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Politics of Image, from Frankfurt

Von: mohaiemen [at] yahoo [dot] com
Betreff: [Reader-list] Politics of Image, from Frankfurt
Datum: 17. Januar 2006 15:40:51 MEZ
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These are some of the texts that were presented at the
just-concluded symposium on POLITICS OF THE IMAGE at
Staedelschule Art Academy in Frankfurt, which I
attended. Most of these texts were presented there.

Hito Steyerl presented some of her work and thoughts,
but this is one of her earlier essays. Migrant-rights
group Kanak Attak was represented by friend and ally
Sandy K (who is moving to NY this week!)-- the text
here is from some other members of Kanak Attak.
Finally French group Intermittent Spectacle could not
make it at last minute, due to breaking
event/agitations in France-- but we have included a
text from them.

Naeem Mohaiemen/Visible text is lecture notes-- not a
coherent essay, but some elements may be useful for
tactical media activists.

Naeem Mohaiemen, Visible Collective

Jeronimo Voss, Staedelschule
Flo Maak, Staedelschule
1. Voss, Maak, Ostoya (Frankfurt): Opening Statement
2. Die Weisse Blatt (Vienna) : Manifesto for an
Emancipative Production of Images
3. Intermittent Spectacle (Paris): Social Rights and
the Appropriation of Public Spaces
4. Hito Steyerl (London): The Articulation of Protest
5. Jeronimo Voss (Frankfurt): Neo-DANDYism
6. Naeem Mohaiemen (New York/Dhaka): Sarah Jessica
Parker Effect, Beard is Making Ruckus, & Other Random
7. Kanak Attak: Speaking of Autonomy of Migration...

Introduction to:
Politics of the Image - Symposium on the Boundaries
of the Visible,
6th and 7th of January,
Städelschule, Frankfurt am Main.

Our aim in this conference is to speak about Politics
of the Image. There for we invited different cultural
producers from various professions. We very much
Linda Bilda and Kristina Haider from vienna,
representing the magazine-project „Die weiße Blatt“. A
Magazine dealing with politics, art, economy,
emancipatoriy critique and feminism
Berlin based artist Judith Hopf. Who mostly works in
collective forms of production using Video, Drawing,
Performance and Installation.
Graphic designer Sandy Kaltenborn as well from Berlin
producing images for posters, books, cards and other
print materials in different political contexts and
campaigns, such as “Kein Mensch ist Illegal” and
“Kanak Attak” (www.image-shift.net).
Naeem Mohaiemen, filmmaker and digital-media activist
from New York and Dhaka. He is (besides many other
projects) director of a New York based collective
called VISIBLE dealing with intersection of Migration
Paranoia, Islamophobia, National Security Panic and
questions of Nation-State Identity in North America
and Europe (www.disappearedinamerica.org,
Hito Steyerl, documentary filmmaker and author living
in Berlin. She published filmic and written essays
centred around questions of globalisation, racism and
postcolonial critique and is involved in the movement
of feminist migrants and women of colour in Germany.

We would like to begin with a short introduction to
explain our understanding of the subject.
First of all we of course consider every image to be
political, meaning that it always stands in a specific
context of certain political power play. These
reigning systems of visibility are constituted
through, among other things, the implicitness of
surveillance, normative body images and the
reproduction of racist and sexist stereotypes as well
as the aesthetizised self-representations of
corporations, nations and politics in general.
We see the term „Politics of the Image” or “Image
Politics” as a conceptual response to different
projects and discourses that occurred in the last
years and which deal with the rise of every-day image
production and image confrontation. Meanwhile most of
scientific disciplines are busy reflecting their own
production of images. There are tons of academic
conferences discussing for example the imagery of
medicine, the role of the pixel in biology or the
image as source within sociology.

Whether in these debates image-supported production of
truth is critically reflected shall not be discussed
here. But regarding these projects from a critical
perspective certain mistrust appears. What is most
disturbing about all these discussions is (especially
in the german context of visual studies or
“Bildwissenschaften”) the dominating question of “What
is an Image?”
These ontological attempts of defining the image tends
to fade out political determinations and
instrumentalisations within visual culture; and they
barely support any critical image production.
There is as well a reason to be dissatisfied with the
Politics of the Image on the site of visual arts.
Exhibitions with politically engaged titles and
contributions (like the last Documenta or the Utopia
Station) have increased within the last years. But
what occurs all-to often is discomfort with different
curatorial concepts as well as with certain artistic
strategies. Certain projects become suspect of using
the political sign loaded with social meaning purely
as overaesthetizised abstract radicalism and “radical

A discussion around Image Politics is rather focused
on the function of images and on developing criteria
and tools for an emancipatory image practice.
This debate might be connected to the discussion
around image-science when we ask our selves how the
relation between image, text and spoken word has
changed in nowadays times. But our perspective is
rather focused on specific contemporary practices and
the conditions of production, presentation and
reception that are inscribed in these images.
- Who produces images for whom?
- How are they functionalised and when do they get out
of control?
- How far can its reception be controlled at all?
- How do processes of inclusion/exclusion and
outsider/insider work through images?
Politics of the Image deals with the practice of
production as well as with its reception. A discussion
on Image Politics neither can be fulfilled in debates
around image science nor art theory. It should rather
be understood as a discussion beyond fixed discourses
like "autonomous art" vs. "applied image production".

