MAY WE LIVE IN INTERESTING TIMES - THE POLITICS AND POETICS OF AMBIVALENCE
Text in English
1st Edition of 30
135 x 190 mm
Designed by : Studio Janne Beldman
Printed in The Netherlands, April 2021
This publication is a preliminary attempt to conceptualise the link between political and artistic thinking : how a political crisis spills into the artistic practices, how an artistic practice can have political outcomes, and ultimately how crisis redefines the very realms of politics and aesthetics.
Situating the neoteric political upheavals in Hong Kong (a city living on borrowed time, borrowed space as they say) in a much longer historical stream of colonialism, the book tries to provide on one hand a first-person analysis of how an ambivalent cultural identity came into formation, on the other hand examining from the position of a practising artist on the ambiguity in aesthetics - the essential ambivalence that manifest itself profoundly particularly in installation arts - an ambiguous object living on borrowed time, borrowed space in the realm of arts. I glimpsed in it a possibility in offering an alternative comprehension of our contemporary era, which many have defined as an interregnum (Antonio Gramsci). In such periods, hegemonic order fails to deal with all sort of crises in a promising way, yet a new political paradigm that can sufficiently handle them is not yet invented. This may hint us to a new political paradigm that attempts to deal in an affect-driven way with this world of rambling casualties. Such a politics is based on the recognition and understanding of ourselves and our societies as fundamentally ambivalent, behind every problem there may not lie somewhere a good and neat solution, and we should learn to be more comfortable with a permanent oscillating nature of wisdom.
Conceived at Master Artistic Research, The Royal Academy of Arts The Hague
(At the back cover of the book)
May you live in interesting times is widely spread as being of ancient Chinese origin but is neither Chinese nor ancient, being recent and western. It seems to sound oriental, in the faux-Chinese Confucius he say style, but that's as near to China as it actually gets. Ask any Chinese friend about this expression, probably they have never heard it before. Slavoj Žižek in his book Demanding the Impossible has noted when he was in China, people actually told him the phrase is coming from Western people. It is typical how something is attributed to certain people and when you go to them, they don’t know anything about it. While purporting to be a blessing, this is in fact a curse. The expression is meant to use ironically, with the clear implication that 'uninteresting times', of peace and tranquillity, are more life-enhancing than interesting ones.
Somehow, historically, ‘interesting times’ have been periods of unrest, war and struggles for power in which millions of innocents suffered the consequences. Today we definitely live in interesting times.
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