Posted on September 16, 2011
There are two contending logics at work in the global system of cultural production. On the one hand is the institutional logic of repetition, associated with the venues of cultural production; on the other, the participatory logic of recursion, expressed by the agents of cultural production. The former generates a momentum of iterative continuity and a centripetal accumulation of authority (for example, the sheer editionality of Documenta, the Venice Biennale or the Whitney Biennale; and the continuous translation of alumni from various curatorial studies programs into the personnel in the cultural economy). The latter can produce self-critical disruption and a centrifugal diffusion of dissidence (for example, the successive curatorial ruptures and renewals of a biennial or other large-scale periodic exhibition; and the artistic, theoretical and curatorial radicalisations, although eventually absorbed within the system, of anti-aesthetic art, institutional critique, the anthropological turn, the pedagogical turn, the relational turn, and the emphasis on the archive).
The war of the logics is waged throughout the system: in successive editions of biennials, time-bound publication programmes, inter-disciplinary academic adventures, and grant cycles for research. As emphases shift and priorities change, the instrument of cultural policy reveals its hidden aspect as a punitive weapon. The result: orphan bodies of research, an archipelago of abandoned archives, and island universes of knowledge drifting in a discursive outer space. And all the while, the friction of practical politics—in the form of mass mobilisations, populist ideologies and mediatic manipulation—abrades the cultural domain. All this builds into an unfolding sequence of urgencies; to deal with this in a manner that is more than tactical and reactive, we have found it useful to assemble a provisional lexicon of urgencies.