Toon Fibbe (the Netherlands)

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Introduction For a quite some time now, I have been interested in the question what the possibilities are for making socially engaged work are in a situation where more and more sections of society are being privatized and the autonomous artists seems to have been instrumentalized by policy makers. I wonder to what extent the strategies of socially engaged art practices have been co-opted by policy makers, making use of terms such as participation, self-organization and autonomy to convey a sense of empowerment, but seem to lead to a situation where autonomy and control go hand in hand. This is seems apparent in the community specific artworks that have been produced in the 1990’s. Projects were produced that used social situations to produce antimarket more directly political engaged projects aiming to strengthen the social bond. I want to investigate how and if the emergence of community specific art n the 1990’s has contributed to a situation where art has increasingly been instrumentalised by politics through projects that would provide opportunities for the strengthening of social cohesion. Underlining these practices was a belief that the artist was incumbent to repair the social bond through the empowering quality of creativity and collective action. These practices arose at the moment when the government was increasingly retreating from such tasks but at the same time steered culture policies towards policies of social inclusion. It seems crucial to investigate the discursive criteria of socially engaged art and to investigate whether its aim to produce meaningful social exchanges alone isn’t leaving too much space for it to be reduced to statistical information about target audiences and "performance indicators," and for social effect to be prioritized by the government over considerations of artistic quality. Furthermore I am taking a look at policies of Rotterdam. What can be seen in there is how the city got entangled in an intercity competition to attract the creative class. What is visible in Rotterdam is how ‘uncreative’ population groups are being moved out of familiar environments and new ‘creative’ groups of citizens are being imported under the guise of equal distribution of various income groups. Here it becomes directly visible how this is encompassing the entire societal domain and the way in which this is not only incorporating economic players but also absorbing the cultural sector and the autonomous artist by utilizing terms as participation, authenticity and self-organization. Towards the end I want take a closer look at the biographies of De Reus van Rotterdam, am man that became a local myth in the 1950’s for being exceptionally tall and Koperen Ko a street musician operating a one-man band in the streets of Rotterdam mostly in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Their appearance was at the time seen as unusual and was a reason for their local fame. The giant of Rotterdam sold postcards of himself, turning his appearance into a commodity to be sold on the streets of Rotterdam. The material that I have gathered on their biographies consists mainly of quotes from conversation that I’ve had about these people. In the case of Koperen Ko I have been using a drum similar to the one that he used to walk the streets of Rotterdam. The encounters that I’ve had led to the construction of their biographies as a polyphonic maybe even cacophonic construction of quotes serving as a biography.


Autonomy - Division between work and life – The Avant Gardes and the museum Artistic autonomy was originally predicated on the seperation of art and life, it was to divorce itself from obvious functionality, instrumental reason, intentionality and necessity. In an industrial world that was marked by an increasing division of labour, this was a means necessary to !separate! art from all social coercion. But as art evaded its instrumentalization it simultaneously lost its social relevance. And so in the 20th century the avant-gardes set out the restore the connection between art and life. (This time with the idea to inject life with a revolutionary jolt) A turn to the social can be seen art various key moments in the 20th century, i.e. a moment when the artist role in society, the value of participatory art, and the triad between the work of art, artist and viewer is rethought. Claire Bishop demarcates three moments in her talk …. These moments seem to occur always in times of political upheaval. The first one is circa 1917 in post-revolutionary Russia, when there is a move towards more inclusive and more participatory modes of production, especially on the level of theatre and photography. The second moment would be circa 1968, when there are numerous initiatives by artist globally to try and produce more participatory modes of artistic production. The third one is 1989, although this one is slightly more complicated because here there is no moment of revolutionary triumph or its disillusionment but rather a disappearance, the end of communism and that impact that has had. Again and again in the 20th century the idea arose to destroy or radically change the museum. The museum considered a cemetery and if one did not intend to destroy it than at least life had to be injected into it. So more and more daily objects were carried into the museum, along with mundane objects, non-objects and processes. And by carrying these non-objects and processes into the museum the emphasis changed from material works to references to the immaterial labour die ten grondslag lag aan deze gedematerialiseerde kunstwerken. But then did this restore the connection between art and life? Did this infuse life with a revolutionary jolt? By bringing all this life into the museum the artwork was still presented as one could say ‘endresult’ of a life. A life that was still obliterated by the walls of the museum. The borders of the museum had to be transgressed. And so, as Harald Szeeman escaped the museum at the same time his material artefacts did and object history was replaced with a conceptual approach. - small description of Joseph Beuys - small description Artist placement group -small description Jan Hoet Chambres d’Amies,

