Issue #139 Editorial


Issue #139
October 2023

If you believe in progress, the old and aged are always to blame for causing the persistent problems of the present, and the young, who supposedly come later, are the solution. This is all very tidy until you wake up one day to find yourself old—and observe that the young who blame you are also the young who are causing the problems of the future, just as you had in your own youth. In this issue, Luis Camnitzer offers advice to the aging—which, to be clear, means all of us—through an anecdotal contribution to the field of intergenerational dialogic studies. He discusses attempts at nonauthoritarian child rearing; his experience, while a student activist, of explaining an art historian’s own obsolescence to his face; and recent moments when he’s realized that his generation has become ineffective at communicating with the young. In other words, Camnitzer fears that his has become the generation suffering from “asshole syndrome”—a diagnosis he and his fellow students used to dole out. Age and power together form a complex configuration, which make empathy and self-assessment all the more important when communicating across generational lines.

Boris Groys argues that in an unfree society, the underground becomes a space where individuals can express themselves even when their actions appear trivial from the outside. In conversation with critic Anton Khitrov, Groys remembers the work of the late Ilya Kabakov, dissecting how introspection can respond to mass culture. Kabakov, suggests Groys, exemplified the complexities of Soviet unofficial art and the nuances of success in the art world. Ultimately, Kabakov’s questioning of the human condition, in the Soviet era and beyond, left a profound legacy.

Mario Tronti passed away in August. Here, we celebrate him by translating into English for the first time an essay from his 1998 book La politica al tramonto (Politics at sunset), where he responds to those who thought history was ending at the close of the twentieth century. Tronti instead argues that the workers movement was defeated not by capitalism, but by democracy. Tronti advocates for a new political freedom that transcends both modern and ancient forms of liberty, challenging liberal-democratic consensus and emphasizing the importance of injecting culture into modernity to counteract the ongoing barbarization of social relations.

Vanessa Machado de Oliveira Andreotti introduces the concept of “hospicing” modernity, to provide palliative care to an epoch in decline while nurturing the birth of something potentially wiser. In conversation with Lucia Pietroiusti, she challenges the illusion of our separability from nature, highlights the importance of collective rewiring, and calls for us to grow beyond the limitations of modernity.

KJ Abudu addresses the rise of anti-queer legislation in several African countries, and the potentials (and pitfalls) of two strategies employed by queer African scholars and activists: the tracing of anti-queer legislation to colonial origins, and the reclaiming of precolonial Indigenous queerness. In photographs by Rotimi Fani-Kayode, which challenge Western notions of queerness and gender by incorporating Yoruba onto-epistemological concepts, Abudu finds a path for an anti-colonial and anti-capitalist Afri-queer politics rooted in decolonial—and spiritual—revelation.

Alberto Toscano examines the persistence of fascism in the United States, tracing its roots back to the country’s history of enslavement, extermination, dispossession, and domination. Highlighting forgotten analyses of fascism by the Black radical tradition, Toscano argues that fascism is deeply enmeshed in the American experience and should not be dismissed as a foreign import, nor equated with the European interwar period.

Sven Lütticken delves into debates about historical materialism in the Black radical tradition, highlighting arguments by C. L. R. James and Sylvia Wynter on anti-colonial and class struggle, as well as challenges to the Hegelian dialectic by Frantz Fanon and Carla Lonzi. In a critique of contemporary art’s transformation into a commodified asset, Lütticken asks how “unexpected subjects” create divergent forms of life and social relations, some of which might also herald an emancipation from work.

As part of a series of writings on human extinction, Shane Greene discusses the contemporary rise of anti-natalism in an era of mounting environmental concern, plummeting global fertility, and the spread of industrial chemicals that alter human reproductive anatomy. Greene stresses the importance of considering gender and economic inequality in discussions of fertility and environmental responsibility, ultimately suggesting that we who live now, on this planet sinking under the weight of modernity’s false promises, may wish to have been the “never-born.”

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