Reading Group 07.01.02 — Curatorial Series — Submerge Discussion with Curator+Artists

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Reading Group 07.01.02 — Curatorial Series — Submerge Discussion with Curator+Artists
1. About this Monday
2. Short intro about ‘Submerge’ Exhbition
3. ‘Submerge’ Essay by Benjamin Young
4. About Curatorial Series
1. About this Monday
when: Monday at 7:00 pm
where: 16 beaver street.
See end of this mail for location details
Today, we will be discussing the exhibition “Submerge”.
The exhibition took place this Spring in Nuremberg, Germany and was
curated by Eva Scharrer. Eva will be present to discuss the show, as will
many of the artists who participated.
In addition to some of the artists who will be on hand to screen and discuss their works, Eva will be discuss her ideas about the show, the selected works and her relation/approach to curatorial practice. In addition, Benjamin Young who wrote one of the essays for the exhibition catalogue will be on hand to discuss his thoughts on the convergence of art museum and military bunker.
2. Short Intro about Exhibition
Submerge merges some current topics and positions of New York’s art scene in a new context, defined by the space of the Kunstbunker Nuremberg. The aim is not so much to identify particular movements, nor to provide a representative oversight of New York’s heterogeneous art scene, but to present progressive
and critical tendencies exemplified by individual artistic approaches.
Submerge features 15 emerging artists living and working in New York, exhibited collectively for the first time in Germany, and with mostly new works for Kunstbunker Nuremberg.
The exhibition emerged from the idea to invite the artists to respond to the architectural or historical facts of this space. These artists were selected on the basis of their individual abilities to communicate directly with the given environment: architectural space, the institution, the social, political, or historical context.
The works address issues of cultural identity and displacement, the notion of place, personal and collective memory, and their influence by certain media. They explore the shelter as a possible home and utilize the functional mechanisms (virtually ignored so far) of the bunker.
The artists work with various media and make use of new technologies and inventions. A major focus of the exhibition will consist of video works, sound installations and interactive projects, calling for the
participation of the viewer.
Submerge is conceived as a collaborative exhibition project in process, based on a lively exchange of ideas and thoughts – not only about the space, but also about the other city, and the research of its history.
The cultural identities of the artists will introduce other interesting aspects into a complex and challenging
With this project, Kunstbunker Nuremberg continues a long and ambitious tradition: the commitment to promote explicitly the German-American cultural exchange by frequently showing artists and new tendencies from the US – a so far unique position in Nuremberg and therefore highly necessary.
This show will not only offer a platform for the artists to collectively present their work as an important part of New York’s young art scene in Germany, but it will also be a unique opportunity for the city of Nuremberg, promising an intensive and insightful cultural exchange.
Beside the show in Nuremberg, part of the artists will also represent New York at “INSIDE OUT UND AB DIE
POST 2002. Fifth festival of young art”, August – October 2002, Berlin – one of the biggest international events in
young experimental art, organized by Aktionsgalerie Berlin at the location of the Bunker Reinhardtstraße in
3. Submerge Essay by Benjamin Young
Benjamin Young
‘Submerge’ essay
Blueprint, Threshold, Ruin
Spaces and places are finite. Because they are spaces, they fade. Independent of all ‘external’ violence and even before their ruin, they are in decay by the violence of their sheer adjacence. — 1
In the kunstbunker, the art museum and military bunker are not only adjacent, but superimposed. At this crossing the identity of each space fades. While the kunstbunker enacts an identification between bomb shelter and museum, their juncture does not construct a simple unity. Doubled and overlaid, the integrity of both spaces is exposed to an opening or breach, a kind of decay, perhaps a structural failure. The intersection of these two spaces breaks through their conventional bounds and burdens their institutional limits. If not in ruins, museum and bunker are pushed to their ends, past their prime, and appear lapsed or anachronistic. (Decay reveals temporal lag in spatial coherence). What are the conditions, historical and structural, for such an untimely architectural conformation?
