Friday, May 28, 2010

One Man’s Trash . . .

Working with a patient he calls Debra, a compulsive hoarder, the psychologist Randy O. Frost tried a simple experiment. Frost proposed sending Debra a postcard, blank but for the name and address. Debra’s assignment was to throw it away.

Days later, Debra complained that she had not had enough time with the card. She described the stamp and the postmark. When she finally let go, she pictured the card’s position in the trash. Later, she confessed she had cheated by writing down everything about the card she could remember and then saving the notes.

Illustration by R. O. Blechman

In “Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things,” Frost, a professor at Smith College, and Gail Steketee, a professor and dean of the school of social work at Boston University, invite us graciously into territory that might otherwise make us squirm. They have spent nearly 20 years working with hoarders, sometimes in settings where tunnels lead through trash and roaches roam freely. Frost and Steketee introduce collectors who acquire through shopping, Dumpster diving and stealing. The resulting assemblages encompass broken machines and living things (cats and dogs, mostly).

People justify hoarding as curating and recycling, deeming odd objects beautiful and useful. Sometimes they act as if history were at stake. Andy Warhol, “straddling the border between eccentricity and pathology,” the authors write, would periodically sweep everything — cash, artwork, apple cores — off his desk and into a cardboard box. He stored hundreds of these “time capsules.”

To characterize hoarding, Frost and Steketee select what they call a “prototype” case involving a woman named Irene. Irene’s home is filled with seemingly random items: newspapers, children’s games, empty cereal boxes, expired coupons. The mess has driven Irene’s husband from the house, and she worries that he will seek custody of their children, including a daughter whose dust allergies make it hard for her to live there.

To Frost and Steketee, patients like Irene demand a new understanding of hoarders. Past experts have depicted sufferers as isolated and paranoid — deprived in childhood and now unable to discard worthless junk even when it bears no sentimental value. But Irene’s parents were comfortable financially. She has many friends. She treasures each item she owns and anticipates putting it to future use.

Hoarding has been linked to obsessive-compulsive disorder and its variants, and Irene, who displays contamination fears, probably meets criteria for O.C.D. But studies show that the genetics of hoarding differ from the genetics of obsessing. And while obsessionality is painful, Irene finds enjoyment in acquiring and revisiting her holdings. It is this pleasure in objects (think of Debra and the postcard) that distinguishes hoarding, in Frost and Steketee’s view. They suggest that hoarders may “inherit an intense perceptual sensitivity to visual details,” and speculate about “a special form of creativity and an appreciation for the aesthetics of everyday things.”

This upbeat account of hoarding’s basis has a humane ring: hoarders are discerning. But then, Irene can be indiscriminate, according every possession equal worth, whether it’s a newspaper clipping or a photograph of her daughter. Frost and Steketee are too thoughtful to give a simple account of what drives Irene. Possessions help her preserve her identity and relive past events. The objects make her feel safe and allow her to express caring. Newspaper clippings point outward, speaking to Irene of opportunities in the wider world. Irene is depressed; collecting promises relief. Irene displays perfectionism and indecisiveness, character traits that have been linked to hoarding. When there are so many motivations, no single one seems central.

Hoarding can also arise in connection with senility, injuries to the brain’s frontal lobes and Prader-Willi syndrome, a genetic disorder whose symptoms may include low intelligence. Ideally, any theory that ascribes a special aesthetic sensibility to hoarders would need to take account of patients whose thought processes are impaired. And as Frost and Steketee demonstrate, there is no end to competing explanations of how hoarding arises. The “terror management theory” holds that collecting mitigates fears of death, via the fashioning of a form of immortality. The “compensation theory” postulates that objects can provide reassurance to those who question their self-worth. Hoarding has been linked to gambling addiction; acquisition is a matter less of compulsion than of impulsivity. Frost and Steketee also connect hoarding with modern materialism and advertising (though they stress that materialism is associated with display and hoarding with secrecy); then again, they emphasize the condition’s universality.

Certainly, collecting is a common human activity. One hoard, 1,100 seal impressions on clay from the Fertile Crescent, has survived 25 centuries. As many as 90 percent of children collect something, Frost and Steketee report, and two-thirds of American households include a collector.

What separates pastime from disorder? Frost and Steketee rely on distress and impairment, criteria that psychiatry employs to delineate diagnoses. But some of the subjects Frost and Steketee discuss function well enough. What of the wealthy, cultured twins, each of whom has stuffed a hotel penthouse with moldering artwork? Both brothers have friends. Both can afford to move to new apartments as old ones fill up. Both take pride in their collections. Are the twins ill? If not, is it resources that set them apart from Irene, who is struggling to hold on to her children? It seems paradoxical that if one twin were to become desperate because he recognized that he had lost control, he might be labeled a pathological hoarder, while his brother, blithely rationalizing his purchases, would be deemed healthy.

As Frost and Steketee’s examples multiply, hoarding comes to seem an ever more diffuse concept. A majority of the subjects the authors study are clinically depressed. Frost and Steketee believe that hoarding causes the mood disorder. Working in different terrain, I see patients who complain first of depression. Twice, I have treated women who lived amid clutter because they could not discard the detritus of daily life, be it magazines or pay slips. I had no success with the filled rooms. But both times we made progress with the depression, and both times the patient moved, for business reasons. In the new house, each managed to keep up with the flow of paper.

Frost and Steketee, with their active collectors, do not see this sort of result. Forced clean-outs don’t work; hoarders restock houses quickly, and the sudden loss of objects causes rage and anxiety. (Nantucket, we learn, stopped town-­ordered cleanups when three hoarders died shortly after the interventions.) Frost and Steketee recommend self-help groups and variants of cognitive therapy to treat hoarding. Success is mixed. Clients report improvement, but their homes remain cluttered. One O.C.D. researcher tells Frost and Steketee that she excludes hoarders from her samples because they make therapy outcomes look bad — quite a statement when you consider that she is confronting a notoriously unyielding disease.

If Frost and Steketee have difficulty constructing a coherent new vision of compulsive hoarding, it is because they are too observant and too dedicated to the relief of suffering to make a complex phenomenon simple. They are collectors in their own right, stocking a cabinet of curiosities with intimate stories and evocative theories. To those who need to understand hoarders, perhaps in their own family, “Stuff” offers perspective. For general readers, it is likely to provide useful stimulus for examining how we form and justify our own attachments to objects.

Text by Peter D. Kramer

Source: The New York Times, published: April 23, 2010

Monday, May 17, 2010

Another Sun

Another Sun
Wood, acrylic

Alle Wege sind verschlossen

Lydia Dampasina
Alle Wege sind verschlossen
All ways are closed
Exhibited in the Kunsthalle Athena

Friday, May 14, 2010

Slovakian Covers

1952, cover for Ďaleko od Moskvy by Vasilij Ažajev

1961, cover for Ebenová karavána by Mirko Pašek

Courage !!!

The IKT (International Association of Curators of Contemporary Art) Congress 2010 will take place between May 13th and May 16th 2010 in Athens, Greece.

