Friday, November 20, 2009

Political Act in Contemporary : Drawing Borders

A sentence, coined by the artist Šejla Kamerić, from Bosnia and Herzegovina:
“There is no border, there is no border, there is no border,
no border, no border, no border,
I wish.”

as an art work (recently quoted in the magazine Kontakt, of the ERSTE BANK GROUP, as part of an interview with Kamerić under the title “Freedom Comes”) posits the “border” as a disruptive and imposed regulative force within the different social, territorial, and artistic conditions of contemporary global capitalism. Therefore, the disappearance of borders, as it is also precisely captured by the title “Freedom Comes” of this recent interview with Kamerić in Kontakt, is to be seen as a wish that would definitely bring freedom.
The disappearance of borders seems to be the last point in the success story of the constitution of the present world. This is the point at which its whole history, in relation to the WALL that once divided East and West (Berlin) Europe, is constructed as well. But the wish put forward by Šejla Kamerić is already operative as the logic of the historization of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Am I right? In the August 2008 issue of the Lufthansa onboard magazine, a full-page ad (page 6) by the German National Tourist Board announces the year 2009. It is presented as the forthcoming 20th jubilee, as a celebration of 20 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, with the following slogan: “Welcome to a land without borders.” The announcement goes on to say that the Berlin Wall symbolized the Cold War and the division of Germany and Europe into East and West (until 1989) for 28 years. But in the coming year of 2009, representing 20 years since the reunification of Germany, it will be possible to visit in Germany only some remainders of that time in Europe (and I would add, before they vanish completely). In this announcement, it is stated that the revolution for a better world in East Germany started in Leipzig at the St. Nicholas Church, etc. There is a very clear parallel process going on in Europe with regard to the overtaking of the communist revolutionary past of the “East“ of Europe by Christianity. It will be necessary to undertake a very precise analysis in order to identify the circulation of capital and the hegemonization of Europe by Christianity as two parallel and interrelated processes that go hand in hand both historically and currently!
I will take the border as a point of departure in order to propose the following thesis. I can claim that although we have the feeling that invisible borders prevent the space of the world, to be precise, that of the First capitalist neoliberal global world, from being open and mobile, we nevertheless have to think differently. On one hand, we see the process of the unbelievable circulation of positions that prevents us from fully accepting thinking of the space of contemporary art and culture, the social and economical, as being foreclosed by borders, and on the other, we see the disappearance of the borders that firmly installed a clear division of the world in the past, as was the case in the time of imperialist capitalism. Actually what we see is a process of the disintegration of borders, at least as part of an ideological, discursive process of the reorganization of the new Europe and the world. What is presented by Kamerić as a wish is already operative so to speak, it is already working throughout the new Europe. This is the slogan of Germany today with which it will celebrate 20 years of its reunification (which took place in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall). Therefore, there is an obvious logic organizing the whole space of the new Europe, and this means it is necessary to push a very precise analysis. Even more so, it is precisely necessary in relation to such a background, which is so cheerful in celebrating a world without borders, to push forward another thesis or logic: we need borders more than ever. How is this possible? The answer is very simple: to establish a border – to draw a line of division that would re-articulate this new world that seems to be without borders and where the only thing that seems impossible is impossibility as such – means to present, to take a clear political stance, to ask for a political act. This political act means pointing a finger against the situation that claims that today the only thing that is impossible is impossibility as such. Whose im/possibility?
But let’s proceed step by step. What is the phenomenon that can be seen if one looks attentively at the different logics of functioning within the space of politics, but even more so within the art and culture of the new Europe nowadays? We see a disinterest in the art, culture, etc., coming from the region of former Eastern Europe. This is not about being romantic or sad; this disinterest must clearly be connected with the escalation of all major exhibitions and biennials that show a special appetite for the positions of Third World artists, mostly Asian and Latin American. The past divisions and ideologies of difference within Europe are seen as an obstacle to the process of capital circulation. This means, to the circulation of financial capital as the major form of global capital today, or, to say it simply, these divisions are seen as an obstacle to the circulation of money. Behaving as though this is already one space (Europe), it is not necessary to push any inclusion through exclusion, it is enough to behave as if no differences any longer exist (China proved this with the Olympic Games as well!). We are all identical through a process of “evacuation” that David Harvey in A Brief History of Neoliberalism (2005) defines as “accumulation by dispossession.” Accumulation by dispossession is a process of expulsion from the possession of any possible difference; when it is necessary, a law is used (just think of the unbelievable legislative policy of the EU, which only specialists can follow nowadays) or there is a whole set of institutional, legislative, bureaucratic, infrastructural, theoretical, and cultural processes which are abruptly or “gently” installed. The Bologna process of reformulating the European Higher Education Area is an excellent example of this tearing down of borders in Europe. The process of “accumulation by dispossession” is perhaps no longer effective in Europe, as it is supposedly completed here (with the German slogan for 2009, it is cemented as a process that is finally realized, so to speak), but think of its workings elsewhere, in the Third World, for example.
