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Art, Enclave Theory and the Community to Come

Art, Enclave Theory and the Community to Come

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Published by Yaiza Hernández
John Roberts
John Roberts

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Published by: Yaiza Hernández on Apr 15, 2013
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This article was downloaded by: [Kingston University Library]On: 07 September 2011, At: 06:32Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registered office:Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK
Third Text
Publication details, including instructions for authors and subscriptioninformation:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/ctte20
Introduction: Art, ‘Enclave Theory’ and theCommunist Imaginary
John RobertsAvailable online: 04 Aug 2009
To cite this article:
John Roberts (2009): Introduction: Art, ‘Enclave Theory’ and the Communist Imaginary,Third Text, 23:4, 353-367
To link to this article:
PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLEFull terms and conditions of use:http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionsThis article may be used f or research, teaching and private study purposes. Any substantial orsystematic reproduction, re-distribution, re-selling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply ordistribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden.The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make any representation that thecontents will be complete or accurate or up to date. The accuracy of any instructions, formulaeand drug doses should be independently verified with primary sources. The publisher shall notbe liable for any loss, actions, claims, proceedings, demand or costs or damages whatsoever orhowsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with or arising out of the use of thismaterial.
Third Text, Vol. 23, Issue 4, July, 2009, 353–367 
 Third Text 
 ISSN 0952-8822 print/ISSN 1475-5297 online © Third Text (2009)http://www.tandf.co.uk/journalsDOI: 10.1080/09528820903116494
 Art, ‘Enclave Theory’ and the CommunistImaginary
 John Roberts
 What is rarely discussed with the recent rise of relational and post-rela-tional aesthetics is its reflection on communist form and the communistimaginary.
 Indeed Nicolas Bourriaud’s
Relational Aesthetics
 is not justindebted to the aesthetic informalities of post-conceptual postmodernism(aesthetic drift, intertextuality, anti-form), or to the whole gamut of post-1960s sociability in art,
 but, more precisely, to the general reflections oncommunist practice and communist form on the French left in the 1980sand early 1990s. This is a heterodox tradition (Deleuze and Guattari,Nancy, Badiou) in which communist form and practice is both de-Stalin-ised politically and
 culturally. In this regard the earlyMarx’s emphasis on the radical and revolutionary function of 
 (communities of collective self-learning) comes to define non-statist andautonomous forms of productive, intellectual and creative community.Accordingly, this political writing, at one level, dovetails with the revivalof various autonomist kinds of thinking in Europe during the late 1980sand 1990s which also brings together the critique of Stalinism and neo-liberalism and reflections on cultural form, in particular Toni Negri’spolitical philosophy (although these traditions are by no means conver-gent). Thus, what Bourriaud borrows from this milieu is a kind of anti-doctrinal communist praxis in which notions of artistic community standin for a critique of debased public notions of bourgeois community anddemocracy and the anti-democratic vicissitudes of neo-liberalism as awhole. Suffice it to say, there has been no shortage of this kind of utopian‘enclave’ practice and dialogic practice in advanced art from the mid-1960s: the Artists Placement Group, Pete Dunn and Lorraine Leeson,Group Material, Helen and Newton Harrison, and the Critical ArtEnsemble all come to mind. But what Bourriaud’s writing in the late1990s codified – certainly within the confines of the internationalartworld – was the generalised demand and interest in new forms of sociability in art, in a culture that was suffering from neo-liberalism’srelentless frontal attack on the remnants of social democracy, and thenarrowing of the political. The cultural critique of this new political
 1.The exception to the rulebeing
Make Everything New: A Project onCommunism
 , GrantWatson, Gerrie van Noord,Gavin Everall, edsBookworks/Project ArtsCentre, London andDublin 2006.2.Nicolas Bourriaud,
Relational Aesthetics
 ,Simon Pleasance andFronza Woods, with MCopeland, trans, Lespresses du reel, Dijon,2002
   D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   K   i  n  g  s   t  o  n   U  n   i  v  e  r  s   i   t  y   L   i   b  r  a  r  y   ]  a   t   0   6  :   3   2   0   7   S  e  p   t  e  m   b  e  r   2   0   1   1