The IKT Congress will bring together more than 150 curators from over 20 countries in Athens. Co-organized by the Athens Biennale, the Congress is an opportunity for curators from all over the world to come in contact with the Athenian contemporary art scene. The four-day event includes a programme of visits to most visual arts organizations in the city, as well as a theoretical Symposium entitled "COURAGE!!!" that is open to the public.

Speakers: Costas Douzinas, Professor of Law, Pro-Vice Master for International Relations and Director, Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, University of London | Markus Steinweg, philosopher | Sarat Maharaj, Professor of Visual Art & Knowledge Systems, Lund University & the Malmo Art Academies, Sweden | Jalal Toufic, artist | Presenter & moderator: Chantal Pontbriand, independent curator and critic, member of the Board of IKT

Benaki Museum Pireos Street | Saturday, May 15th 2010, 10.00 – 14.00


F. Crommelynck's Play The Magnanimous Cuckold. Stage Set Design and costumes: L.Popova. Directed by Meyerhold, Actor's Theatre, 1922.
The role:Stella, the Actor : M.Babanova
Photograph courtesy of A.A Bakhrushin Central State Theatrical Museum, Moscow

We Need a General Theory of Individuality

Needed, an oxymoron: a general scientific theory of individual differences. To focus upon individuality is to celebrate particularity, whereas any general theory must, by definition, submerge the individual case in a wider sea of pattern. Each of us cherishes our own separate, individual personhood, making much of the "fact" that we are different from everyone else (while also insisting, of course, that we aren't all that different). But attention to individual differences runs the risk of being unscientific, insofar as science aims at generalizing, raising our heads above the individual trees to recognize the forest. Yet the need is there. When Kierkegaard insisted that his tombstone say "That Individual," he was identifying both an existential truth and a profound scientific dilemma.

One of the unspoken secrets in basic scientific research, from anthropology to zoology (with intervening stops at physiology, political science, psychology, psychiatry, and sociology) is that, nearly always, individuals turn out to be different from one another, and that—to an extent rarely admitted and virtually never pursued—scientific generalizations tend to hush up those differences. It can be argued that that is what generalizations are: statements that apply to a larger class of phenomena and must, by definition, do violence to individuality. But since science seeks to explain observed phenomena, it should also be able to explain the granular particularity of such phenomena. In fact, generalities lose potency if they occur at the cost of artificially leveling otherwise significant features of reality.

No geneticist would dispute that in every sexually reproducing species, individuals possess distinct genotypes (monozygotic twins excepted). In the best-studied species, Homo sapiens, we know that individuals differ apparently even in traits that don't provide an adaptive advantage, like fingerprints, as well as in physical appearance and personality. Field biologists can often distinguish individuals among their study animals by distinct physical and/or behavioral traits. Almost certainly such individuality is at least as apparent to the animals themselves. Every pet owner knows, moreover, that individual dogs, cats, or horses are not interchangeable, yet theoretical constructs in biological science, in particular, often proceed as though they were. Thus biologists theorize about adaptive traits for "the" adult male or "a" juvenile female, knowing full well that there are only individual adult males and juvenile females—each of them distinct, albeit similar enough to be grouped together.

Medical science, by contrast, is unusual in that it has long acknowledged the importance of individuality among its subjects. Thus, in their training, physicians are repeatedly urged to treat the patient, not the disease. Although there are typical syndromes and basic commonalities among organ systems and ailments, good doctors know that individual Homo sapiens may, for example, develop tuberculosis without fever, or idiosyncratic unresponsiveness or hyper-responsiveness to certain drugs. That is why The New England Journal of Medicine and most medical-specialty journals devote considerable space to individual case reports, something rarely found in other sciences. One of the hottest current areas at the interface of medical genomics and pharmacology concerns the prospects of directing particular pharmaceuticals and their optimal dosages, not to Homo sapiens generally, but rather to the DNA profile of each individual patient.

One of the frustrating things about reading older classics of natural history is the extent to which observers like Ernest Thompson Seton and C. Hart Merriam reported on prey-catching behavior of "the" lynx, or vocalizations of "the" golden eagle, without specifying whether the subject in question was male or female, juvenile or adult. Modern biologists demand that information because we recognize that neither "the" lynx nor "the" golden eagle exists; rather, there is only this lynx and that golden eagle. In fact, one of the triumphs of modern biology has been precisely the overcoming of a tendency to think in something like Platonic ideals. Taxonomists no longer concern themselves with the "type species" of a genus, implicitly recognizing the crucial role of individual variation.

Yet even as we yearn for more-detailed identifying information about lynxes and golden eagles, we do so to combine them into yet another conceptual group, smaller than the species but larger than the individual, like "the" adult male lynx or "the" juvenile female golden eagle. Most textbooks in animal behavior, including my own, contain extensive material, both descriptive and theoretical, concerning the behavior of such larger categories, but not a single entry for behavioral individuality. Generalization thrives, but individuality suffers.

Whether they are comparative psychologists looking for laws of learning, ethologists seeking to identify species-typical behaviors, or evolutionary psychologists concerned with the adaptive value of behavior, researchers in behavioral biology typically view deviations from the statistical norm as aberrant, either genetically or experientially. And for good reason. Few of us would credit as "science" a lengthy rendition of seemingly disconnected anecdotal accounts of individual cases. Furthermore, such detailed descriptions quickly become downright boring to anyone not intimately concerned with the individuals in question.

Accordingly, scientists try to reveal underlying processes, to identify and enunciate principles, to go inductively from the specific to the general. Yet, especially when it comes to living things, each specific case really is distinct. That is why the biological (and social) sciences are so involved with statistics. Chemists can concern themselves with "the" sulfuric acid molecule, or physicists with "the" neutron, confident that having seen one, they have pretty much seen them all. But students of the life and social sciences are always confronted with diversity. As a result, we lean heavily on complex mathematical techniques that tell us whether it is safe to generalize and, if so, how far we can go, and with how much confidence. That is what statistics is all about, and no reputable report in biology or the social sciences will present empirical data without accompanying confidence limits, correlation coefficients, or similar attempts to aggregate findings in a meaningful way—which means, subject to valid generalizations.

Just as Galileo, in the course of his enforced recantation, is said to have muttered of the Earth, "Nonetheless, it moves," many a researcher, considering the homogenization of disparate data so neatly massaged into a satisfying generalization, is likely to have muttered, of the various individuals thereby erased, "Nonetheless, they are different."

Which leads us to ask: Why are they different?

For biologists, understanding ideally takes place at both the proximate (immediate) and ultimate (evolutionary) levels of causation. On the proximate level, several factors appear likely. Genetic differences among individuals are obvious sources of individual variability, such differences being produced by mutation as well as (in sexually reproducing species) meiosis and sexual recombination, the basic processes whereby novel DNA is produced and then rearranged as each new individual is formed.

Proximate causes of individual differences must also include the different environments experienced by each individual, with "environment" defined broadly to include all experiences, personal and social. Age-related effects would thus also be expected, as the passage of time provides an opportunity for both genetic and environmental influences—not to mention their interaction—to be more thoroughly expressed. A newborn deer hiding in the brush, for example, will become immobile in response to almost any intruder, whereas adult males' response will depend on whether that intruder is another buck or a cougar.

