Publications

Cover features an image by Andreas Siekmann from the series The Big 4ever, 2020, developed for this publication. Design by Sean van den Steenhoven for LeftLoft, Milan.

BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht and MIT Press, Cambridge, MA and London present Deserting from the Culture Wars, the second reader in BAK’s BASICS series, edited by Maria Hlavajova and Sven Lütticken. 

Deserting from the Culture Wars reflects upon and intervenes in our current moment of ever-more polarizing ideological combat, often seen as the return of the “culture wars.” How are these culture wars defined and waged? Engaging in a theater of war that has been delineated by the enemy is a shortcut to defeat. Getting out of the reactive mode that produces little but a series of Pavlovian responses, this book proposes a tactical desertion from the culture wars as they are being waged today—a refusal to play the other side’s war games, an unwillingness to be distracted.

The volunteer troops in the culture wars are often given marching orders by professional masters of propaganda. What, then, might artists and others who are professionally engaged with images and imaginaries, with narratives and assemblies, have to contribute to the collective discovery of different modes of living culture? Far from limiting the performance of culture to a one-sided speech act, an emancipatory understanding of culture needs to conceive of speech as embodied and intersubjective—as a collective performance.

Deserting from the Culture Wars includes contributions by Bini Adamczak, Kader Attia, Rose Hammer, Tom Holert, Geert Lovink, Sven Lütticken, Diana McCarty, Dan McQuillan, Johannes Paul Raether, Natascha Sadr Haghighian, Esmee Schoutens, Andreas Siekmann, and Jonas Staal.

Book launch: 16 October 2020, 19.00–21.00 hrs
The launch of the book takes place during the reopening of Tony Cokes: To Live as Equals at BAK, on Friday 16 October 2020. 
More information | Tickets

The publication is available from October 2020. Prize: $19.95 via MIT Press, order here | €17.00 at BAK (from 16 October 2020).


This publication is the second volume of BAK’s BASICS series, published in collaboration with MIT Press. The readers in this series probe some of the most urgent challenges of our time, engaging them through theoretically informed and politically driven artistic research and practice. If BAK is conceived as a basis—a base where art and theory meet social action to collectively negotiate the social, political, environmental, and technological conditions in which we live and, more importantly, develop and actualize proposals for being together otherwise—then BASICS is its publishing equivalent.

The first volume in the BASICS series, Propositions for Non-Fascist Living: Tentative and Urgent, was published by BAK and MIT Press in 2019.