  (The Bologna process is coming to
the states: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/09/education/09educ.html .)
In response there have been discussions and interviews about how we can
use this time of "crisis" to develop new models that exist in parallel
to concurrent struggles to force governments to provide for the basic
needs of people.  (See in particular "Interviewing the Crisis":
http://www.interviewingthecrisis.org/ .)  How might we then reconsider
actions and activities of the past and present and future---TAZs,
tactical media, pirate radio, and many, many, more---in light of calls
for more standardization and more "accountability"?

And whither the academic institution?  Corporations have fairly free
reign in many departments at colleges and universities in the United
States.  Are we to expect even more of these so-called "public-private
partnerships" in the future?  What is the role of the institution in
producing the people who created the "crisis" in the first place?  Who
will follow the links between the powerful actors in order to map their

I present here a recent project of mine that is my own attempt to face
some of these issues.  MAICgregator (http://maicgregator.org) is a
Firefox extension that aggregates information about colleges and
universities embedded in the military-academic-industrial (MAIC)
complex. It searches government funding databases, private news sources,
private press releases, and public information about trustees to try and
produce a radical cartography of the modern university via the
replacement or overlay of this information on academic websites.
MAICgregator is available for download right now:
http://maicgregator.org/download .  If you want to see what MAICgregator
does to a website without downloading it, you can look at some
screenshots: http://maicgregator.org/docs/screenshots .  This is its
first public release, so expect that things might not work properly.

I have written an extensive statement about MAICgregator that tries to
contextualize it within discourses of net.art, the
military-academic-industrial complex, "data mining", and activist
artistic practices.  As the statement is rife with embedded links,
please read it online:


I welcome any feedback or discussion that this might provoke; if you
want to e-mail the project authors directly, please e-mail info --at--
maicgregator ---dot--- org.


nick knouf
empyre forum
empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au

empyre forum
empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au

A/Prof. Anna Munster
Assistant Dean, Grant Support
Acting Director Centre for Contemporary Art and Politics
School of Art History and Art Education
College of Fine Arts
P.O. Box 259
NSW 2021
612 9385 0741 (tel)
612 9385 0615(fax)
a.munster at unsw.edu.au
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