Individual differences should probably be distinguished, however, from differences based on distinctive biological and social roles. Thus, among the hoary marmots, Marmota caligata, which I have studied extensively, adult males are typically either socially dominant within their colony, or clearly subordinate to a dominant individual. In a sense, the differences between dominant and subordinate males reflect important aspects of their behavioral individuality. When and if a satellite male assumes the role of dominant male, his behavior becomes that of such males generally. Reproductive females, for their part, are more aggressive than their nonreproductive counterparts, spending more time near their burrows; those roles switch when their reproductive roles reverse. Although social and biological roles are crucial to each specific behavior, it seems most useful to control for "role effects," and to restrict the concept of behavioral individuality to distinctions among individuals that are socially and biologically as similar as possible in all other respects, notably age, sex, social status, physical health, residence situation, and reproductive state.

Even in cases of genetically identical individuals, idiosyncratic differences in personal experiences can nonetheless be expected to generate a gap in observable characteristics among individuals. Such experiences may begin quite early in life: Intrauterine positioning, for example, can influence phenotypic variation among rodents. A fetus surrounded by males on either side is liable to be androgenized compared with one surrounded by two females. Despite extensive and intensive studies of behavioral development, we still know remarkably little about how individual differentiation actually occurs.

At the ultimate, or evolutionary level, individual differences are even more problematic. One deceptively simple explanation is that the adaptive significance of individual differences is directly equivalent to the adaptive significance of sexual reproduction itself, a subject that has received substantial attention from evolutionary biologists, but that still remains oddly resistant to straightforward explanation. Here is the problem: Given the many costs of reproducing sexually compared with asexually, it isn't clear why so many creatures opt for the former. A sexually reproducing individual projects only 50 percent of its genes into each offspring, while for asexual creatures, it is 100 percent. That would seem to convey a twofold benefit to any organism whose ancestors opted out of sexual reproduction.

It seems increasingly likely that sexual reproduction enhances the fitness of its practitioners by generating an array of offspring, at least some of which are likely to be adapted to an ever-changing environment, and/or by keeping ahead of parasites and other disease-causing organisms. In any event, a common thread amid diverse theories is that the adaptive significance of sex relates to the production of genetic diversity.

But in order for such genotypic diversity to convey a fitness benefit, it must be reflected in phenotypic diversity, which is to say, it must have some demonstrable effect on the way each individual looks, acts, or responds physiologically. In other words, there must be individual differences. It is therefore ironic that many biologists who are quite familiar with the theoretical dilemma associated with sexual reproduction, and with the received wisdom as to its adaptive significance, nonetheless tend to disregard the existence of substantial individual differences among their research subjects, or scratch their heads when asked to explain its prevalence.

Before biologists fully appreciated—and were confounded by—the genetics of sexual reproduction, Charles Darwin recognized individual differences as essential to the process of natural selection itself. Thus differential reproduction produces evolutionary change only if the more fit are different in ways that can be inherited from the less. Individuality therefore occupies a fundamental place in our understanding of basic evolutionary biology, italicizing the paradox that it has been so rarely investigated.

There are other possible ultimate explanations for the existence of individuality. In some cases, at least, it might be neutral or nonadaptive, a byproduct of selection that maintains genotypic differences for other reasons, such as the well-known case of sickle-cell anemia's being maintained in the human population because of a benefit conferred upon individuals whose sickle-cell gene is obscured by its genetically dominant alternative. Or it might be the unavoidable result of genetic "noise" that simply has not been selected against. It may even be maladaptive, although it stretches credulity that so fundamental characteristics of living things should carry a pervasive evolutionary cost. On the other hand, individual differences may persist, at least in certain cases, because, even though a "best" behavior or anatomy or physiology might exist, the vagaries of genetics combined with experience necessarily cause random and idiosyncratic departures from that ideal. It would presumably be adaptive, for example, for everyone to be well coordinated, but some are more so than others. In all probability, that isn't because of an evolutionary payoff to being a klutz, but because in the trajectory from one-celled zygote to adult human being, there are lots of opportunities for things to go at least somewhat awry.

It may also be that individual differences are directly selected if individuals benefit by being distinct from others. For example, when predators develop a "search image" of particular prey, individuals that differ from the most abundant form(s) of such images can experience an advantage. Selection of that sort could favor a continuously varying array of phenotypes, behavioral no less than physical. Individual differences could also be the result of sexual selection, if mate choice favored individuals who differ from the chooser, as a means of reducing inbreeding and its attendant disadvantages in fitness.

Several other factors could select for behavioral individuality, and (along with those described above) they are not mutually exclusive. Thus individual recognition between parent and offspring appears to be adaptive, predictable, and widespread. Especially when possible mix-ups could occur, selection should favor parents whose offspring are distinctive, hence not easily mistaken for a nonrelative. The inclusive fitness benefits of being able to identify kin beyond offspring/parents could also select for individual differences. The study of "kin recognition" has, in fact, become a cottage industry among students of animal behavior. When such recognition is demonstrated, attention is then typically directed to the mechanism whereby it is achieved, whether based on instinctive identification, imprinting from early experience, or simple physical proximity. Only rarely, however, does the chain of causation run the other way, to the possibility that individual differences may have been selected as a means of providing for the adaptive dispensing of nepotistic benefits.

It is also possible that the exigencies of reciprocal altruism have selected for individual differences among would-be reciprocators, as in the case of vampire bats, in which well-fed individuals donate blood meals to those less fortunate. In such cases, selection would probably be especially intense on the ability of initial donors—whether bat or human—to discriminate among their beneficiaries, all the better to insist upon subsequent recompense. By the same token, since the donor could subsequently be identified by the beneficiary, the donor is more likely to be paid back, and therefore more prone to benevolence.

Finally, environmental heterogeneity—defined broadly to include social as well as biological and physical environments—could result in proportionately more individual differences, both through simple adaptation to diverse experiences and through the selection of behavioral flexibility to exploit diverse environments. We might consider shared traits of a species or population as a kind of coarse adjustment in pursuit of fitness, and individual differences—however achieved—as the fine tuning.

Generalizations about behavioral individuality are, at this stage in our knowledge, difficult to support. It is tempting, for example, to suggest that "higher" animals with more-complex brains exhibit more individual variability than do their "lower" counterparts, which rely more on automatic, species-typical reactions to a narrow range of fixed stimuli. It would be surprising if jellyfish or barnacles turn out to demonstrate as much behavioral individuality as elephants or human beings do.

It may thus be significant that some of the most effective portrayals of behavioral individuality come from studies of large-brained animals like chimpanzees and gorillas. And yet, in their basic morphology, two oak trees are also likely to differ more from each other than two elephants are, at least in their physical structure, although we may assume that the inverse is true when it comes to behavior. Our inattention to such matters is emphasized by the fact that no common metric exists with which to make such comparisons.

