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e-flux conversations

Editorial—“In Search of the Postcapitalist Self”

A number of alternate, informal approaches to art and economy that arose in the Berlin of the 90s created a great deal of space and potential for rethinking relations between people, as well as possible roles for art in society. Today, however, much of this hope has since been obscured by the commercial activity and dysfunctional official art institutions most visible in the city’s art scene, and though many of the ways of living and working that were formulated in the 90s are still in practice today (not just in Berlin), many of their proponents acknowledge a feeling that the resistant, emancipatory capacities inherent to their project have since been foreclosed upon. Our interest in inviting Marion von Osten to guest-edit e-flux journal’s issue 17 had to do precisely with this widespread, prevailing sense of rapidly diminishing possibilities in the face of capitalist economy, and her extensive issue offers a broad and ambitious reformulation of how we might still rethink resistance and emancipation both within, and without capitalism—even at a time when alternate economies move ever nearer to everyday capitalist production, and vice-versa.

—Julieta Aranda, Brian Kuan Wood, Anton Vidokle

The idea for this issue came about around a coffee table with Anton Vidokle. We were at a café in Berlin Mitte, a spot I wouldn’t usually choose for an appointment—a sign of unfriendly changes in the city. Upon entering I immediately became aloof, but after a minute felt ashamed for assuming such a snobbish and unfriendly Berlin attitude, and had to ask myself how I could seriously claim to be a real Berliner in the first place—after all, for the last fourteen years, I’ve commuted almost every week to teaching jobs and projects. And most of my friends and colleagues have to organize their lives around similar routines (and there is less free will in it than the category of the “mobile class” might suggest). Anyhow, moving on from these ambiguous thoughts, our conversation gave rise to some interesting afternoon dérives: the recent histories of Berlin’s leftist art collectives, and their interest in self-organization, self-publishing, electronic music, new forms of collective production, gender, postcolonial, and urban theory, as well as resistance and action against the monstrous reconstruction of Berlin in the 1990s, and the history of the Berlin Biennale as a marketing strategy for the city. We also reflected on the widespread university protests in Europe and the resistance to the implementation of the EU border regime, and the need for cultural institutions to find alternate means of establishing the grounds for more lasting forms of cultural production, education, and research beyond the “Become Bologna” and “Be Creative” imperatives. How can we find the finances and collective energy to begin this work immediately, while still placed at the center of so many contradictions? Finally, my own interest in contemporary feminist economists’ engagement with new political imaginaries prompted the question of whether it would be possible to rethink contemporary and historical leftist cultural projects beyond the neoliberal horizon, and more specifically in relation to postcapitalist and postidentitarian politics.

This last shift in perspective gave rise to this guest-edited issue of e-flux journal, which can be understood as the beginning of a debate that asks whether the (cultural) Left is still capable of thinking and acting beyond the analysis of overwhelming power structures or working within the neoliberal consensus model. What would such thinking beyond the existing critical parameters disclose and demand? Wouldn’t it call for spaces of negotiation and confrontation rather than of affirmation, cynicism, and flight? With the encouragement of the journal editors, I have invited artists, cultural producers, and theorists whom I know to be reflecting on these concerns, but who mostly have not articulated their thoughts publicly or alongside similar concerns; and yet, as readers will find, the authors provide few easy answers to the ab

ove questions—and conflicts resulting from alternate views and practices cannot be easily ignored. Rather than follow the exhausted master narratives of capitalism and crisis, this issue of e-flux journal investigates how cultural producers are already in the process of creating and reflecting new discourses and practices in the current climate of zombie neoliberalism. And what is disclosed and what changes if cultural production can be imagined precisely from the vantage point of postcapitalist politics?

Read the full article here.