The Year 2017
A Collective Chronicle of Thoughts and Observations
Welcome to what is going to be a collective chronicle of the year 2017! This journal will follow the general change that we experience in our daily lives, in our cities, countries and beyond, in the political discourses and in our reflections on the role of artists and intellectuals. Originating from several talks and discussions with fellow artists and thinkers FFT feels the strong need to share thoughts and feelings about how we witness what is going on in the world. Week after week different writers, artists, thinkers and scientists will take the role of an observer as they contribute to this collective diary.
#10 March, 6th - 12th
Geoffroy de Lagasnerie
Monday: What is the point of what we are doing?
I do not know what is happening, but all those around me who are writers, artists, theorists etc. are going through a period of crisis. They are unable to create. I also find this difficult. You have to subscribe to so many strange beliefs in order to write. And perhaps current international affairs, our sense of political powerlessness in the face of the disasters taking place, are causing us to ask questions: What is the point of what we are doing? Why theatre plays, paintings, performances, books?
And yet: How can we act so that what we do changes something for somebody somewhere?
Every cultural producer should ask themselves these questions. These questions should above all prevent American universities from sleeping. Because, in a country that has elected Trump, people should not be able to continue everything as in the past. There is a need to question the forms and images of knowledge.
When you go to the USA, there is something shocking about these campuses reserved for the bourgeoisie, frequently surrounded by black ghettos and poor white neighbourhoods. Sometimes I ask myself: Would it not be possible to claim that there is a link between the self-enclosing of the American academic field and the rise of reactionary or anti-intellectual ideologies in the public domain? The more universities close themselves off, the more they produce feelings of dispossession and cultural violence among those that are excluded. As if the walls of the university were saying to those left on the other side: “ this is not for you” or “what we are doing here is being done against you”. And the excluded can develop anti-intellectualist passions that may explain a form of insurrection against what they call "the system" or the "establishment": if the institution that embodies reason and progressivism excludes others, this necessarily produces a rejection of reason and progressivism.
Today I read The Supplicants by Jelinek. I have always liked radicalism, and it is a radical text on the crisis in welcoming refugees. The refugees talk to us. Or rather, they judge us, question us. Above all they do not apologise for being here. They do not subscribe to a xenophobic ideology of belonging: they are here, they have a right to be here and they assert this right.
There is a crucial passage in this book. The refugees address the public: do you vote? They say to the left-wing public: when you do not vote because you disagree with this or that candidate, because you do not find them sufficiently left-wing, remember that those who want to put us back out to sea will vote. That was an enlightenment for me. I said to myself: perhaps that is what it means to be left-wing: voting on behalf of those that do not vote: children, refugees, prisoners, dying animals.
Wednesday: Alice Smith
We sometimes spend an evening with friends listening to songs… Yesterday, we enjoyed listening to the same song throughout the entire evening, but in different versions. Like a form of “contest”. We listened to “I put a spell on you”. Three versions struck me: there is a superb version by Annie Lenox,
a very beautiful version, a duet, with Iggy Pop and Catherine Ringer
But I think my favourite is the version by Alice Smith in a tribute to Nina Simone
The programme for the Manchester International Festival has just been published: Thomas Ostermeier is preparing an adaptation of Retour à Reims by Didier Eribon.
I hastened to see this.
I know that this book has been a very great success in Germany. The press has explained this success by claiming the book offers an analysis of the swing towards the extreme right by the lower classes. This dimension is of course important. But I am convinced there is another dimension.
Retour à Reims is a work that reintroduces the language of the social classes when talking about the social word. It is a book that develops a theory of the subject, of shame, culture, school, relationships with parents based on a theory of the social classes, of domination, exploitation and symbolic violence. However, the language of the classes and sociological thinking have almost disappeared among the German public.
Many people have therefore experienced things that were not part of the public debate. There were no categories available to think or even see these. When Retour à Reims first appeared, all of a sudden readers understood something about what they were, what they had been. It is this enlightenment regarding the truth compared to false narrative that has created this enthusiasm.
