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<nettime> Re: The GENETIC PARADIGM OF CULTURE
Marina Grzinic on Mon, 26 Jan 2004 23:56:31 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> Re: The GENETIC PARADIGM OF CULTURE




(I)MIGRANTS, HEGEMONY, NEW INTERNATIONALISM*

by Marina Grzinic

I would like to re-think some methodologies in terms of organizing
exhibitions in the context of globality; Documenta 11 from 2002 is the
most prominent case, although a variety of other exhibitions in search of
this or that (the "Balkan" for example) have recently taken place in
Europe.

These exhibitions are parallel to the phenomenon of global culture and
art. What do I want to say? The most important aspect of these exhibitions
is that they have brought into focus and made visible the art and cultural
productions of other worlds, most notably the Third World (Africa, Central
and South Asia, Muslim-Asian Countries, Latin America) and the Second
World (the former Eastern European countries). All these worlds are
currently, with some future projects scheduled, becoming (through a
specific selection) visible in (Western) Europe and the North American
continent, where for decades they were /and still are / out of focus. It
is not only the question of visibility that matters (to see, or even to
discover these distant, and not so distant, but still unknown,
productions), but also the question of re-contextualisation, that is,
making accessible and reachable within the Empire of the capitalist First
World what was until now perhaps just imagined, or occasionally, although
very rarely, written about.



My question is: through what operations of exclusion /inclusion in
relation to the notion of hegemony does this new world itself emerge? What
I want to do is to discern, in what appears to be a mere contingency
today, the inner necessity of the art/cultural system (as many of these
exhibitions present themselves as just a moment of discovery - the
exhibitions are entitled "searching for this or that"  - or even as an act
of pure generosity and sharing between different worlds in this era of
globalisation).



Immediately, I could foster the thesis that the model of the way that
global art culture imperialism functions must be looked for elsewhere,
outside of the pure cultural context. The elements of the exclusion
/inclusion machine are to be found in the scientific discourse of cloning,
biotechnology and in the notion of the viability of none other than the
(recently deceased) sheep Dolly. Two basic texts are to be taken into
account: Sarah Franklin's essay entitled "Dolly's viability and the
genetic capital" (2001) and Donna Haraway's book Modest Witness  {AT}  Second
Millennium: Female ManŠ meets OncoMouseT (1997).



Exhibitions that are prepared as project(s) realizing the new
internationalisation of the Third and Second Worlds demonstrate an
incredible viability. It seems that these exhibitions have found a way to
involve the "world," and at the same time (and this is very important) to
prolong their proper life. The inclusion of the Third World is also in the
balance, with the proliferation of cultural studies in the capitalist
First World, as the Second World (former Eastern Europe) is still (!) on
the waiting list, and reserved for special purposes. The former Eastern
European art and culture is namely forced to wait, just as when you wait
to take a charter flight. You are waiting for the call, and you have to be
ready.



I can say that there exists a certain cosmo-political context in the
modern capitalist world connected with pure commodification, within which
works from the Third and Second Worlds seem to be perfectly cloned. In a
way the structure of most of these exhibitions is as follows: there is a
core of artists that are part (forever, or just freshly affiliated) of the
capitalist art market, and other artists quickly commodified to, or made
to assist with, these aspects. They are presented in a kind of replica
situation, always rotating around the centre.



I can state: What was seen before as an obstacle, a failure (that
exhibitions did not deal with the Third and Second Worlds, as they were
too complex, not developed and not translatable into understanding), what
was in the past therefore perceived as an inherent impossibility, is today
externalised as a positive obstacle. This move, from inherent
impossibility to external obstacle, is the very definition of fantasy, of
the phantasmatic position in which the inherent deadlock acquires positive
existence! A-historical exhibitions, ruptures with styles, trends,
classifications, etc. are all at work today, with the implication that as
soon as the obstacles are removed, the relationship will run smoothly.
This global structure is no less hallucinatory and no less a
spectralisation of the phantasmatic power of the Art Institution than it
was in the past, when this Institution failed to include worlds other than
the capitalist First World. Fantasy plays a crucial role in hegemonic
formations, a role often at odds with the explicit political/curatorial
program of the Institution/Art Exhibition projects. "Fantasy" not only
situates the subject in relation to its object cause of desire but also
compensates for the instability of its imaginary and symbolic
identifications.  This is why it is necessary to articulate not only the
equivalence among diverse struggles against oppression, but also to
traverse phantasmatic scenarios that might underlie such articulations.