The Artworld is not the priviliged space for this
discussion, that’s why so many different positions are
gathered here today. Nevertheless the potentials and
limits of the institution of art should be discussed.
Visual artists have always dealt with the constitution
of the visible. They are visual pioneers with the
supposedly longest tradition and are also, as a result
of their profession deemed ‘experts in seeing’. Since
modernity at the latest, the boundaries of the visible
have been of special interest to artistic production.
These boundaries form areas where the represented can
no longer be named without difficulty and where
identification can be fallable – so to speak these
areas can be seen as a contact point of artists and
political activists as it concerns both.
Taking a perspective on these edges of visibility is
of very importance for the question: what can ‘be
seen’ at all under the present circumstances and which
counter-imagery should it be confronted by, if any?

Artistic practice has the potential to support a
discussion around politics of the image with relevant
contributions. But at the same time specific limits
of artistic production challenge the attempt to put
this potential into practice.
Regarding this we see two main problems: At first it
becomes increasingly obvious that the art world is
more and more structured by economic criteria. This
goes along with a lack of influence of critical
discourses accompanying the evaluation of contemporary
art as well as the eventisation of public exhibition
spaces. Furthermore artistic gestures are basic
homages to highly individualistic concepts of
subjectivity. Individualism has to be seen as a
critical statement against collective disciplinary
pressure. But why should we as artist think that our
radical individualism would be of any resistant power
when these ideas of life nowadays fit so well with the
societal mainstream of highly individualised subjects.
We have to take into consideration that in certain
cases the myth of the starving, unattached, autonomous
artist of modernity rather functions as a glamorous
and legitimizing pendant to the trend for highly
insecure living conditions caused by neoliberal
reforms that deregulate social security systems. These
tendencies of individualisation seem to make any
emancipatory organisation nearly impossible - How can
we as image producers face this critically?
We think a discussion on the potentials and limits of
strategic cultural representations focussing on visual
image productions might help answering this question.

Flo Maak, Anna Ostoya, Jeronimo Voß


Manifesto for an Emancipative Production of Images
By Die Weisse Blatt (Vienna)

… it is not possible not to see …

The field of visual perception today is the most
important space of production for ideologies, myths
and ideas. Aesthetic representations are open for
ideological inputs while image-campaigns, films and
visual strategies are working to invade our
perception, to mould and to manipulate it.

We therefore regard it important to strengthen the
emancipative intentions of visual thinking processes

Images are consumed
Images in large quantities are consumed via TV -
channels, movies and the electronic and other media
and the responsible industries, in their efforts to
survey the human mind, reach perfection and virtuosity
of manipulation to approximate the subject i. e. (that
is) the consumer to the object (that is) the product
and to create similarity between those two. The object
– e.g. appearing in form of an image – shall project
itself onto the subject and a similar process will
happen to the subject. As a result the consumer starts
to perceive him/herself as a merchandize. Subject and
object of consumption begin to resemble each other
efforts to halt this process weaken continuously. And
thus issues of taste become existentially crucial.

Our capacity to understand the world and society we
live in are more and more defined by the above
mentioned processes and have to be undermined because
the gradual turning of the subject into an object
dissolves their human qualities. In other words: in
the transforming process towards becoming an object
the legitimacy to be a human being is at stake in its
core and we can state a struggle for life.

The commercials continue even when radios and TV –
sets are turned off
The merchandized images produced by film-, media-,
entertainment- and commercial-industries have
something in common: they make promises and set up
The promises are well known: in buying and consuming a
product the subject’s lusts, fun, happiness as well as
his or her desires, drives, guilt, minority complexes
and hurt feelings etc. shall become satisfied.
The terms are even better known: to own a product the
subject must work and the more urgent the desire or
the longer the satisfaction should last (minutes: a
chocolate bar, month: an i-pod, years: a car) the
longer and harder the subject must work to attain
those goods and the longer the real desires have to be
harnessed to be able to transform and bind them into
labour. Ha ha.

Destroyed Love
The drives evoked by images cannot be compensated by
images. Product values boosted by images cannot fulfil
the desire for an intensely loving sexuality and a
creativity that means a self-reliant life. Never. The
drive of destruction that among other things serves to
destroy unbearable, degrading and immoral
circumstances of insults and guilt is pacified by
The circular course to boost the needs that can be
compensated by goods with ever more needs into
infinity and to create more of that out of the
resource of subdued drives transforms human beings
into ever unsatisfied subjects thus raising the
acceptability of unpleasant and annoying social
demands such as more disagreeable labour terms and
more subordination.

Images suggest action
Every image suggests action and consensual options of
representation thrust aside all alternatives. In this
sense the image functions as an ideological tool to
secure the thought of the majority within the dominant
order. As Marx states the dominant thoughts are the
thoughts of the dominant.
The objectification of such thought becomes materially
manifest in movies, photos, computer games etc. and
thus achieves a dimension of the real.
The misery of every day life and the suffering evoked
by it is muted by non-representation/imagelessness.
Thus the problem becomes inconceivable and appears to
be irrevocable.
Image production as a medium of ideology must not be
underestimated especially since the permanent presence
in daily life; the easy access and the replacement of
reality facilitate the progressive internalisation of
convenient messages. Despite the illusionary
superiority of consumers to commercial messages and
the media in general these industries are constantly
creating a usually subconscious and therefore
uncontrollable anxiousness to miss something

Are you the solution or part of the problem?
We wish to encourage an effort for a politically
emancipative approach towards image production that
extends the above analysis. We thereby point towards
the production of images not in the sense of art but
in the sense of concrete, progressive, controversial
image policy intervening against the highly funded
dominance of merchandized images. Commercial ads
aren’t art either. The following request are directed
to persons who tackle the problem of image policy
critically and in an emancipative context or wish to
do so in the future.
For a social political emancipative image policy the
following request appear essential to us:

1. Art as such cannot carry out the task of an
emancipative image policy all by itself since it is
already available for diverse social functions see for
instance image and distinction surplus (Flick
Collection), refinement of taste, opening up of new
perspectives of perception, neutralization of socially
deviate subject positions etc. It is a matter of
taking emancipation in our own hands instead of
saddling the task on art.

