Paletten #327-328 2022:1-2
While we were making this double issue of Paletten, Putin's regime invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022. As we send the issue to the printing press on April 4, thousands of people are killed and millions displaced, and the war just goes on. What does that mean? What will it mean? The Swedish media are portraying the war as a battle waged by an illiberal and totalitarian force against liberal democracy “in the middle of Europe”. This distinction distinguishes Ukrainian refugees from people from other war zones. Afghanistan, Yemen, Tigray…, conflicts that are not portrayed in terms of the conflict between the liberal and the illiberal. Has the concept and institutions of art anything to do with this hierarchy of wars?
This issue of Paletten in English continues our long-term exploration of the role of art and aesthetic culture in a modernity marked by the social relations of capitalism, colonialism, nationalism and sexism etc., on the one hand, and by the struggle for equality, democracy, and freedom on the other. What role does the critical tradition of aesthetic culture play in the war, and for its underlying condition, what can it do, and what is its limitation? If not before, then now, perhaps more clearly than ever, this multi-layered problem cannot be reduced to only an academic question.
It sucks to live in unfreedom, as one of the artists behind the Moscow-based The Union of Anonymous Users named after Ivan Scheglov put it when they submitted their essay “The End of Daze?” What preceded the war, what will happen now? How are we affected by our era of "political hyperobjects, inflated things-in-themselves, inhuman and shameless, furious and irrational?" These are some of the questions that this fearless situation report tackles. In 2014, during the Russian annexation of Crimea, Gothenburg based artist Alina Chaiderov made the sculpture Before 1989 We Kept The Bananas In The Closet. For this issue, she is contributing with a new photographic version of this exploration of geopolitical effects on memory. What will 2022 do to 2014? And 1989? Where will the bananas be kept this time? Kiev based artist Nikita Kadan made his collage series Protection of plants the same year. Made with photographs taken by the artist in Eastern Ukraine, the images show buildings visibly damaged by the recent conflicts in the area, overlaid by illustrations of plants and vegetables cut out of old Soviet books. The war is also a war on the war of imagined masculinity. We’re also publishing MEMORIES OF WHY I STOPPED BEING A MAN by American poet CAConrad. Rather than an abstract “call for peace”, these contributions form a montage artistic commentary on the immediacy of the situation.
The essay ”Not all sunsets are the very last” by contributing Paletten editor Andria Nyberg Forshage together with Vincent Duraud is the result of two years’ conversations among two or more or less than two friends. Touching on and transing life trajectories, these bootleg dialogues carve out both physical and mental space, against the isolation and exhibition of the self within an increasingly unlivable late-capitalist cityscape. This is a part of Paletten's ongoing investigation concerning art's relationship to representation, power, and desire in modernity. Several other essays contribute to this thematic. Amila Puzić reflects on her work with artist Lala Raščić´s and her solo exhibition The more tongues you silence, the more they talk (2021) at Röda Sten Konsthall in Göteborg.
KingBarney Parsons contributes with the “The Queer Problem of Abstraction (transcript of a speech). Parsons's speech is an example of alternative forms of artistic thinking through writing and montage in Paletten. This is also true of Salad Hilowle's contribution. A photo from 1995 of a gathering at the Somali men's association in Gävle, Sweden, became a part of a work included inHilowle’s recent solo exhibition Public at Kulturhuset in Stockholm. Hilowle’s “The Space Within Us” is a poetic reflection on the social implications of this history now. The family as organization and metaphor is one of the basic institutional problems of modernity. How do we organize ourselves after the next economic crash? In Iris Smed's script “The Little House in the Food Court", we meet a queer theatre group that tackles this very question.