When seeking to extrapolate from a sample to a larger population, life scientists typically present research results in terms of either mean or median, all the while knowing that there is no "average" individual. (Since there are roughly equal numbers of men and women, the average human being would have one ovary and one testicle.) The nature of statistical inference is such that results must be accompanied by measures of variation. It might seem that such measures effectively take notice of individual variability. But let's face it: We are overwhelmingly more interested in measures of central tendency, whether it be the area of a panda's paw, the alarm-calling frequency of a scrub jay, or the incarceration rates of young, unmarried men. We give at best only passing attention to statistical measures of dispersion, largely as unavoidable indices of irrelevant noise. Or—especially if one's own data are at issue—such measures are considered with trepidation, since if too great, they threaten to keep the results from "reaching significance." Very rarely are such indicators of individual differences seen as significant in themselves.

Like it or not, however, it is clear that individuality exists, and that it matters. The social structure of coyotes (Canis latrans), for example, is apparently influenced by interactive patterns among littermates; it has also been suggested that wolves (Canis lupus) are predisposed to social niches in their packs by individual traits that characterize them as pups. In yellow-bellied marmots (Marmota flaviventris), interactions among the young born in the same year are strongly influenced by their individual behavioral profiles, which in turn appear to be more consequential than patterns of genetic relatedness per se. Similarly, the greatest part of the variance in female reproductive success is explained by variance among individual females, rather than by the variance among different social groups or different genetic lines.

The impact of individual variability is probably especially great in highly social species (chimpanzees, elephants, human beings, hoary marmots) as opposed to relatively solitary ones (aye-ayes, rhinoceroses, woodchucks), which are less likely to encounter diversity. On the other hand, the fact that a species experiences a high level of social integration may suggest that individuals of the species are relatively unaffected by social vagaries, which may explain why they are capable of getting along in proximity. Species that are comparatively social might possibly develop greater behavioral individuality, since they are likely to occupy social roles that are more clearly defined. We simply do not know, for example, how eusocial versus solitary bees compare in their individuality. Nor, at this stage, can we even make cogent predictions.

I want to urge acknowledgment of the existence and importance of individual differences, and to disagree with Goethe's maxim "Individuum est ineffabile" (Individuality cannot be explained). Individual differences, I am confident, will eventually be explained. First, however, they must be recognized.

In part, the resistance encountered by human sociobiology, Darwinian psychology, evolutionary psychology—call it what you will—may reflect that none of the "ultimate" interpretations thus far offered account for the enormous amount of (perceived or actual) individual variation that human beings identify among themselves. Perhaps there is something about the human psyche that believes a theory of individuality will do insufficient justice to our own deeply cherished individuality.

The animated movie Antz begins with a hilarious scene in which Z, a troubled ant, is speaking (with the voice of Woody Allen) to a therapist about his feelings of "insignificance." To Z's consternation, however, the therapist approves enthusiastically: "Being an ant is being able to say, 'Hey-I'm meaningless, you're meaningless.' ... Remember—let's be the best superorganism we can be!" The reality is that the best superorganism a person can be is a terrible letdown for a species that has a hard time reconciling social homogenization with its insistence on being "me."

The current dearth of "individuality theory" may thus reflect the fact that, until recently, advances in applying evolutionary biology to human behavior have been almost entirely the work of biologists, who typically have given individuality short shrift. By contrast, psychologists—stimulated in part by the early work of Darwin's cousin, Francis Galton—have generally been more receptive to individual differences, with anthropologists occupying a more or less intermediate position (although with no small amount of individual differences!). Perhaps the growing involvement of the latter disciplines in attempts to flesh out a truly evolutionary theory of human nature will result in fuller incorporation of behavioral individuality.

Western science since Aristotle has sought to identify and understand classes of phenomena, looking beyond the particular to organize knowledge into general categories. Accordingly, my request for greater attention to individual differences may seem strangely retrograde. Maybe the best way to justify so perverse a preoccupation is to substitute individual differences for the famed question about climbing mountains: Why study individual differences? Because they are there.

Text by David P. Barash
Source: The Chronicle Review, May 2010

Monday, May 10, 2010

Brown Devotion

The day I had expected
arrived, romantic
and fierce. Good criminals were
everywhere, acting out,
acting up.
Polarities, charming
and civilized to
the max, were not enough
to prevent the gold
light of evening.
The gilded
heads of intelligent
pedestrians, not
enough to send
us into paroxysms
of indolence.
The more we watched
the more we failed
to see. Even now
that stores open
early, close
late in the evening
if ever.

Halvard Johnson

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Loneliness on Common Ground

Yang Fudong
Seven Intellectuals in a Bamboo Forest and Other Stories
Duration: 11 May -5 September 2010
Curated by: Anna Kafetsi

The National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens, organizes the first major exhibition in Greece of the internationally acclaimed Chinese artist Yang Fudong titled “Seven Intellectuals in a Bamboo Forest and Other Stories”. The exhibition, which will be inaugurated on May 11th and last until September 5th, will include the complete five-part epic cinematic cycle “Seven Intellectuals in a Bamboo Forest” (2003-2007), the recent 6 channel video installation “East of Que Village” (2007), the monumental ten-channel video installation “Close to the Sea” (2004), as well as the earlier film “Liu Lan” (2003).

Yang Fudong was born in Beijing in 1971 and after studying painting at the Academy of Arts in Hangzhou (1991-1995), moved to Shanghai. He is considered as one of the most important Chinese artists with participations in some of the most prominent international exhibitions like Documenta 11 in Kassel and the first Guangzhou Triennial in 2002, the 50th and 52nd Venice Biennale in 2003 and 2007, the Taipei Biennale in 2004. He has also exhibited in major institutions such as Kunsthalle Wien in Vienna, the Stedelijk museum in Amsterdam, the Parasol Unit in London, MuHKA in Antwerp, Zengdai museum in Shanghai, Asia Society in New York and Hara museum of Contemporary art in Tokyo. He is represented by Galerie Marian Goodman Paris/ New York and Shanghart Gallery, Shanghai.

Yang Fudong creates films, videos and photographs full of psychological tension and melancholy that touch upon subjects related to the rapid transformation of Chinese society in the recent years through stories of love and individual struggle.

Kostis Velonis
Loneliness on Common Ground: How Can Society Do What Each Person Dreams
Duration: 11 May - 5 September 2010
Curated by: Daphne Vitali

The National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens (EMST) is organizing the first museum solo exhibition of the artist Kostis Velonis. His sculptural work often refers to historical events and art-historical movements and the focus is on political utopias and the failure of ideology. For the majority of his work, Velonis often uses found materials and his artistic practise is characterized by the combination of personal narratives with a re-examination of historical data.

Kostis Velonis was born in 1968 in Athens where he lives and works. He studied Cultural Studies at the London Consortium (Birkbeck College, ICA, AA, Tate Gallery) in 2000 and Visual Arts at the Paris VIII University, (Maitrise, D.E.A). In 2009 he received his Doctorate in architecture from the N.T.U.A University of Athens. He has participated in numerous exhibitions in Greece and abroad. His recent solo shows include: How one can think freely in the shadow of a temple, Kunstverein Hamburg, 2009; Craft Boy, Monitor Gallery, Rome, 2008; ...was einmal über heute gesagt werden wird: Köln Show2, BQ Gallery, European Kunsthalle, Cologne, 2007. Recent group exhibitions include: 2nd Athens Biennial, 2009; Brussels Biennial 1 for Contemporary Art, 2008; 9e Biennale de Lyon, Villeurbanne, 2007; In Present Tense. Young Greek Artists, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens, 2007; The Grand Promenade, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens, 2006. He is represented by Monitor gallery, Rome and Galerie Dana Charkasi, Vienna.