But let's go step by step. Let's see what logic is developed and brought
to the final stage by the so-called global exhibition projects in the
capitalist First World. Let's explore these fundamental shifts in its very
logic.



We have to distinguish between different forms of functioning of the art
"Institution" within different capitalist periods, decades and logics. The
forming of the capitalist art market, in order to sell a single work of
art, was based on the development of a careful pedigree - an exact
genealogy of this single work of art. What it was necessary to accomplish
was a shift in the definition of cultural capital: a shift from culture as
a whole to the reproductive power of a single work of art, in order to say
that this work of art is ready to be capitalized and invested in. In
short, this shift involved the formation of an exact genealogy of the
single work of art that was enabled therefore to stand for a larger whole.
The creation of such a genealogy was accomplished through careful critical
and intellectual/theoretical work as well as art
marketing-cultural-institutional devices. Such an artwork then started to
function as a template for the continued production of artworks of special
types. For example the Young British Art (YBA) scene today can be seen as
precisely the result of such a manner of development. To be even more
precise, the shift is synechdochic (the word is used by Sarah Franklin
when discussing the process of the formation of a breed), in the sense
that the "substance" from which the artwork is made becomes a template for
an entire national contemporary type of production. The same can be seen
within the phenomena of what was in the past decade named the new
Switzerland Art Scene.



These conceptual processes in the art world are kept alive for decades,
enabling the careful selection and proliferation of artists, production,
investment and art stock exchanges. In turn, such differentiation(s) have
enabled a redefinition of what is cultural context, along with the
development of new definitions of what is a historical and an art lineage.



What it is important to notice in this process is how much conceptual
apparatus had to be put into motion in the capitalist First World in
relation to artwork(s) in order for their value to emerge as "natural".
Therefore, strictly speaking, and based on important statements made by
Franklin, the Young British Art scene can be considered to be not only a
new cultural-technological-aesthetical assemblage, but also almost a
breed. Its constitution is, using Franklin's vocabulary, a discursive
formation, and its style a manifestation of the market-investment-art
institution-theory capacity. Making a reference to a "breed" in such a
context is not a cynical or pejorative remark at all, as the "breed" is in
fact a British invention! On the other hand, it is important to introduce
into the vocabulary of art and culture notions from the realm of
biotechnology, such as template, breed, genealogy, pedigree. If we keep in
mind the idea of this effective capital investment (theory/money/art
market) in the single work of art, we have to acknowledge the importance
of the art/critic/theory "machine" in its background, which obsessively
works on providing genealogical and historical power to a unique artwork
style and aesthetics.



The final result is a special linkage of money, institutions and
critical/theoretical writings that today present themselves even more than
ever as a "civilizational kinship". This kinship (that again comes from
the vocabulary of biotechnology) presents itself in the "world" as the
most natural and internal process of art and culture in the capitalist
First World, and moreover this "civilizational kinship" is today
overcoming the cultural borders in order to become the password of the day
in political affairs (us against them; the war to preserve civilization,
etc.).



Which exact form of exclusion/inclusion will prevail in a certain
configuration is the result of struggle. My intention is not to play with
the endless impossibility of substitution within the same fundamental
field of impossibility, but to make thematic the different structural
principles of this very possibility.



Let's see what is going on with the so-called new global exhibition
projects that include selected Third and Second World artists and their
works, or which are organized just for them. These projects evidence some
important new directions, which can be seen not only as a conceptual, but
also primarily as a technological shift. With these projects, firstly, the
traditional template of genealogy is disrupted, and secondly, a new kind
of assemblage, effectively "reprogrammed" in time and space, is put into
action. What is important is not the work of art, but the technique of
transfer that provides the means of reproduction.The inclusion of the work
of art from the Third and Second World in the territory of the Empire has
therefore in most of the cases a role to just testify to a successful
application of the technique of transfer. In the case of an artwork
originating from outside the Empire, neither its own authenticity, nor its
own auto-generative capacity is valuable. It is solely here to prove the
transfer of the work of art to another context and also, if it persists
through time, of the work of art's viability to survive in the new
context. The work of art coming from the Third and Second Worlds thus
functions as a "living proof," that the transfer is successful, as it was
in the case of Dolly. The transfer is the source of the new global
cultural capital, or, as can be stated via Franklin's thoughts: "the
transfer is a device for seeding a corporate plan for the production of
cultural wealth in the form of cultural-reactors". These works of art are
seen as cultural-reactors.



