Evropski bienale sodobne umetnosti Ljubljana,
23 Junij - 24 September 2000
Novice arhiv
Micro Talks
Cankarjev Dom
M1 & M2

Borderline symptoms

Don't ask what Europe can do for you; ask what you can do for Europe"!

We are once again in the position of having to be constructive and productive and to behave properly when called upon by Europe to do our duty, as formulated by the MANIFESTA project as follows: "Don't ask what Europe can do for you; ask what you can do for Europe!" We have to show that we can think positive and transgress, as this is called, our borderline syndromes, to be open to the world(s) and, I will add, to be open to the rules of capital itself. Let us start from a basic economy of tactics for everyday life: I was asked to write a text without even thinking of being paid, as it was announced that even at this initial point the money for this Manifesta's textual project had already gone, or was standing at zero. Unfortunately, as no money is left for this activity, we are asked to contribute as good patriots. I can refer to this act of writing as a humanitarian act for Europe. To participate in this initial project, to put together the basic concept of the whole project, to give ideas, to give concepts, to give elements for mutual cooperation is, therefore, a pure gift economy.


The 1990s are displaying a completely different idea of what we think about as territory. Territory as a pure geopolitical space is gone. Territory is a much broader concept. Our intellectual concepts, our books, our works and, last but not least, all our s are the new territories. Giving, contributing concepts and ideas is, therefore, a gesture of expanding and broadening the concept of territory itself. It is also a pure gesture of contribution to the internal motor of capital. Capital and capitalism have always and continually needed new territories. That everything is becoming, is transformed to be, a territory for the expansion of capital is fundamental to capitalism. In this way the idea of territory itself changes - radically.
In short, at the same time as we are all into shifting borders, an even more important process is going on: the production of new territories. It is not really a question of going to some geopolitical spaces, such as Africa, eastern Europe or Asia; it is about the capitalisation of ideas and concepts becoming territory itself. Teorija is such territory, and the Internet and the World Wide Web occupy the same position. They are huge new territories allowing capital even faster triplication. Teorija, art and culture are huge s; it is the same with our bodies. What would the Zgodovina of Teorija, art practice, cultural strategies and the paradigm of territory itself be e-mail, telephone cards, multimedia and CD-Roms?


The second crucial change with an effect on EAST and WEST, SOUTH and NORTH is that in the 80s it was enough to be VISIBLE; @2000 it is a question of re-articulation much more than of pure visibility. The concept is rooted in a much deeper universal demand for identity, politics, strategy and tactics of action, theorisation, emancipation and uselessness. It can be perceived as the militant theorisation of a particular position. Issues involving who is permitted to redefine the confines of space, the strategies of actions within and with new media and technologies, and the tactical dimensions of these actions are all crucial.
The concept of this thesis is not grounded in the simple game of identity politics; rather, it is a response to this constant process of fragmentation and particularisation. What is lost through this process is the gesture of real politicisation. Positioning matches repoliticisation. The following questions or synthetic moments are crucial: Which spaces do subjects and agents cross when they communicate? What do they call themselves? Are they subjects, cyborgs, monsters, nomads or simply hackers? (Yvonne Volkart)
We need to reconsider public space, the new media space, and the actors, agents and subjects in it in their processes of transformation. We have to ask ourselves what space, which actors, whose agents and what subjects?
Generally speaking, two broad lines of critical thought can be detected which form positioning matrices in this debate: the "Scum of Society Matrix" and the "Monsters Matrix". The former refers principally to the positioning of the so-called critical western European and North American participants, users and online community circuits on the WWW that form a kind of parasitic body trying to acquire everything possible from social structures that have already been established. The latter wants to re-articulate and interpret its proper position in the changed constellation, after the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is quite telling that the eastern European "Monsters" do not want to be perceived as an image but as actors and agents of this world. At the end of the millennium the two matrices not only raise questions of reflection and correspondence, but offer elements of political and analytical intersection that must be discussed and articulated further.