In and out of the museum… again -Out of the museum, Socially engaged practices in the 90’s (From here on I would like to talk about the more socially engaged practices that arose from this logic of them museum transgressing its borders. The type of project that uses social situations to produce antimarket more directly politically engaged projects to aimed to strengthen the social bond. ) Here a certain leftist thinking migrates into artistic production after 1989. This can be seen in the rise of a particular term with which to describe this kind of work which is ‘the project’, of course the word project has been used many decades before, for example around conceptual art, but it really becomes the descriptor for the kind of artistic practices that engage with the social in the 90’s. Exhibitions are often described as projects. The project becomes an umbrella term to rethink art in relation to society through various modes, through collective practice, through self organized activist groups, through documentary film and video, through transdiscplinary research practices, through participatory and socially engaged art, and through the exhibition as a medium. An example for instance is Culture in Action that aimed to have a direct impact on social life and showed afocus on the individual and its social environent. What can be seen here is that a rethinking of site-specificity happened, away from formal and phenomenological models, to address a dynamic social context “Curator Mary Jane Jacob trumpeted forth the fundamental shift which in her view was playing out: a shift ‘from promoting aesthetic quality to contributing to the quality of life, from enriching lives to saving lives’ In the summer of 1993, after two years of intensive preparations under the auspices of non-profit art organisation Sculpture Chicago, a dozen artists got to work on their project. They joined forces with communities in Chicago which they had either chosen themselves or which had been assigned to them by the organisation. As a ‘new genre public art’, Culture in Action was to raise issues that touched ‘the hearts of the man in the street’: employee participation, poverty, homelessness, aids, the environment. Through art, the communities would obtain tools to forge solidarity and to combat social injustice. Tenants living in ghetto areas organised a multi-ethnic neighbourhood parade, sweet factory workers designed and produced a new candy bar, Christian Philipp Mueller laid out a vegetable garden for HIV and aids patients, and teenagers living on the streets founded a video- cooperative. “ Culture in action served as a model for a whole range of socially engaged art projects. It is exactly this approach that can still be found today in projects that are organizing artists to work in disadvantaged city area’s. In the Netherlands it seems that these practices arose at the moment when the government was increasingly retreating from tasks such as the strengthening of the social cohesion (the rolling back of the traditional ‘welfare state’) but at the same time steered culture policies towards policies of social inclusion. It is a rare that it is explicitly made visible what government bodies actually have in mind when funding these projects. (search for quote rick van der ploeg on community art) I became interested in the discursive criteria of socially engaged art and how these criteria have contributed to a situation where art has increasingly been instrumentalised by politics through projects that would provide opportunities for the strengthening of social cohesion. A danger present in both of these practices is that there can be no failed, unsuccessful, unresolved, or boring works of collaborative art because all are equally essential to the task of strengthening the social bond. Reducing art to statistical information about target audiences and "performance indicators," the government prioritizes social effect over considerations of artistic quality.

Underlining such projects there was often a form of control to be seen, for instance in the commissioning of the project by the local authorities or institutions. Even for instance in a seemingly small project like The Dreamkeeper of Alicia Framis a form of control can be seen. For this project she kept watch by someone’s bed for a night, the influence is bigger than how it appears at first sight. “Suffering from lonely nights? Phone the Dreamkeeper. She's in town for forty days, wandering through the streets with her sleeping mat wearing her Star Dress and Moon Shoes. lf you make an appointment she'll come to you. For twelve hours she'll stay by your side. As long as you don't sleep, she'll watch. In the morning she'll pick up her mat and leave again.”  Though it wasn’t stated by the SMBA that was one of the parties involved in the framework of a solo exhibition of Framis that candidates who wanted Alicia Framis beside their bed were actively recruited and carefully screened. 