2. Requesting an image production that takes a
pluralistic approach towards representational options
that dissolves both in formal aspects and in aspects
of contents clichés and role models and finds ways of
representing those aspects that are almost never
represented – which means ruling out the blind
rehearsals of repertoires of such like as the drawn
fist, the rebellious child, the picturing of flags or
flag processions in public space etc.

3. Opening up a communicative space to facilitate
discussions and analysis beyond subjective and
culturally preformed dispositions of taste in opposing
for instance favourite colour with clear assertion
Raising the ability of communicative exchange in
matters of representing and communicating images,
depose the subject idolatry often found within
informal hierarchies.

4. Assembling a toolbox containing tools of analysis
as well as tools of production for purposes of
emancipative image production. Recording and promoting
successful image policy campaigns and strategies
5. Achieving autonomous image production by linking it
to inutilizable contents whereby the image denies its
convertibility into a merchandize.

6. Creating images putting up ethical and categorical
issues without as often in the left presuming upon
ones moral superiority in the mere postulation since
that would be unproductive and remain an ambiguous

7. Envisioning corporate identity for political groups
as a possibility for transparent representation of
one’s self and finding one’s self as a productive
process to enlarge (self) knowledge which may well
lead to non corporate identity.

8. Using irony and self-criticism to lay open
mechanisms of image production.

9. Attacking the permanent presence of visual
manipulation by conformist image production by means
of juristic measures and a broadened discussion on the
totalising subsumption effected by commercial ads in
public space and on television actually reducing
individual personal private freedom (visual terror).

10. Visual information on the manipulative character
and (in)credibility of images that are able to
transport their manipulative intentions much more
unguarded than any text.

