"An effective concept of postmodern republicanism
must be defined au milieu on the basis of the
lived experience of the global multitude." (Michael
Republic is not about reforming a form of state,
nor countering the crisis of the nation-state, nor transforming
it into one or several super-states. Our investigations
focus on the concrete experiences of non-representationist
practices, the constituent activities particularly in
the movements against economic globalization. Yet, the
art of res publica does not imply acclaiming
a new global community with revolutionary pathos. It
is about experimental forms of organizing, which develop
in precarious micro-situations for a limited period
of time, testing new modes of self-organization and
interplays with other experiments. The "organizing
function" of art (Walter Benjamin) creates new
spaces in the overlapping zones of art practices, political
activism and theory production.
"We are experiencing a politicization that is
much more radical than any we have known before, because
it tends to dissolve the distinction between the public
and the private sphere - not in the sense of an invasion
into the private sphere by a unified public space, but
rather in the sense of a multiplication of radically
new and different political spaces." (Ernesto Laclau/Chantal
Public is neither preexistent substance nor
immutable terrain. What counts is not claiming or conceptualizing
a single public sphere (whether it is one exclusively
for privileged classes or for an all encompassing meta-public),
but rather permanently constituting plural public spheres
corresponding to the many facets of the multitude: a
multiplicity of public spheres, not imagined statically,
but rather as the becomings of articulatory and emancipatory
Such space-time situations create the preconditions
for mutually exchanging different positions, for the
different relating to the different. Their boundaries
are permeable, they themselves are neither exclusive-excluding,
It is not a matter of consensually unifying public
spheres, but rather of conflictually opening them. It
is not a matter of homogenization and total transparency,
but rather of permanent conflict, the constant renegotiation
of different positions. Public as a consuming voyeuristic
figure is unthinkable here; the reception of the spectacle
is countered by producing singular events, "public
man" is countered by plural modes of subjectification.
Public Art was already booming in the early
90s in manifold variations: participatory practices,
community arts, new genre public art, communication
guerilla, concrete interventions, activism, etc. introduced
a shift in artistic interests from questions of perception
to social and political activities. Temporary projects
prevailed over objects, communities over individual
artists, participation over art consumption.
Beginning in the mid-90s, more and more critical voices
accused these political art practices of depoliticizing
or even endorsing the implementation of neoliberal expansion.
Arguments given in support of this included the dubious
function of art projects in processes of gentrification
or in disguising the reduction of social state structures,
the appropriation of the projects as a means of tourism
marketing on behalf of enhancing city images, the instrumentalization
of the difference of marginal themes and groups, a return
of the "artist-father" through the back door.
As a partial aspect/effect of this wave of criticism,
there was a noticeable backlash in mainstream art as
well, a retreat into the old spaces, a return to issues
of perception and experience in reception.
Now, however, there are signs of a certain change again.
What was lacking in the practices of the 90s seems to
be given in a new situation: being embedded in a larger
context, being cross-connected with social movements.
Joining the heterogeneous activities against economic
globalization, the old forms of intervention art are
being transformed and new ones are emerging. In the
context of current political movements, art is becoming
public again. Around the issues and activist strands
of globalization, border regimes and migration, the
conditions are being created to get "revolutionary
machine, artistic machine and analytical machine working
as mutual components and gears of one another"
(Gilles Deleuze/Felix Guattari).
Translated by Aileen Derieg