A Rancierian Note on the Permanent Oscillation Between Art and Politics

Collective Re-Orient (Gal Kirn and Niloufar Tajeri) has only recently more directly intervened into what is called the »expanded field« of art, because the work we do is a combination of critical theory research and spatial intervention. In the project Thinking the Monument to (Sub)urban Riots, which started at Solitude, we wanted to introduce the possibility of a certain »permanence« of spatial inscription of those political events demonized by the moral majority and precarious in their duration.

Returning to Jacques Rancière’s thought, which structures this series of reflections at Schlossghost, one can agree with his more »generous« interpretation, that art can be either something extremely disinterested, useless, working with and changing aesthetic protocols – or it can become political by changing aesthetic regimes, that is, intervening into »the distribution of the sensible« by democratically including those that were not supposed to read, write, or hear. Nota bene, this is not done by a direct application of political principles into the artwork, or art institution, but by working through its own material, expanding the field and role of what art is and should be by rupturing the existing relations between the sayable and visible. Unquestionably, the whole history of the tense relationship between politics and art, the challenge the avant-gardes posed to the »bourgeois« autonomy of art, is distilled and condensed in this statement, which tempts me to say that there is no simple formula that can resolve this recurring question, which is still embedded in a certain avant-garde legacy.

In this light, our project wants to actively intervene into discourses on both the (un)politicality of urban riots and the ideologically loaded notion of monument. However, we are far from assuming a paternalistic position that would prescribe a particular monument strategy, which will allegedly change the social and urban fabric, where riots have been repeatedly occurring in the Western metropolis. Monument proposal can perhaps trigger solidarities among those dispossessed and riotous across different spaces (e. g. banlieues); it can visually highlight the intersectional logic of domination exploitation, but it cannot conduct it on its own, not even in cooperation with other artworks’ and institutions’ revolutionary process (if all of a sudden the whole art world decided to become politically engaged). If one then advocates for an ambitious role for art, part of art should be grounded in its political orientation, which is, however, aware of the limitation of the presupposed »autonomy.« This gesture does not replace the space of emancipatory politics, but articulates a need for art(ists) to contribute – in its own ways – to its expansion.

Gal Kirn