Monday, January 11, 2010


Against what?
Against whom?

image source

4. Transmission, 2007. Video, 1 screen, 43 minutes.
Transmission was a public art commission in Zurich, designed originally as a loop for projection outside a bus station. Its subject is the memorial stone, a site where memory seems permanently fixed"

Transmission. Why do people want to connect to something, touch and be touched? Have I touched St. Peter’s foot in Rome? I don’t recall doing so, but I do remember perfectly realizing the power of a single touch. There is a saying in Portuguese that the continuing dripping of soft water in hard stone will eventually open a hole. Maybe that was what went through my mind, and if I touched the saint’s foot was not so much with the desire to connect with the divine but with that mass of people who repeated a gesture over and over until the metal foot became soft, polished and shapeless. That would be for me the morbid allure, being part of an endless chain. The power of the repetition of an act. But this is not the metaphor for the power of the people, the one that destroys social constructions, rather is the repetition leading to meaninglessness. Rancière knew that already when we saw in the power of the people not the power of the population or of the majority, ‘but the power of anyone at all’.

The power of subjectification, of becoming a subject of politics, which is always something ‘defined in an interval between identities.’ (Rancière, 2006, 59) between different names of subjects. That’s when politics occurs, and like the women that in 1955 refuse to leave the white people’s seat in an Alabama bus, politics implies: ‘the action of subjects who, by working the interval between identities, reconfigure the distributions of the public and the private, the universal and the particular,’ that are fixed by models of government and practices of authority i.e., by police.

These repetitions in Rome, Jerusalem, Santiago de Compostela, and Munich are full of hope and so are our votes in each and every election, which lead to a change of flavor but do not a new aliment. Rancière will call it an oligarchic invention to look for consent, and the representative democracy portrayed as only representing the interest of an elite. Universal suffrage is not a natural consequence of democracy, he will further, it is its struggle, the democractic struggle against the privatization of the process of enlarging the sphere of State intervention. Pursuing ‘the recognition, as equals and as political subjects those that have been relegated by State law to the private life of inferior beings – wage workers and women;’ and ‘the recognition of the public character of types of spaces and relations that were left to the discretion of the power of wealth;’ (Rancière, 2005, 55) and finally the enlargement of the struggles to ‘assert the public character of spaces, relations and institutions regarded as private.’ (Rancière, 2006, 56)

This redistribution of spheres and the subjectification inherent to it is paramount to Rancière’s maintenance of democracy, or is where democracy actually operates, and understanding what democracy is means renouncing to a vision of a world governed by the multitude and trust it to those singular and precarious acts on political subjects.

at Raven Row
56 Artillery Ln.

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