Art did start to occupy a more and more conspicuous presence in the public sector.

Back in the museum – R.A. In the 1990’s some exhibtion spaces started to see themselves as social laboraties rather than white cubes. In this way they differentiated themselves by thse other dead, bureaucracy encumbered and collection based museums. This view originated from an artistic practice that aimed to transform the exhibition space into a microtopic space for intersubjective exchange. The idea was that this practice was about micro-commitment, and creating a microtopic space rather than a utopian one. The exhibtion space was viewed as a space outside the everyday context, The everyday context was viewed as that undermined the possibilities of human relationships and therefore it was needed to create an interstice. Interstice is a term used by Karl Marx to describe trading communities that elude the capitalist context by being removed from the law of profit, a space in human relations that fit more or less harmoniously and openly into the overall system. The exhibition space was thought to contain the potential to be an interstice or as Nicolas Bourriaud put it “This is the precise nature of the contemporary art exhibition in the area of representational commerce: it creates free areas and time spans whose rhythms contrast with those structuring everyday life. It encourages an interhuman commerce that differs from the “communication zones” that are imposed on us.” The intersubjective space created through these projects became the focus and the medium, mainly resulting in low-key lounge type gatherings. Untitled (Tomorrow Is Another Day) (1996) at the Kölnischer Kunstverein. Here, Tiravanija built a wooden reconstruction of his New York apartment, which was made open to the public twenty-four hours a day. People could use the kitchen to make food, wash themselves in his bathroom, sleep in the bedroom, or hang out and chat in the living room. -I’ll elaborate here on more projects. Although there was nothing new to these type of projects as they were obviously using strategies used in the 1960’s and 1970’s in happenings etc.

it is arguable that in the context of today’s dominant economic model of globalization, Tiravanija’s itinerant ubiquity does not self-reflexively question this logic, but merely reproduces it.

And though the museum has significantly changed in recent decades, visible through an increase in temporary exhibitions, a decrease in attention to the collection, the aforementioned museum as social laboratory, a shift in…. is even more visible within the biennale.

The Post Institution – The success of the biennale and its entaglement in the world of politics, management and sponsors. The extraordinary proliferation of biennales is driven by the same forces that have caused new museums to spring up like mushrooms and old ones to expand and rebuild. The biennale fits in perfectly within the city marketing plans for a creative city. The most successful cities must secure, along with economic dynamisn, a wide variety of cultural and sporting fixtures. A biennale can perform the same function for a city as an Andy Warhol above the couch of an tobacco executive does. Furthermore the biennale actively propagandises the virtues of globalization and the biennale has often for good reason been subject to explicit critique of neoliberalism. So how come the curators and artist continue to take part in Biennales? There is certainty a genuine interest and idealism amongst the curators and artist, but when taking part it must be hard not to position oneself against this all-encompassing neoliberalism that is congruent to a biennale. But the same thing is present as just described in the work of Rikrit Tiravanija, the discourse presented the globally operating actors in the world of art is in complete opposition to their actions; an excess of flights, mass, tourism. The actor in the global artistic field enjoys the pleasures provided by the neoliberal market economy and at the same time “seizes every opportunity to tell a critical, engaged and unique story. (Preciously produced work is used as a touchstone to gauge the quality of work yet to be produced. Yet this hoped-for realization remains largely speculative. In drawing up a contract with a curatorm the organizer of a biennale is not therefore capitalizing on a finished product, but on a potential or a promise. This says Virno, is precisely the core of the Post Fordian work environment, or – to paraphrase – the crux of immaterial labour.)

