ANONYMOUS WALL TEXT #2
Throughout the 20th century social sciences could not agree if objects in exhibitions reflected society or were produced by it, given that exhibition spaces notoriously requested the public's highly individualized engagement. In time, interactive visualizations of collectivity surfaced under the guise of the trickle-down-effect, one coin falling at a time. But attempts at representing or enacting multitudes proved more resistant to image grabs than to logos and vector graphics.
Reflecting on the beginning of the 21st century, a time when exhibitions simultaneously existed in RGB, it is here scrutinized what of this global spatiality endures. Interfacing different cultures and histories--interconnected as airports or hyperlinks--these spaces are not without their own flux of power relations, transit rules, and actors stranded in legal limbos between persons and collectivities.
ANONYMOUS WALL TEXT #1
The beginning of the 21st century saw the long night of the museums unfold throughout the world. These were the sleepless nights of the unemployed and the intermittent, populated by images of art and culture as a common good to save the depressed economies of the so-called developed world. Culture was made to perform in the speculative space between intellectual property, ideals of public access, and emancipated creativity.
Institutions were slowly recognized as also possessing psychological states. As the hybrid nature of objects unfolded, their displacement inside the exhibition walls was recognized as the beginning of all museological sentences. This displacement became an historical artifact in itself. It defined representation, setting forth the violence of all theories of representation to be found within such spaces.
Mr. Spectator was the character and simultaneous editor-in-chief of Addison's and Steele's 18th century daily periodical, The Spectator.
Readers were entitled to write to Mr. Spectator, who would provide patient assistance and companionship in the form of a new edition the following day, although never bothering to answer his readers.
His unassuming profile supposedly enabled him to circulate widely through society—a trait some spectators may still recognize—fondly commenting on the habits, foibles, and social faux pas of his fellow citizens, although maintaining exteriority by his apparent lack of personality, which rendered him unnoticeable.
As stated in the first issue of The Spector, elaborating on Mr. Spectator:
"I must do myself the Justice to open the Work with my own History."
In line with what readers might have expected, the history in question was not that of audiences or spectatorship, but a biography of an Englishman, discrete and reserved.
Spectator was to follow the designation of auditor, as the name attributed to a theater and opera audience. This sound-to-sight shift in audience nomenclature is said to reflect what characterized the prevalent mode of address for audiences in opera as presentations became more visual. However there was no precedent for Mr. Spectator— auditor-publics never truly had a personified Mr. Auditor to represent their preferred mode of sensory intake of opera.
Commenting on opera and theater frequently, Mr. Spectator-the-character, unnamed and ageless (to preserve his identity), had the characteristics of an allegory for the 18th century, representing audiences to come as well as their discrete manners. The ambivalence of Mr. Spectator was thus delicately contained in his name and personality, and his abstraction lay in representing the multiple via the particular.
Meanwhile, in our past century Auditor also came to mean an official inspection of an individual or organization's accounts, typically by an independent body—the most common being that of financial audits.
Most audit firms took their names from their auditor-founders. But, due to several mergers begun in the 1980s, four such independent bodies dominate the market, accumulating various names through these mergers. And so we are certain Mr. Auditor now goes by one of four sequences of proper nouns, which have become the brand names of these corporations. How do you do Mr. Ernst & Young, Mr. PricewaterhouseCoopers,
Mr. Klynveld-Peat-Marwick-Goerdeler, and Mr. Deloitte-Touche-Tohmatsu?
There is no indication that the new Auditor today opposes the Spectator, quite the contrary. As for The Spectator, it has resurfaced in the form of an English conservative weekly magazine, and, having survived in the 20th century, is to our knowledge still publishing in our present day.
Two tints were originally used in the undated prints recently discovered. One tint was an early formulation of the chemical mix known today as indelible ink, a blue hue. The other was an obscure crimson product that can be tracked back to the 18th century perfumer and botanist Samson, also known as one of the executioners in charge of the guillotine during the French Revolution. Recent research has shown the inks were impregnated onto the paper in a process similar to that of an acid bath, akin to those used in engraving and photography. It is unclear how the two colors are combined: the two tints appear to have been applied in turns, one bath after the other with an interval of a few months between each application. This hypothesis explains the preservation of the two colors to this date.