For his exhibition at EMST, entitled “Loneliness on Common Ground: How Can Society Do What Each Person Dreams”, Velonis will be presenting a number of large-scale sculptural works as well as some smaller sculptures that the artist created in 2009 and 2010. This exhibition will reassess the nature of Velonis’ oeuvre, focusing on some recent political works. The sculptures on view take Russian avant-garde, ancient Greek democracy and the working class consciousness as their subject matter, examining how these concepts and visions can be seen today. Through architectural constructions of Russian constructivist artists such as Liubov Popova and Gustav Klutsis, the artist refers to the contradictions that accompany the aims of the Russian avant-garde and the communist politics. His sculptures seek to unfold and question the ideologies behind political structures and to reflect upon ideas such as the utopian ideal, democracy and revolution. The exhibition will also present some works that bring out the artist’s interest for craft making and working class orientation. The exhibition is accompanied by a bilingual catalogue (Greek and English), which features texts by Miltos Frangopoulos, Chus Martinez, Daphne Vitali and Florian Waldvogel.

A Clean Slate
xurban_collective Project, 2010
Curated by Daphne Vitali

The National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST) organizes an exhibition of a new work of the international art collective xurban, from May 11 to June 20, 2010.
The xurban_collective was founded in 2000 and their members work in different cities like Istanbul, Smyrna and New York. They have presented their work in very important museums and exhibitions internationally, like the Venice Bienalle (2001), the Istanbul Bienalle (2003) and the Museum Of Modern Art (MoMA) of New York (2005).
In the EMST exhibition, the artists will present a new audiovisual installation that they created especially for the city of Athens.

“This work, created in 2010 by xurban_collective, constitutes an ongoing research about seas as defined by various manifestations of the global trade and economy, and by the flow of bodies as a possibility for retributive justice. We believe that any statements made within the new global order should adequately represent the “negligibly small” actors in the creation of wealth, including the earth, the sea and all living things.
In A Clean Slate, we regard the sea as the transmitter of a history (i.e. Mediterranean) and of wealth and culture as well as the source of biological richness. It is also the bearer of scourge, of oil spills and chemicals and of invading jellyfish and the disappearing reef. On it, the oil tankers and container ships sail to the effect of millions of tons, accumulating and transferring immense wealth at all costs. Refugee boats also sail across sometimes to catastrophic ends either while at sea or at their destination. On all the charted and monitored waters of the world, these boats are the most invisible. The sea’s horizon metaphorically represents freedom, hope, and a decent life.”

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Η Διαγώνιος του Le Corbusier

Με αφορμή την έκδοση του βιβλίου του Παναγιώτη Τουρνικιώτη "Η Διαγώνιος του Le Corbusier" διοργανώνεται συζήτηση με τίτλο "Ο Le Corbusier στην Αθήνα. 99 χρόνια μετά το ταξίδι της ανατολής." την Πέμπτη 13 Μαΐου 2010 και ώρα 19.00 στη Στοά του Βιβλίου.
Θα μιλήσουν οι:

Γιάννης Τσιώμης, καθηγητής Αρχιτεκτονικής Σχολής Paris La Villette και EHESS
Ανδρέας Κούρκουλας, επίκουρος καθηγητής Σχολής Αρχιτεκτόνων ΕΜΠ
Γιώργος Τζιρτζιλάκης, επίκουρος καθηγητής Τμήματος Αρχιτεκτόνων ΠΘ
Στέλιος Γιαμαρέλος, αρχιτέκτων ΕΜΠ
Παναγιώτης Τουρνικιώτης, καθηγητής Σχολής Αρχιτεκτόνων ΕΜΠ
Την συζήτηση συντονίζει ο Δημήτρης Φατούρος, ομότιμος καθηγητής Τμήματος Αρχιτεκτόνων ΑΠΘ.
Το αντικείμενο της μελέτης, στο βιβλίο αυτό, είναι η εμβάθυνση στη διαδικασία που δομεί τον γραπτό και τον σχεδιασμένο αρχιτεκτονικό λόγο του Le Corbusier μέσα από την παρατήρηση επιλεγμένων έργων του που συλλαμβάνονται στο διάστημα από το πρώτο ως το δεύτερο ταξίδι του στην Ελλάδα. Μας ενδιαφέρει να προσδιορίσουμε το νόημα που εκείνος αποδίδει στην αρχιτεκτονική σε μια περίοδο που αρχίζει με τη δική του αναζήτηση αυτού του νοήματος και τελειώνει με την αποκάλυψή του σε όλο τον κόσμο. Η λέξη κλειδί σε αυτή την προσπάθεια είναι η διαγώνιος, που συνδέει μη-διαδοχικές αλλά σαφώς διακριτές κορυφές πολυγώνου ή πολυέδρου. Η διαγώνιος αυτή, που ενώνει τις διακριτές κορυφές, εγκαθιδρύει μια συμπληρωματική σχέση διαφοράς μεταξύ τους επειδή κρατάει σε αγεφύρωτη απόσταση τα διαδοχικά σημεία μιας ενότητας που έχει ορισθεί με άλλο τρόπο και ισχύει ταυτόχρονα με τη διαφορά τους. Το ερευνητικό πεδίο αποτελούν τα πιο γνωστά έργα της περιόδου, κείμενα και κτίρια που όλοι γνωρίζουν, το Για μια Αρχιτεκτονική, η villa Stein de Monzie και η villa Savoye, τα δύο ταξίδια που τον έφεραν στην Ελλάδα, το 1911 στην ευρύτερη Ανατολή και το 1933 στο 4ο Διεθνές Συνέδριο της Μοντέρνας Αρχιτεκτονικής.
Ημέρα: Πέμπτη 13 Μαΐου 2010, Στοά του Βιβλίου, Αρσάκειο Μέγαρο

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Dale Wylie, 2009
A visual essay on poverty in Norwich
Source :

Art Always Has Its Consequences

The exhibition "Art Always Has Its Consequences" considers the "politics of exhibiting" and, by including historic works and new productions, archive material and research documentation, reconstructing and reinterpreting paradigmatic artistic and exhibition positions from the 1950s until today, shows the historical continuity of similar art experiments which question the social role of art.

The exhibition has emerged as a result of a two-year collaborative project of the organizations tranzit. hu from Budapest, Muzeum Sztuki from Lodz, New Media from Novi Sad and What, How and for Whom/WHW from Zagreb. Through various formats the project deals with topics connected with the modernistic inheritance and joint history. The research was directed towards a specific historical, economic and political context and also towards the forming of internationally recognized "universal" norms, in relationship to which the exhibited art practices try to affirm historical continuity and to question their own context.