Autonomy again – The immaterial worker – Occupation (Art did start to occupy a more and more conspicuous presence in the public sector. Leading up to a situation that even in area’s where art did not seem to play any kind of role, it is still present in various ways and the way in which it effects daily life become more and more difficult to identify.) During the talk of Hito Steyerl in the Van Abbe museum for the Autonomy Project symposium, Hito Steyerl spoke about the need for an autonomy of art from art. An autonomy form an art that has turned into an all out occupation. To grasp the argument she is making it is first required to understand what she actually means with the word occupation. The word itself became of interest to Hito Steyerl whe she found out through the Carrot Workers Collective that the European Union had replaced the words work, labour, and employment in all the documents by the word occupation. So what does this mean, what happens when these words are interchanged for the word occupation? In opposition to work, labour and employment, occupation does not have an end, it has no temporal framework except time itself. Occupation is not hinged on any result, instead it intends to keep one busy and is supposed to contain its own gratification. Whereas work and labour are a means to an end. A means to reproduce a livelihood or to alienate oneself into something that you’re making, it is also a way of constructing a subjectivity, something that with occupation seems to get more difficult. This comes from Hitos Steyerls position where she argues to embrace alienation as well as the status of objectivity and objecthood that comes along with it. But what happens if we replace the word ‘work’ in ‘the work of art’ for occupation? Steyerl argues that this has already happened in many ways. In transforming art art has become process based, it contains its own gratification, work that does away with the material residue to be condensed in a material commodity. This occupation seems to have invaded the workplace in an unprecedented way. A concept that one has to think about when hearing about this is of course the immaterial worker. Just as with occupation, the immaterial worker does not stop when the worker leaves the office. It is likely for him/her to take his/her work home, to bed and even on holiday. Words that characterize the immaterial worker are knowledge sharing, flexibility, playfulness and adaptability. The immaterial worker is always connected to work via a smartphone. Making his working hours more than flexible, fluid rather. Crating a blurring of work and life to eventually become entangled in a hybrid of the two. These ways of working are dominant in the cultural workplace. A lot of jobs are unpaid , jobs are processional, discursive centred around relations and are supposed to contain their own gratification. Tt is necessary to note a difference between the two. A difference though from the post-fordist immaterial worker is that occupation includes consumers, reproducers, even destroyers and time-wasters. The origins both can be found in the same process. As previously described artistic autonomy was originally predicated on the separation of art and life, i.e. it was to be divorced from obvious functionality, instrumental reason, intentionality and necessity as a means to separate itself from all social coercion. At the same time however while it evaded instrumentalization, art lost social its relevance. Therefore the avant-gardes reversed the initial divisions of labour that were important to separate art from life. Their hope was for art to dissolve within life, to be infused with a revolutionary jolt. The social structure of the early modern artworld can, without much imagination, be seen as a social laboratory in which the current Post-Fordian work ethic and art as occupation was produced. It takes little imagination to portray the modern and contemporary artist as an immaterial worker. The divisions of labour to separate art and life that started to be reversed on many other levels. This transition is based on the role model of the artist as a person who refuses the division of labour and leads an unalienated lifestyle. The origin of artistic autonomy lies in the refusal of the division of labour (and the alienation and subjection that accompany it), “this refusal has been reintegrated into neoliberal modes of production to set free dormant potentials for financial expansion. In this way, the logic of autonomy spread to the point where it tipped into new dominant ideologies of flexibility and self-entrepreneurship, acquiring new political meaning.”

