Anna Galkina, Untitled, 2014. Collage courtesy of the artist

The New Black Jacobins: On the Rejection of the Clergy in the Ferguson Revolt

 

The cruelties of property and privilege are always more ferocious than the revenges of poverty and oppression. For the one aims at perpetuating resented injustice, the other is merely a momentary passion soon appeased.

C. L. R. James

 

Something new and important happened during the “weekend of resistance” in St. Louis, Missouri. The event, organized by the campaign group Hands Up United plus a myriad groups from across the US, was billed as four days of civil disobedience, mass protest and debates to respond to the killing of an unarmed 18 year-old by a white police officer on August 9 in Ferguson.

What happened there went beyond the routinely protest against police violence and grotesque militarization of urban space. It entered a deeper confrontation: that taking place between the younger and the older generation of black activists. A generational divide that may probably mark and set the tone for the future fights to come.

On October 12, I was one of the 2,000 people who attended an interfaith rally at St. Louis University’s Chaifetz Arena. The event featured noted author Cornel West as keynote speaker, in front of an audience composed by a majority of black people and a numerous contingent of “white allies” (as they are dubbed in activist circles) cheering at every intervention. It was the “American tradition” of civil rights movements ready for the usual show-off.

A Misosophical Confession

 
“Thought is primarily trespass and violence, the enemy, and nothing presupposes philosophy:
everything begins with misosophy.”(1)

“As far as ‘thought’ is concerned, works are falsifications, since they eliminate the provisional and the non-repeatable, the instantaneous and the mingling of purity and impurity, disorder and order.”(2)

“I distrust all systematisers, and avoid them. The will to a system shows a lack of honesty”(3)

 

What has become of lovers of knowledge today? What is the fate of those once revered and proud seekers of truth, those honest and upstanding journeymen of essences and universality? The shadows of these lovers of knowledge and wisdom appear to flit across the mirrors in which we seek ourselves, never leaving more than a fleeting impression, a muffled articulation that no sooner has found expression than it once more disintegrates amidst the determined babble of self-assured objection. And these shadows whisper to us of their own demise, of their submission to the systematisation of knowledge as utmost morality that rests never far from the surface of the façade which emerges of the demand and insistence for a unitary reality. If there is a philosopher of the future, their voice is meek amidst the uproar of accusation and blame; their gaze powerless when confronted with the piercing eyes of certainty; their will ensnared by the blockages and channels of a continually reinforced spiral of systematisation that sets before it the task of absolute universalisation.

Ernst Jünger, the forest anarch

“We were both Waldganger.
We preferred the forest to the city.”
Albert Hofmann on Ernst Jünger


103 Years

In 1895, the year Ernst Jünger was born, Wilhelm II was holding the reins of the German Empire, while Wilhelm Rontgen experimented with the first X-rays machine. In 1998, when Jünger died at the age of 103, Pathfinder had already landed on Mars and Google was about to launch its campaign to conquer the digital world. In the course of his life, fit for a Biblical patriarch, Jünger survived two world wars, twice witnessed the passage of the Halley comet, and took part to the full unfolding of modernity. Yet, it would be fair to say that he was scarcely ever there. Whether fleeing to the Algerian desert, fighting in the mud in La Somme, or secluded in his hermitage in High Swabia, Jünger shared with monks and dandies the ability to be in the world, while remaining at an observant distance from it. He was a theoretician in the original meaning of the word: in a contemplative position even in the heat of battle.

It was as if sliding along an orbit around the present that Jünger managed to turn his perspective almost at 360 degrees, moving from the revolutionary conservatism of his youth, to the extreme existential anarchism of his old age. It was also for this reason that my first encounter with his work left me at once fascinated and skeptical. Jünger, the anarcho-nazi? How could anyone take this man seriously?
Yet, how could I remain indifferent to the flying architecture of his prose, the blade of his thinking, and the charm of his life? I learned to love Jünger against my ingrained ideological judgement, like a slowly acquired taste. Over the years I’ve kept returning to Jünger’s toolbox, and every time, without fail, I’ve found in it new weapons and methods to apply to my own existence.

Image as Target

This is where I was. Images taken not for their image; the file data from walking around the West Bank in 2012, a month before Pillar of Smoke started in Gaza, of spending weeks lying on my back looking at planes under the Jordan flight path, stupidly thinking they were drones. Or getting up at 5 in the morning to get a bus somewhere to go for a walk, either with people or without people. Of going to 5th Century AD Greek Orthodox monasteries that ISIS would be burning today if they were there. Of badly avoiding being a tourist or NGO worker in one place and an interloping gentile in the other. Of not wanting to take any sense of identity with me, either as a colonial and especially as a privileged artist/ hired gun.
 
Images taken because of I have always distrusted the image and not because of the cultural value in critiquing the occupation of Palestine, or the cultural value in discussing remote controlled surveillance and targeted assassinations. Distrusting an image is one of the few rights that I have as a person and it is both my responsibility and job when I have to call myself an artist. Those positions are not immutable or fixed, and neither, I - or my emotions - are fixed. I wish I could be a better, more objective conceptual artist who is coolly detached from the shit of the world but that would be a lie. What is underneath the surface of an image or embedded into it is a part-rejection and a part-suspension of things, it started by rejecting the social pandemic of the question or assumption that in an image: quantity of labour equals quality of an argument. The social/ cultural obsession with production, labour, sheen and veneer... Now, the labour is in the data of an image.
 
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