Thuistezien 228 — 07.04.2021
What is the way in which time and the future is perceived by artists these days? What are the reasons for artists or people from the general public to share the current sentiments? Could or should it be different? Jan Verwoert explicates three scenarios of looking at the future (of art) based on the state of the world today. The fundamental thing to consider is that the Western tradition has made us inherit a type of ‘messianic’ thinking. How we think about anything, including the future, is permeated with an assumption that there is a progression, build up or anticipation either for a redemption to suffering, or a pinnacle of it. It is a way of thinking that is based on the idea of an ‘end’ of days, and even fits with the secularised, capitalistic phenomenon of goal- or performance-oriented psychology. Subsequently millennial responses against this still entertain the premise of working towards an end, by introducing new universalisms and morals for art or politics. Verwoert, however, tries to suggest that we can get out of this dialectic by integrating the future into the present: maybe the future is already among us. Seeing as the concept of a ‘future’ is infinite and unknown, this would invite a thinking in terms of infinity and radical otherness. In order not to get overwhelmed and alienated by otherness that is so other one can not even comprehend it, inducing all too common prospects of anxiety or feelings of terror and resistance, we need to shift to an attitude of ‘feeling’, instead of commodifying ourselves into insensitivity.
Here lies the true challenge but also potential for art. ‘Saying ‘Yes!’ to particular colours’, ‘Waking up the next day and continuing in the studio, rather than opting to end the game of art’ are examples to embrace continuity without the cynicism on the one hand, and apocalypticism on the other. If we drop the fascination with the sexyness of the end, the temptation towards cynically settling that everything is a simulacrum of itself, or rather towards concision, precision and finite analyses, we could tune in better to the situation ánd the future. Perhaps we could even develop a way of relating that is not strictly human, and feel the feeling of being crab or stone. A project of ‘collective sensing’ over ‘unsensing’ is the suggestion that this discussion brings up. It incorporates a system of asystematic thinking of a continuation beyond the end, where we engage with the object that will never leave us in peace. We would enter into relationships of sensitivity and sensingness with things that have been growing from the beginning of days and have continued to grow on the bottom of seas, that we haven’t even yet understood and might want to put our hands on. Would this be a more valid or realistic survival strategy? Is it then the role of the artist to save the day? And if so, does it not circumscribe an elitist practice? How to go about making art or people more sensitive?
This talk was the closing debate with the title ‘Entropy – not a human issue, but a matter of course’ and was part of the West production: Volkspaleis 2014.
Jan Verwoert (DE) is a critic and writer on contemporary art and cultural theory.
Mark Bain (US) is an artist-researcher on vibrational mechanisms and experimental sound.
Matteo Marangoni (IT) is an artist and community organiser interested in sonic rituals, DIY media and applied utopianism.
Hestia Bavelaar (NL) is assistant professor Modern and Contemporary Art at the University of Utrecht.
Text: Yael Keijzer