What is the result of the technology of transfer: works of art coming from
the Third and Second Worlds are removed from the source of their primary
conceptual/inner contextual value. The result is a different genealogy, an
"enterprised-up genealogy," (as is the case with Dolly) which as a
consequence has to take apart all the genealogical descent systems. Within
the Third-and-Second-World newly developed expressions or "enterprised-up
genealogy" so to speak, within this new FAST (FOOD) GENEALOGY (as a
reference to a McWorld), the power of the art work to generate new ideas
and concepts is not important at all, what is important is solely the
transfer. With enterprised-up genealogy, via Franklin, newly flexible
subject(s) and their works of art are redesigned and freed from the
specific cultural contexts, "ready to become newly promiscuous recombined
art works." What is also important is the process of abstraction from the
root. In such a way, with the technique of abstract transfer, when the
artwork is cloned within a new paradigm, it testifies that it is also
removed from the "noise" of the root. If it were also to transfer the
entire poverty and social relations and the possible intellectual
implication(s) that the work of art produces in its original context, it
would be very politically demanding, as well as costly. Actually nobody
can predict what kind of match would result if we allowed the "noise" and
the "waste" of the Third and Second World real space to come truly closer
to, to enter, the Empire. An abstract and evacuated transfer eliminates
the risk, producing instead a replica of the desired traits. So it is not
so strange that all these works from the Third and Second World(s) are
today presented in so-called evacuated and sterile White Modernist
Exhibition Cubes. Just think again about the Documenta 11. Was not this
the main flaw of Documenta 11? At the very least, did not the critics
complain that the exhibition would have been perfect if the works had not
been put into such an abstract (Modernist Cubes) context? But my point is,
that this was the precise externalisation of the inner logic of all these
global art projects.



In terms of genealogy, the technique of transfer effects a 90-degree turn,
whereby the "descent" is no longer the equivalent of genealogical gravity.
With these exhibitions (Documenta 11, "In Searching for Balkania", etc.)
that include new world(s), it is possible to talk about the new cultural
capital in the form of a new genetic paradigm of culture. At the heart of
such new Internationalism there is, therefore, what Sarah Franklin
primarily stated for the sheep, Dolly, and I am adapting it for our
global, cultural-genetic condition, - "the technique that bypasses the
conceptual and artistic capacity of the work of art in its specificity."
The global, for exhibition purposes, "enterprised-up genealogy" functions
exactly as cloning in the realm of new biotechnology. Within these new
epistemological coordinates of global art, it is less important to know
what, again, rephrasing Franklin's statements about Dolly, art work coming
from the Third or Second world "is, than what it does."



For these global exhibitions what is important in re-using art works from
the Third or Second Worlds is the process of the compression of
genealogical time, offering in such a way an evacuated, sanitized pure
context that will thus be constantly perpetuated. Or to put this even more
precisely, we see a process of the cannibalisation or rapid assimilation
of history and specific art practices. These exhibitions instantiated a
new form of genealogy, one that eliminates "conventional genealogical
time, order, and verticality." An over-rapid historicization is what we
have here, and the totality set on effaces the traces of its own
(im)possibility.



Dolly is the vanishing mediator, as are works of art from the Third and
Second Worlds. Dolly became even more an iconic sign of its vanishing
mediation when she passed away in the year 2003.



What I am trying to develop here is an intensification of the politics of
reproduction (as in the case of Dollyesque procreation) within a global
cultural context that results in an enterprising-up of genealogy and
processes similar to cloning. This specific type of cloning, which is
firmly tied to technology, enables capital to remove the substance from
the artwork. This has implications for the whole idea of enterprise. A
process of expropriation is going on that bases difference on a very
different bondage, influence, and constellations; the Third and Second
Worlds' difference(s) are seen solely through relations of enterprise and
propriety. The exhibitions are owned and the works are branded! Donna
Haraway in Modest Witness  {AT}  Second Millennium: Female ManŠ meets
OncoMouseT describes the effect of cloning precisely as the construction
of a new kinship. She describes kinship as "a question of taxonomy,
category and the natural status of artificial entities." And what else are
art works from the Third and Second Worlds than artificial entities, half
cloned and in the process of forced naturalization within the only
"natural and civilized" capitalist First World? What it is important to
understand is the logic of the process. If we use Hegelian terminology,
then the radically contingent struggle for hegemony can be operative only
in so far as it represses its radically contingent nature, in so far as it
undergoes a minimum of naturalization.