While in the suspension gel in which the plate was stored for up to three months after the application of the red tint, a second image would appear—waiting, from the cyclonic eye perspective, the generation of its counterpart. This blue-tinted image, seemingly a mimetic reproduction placed as a layer on top of the first, differed in perspective from the first imperceptibly to the naked eye. After analysis of the cast shadows it was found that in fact the perspective differed just a few centimeters: the distance between the center of the left eye to the right eye. This faux-double that developed in the suspension gel was what enabled the Cyclopic merging that occurs in the brain and subsequently perception of the depth of field.
These images are said to pertain only to artifacts contained in the Louvre, no common link was identified. Now the images construct themselves in a mirrored nature, a duplication akin to the internal contradictions of the museum, two siamese cyclops looking at a mirror. To the Louvre pertains a mise-en-abîme of references to the revolutionary iconoclasm that founded the first museum in a royal palace and invented for itself the symbol of pillage in name of a visual history that the museum would then establish, crystalize and return to all democratic people.
Indelible ink is of particular importance here due to its recurrence. In the late 20th century its use in the third world was pushed by Western NGOs in instances where it was difficult to set up rigorous, democratic vote counting procedures. Voters in underdeveloped countries or in regions under conflict dipped and stained the index finger with the indigo substance. The ink could take up to a week to wash off, and these "electoral stains" became temporary tattoos, which would prompt voters, smiling, to exhibit and populate the internet with photographs of the colored fingers. A citizen is dipped and baptized into another Western export. It is unclear what the export consists of exactly, situated between Western advocacy for democracy, efficient voter-counting techniques implemented by foreign agencies that oversee elections, or the journalist photography that is distributed over the main news agencies to reassure the former two and the general public of the gratefulness of the local population. Curiously, indelible ink is also commonly used in young, urban areas of the West for tattooing. In this case, indigo is imported for the tatoo needles of neighborhood salons. At the beginning of the 21st century indelible ink continues to be used for both these purposes.
At the same time, museums are asked to open franchises in developing, non-Western countries. Major museums are going ahead with plans, including the Louvre. Now, what happens when a pillaged work from Napoleonic times makes its return to the country of origin, not as a reassessment or acknowledgment of wrong doing but as a loan included in the collection of a Western museum exhibited at its latest franchise? The case of this hypothetical object perversely exhibits the inner structure of the museum itself, a reversed anthropology of sorts, while simultaneously returning the stolen object in the form of a branded item. A blue thumps up, with one eye closed.
COMMUNITARIANS AND ACTIVISTS
When did the word "community" find its widespread use? What is the relation of the word community to other words, such as class or citizenship? Could the term have been instrumental in conveying the image of a post-class society? Community, from the standpoint of these questions, is used to evoke a local or a network of peers. In this sense, it wouldn't be far from the truth to say that it provided the ideal pathway to sublimate, discourse on class struggle throughout the 1990s in the wake of globalization—a symbol of the local in opposition to the WTO, designed to pose binarily against the global. It arrived just in time for the political foam of the 1960s and 1970s to settle into either academia or grassroots activities, while the white middle class were taking to the streets, this time for a jog, equipped with Nike sweatshop shoes and other movements, such as Black Power, were persecuted, and the perceived threat found at best an outlet in the business of rap music.
By the same token, this was also the time in which the foundational civic attitudes of organized protest became professionalized, with the anti-globalization movement garnering not "citizens" but "activists," as if society had designated a specific strata for political protest, like a government would designate a diplomat for representation in a foreign nation. Did NGOs have a role in this professionalization of civic attitudes? To keep with the image of diplomacy, NGOs were, we now know, the fruitful export of this new, global civic society, ideal vehicles for penetration into the great, uncivilized beyond, and, in the end, for consumption after the fall of the Iron Curtain. In Europe, the Left was finally shaking off its past as a class aggregator.
