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_Some simple thoughts... [txt]
ARTICLE PUBLISHED IN BOOTPRINT Vol. 1 issue 1 march 2007 - download pdf - read bootprint online

Some simple thoughts without any wish to make them more profound*
by Anne-Laure Oberson

On pages 95 and 96 of Gilles Deleuze’s Qu’est-ce que la philosophie?, the French philosopher
discusses how philosophy brings to an absolute the relative deterritorialization
(déterritorialisation) of capital, abolishes it as an interior limit, turns it against itself, and calls for a
new land, a new people, thus getting closer in concept to what Adorno called “negative dialectic”
and the Frankfurt School designated as “utopia.”1 For Deleuze, it is utopia that makes the
link (jonction) between philosophy and its time (époque). Utopia allows philosophy to become
political and heightens the critique of its time. He goes on to explain that the word used by the
utopist Samuel Butler “Erewhon” does not refer only to “No-where”, (ou-topos) or nowhere
(nulle-part) but to “Now-here”, (eu-topos) or the here and now (ici-maintenant). So what is relevant
is not the difference between a utopian or a scientific socialism, but the diverse types of
utopia, revolution being one of them. He concludes this development by stating that utopia
designates this “conjunction of philosophy or of the concept with the present environment: the
political philosophy.” This gives us a reading of the word “utopia” that is grounded in the here and
now, that is about a connection with what is most real. Thus can we ask ourselves what is this
inverted nowhere here and now? A somewhere there tomorrow? A distant location in the future?

This brief theoretical introduction is a lead to grasp some considerations of the present state of
the art world in different localities, while acknowledging the unequivocal attraction to displacements,
in reference to specific recent experiences and thoughts. The form, therefore, will be
informal; will zap from articles to links to first-hand discussions and encounters. An essay, as in
essayer (to try), to outline an ambient malaise, a growing feeling of dissatisfaction.

[...] Do you really inhabit the place you are currently living in? This seems like a silly question
but think twice about it. Aren’t we all our own little utopias, always connected to somewhere
else, on the go—if not physically, then virtually, never actually being were we are — in a constant
projection, in between places?

[...] This struck me as I passed by a man walking his dogs on the street, when he said out loud
(to me?): “She must go from sadness to anger.” Speaking, presumably in a hidden ear-set connected
to his mobile phone, to someone else — but to me, somewhere else. Strangely I could
have taken his words to be addressed to me; they fit momentarily, in an uncanny way, regardless
of his intention. Not so long ago witnessing someone talking out loud on his or her own, the first
thought would have been, “Here is a crazy person.” There was known to be a few in town —
usually loud talkers, loonies. Strangely they seem to have disappeared with the new breed of teleloonies,
who now sound perfectly normal to us, and not the least bit delusional. Or they might
have blended in with the mass of loud talking so well that no one pays attention anymore. What
feels like centuries ago, this man and I would have courteously exchanged greetings. Living in the
same neighborhood, we might even have become acquainted (what an old-fashioned sounding
word). Today I can foretell that we will never address a word to each other. No matter how many
times our routes cross. The more we are connected, the more we are isolated.

[...] Back at home, I am in another kind of displacement, already somewhere else online, which
incidentally makes me think that we might be more present in those so-called non-places than in
the comfort of our sofas. We are only truly there... in the distance always. Hence a feeling of lack
of something fulfilling, that drives us to always accomplish more. Physicality is not a guarantee of
presence any longer.

[...] The cell phone episode echoes in my mind with some other thoughts I had about the title
of this year’s Sao Paulo biennial, How to live together. “How,” as a question, implies a previous
intention: we want to live together, we need to find out how—or a precedent condition: we
live together, albeit not so well, so let’s think how else. Incidentally, none of the works that I saw
attempted to outline an answer. Most, if not all, pointed at a sad fact: we don’t live together.
Less and less, if at all, despite our intention to seek change, I doubt we truly want to live
together. When it occurs, we live next to each other, and that seems to be more than we
can handle already.

[...] On a resume of one of the selected artist of Saatchi’s new YourGallery website for the
Guardian exhibition, I read the following: “Lives and works in London and Berlin, and New York,
Madrid and Los Angeles.” Well? Is this for real or what’s with the existential crisis? After an initial
“Yeah right, me too!” reaction, I decided not to be so judgmental and wrote an email to said
artist kindly requesting that s/he shared with me, for the sake of research information for this
article, what exactly was it like to live in five cities? I got a reply quite a few days after my initial
request proposing to meet in Berlin to discuss the question. Well, Berlin not currently being on
my roadmap, I declined the invitation but insisted to continue sharing information over emails. Yet
to be answered… One of my questions was whether it is a necessity as an artist today to reside
in several places or whether one could achieve the same goals by living and working in only one
place.Inevitably, one could never be at the right place at the right time, and would always be missing
something in either place while presumably being part of more events.