As the result of years of collaborative practice, the exhibition "Art Always Has Its Consequences" is based on the temporary and current constellation of ongoing researches trying to draw parallels and define touching points of different related practices, and despite the accent on art production from Eastern Europe, in no sense is there any ambition to offer a homogenising picture of the "Eastern European" art of the last few decades, nor to yield to statistics as a policy of presentation.

The title "Art Always Has Its Consequences" is taken from the conceptual text of Mladen Stilinović "Footwriting" from 1984, and refers to research of the relationship which art has with reality, but also to the equal importance of internal, intrinsically art procedures by which art is repeatedly "limited" to the field of art. The exhibition is being held at the Kulmer Palace on Katarinski Square in Zagreb, and the presented art works and investigations are confronted with the material and ideological memory of the building itself, which for years served as the main space of the Gallery of Contemporary Art, later renamed to the Museum of Contemporary Art. The exhibition confronts contemporary approaches with the strategies used in the past, inviting the reading of the presented works in relation to the questions of the role and responsibility of art institutions, the way in which they are positioned towards the economic and ideological circumstances and the way in which they contribute to the forming of cultural influences and hegemonisation of certain norms.

Creativity Exercises (Miklós Erdély and Dóra Maurer), Goran Đorđević, Miklós Erdély, Andreas Fogarasi, Guerilla Art Action Group, Tibor Hajas, Sanja Iveković, David Maljković, Dimitrije Bašičević Mangelos, Vlado Martek, Piet Mondrian, Ciprian Mureşan, Deimantas Narkevičius, Andreja Kulunčić, Novi Kolektivizam, Andrzej Partum, Gyula Pauer, Tomo Savić - Gecan, Mladen Stilinović, Sean Snyder, Tamás St.Auby, Bálint Szombathy, Milan Trenc, Ultra-red

– and – "As soon as I open my eyes, I see a film (cinema clubs and the Genre Film Festival/GEFF)" / Ana Janevski (Muzeum Sztuki Nowoczesnej in Warsaw)
Didactic Exhibition: Abstract Art
Ideology of Design: Fragments on History of Yugoslav Design
Art Symposium Wroclaw '70

Curators: Dóra Hegyi and Zsuzsa László (tranzit. hu), Magdalena Ziolkowska and Katarzyna Sloboda (Muzeum Sztuki Lodz),; and What, How & for Whom/WHW

Art Always Has Its Consequences

8 May – 2 June 2010

Former building of the
Museum of Contemporary Art
Katarinski trg 2 & Galerija Nova, Teslina 7
Zagreb, Croatia

Source :

Monday, May 3, 2010

Portrait of Klucis in the Gulag Tower

Portrait of Klucis in the Gulag Tower
80 x 35 x 25 cm
Wood, veneer, acrylic

Tirana Hunger Strike

Letter to the members of International Community and Media

Dear Friends,

We, 22 members of parliament and 200 citizens of Albania, concerned about the fate of democracy in our country have decided to engage in the ultimate form of democratic protest by going on a hunger strike in the name of the cornerstone of any democracy: free and fair elections.

Our demand is simple and democratic: a full and thorough parliamentary inquiry into the elections of June 28th 2009, including the opening of the ballot boxes and the examination of the electoral material contained therein. Our demand is not motivated by a yearning for power, but by the aspiration that the next elections are guaranteed against falling prey to the same machinations and manipulations.

For nine months we have tried in vain to realize our constitutional right to transparency only to be denied in all our efforts through the arrogance of a government that is no longer constrained by the Constitution in its actions. Nor has the government reacted to the massive show of support for our cause on the part of the citizens of Albania. 200,000 Albanians protested in Tirana in the name of the transparency of their votes and yet their government turned a deaf hear to this most democratic of demands.

Prime Minister Berisha speaks of a court decision that stands in the way of transparency but he has never, in ten months been able to show this decision to the public for the simple reason that it does not exist. We also regret the fact that this lie construed by Berisha as an alibi in order to avoid the transparency of the elections, has been instrumentalized by a significant portion of Albania's friends and partners.

Faced with the obstinate, illegal and arrogant denial of our constitutional right to transparency, aware of the crucial importance of our cause to the future of free and fair elections and democracy in Albania, we have decided to escalate our action by engaging in an open ended hunger strike accompanied by protests in every town and village of our country.

Tirana, May 04, 2010
The Hunger Strike Committee,,


Toshiko Okanoue, Mask, 1952
Unique collage of magazine images

The Micheels House

Chris Mottalini
The Micheels House, Designed by Paul Rudolph, Westport, Connecticut, 1972 - 2007.

Abfahrt der Schiffe

Simon Menner, The Backsides of some famous Paintings 2008

Paul Klee
"Abfahrt der Schiffe", 1927
Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin

Who What

For a long time you have been nonexistent
A face sometimes famous and sufficient unto itself
How I love you I don’t know For a long time
I have loved you with indifference I love you to hatred
By omission by murmur out of cowardice
Obstinately Against all probability
I love you losing you to lose
I who refuse to be ours dragged
From stern (a balcony jig-sawed on salt)
Ex-who dragged backwards between two waters
Now what
Mouth punished
Mouth punished heart pacing the orbit
A question to all vainly opening up third party

Qui Quoi
Il y a longtemps que tu n’existes pas
Visage quelquefois celebre et suffisant
Comment je t’aime Je ne sais Depuis longtemps
Je t’aime avec indifference Je t’aime a haine
Par omission par murmure par lachete
Avec obstination Contre toute vraisemblance
Je t’aime en te perdant pour perdre
Ce moi qui refuse d’etre des notres entraine
De poupe (ce balcon chantourne sur le sel)
Ex-qui de dos traine entre deux eaux
Maintenant quoi
Bouche punie
Bouche punie c?ur arpentant l’orbite
Une question a tout frayant en vain le tiers

Michel Deguy
From: Tombeau de Du Bellay
Paris 1973.

House in Matsubara

House in Matsubara
Architect: Ken’ichi Otani / Ken’ichi Otani Architects
Setagaya, Tokio, Japon
Construction: Octubre 2006 – Agosto 2007


Displaying the American Eagle

Displaying the American eagle for the promotion of car industry.
Phoenix, Arizona, 2010.

Source: Die Zeit Zeitung

Ο σώζων εαυτόν σωθήτω

Ρητά ή σιωπηρά, όλοι το έχουμε πάρει απόφαση: η κρίση που ενέσκηψε ήλθε για να μείνει. Για τους περισσότερους ανάμεσά μας το μέλλον προβάλλει μουγκό και αβέβαιο, ίσως και ζοφερό. Σχεδόν στο σύνολό τους, οι νέοι δεν νιώθουν πια νέοι και οι λιγότερο νέοι αισθάνονται ξεπερασμένοι από τα γεγονότα και ανήμποροι να σκεφθούν για το μέλλον τους. Το σήμερα είναι ήδη χειρότερο από το χθες και το αύριο προοιωνίζεται χειρότερο από το σήμερα. Ελάχιστα χρόνια μετά την αυτάρεσκη ολυμπιακο-ποδοσφαιρική εθνεγερσία, το ξεχασμένο φάντασμα της εθνικής μας «Ψωροκώσταινας» θα εμφανισθεί και πάλι στο προσκήνιο. Με τη διαφορά ότι η νέα μικρά Ελλάς δεν θα μπορεί καν πλέον να επαναπαύεται στην εντιμότητά της. Η απειλούμενη υλική υποβάθμιση εμφανίζεται ως θεία δίκη.