If we understand modernism as the drive to secure the autonomy of the artwork the self-reflexive gathering up and staking out of a discipline or medium then modernist artistic practices have the museum as their condition of possibility. — 2 By promoting the stability of a transcendental account of vision and an art practice committed to the ‘internal,’ self-referential, and formal properties of a medium, the modern art museum constructs an enclosure that establishes the interiority of art. The bunker provides the blueprint for modernism’s ideal museum. — 3
Of course, the interior of modernism was never as secure or fortified as the image of the bunker would suggest. The origin of the modern art museum was often threatened with architectural violence, if not total destruction, by the historical avant-gardes’ different projects to unite art and life. While some futurists advocated the complete liquidation of the past, including torching existing museums, dada, surrealism, and constructivism each had plans to dissolve art into everyday life, sublating the archive of the past into the living History and revolutionary culture of the present. Additionally, although the contradictions of industrialization contributed to an idea of the museum as a refuge of culture outside the alienation of modern life, the rapid development of mass cultural forms eroded the museum’s claim to be the unique space of aesthetic experience. Within and against these resistances, the modern art museum (and the discourse of art history that supports it) managed to found itself as a stable institutional model.
With the rediscovery of the historical avant-gardes and the rise of postmodern art practices in the 1960s and 70s, the museum, taken as “the paradigmatic institution of artistic modernism,” suffers a new kind of erosion of its structural integrity and institutional coherence. Not only has the museum’s closed interior been occupied with, or at least infiltrated by, practices, subjectivities and cultural forces formerly deemed outside the proper realm of the aesthetic, but modernist works previously seen as autonomous have been rethought as deeply marked by social difference and their historical conditions of emergence. — 4 Rather than fixing an universal, formal sphere of aesthetic intelligibility, modernism’s defensive exclusion (and selective assimilation or abstraction) of kitsch and socio-political interests is only conceivable within a field of racial, sexual and cultural difference. The museum does not simply protect an existing tradition of aesthetic quality, but founds and frames its collection by carving out an institutional enclosure from this field of difference. Postmodern art practices that pursue a critical inhabitation of the museum and those that blithely celebrate the museum’s capacity to incorporate an eclectic cultural and historical bricolage although they act on and reconstruct the space of the museum in different and opposing ways both develop out of the fissures that have disfigured the museum’s modernist façade.
If postmodern art practices have succeeded in highlighting and to some extent undoing the defensive character of artistic modernism, they have been accompanied, perhaps perversely, by the increased identification of the art museum with the culture industry. The unsettling of institutional stability can also describe the museum’s wider embrace of market logics, mass entertainment, merchandising, and tourism. With museums becoming increasingly important players in the ‘revitalization’ of urban cultural districts, while more dependent than ever on corporate sponsorship to replace government funds, the museum’s design fades into the spectacle of shopping districts and multimedia kiosks. The decline in the coherence of the museum’s institutional identity has hardly spelled its destruction; instead, we begin to perceive its outline incorporated everywhere into the postmodern cultural horizon. — 5
At the same time, the bunker manifests an air of decay and obsolescence that derives less from its association with a waning ideal of artistic modernism than from the dilapidated condition of its own structural properties. The bunker is no longer practical on military, tactical and architectural levels for most of the world. — 6 Recent political events, reminding richer countries of the reality of urban bombing and destruction, almost made the bunker seem relevant again. However, with the passing of the Cold War scenario of mutual assured destruction, the facts of asymmetrical warfare and the limited, impredictable means of terrorism make defensive fortifications infeasible. The virtualization of war, biological weapons, and the decomposition of coherent fronts to ethno-cultural, religious and financial networks all make the offensive capabilities of speed and global reach far more important than defensive architecture. Symbolic contestation and full spectrum domination replace the defense of national borders and strategic physical sites.– 7
Psychologically, the public is implored not to adopt a siege mentality and the continued circulation of goods and people is raised to the status of patriotic duty. If postmodern war is fought over the political symbolism of buildings, the bunker’s lack of monumentality makes it politically ineffective in securing the unified nationalist (in the U.S.) or civilizational (in the West) identification needed to galvanize the masses for the new war. The state mobilizes an enlightened plea to continue promoting exchange across borders in order to head off the potentially divisive apocalyptic or survivalist fantasy that clings to the dark walls of the bunker. Nonetheless, the figure of the bunker persists in the West as a symbol of subterranean disinformation, irrationality, invisibility and incomprehensibility.–8 A cipher for all that is dark, obscure and other, it supports the mythology of “people who live in caves” from the medieval past, who must be “hunted down” like animals. With violent disregard for recent political history, as well as the relation between ‘first world,’ particularly U.S., foreign policy and the conditions of economics and governance in the ‘third world,’ the image of the bunker props up the basic opposition of light and darkness, civilization and barbarism, liberal globalization and backward particularism that justifies and legitimates the global “war on terror.”
