5 May 2011: Screening of Jean-Luc Godard and Anne-Marie Mieville’s film Ici et Ailleurs and discussion on Hito Steyerl’s “The Articulation of Protest” and Simon Sheikh’s “Positively Protest Aesthetics Revisited” at Dynamo Project Space
One of the on-going discussions that we have been having for the past 3 years as part of Société Anonyme (and previously Art Night) has focused on the various demonstration movements in Greece since December 2008 (the initiative was founded that fall), and how as members of the art community we might position ourselves in relation to these movements, and articulate protest. This on-going concern has stemmed in part from the local media’s observation of artists’ and intellectuals’ notable absence from the front picketing lines for the first time in the country’s modern history. Given the recent uprisings around the Mediterranean and the contested economic measures in Greece, we chose to take a closer look at artist and filmmaker Hito Steyerl’s text “The Articulation of Protest” (2002) along with Simon Sheikh’s article “Positively Protest Aesthetics Revisited” (2010), which reconsiders Steyerl’s significant essay. In order to further examine Steyerel’s text, we also organized a screening of Jean-Luc Godard and Anne-Marie Mieville’s film “Ici et Ailleurs” (1975), on which the article is based, with the kind help and support of Dynamo Project Space.Though the short film was released over 30 years ago, it garnered the same unanimous reaction from all of those present, namely that it felt much more actual than most contemporary artworks dealing with the over-production and mass distribution of images. After the screening, our discussion mainly focused on how, by contrast to Godard and Mieville’s film, the majority of contemporary video and film works problematizing the over-production of readymade images tend not to formulate a legible critique or argument on this process, but instead indulge in ambiguous open-ended montages.
While we only briefly touched upon the texts, I did want to come back on one of Steyerl’s arguments in this entry, as it strikes me as being of particular relevance at this point in time. Taking her cue from Godard and Mieville’s complex film, Steyerl examines how the “voice of the people” is often falsely articulated through a simple additive equation using the conjunction “AND”, thus eliminating inherent contradiction among the ranks: the environmentalists “and” the trade unions “and” the feminists “and” “and” “and”. It is interesting to consider this argument in relation to the current Greek movement of ayanaktismenoi (“those who are fed-up”), which seems to have learned from the late 90s anti-globalization movements that the only way to create a unanimous “voice of the people” is by expressing a common disarticulated outcry of outrage. Such a shared sentiment certainly lends itself well to the process of image-making that frames events into readymade narratives. Perhaps, it is in consideration of this state of affairs that as members of the art community we might see the urgency of our renewed involvement. As Simon Sheikh concludes: “an ideological critique of images must pass through the production of images, with the critic as producer.”