We are convinced of the basic success that a social
intervention in an emancipative campaign will obtain
because even the most advanced producers of image
policies, even if they work for the industries depend
for their inspirations just as well on ideas from
outside those industries resulting from socially
generated cultural achievements such as trends,
subcultures and innovative cooperative
Hito Steyerl
The Articulation of Protest
Every articulation is a montage of various elements -
voices, images, colors, passions or dogmas - within a
certain period of time and with a certain expanse in
space. The significance of the articulated moments
depends on this. They only make sense within this
articulation and depending on their position. So how
is protest articulated? What does it articulate and
what articulates it?
The articulation of protest has two levels: on the one
hand, it indicates finding a language for protest, the
vocalization, the verbalization or the visualization
of political protest. On the other, however, this
combination of concepts also designates the structure
or internal organization of protest movements. In
other words, there are two different kinds of
concatenations of different elements: one is at the
level of symbols, the other at the level of political
forces. The dynamic of desiring and refusal,
attraction and repulsion, the contradiction and the
convergence of different elements unfolds at both
levels. In relation to protest, the question of
articulation applies to the organization of its
expression - but also the expression of its
Naturally, protest movements are articulated at many
levels: at the level of their programs, demands,
self-obligations, manifestos and actions. This also
involves montage - in the form of inclusions and
exclusions based on subject matter, priorities and
blind spots. In addition, though, protest movements
are also articulated as concatenations or conjunctions
of different interest groups, NGOs, political parties,
associations, individuals or groups. Alliances,
coalitions, fractions, feuds or even indifference are
articulated in this structure. At the political level
as well, there is also a form of montage, combinations
of interests, organized in a grammar of the political
that reinvents itself again and again. At this level,
articulation designates the form of the internal
organization of protest movements. According to which
rules, though, is this montage organized? Who does it
organize with whom, through whom, and in which way?
And what does this mean for globalization-critical
articulations - both at the level of the organization
of its expression and at the level of the expression
of its organization? How are global conjunctions
repre-sented? How are different protest movements
mediated with one another? Are they placed next to one
another, in other words simply added together, or
related to one another in some other way? What is the
image of a protest movement? Is it the sum of the
heads of speakers from the individual groups added
together? Is it pictures of confrontations and
marches? Is it new forms of depiction? Is it the
reflection of forms of a protest movement? Or the
invention of new relations between individual elements
of political linkages? With these thoughts about
articulation, I refer to a very specific field of
theory, namely the theory of montage or film cuts.
This is also because the thinking about art and
politics together is usually treated in the field of
political theory, and art often appears as its
ornament. What happens, though, if we conversely
relate a reflection about a form of artistic
production, namely the theory of montage, to the field
of politics? In other words, how is the political
field edited, and which political significance could
be derived from this form of articulation?
Chains of Production
I would like to discuss these issues on the basis of
two film segments - and to address their implicit or
explicit political thinking based on the form of their
articulation. The films will be compared from a very
specific perspective: both contain a sequence, in
which the conditions of their own articulation are
addressed. Both of these sequences present the chains
of production and production procedures, through which
these films were made. And on the basis of the
self-reflexive discussion of their manner of
producing political significance, the creation of
chains and montages of aesthetic forms and political
demands, I would like to explain the political
implications of forms of montage.
The first segment is from the film Showdown in
Seattle, produced in 1999 by the Independent Media
Center Seattle, broadcast by Deep Dish Television. The
second segment is from a film by Godard/Mieville from
1975 entitled Ici et Ailleurs. Both deal with
transnational and international circumstances of
political articulation: Showdown in Seattle documents
the protests against the WTO negotiations in Seattle
and the internal articulation of these protests as the
heterogeneous combination of diverse interests. The
theme of Ici et Ailleurs, on the other hand, are the
meanderings of French solidarity with Palestine in the
70s in particular, and a radical critique of the
poses, stagings and counterproductive linkages of
emanci-pation in general. The two films are not really
comparable as such - the first is a quickly produced
utility document that functions in the register of
counter-information. Ici et Ailleurs, on the other
hand, mirrors a long and even embarrassing process of
reflection. Information is not in the foreground
there, but rather the analysis of its organization and
staging. The comparison of the two films is therefore
not to be read as a statement on the films per se, but
rather illuminates only one particular aspect, namely
their self-reflection on their own specific forms of
Showdown in Seattle
The film Showdown in Seattle is an impassioned
documentation of the protests revolving around the WTO
meeting in Seattle in 1999.1 The days of protest and
their events are edited in chronological form. At the
same time, the developments on the street are grounded
with background information about the work of the WTO.
Numerous short statements are given by a multitude of
speakers from the most diverse political groups,
especially unions, but also indigenous groups and
farmers' organizations. The film (which consists of
five half-hour single parts) is extraordinarily
stirring and kept in the style of a conventional
reportage. Along with this, there is a notion of
filmic space-time, which could be described in
Benjamin's terms as homogenous and empty, organized by
chronological sequences and uniform spaces.
Toward the end of the two and a half-hour film series,
there is a segment, in which the viewer is taken on a
tour through the production site of the film, the
studio set up in Seattle. What is seen there is
impres-sive. The entire film was shot and edited
during the period of the protests. A half-hour program
was broadcast every evening. This requires a
considerable logistic effort, and the internal
organization of the Indymedia office accordingly does
not look principally different from a commercial TV
broadcaster. We see how pictures from countless video
cameras come into the studio, how they are viewed, how
useable sections are excerpted, how they are edited
into another shot, and so forth. Various media are
listed, in which and through which publicizing is
carried out, such as fax, telephone, WWW, satellite,
etc. We see how the work of organizing information, in
other words pictures and sound, is conducted: there is
a video desk, production plans, etc. What is presented
is the portrayal of a chain of production of
information, or more precisely in the definition of
the producers: counter-information, which is
negatively defined by its distance to the information
from the corporate media criticized for their
one-sidedness. What this involves, then, is a
mirror-image replica of the conventional production of
information and representation with all its
hierarchies, a faithful reproduction of the corporate
media's manner of production - only apparently for a
different purpose.
This different purpose is described with many
metaphors: get the word across, get the message
across, getting the truth out, getting images out.
What is to be disseminated is counter-information that
is described as truth. The ultimate instance that is
invoked here is the voice of the people, and this
voice is to be heard. It is conceived as the unity of
differences, different political groups, and it sounds
within the resonator of a filmic space-time, the
homogeneity of which is never called into question.

