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"It’s the Political Economy, Stupid!"

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The Anarchist Banker by Jan Peter  Hammer

Bank: Art & Economies by Alicia       Herrero

Bank: Art & Economies by Alicia       Herrero
Center for Cultural Decontamination,
Sep 30, 2013 - Oct 06, 2013
Belgrade, Serbia

"It’s the Political Economy, Stupid!"
by Vladimir Jeric Vlidi

So what do we see people actually doing in most of the works? Besides some great dancing, they explore and wonder and stumble upon things, and are often organized in small groups or collectives, showing a strong tendency to get together. The latter seems to be of great importance as often these people are the subjects of experiments or of some collective practice of self-education. They seek answers by reading books no one seems to have read for quite some time, by looking just behind the corner in different places around the world, or by contemplating the contexts or intentions of the global media. Mostly they seek answers from other people, in the form of a conversation or an interview. Occasionally they seem to get focused on something in particular, just to discover that they again, should focus on something else, or even better, try to find a way to somehow encompass everything in their pursuit of truth. They frequently seem lost, and the world in which they follow their mission seems to have already fallen apart. The truth they are trying to discover and communicate seems like a message no one wants to hear. And it is all, in a certain way, one useful and true image, a good thing to see.

As to the forms and formats of the works - it would be just a repetition of a rather old argument in regard to what art is, and what it may be. This is particularly true when it comes to form. For this kind of practice, form the single most important thing to observe as it embodies everything. The now already "conservative" and well established understanding is that it is precisely there, in the form itself - all the traits of a social position and the artists involved, where the zeitgeist of an era and the complex intersection of human relations at that particular moment is to be found. One exciting examination on the topic was being presented in the book of essays Red Planets: Marxism and Science Fiction (5) edited by Mark Bould and China Mieville and published in 2009. Their expedition to the future is an attempt to find the answer to one important question, that is actually two: if the notion of art, as it is being understood today, is the product and project of a bourgeois capitalist society, is it possible that something like "art" can even exist in a post-capitalist society, and if it does, how will we recognize proper and genuine examples? How could art be envisioned and described to be operating in a post-capitalist future society? How accurately, if at all, can it be described in the works of science fiction, that is, in Utopian literature and other media of today and yesterday?(6)

This is where things do get a bit hairy and bit hazy, where different theories collide within and among themselves and with what we can imagine happening, what we believe must be true. In his text "Art After Capitalism" in the accompanying exhibition publication Brian Holmes, aware of the possible pitfalls in understanding anything once the exploration of the form is being set aside, contemplates the possible art practice of post-capitalist society as probably a more collective one, and more bodily, biologically inclined than what it was before. But Holmes then ends up laughing at the very attempt, and we can all agree on the ending, that "laughing out loud can be good for you". So is dancing - this is why some of the works are to be noted for their outstanding ability to engage, not pursue, to explain but not preach. This is especially true for those activities to be properly understood as both art and activism, to be at the same time a commentary and an expression but also a meaningful political statement - and in this exhibition they mostly present themselves performatively.

Watching Espiral - A Dance of Death in 8 Scenes by Isa Rosenberger offers both the spiritual experience and one of the more informative analysis of contemporary development of capital. It also outlines one of the most elaborate approaches in mixing artistic and documentary expression. flo6x8 and Bankia from the Cuatro Trileros series, besides explaining the particular problem of documenting protest action, provides something that is quite rare in the cynical and somber present moment - a brief consolation and the sense of defeating defeat, that is, they provide the incentive and confidence to act, however contemplative our subsequent actions may be.

The documentary character of the works of art, or of activism, is important - but a certain historical event can only be reenacted, reinterpreted, possibly be "danced out" there in order to be recreated in a certain contemporary moment. No verbatim playback will ever be able to serve the purpose of understanding in the way Walter Benjamin outlined the principle of translation.(7) So, if there are any clues in this epic detective novel trying to discover what something like "art" will look like in Utopia, it seems that most of it points to a kind of performativity, its collective aspect not distinguishable from the term and form itself. But a lot of those involved in the production of this exhibition will not, at least exclusively, even claim to be artists, or that what they produce is a form of art. Paolo Cirio in his work Loophole 4 All outlines this ever-shifting position of identity in a very vivid manner, when he states that he is able to see himself simultaneously as the artist, hacker, activist and finally as the investigative journalist.

And, indeed, the news and documentary formats do play a very important role throughout most if not all of the works. Even when not directly referencing TV news, debates and documentaries in its visual and spoken language, which more often than not is the case, most of the works will still emerge from the documentary structure, including those that follow a seemingly different path - one of historical avant-gardes or Godard's idea on the politics of film and how to use it, for example. The principle of "talking heads" is retained, even if the head is all of a sudden not of a human, but one of the bear, or of the wolf; and this form of communication is important. The tool of direct speech, used and misused to shape humans into what we are, the one of addressing someone in particular with a statement, opinion, that is, with a demand, but also the one that will verify one's existence, is still the most powerful means to convey any message. Even the Gods had to express their wishes aloud, usually in quite dramatic and spectacular fashion in order to grab our attention, and that has not changed.

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