Issue 2/2020

Come Together!


At present, it almost seems as if the isolation of individuals in an era of neoliberal cognitive capitalism has found its most striking biopolitical form to date in the social regimes imposed by the pandemic: Isolation, mistrust, competition, fear and precarization define social space. Personal and state surveillance are part-and-parcel of everyday life, national responses to the global crisis are the general rule. Forms of governmentality rooted in categorisation and cartography of the social realm as a threat; Big Data, data analysis and data mining techniques are now presented as methods within a new economy of the common good and as indispensable to healing the world, and are thus normalised. Political discourse stylizes the social realm as serving “us” as a community in the sense of the communitarian “good society”. The Other is left out in the cold.
Questions of togetherness or of social, cultural and ethnic integration, which had been determining public discourse for some time, are currently being pushed out of sight, just as images of refugees abandoned on Europe’s periphery, quarantined in camps, are shoved out of public consciousness. But these questions remain virulent and will be posed again. In this context, the (largely one-sided) tenor of this debate has so far asserted that it is the newcomers who owe us something—an obligation to adapt to the dominant majority. The starting point is generally the anachronistic notion that a certain homogeneity and consensus unites the culturally dominant majority. But what if diversity of lifestyles and identities essentially runs counter to this? What if a difference is inevitably inscribed in the integrative process that cannot simply be made to disappear by the threat posed by the invisible virus? One thing seems evident: “coming together” will assume a different significance after the end of the pandemic.
This springerin edition with the appellative title Come Together! would like to pursue these questions, which only seem to be of secondary importance at present, in areas other than the long invoked societal “problem zones”. Are there approaches in the artistic field that are more promising in terms of inclusion and coexistence than the assimilation model long preached by politicians? Can strategies of commoning, the instituent creation of common goods, be of assistance here? Or would it be more advisable to look to avant-garde practices of radical distancing and breaking with the familiar/ordinary in order to generate effective inclusion or any kind of sense of “we”? Is the key to the integrative possibly hidden in its exact opposite, an acceptance of the disparate and disjunctive?
In her essay, Ewa Majewska advocates a new, risky and antagonistic practice of turning away from a debate on equal rights that focuses on legal and economic equality solely in instrumental terms, insisting “We must be able to practice equal rights, fail in the endeavour and improve”. Françoise Vergès takes a similar line in her conversation with J. Emil Sennewald: Her call for decolonial feminism demands that revolutionary struggles be de-patriarchalized, linguistically too: All women must have an opportunity to develop an understanding of and contribute to negotiating what it means to be a woman and how to live this out.
Ovidiu Ţichindeleanu reflects on our “enlightened indifference to existence” by lining up cosmic comparisons and talking of our fragmented regimes of looking at the real as homogenized in isologous systems, in which “the technically reproduced image and vision” blur, turning “the world into a total projection from above” that is “starkly distinct from the world as a human being otherwise experiences it”.
Shared use of space through practices of urban commoning, as addressed in three examples in Stavros Stavrides’ piece, sketches out a new form of such urban commoning that is likewise not limited solely to establishing rules ensuring egalitarian distribution of space, relying instead on emancipatory planning that is “open to contradictory practices and the spatial and aesthetic demands of those who wish to participate in its design on an equal footing”.
Christoph Chwatal’s text compares two artistic approaches to commoning: Jonas Staal’s long-standing cooperation with activists, artists’ organisations and social movements, which extends beyond individual projects, departs from the logic of temporary collaboration. Jeanne van Heeswijk likewise works simultaneously as artist, curator and collaborator with a variety of smaller, specific collaborative and local interventions in neighbourhoods.
In Being Together Precedes Being, Joshua Simon presents photographs of shared actions of Arab and Jewish men and women from Palestine, depicting a transnational and transideological universalism of insurgency, whose solidarity united three territories that no longer exist today, namely Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and Palestine. Dyslexic thoughts by Anri Sala on Fani Zguro’s work Broken Threads and an extract from Nicoleta Esinencu’s play Abolirea familiei / The Abolition of the Family, broaden these perspectives to encompass the points where we meet and might come together antagonistically, as presented in Come Together!: as a small compendium for a life after the virus that contradicts the homogenizing and exclusionary discourse mechanisms actuated in the pandemic era’s public rhetoric.