Yet we must not only ask ourselves how this voice of
the people is articulated and organized, but also what
this voice of the people is supposed to be at all. In
Showdown in Seattle, this expression is used without
any problematization: as the addition of voices of
individual speakers from protest groups, NGOs, unions,
etc. Their demands and positions are articulated
across broad segments of the film - in the form of
"talking heads". Because the form of the shots is the
same, the positions are standardized and thus made
comparable. At the level of the standardized
conventional language of form, the different
state-ments are thus transformed into a chain of
formal equivalencies, which adds the political demands
together in the same way that pictures and sounds are
strung together in the conventional chain of montage
in the media chain of production. In this way, the
form is completely analogous to the language of form
used by the criticized corporate media, only the
content is different, namely an additive compila-tion
of voices resulting in the voice of the people when
taken together. When all of these articulations are
added together, what comes out as the sum is the voice
of the people - regardless of the fact that the
different political demands sometimes radically
contradict one another, such as those from
environmen-talists and unions, different minorities,
feminist groups, etc., and it is not at all clear how
these demands can be mediated. What takes the place of
this missing mediation is only a filmic and political
addition - of shots, statements and positions - and an
aesthetic form of concatenation, which takes over the
organiza-tional principles of its adversary
In the second film, on the other hand, this method of
the mere addition of demands resulting together in the
"voice of the people" is severely criticized - along
with the concept of the voice of the people itself.
Ici et Ailleurs
The directors, or rather the editors of the film Ici
et Ailleurs3, Godard and Mieville, take a radically
critical position with respect to the terms of the
popular. Their film consists of a self-critique of a
self-produced film fragment. The collective Dziga
Vertov (Godard/Morin) shot a commissioned film on the
PLO in 1970. The heroizing propaganda film that
blusters about the people's battle was called "Until
Victory" and was never finished. It consisted of
several parts with titles such as: the armed battle,
political work, the will of the people, the extended
war - until victory. It showed battle training, scenes
of exercise and shooting, and scenes of PLO agitation,
formally in an almost senseless chain of
equivalencies, in which every image, as it later
proved, is forced into the anti-imperialistic fantasy.
Four years later, Godard and Mieville inspect the
material more closely again. They note that parts of
the statements of PLO adherents were never translated
or were staged to begin with. They reflect on the
stagings and the blatant lies of the material - but
most of all on their own participation in this, in the
way they organized the pictures and sound. They ask:
How did the adjuring formula of the "voice of the
people" function here as populist noise to eliminate
contradictions? What does it mean to edit the
Internationale into any and every picture, rather like
the way butter is smeared on bread? Which political
and aesthetic notions are added together under the
pretext of the "voice of the people"? Why did this
equation not work? In general, Godard/Mieville arrive
at the conclusion: the additive "and" of the montage,
with which they edit one picture onto another, is not
an innocent one and certainly not unproblematic.
Today the film is shockingly up to date, but not in
the sense of offering a position on the Middle East
conflict. On the contrary, it is the problematizing of
the concepts and patterns, in which conflicts and
solidarity are abridged to binary oppositions of
betrayal or loyalty and reduced to unproblematic
additions and pseudo-causalities, that makes it so
topical. For what if the model of addition is wrong?
Or if the additive "and" does not represent an
addition, but rather grounds a subtraction, a division
or no relation at all? Specifically, what if the "and"
in this "here and elsewhere", in this France and
Palestine does not represent an addition, but rather a
subtraction?4 What if two political movements not only
do not join,
but actually hinder, contradict, ignore or even
mutually exclude one another? What if it should be
"or" rather than "and", or "because" or "instead of"?
And then what does an empty phrase like "the will of
the people" mean?
Transposed to a political level, the questions are
thus: On which basis can we even draw a political
comparison between different positions or establish
equivalencies or even alliances? What is even made
comparable at all? What is added together, edited
together, and which differences and opposites are
leveled for the sake of establishing a chain of
equivalencies? What if this "and" of political montage
is functionalized, specifically for the sake of a
populist mobilization? And what does this question
mean for the articulation of protest today, if
nationalists, protectionists, anti-Semites, conspiracy
theorists, Nazis, religious groups and reactionaries
all line up in the chain of equivalencies with no
problem at anti-globalization demos? Is this a simple
case of the principle of unproblematic addition, a
blind "and", that presumes that if sufficient numbers
of different interests are added up, at some point the
sum will be the people?
Godard and Mieville do not relate their critique
solely to the level of political articulation, in
other words the expression of internal organization,
but specifically also to the organization of its
expression. Both are very closely connected. An
essential component of this problematic issue is found
in how pictures and sounds are organized, edited and
arranged. A Fordist articulation organized according
to the principles of mass culture will blindly
reproduce the templates of its masters, according to
their thesis, so it has to be cut off and
problematized. This is also the reason why
Godard/Mieville are concerned with the chain of
production of pictures and sound, but in comparison