If the contributions described above can be seen as different responses to the stage of disintegration in contemporary society, niilas helander's work connects the colonization of Sapmi with other lines of conflict in Nordic modernity. helander is a long-term Paletten contributor in collaboration with contributing editor Maja Hammarén, who along with Britt Kramvig contributes a conversation with helander. In addition to this dialogue with helander and his relationship to art and to the Sami people and to the issue of translation and decolonisation, it is also an example of the possibility of working long-term with one and the same artist or problem area over a long period of time and over several issues of Paletten. In addition to this conversation, we are also publishing a poem by Mary Ailonieida Sombán Mari invited by helander.
Paletten rarely makes thematic issues. Instead, we let several different themes develop and intersect over time. In this issue, we are also introducing a new format to give further breadth to some of Paletten's thematic research interests. We call this format "Paletten Asks". Frida Sandström and Fredrik Svensk have been in touch with the people behind projects that in various ways address the role of philosophical aesthetics and the critical tradition in the capitalist, nation-state, and colonial modernity.
The generous responses we received from Anna Enströms, Rasoul Nejadmehr, and Marie Louise Krogh about their various works on the Kantian legacy, from Lars Bang Larsen about his work on the political history of the early years of documenta, from Tom Holert about his investigation of alternative pedagogies in the postwar era, and from Mattin, about his studies of the artistic possibilities of “social dissonance” – together form complex horizons for thinking the conditions of art, life, and the role of aesthetic culture today.
One of the questions we ask for this first version of the Paletten Asks is: what can we learn today from the case of Werner Haftmann, one of the founders of documenta that Lars Bang Larsen addresses? Haftmann argued that modern art must stand outside politics, but what did this mean for the political-economic development of West Germany and its historical relationship to the Holocaust? And what did it mean that Haftmann and many others involved in documenta were former active Nazi Party members? How are we to understand the relationship between the integration of the figureheads of aesthetic culture such as Schiller and Goethe into Hitler's Bot und Boden propaganda, and the fact that a regime such as Putin's has no problem, as art historian Konstantin Akinsha recently noted, in allowing the art of Kazimir Malevich and other avant-gardists to become the perfect backdrop for the Winter Olympics in Sochi or decoration in the lounge of Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow? What is the limitation today of the critical tradition that has dominated the cultural policies of all liberal democracies after the second world war?
In the Swedish context, the Sweden Democrats stand alone for a radically different cultural policy than the other parties. Sölvesborg in the south of Sweden is the party's experimental ground. Jamila Drott & Sophia Persson note in their article that the tendency in local cultural policy in Sölvesborg is to support art that "reconciles history and the present" according to the keywords "unity, leadership, femininity and dignity". Confronted with examples like this, do we have other options than defending the status quo?
The question of art and history-making is also a key problem in Jan-Erik Lundström’s critique of Postnordisk, the first major attempt to describe the rise and fall of the Nordic art scene from 1976 to 2016, written by Jonas Ekeberg.In his reading, Lundströms asks himself if postnordic melancholy is white?
From where is history felt and written, who is it for? Behind questions like these lies the very notion of history as an integral part of the critical tradition of aesthetic culture, but also of European colonialism. Marie Louise Krogh tells us more about the different geopolitical imaginaries in Germany of the Enlightenment that enable philosophical concepts of history. One artist that has worked with the consequences of European notions of history is Zimbabwean artist Kudzanai Chiurai. Tawanda Appiah has made an interview with Chiurai for Paletten, focusing especially on "The Library of Things We Forgot to Remember" that houses an extensive collection including audio and visual records of liberation movements.
