Jun 21

Micro Intervention

mayongfeng , 11:42 , essay | 品味 , 评论(0) , 引用(0) , 阅读(11154) , Via 本站原创

Micro Intervention

Mi You

On a sunny May afternoon, a Chinese artist took a square in Bologna. The intervention with the title Micro Resistance in Bologna took place in Piazza Verdi, right in the heart of much Bologna University activities. From 4p.m. to 7p.m. the artist, Ma Yongfeng (founder, Forget Art collective), and a group of local volunteers used a significant part of the square as their base and worked together on a series of banners. The sun was burning hot. It ended when another planned protest was kicking start, where people gathered in the square around a van with DJs and MCs in it.

This intervention invites different readings, as the intention of the artist was not explicitly expressed in the beginning. The following may provide possible access to it.

>>>Reading from an artistic point of view

The aesthetics question for the artist has always been, how to make an artistic intervention in the public open space, instead of making just another protest? (The latter is itself another challenge, since public spaces are strictly controlled in the artist’s home country.) The artist launched himself into the production of what he envisions as an intervention work without necessarily answering these questions. The production process took a more significant role than the end product, and this artificial stretching of production itself poses a series of questions to the dominant form of a protest in which the artist and the volunteers operate. Firstly, materiality of the banners in the protest came to question. The artists wanted to achieve a “rough” look (quote from conversations with the artist), and gathered cardboards and markers for production – which are of course essential for every protest. The “readiness” and “unworkedness” qualities appreciated in an aesthetics setting aligns, intentionally or unintentionally, with the common practice on the street. Moreover, the very much work-in-process presentation right in the square acquired a different dynamics than the preparation making of a protest normally conceived. The atelier was in the public space, and the process consisting of moments of discussion and inspiration as well frustration and undecideness was entirely to be spotted, and blatantly true. The posters they produced were laid on the ground, and constructed a big cloud of consciousness. The artists, volunteers and the passers-by in the square were engaged in an act, whose scores and lines hid underneath the process of making it. In the duration of the intervention, it was never clear what would become of this production, but this wouldn’t make the artistic process any less valid, for being part of it is already the most important thing for the artist. As if to make this narrative a bit clearer, the artist himself painted a slogan quoting Zizek, “is this a revolt without revolution?” It offered a meta-layer critique of the energy, resources and work accumulated in the protests without channeling them into meanings around the world, and in the immediate surrounding of the square. The artist, by acting and not revolting, thereby embodied this critique. By precisely staging it, acting it, but not really doing it, this reveals the affective quality of politics, it defamiliarises the normalised situation of a demonstration.

The artist’s relation to the volunteers and passers-by is ambiguous. He didn’t engage them confrontationally, for example, he didn’t go around and ask people for their reactions. He rather preferred it in a way as if nothing has happened, or it isn’t clear what has happened. This was indeed how one feels, when going back to the square later. The posters and banners were still lying on the ground. Some passers-by stopped to read them. And the relation was constructed in those moments when nobody knew. Yet exactly this ambiguity offers a moment of ethical trueness in the myriad relations between the artist, active participants and passive participants, in that none of the present parties powers over another, and instead is more or less susceptible to the other. There is even an ethical demand that urges the audience to look at his or her own position in an event of present day politics.

>>>Reading from a political point of view

The name of the performance/intervention is Micro Resistance, as the artist views the space as a ground of micro resistances. This approach resonates to a certain extent to the thinking of De Certeau, and is underlined by the resistance to formalize, institutionalize or stagnate oneself. At the site of the intervention, however, one is puzzled by the political project, or cultural project, or any project at all, of the “resistance”. If the politics of everyday were to be understood by heart, it would have to be understood and activated by everybody. The activation part was partially achieved by the process of reflection of the artistic work – though at first seeing not necessarily deemed as artistic work, yet a networking of those activated thinking is largely missing. If we look at artists as creative singularities, whose explicit ideas on politics and the world stay more or less in the comfort zones of discourse that are constructed by artists themselves, we could trust that these discourses will have little influence over real lives. It is general consensus anyway that art cannot change politics directly, in the same way that art cannot boost the level of GDP. The general hope lies in the power of art to light up imaginations, however winded the way it may be to find its articulations and henceforth actions. In this regard, we cannot pronounce the effects of the artwork, as we cannot estimate the consequences of the rustle of a butterfly’s wings.

One could, however, regard this constellation as a test site for the free-flow of antagonistic relations in the Mouffe and Laclau way. Indeed, when we think of a well staged public protest of any nature, we tend to leave the internal structure of the protesting body out of question precisely because it is usually regarded as a unifying integrity against a somehow dramatized, evil other. Yet when one is in the middle of it, questions of levels and alignment of motive necessarily arise: the protesting body is itself an antagonistic body and could only survive as such. In light of this, the temporary uplifting of any logic at all in the case of Ma Yongfeng’s Micro Resistance serves exactly the need for self-criticality, despite the fact that it didn’t quite launch itself in the political realm.

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