Επειδή όμως δεν νοείται συλλογική ανεντιμότητα ή ευθύνη, οι πολίτες βρίσκονται υπό το κράτος όχι μόνο απόγνωσης αλλά και οργής. Δεν είναι τυχαίο ότι τα ερωτήματα «ποιος φταίει» και «γιατί φθάσαμε εδώ» πλανιόνται στα χείλη όλων. Κανείς δεν θα μπορούσε να έχει φαντασθεί πως μέσα σε λίγους μήνες ένας ολόκληρος κόσμος θα απειλούνταν με άμεση κατάρρευση και αποσύνθεση. Και στο μέτρο ακριβώς που κανείς δεν ξέρει πώς, ποτέ και αν θα αρχίσουν να αμβλύνονται οι παρενέργειες της κρίσης, κανείς δεν μπορεί να προδικάσει ποιος θα αντιδράσει πώς, πότε και προς ποια κατεύθυνση. Σε τέτοιες στιγμές, συνετοί οικογενειάρχες μπορεί να μετατραπούν σε βίαιους ταραξίες και πειθήνιοι αμνοί σε φλογερούς δημεγέρτες. Υπό τους όρους αυτούς λοιπόν, κανείς δεν είναι σε θέση να προβλέψει αν η γενικευμένη δυσανεξία προαναγγέλλει ανεξέλεγκτες κοινωνικές εκρήξεις και αποφασιστικές μεταλλαγές στη λειτουργία του δικομματικού δημοκρατικού μας συστήματος. Ενα όμως φαίνεται βέβαιο. Η «αναγκαία» υποταγή στα κελεύσματα του ΔΝΤ και της ΕΕ σηματοδοτεί το τέλος ή ίσως και την ολοκλήρωση της «μεταβατικής» περιόδου που, είτε βιαστικά είτε προφητικά, είχαμε σπεύσει να ονομάσουμε μετα-πολίτευση. Αν δεν μας πεθάνει και δεν πεθάνει και η ίδια, η χώρα στην οποία θα ζήσουμε θα είναι διαφορετική από εκείνη που γνωρίζαμε. Τριάντα έξι χρόνια μετά τη «μετάβαση προς τη φιλελεύθερη δημοκρατία» του 1974 η χώρα φαίνεται πλέον να μετα-βαίνει πλησίστια προς νέες μορφές κοινωνικής οργάνωσης και εκλογίκευσης. Αργά αλλά σταθερά, η καπιταλιστική Ελλάδα καλείται να κινηθεί στροβιλιζόμενη στους ρυθμούς του υπόλοιπου κόσμου και να γίνει μια χώρα όπως όλες οι άλλες.

Δίκτυα προστασίας

Ολα λοιπόν φαίνεται να αλλάζουν. Οποιες και να είναι οι εξελίξεις, η κοινωνία που θα ανατείλει θα απέχει παρασάγγας από την κοινωνία που μέχρι πρόσφατα τουλάχιστον θεωρούσε ότι μπορεί να επιβιώνει και να αναπαράγεται με τους δικούς της εντελώς ιδιότυπους, ίσως μάλιστα και πρωτόγνωρους όρους, μια κοινωνία που πίστευε πως είναι πάντα σε θέση να επινοεί εξόδους από τα οποιαδήποτε αδιέξοδα. Να θυμηθούμε απλώς ότι για μισό σχεδόν αιώνα τα οικονομικά μεγέθη μεγεθύνονταν και τα κέρδη συσσωρεύονταν δίχως να αναπτύσσεται η χώρα, η ατομική κατανάλωση αυξανόταν δίχως να εμπλουτίζεται ο παραγωγικός ιστός, τα πρότυπα ζωής προσαρμόζονταν γοργά στις σειρήνες της καταναλωτικής μαγείας δίχως να μεταλλάσσονται οι παραγωγικές δομές και σχέσεις. Μια χώρα που άλλαζε συνεχώς τον τρόπο και το επίπεδο της ζωής της, μπορούσε να παραμένει εγκλωβισμένη σε αμετακίνητα οργανωτικά σχήματα.

Για την πλειοψηφία του πληθυσμού, στο ιδιότυπο νεοελληνικό «μικρομεσαίο θαύμα» μιας συναινετικά αναπαραγόμενης κοινωνίας όλοι βρίσκουν τη θέση τους και όλοι μπορούν να προσβλέπουν στην απόλαυση αναπτυξιακών καρπών δίχως να υφίστανται παραγωγικές προϋποθέσεις. Ολες οι πολιτικές παρατάξεις συμφωνούσαν σιωπηρά ότι το «κοινωνικό ζήτημα» μπορεί να εξακολουθεί να λιμνάζει δίχως να εκρήγνυται και ότι οι κοινωνικές αντιθέσεις μπορεί να αναστέλλονται μέσα από άτυπες και προσωρινές διευθετήσεις. Ελισσόμενη σε παράλληλες επίσημες και υπόγειες διαδρομές, η πολυπράγμων αλληλέγγυα οικογένεια μπορούσε να επινοεί υποτυπώδη δίκτυα προστασίας για ευρύτατα στρώματα ενός πληθυσμού που και αν ακόμη δυσπραγούσε δεν λιμοκτονούσε... Το ελληνικό δαιμόνιο
Εις πείσμα λοιπόν των συνεχών κρίσεων, οι δυσλειτουργίες του αγοραίου καπιταλιστικού συστήματος εμφανίζονταν εν τέλει ως διαχειρίσιμες. Το ελληνικό δαιμόνιο πίστευε στην καλή του μοίρα ακόμη και αν- ίσως μάλιστα και επειδή- η νεοελληνική κοινωνία απέκλινε από τα παγκοσμίως ισχύοντα πρότυπα. Η αδράνεια και η αλαλία των πολιτικών υπέθαλπαν μια γενικευμένη αποδοχή του υπάρχοντος. Αυξάνοντας συνεχώς την κατα ναλωτική της ευμάρεια δίχως να υφίσταται τις καταλυτικές συνέπειες του παραγωγικού εκσυγχρονισμού, η εύθυμη Ελλάδα της ευλύγιστης επιβίωσης και των χαμηλών ποσοστών κοινωνικού αποκλεισμού, ψυχικών ασθενειών και αυτοκτονιών μπορούσε να αυτοπροβάλλεται αυτάρεσκα ως πολιτιστικός παράδεισος. Ο ιδιότυπος νεοελληνικός ρατσισμός ήταν πρωτίστως ναρκισσιστικός.