with Indymedia, they choose an entirely different
scene - they show a crowd of people holding pictures,
wandering past a camera as though on a conveyor belt
and pushing each other aside at the same time. A row
of people carrying pictures of the "battle" is linked
together by machine following the logic of the
assembly line and camera mechanics. Here
Godard/Mieville translate the temporal arrangement of
the film images into a spatial arrangement. What
becomes evident here are chains of pictures that do
not run one after the other, but rather are shown at
the same time. They place the pictures next to one
another and shift their framing into the focus of
attention. What is revealed is the principle of their
concatenation. What appears in the montage as an often
invisible addition is problematized in this way and
set in relation to the logic of machine production.
This reflection on the chain of production of pictures
and sounds in this sequence makes it possible to think
about the conditions of representation on film
altogether. The montage results within an industrial
system of pictures and sounds, whose concatenation is
organized from the start - just as the principle of
the production sequence from Showdown in Seattle is
marked by its assumption of conventional schemata of
In contrast, Godard/Mieville ask: how do the pictures
hang on the chain, how are they chained together, what
organizes their articulation, and which political
significances are generated in this way? Here we see
an experimental situation of concatenation, in which
pictures are relationally organized. Pictures and
sounds from Nazi Germany, Palestine, Latin America,
Viet Nam and other places are mixed wildly together -
and added with a number of folk songs or songs that
invoke the people from right-wing and left-wing
contexts. First of all, this much is evident, this
results in the impression that the pictures naturally
attain their significance through their concatenation.
But secondly, and this is much more important, we see
that impossible concatenations occur: pictures from
the concentration camp and Vnceremos songs, Hitler's
voice and a picture of My Lai, Hitler's voice and a
picture of Golda Meir, My Lai and Lenin. It becomes
clear that the basis of this voice of the people,
which we hear in its diverse articulations and at the
level of which the experiment takes place, is in fact
not a basis for creating equivalencies, but instead
brings up the radical political contradictions that it
is striving to cover up. It generates sharp
discrepancies within the silent coercion - as Adorno
would say - of the identity relation-ship. It effects
contraries instead of equations, and beyond the
contraries even sheer dread - everything except an
unproblematic addition of political desire. For what
this populist chain of equivalencies mainly displays
at this point is the void that it is structured
around, the empty inclusivist AND that just keeps
blindly adding and adding outside the realm of all
political criteria.
In summary we can say that the principle of the voice
of the people assumes an entirely different role in
the two films. Although it is the organizing principle
in Seattle, the principle that constitutes the gaze,
it is never problematized itself. The voice of the
people functions here like a blind spot, a lacuna,
which constitutes the entire field of the visible,
according to Lacan, but only becomes visible itself as
a kind of cover. It organizes the chain of
equivalencies without allowing breaks and conceals
that its political objective does not go beyond an
unquestioned notion of inclusivity. The voice of the
people is thus simultaneously the organizing principle
of both a concatenation and a suppression. Yet what
does it suppress? In an extreme case we can say that
the empty topos of the voice of the people only covers
up a lacuna, specifically the lacuna of the question
of the political measures and goals that are supposed
to be legitimized by invoking the people.
So what are the prospects for the articulation of a
protest movement based on the model of an "and" - as
though inclusion at any cost were its primary goal? In
relation to what is the political concatenation
organized? Why actually? Which goals and criteria have
to be formulated - even if they might not be so
popular? And does there not have to be a much more
radical critique of the articulation of ideology using
pictures and sounds? Does not a conventional form mean
a mimetic clinging to the conditions that are to be
critiqued, a populist form of blind faith in the power
of the addition of arbitrary desires? Is it not
therefore sometimes better to break the chains, than
to network everyone with everyone else at all costs?
Addition or Exponentiation
So what turns a movement into an oppositional one? For
there are many movements that call themselves protest
movements, which should be called reactionary, if not
outright fascist, or which at least include such
elements easily. The movements this involves are those
in which existing conditions are radicalized in
breathless transgression, scattering fragmented
identities like bone splinters along the way. The
energy of the movement glides seamlessly from one
element to the next - traversing the homogeneous empty
time like a wave moving through the crowd. Images,
sounds and positions are linked without reflection in
the movement of blind inclusion. A tremendous dynamic
unfolds in these figures - only to leave everything as
it was.
Which movement of political montage then results in an
oppositional articulation - instead of a mere addition
of elements for the sake of reproducing the status
quo? Or to phrase the question differently: Which
montage between two images/elements could be imagined,
that would result in something different between and
outside these two, which would not represent a
compromise, but would instead belong to a different
order - roughly the way someone might tenaciously
pound two dull stones together to create a spark in
the darkness? Whether this spark, which one could also
call the spark of the political, can be created at all
is a question of this articulation.
Thanks to Peter Grabher / kinoki for calling attention
to the films.
Translated by Aileen Derieg