Although both museum and bunker today appear as faded cultural images, it is precisely in being pushed past their institutional limits that these two spaces return as a political logic. Practically undone, the kunstbunker reappears in the current geopolitical imaginary as the nexus of civil humanity, development, and edification with militarization and defense. In the discourse of the “war on terror,” the museum’s conservation of an interior civilizational or cultural space (whether ‘East’ or ‘West’) combines with the bunker’s rigid protection from an outside that has been made hostile, unlivable, and literally inhuman. We could say the social logic of the kunstbunker posits the exclusion of the enemy from the realm of the socio-political, and even civilization, as the requirement for the permanence and protection of a cultural interior. The cultural enclosure defines itself as fully human, a sutured unity untroubled by external violence, only through the strategic dehumanization of whole populations (either by the derealization, effacement, and forced invisibility of their suffering or their spectacular criminalization as essentially evil). — 9 By putting this structural boundary beyond the reach of lawful or democratic contestation, this ideal integrity achieves a “neutralization of politics.” Here the sovereign appears in the guise of the police, as “the one who marks the point of indistinction between violence and right by proclaiming the state of exception and suspending the validity of the law.” — 10
Indexing this resurgence of sovereignty are continued extensions of emergency powers for executive, police and military officials in the U.S. and elsewhere, as well as the double characterization of state violence as both an act of war and a police action, potentially without boundaries or ends. Symptomatically, the U.S. news media have shortened the phrase “war on terrorism” to simply “war on terror.” Failing to recognize the constitutive role terror plays in the foundation of the law and state, and in the oscillation between legitimate and illegitimate violence, a fantasy of total security attained through the elimination of terror emerges. — 11 As the right manipulates this ideal to its own ends, what is offered to the public is also withheld, as each sacrifice of civil liberties and the right to democratic contestation fails to secure the promised ideal of absolute protection.
The bunker, then, risks dehumanizing its inhabitants as much as those it excludes. Rather than providing the comforts of home, entry into the bunker subjects one to privation, surveillance, and the loss of privacy, if not the sacrifice of basic rights. The bunker is inhospitable, inside and out. — 12Any defensive formation has a threat built into it, and the bunker incorporates into its structure the insecurity on which it is founded. What has been visited on the excluded stranger risks returning to the interior. This means the kunstbunker does not convey only a fantasy of authoritarian space.
If the bunker in some way includes the threat of violence it would expel, the museum that shares its design would exceed a naïve model of conservation. Such naïve preservationism, secure in the good conscience of the ineffaceability and indestructibility of its contents, sees the archive as nothing more than the untroubled accumulation of living history, an undivided accessibility of the past maintained in and through its availability to the present and presencing. In and against this ideal of enclosure and protection, the museum bears witness to the threat of loss and absence, “the fact of vanishing and destruction” without which there would be no remains and no memory. — 13 Protection or conservation only occurs in the face of decay, where the living and the human has been exposed to an unsettling exteriority, where the institution of the museum, suspended between life and death, can only be said to survive.
Although its structure at first appears well fortified, the kunstbunker’s institutional status is less than secure; the fact that the kunstbunker is not simply a museum built like a bomb shelter, but is an art museum and a bomb shelter already compromises the formal and discursive space of the ideal museum. Rather than a testament to art’s autonomy from social forces, the history of war and disaster, political violence and genocide, are built into the doubled structural space of the museum. The effects of this crossing are felt on a number of levels.
Firstly, the violation of art’s institutional limits is not the simple imposition of the ‘external’ violence of history onto the ‘internal’ space of the museum. Rather, this violence is the structural possibilty of institutions in general: the originary confusion of inside and outside, the disorder that makes the foundation of any enclosure a question of extralegal force, illegitimate because outside and prior to the institution that would give it law. Security no longer appears as the exclusion of violence or otherness, but as the concealment of an insecurity within. — 14
Secondly, if the institution is discomposed by violent contiguity (of inside and outside), this contact marks the objects and practices it contains. Whatever relative separation from immediate utilitarian or economic demands afforded by the bounds of art’s institutionalization, artistic practice occurs in its formal and functional dimensions as a social practice conditioned by the political and historical factors of its emergence. In short, this means there is no autonomous space outside hostility, violence, and survival. — 15 The visitor to the kunstbunker cannot be at ease; the space puts the viewer on edge. Denied aesthetic distance, in proximity to the ruins of history, aesthetic experience approaches the violence of ethical intimacy.