The process of the disappearance of borders, as I try to conceptualize here, and my thesis is that the wish is almost completed (just lets think of the Wall Street collapse and the world that is falling down as a domino effect) is in fact connected to the processes of the accumulation of capital. One is surely accumulation by dispossession, meaning getting rid of, being robbed of, any difference. The second process is what we are facing today, and is called the imperialism of circulation. Michael Hudson in his Super Imperialism, from 1972 (recently republished), says that instead of there being a crisis as regards gaps in distribution, today we are witnessing a process contrary to it, which is “the imperialism of circulation.” But to come to the imperialism of circulation today, you have to be dispossessed. In 1972, Hudson already announced that the borders which were preventing distribution, forming gaps in distribution, would be removed by the imperialism of circulation. I can state that both processes – accumulation by dispossession and the imperialism of circulation – have to be seen not as a simple cut between the modes of the accumulation of capital (sending the accumulation by dispossession to retirement), but that one constituted the parameters (through dispossession) of the other in order to dominate at the present moment.
I roughly sketched out some of the most interesting moments that are part of the important debate regarding the question of the accumulation and redistribution of financial capital, which has to be seen as the logic for any serious debate of what is to be done at the present moment, regarding questions of agency for a possible emancipatory politics within/against global capitalism. It is also not necessary to repeat that this background is part of the new way that is imposed and made operative in order to think differently about borders as well. The borders are gone, and the price to be paid is the total dispossession of all our ideas, stances, and specificities. Capital has only one agenda, though – surplus value – and this is more than a program or a Hollywood film conspiracy. It is a drive; human desire against this mad drive is not an equal opponent. The imperialism of circulation without differences, as the primal logic of the condition of the production of global financial capitalism implies that what is produced is money. But as the crisis implies, this bubble will explode sooner or later as well. Last, but not least, the recent capitalist economic crisis which can be described as a process of stagflation, i.e. of differential inflation amid stagnation, is not only a sign, but also the realization of new processes of the capitalization of financial capital in connection with new modes of capital accumulation. Individually and institutionally, we can all detect the rising prices of different goods and services, which are processes of differential inflation in the middle of what experts in numerous articles in newspapers depict as the present capitalist stagnation for us laics in the field of economics (after more than a decade of prosperity and deflation!). The consequences of the crisis are still not predictable and will escalate further.
But what is important for us now is the subsequent or parallel process that is equivalent to Hudson’s “imperialism of endless circulation” and which I can simply describe, making reference to Jelica Šumič-Riha’s article “Prisoners of the Inexistent Other,” by stating that what is impossible in the world of capitalism today is impossibility as such. They work together: on one side the imperialism of circulation, and on the other, the impossibility of something being impossible. The imperialism of circulation, in its frenetic processes, prevents the subversion, the attack of any master entity. Everything circulates, is exchanged, clearly dispossessed of any difference, and no obstacles are to be seen in the network that structures reality for us. Those once perceived as enemies, from individuals to institutions, behave as if we were all in the same “merde” (to use this juicy French word for “shit”), as if we were all together, and if we all had to find the remedy to our problems and needs, obstacles, etc. (while those who generate expropriation and dispossession have to be forgotten immediately). It is almost impossible to say that something is impossible today.
Or to put this differently, in the past a subversive act was possible as it was subversion against the clear foreclosure and division in society. We had the borders. The big Other, the virtual symbolic order, the network that structures/d reality for us, was the thing giving “consistency”, so to speak. It was almost a guarantee of an intervention against it. The world today presents itself in an endless circulation (imperialism is an excellent concept capturing this drive) that is seen as “friendly” and endless exchange, and therefore in order to solve expropriation, enslavement, and neocolonial interventions by capital, only one measure is proposed, and this is called coordination. I recently found a completely serious political proposal that stated that the only thing to be done to solve our problems is an effective “coordination.” My question is, can we really be dumb enough to stick to such theories? Of course they all have an ace hidden in their pocket or up their sleeve in order for things to circulate smoothly. It is necessary to successfully coordinate the process of getting rid of a small number of those who still bother us with social antagonisms and class struggle. I am not saying, though, that there is not a need, as in the case of accumulation, for a new conceptualization and historization of the class struggle!