Classical ontology, according to Slavoj Žižek, is focused on the triad of the truthful, the beautiful and the good. For Lacan these three notions press near the limit, and show that good is the mask of diabolical evil (e.g. Oleg Kulik, the Russian artist-dog, or the performances entitled Was ist Kunst? by the Belgrade artist Rasa Todosijevic. In the 70s Todosijevic, in this series of performances, tried to drag the answer to What is art? from women literally by force, slapping their faces with black colour in the most shocking manner of body art); that beauty is the mask of ugliness (e.g. IRWIN's series of 100 pictures also entitled Was ist Kunst? In this series, and in Laibachkunst exhibitions, persons who are supposed to have been part of the Nazi period are portrayed along with members of the banned Laibach group; they are engraved into the iconography of the paintings, as their busts or torso sculptures decorate numerous paintings in the Was ist Kunst? project); and that truth is the mask of the central void, around which gravitates every symbolical structure (e.g. the Romanian flag, after the so-called Romanian revolution, a hole instead of the star). In short, there is a field beyond the good, the beautiful and the true that is not filled with everyday banalities but presents a terrifying source, constitutive of the background of the good, the beautiful and the true. All the greatest catastrophes of our century are the result not of being seduced by the morbid fatal attraction of this beyond, but, on the contrary, of the constant efforts to elude the meeting with it (Žižek), and to immediately install, saving a confrontation with it, the reign of the positive - the reign of the true and the good.


What is the internal physiognomy of the Slovenian cultural-political reality; or to what kind of structure will MANIFESTA have to pay tribute; or with what forces will MANIFESTA have to cooperate? Michel Wimmer and a team of European experts wrote a Slovenian cultural policy report in 1996 entitled Cultural Policy in Slovenia (European Program of National Policy Reviews, Council of Europe, CC - CULT (96)). It is a very useful analysis of methods, political decisions and ways of acting in the field of culture in Slovenia. The same report was used to establish a relation between The European Cultural Month - Ljubljana 97, and different artistic, cultural, political and social structures (institutions, associations, media) in Slovenia
. It is important to bear in mind that the European Cultural Month - Ljubljana 97 project was, as a structure, conceived in a very similar way to MANIFESTA. It was a proposal that came from abroad, from a wider European context - and the Slovenian state and its ministerial, city and other institutions perceived the project as exclusively the mark of its (their) power and grandeur. The result of the project today is, if we just ignore the Program for the moment, the big financial speculations and manipulations produced by those organisational bodies that were at the core of the project.
But we can learn not only from the European Cultural Month - Ljubljana 97; we can also use some of the excellent conclusions of the European experts' report to draw a schemata of what is, at the moment, to be taken into consideration when discussing cultural policy in Slovenia. The first conclusion was that, in Slovenia, that which could be called cultural policy - with a clear programmatic platform - exists only within different structural levels that are trying, in a chaotic way, to develop and establish a kind of quasi-cultural policy. The second most important characteristic was the over-institutionalisation of the field of culture; cultural and artistic life are ruled and consumed entirely by official cultural institutions. The next important characteristic was the completely chaotic relationship between the city and the state in dealing with, developing and realising projects in the field of culture. The so-called fruitful position of alternative and non-institutionalised cultural and artistic productions in the 1990s is, according to the report, exaggerated; Wimmer clearly states that, following independence, Slovenian cultural policy completely paralysed the fruitful existence of the alternative art and cultural production of the 80s, and restricted the position of non-institutionalised bodies in the 90s.
Finally, the main feature detected by the report is the radical turn in cultural and artistic policy in Slovenia in the 90s towards (a) the preservation of cultural heritage and (b) the development of high art in the European humanist tradition. This tendency is radically different from Slovenia's flourishing modern and experimental art and cultural productions in the 80s. This turn towards traditional modern art and culture, or what is understood as the high European humanist tradition in art and culture, is one way, according to the report, of redirecting art and culture not towards modern, experimental production but towards the imaginary humanistic art tradition that flourished in the past in Europe, though it was not previously present in Slovenia.

Naslov: Manifesta 3, Cankarjev Dom, Prešernova 10, SI - 1000 Ljubljana. Slovenia
phone: (+386 61) 1767143, 210956 fax: (+386 61) 217431 e-mail: manifesta@cd-cc.si