Thirdly, insofar as the decay which plagues the museum bears witness to destruction and passing, the kunstbunker interrupts the security of the space of memory. — 16 Again, if forgetting is not accidental, but constitutive of the museum, then we must be suspicious of the most institutionally secure, self-satisfied space of memory, which, by sealing over the effacement that constitutes it, becomes the most violent. “Perhaps, then, the mechanics of commemoration are being used to achieve a disburdening of memory, to ‘construct’ forgetfulness, and so?unfortunately?to forestall real, continuous thought about catastrophic events that mark our recent past…Ceremonies would substitute for, rather than inscribe, what should be known and acted upon.” — 17 When museum and bunker are united only by the decay that threatens them, guarding the past diverges from knowing and acting in the present. The injunction to remember requires accounting for the irreducibility of forgetting and destruction.
Once memory no longer appears as the conservation of an interior, and becomes a transmission exposed to risk and loss, the museum wrecks and exceeds the bunker. Not simply the preservation of what has been as what is, or the interior continuity of a homogeneous presence, quality or tradition, the museum “as what always refers elsewhere… exceeds its borders.” — 18 The museum survives the bunker by wrecking itself. The museum includes and exteriorizes the bunker, not only because it is more than a bunker, but because it is more than itself. As Werner Hamacher observes,
Certainly, the museum is a mausoleum, a memorial, a cemetery. It is just as certainly a market-hall, a warehouse; a depot and archive of discarded cultural treasures…viewing room and gymnasium, sanatorium and morgue; a stockpile of munitions and spoils, a harem and temple of the arts, a platonic cave and exit therefrom…No metaphor for the museum would be out of place, and there is none that could not for its part make its way into the museum. There is no word and no work, no analysis and no narrative, no story and no aperçu about the museum that would for its part not be ripe for the museum. And this means that there is nothing that could not be exposed in the museum, nothing that it could not surpass and survive. Everything can be a museum, and the museum is the site of everything that can be said about this museum, the site of everything that can be said about this site…The museum is not only the site of the inconsistency of the cultures and works it exhibits. Rather, it is a site of inconsistency, its time is inhomogeneous, ana- or dys-chronic. — 19
For Hamacher, this anachrony realizes a displacement (Ent-stellung) and ex-position (Aus-stellung) of both the museum’s contents and its institutional frame. Not only susceptible to disorder but founded on this very premise, the heterogeneity and anachrony of the museum is not simply a temporal slide into disintegration: this lack of secure self-identity is also the possibility of invention and discovery, where preservation can only mean transformation.
If the museum is “the institution of deinstitutionalization” (Hamacher calls this “ekstitution”), it also always risks a re-institutionalization, or re-ideologization. This could mean not only that the museum might fix itself in the figure of the protected bunker, but that art might be instrumentalized to domesticate, aestheticize or otherwise dissimulate the violent founding of this defensive formation. — 20 Spatially, if the museum opens onto something more than it is, this opening is susceptible to a closure, a rigid fixing of institutional limits and architectural coherence. This is not an accidental or belated closure, but one whose borders makes protection or preservation possible, from the beginning. In the necessary and impossible closing of security, the museum’s capacity to offer up the past threatens to contain it in the vault. (This containment need not be only an interiorization, but also institutional framing, the oblivion and destruction that can accompany exhibition and disclosure.) “At this point, we can already say that one can only speak about the museum from, or at the threshold of, the museum. And the museum itself is perhaps nothing other than a threshold, an opening and a closing…” — 21
At this threshold, at the edge of the human and inhuman, civilization and barbarism, inside and outside, memory and forgetting, guest and stranger, in the anachrony of past, present and future, artists are invited to respond. Called to answer to a space, with borders and history, at the intersection of the institution of memory and the logic of security, where the fading of place means a reply is not guaranteed. How could artists, at once international and from New York, respond to the kunstbunker, here, in Nuremberg, today? In the context of ‘global’ contemporary art and the institution of memory in post-war Germany? In the context of the museumification of defense? In the context of the fetishism of security and the violent conservation of the human? In the context of the injunction to remember that issues from every wall? In the context of looking toward the future, to reconfigure the oppressive spaces of the past?