Art became process based, and started to do away with the material residue as Pascal Gielen points out in his essay “The murmuring of the Artistic Multitude” it is not very appropriate to attribute this to the ‘modernist model’. The rise of post-fordism is more often dated back to the 1970’s, starting with the student revolt of 1968 and the fiat strikes of the early seventies can be seen as key moments. This social conflict was in defence of non-socialist and even anti-socialist demands, such as a radical critique of labour, the right to express individual tastes and to a far-reaching individualism in general. These demands were met by capitalism and led exactly the post-fordian forms of production. Establishing a more human workplace but in a different way than imagined by the protestors. This does not rule out the possibility that art contributed to this process in a very early stage by establishing a certain societal space in which the logics and ethics of …. were unconsciously prepared. It seems that Hito Steyerl is mainly localizing the origin of this ‘workethic’ in the avant-gardes and their infusion of life with art. But the seeds seem to have been sown before., Even though the avant-gardes distanced themselves from the ideas that were prevalent during Romanticism, a couple of elements present have been taken up by them. Building further on a value system that partly originated during Romanticism. Before Romanticism, the word artist had a completely different meaning, in the dictionary of 1755 the art is described as ‘a skilful man, not a novice’, while during Romanticism certain artist gained recognition for their abnormality and exceptionality. This cult of the artist was able to arise through the re-evaluation of imagination and expression in the arts and the cult of the genius. This was possible through the decline and dismissal of the regime of the classical academy. The essence of the collective regime lies in the obedience to their collective rules. As this was deemed to be less and less important, this meant the end of judging a work against a stable set of rules. Now the eccentricity of the artist meant that he would oscillate his while life between being celebrated and stigmatized, between originality and excess. Only later would his successors truly come to appreciate his true artistic worth. The avant-gardes heavily resisted the ideas present in Romanticism. Attacking it by making works that would remove personal handwriting and mocking art, still this couldn’t prevent that personal style became more important to a uniform system of rules. As Pascal Gielen points out there lurks a capitalist logic. Directing the career to the centerstage rather than the artwork. “The main arguments that a seller can use are firstly the existing critical evaluations of the work and, secondly, the positive perceptions of the artists earlier work. Within an oeuvre, previously delivered quality is taken as a promise of future quality.” Not only does this create a negated (or invisible) bond between the artist and the work it is also suggests a logic that seems to apply to the immaterial worker. How does one judge the work of an immaterial labourer? Previously delivered quality is taken as a prospective quality. But to follow up on Hito Steyerl so far I’ve only spoken so far about the meaning of the word occupation in the meaning of a job or profession, an other meaning of the word occupation is of course the action, state or period of occupying or being occupied by military force, refererring to conquest, invasion, extreme power relations and checkpointed spaces.

“Occupation often implies endless mediation, eternal process, indeterminate negotiation, and the blurring of spatial divisions. It has no inbuilt outcome or resolution. It also refers to appropriation, colonization, and extraction. In its processual aspect occupation is both permanent and uneneven – and its connotation are completely different for the occupied and the occupier.”

Local scale – Rotterdam and the creative city Rotterdam is one of the bigger cities in The Netherlands that is most effected by the consequences of de-industrialisation processes that started in the 1970’s. The harbour of Rotterdam once served as the main supplier of jobs, no longer holds this position. At that time Rotterdam was already suffering from the migration of the middle-class to the suburbs. This wave of suburbanization began in the 1960’s. The city grew smaller while the areas around it started growing. The process of the continuously growing city was reversed, and urbanisation turned into suburbanisation. Where in the centuries before cities tended to grow in times of economic prosperity, now the opposite happened. This had severe consequences for the city of Rotterdam. Together with the process of the deindustrialisation of the economy of the city caused an increase of poverty visible in the centre. (answer to this in 80’s) The rise of the welfare state meant political centralization of city politics and this became anchored in the national state apparatus. As the welfare state was focussing on social housing, social district policy, while negating that the population for the majority did not existed of dockworkers anymore and so maintained the wave migration out of the city by the middle and upper classes. The regeneration of the city economy appeared to be outside of the paradigm of the welfare sate. So the question still remained what to do with a port city in decay? This became an important question in the years to come. In 199X the answer came. During a presentation in the Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam Richard Florida introduced Dutch city planners and politicians to the Creative City. And in the last couple of years Rotterdam has come under the influence of his ideas. Richard Florida is one of the main theorists of the creative city (though it is often forgotten that the term was actually coined by Charles Landry. His message is that the creative milieu of artists, technicians, media companies, advertising agencies and designers would become the economic engine of the city in the 21st century. Both left and right winged City planners and politicians were enthusiastic, the left; because of the idea that creative environments are malleable, and the right because of the link between creativity and liberalization. What is essential according to Florida for a city to attract the Creative Class, is that a city must possess ‘the three ‘T’s”: Talent, Tolerance and Technology. Cities that are traditionally home to large groups of blue-collar workers, such as Rotterdam, would do well to open their old, close-knit neighbourhoods and alter the composition of the population. He has statistically demonstrated that old working-class cities traditionally don’t do well as creative environments, because there is supposedly too much local resistance to new forms of creativity. Florida therefore argues that it is necessary to attract members of the creative class, as they value diversity individuality and meritocracy. Ideas about the creative city have influenced policies and the strategies of creative city have been employed are for instance neighbourhoods like now distributing citizens over the city landscape. This process can be seen in neighbourhoods like Hoogvliet, Spangen and Crooswijk . It is clearly visible here how the ‘uncreative population groups are moved out of their environments and are redistributed over the entire city landscape and how ‘creative citizens are brought in and are intended to serve as role models. The policy seems to focus on specific favoured forms of creativity. This gives advantages – attractive and inexpensive living and working oases, for example – to specific groups, which moreover generally require no further guidance, while the majority are forced into the marketplace or into a severely reduced public housing system in order to meet their housing needs.