Perhaps on my way to Damascus with this text, I can give an answer to what was seen as a purely rhetorical question when formulated by Jon McKenzie in 2001. His book is entitled Perform or Else: From Discipline to Performance, where this else floated in the air, unanswered. Or else what? I will propose the following answer or command: Circulate (but just without differences)! So we have to draw a line in space, a border. To show a border within the inconsistency of the big Other, means to act. To act politically. The act changes the very coordinates of this impossibility. It is only through an act that I effectively assume the big Other’s nonexistence. This implies not only that s/he has to take the politics of representation into her/his hands, and set the border within the cynical situation that the only thing which is impossible is impossibility as such, but, as is argued by Šumič-Riha, it is necessary to build the framework as well, the foreclosure that would set the new parameters, giving the new coordinates to the political act. (Something we did when we started to publish Reartikulacija!) Within such a context, I can claim that what is necessary, in fact, is a precise, new conceptual and paradigmatic political act, which implies the setting of a new framework.
The political act is a division, the setting of a border within a space. It reconfigures, closes, or stops, if you will, the imperialism of the circulation without differences by establishing new parameters within the space. It establishes a new structure to which to relate (de-coloniality of knowledge, de-coloniality of power, lesbian and queer political platform, etc). An act is always performed through enunciation and it not only sets the parameters that initiate the act itself, but the parameters in relation to the Other to whom it is addressed, as well. What is important is the establishment of the structure to which this line(s) of division will relate. In the case of Germany and in the case of the story of a non-existent past division in Europe, it is necessary to state that the biggest profit from the disappearance of borders in Europe is to be gained by financial capital. The point is that in order to push such logic, it was necessary to imply a ferocious process of equalization and leveling of all of the strata of the different European and World societies, from the social to the educational and cultural. It was necessary to install one of the most ferocious politics in the whole space as well – the politics of dispossession – or to put it differently, local specificities were changed into ethnic/ethnographical ones, and one general path of history and genealogy from art to culture, science, and the social, was established as the only valid one: the First Capitalist World history that completely (de)regulates the history, present, and the future of the world.
Therefore, the question is always to which histories we attach our representational politics and how we resituate our position ourselves within a certain social, economic, and political territory.
The declaration of existence is the first step, as argued by Šumič-Riha, but what follows afterwards is the rigorous practices of consequences, the logics of consequences (of the declaration), where the impossibility of the foreclosure of the capitalist discourse turns into the condition of a new possibility. Therefore, in rearticulating a certain history of global capitalism and borders, I can state that the so-called 1990s multicultural ideology of global neoliberal capitalism was the declaration of the existence of other worlds, but only and solely for the installment of a second step, which is the iron logic of the imperialism of circulation. In order to do this, an accelerated process of dispossession was put to work, which cleaned and evacuated each and every difference. These two stages are excellently captured in the field of contemporary art by a project I already mentioned several times and undertook an analysis of in the past. In the 1990s, Mladen Stilinović declared that “An artist who can not speak English is NO artist.” This sentence, as an art work, depicted the initial multicultural logic of the neoliberal global capitalism of the 1990s excellently. It was an interest in a specificity that had to use the “common language” of translation regardless, and at that time it seemed that it did not matter how good it was. A decade afterwards, in 2007, I proposed a correction of this sentence as an art work: “An artist who can not speak English WELL is NO artist.” This is the new process of dispossession and difference, and the process of emptying the world of any content and political action. It is a formalization and equalization of positions that allows easy circulation.
A political act is that which interrupts a situation where the only impossible thing in the world today is impossibility as such.
Text by Marina Gržinić
Marina Gržinić, Re-Politicizing art, Theory, Representation and New Media Technology, Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna, Schlebrügge.Editor, Vienna 2008.

David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism, Oxford University Press, Oxford 2005.

Michael Hudson, Super-Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire, Austin, Texas, Holt Rinehart 1972.

Jelica Šumič-Riha, “Jetniki Drugega, ki ne obstaja” (Prisoners of the Inexistent Other), in Filozofski vestnik/Acta Philosophica, journal, published by the Institute of Philosophy ZRC SAZU, Ljubljana 2007.
Source : REARTIKULACIJA no. 5 - 2008