Of course, the response does not come simply at the level of consciousness, reason or theory: it comes, unforeseen, as affect, imagination and artistic practice. It comes, perhaps, when artists, viewers, and visitors give themselves over to the space and its spacing, to learn what it might teach. Here, the decay of the museum’s architectural identity means not only the undermining of aesthetic distance, but the re-imagination of the subject; the displacement of the institution’s spatial and discursive limits constructs alternate subject positions. What new political and cultural identifications might develop in response to this space, in the encounter with other visitors?
If the bunker is inhospitable (not only for the other, but also for the self), its uninhabitable space figures an architecture of dehumanization. While constructed in the name of a culture, nation, people, or civilization?the human?the bunker ultimately closes its doors on the public, forsaking transmission, exposure, and memory for the requirements of protection. In the intimacy of its enclosure, behind the thickness of its walls, with a mix of violence, proximity and exclusion, we suffer adjacence as an ethical condition. Can we begin to imagine an ethos of vulnerability that exceeds the self-evident worth of security, which surpasses the logic of sovereignty? Can we envision this space of culture and protection as one of hospitality? — 22
At this threshold, of the unannounced arrival, of an openness to the other, the kunstbunker does not simply save or protect culture and humanity, but submits them to a radical instability. The challenge of our current juncture, in its opening and closing, would be thinking an unconditional hospitality amidst the irreducibly violent conditions, boundaries, and exclusions that make institutions, societies and nations possible. The kunstbunker pushes us to this edge, somewhere between blueprint and ruin, where anachrony infringes on the present, where protection and cultivation fade into exhibition and exposure.
1. Werner Hamacher, “Amphora (Extracts),” Assemblage 20 (April 1993), 41. For Hamacher, “adjacence” is not simply a condition, but an act (of spacing).
2. This is the argument made by Douglas Crimp in “On the Museum’s Ruins” (On the Museum’s Ruins, [Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1993], 44-65). Crimp begins with Foucault’s observation that the modernism of Flaubert and Manet only arises through a self-conscious relation to earlier literature and paintings; these works can be produced only from within the archive. Pursuing a Foucauldian archeology of the modern art museum, Crimp seeks to show how the naturalized modes of artistic vision and subjectivity that make up modernist artistic discourse—as well as the stylistic historicism and philosphical idealism that support the disciplinary formation of art history—are historically contingent and socially determined. Only later in his work, and that of postmodern criticism in general, do the specific political stakes of such a project become developed. For a more formally inflected account of museums and ruins, see Thomas Keenan, “Introduction: (‘like a museum’),” The End(s) of the Museum / Els límits del museu, (Barcelona: Fundació Antoni Tàpies, 1996). My account of the destructuration of the museum owes much to both authors.
3. “The bunker is not really founded; it floats on ground that is not a socle for its balance, but a moving and random expanse that belongs to the oceanic expanse, and extends it. It is this relative autonomy that balances the floating bunker, guaranteeing its stability in the middle of probable modifications to the surrounding terrain” (Paul Virilio, Bunker Archeology, trans. George Collins, [Princeton, NJ: Princeton Architectural Press, 1995], 45). Although Virilio is mainly concerned with partially buried, liquid-like poured concrete artillery batteries and lookout posts—not with the wholly underground air-raid shelter—it is worth comparing his descriptions of bunkers to Rosalind Krauss’s description of the self-referential autonomy of modernist sculpture. Krauss formulates the emergence of modernist sculpture as the breakdown in the relation between “actual site and representational sign” where the sculpture reaches down to absorb its base; this abstraction from a marked place produces “a kind of sitelessness, or homelessness, an absolute loss of place” which is “essentially nomadic” (“Sculpture in the Expanded Field,” The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths, [Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1985], 279-280). Virilio writes that “In brick and stone constructions, in assemblages of discontinuous elements, the balance of the buildings is a function of the summit-to-base relationship. In the construction of single-form concrete, it is the coherence of the material itself that must assume this role: the center of gravity replaces the foundation” (Bunker Archeology, 45). As the symbolic dimension of the fortress is lost underground, modernist sculpture abandons figurative verticality: both enact the death of the monument through defensive negativity.