But also a successful example that followed the same principles is for instance the Witte de With Straat in Rotterdam, that until the early nineties was a paradise, a for gambling bosses, pimps and other shady figures, turned into a one of the more lively streets of Rotterdam housing galleries, restaurants, hip fashion stores and a yearly festival that kicks of the cultural season. Something that can be seen over last decades is the sprouting of all kind of events in Rotterdam to name a few: the Volvo Ocean Race; a boat race through the Maas river, the Heineken Dance Parade a housemusic festival, the Fortis Rotterdam Marathon, Bavaria City Racing and many more. The organisation of these particular events serve as a way to stimulate the local economy. They fit next to the emergence of brainports, kennisclusters, city en funshopping and sprouting of many cultural festivals. All this events are a means to make Rotterdam less dependant on its harbour to provide a more stable source of income, instead of the unreliable global flow a goods and capital connected to the harbour. The irony of this is that Rotterdam now got entangled in an intercity competition to attract the creative class and find itself in a new struggle amongst cities. The events seem in fact to have had the opposite effect. The creative formula is not generated by Rotterdam’s own potential, but is copied from bigger citiesAttracting companies, residents and visitors is what is important in city politics. ‘Groeibriljanten’ (Growing Diamonds). For this project, all Rotterdammers were called upon to inventory the ‘opportunities’ in their neighbourhoods and formulate them in terms of projects that people could vote on. For the most popular projects, such as the Deliplein or the Katendrecht, an attractive burst of funding was reserved to give the local partners (including the Rotterdam Development Corporation, the district government and local artists) the ability to actually cash in on these opportunities. In addition, the city of Rotterdam made empty properties available for temporary cultural initiatives at negligible expense. Organizations such as WORM@ VOC and Now & Wow took up residence in old warehouses on the condition that they facilitated neighbourhood activities. In short, the city of Rotterdam is increasingly leaving urban development in the hands of spontaneous initiatives generated from the bottom up. These buzzwords participation and bottom-up that are propagated in these kind of projects seem to be used to move attention from the micro to the macro scale and are part of the neoliberal project that serves the preservation of the system instead that to negotiate real questions of power. Surrogate democratic participation presents nothing more then a depoliticization of the individual beyond serious modes of engagements. Something that can be seen recently with ‘De Luchtsingel’, if one has sufficient financial resources to mobilize a people, the outcome of the referendum can be predicted. It is the result of a pecuniary politics rather, than a proclaimed bottom-up approach.

At the moment I just received a voting card in the mail for a similar project. In invitation to participate goes hand in hand with a conduct how to participate. For ‘DichterlijkeVrijheid’ (Poetic Freedom) project, for example, the city of Rotterdam donated an entire block of buildings, the Wallisblok, to young, creative individuals. This gift to the homeowners, who were expected to fix up the property and bring to the neighbourhood, was possible after the original owners were bought out. I just received a leaflet in my mail showing me the options for new city initiatives by citizens of Rotterdam that I can vote on (needs elaboration).

