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Interview with Reinaldo Laddaga on Art of Emergency. Part 2
by Santiago Garcí­a Navarro

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Estética de la Emergencia

Santiago García Navarro: One of the characteristics that you look for in the projects you examine is their capacity to modify a local set of things. On the one hand, I think you are trying to describe a specific situation in current practices where forms of cooperation no longer depend on the a priori organization of a community project (through a party, a revolution, etc.) but they themselves are, immediately productions of ways of life. On the other hand, this bio-political production is ambiguous, in the way that the struggles of campesinos(subsistence farmers), urban workers, etc. as much like the dynamism of companies, are produced bio-politically. I find important differences among the examples that you provide in the book, such as Park Fiction, La Commune or Wu Ming, and others like What's the Time in Vyborg?, or Venus. In the former there is modification of a local state of things in straightforward terms of struggling, questioning, of differentiating the ways in which power operates on new ways of life. I do not see that difference in the latter. What's the Time in Vyborg?, although an interesting approach in viewing the city through different eyes, rescuing a heritage and producing new links through that rescue, does not seem to me very different from the projects that the post-modern cultural industry can embrace and promote without going through a crisis. Judging from your description of the project, I do not see that it has produced an open community able to delve into the effects that the elements implicit in a workshop, a film or a tour would seem to be able to produce: reviewing the idea of a border, for example, or of Russia's historic appropriation of Finnish territory. As for Venus, I think it was a more or less regular attempt --although with a stamp of its own-- to increase different kinds of connections within the context of a web society. But there is no idea or practice that distinguishes what occurs in the project from standardized forms of consumption, or of the characteristics of subjectivity in the contemporary market. In other words, I cannot find in either of the two projects any significant production of critical material that might serve to question the problems of contemporary life. In any case, they simply express the emergence of new ways of socializing, but that in itself is nothing new, just a sign of the times, no? Simply put, if art is also politics, if its form and content are at the same time the form and content of a new politic, wouldn't art imply a form of standing apart from the way current institutions of domination operate? Could you explain a little more what this "modification of a local state of things" implies and, more specifically, the present relation between art and power?

Reinaldo Laddaga: In my book "modifying a local state of things" means simply carrying out an operation whose aim is to reconfigure directly a space or an institution or the relationship between a group of people: things like promoting associations that would not be possible without its existence (such as in the Venus project), generating a quasi-institution that exists in time, relatively removed from the context in which it initially arose (La Commune), facilitating the gathering of information on possible forms of protest (open-source narrations). I could have said, more simply, being "useful". And being "useful" in an immediate, palpable way, in relation to a collectiveness that is limited in time and space, and to an aim that is different from that of making some kind of object with aesthetic properties. The development of useful work is simultaneously displayed and configured in objects with aesthetic properties.

Of course, some of the projects I deal with in the book define themselves explicitly as being critical of political, economic, cultural, etc. structures, whereas others do not. I think I have a couple of things to say here in regard to my argument. What I attempt to define in my book is a kind of arrangement or composition of objects and subjects, spaces and times, concerning the production of narrations and images for public dissemination: a different arrangement to the more common one within the context of the modern culture of the arts. The artists who have devoted themselves to inventing this format (to use Pierre Huyghe's expression) are inspired by the avant-garde tradition in some ways, but in others, distance themselves in a manner that would be too complicated to explain here (and that I try to explain in the book). This format may or may not be applied in a project that questions the social or economic forms that presently prevail. That is why I have attempted to describe its characteristics in such a way as to remove it from the political programs in relation to which it is applied.

A brief aside concerning the political assessment of today's art forms: if I am not mistaken, anyone interested in the possibilities of a progressive politics needs to see that one particularly important problem concerns forms of organization: How are collective groups generated and articulated when modern forms of solidarity are eroding? (class solidarity, neighborhood solidarity, or even age-group solidarity) In other words, when the shaping of parties, movements, unions, everything as we had understood it, becomes problematic.

It has to be said that the difficulty of organizing highly diverse groups into unified political actions explains why what used to be called the "anti-global movement" has had difficulties in moving forward. The kind of laboratory, the relatively indeterminate space offered by the field of art (whose borders are undefined), makes exploration possible. I think that a political assessment of the kinds of projects I deal with in the book should primarily address this aspect, which in many cases develops without an explicit position regarding the present-day structures of domination, exploitation or exclusion.

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