Theodor Adorno, is perhaps the European thinker who most clearly embodies the boundary of the critical tradition of aesthetic culture. As is well known, his art criticism is concentrated above all on his interest in music. But what has it to do with contemporary sculpture? In his essay, Erik Lindman Mata attempts to apply Adorno's aesthetic theory in a reflection on contemporary sculptures, namely by Leif Holmstrand and Anna Ting Möller. Jazz was excluded from Adorno's faith in the critical potential of music. Fumi Okiji has in her recent book Jazz as Critique revisited Adorno in light of the black radical tradition, arguing for Jazz as a “gathering in difference”, constituting an alternative sociality that Adorno himself could not recognize. Paletten contributing editor Frida Sandström briefly presents the ideas in Jazz as Critique and points out its relevance to other critical aspects of society beyond music. In the context of the Israeli regime's settler colonialism in Palestine and the Russian regime's imperial war, the issue of boycotts of economic interests close to the regimes has been raised. In his series of essays on the subjectivity and practice of art criticism, Fredrik Svensk this time discusses the question of the “boycott as an art-critical form”. Svensk claims that some contemporary boycotts of art institutions must not be reduced to a defense of the institutionalized aesthetic culture, supported by liberal interests against illiberalism. Instead of being seen as a non-dialectic and dogmatic form of criticism, the boycott can be seen as a part of a strategy in solidarity with other struggles beyond aesthetic culture.
During a return visit to the USA from Germany in 1952–53, Adorno wrote about the “Astrological Forecasts” in the conservative newspaper Los Angeles Times. For him, these columns were a form of institutionalized occultism, or what he called a "secondary superstition," characteristic of the tendency toward irrationality and authoritarianism in Western culture of the mid-twentieth-century. The limitation of this position today is perhaps the position from which it is formulated. When we, as a part of our ongoing exploration of new perspectives on working in the labor market of the art world, asked freelance press agent Arash Shahali to articulate something from the working conditions, he immediately shared his best astrological tips for anybody who thinks about becoming a beleaguered art press agent! Psychoanalysis as theory and practice has had a central place in the aesthetic culture of the critical tradition. But what can it do today? Sinziana Ravini argues in an introductory essay to her theory of the “Psychonauts”, that all art worthy of its name must offer us a journey towards the unconscious, forming a crucial perspective in a world dominated by crises and new technologies.
In her essay ”The Ghostchain (or taking things for what they are)” published in Paletten #325, Geraldine Juárez identified the creepy quality of crypto and NFTs in the asset form: tokenization is nothing other than assetization. In her new essay, “This is financial advice”, Juárez continues to reflect on the blockchain culture and logic of asset management. Hercontribution is part of Paletten's focus on the conditions and function of art under contemporary conditions of reproduction and production of capitalism and its social relations. This section also includes Paletten contributing editor Johannes Björk's essay on the public artwork Eternal Employment by the artist duo Goldin+Senneby, produced by the National Art Agency Sweden.Eternal Employment was assumed to question ”the very notion of growth, productivity, and progress which are at the core of modernity”, but perhaps is doing something else?
The aesthetic culture of the critical tradition is strongly interwoven with the question of education and pedagogy. Considering the educational aspects of the art institution, in many ways perhaps this tradition marks the boundary of art's problematic relationship with the question of subjectivity? We asked Rasoul Nejadmehr questions about his book Kantian Genesis of the Problem of Scientific Education. Tom Holert shares some contradictory experiences from his work with post-war alternative pedagogies. One useful reference forrethinking critical pedagogies today is Mocha Celis, a school for travesti, trans and non binary in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Florencia Ricardi has spoken to Manu Mireles, the founder of Mocha, about the school’s work at the intersection of travesti and trans activism, and the Argentine educational tradition of “Bachillerato Populares”. Also reflecting on questions of care, debt, social reproduction,Constantina Zavitsanos, in a conversation with Gabo Camnitzer, speaks about disability, labor, and abundance in the covid-era. The question of disability is also at the core of Emanuel Ahlmborg'sinterest in horizontal pedagogies. Ahlmborg's essay examines the work of Frantz Fanon and Lev Vygotsky in relation to theatre and psychology, and suggests that their dramatic theory and technique could be used to work through the complex, contradictory relation of the social within the individual. The Soviet tradition is also addressed by Mikail Lylov in an essay on The Projectionist Theater and their psycho-physical self-education, aiming to produce new subjectivities for socialism without a state. Is the social aesthetics for self-governance still relevant today? Lylov thinks so.
With these words, we wish you a challenging read.
Fredrik Svensk and the editors