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Cristina Bogdan Denounces the "Farce" of Transmediale 2018


In the Romanian magazine Revista ARTA, Cristina Bogdan offers a scathing rant about the complacency and hypocrisy of this year’s Transmediale festival in Berlin, which was held in early February. Bogdan writes that the festival embodied today’s art world at its worst: full of lazy, well-worn critiques of technology and capitalism, and totally blind to its own Eurocentrism. Here’s an excerpt:

I am writing to de-solidarize from this artworld, to denounce it as a self-absorbed and distructive, even though predictable, development in the Western body, one that is aggressive enough to spread into Western-oriented bodies such as all of us in the East and South. It’s not that people are dumb enough to still look at the West and want to be them, it’s also that such a deceitful artworld can quickly co-opt outsider initiatives and re-write them in this code of hypocrisy, making their initial freshness seem naïve, provincial and unmarketable (although this is precisely what they are, marketable). The artworld is a microcosm where economic and social trends are put into more clear forms that can be observed, manipulated, subverted, sometimes in a voodoo-like manner. It may not be the button that turns on/off the system, but it surely has a function of reconfiguring signs, which either are or can be confused with things and operations. Therefore a farce such as Transmediale is both a mirror and a trigger for phenomena in the world outside it, setting patterns, hierarchies and codes by which those whom it represents inflict their power onto those it is able to lure into believing they are some sort of other.

Image: Transmediale 2018. Via Revista ARTA.


The West as a whole seems to be migrating from the status of central master race followed by the status of central master culture (racially exterminative dynamics followed by culturally exterminative dynamics) to the status of peripheral irrelevancy. Meanwhile thanks to a sufficient part of its populations, it can be viewed and appreciated as an open air museum of white suprematism. Devoid of free will, like bacteria, the stochastically evolving biochemical entity that is the western population, in its self-narrative, managed to overcome the primitive views that are still present in less advanced cultures, and technological advances are the measure of the stochastic biological human evolution that has the west as its peak. Just like nobody in the third Reich had effective free will, because of strict obedience to the hierarchy, and thus only say Hitler had free will, nobody in the post third Reich has effective free will, because it is believed to not exist at all, so we switched from a centralised to a decentralised command structure. Jonathan Meese has this funny image of the third Reich having been smashed into a myriad of tiny pieces rather than magically annihilated, so instead of one multi-cellular third reich, we would have now a multitude of mono-cellular third reichs in the form of the average populist for example, or the average biochemico-cultural white supremacist. Peripheral irrelevancy though, doesn’t mean worthlessness, and the whole migration is full of promises of rebirths of authenticity at the individual level.


The author must really hate my face, picking two photographs of me out of all the dozens of pictures there must have been from the event! Fair enough, though, I know the feeling…

Quoting Sean Bonney against the ‘embarrassing’ Marxism of Transmediale is an odd one though- she does know he’s openly (and passionately) a communist? Or is the poem there to exemplify the ‘problem’ of too much Marxism in the artworld? Difficult to tell. Hannah Black has a tweet on this making a similar point, which I strongly concur with.

In any case, I thought there were some excellent and, indeed, content-rich, talks in the two days I was able to be at Transmediale - Ewa Majewska’s urgent description of the fascism and misogyny of contemporary Poland, Larry Achiampong & David Blandy on class and race in contemporary Britain, particularly in wake of the ‘social murder’ of Grenfell fire, Max Haiven on revenge, Rasmus Fleischer and ‘The Many Faces of Fascism’ panel in general. I hadn’t been to Transmediale before, and wasn’t particularly aware of its history in relation to discussions of technology in Germany, but I, for one, was grateful for the careful and emotional critiques of online life and counter-fascist ideas that I saw in the brief bit I was there.


I use Sean Bonney precisely because he has an authentic stance on Marxism - whatever was said at TM using perhaps similar words was purely rhetorical. In fact, I was reading Bonney as I was writing the text, I embraced the anger, and that’s what the text is about, anger.
As for your first remark, please do not think I am that petty to post your photo because I ‘hate your face’. The truth is I was particularly disappointed by the fact that you accepted to star in something like ‘the opening rally’, and I did not like the fastforward namedropping concept screaming philosophical interventions you were part of either. I was disappointed precisely because I think people like yourself who claim to stand for ‘the others’ should know that participating in something that is so clearly hegemonic and hypocritical towards everyone else except the in-crowd, is source of distress for those who follow you and actually take the time to think about what you write. I am not sure you understand my tone when I say this - I can’t tell how it comes across in writing - but I am telling you this out of respect, not out of smugness.


Thank you, Cristina, for clarifying.

I’m still a bit mystified though - the opening event was ten people speaking for five minutes each - it was quite nervewracking and I wasn’t sure what to expect (like I said, I didn’t know about Transmediale before I was asked to speak this year, and still don’t really understand what it means in the German or broader cultural landscape). In the five minutes, and on the panel, especially, I tried to talk about the situation in Britain and how people can offer spare rooms to refugees, how we might think of a ‘negative internationalism’ based on the recognition of mutual vulnerability and how we might inventory who owns and has what, how the rich hide their assets etc. (I don’t remember exactly what I said at either event as I didn’t write out anything in advance, probably stupidly). I am not sure how speaking events that are between five and fifteen minutes can be anything other than ‘rhetorical’ and in a room as big as the auditorium that makes it even harder, which is why I tried to talk about intimacy and alienation at the start (also because I was nervous and underslept, again).

I don’t know which specific ‘fastforward namedropping concept screaming philosophical interventions’ you mean, unless you are talking about the rally/panel again. I try in general to always explain the ideas and concepts I use and to think from the standpoint of the audience. But of course it might not always ‘succeed’, and it might not always be the right place. I did not get the feeling from the other panellists I spoke with or met that they were acting like part of something ‘hegemonic and hypocritical towards everyone else expect the in-crowd’, but rather they were concerned seriously with fascism, technology, refugees etc. I do not claim to stand for ‘the others’ but simply try to do what I can, like many others, to improve things where I can, politically, personally, whatever. I have surely made a million mistakes, and do not claim to have any wonderful answers or solutions, but I am interested in listening to what people need and also what people know - so Ewa’s talk on fascism in Poland, for example, was important and informative, because it talked urgently about things I didn’t know about before. I cannot get behind the idea that she and others are somehow cynical or trying to appeal to some ‘in-crowd’. I don’t know who the ‘in-crowd’ for Transmediale might be.

I suppose these kinds of events are inherently frustrating given that they do not do the same work as a poem, or an activist meeting, or the actual work of supporting refugees, helping leftwing lawyers, thinking carefully about a problem, supporting a friend, etc. And events like this can always fail, everything can always fail.

On a more petty note, I suppose I was mildly upset that you had picked two pictures of me, because I don’t like the way I look particularly, especially at the moment, and it felt a bit personal, which is why I made a joke about it, because that is how I deal with things like that. Anyway, of course I am always a big fan of polemical writing, and anger, and thank you for writing your comment: I wasn’t expecting you to reply.