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BY MATTHEW GOULISH

A shape of paper trimmed by an astronaut—from a greater the instability of a social structure. Income
standard sheet into something like a letter M—floats compression that produces a “middle class” results
in zero gravity. Through a hole at its center a tube, from labors of the most ordinary consolidations,
another blank page rolled and inserted there, transects the stabilizing work of taxation, minimum wages,
the axis, making the object multi-dimensional. Air unionization. I wonder whether the same principle
currents buffet it as they would a kite, and it arcs holds true if transferred across dimensions. In his
and bounces on its wobbly flight around the space book, The Idea of Justice (2009) Sen wrote,
station’s interior. The performance realizes a plan …the valuation of income is entirely as a means
of the artist, Eduardo Kac, for writing untethered to to other ends and also that it is one means among
gravity, letters multidirectional as planetary bodies. others. A more inclusive list of means has been used
Video-documented and projected on an immersive by John Rawls in his theory of justice through his
room-sized portal’s wall, the paper form levitates concentration on primary good, which include rights,
before a backdrop of windows and an upside-down liberties and opportunities, income and wealth, and
earth’s blue and white horizon. the social bases of self-respect…The worst of incomes
Inner Telescope, curated by Fulla Abdul-Jabbar and cannot stand separated from the deeper concerns,
Caroline Picard, opened the final season of Chicago’s and a society that respects individual well-being and
Sector 2337. After five years of exhibitions, literary freedom must take note of these concerns in making
events, and performances, Sector will cease operations impersonal comparisons as well as social evaluations.
Eduardo Kac, Inner Telescope in the cupola, International Space Station, 2017. Courtesy the artist.
at the end of 2018. Midway in scale between the vibrant, It remains a question (mine) whether inequality—of
volunteer house galleries and major museums continu- rights, liberties, and opportunities—destabilizes social
ally expanding in size, budget, and collecting ambition, structures as much as inequality of income.
Sector housed exhibitions that could not easily situate In Dialogues in Public Art (2000) artist Vito Acconci
elsewhere. Too many factors contributed to the closing wrote: “I’ve talked about coming in from the side, and
to consider here. Proprietors Picard and Devin King coming up from underneath, and clinging on like a
stated in their announcement: “Spaces don’t have to leech. I’d welcome the chance sometime, the risk, of
last forever to have lasting impact.” As August turns having to start from the center; then I’d have to make
to September, I consider sustainability. I ask myself my own center, I wouldn’t have the luxury of react-
what questions I need to ask. From the vantage of ing.” Operating from this provocation, I ask whether
these “uncollectible streets” (Dionne Brand), what is avant-gardism has traditionally been considered an
missing? What has been lost? Is vanishing possible? edge phenomena, whether an entrenched prejudice
To evanesce (from the Latin evanescere: e-‘out of’ + discriminates against middles of any sort—geographic,
vanus ‘empty’) to pass from the field of perception imagistic, economic, or symbolic—as a possible seat
and into the void. of philosophical and aesthetic adventure; whether Not long ago the great English critic and historian follows function” or “art into life,” this was mostly but of weakening their
Where does the middle come from, the idea of coastal privileging extends to metaphorical thought, of photography Steve Edwards complained that art because it aimed at finding a place in the still-ris- antagonism.” In Marx’s
center? A drafting compass, or “pair of compasses,” championing strange over familiar, new over old, historians have “paid remarkably little attention to the ing industrial economy and its attendant political day, that weakening
that which encircle, consists in two legs, one adjustable minoritarian over majoritarian, extraordinary over petite bourgeoisie,” and particularly so its role as “the forms. Artists could be workers too and so they could took the form of an airy
at the hinge above, the other fixed, its fixedness a ordinary, or generally the extreme over the mod- invisible social glue.” We might add that it is worse be organized. proclivity to imagine
consequence of its needle-like point. The English word erate—as if to equate edge with the challenges of still with critics. Indeed, even as the rapidly evolving Since 1945, however, the ruling wannabe fantasies oneself “elevated above
center derives from the Latin name for this compass radicalism, and the center with a conservative status geopolitical dynamics of class relations reclaim their consecrated in our highest cultural forms have shifted class antagonism;” in
point, and from the Greek kentron meaning “wasp quo. I welcome Acconci’s rejection of that subtraction sway more and more with each passing day, writing from the old workerism to identifications that fall ours it is an earthy itch
sting.” What trace exists after the sting’s removal, story, his generous, characteristic upending. about class remains clunky, naive, boorish, and po- outside of the modern economy—to folk culture, to sink below. Either way,
