What has become of the so-called West after the Cold War? Why hasn’t the West simply become “former,” as has its supposed counterpart, the “former East”? In this book, artists, thinkers, and activists explore the repercussions of the political, cultural, and economic events of 1989 on both art and the contemporary. The culmination of an eight-year curatorial research experiment, Former West imagines a world beyond our immediate condition.
The writings, visual essays, and conversations in Former West—more than seventy diverse contributions with global scope—unfold a tangled cartography far more complex than the simplistic dichotomy of East vs. West. In fact, the Cold War was a contest not between two ideological blocs but between two variants of Western modernity. It is this conceptual “Westcentrism” that a “formering” of the West seeks to undo.
The contributions revisit contemporary debates through the lens of a “former West.” They rethink conceptions of time and space dominating the legacy of the 1989–1990 revolutions in the former East, and critique historical periodization of the contemporary. The contributors map the political economy and social relations of the contemporary, consider the implications of algorithmic cultures and the posthuman condition, and discuss notions of solidarity—the difficulty in constructing a new “we” despite migration, the refugee crisis, and the global class recomposition. Can art institute the contemporary it envisions, and live as if it were possible?
Nancy Adajania, Edit András, Athena Athanasiou, Zygmunt Bauman, Dave Beech, Brett Bloom, Rosi Braidotti, Susan Buck-Morss, Campus in Camps, Dipesh Chakrabarty, Chto Delat?/What is to be done?, Jodi Dean, Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Angela Dimitrakaki, Dilar Dirik, Marlene Dumas, Keller Easterling, Charles Esche, Okwui Enwezor, Silvia Federici, Mark Fisher, Federica Giardini and Anna Simone, Boris Groys, Gulf Labor Coalition, Stefano Harney, Sharon Hayes, Brian Holmes, Tung-Hui Hu, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Sami Khatib, Delaine Le Bas, Boaz Levin and Vera Tollmann, Isabell Lorey, Sven Lütticken, Ewa Majewska, Suhail Malik, Artemy Magun, Teresa Margolles, Achille Mbembe, Laura McLean, Cuauhtémoc Medina, Sandro Mezzadra, Walter D. Mignolo, Aernout Mik, Angela Mitropoulos, Rastko Močnik, Nástio Mosquito, Rabih Mroué, Pedro Neves Marques, Peter Osborne, Matteo Pasquinelli, Andrea Phillips, Nina Power, Vijay Prashad, Gerald Raunig, Irit Rogoff, Naoki Sakai, Rasha Salti, Francesco Salvini, Georg Schöllhammer, Christoph Schlingensief, Susan Schuppli, Andreas Siekmann, Jonas Staal, Hito Steyerl, Mladen Stilinović, Paulo Tavares, Trịnh Thị Minh Hà, Florin Tudor, Mona Vătămanu, Marina Vishmidt, Marion von Osten, McKenzie Wark, Eyal Weizman
FORMER WEST: Art and the Contemporary after 1989. Eds. Buden, Boris, Maria Hlavajova and Simon Sheikh. Utrecht: BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, 2016. (essay).
Schuppli abstract: In this essay I argue that a certain algorithmicity lies at the heart of law, which has expressed itself explicitly through two distinct institutional mechanisms, each of which has responded to the consequences of state and colonial violence in very different ways. As a paradigmatic rule-based system, the international criminal tribunal established during the post-war period offers a useful setting for analyzing the computational logic inherent to law—the ways it both underwrites its legal principles and organizes its proceedings. Whereas the truth and reconciliation commission, also created during the latter half of the twentieth century to adjudicate over the historical wrongs of colonialism, yields a powerful counter model for exploring the condition of incomputability as well for reflecting upon the limits of the law in relationship to public demands for justice. In contrast to the instrumental programs of criminal tribunals, truth commissions support diverse modes of interaction and display that emphasize the production of alternate political imaginaries and encourage novel forms of testimony. Postcolonial and post-conflict subjects that enter into these paralegal assemblies tend to engage in methods of address figured around incomputability and incommensurability and thus come to challenge the protocols of inherited judicial forums governed by rational imperatives to get at truth through a calculus of maximal legibility.