 settlement was forged, however, as was the libertarian communist writingin the 1980s in France, in conditions of massive political retreat for theworking class internationally, particularly after 1989–1990 and the finalcollapse of Stalinism – despite all the rhetoric of new political times. Inthis respect Bourriaud’s relational theory tends to draw mainly on theutopian-aesthetic motifs of the 1980s libertarian communist turn, at theexpense of the tradition’s re-politicisation of labour. His model of socia-bility has little place for artists’ collaboration with workers, and art’scritique of the value form – a concern of the historic avant-garde(Benjamin and Constructivism) and earlier socially interactive practice –but is grounded in the possibilities of democratic exchange between artist-professionals and non-artistic collaborators and spectators. And thistheme, generally, could be said to dominate much contemporaryrelational and post-relational art practice: ‘communist form’ – or whatBourriaud calls in the plural a ‘communism of forms’
 – is primarily iden-tified with the free exchange of ideas within self-enclosed creativecommunities. Consequently, in contrast to the classical Marxist traditionwith its generalised attack on utopianism,
 there is a deliberate braidinghere of the communist imaginary with the traditions of a utopian commu-nalism. In conditions of political retreat or ‘closure’ the function of thecommunist imaginary is to keep open the ideal horizon of egalitarianism,equality and free exchange; and art, it is judged, is one of the primaryspaces where this ‘holding operation’ is best able to take place. Indeed,this ‘holding operation’ might be said to be the invariant communist-structure-in-dominance of so much contemporary art that takes its pointof departure from relational thinking. As such, there is a bigger picture atstake here.Any critique of the convergence of the communist imaginary withimages of utopian communalism derives, clearly, from the fact that sucha convergence is prone to produce all manner of familiar idealisms,substitutionalisms and mystifications in art and politics. This isprecisely, and for good reason, the basis of Marx and Engels’s critique of communism-posing-as-speculative-utopianism within the First Interna-tional.
 But what is interesting about the status of this critique currentlyis that the link between the utopian and the communist imaginary ispresently far more capacious than any standard or classical ideology-critique of utopianism can neutralise. For, to reverse the usual order of things, utopianism in this current moment actually provides a pathway
 through to
 communist form and praxis.
 This is why we might talkabout the burgeoning of a post-Stalinist communist-utopianism across awhole number of cultural practices and theoretical disciplines, in whichthe redemption of ‘communist thinking’ and ‘communist form’ becomesthe vehicle for a utopian cultural politics or ‘messianic’ politics now.Indeed, the utopian imaginary and the communist imaginary converge.
 Slavoj iek’s
In Defense of Lost Causes
 (2008) is perhaps the ur-textcurrently of this reversal: a messianic defence of communist praxis as autopian disaffirmation of the present:
[T]he eternal Idea of [communist revolution] survives its defeat in socio-historical reality. It continues to lead an underground spectral life of theghosts of failed utopias, which haunt the future generations, patientlyawaiting their next resurrections.
Z ˇ zˇ 
 3.Nicolas Bourriaud,
Postproduction: Culture asScreenplay: How Art Reprograms the World 
 ,Lukas & Sternberg, NewYork, 20004.Frederick Engels and KarlMarx,
The Communist Manifesto
 , Frederic LBender, ed, Norton, NewYork and London, 1988,p 845.Frederick Engels and KarlMarx, ‘Fictitious Splits inthe International’, in KarlMarx and Frederick Engels,
Collected Works
 , vol 23,Lawrence & Wishart,London, 1987, andFrederick Engels and KarlMarx,
The Communist Manifesto
 , op cit, 1988,p 846.For a recent defence of theutopian imaginary fromwithin the Marxist(Morrisonian) tradition, seeSteve Edwards, ‘TheColonisation of Utopia’, in
William Morris: David Mabb
 , Whitworth ArtGallery, University of Manchester, Manchester,2004. Morris’sachievement ‘was to acceptthe Marxist critique of Utopian Socialism whilerefusing the injunction onthinking about the future: inthe process he castutopianism in an activistmode’, p 177.See for example, MariaGough,
The Author asProducer: RussianConstructivism inRevolution
 , CaliforniaUniversity Press, 2005, andChristina Kiaer,
ImagineNo Possessions: TheSocialist Objects of Russian Constructivism
 ,MIT Press, Cambridge,Mass, and London, 2005.Both books re-historicisethe critical resources andproductive aporias of Productivism andConstructivism, as modelswith ramifications forsocialised practices now.That is – certainly inGough – the factory-basedexperiments of Productivism in the SovietUnion in the 1920s areshown not to be a finished
   D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   K   i  n  g  s   t  o  n   U  n   i  v  e  r  s   i   t  y   L   i   b  r  a  r  y   ]  a   t   0   6  :   3   2   0   7   S  e  p   t  e  m   b  e  r   2   0   1   1

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