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Live Coverage: Erica Love and João Enxuto at the final day of Avant Museology at the Walker Art Center

After a wonderful Sunday of presentations, discussions, and performances at the Walker, covered here, João Enxuto and Erica Love @EnxutoLove will be at it again on this thread for the culminating Monday of Avant Museology.

Image: Anton Vidokle, Immortality and Resurrection for All!, 2016. Video, single channel.

Join them for in-sights on the following presentations:

11:00 am | Anton Vidokle
Anton Vidokle will present part of a new film based on Russian Cosmist philosopher Nikolai Fedorov’s 1880 essay “The Museum, Its Meaning and Mission,” included in Avant–Garde Museology. Starring members of the present–day Fedorov Library in Moscow as well as Arseny Zhilyaev, the film was shot last winter at the State Tretyakov Gallery, the Moscow Zoological Museum, the Lenin Library, and the Museum of Revolution. Titled Immortality and Resurrection for All, the film is an artistic interpretation of Fedorov’s universal museum, where immortality and resurrection will be actualized.

11:45 pm | Sohrab Mohebbi
Sohrab Mohebbi’s presentation explores the possibilities of theory as an art form. Proposing a quasi–history, it investigates how artists, and by extension art spaces, contribute to theoretical debates. Drawing upon a number of works, the presentation asks not what theory does for art but what art does for theory, in the lure of what Chris Kraus calls an “atmosphere of meaning.”

1:45 pm | Ane Hjort Guttu and Nisa Mackie
It is an open question as to whether the museum provides the best context for artistic expression, social analysis, and political change. If the prevailing aim is to subvert an existing socioeconomic order, in the “BIG” museum there is risk of subsumption by the dominant hegemony—or worse, a forced double life. Ane Hjort Guttu and Nisa Mackie will engage with this question by interrogating how artists might navigate the super structures that govern the production, circulation, and reception of their work. The dialogue presents the possibility of temporal utopia that often precedes the nexus of personal and political crises. This might take the form of speculation and fantasy, play, abstraction, or true praxis— all of which point to forms of the possible.

2:30 pm | Elizabeth Povinelli
Filmmaking as Perpetual Motion Museum
In 2012, under the auspices of the Karrabing Film Collective, Elizabeth Povinelli and her Indigenous colleagues began making short films as a method of self– organization, social analysis, and alternative imaginaries. The films were residual artifacts of this practice of a living analytics. They were like Hitchcock’s MacGuffin, a plot device that can organize a pursuit whose actual aim is survivance. As objects, however, the films provide storage of an alternative history of the present that can in turn be stored in a future alternative museum. But they threaten to provide a site of social fetishization, as if the central value lay in the aesthetics of the objects rather than the survivance of worlds. How might an avant–garde museum be not a storage bin for anesthetized objects but rather a space for the perpetual exfoliations of alternative worlds?

3:45 pm | Cary Wolfe and Timothy Morton
Avant What?
In this freewheeling conversation, Timothy Morton and Cary Wolfe will explore the idea of the “avant” and the various ways in which “avantness” has historically been incarnated in art, literature, music, and culture. Both authors will discuss the relationship of the idea of the avant to their own work and the extent to which it is or isn’t a useful way to think about ideas of time and temporality, newness and oldness, chronology and succession, beforeness and afterness, and the layered, textured, multi–species spaces in which culture (and not just human culture) happens: Morton in relation to his writings on literature, art, music, and ecology in landmark texts such as Ecology Without Nature, The Ecological Thought, Hyperobjects, and Dark Ecology; and Wolfe in relation to his work as both author (Critical Environments, Animal Rites, and What Is Posthumanism?) and founding editor of the Posthumanities series at the University of Minnesota Press.

More on the symposium here.

Immense gratitude to Erica and João, The Walker Art Center, The University of Minnesota Press, and all of the brilliant presenters that made up the two weekends of Avant Museology.

Stay tuned in the near future for the continued life of the talks and ideas presented in the symposium …

Hello Friends,

We are back, day two of the Avant Museology at the Walker Art Center. Thank you for reading.

A portrait of Nikolai Fedorov

Anton Vidokle introduces his film Immortality and Resurrection for All!. It is the final film of a trilogy that will be exhibited at the House of World Cultures in Berlin. Arseny Zhilyaev interviewed Anton Vidokle where he discusses how this trilogy came to be and the previous two films.