1Showdown in Seattle, Deep Dish Television. USA 1999.
150 min.
2This is not intended to imply that there is any film
that could take over this work of mediation. However,
a film could insist that this cannot be replaced by
simple adjurations.
3Ici et Ailleurs, Jean-Luc Godard, Anne-Marie
Mieville, France 1975. 52 min.
4And what does "Here and Elsewhere" mean now, if
synagogues are burning in France?

GlobalProject / Coordination des Intermittents et
Précaires d'Ile de France
Spectacle Inside the State and Out
Social Rights and the Appropriation of Public Spaces:
The Battles of the French Intermittents
The strength of a political movement is found not only
in its ability to reach a concrete objective. These
kinds of successes depend mostly on the economy of
power relations. The strength of a movement reveals
itself more in its potential for raising new questions
and providing new answers. And this much is certain:
the battles of the precariously employed French
cultural workers have raised new questions demanding
new answers.1
A new regulation has been in effect in France since 1
January 2004. The agreement provides for the
cancellation or reduction of the claims of hundreds of
thousands of unemployed people. Those that this
applies to are the so-called intermittents du
spectacle, "independent" cultural workers. Prior to
this there was a separate regulation for them, the
so-called "cultural exception". Under this regulation,
cultural workers in between two productions with no
income were paid from the unemployment fund – under
the condition (which was already difficult for many to
fulfill) that they could prove 507 hours of working
time for a total of twelve months. This resulted in a
twelve-month claim to unemployment benefits. However,
since businesses and three unions signed the "Protocol
Unedic" on a new regulation of unemployment insurance
last summer, the regulation above is no longer valid
since the beginning of this year. Now the same number
of working hours has to be proven in eleven months,
and then unemployment benefits can only be claimed for
eight months. This means that 35% of those who could
previously claim benefits are no longer entitled to
"We are performers, interpreters, technicians. We are
involved in the production of theater plays, dance and
circus performances, concerts, records, documentary
and feature films, TV shows, Reality-TV, the evening
news and advertising. We are behind the camera and in
front of it, on stage and backstage, we are on the
street, in classrooms, prisons and hospitals. The
structures we work in range from non-profit projects
to entertainment corporations listed on the
stockmarket. As participants in both art and industry,
we are subject to a double flexibility: flexible
working hours and flexible wages. The regulation on
the insurance and unemployment of the Intermittents du
spectacle originally arose from the need to secure a
continuous income and cushion the discontinuity of
employment situations. The regulation made it possible
to flexibly arrange production and ensure the mobility
of wage-dependent persons in between different
projects, sectors and employments."2
And ... action!
The Intermittents resisted with demonstrations and
spectacular occupation and strike actions throughout
the summer of 2003. Numerous cultural events had to be
canceled or were turned into discussion forums; one
evening, activists even succeeded in interrupting the
broadcast of the evening news from the public
television channel France 2. Organized in local
coordinations networked throughout the country, the
Intermittents raise the question of precarious
employment, but also beyond the realm of cultural
production. Their battles are about more than just the
demand for payment. They attack not only a legal or
economic relationship of subordination with regards to
a public or private employer. Instead, they show us
that it is a matter of attacking the foundations of
the production of public goods such as education and
culture, along with the institutional procedures and
utilization technologies that go with
1Revised and expanded translation of an article from
global. Global Project – Paris: L'Europe est à nous,
special edition for the ESF 2003. The Italian
newspaper is linked with a transnational Internet
project: www.globalproject.info.
2Quotations in italics are from the declarations of
the Intermittents et Précaires d'Ile de France. Cf.
Jungle World 26 and 32/2003.
http://www.republicart.net 1
them: the funding of culture, the distribution of
access rights, and finally the production of
consumer-subjectivities through schools, cultural
industries and media.
"For us, this conflict led to a more in-depth
reflection about our professions. In an era when the
utilization of labor is increasingly based on
individuals bringing themselves into their work with
all their subjective resources, and in which the space
afforded to this subjectivity is increasingly limited
and formatted, this battle represents an act of
resistance: we need to reappropriate the sense of our
work at a personal and collective level."
The cultural and communication industries are not just
new fields of capitalist accumulation, but they also
produce desires, beliefs and emotions in the control
societies. Here the Intermittents occupy a nexus
between these industries, the production of the public
sphere and the consumers of the various cultural
industries. In principle, it is no longer possible to
speak of a "special position of culture": first of
all, because cultural practices have long since become
an integral component of capitalist production.
Secondly, because the production of emotions precedes
material production. The consumer-subjectivity
produced through marketing, advertising, communication
policies and artistic practice is a fundamental
precondition for the cultural industry, and yet it
cannot be limited to utilization by the cultural
industry. The unemployment "reform" with its implicit
promotion of corporate art accelerates the
standardization and norming of this generalization of
cultural production and consumption.
"The new regulation only spares one category of
wage-dependent persons, namely the group with regular
contracts. Originally the point was to ensure a
continuity of income in the fields, where the logic of
profits does not come first. Now only the most
profitable companies – especially those in the
audiovisual industry – are able to continue to profit
from employees, who are under more pressure than ever
to accept the 'contents' and working conditions of the
proposed employment."
As both the actors in and those affected by this
situation, the Intermittents raise the question of
possibilities for escaping this capitalist occupation
of the emotions and challenge us to more thoroughly
examine contemporary forms of exploitation. As
industrial capitalism appropriates natural raw
materials and labor power in order to exploit them for
the production of material goods, contemporary
capitalism seizes cultural and artistic resources to
subordinate them to the logic of profit – yet without
bearing the costs of production.
"As an assault on collective rights, this 'reform'
introduces a specific idea of the cultural exception:
a showcase art with its especially promoted exemplary
projects on the one hand and an industry of
standardized culture on the other, which is capable of
competing in the world market."
For a Generalization of the "Cultural Exception" ...
In the course of the movement of the Intermittents,
hotel and restaurant owners and merchants from
Aix-en-Provence took legal action against unknown
persons. The cancellation of the "festival d'art
lyrique" by its director due to strikes by the
Intermittents led to a 30% loss of profits for the
local tourist industry. Together with the cultural and
communications industries, the tourist industry is
most desirous of cultural and artistic resources: of
traditions, ways of living, rites, world views, as
well as festivals, theater and art works of all kinds.
The tourist industry colonizes public goods such as
art works, architecture, landscapes or historical city
centers, appropriates them at no cost and changes
their status: from "human heritage" to the private
inheritance of the industry and tourism. A walk
through the historical city center of any European
city suffices for us to understand how the
transformation of the experience of time and space
into commodity form is carried out. This is not only a
tremendous reduction of the social public sphere to
the coupled terms "provider" and "customer". In
addition, a huge amount of labor is utilized without
any financial compensation.
"In the strict perspective of accounting on which the
new regulation is based, employment is the only basis
for calculation; only the amount is paid that
corresponds to the social security contribution. The
portion of socially produced wealth that goes beyond
this is not taken into consideration."
In principle, it is possible to advocate for social
rights as cultural workers from two directions. One
way would be to insist on the "cultural exception" in
the sense of a professional privilege. Another would
be to
http://www.republicart.net 2
understand the insurance of artistic precariousness as
an example for all those precariously employed, thus
inscribing one's own, initially relatively limited
demands into the battle for social rights.
"Is it not symptomatic that inroads are systematically
being made in what could be a model for other
categories of precariousness? Developing a model for
unemployment insurance based on the reality of our
practices is a basis for an open discussion of all the
forms of reappropriation, of the dissemination and the
spread of this battle into other areas."
The latter perspective additionally makes it possible
to separate the general characteristics of
post-fordist working conditions from the neo-liberal
rhetoric of individualization, making this visible as
a terrain of political battles.
"Our demands have nothing to do with a battle for
privileges: flexibility and mobility, which are
becoming a general requirement, must not lead to
precariousness and misery. The development of a
concept of unemployment compensation that recognizes
the reality of our work, in other words the continuity
of the activities and the discontinuity of payment,
opens the door for forms of reappropriation and
... and the Appropriation of the Social
The battles of the Intermittents from last year call
on us to raise new questions and to find new answers.
The point is to subvert the subordination to the
conditions of public or private "work", to propel the
production of public goods outside the realm of their
utilization by capital, and finally to decouple
productive time from payment and thus secure access
for everyone to segments of life not under
surveillance. It is a matter of canceling out
separations: between the invention and the
reproduction of cultural goods, between producers and
users, between experts and amateurs. The
Intermittents' battle for social rights, specifically
for a state-guaranteed system of social security, is a
precondition for this, precisely because it goes
beyond this demand, when it rejects the reproduction
of state-conform subjectivities, the division into
"artists" and "other precariously employed persons"
and conjoins the assurance of social rights with the
battle for the social appropriation of public goods.
The demands posed to the state thus serve to create a
new public sphere: a sphere that is no longer
determined by the state.
"Only collective social rights can guarantee the
freedom of persons, also the continuity of work
outside of periods of employment, also the realization
of the most improbable projects, thus guaranteeing
diversity and innovation. Dynamics, inventiveness and
daring, which characterize artistic work, are based on
the purposeful independence attained through
interprofessional solidarity and the sustainment of
acceptable living conditions."
English translation by Aileen Derieg based on the
German translation by Michael Sander
http://www.republicart.net 3