4. While Crimp argues, via Malraux’s ‘museum without walls’ (musée imaginaire), that the medium of photography is the force behind the deconstruction of modernist autonomy, any account of the postmodern museum must register the role feminism, anti-colonial and civil rights struggles (later multiculturalism), together with the formal practices loosely designated as site-specificity and institutional critique, have played in the analysis and contestation of exclusions on which the dominant narrative of artistic modernism was built.
5. Andreas Huyssen formulates this in “The Museum as Mass Medium.” Against the perception that the elite culture of the modern art museum simply and unproblematically absorbed the radical critiques of the historical avant-garde, Huyssen argues that “the musealization of the avant-garde’s project to cross the boundaries between art and life has actually helped to bring down the walls of the museum, to democratize the institution, at least in terms of accessibility, and to facilitate the recent transformation of the museum from fortress for the select few to mass medium, from treasury for enshrined objects to performance site and mise-en-scène for an ever larger public” (Twilight Memories: Marking Time in a Culture of Amnesia, [London: Routledge, 1995], 20). Although it remains debatable how and to what extent art practices determine or are determined by the museum’s changed relationship with mass cultural forces—and what this means for a critical politics of culture—the point is that the shift is described as an architectural unfixing or demolition.
6. Although those urban populations lacking tactical mobility and currently under seige by an occupying power seem to present an exception to this, they are often too poor to afford the construction of bunkers. Only the world’s top political elite enjoys such luxury. This is one thing totalitarian dictators and democratically elected presidents share: while much has been made of Saddam Hussein’s underground military complex, the U.S. government’s executive branch and military also has a vast bunker system at its disposal, and currently has an unelected ‘shadow government,’ outside congressional control or public scrutiny, hidden underground and ready to take over in the case of an emergency.
7. Surveying the washed-up, abandoned husks that dot the Atlantic Wall of France—remnants of the line of bunkers built by the German army to defend against the Allied invasion—Paul Virilio writes, “Defense, in the course of the Second World War, switched from entrenchment to intelligence through the prodigious development of detection systems and telecommunications…This integral visibility piercing through each and every obstacle made the space of this new warfare transparent, while time was reduced by systems of prediction and foresight. The new defense became not only anticipation of the adversary’s actions, but their prediction” (Bunker Archeology, 30-31).
8. Although concrete barriers and stone walls can no longer protect the inhabitants from ‘bunker buster’ bombs or computer and camera guided missiles, the bunker does offer one tactical advantage in today’s war. “A vision from out of the future shows total deterritorialization of wartime confrontations, of the loss of firm ground, whose only remaining usefulness lies in dissimulation, in protection against shots and snapshots from the sky…Resistance to the waves and radiations of the enemy’s detectors today supersedes resistance to the shocks and blows of the enemy’s projectiles” (Virilio, Bunker Archeology, 203). However, this is only a temporary solution when the evasion of superior forces by hiding underground is met with the strategic ability and willingness of the assaulting army to extend the duration of war indefinitely.
9. In a recent lecture, Judith Butler has made this point while discussing the refusal of the U.S. to recognize any international legal obligations, if not a commitment to universal human rights, that might govern the humane treatment of the prisoners (so-called ‘detainees’) currently held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. (Humane treatment would include holding prisoners without blindfolds, gags or cages, while providing them with council, charging them with a crime, presuming their innocence, and expeditiously trying them by jury while admitting only substantiated evidence). For Butler, the indefinite suspension of the prisoners outside the law and the space of the human illustrates not only the violent means used to construct civilization, but also that the human is only constructed through exclusion and state violence.
10. Giorgio Agamben, “Sovereign Police,” Means without Ends [Mezza senza fine], trans. Vicenzo Binetti and Cesare Casarino (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), 104.
11. Both Agamben and Jacques Derrida, among others, have noted that for Hobbes, ‘fear’ or ‘terror’ is the one emotion that compels citizens to obey the law and the state. A history of the usage of ‘terrorism’ shows that it was coined during the French Revolution to describe state terror. This should lead us to ask why it now only designates violence practiced by the landless and stateless, and not the systematic destruction handed down by a national military.
