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Art & Theory
SITAC III: Suitable Actions
by Itala Schmelz

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SITAC has become an intense, polemic and, at the same time, festive event. This year we were able to enjoy progress in terms of both understanding and the level of dialogue. Over the course of three days, both in and outside of the conference chamber, we tried to grasp a multireferential word: "resistance". During the first session a theoretical frame was outlined through which we were able to establish a dichotic structure to deal with this notion. There exists certain dialectics from which Western thought has not yet managed to free itself, in this case: power versus the individual, institution versus independence, control versus imagination, etc. "Marriage of attacker and attacked", a structure which immediately puts forward a need for confrontation, which indicates a fracture, an incompatibility and, at the same time, presents a repairable topography, if we allow ourselves to slip through this Möbius band.

The title of this symposium is appropriate in that a difference is suggested with terms such as "militancy", which contrives to indicate the turn of present day art towards practices very different from those of the artists whom, in the past, understood the integration of art and politics as affirmative propaganda. Muralism and the graphic arts effectively demonstrated their commitment and social scope during the Mexican Revolution, the student movement of 68, and their continued use today by the Zapatista movement. However, the fact that mass communication media, multi-reproduction of the image and the access to information, combined with abstraction processes and conceptual and performative strategies, have profoundly transformed the artists' role. Meanwhile, the aspiration to a radical political change in the control of power, in the hopes for a better tomorrow is, today, a Utopian relic. Rather than relying on militants with a cause, the present-day panorama of art relies on acting participants shaping the contexts, moments and significant or symptomatic spaces of our culture, trying to generate a healthy distance in the face of power.

At the second round table, Gustav Metzger, in a long-distance phone call which lent his words an almost-religious omnipresence, put us on the defensive against the programmatic illusion veiling the eminent catastrophy of the XXI century. He urged us to respond to ignominy, resist coercion, directed paranoia, fundamentalism, the voracity of capitals, and the extermination of species. To resist by example, to produce and present, and to make, reunite and convoke. To influence and dissent without totality was also the emphasis made by Antoni Muntadas. His visual collage was aimed towards exercising resistence, not only in the face of something which, to us, dictates an ethical principle or a political posture, but also in the defense of enjoyment and contemplation. For his part, Thomas Hirschorn presented his work for Documenta XI: Monumento a Bataille, a full-scale operation in which the artist put into practice a series of actions, convoking, in situ, the inhabitants of a complex consisting of numerous families, the majoriry of them Turkish immigrants. It was an impressive mobilization which awakened a sense of community and the harmony of common effort, values not often remembered in present-day society. This exercise put to the test the capacity of self- management and anarchy to provide a forum for differences.

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