By Jeronimo Voss

To the bourgeois

You are the majority – in number and intelligence; so
you are power, which is justice. Some of you are
learned, some landed; the glorious day will come when
the learned will become landed and the landed learned.
Then your power will be complete, and nobody will
protest against it any longer.
Charles Baudelaire, The salon of 1846

I applied to study communication design, was rejected,
subsequently drew even more avidly, did internships in
various advertising agencies, applied again and was
finally accepted a year after my first attempt. But
despite the energy, time and money I had invested, I
broke off my design studies after the first semester.
Frustrated by the overly school manner of teaching and
hostility to experimentation, the permanent stress in
the agency, the daily failure to meet the demands of
my effective everyday routine. There may be many
reasons to study art – mine was basically: no more
work! And I don’t believe I am alone in that.
I expected to get something else from art. Art was
something I saw as a means of being engaged in
something that was removed from the general
utilization dogma, being independent, making my own
decisions, winning recognition with what really
interests me and above all never again doing
wage-labour – for any boss, agency, firm or factory.
Ofcourse, I also had reservations about the art world,
considered it to be elitist, exclusive and
undemocratic – but I was fairly sure that here other
criteria applied. Though I turned out to be right on
several points, in others I was thoroughly
Studying fine arts really is an extremely relaxing
affair: there is no strict syllabus, hardly any
pressure to perform, in fact no reason to get stressed
out – a Bohemian lifestyle at its best. But for all
that there is pressure here too and though it is more
subtle it is all the more efficient. There is nobody
to scream at me about deadlines for submitting the PDF
files for the Karstadt shoe ads. Instead, I am the one
to whisper my deadlines to myself: How long will they
continue to pay my grant? How long have you been
studying already? What happens after that? What is
with the next project for your portfolio? Etc. etc.
Plus, there are lots of things to deal with - 24 hours
a day: Attending exhibition openings, producing art,
making contacts, cultivating, socialising etc. The
toughest amongst us claim they can manage on five
hours’ sleep and to be addictive to coffee at least.

Today, art production appears to be like any other
freelance job. And that being the case you are subject
to great economic insecurity and instability thanks to
the total lack of regulations with regard to your
rights in uncontinuous work context, such as the
existence of a union. That was always the case for
artists. Indeed, those in question have always
demonstrated scant or no enthusiasm for any forms of
organization. Rather, despite all the statistical
evidence (to the contrary) everyone hopes their career
will be extraordinary. Those that fall by the wayside
are primarily those who have the greatest need of
protective agreements such as single parents or people
whose age and/or health prevents them from working
flat out. And if you fail as an artist you fail across
the board, not only financially on account of your
inadequate social protection; your failure takes in
the entire system you have constructed for yourself
comprising 24 hours of art, love of art and living
art. But at this point hardly anyone would admit to
failure, but would waiter/ress their way through life,
keep going on part-time jobs and rehabilitate
themselves to the stage when they achieve their
deserved success.
If I do what I do with passion, identify with it
completely and would not even consider ever doing
anything else, would I talk of that as ‘work’? Would I
relentlessly negotiate a price for this ‘work’, if I
actually enjoy doing it, because it seems I do it for
myself to all intents and purposes? Would I, if
necessary, refuse to ‘work’ in order to exert
pressure? Strike? Against whom? What is the meaning of
leisure time when being an artist is a full-time job –
even if those things that need doing are totally
un-artistic such as all those everyday tasks involved
in being a social being - caring for yourself and
caring for others.

It is obvious to see art not only as an opening to a
celebrity career but also as an alternative to
wage-labour. The hegemonistic understanding of
artistic production ever since constructed its
practice within distance to its own utilization. In
line with such an interpretation art is viewed as an
homage to the free individual’s inventive potential.
As such, art continues to be the very own space of
evolvement of the myth of singular authorship even
though from time to time there are isolated attempts
to replace it by the myth of its own abolition.
In their book Le Nouvel Esprit du Capitalisme (The New
Spirit of Capitalism) Luc Boltanski and Ève Chiapello
describe the call for individual freedom implicit in
this artistic model of life to be a fundamental model
of emancipatory critique. As the authors see it, the
indignation-motive of “artistic critique” is rooted in
the lifestyle pursued by the Parisian bohemians of the
early 19th century. They cite Charles Baudelaire as a
representative of the unattached intellectual and
artist, “whose embodiment in the figure of the dandy …
– with the exception of self-production - stylizes
non-production and the culture of uncertainty as the
highest ideals”. As a narcissistic, eccentric super
individualist the dandy despised the bourgeoisie,
which accompanie

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