The brand becomes, for Haraway, a kind of hyper-mark. "The parent
company," which is in our case the well-administered global exhibition
project, then connects brands and trademarks. As Haraway (through
Franklin) points out: these commodity descent lines ( and I will add - the
Third and Second Worlds ' art works) present different kinds of
substantial connection(s), kinship and genealogy which are established
solely through trademark(s) or brand(s) as its mark(s). Such exhibitions
can be seen therefore as projects that mark a different set of relations,
which today are generated and procreated within the deadly influence of
corporate techno-science, which radically overdetermines, forms and
articulates what is considered global culture.



I can posit the following conclusions:



1. We can say that all these exhibitions have several fathers (and not one
single mother, just as with Dolly) or owners who establish the brands. A
specific marking now occurs through branding, which establishes a new
proprietary relation. And this relation can be seen as the protection of
capitalist property rights, which leads to the increasingly privatised
ownership of different public projects, exhibitions and etc. All these
ownership(s) - new paternal figures - are obscured by quasi impersonal
rules and neutral principles in public, and heavy criticism in private,
that make visible how these new fathers are behaving as dictators,
imposing the absolute right of decisions. Most exhibitions are named after
the father-curator!



2. What is missing in these exhibitions is "a patiently documentary
genealogical critique," as Ewa Plonowska Ziarek in her book An Ethics of
Dissensus. Postmodernity, Feminism, and the Politics of Radical Democracy
suggests; instead we get flat documentaries. The difference is crucial. In
a flat documentary style of presentation it seems that "freedom" can be
seen as an easily transferable possession or simply an attribute of the
subject. Instead what is needed is a different viewpoint; we have to think
here about "freedom" as a situated political praxis (situated knowledge,
as Haraway argued) that can possibly create modes of being that are still
improbable.



3. The process of cannibalisation and over-rapid historization is also
happening within the capitalist First World (nothing is left out of the
work of the capitalist machine) in order to give fresh blood to different
histories and practices and even more to re-connect different sciences and
theoretical works. We get exhibitions that connect technological
inventions and theoretical work and all is shown in an obsessive natural
way; it all seems as if it had already been working for centuries. Some
exhibitions present such an artificially speeded up lineage of the first
capitalist innovations and inventions that it is as if everything had
already been here for at least five hundred years. What a powerful
civilization and what a splendid science (be sure that here the Third and
Second Worlds have nothing to look for!) that was always on the right path
- right from the very beginning. In producing this enterprised up
continuity, the civilization can therefore survive happily in its
neutrality and as well with its democratic invention(s). And beware, if
necessary, everything will be defended to the last man! An excellent
example is the New Tate Modern institution of art and its ways of dealing
with art works; the way the works are presented there is also part of the
new system of branding and marketing. Here we see the matrix of old and
new, where rooms with titles announce wholly new dimensions or epoch(s).
The social and political dimension is presented as just an event in the
course of the new logic of the newly established order, where the social
and political "room" is, so to speak, only a stage in a new a-historical
art and cultural history.



*NOTE:

Part of following text was published in the publication of the exhibition
project, with the title strangers to ourselves, project conceived and
curated by Maud Belleguic, Mario Rossi and Judith Stewart in association
with Hastings Borough Council, Kent Institute of Arts & Design, Canterbury
City Council Museums and Galleries Service and etc, UK 2003.



----- Original Message -----
From: "Eugene Thacker" <eugene.thacker {AT} lcc.gatech.edu>
To: <nettime-l {AT} bbs.thing.net>
Sent: Sunday, January 25, 2004 2:43 AM
Subject: <nettime> The DNA of Culture


> The DNA of Culture
>
> The Journey of Man, PBS, 2003
> http://www.pbs.org/previews/2002fall/joum.html


<...>



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