Performative conference

17 March 2018

Propositions #4: Unpacking Aesthetics and the Far Right

  • Discussion panel during Propositions for Non-Fascist Living #4: Unpacking Aesthetics and the Far Right at BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht, 17 March 2018, photo: Tom Janssen

  • Giovanna Zapperi presenting during Propositions for Non-Fascist Living #4: Unpacking Aesthetics and the Far Right at BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht, 17 March 2018, photo: Tom Janssen

  • Ana Teixeira Pinto presenting during Propositions for Non-Fascist Living #4: Unpacking Aesthetics and the Far Right at BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht, 17 March 2018, photo: Tom Janssen

  • Morgan Quaintance presenting during Propositions for Non-Fascist Living #4: Unpacking Aesthetics and the Far Right at BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht, 17 March 2018, photo: Tom Janssen

  • Discussion panel during Propositions for Non-Fascist Living #4: Unpacking Aesthetics and the Far Right at BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht, 17 March 2018, photo: Tom Janssen

  • Larne Abse Gogarty presenting during Propositions for Non-Fascist Living #4: Unpacking Aesthetics and the Far Right at BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht, 17 March 2018, photo: Tom Janssen

  • Angela Dimitrakaki and iLiana Fokianaki during Propositions for Non-Fascist Living #4: Unpacking Aesthetics and the Far Right at BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht, 17 March 2018, photo: Tom Janssen

  • Kader Attia presenting during Propositions for Non-Fascist Living #4: Unpacking Aesthetics and the Far Right at BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht, 17 March 2018, photo: Tom Janssen

Propositions #4: Unpacking Aesthetics and the Far Right is part of BAK’s long-term artistic research series and convening platform Propositions for Non-Fascist Living (2017–2020) prompted by the surfacing of contemporary fascisms. This is the fourth performative conference within the series and brings together artists, theorists, and writers to seek ways of unpacking the current relations of art and fascist-curious aesthetics.

The political landscape in Europe and North America is peppered with fascisms whose nihilism bleeds vividly into everyday life. These are fascisms—post/neo/crypto or proto-fascisms—without a (seemingly) clearly articulated ideology. Their narratives may not cohere politically with each other, but they do cohere aesthetically: they align themselves with, or attach themselves to, objects, idioms, or tropes, and open a toxic conduit between antiestablishmentarianism and outright racism and misogyny. This brings up the questions: Are present-day fascisms aesthetic or emotional in structure, rather than fully-fledged political doctrines? How to describe the nexuses between art form and far-right ideologies that take shape under the aegis of neoliberal governance? Is it possible to draw parallels with the early twentieth-century artistic movements that became ambivalent laboratories for fascisms-yet-to-come?

With contributions by: art historian and critic Larne Abse Gogarty; artist Kader Attia; writer and art historian Angela Dimitrakaki and writer and curator iLiana Fokianaki; writer, curator, and musician Morgan Quaintance; writer and cultural theorist Ana Teixeira Pinto; art historian and researcher Harry Weeks; and art historian Giovanna Zapperi.

View the handout with the full program here.

Program

Centraal Museum, Utrecht

10.30–12.00: Preview of the exhibition Erich Wichman, Free radical with the Centraal Museum Director Bart Rutten and finissage of the exhibition The world by Pyke Koch, with a simple brunch.

BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht

12.00–12.30
Doors open, coffee and tea

12.30–12.45
Welcome and introduction
Maria Hlavajova

12.45–13.30
Myth Versus History: Some Notes on Italian Futurism
Lecture by Giovanna Zapperi

Giovanna Zapperi looks at Italian Futurism as a relevant historical example of the relation between art and fascist ideology in the early twentieth century. Zapperi considers Futurism as an aesthetic laboratory for the historical rise of Fascism in modern Italy, with particular focus on Futurism’s obsessions with the male body, time, and technology. The gendered dialectics between past and present, which can be observed in the writings of poet F. T. Marinetti and works of painter Umberto Boccioni, forms the core of Futurism’s reconfiguration of history. Even as its avant garde spirit was marginalized in favor of the typical monumental aesthetic of the ventennio during the late 1920s and 1930s, Fascism never really got rid of Futurism: its representation of myth versus history became one of Italian Fascism’s fundamental features.

13.30–14.15
Capitalist-positive and fascist-curious 
Lecture by Ana Teixeira Pinto
In recent years, the ethos of the tech industry has transmogrified—from the market-besotted optimism of business mogul Bill Gates to the digital feudalism represented by California Bay Area neoreactionaries and cyber monarchists. If, as philosopher Walter Benjamin has argued, “every rise of Fascism bears witness to a failed revolution,” one could say that the rise of crypto-fascist tendencies within the tech industry bears witness to the failures of the “digital revolution,” whose promises never came to pass. From this perspective, the mix of cyber-obscurantism, far-right esoterica, and paranoid ideation so popular online can be read as a morbid symptom of this ongoing transformation.