12. “Slowed down in his physical activity but attentive, anxious over the catastrophic probabilities of his environment, the visitor in this perilous place is beset with a singular heaviness; in fact he is already in the grips of that cadaveric rigidity from which the shelter was designed to protect him” (Virlio, Bunker Archeology, 16).
13. See Thomas Keenan, “Introduction: (‘like a museum’),” 23. Eduardo Cadava has written that “If texts survive the death they bring, however, it is because they come as what exceeds the categories of life and death. The archive has always been a name for both what passes away and what remains” (“Lapsus Imaginis: The Image in Ruins,” October 96 [Spring 2001], 58).
14. Mark Wigley, The Architecture of Deconstruction: Derrida’s Haunt, (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1993), 131. Later, Wigley writes “That which is threatening is that which cannot be localized, that which cannot be placed either inside or outside an enclosure” (182). By constructing something as ‘outside’ to the law, principle, or discourse of an institutional enclosure, that which is excluded is also paradoxically included in the definitional reach of the law. This leads Wigley to claim that all institutional violence is domestic violence. As the space of patrimony, inheritance, tradition, and belonging, the museum is in some sense the space of the family (and its gendered division), and should be seen in light of this domestic economy (see Alexander García Düttman, “How Portable is Your Museum?,” trans. Gordon Finlayson, The End(s) of the Museum). Having briefly indicated how this domestic space involves law, police action, and civil war, the question of hosts, hospitality and the housing of strangers remains.
15. “There is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.” (Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” Illuminations, trans. Harry Zohn [New York: Schocken Books, 1968], 256).
16. I borrow this formulation from Rosalyn Deutsche.
17. Geoffrey Hartman, “Introduction: 1985,” Bitburg in Moral and Political Perspective, ed. Geoffrey Hartman, (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1985) 1, 3. Hartman is no doubt thinking of Adorno: “The effacement of memory is more the achievement of an all-too-wakeful consciousness than it is the result of its weakness in the face of the superiority of the unconscious processes” (Theodor W. Adorno, “What Does Coming to Terms with the Past Mean?,” trans. Geoffrey Hartman, Bitburg in Moral and Political Perspective, 117).
18. Eduardo Cadava, “Lapsus Imaginis,” 58. Jacques Derrida writes that “Spacing is the impossibility for an identity to be closed on itself, on the inside of its proper interiority, or on its coincidence with itself. The irreducibility of spacing is the irreducibility of the other” (“Positions,” Positions, trans. Alan Bass [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981], 94, as cited in Wigley).
19. Werner Hamacher, “Expositions of the Mother,” trans. Matthew T. Hartman, The End(s) of the Museum, 81-82.
20. The risks for aesthetics in the representation of violence are compounded when, in another sense, “Not only is violence the very condition of this preservation [of the archive], but, in turn, we might say that there could be no war, no destruction, without the archive: the archive ensures that violence will persist. This fact is all the more legible today when the militarization of technology corresponds to the textualization of its weaponry. Today missiles and warheads can be understood more and more as missives, as dispatches in writing, guided as they are by information and codes, inscriptions and traces” (Cadava, “Lapsus Imaginis,” 57-58). If museums play a fundamental role in the construction of cultural identity, and ‘postmodern’ war is “fought over culture and identity, with civilians and television cameras…[then] this means as well that it’s a war fought over and with museums—that it could not be fought without museums, of all sorts” (Thomas Keenan, “Introduction,” 22).
21. Hamacher, “Expositions,” 82-83.
22. “‘To cultivate an ethic of hospitality’—is such an expression not tautologous? Despite all the tensions or contradictions which distinguish it, and despite all the perversions befall it, one cannot speak of cultivating an ethic of hospitality. Hospitality is culture itself and not simply one ethic amongst others. Insofar as it has to do with the ethos, that is, the residence, one’s home, the familiar place of dwelling, inasmuch as it is a manner of being there, the manner in which we relate to ourselves and to others, to others as our own or as foreigners, ethics is hospitality” (Jacques Derrida, “On Cosmopolitanism,” On Cosmopolitanism and Forgiveness, trans. Mark Dooley, [London: Routledge, 2001], 16-17).
4. About the Curatorial Series
We have over the last few years invited a variety of artists, curators,
activists, writers, and thinkers to present and discuss their
In this series, we have attempted to give some framework to these
ongoing discussions by focusing on specific curatorial interventions
and the ideas that inform them.