Intellectual Workouts

Moscow Biennale25/09/15 00:49533

Feed your mind after filling your belly! Join Ilya Budraitskis, Tom McDonough, and Maya Van Leemput for conversations around issues relating to the 6th Moscow Biennale, 2:30-3:00 PM everyday by the keynote stage. Our intellectual workouts will mix sessions oriented around key texts and open discussions where we can pose questions related to artworks, recent talks, and the broader themes of the Biennale.


“It would be short-sighted […] to think of the imagined communities of nations as simply growing out of and replacing religious communities and dynastic realms. Beneath the decline of sacred communities, languages and lineages, a fundamental change was taking place in modes of apprehending the world, which, more than anything else, made it possible to ‘think’ the nation. […]

“The idea of a sociological organism moving calendrically through homogeneous, empty time is a precise analogue of the idea of the nation, which is also conceived as a solid community moving steadily down (or up) history. An American will never meet, or even know the names of more than a handful of his 240,000,000-odd fellow-Americans. He has no idea of what they are up to at any one time. But he has complete confidence in their steady, anonymous, simultaneous activity.”

From Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities



“A further touchstone that imposes itself on us in present times is the intense political commitment which sets the partisan apart from other fighters. The intensely political character of the partisan is crucial since he has to be distinguished from the common thief and criminal, whose motives aim at private enrichment. This conceptual criterion of his political character possesses—in its exact inversion—the very same structure as the case of pirates in maritime law, whose concept is based on the unpolitical character of his bad deed which aim at private theft and profit. The pirate is possessed of what jurisprudence knows as animus furandi [felonious intent]. The partisan, by contrast, fights on a political front, and it is precisely the political character of his action that brings to the fore again the original sense of the word partisan. The word is derived from Partei [party] and refers to the relation to some kind of fighting, warring, or politically active party or group. Such connections to a party are particularly strong in revolutionary times. […]

“In many cases the re-interpretation goes as far as a general symbolization and the dissolution of concepts. Any loner or non-conformist can now be called a partisan, whether or not he ever even considers taking up arms. It is permissible as a metaphor; I have used it myself in order to characterize historically influential figures and individualist fights on his own account and — if he has the courage — also at his own risk. He then simply becomes his own party adherent / partisan [Parteigänger]. Such conceptual changes are notable signs of the time which deserve to be kept in sight so that the theme does not dissolve into abstract generality. Such criteria are irregularity, increased mobility of the active combat, and a heightened intensity of political commitment.

“I want to insist on a fourth criterion of the genuine partisan, […] his tellurian character. It is significant for the essentially defensive situation of the partisan — despite his tactical mobility — whose nature changes when he identifies with the absolute aggressiveness of a world-revolutionary or technologizing ideology.”

From Carl Schmitt, The Theory of the Partisan



“One of the fundamental tasks of the State is to striate the space over which it reigns […]. It is a vital concern of every State not only to vanquish nomadism but to control migrations and, more generally, to establish a zone of rights over an entire ‘exterior,’ over all the flows traversing the ecumenon [from Greek oikoumenē, ‘the (inhabited) earth’]. If it can help it, the State does not dissociate itself from a process of capture of flows of all kinds, populations, commodities or commerce, money or capital, etc. There is still a need for fixed paths in well-defined directions, which restrict speed, regulate circulation, relativize movement, and measure in detail the relative movements of subjects and objects. […] It is not at all that the State knows nothing of speed; but it requires that movement, even the fastest, cease to be the absolute state of a moving body occupying a smooth space, to become the relative characteristic of a ‘moved body’ going from one point to another in a striated space. In this sense, the State never ceases to decompose, recompose, and transform movement, or to regulate speed. The State as town surveyor, converter, or highway interchange: the role of the engineer from this point of view. Speed and absolute movement are not without their laws, but they are the laws of the nomos, of the smooth space that deploys it, of the war machine that populates it. If the nomads formed the war machine, it was by inventing absolute speed, by being ‘synonymous’ with speed. And each time there is an operation against the State — insubordination, rioting, guerilla warfare, or revolution as act — it can be said that a war machine has revived, that a new nomadic potential has appeared, accompanied by the reconstitution of a smooth space or a manner of being in space as though it were smooth […]. It is in this sense that the response of the State against all that threatens to move beyond it is to striate space.”

From Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus

What sort of space do we reconstitute in a venture such as this Biennale? What potential do exhibitions and artistic / creative practices hold for articulating this subversive “nomadic potential?”


“The Thing From The Future is an imagination game that challenges players to collaboratively and competitively describe objects from a range of alternative futures.”

From Situation Lab, “The Thing From the Future”

Join Maya Van Leemput in a speculative design jam!


“Although exploitation and domination are still experienced concretely, on the flesh of the multitude, they are nonetheless amorphous in such a way that it seems there is no place left to hide. If there is no longer a place that can be recognized as outside, we must be against in every place. This being-against becomes the essential key to every active political position in the world, every desire that is effective — perhaps of democracy itself. The first anti-fascist partisans in Europe, armed deserters confronting their traitorous governments, were aptly called ‘against-men.’ Today the generalized being-against of the multitude must recognize imperial sovereignty as the enemy and discover the adequate means to subvert its power.

“Here we see once again the republican principle in the very first instance: desertion, exodus, and nomadism. Whereas in the disciplinary era sabotage was the fundamental notion of resistance, in the era of imperial control it may be desertion. Whereas being-against in modernity often meant a direct and / or dialectical opposition of forces, in postmodernity being-against might well be most effective in an oblique or diagonal stance. Battles against Empire might be won through subtraction and defection. This desertion does not have a place; it is the evacuation of the places of power.”

From Michael Hardt and Antonion Negri, Empire

Are “desertion, exodus, and nomadism” viable strategies for us? What, concretely, might they mean in our works and lives?



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