Un Battement de Cœur
A Christmas Tale
A heart beat: the chambers of the heart expand, blood flows in. It is 1989, we witness how the world dilates; it opens up. The colonial expansionist imagination of capitalism envisions how the space created by the first steps on the Moon and the void that is the disappearance of the Wall merge, giving birth to a bigger planet. Capital performs infinite flows around the globe. Dynamic forces are so physical that some forms of organization dissolved under them—the Soviet Union (1991)—and others emerged from them: the European Union (1993). Art is deeply affected. Public museums start to mutate. Their mission changes, from caretakers to tourist-magnets. Temporal exhibitions speak the tongue of the globe. Historical collections still carry the stigma of an illegitimate origin; the Modern still cast the values of hegemonic canons. Mobility becomes the attribute of the art world: artists, art professionals, galleries… all are encouraged to move, be everywhere, explore, disperse. Residencies, museum dependences, fairs, conferences, summits, exchanges… World citizens, world artists, world professionals, world markets and world consumers… but also world armies and terrorist organizations…
Another heart beat: a big contraction and the blood is forced out. The system deflates. A big wave ferociously forms between 2007 and 2011. It is the most serious crisis of the global economy since the Great Depression. BNP Paribas announces ceasing activity in hedge funds that specialize in US mortgage debt. The seizure in the banking system precipitates. The US government allows Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers—investment banks—to go bankrupt. The G20 summit of world leaders commits to a fiscal expansion, to help the International Monetary Fund, to boost jobs and growth, and a reform of the banks. It is too late. The economy is on the turn. International co-operation begins to disintegrate. Fear and distrust push individual countries to pursue their own agendas. Stop here for a moment. An event of major importance for us (art people) ensues: the focus of concern suddenly switches from the private to the public sector. The European Union resolves to “help” Greece. The issue is said to be no longer the solvency of banks, but the solvency of governments. The US goes backward and the Euro comes apart at the seams.
Suddenly there is almost no international co-operation. Economic nationalism boosts re-emergent nationalisms. They reappear all over. Do you think this is a tale about the economy?
This is a tale about art. Art has been growing—it is gigantic now—amid fundamental doubts in the divine powers of men over other forms of life from very early on. It is art that trusts experience as a cognitive form. And it is this experience that understands a world in which the dualisms that separate culture from nature are dissolved.
The waters carried by the rivers of vitalist philosophies of all kinds have been wetting the grounds we are standing on today. For centuries, the imperative to understand life from a different standpoint than profit or domination collides with the role historically assigned to art by western enlightenment. But an artistic (and ecological and holistic) practice is emerging that is capable of defining a sense at one (or more) with nature and all forms of life that will transform not only values, but contracts, economies… The role of art is to hold all these forces together, to host, to enhance, to amplify, to give form. That is, a social form to an experience of the world without the principle of domination.
If you secretly hope that the quest for equality, empathy, justice, and non-binary thinking structures beyond the realm of the human is going to go away, you are mistaken. It will grow stronger instead. Stronger since their roots are growing in the grounds of a system conceiving western, particularly European, hegemony, as the force that is going to dominate the globe. The globe resisted, but the tumult is at work. Relevant questions remain ahead of us: How to relate to the place we are in will not turn us into nationalist or disinterested cave communities so true to ourselves that we develop a new form of radicalism…
There is no such thing as collective hypersensitivity or a thirst for political correctness. What is growing is the legitimate desire to be in a world depleted of violence and to constitute a philosophy that gives birth to a society capable of living on those terms.