Vidokle opens by discussing Nikolai Fedorov, the intellectual founder of Cosmism, who developed the Philosophy of a Common Task, and has become a foundational figure through the course of the symposium. To contextualize Fedorov’s moment, Vidokle reminds us that he was living through the Nietzschean trauma of the death of God, when tradition was facing a surpassing disaster (as formulated by Jalil Toufic), a disaster so great as to be unquantifiable.

Fedorov was passionately dedicated to the principles of human evolution, but taken to a radical degree, where the belief immortality is actualized through human technologies. Immortality can only work, he reasoned, if it worked for everyone, including those that came before us starting with Adam in the Old Testament tradition. For Fedorov the museum was particularly important because it was the only institution not oriented toward progress and the erasure of the past.

The auditorium has gone dark and Immortality and Resurrection for All! is screened.

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A video excerpt of Anton Vidokle’s Immortality and Resurrection for All!, 2016

Just before the screening of his film, Vidokle muses on immortality, saying he could do with a little more time, maybe 500 years “to make the perfect film.”

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Sohrab Mohebbi, curator and writer currently based in Los Angeles, where he is the associate curator at REDCAT takes the stage to present “Contemporary Art is the Promise of Art” with a promise to adapt his talk to reflect upon recent political events.

Peter Fischli and David Weiss, In the Carpet Shop, from Series The Sausage Photographs, 1979, C-print, 51 x 70 cm

Mohebbi takes on the daunting task of unlocking the promise of contemporary by listing the roles it currently performs. Among these is impermanence and indeterminacy: “What we are willing to declare as contemporary art? It is like the weather,” he says.

Throughout his talk, Mohebbi references the artworks of Peter Fischli & David Weiss. The duo’s object-based and photographic works are what he calls, “a minor articulation in relation to the dominant forms of capitalism;” examples for what Boris Groys refers to as a weak universalism, “a weak practice, a weak gesture that repeats the everyday gesture,” explains Mohebbi. In his 2010 essay Weak Universalism, Groys claims that such weak gestures “must be repeated time and again to keep the distance between the transcendental and the empirical visible—and to resist the strong images of change, the ideology of progress, and promises of economic growth.”

Peter Fischli and David Weiss, The Russians Send the First Rocket Into Space, 1981.

“It is only possible for art to be a promise when it is a threat,” concludes Mohebbi.

Brian Kuan Wood introduces artist, curator, and researcher Ane Hjort Guttu who begins by recalling a dream she had in 2002 about a museum that was called the “Big Museum." It was not a space she was a part of, instead she and nearly everyone she knows were included in a parallel “Little Museum.” It consisted of other artists who would gather and share their daily life within a "productive and meaningful space.“Following the dream, Hjort Guttu became convinced that the “Little Museum” must remain a secret even as it is held within the “Big Museum since “museums kill everything.”

Hjort Guttu aptly cites Gregory Shollette’s notion of “dark matter” to describe activies in the “Little Museum.” Shollette defines “dark matter” as living labor “invisible primarily to those who lay claim to the management and interpretation of culture––the critics, art historians, collectors, dealers, curators and arts administrators…Yet, just as the physical universe is dependent on its dark matter and energy, so too is the art world dependent on its shadow creativity.”

For more on author, artist, and activist, Gregory Shollette, and his book Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture.

And now, Ane Hjort Guttu screens, Untitled (The City at Night), 2013, video, 25 minutes

To view an excerpt of Ane Hjort Guttu’s Untitled (The City at Night), 2013, video, 25 minutes.

Untitled (The City at Night) consists of an interview with an anonymous artist, who has for twenty years worked on one single work: A huge archive of abstract drawings representing episodes the artist has witnessed through nightly walks in the city. The artist has no intention of showing the work publicly. The video shows selected still images of the artwork and concludes with a camera roving the streets of Oslo at night.

Ane Hjort Guttu and Nisa Mackie in conversation: Hjort Guttu admits to being fascinated by individuals who try to keep or expand their freedom, despite having no practical means of achieving it. She then wonders how some people are able to step outside of a system like Edward Snowden, who out of thousands of intelligence workers, had the courage and ability to become a whistle-blower.

In her film, Untitled (The City at Night), the protagonist/artist insists that her “work is better when it is not seen.” The filmmaker then asks why she was allowed to film the archive of work, and the artist explains, “your work protects my work. You show a few of my pieces and that is enough.”

This point draws a parallels between Hjort Guttu’s work and a point made yesterday between curator Adrienne Edwards and artist Jonathas de Andrade when his project Museu do Homem do Nordeste was classified as both performance and archive.

