With the establishment of the new world order from 1989 onward, it seemed as if art and culture were no longer exposed to any immediate threat of state violence. Although the dissolution of the bipolar world system by no means meant the end of political crises or violent conflicts, the perspective of a world largely pacified, at least militarily (if not civilly), long dominated the cultural milieu from that point on. If there were expressions to the contrary in art – and there have been plenty of them in the last 30 years – these came primarily from former colonialist or permanent conflict zones that would not come to rest. Nevertheless, artistic and cultural practice saw itself in a kind of safe, protected harbor that this violence could not really harm.
At the latest, the Russian invasion of Ukraine proved everyone wrong. All of a sudden, cultural matters, at least in the Ukrainian and Russian contexts, are once again deeply entangled in the spell of military or authoritarian violence. Propagandistic coverings and excessive threats of punishment are just one way in which art and civilian life are suddenly exposed to highly imperial machinations. But also on the other side, that of the territorial defense that has become necessary, cultural life will probably be marked by the effects of this for a long time to come.
springerin 4/2023 would like to explore the larger context behind this sudden upsurge of imperial violence. Were bellicose aspirations perhaps present at a subtle level all along, while culturally one imagined oneself in a thoroughly pacifist sphere? Can insightful lessons be drawn from other global contexts about the extent to which artistic practice has always confronted, and continues to confront, imperial violence or attempts to subvert it? And finally, what models of resistance are currently viable when it comes to standing up to the neo-imperial machinations of the present? This issue seeks to explore all of these questions from an internationalist perspective.
Publication date: 15th December 2023