Now, the word activist has the convenience of being susceptible to be adjectivized. You can be an environmental activist, or a feminist activist. In the pages of The Economist you can also be a shareholder activist. This particular type of activist, graced by the term that precedes it, implies an active agency in the distribution of stocks, demanding a say within the company's organization—activity in opposition to passive acceptance to frame a type of democratic aspiration within corporations. The corporate world provides an incongruence atop those already held in the term activist. Perhaps in a hundred or two hundred years shareholder activists may be discussing the validity or not of passive action (what would be called contemplation in aesthetics), or be disturbed by the unavoidable link to physical action the word activist suggests, in order to translate true "participation" within the companies' structure.
In the near future, perhaps a future that has already arrived, storms will sweep the land, provoking catastrophes but also the possibility of resetting the terms of conflicts. Conflicts, in turn, will be prompted by the propensity of storms, as extreme weather creeps in and becomes normatized, one discrete event at a time. Hot summers for hot revolutions, and floods that will take over and ruin waterside property, economically valued by their connection to, or literally a view over "nature," with plenty of "space," while also inundating the poor, who will be dragged into endless recovery cycles.
A strange camaraderie, about which J.G. Ballard is no longer here to write us about, will form, as we realize how the weather offers an all too easy blockage of the means of production, its cities and supply chains. The possibility of a truly natural general strike provoked by the disaster—or a reverse cycle to unlimited growth, bouncing back with the fury of a storm.
The Day After
Rebuilding can offer a tabula rasa. A time when we may wish to press the reset button modernism fetishized about. Perhaps it can offer public space as cities close down, and the people's state of exception becomes an excuse to finally be solidary, to rid joblessness of its negative connotations, to take to the streets and invade private property even if just in the attempt to find a place, a socket, to charge your cellphone. In the homes of the disappearing middle class—of those who prefer to stay at home when fortunate enough not to be affected—PhD theses would be finished, university adjuncts, working students, and fast food workers (and many more) finally sleep, babies will be born from these intervals.
Rebuilding can of course also be a purgatory for the already deprived, as governmental and welfare relief organizations are pressured by private business to privatize and develop profits from catastrophes, wiping the grounds for further speculation on construction and real estate—not to mention invest on new construction materials, green stamped or otherwise—and providing natural excuses for migration, and the enclosure of prime sites for the rich to enjoy the changes in weather as a possibility of extreme leisure. For the rich would gain their silence too—their moment of Zen, the best spa—as they too crave a refuge from the technological immersion and solicitude that their businesses brings them. The advantage of a crisis is all too well known. Capitalist economists have looked into it for over a century. Capitalization on shock and trauma is already among us, no added vultures needed. Opposition was unable to refrain pollution and free trade agreements, and advocating for restrained growth at both the individual and institutional level was never sexy. The poor and the middle class were incited to "save the environment," change the light bulbs and recycle, while for industry and services eco-consciousness became green marketing strategies and better cap and trade agreements in order to incorporate sustainability as a just market efficiency, equating one with the other, in their vocabulary.
The psychological conditions of the revolutionary unconscious and the guilt-ridden empathy of gentrified city dwellers parallels these events—it is the same substance. However, weather dependency is the real risk. Will we keep on waiting for the next storm—as if it wasn't always, continuously, raining, or snowing, or getting warmer. Is it possible that we are all simply ignoring the messianic event of climate change until we realize it is us who have truly desired it? Is there a desire for change in climate change, a necessity to delegate to nature? And who the hell is this us?
Playing the game, we can perhaps excuse revolutionary violence simply, and literally at last, as "nature," just like economists have historically done, and embrace displacement as having always been a drive of the revolution as well. Nature classified as a limit to capital is seemingly a more comfortable externality than advocating consumer restraint in a capitalist society. Or are both strategies exhausted? As we go around deciphering nature, in the meantime, or the time that is left to us, we may as well acknowledge how the middle class is already trauma dependent, outsourcing an emotional life to mediatic events and mourning over terrorist attacks, when work and suburbia are just too depressing to face.