Ομως, η υλική βάση για τέτοιους περίτεχνους τετραγωνισμούς του κύκλου παρέμενε όχι μόνο σαθρή αλλά και εν δυνάμει εκρηκτική. Να θυμηθούμε ότι ακόμη και σήμερα η μισθωτή εργασία στον ιδιωτικό τομέα δεν ξεπερνάει το ένα τρίτο του εργατικού δυναμικού, ότι οι νανώδεις και ελάχιστα παραγωγικές επιχειρήσεις στηρίζονται πρωτίστως στην αυτοαπασχόληση και πολυαπασχόληση των μελών της ευρείας οικογένειας, ότι το προαναγγελλόμενο από τους ειδήμονες «τέλος των αγροτών» δεν ήλθε ποτέ, ότι το μεγαλύτερο μέρος του μεγάλου κεφαλαίου συσσώρευσε τα δυσθεώρητα κέρδη του μέσα από προνομιακές σχέσεις με το Κράτος. Στο πλαίσιο αυτό, η στυγνή εκμετάλλευση των εργαζομένων μπορούσε να συμβαδίζει με σημαντικά περιθώρια ευέλικτων ατομικών και οικογενειακών επιβιωτικών στρατηγικών, οι ανθούσες παραοικονομικές δραστηριότητες να επανορθώνουν μερικές από τις αθλιότητες, τις ανισότητες και τις ανεπιείκειες της επίσημης αγοράς και το πελατειακό κράτος να παρέχει στοιχειώδη προστασία στα βιοτικά αδιέξοδα του ενός τετάρτου περίπου του πληθυσμού.

Αποτέλεσμα όλων αυτών υπήρξε η αποκρυστάλλωση ενός πρωτόγνωρου τρόπου κοινωνικής οργάνωσης και κοινωνικής αναπαραγωγής. Η καπιταλιστική κερδοσκοπία των μεγιστάνων υλοποιούνταν έξω από την ιθαγενή καπιταλιστική αγορά εργασίας, οι εργαζόμενοι επιβίωναν στα πολλαπλασιαζόμενα διάκενα ενός διάτρητου κοινωνικού συστήματος και ο κρατικός μηχανισμός δρούσε ως αν η απρόσκοπτη αναπαραγωγή των παραγωγικών σχέσεων μπορούσε να συνεχίζεται αυτομάτως και επ΄ άπειρον. Βοηθούσης και της πάνδημης διαφθοράς, της φοροδιαφυγής και της πανταχού παρούσας μεγάλης και μικρής διαπλοκής, η δύσοσμη κερδοσκοπική σκορδαλιά φαινόταν να μπορεί να παρασκευάζεται και να τρώγεται χωρίς σκόρδο.

Οικουμενική οργάνωση

Το σύστημα άρχισε να κλονίζεται στη δεκαετία του 1990. Στο πλαίσιο της παγκοσμιοποιημένης πλέον ελεύθερης καπιταλιστικής οικονομίας όλες οι παραδοσιακές μορφές «προστασίας» της εθνικής παραγωγής, του εθνικού κοινωνικού ιστού, των εθνικών οικονομιών, του εθνικού νομίσματος αλλά και των εθνικών αστικών τάξεων εμφανίζονταν πια ατελέσφορες. Καμία χώρα δεν θα μπορέσει πλέον να επιζήσει παρακάμπτοντας τις προδιαγραφές του παγκόσμιου παραγωγιστικού ανταγωνισμού. Στο εξής δεν μπορεί πια να υπάρχουν εθνικές αποχρώσεις καπιταλιστικών μορφών οργάνωσης της κοινωνίας. Η καπιταλιστική κερδοφορία οργανώνεται σε οικουμενική βάση πάνω στις ίδιες αδυσώπητες προδιαγραφές και με τυποποιημένες και στερεότυπα επαναλαμβανόμενες συνταγές. Η αύξηση της ανταγωνιστικότητας, η πλήρης απορρύθμιση των συναλλαγών, ο περιορισμός του κόστους παραγωγής, η μείωση των εργατικών μισθών, η συρρίκνωση των κοινωνικών παροχών και ο εξορθολογισμός της λειτουργίας του δημόσιου τομέα εμφανίζονται ως αυτονόητοι πολιτικοί μονόδρομοι. Με τον οικουμενικό θρίαμβο του νεοφιλελευθερισμού, η ελεύθερη οικονομία φαίνεται να «εκδικείται» όσες κοινωνίες και πολιτικές παρατάξεις τολμούν να αμφισβητήσουν έμπρακτα την παντοκρατορία τους. Οσοι δεν υποτάσσονται στη φωνή της λογικής θα τιμωρηθούν ή θα αποπεμφθούν ως ανεύθυνοι, αιθεροβάμονες ή επικίνδυνοι...

Με αυτή την έννοια, περισσότερο από οτιδήποτε άλλο, το ιστορικό νόημα της τρέχουσας περιόδου μπορεί να συνοψισθεί στη μη διαπραγματεύσιμη επιταγή μιας μετάβασης σε ένα «κανονικά» ολοκληρωτικό καπιταλιστικό σύστημα. Η Ελλάδα καλείται να υποταχθεί στους «κανόνες των αγορών» και να προσανατολιστεί αταλάντευτα προς την κατ΄ απόλυτη προτεραιότητα προώθηση της παραγωγικής ανταγωνιστικότητας εις βάρος των οποιωνδήποτε κοινωνικών κατακτήσεων και αδιαφορώντας για την επιβίωση της κοινωνικής συναίνεσης. Ο παγκοσμιοποιημένος υπερεπικρατειακός καπιταλισμός δεν έχει λόγο να αντιτίθεται στις οποιεσδήποτε «τοπικές» μορφές ανεργίας, εξαθλίωσης ή βιαίας προλεταριοποίησης των παραδοσιακά αυτοαπασχολούμενων μικρομεσαίων στρωμάτων. Υπό τους όρους αυτούς, αν μια χώρα δεν προσαρμοσθεί προς τας υποδείξεις, θα εκβληθεί απλώς από τη διεθνή κοινότητα των έντιμων κερδοσκόπων. Οπότε και το τίμημα θα είναι ακόμη βαρύτερο.

Εδώ ακριβώς βρίσκεται η αδυσώπητη αντικειμενική προέκταση της τρέχουσας συγκυρίας. Μια διεφθαρμένη και αναποτελεσματική αλλά ανθρώπινη και στοιχειωδώς αλληλέγγυα κοινωνία που βαυκαλιζόταν ακόμη πως μπορεί να επιζεί βολεύοντας τα πάντα εκ των ενόντων καλείται να μεταμορφωθεί σε μιαν έλλογη, «υπεύθυνη» και αμείλικτα απάνθρωπη ατομοκεντρική κοινωνία όπου όλοι μπορεί να επαίρονται πως κανείς δεν χρωστά τίποτε σε κανέναν. Αυτό ακριβώς είναι το ευγενές όραμα του παγκοσμιοποιημένου αναπτυξιακού καπιταλισμού. Ο σώζων εαυτόν σωθήτω.

Κωνσταντίνος Τσουκαλάς, Σάββατο 1 Μαΐου 2010