In Untitled (The City at Night) the anonymous artist privileges nocturnal walks over the resulting drawings. An audience member perceptively questions this notion in asking “what is the criteria for her practice? What is indispensable?” Hjort Guttu replies that the artist relates to the modernist criteria of an artwork but is also invested in its invisibility; the artwork is best served if it is not shown.

Presenting Elizabeth Povinelli, Professor of Anthropology and Gender Studies at Columbia University, author of five books, and most pertinent to the day’s proceedings is her work as director of three films with the Karrabing Film Collective.

Her talk is titled “Film-making as Social McGuffin.”

Still from The Maltese Falcon, 1941, a film by John Huston

McGuffins are an object or device in a movie or a book that serve merely as a trigger for the plot, often preoccupying the actors throughout the film. “Indeed all things that have maintained their status as a McGuffin have the hope of entering into the museum. They move viewers around and around, we can think of them as a turbine, a revolution without end or a permanent revolution.” Povinelli asserts that communicating the emotional charge of the revolution was left to the museum while the aesthetic object was “meaningful without being filled with meaning.” There is the artwork, and on the other side is “the museum as the inspirant, to set it all in motion. What could be a better example than this conference?”

The Karrabing Film Collective at work. There are about thirty-five people in the film collective that work out the plot before shooting while “they are grocery shopping, poaching cows, or whatever.” There are no scripts so that those who cannot read aren’t excluded.

Povinelli describes the Karrabing Film Collective as "a prohibitive McGuffin.” She explains that the purpose of their filmmaking is not to produce an art object, it is to “make work on and within a world that does not want them to work.” Povenelli is not concerned with genre but assents to “improvisational realism” for the sake of the film industry and institutions which circulate and screen the Karrabing’s work. “Improvisational realism” is meant to test everyday life within the limitations of relentless government bureaucracy faced by the indigenous population of Australia. Povinelli explains that the films are a “topological looping of the indigenous living in settler realism. No space exists in their reality.”

Still from Wutharr, Saltwater Dreams, 2016, a film and media project by the Karrabing Film Collective. View the collective’s website and an interview with Vivian Ziherl on Vdrome about this film.

When asked where she wanted the film to be shown, Natasha Bigfoot, a Karrabing Film Collective member responded that they want the artwork to end up on their land. This artwork is not a resurrection or reinvention but a continuation of their lives.

Cary Wolfe and Timothy Morton conduct a casual conversation with a video montage of ecological destruction playing in the background. "Just two Styrofoam cups trying to make a difference,” announces Morton.

Wolfe is Founding Editor of the series Posthumanities at the University of Minnesota Press. Morton is Professor in English at Rice University and author of several books includung, Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology After the End of the World, 2013.

Morton, a philosopher who self-identifies as a “holist” occasionally writes about art. In a recent essay Charisma and Causality, he asks what if art was a kind of magic? He explains in the essay: “And art has an actual causal effect. Art just is tampering directly with cause and effect, because art is what cause and effect actually is. Art is charisma, pouring out of anything whatsoever, whether we humans consider it to be alive or sentient or not…”

The tone of the conversation dictated by Morton and Wolfe is decidedly informal and departs from the seriousness displayed by most previous speakers in deference to post-election anxieties. “Neoliberlism is horrifying but it is only a small part of it. It is only the tip of the object,” Morton explains. As a leading voice in popularizing object-oriented ontology, Morton accuses the left of self destructively “biting its hands off” in recent political debates. As the floor has long-been open to the audience, one dissenter requests a microphone to ask Morton how his brand of object-oriented ontology stands to benefit the political left and in particular Black Lives Matter. These contentions set off a debate that is never fully resolved by Morton nor other audience members as the symposium approaches its end.

Before concluding, Wolfe provides a somewhat conciliatory message: “When we talk about politics or the political in academic landscapes it does not bear a resemblance to how politics actually function in the world.” Wolfe cites Donna Haraway’s, preference for building political affinities rather than alliances. “For real political action we need a more complex vocabulary than what we typically use,” he says. “Reality is not what one perceives when one perceives it because of its contingency… The only way you get to have consciousness has to do with a lot of other things that are not human.”

And there we have it, Avant Museology finishes with the non-human.

A computer rendering of the actual Walker Art Center’s newly opened entrance on Vineland Place.

An enormous thank you goes to everyone at the Walker for their incredible hospitality. On a personal note, we’d like to thank the great Jaqueline Stahlmann, Public Programs Manager.