14.15–15.15
Lunch

15.15–16.00
Our Cultic Milieu
Lecture by Morgan Quaintance (via Skype)
What are the conditions that facilitate an individual’s participation in and allegiance to reactionary, fascist, and extremist groups? Conventional social, cultural, or economic dissatisfactions are often presented as the most reliable and fertile grounds for determining motivations. Morgan Quaintance considers a fourth: the cultic. By using sociologist Colin Campbell’s notion of a “cultic milieu” —a social environment consisting of groups who adhere to deviant and esoteric systems of political, scientific, religious, or socio-cultural thought—Quaintance thinks through the idea that exploring the further reaches of such arenas (arguably the activity from which much research-based contemporary art emerges) can be psychically hazardous. In short, the “cultic milieu” can function as a gateway to membership and participation in the fascist forum.

16.00–17.00
Discussion between Morgan Quaintance, Giovanna Zapperi, and Ana Teixeira Pinto, moderated by Harry Weeks

17.00–17.30
Coffee and tea

17.30–18.30
Coherence and Complicity: On the Wholeness of Post-Internet Aesthetics 
Keynote lecture by Larne Abse Gogarty
In this talk, Larne Abse Gogarty periodizes and defines how elements within post-internet art, music, and fashion have apparently melded with aspects of a burgeoning fascist culture in Europe and the United States. Abse Gogarty suggests this development is at least partly reliant on the coherence of that culture, where aesthetic coordinates travel across different forms: from video art to electronic music to comedy to footwear. These continuities have afforded a strong set of stylistic and tonal foundations that makes this culture easily graspable, but also infinitely open to imitation and appropriation. Avoiding a retrospective assertion of an always-present fascism within the genre, Abse Gogarty argues that the coherence of the post-internet aesthetic is nevertheless propelled by a lack of attention to the relationship between aesthetic form and political responsibility.

18.30–19.00
OMG, Does Every Woman Adore a Fascist? 
Didactic play read by Angela Dimitrakaki and iLiana Fokianaki
Poet Sylvia Plath’s (in)famous words “every woman adores a fascist,” appearing in her poem “Daddy” (1962), continue to give us nightmares. Is this true? Who is included in “every woman”? And, as suspected by at least one scholar, is this really a poem about Mommy? These are some of the burning questions that may or may not be addressed in this dialogue, which prioritizes fascism and sex. Here, “sex” may or may not refer to the experience of having sex or the experience of embodying differentiating sexual features, but “fascism” always and unambiguously refers to a politics. The key issues are what those “politics” are and whether such politics have anything to do with art, also known as “sublimation.” The dialogue/play is inspired by various incidents and processes including: 0. The history of patriarchy as the history of sexualization of power over; 1. Fears that feminist art critic Carla Lonzi and feminist artist Valerie Solanas had about art; 2. A woman that Angela Dimitrakaki met in Helsinki in 2016 and described in a lengthy essay on contemporary fascism in Berlin Quarterly 5 (Autumn 2016); 3. Golden Dawn Girls (Håvard Bustnes, 2017), a documentary film.

19.00–20.00
Dinner

20.00–20.30
Decompartmentalizing Knowledge 
Lecture-performance by Kader Attia
If fascism is predicated on compartmentalization—of affects,  flows,territories—anti-fascism ought to entail a decompartmentalization. This is the role of the Anti-Institution. In this lecture-performance, Kader Attia maps the intersections of colonialism, imperialism, and the far right, as well as details collective work he has been part of at La Colonie, Paris and their attempts to bridge the gap between academia and activism.

20.30–21.30
Plenary conversation moderated by Angela Dimitrakaki

21.30–22.00
Drinks

On the occasion of this performative conference, Centraal Museum, Utrecht opens its doors to the conference participants from 10.30 till 12.00 hrs for a simple brunch in the museum café and a preview of the exhibition Erich Wichman: Free radical (17 March–24 June 2018). The opening of this exhibition coincides with the closing weekend of The World of Pyke Koch (17 November 2017–18 March 2018), an exhibition of work by Koch who, like Wichman, was affiliated with Italian fascism during the interbellum era.

BAK’s exhibition Matthijs de Bruijne: Compromiso Político, also featuring works by Jeremy Deller, Piero Gilardi, and Mierle Laderman Ukeles (10 February–15 April 2018) is on view and open to the conference participants.

To attend the performative conference, please reserve your place through Eventbrite. BAK offers without-cost solidarity passes to enable the participation of those who would otherwise be unable to afford a pass. If you are able, you can sponsor a solidarity pass along with the purchase of your own.

The spoken language of the performative conference is English.

Propositions #4: Unpacking Aesthetics and the Far Right is a two-part performative conference convened by BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht in collaboration with La Colonie, Paris. The event was conceptualized by Ana Teixeira Pinto and Giovanna Zapperi, in collaboration with Angela Dimitrakaki and Harry Weeks who are co-editing a special issue on the subject for Third Text. The second part of the conference takes place at La Colonie on 9 May 2018.

BAK’s activities are made possible through financial contributions by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the City Council, Utrecht.

BAK’s main partner in the field of education and research is HKU University of the Arts Utrecht.

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