Obstacles in the Creative City So what can be said of the situation at this moment? One thing that has to be discussed when looking at the development of Rotterdam as a creative city is the rise of Pim Fortuyn. For many people in the cultural field the uprising of Leefbaar Rotterdam became stagnation in this development. Under the tenure of Leefbaar Rotterdam, the city lost its newly acquired status as a city for culture and policies were focussed on safety, rules and their enforcement. A few years ago a lot of artists moved to Berlin or the creative class moved to Amsterdam. At the same time the lack of audience is already seems to be taken into account by a lot of institutions. Aiming to work internationally without much focus on the population of Rotterdam as a potential audience. And though a lot of initiatives can be considered to be a success, they do no attract new citizens Rotterdam hoped for from the creative class. Even with all of the strategies of the creative city employed Rotterdam has trouble with maintaining the higher educated part of its population. New residents living in the center of Rotterdam was the aim of the city, but instead what is shown is the lack of power to change anything about the low educational level of the population of the city. The population is even expected to shrink in the upcoming years. Bourriaud & Bishop Claire Bishop argues in the essay Antagonism and Relational Aesthetics that several of the ideas proposed by Laclau and Mouffe allow to reconsider the claims made by Nicolas Bourriaud. An important idea is the concept of antagonism. Laclau and Mouffe claim that a fully functioning democracy is not one where antagonisms have disappeared, but one in which new political frontiers are constantly being drawn or brought into debate. Sustaining conflict rather that to negate of erase it. The full promise of democracy must remain unrealized via an unresolved agonistic conflict. What is at stake in the agonistic struggle is the very configuration of power relations around which a society is structured: it is a struggle between opposing hegemonic projects that can never be reconciled rationally. 'The antagonistic dimension is always present, it is a real confrontation but one which is played out under conditions Regulated by a set of democratic procedures accepted by the adversaries. The understanding of antagonism is grounded in their theory of subjectivity. They argue that subjectivity is not a self transparent rational and pure presence but is irremediably decentred. This implies a lack of a unified subject while ‘agency’ implies a fully present autonomous subject of political will and self-determination. They argue that this conflict is false, because the subject is neither decentred nor entirely unified. It is agued that we have a failed structural identity and therefore dependant on identification in incomplete entities. While antagonism is a we/they relation in which the two sides are enemies who do not share any common ground, agonism is a we/they relation where the conflicting parties, although acknowledging that there is no rational solution to their conflict, nevertheless recognize the legitimacy of their opponents. They are 'adversaries' not enemies. With agonism opponents perceive each other as friendly enemies. They are so because they share a common symbolic space, they are enemies because they want to share this space differently. An agonistic approach to art would then be one that simulates dissensus and that brings to light what is repressed by the dominant consensus. Meaning that art has to go beyond a reflection of the rejected choices of the dominant culture and would attempt to address the actual processes that shape our environment. It is easy to read the examples that Bishop is using as agonistic because these works are very well able to offend people, in opposition to artists that work collaboratively who seem to be portrayed as politically naïve idealists ignoring the reality of democracy. Especially when putting these practices next to the practice of Santiago Sierra the way Bishop does in her essay. In his work relationships are set up that could easily be called more controversial that those of RT. : His work can be seen as a given meditation on the social and political conditions that permit disparities in people’s “prices” to emerge.”


When there is a lack of democratic struggles with which to identify, their place is taken by other form of identification, of ethnic, nationalist or religious nature, and the opponent is defined in those terms too The main question that emerges for me is whether this model is able to acknowledge the possibility that the process of intersubjective exchange itself, rather than pre-existing opinion, can be generative and transforming. Is agonism only possible among those who hold fixed positions and are defined in turn by a subjectivity that must be defended from co-optation by others. Articulated politics force ethical affiliations out into the open and thereby eradicate all the latent ambiguities and complexities that inevitably arise from the way sympathies change over time like any other moods. The outsider The artworld loves to view itself as delinquents, nomads. A glorified notion of the outsider seems to be prevalent in the artworld. The public role of the intellectual is often imagined as an outsider, and of course that makes sense to a certain level, it alludes to someone who is ‘inventing a language to speak the truth to power, someone who works in the margins, in exile. Someone working from the position of an amateur rather than an expert, the expert is already someone with a default mode of operation, a specialist, an insider.