[...] In a recent article, Danah Boyd, a social media researcher who studies patterns of behaviors
in online social networking sites, remarks that “MySpace had become an electronic version of the
local mall or park, […] These sites act as digital public spaces.” 2 The article further explains that
the need for such places is even more acute today, as traditional real-world public spaces have
disappeared… But have they, or do we no longer know how to make use of them? When is the
last time you sat on a bench next to a stranger and picked up a conversation? Has flesh and blood
reality, unprotected from the sheer screens of our computers, become way too real? Or is it that
we have unlearned to live unmediated new experiences? While paradoxical, today, “one of the
metrics of success is how much attention you get regardless of for what” and the more exposed
you are the better. 3

[...] My friend, Paula Boettcher, wrote a courageous open-letter when she closed down her gallery
in November 2003. I have kept this letter since, and I stumbled on it the other day. As much
as I wish it could be reproduced here in its entirety, I will quote just a few lines:
The successful post-modern artist is not identified with the depth and content of his message
but with the efficiency of his narcissistic gestures in terms of media and consumer effectiveness.
The more easily the artist’s gestures can be consumed and the more spectacular they appear,
the better the chance for the artist’s success. His work becomes a commodity, his name a brand.
[…] But it is a problem if an artist defines himself solely by way of his media and consumer
effectiveness and when he comes to terms with the scene. Marches along uniformed. Celebrates
the spectacle with a smug smile. To be part of it is all that matters.

[...] This attitude of the loud gesture on behalf of the artists, and of all the other actors in an
art scene, often leads to a lot of void and ill-adapted solutions because they are gimmicks, mimics
and not based on pertinent local issues. Athens is not London. Geneva is not Paris. If there are no
borders, or if art abolishes borders, then “global” should not rhyme with Equal.4 What we should
be in search of instead is diversity of voices, of approaches; and along the way, recognize one’s
own characteristics, accept and play with them. And keep in mind: It is not how bad your game
is, it’s how well you play it.

[...] Utopia was often a way for exclusion rather than inclusion, i.e. small communities keeping
to themselves to ascertain the success of the innovative structure. I think that if we invent new
types of utopias we must ensure that as individuals carrying in ourselves such potentialities,
we bridge them and enclose diversity. The key in connectedness is not homogenization but

[...] If indeed art communities are not evolving in tandem, if there are still strong particularities
to be found across the globe — as this magazine is attempting (and I hope achieving) to make
the point — we must aim to preserve and present them, rather than obliterate them. How do
we engage with our community, or should I say communities, when we are everywhere at once?
Personally I can already witness that as I have reduced the time and regularity of my stays in
Athens, I am growing slowly but surely out of touch. Does that mean that I am now less entitled
to participate in a local discourse and would instead risk applying general considerations like
an all-purpose balm? No, it does not have to. Utopias, remember, carry critical and innovative
capacities. But it means that I have to make double or triple the efforts to be aware and stay connected
by means of close collaboration with people involved locally. The difference–the bird’s eye
view–that I can bring as an outsider is only so good as it does not flatten out the folds but strikes a
raking light on them. Our personal utopia should mean that since we are connected, we must
not be isolated. BP

1. Gilles Deleuze, Felix Guattari, Qu’est-ce que la philosophie?, Paris: Les Editions de Minuit, 1991
2. Graham Bowley, “The high priestess of internet friendship,” in FT WEEKEND (London),
Saturday October 28 Sunday October 29 2006, p. 3.
3. Philosophers and psychoanalysts recently coined this shift in our attitude to privacy as “publicy”
(extimité). The French term is proposed by Serge Tisseron in L’Intimité surexposée, Paris: Ramsay,
2001. Although the notion of extime is recognized in Jacques Lacan’s seminar L’éthique de la psychanalyse
(1981) by Jacques-Alain Miller in Extimité (1985-1986), in his course L’orientation lacanienne,
unpublished. The English term “publicy” is attributed to Herbert Marshall McLuhan. It is uncertain
which precedes the other or if they appeared simultaneously in parallel.
4. The play on the common adjective and the brand name by use of a capital and italics, allows me to
qualify, in an extreme shortcut manner (I shall certainly have to elaborate at another occasion), today’s
global art production as an ersatz for the real stuff that certainly does not make you gain weight.

* This title is taken from the subtitle of Alexei Shulgin’s article Art, Power, and
published in Parachute 85, 1997. To read his article and for
more info on Alexei Shulgin refer to

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