continuing after its vanishing from the surrounding My mind returns to philosopher Charles Taylor’s larized—“undialectical,” as we used to say—where it say, or itinerant life, or PTSD and “resistance,” or the above or below, deluded
circle it initiated, anchored, and possibilized? The notion of anti-structure, the carnival, the nonsense exists at all. ever popular perennially innocent brute materiality or depressed, as a wan-
artist sees his floating M as a paper humanoid of event, the dress-up participatory ritual of reversal. Sure, we hear about the ever wealthier 0.1% and, of of things. Think Pete Seeger, for example, or Karen nabe god or a wannabe
sorts, the tube a severed umbilical cord. He sees it as Anti-structure’s revelation of life’s inexhaustibility course, the evermore precarious raft of the uneducated, Finley, or Bruno Latour. thing, our way of tem-
a 3-D glyph-like rendering of MOI (French for “me”). positions it as rejoinder to “the temptation to put into but who writes about us as a class? Who writes about The role we occupy in our capacity as cultural dis- pering class conflict can
I read M for middle. In my years of teaching writing effect a code which brooks no limit,” that totalitarian the social glue that not only keeps the whole system of aggregators and creative destroyers, in other words, is be summed up with the
in an art school, I have encountered the imperative urge that “lends a positive ring to such slogans as ‘zero exploitation and denial in place but extends it? Who no longer R&D for Henry Ford’s empire, or Vladimir same rule of thumb: a
to conceive of courses with interdisciplinary appeal. tolerance.’” Intolerance arises from the belief that writes about our role as cultural intercessors in “the Lenin’s, or Franklin Roosevelt’s but instead serves liberal is someone who
I seek a concept over which no discipline can claim one has perceived the entire horizon of experience, space between globetrotting plutocrats on the high the post-statist, neo-feudalizing, climate-changning thinks they are innocent.
authority. I need a subject like “systems” or “ghosts,” rejecting the notion of more to life, to be invented if end and struggling flextimers below?” Who writes agenda of the great wealth and power consolidation
to set at the center, as one sets a table before a meal, not discovered, as one must make a center of one’s about our charge not to conquer the old edifice of that dominates the headlines of our day. “Is Democracy
to gather around. I might say that each specialist has own—a center in which to confront disappointment, enlightenment, but instead to dismantle it one brick Dying?” is the cover pitch for The Atlantic this month, BLAKE STIMSON is the author
singular authority, none more definitive than the next. to open oneself to the possibility of a further reality at a time, opening wider and wider the rent through for example, just as it was for Foreign Affairs in June. of Citizen Warhol.
Such a middle zone bears a sting in its otherness, the inside the apparent reality. Dances of encounter, of which the redistribution of wealth and political power Indeed, these days different versions of the same twinge
loneliness of the equidistant outside point, fulfilling its risk and reward, gather in middle space, harder to that first found its current in 1980 continues to flow? pop up on the New York Times’ website every few hours.
task of closing the set. The goad belongs to none and characterize than the durable extremes that surround Well, there are a few who take up these questions There have always been two defining roles for cul-
all. Moon orbits earth and us on its surface—distance it, more fragile, more patient, more necessary. generally—Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello, for ex- tural types like us: either we use our creative talents
as analogue for access. ample, or Thomas Frank, or Lane Relyea—but they are to assemble “the space between” into workable social
MATTHEW GOULISH is co-founder and dramaturg of the performance
Economist Amartya Sen has argued that the greater group Every house has a door, and teaches in the Writing Program at far between. Such self-reflexivity is hard, and taking form and in so doing make our role as the “invisible
the distance between highest and lowest incomes, the the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. on personal responsibility is harder still. It is not social glue” visible and testable, or we disassemble that BY BLAKE STIMSON
something that even the most self-punishing among form; either we make it about our desires and interests
us relish. It is much easier to write about that which or we hide them by ventriloquizing the desires and
feels other to oneself or, even easier, to be other to interests of the other and the Other, the struggling
oneself—an out we have been taking for a long time. flextimer and the globetrotting plutocrat.
If there was a moment when the cultural wing of Self-reflexivity is hard. Without it, however, we
the educated class worked overtime to imagine itself simply repeat the crime against humanity that Marx
as something other than a lumpen drag on the system said was characteristic of the petty bourgeoisie: “not of
by donning coveralls or hewing to slogans like “form doing away with two extremes, capital and wage labor,

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