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Re: <nettime> The Death of the Avant-garde in the Attention Economy
Brian Holmes on Tue, 10 Jan 2012 20:22:23 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> The Death of the Avant-garde in the Attention Economy

On 01/10/2012 02:39 AM, Prem Chandavarkar wrote:

Modernist art has centralized the notions of creativity and
innovation because it seeks to align with history. Without seeking to
either diminish or sideline creativity and innovation, we now must
simultaneously seek to align art with timelessness through a quest for

The dissolution of the avant-garde through media-flashes of innovation and monuments of overwhelming scale is certain. But I wonder if timelessness can be thought, not through any reference to eternity but with the Benjaminian category of Jetztzeit -- that is, "now-time"?

I am sure everyone remembers WB's famous declaration from the Theses on History: "'History is the object of a construction, whose site is not that of homogeneous and empty time, but one filled with now-time."

There is currently a rare and excellent article about art in the Arab Spring on the opinion pages of Al Jazeera. The author, Daanish Faruqi, comments on what appears to be a quite spectacular exhibition by Cai Guo-Quiang at the Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha. With the "biggest ever" daylight fireworks show composing the central artistic statement, this seems to have exactly those characteristics of scale and innovation you are talking about, Prem. Surely we will all forget this almost instantly!

Faruqi picks up on Hamid Dabashi's critique of this exhibition for its lack of relevance to the present, and though he doesn't bother with Walter Benjamin he does offer an insight into where the intensities of the present currently gather:

"Art's role, as Dabashi correctly describes, is to imagine the emancipatory politics of our impossibilities. To imagine is not to chronicle in minute detail. The artists of the Arab Spring are tasked with simply igniting a spark, of reinjecting the radical imagination into Arab society, through envisioning the utopian possibility of hope and a better life, undergirded by the basic dignity of the Arab people as non-negotiable and sacrosanct."


I think the text is really good, check it out. Maybe an actual building full of now-time is currently imnpossible. Maybe this is a moment for architects who do not build? Who work instead with the grassroots transformation of spaces that have been frozen by capital?

warmly, Brian

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