Friday: Macron worries me
I can no longer stand the media presenting Emmanuel Macron, candidate in the French presidential election, as a “progressive”, “liberal” candidate, positioned beyond the right/left divide. When people say a person is liberal, I look at their proposals concerning prison, drugs or minority rights - normally, liberalism includes criticism of repression, the penalisation of drugs, and is favourable towards individual rights. But Macron is developing a repressive programme: he wants to build more prisons, to give more powers to the police, he favours continued prohibition of drugs, even of cannabis. That is not a liberal person. It is a conservative, a man of order…
It is also an insulter. Certain scenes are well known; for example, a few months ago while he was still Minister of the Economy, he reprimanded a worker for addressing him by his first name, because “a worker does not address a minister by his first name”. Macron is a man of hierarchy and obedience.
He recently opposed the extension of the rights of transsexuals by saying this shocked the "collective French psyche”! As if transsexuals were not part of the collective psyche, as if they were a foreign body in France!
Macron is a disturbing figure.
From an economic perspective, his programme involves dismantling employment legislation protecting employees, while at the same time reinforcing order – the order of social classes, the order of submission to the bosses and hierarchies in companies.
He wishes to implement the most neo-liberal recommendations of the European Commission in order to dismantle unemployment benefit, health insurance, pension insurance
Macron is not a progressive but rather a reactionary. He wants to go backwards.
He is a technocrat sustained by Christian spiritualism, and this is the worst combination. In his book, he says the current problem in France is egalitarianism… As if the problem in France is too much equality … that is obscene.
This lauding of order, of the hierarchy, of obedience, this figure of the providential man who communes with the people, this hatred of equality - all this creates a disturbing configuration that, in my opinion, borders on fascism.
Macron is not an alternative to Le Pen. They are both the products of the same configuration and of the same climate.
Macron worries me.
Saturday: It is not my fault
My friend Edouard Louis tells me he is sending a small book on Toni Morrison to his American editor. It is a superb text on violence - the violence we suffer and the violence we exercise. Edouard talks of the manner in which Toni Morrison engages in a discussion on refusal and guilt: It is not my fault. Don’t put the blame on me. I have reflected a great deal on this idea in my works on justice and crime: Where does the idea of individual responsibility come from? Should sociological thinking not allow us to place the causes of what we do outside of ourselves, and thus to exonerate ourselves? One of the essential questions for today is that of knowing how we could invent other means of dispensing justice and questioning the repressive apparatus of the state.
Sunday: Le monde
When I read through this newspaper I am saddened. I realise the extent to which my mental space is national – I talk about France and a little about Germany. I was thrown into the world in France, arbitrarily, and there we are - my mental space is defined by this membership of a state. I did not talk about other countries, other regions, other current affairs.
Whenever I had public discussions with Julian Assange or Sarah Harrison, I was always surprised by the ability of the WikiLeaks members to have a global perspective of the world, to always think of what is happening in Great Britain as being equally as important as what is happening in South Africa, in Ecuador, in Yemen, in Russia.
Someone told me that, if Snowden was attracting greater sympathy in Eastern Europe or in the United States than Manning or Assange, it was because the leaks made by Snowden involved white Westerners, while those of Manning via WikiLeaks involved Yemenites, Afghans, Iraqis..... I think this is very true.
I would like to succeed in adopting a global perspective of the world.
Translation: Graham Mead
Geoffroy de Lagasnerie is a philosopher and sociologist. He is a professor at the Ecole Nationale Superieure d'Arts in Paris-Cergy. Known author of "The Art of Revolt. Snowden, Assange, Manning". He is considered one of the most innovative young intellectuals in the field of critical and political theory.
#1 January 1st - 8th Jacob Wren
#4 January 20th - 30th Alexander Karschnia & Noah Fischer
#5 January 30th - February 6th Ariel Efraim Ashbel
#6 February 6th - 12th Laila Soliman
#9 February 26th - March 5th Gina Moxley
We are deeply saddened by the devastating news that Mark Fisher died on January 13th. He first visited the FFT in 2014 with his lecture „The Privatisation of Stress“ about how neoliberalism deliberately cultivated collective depression. Later in the year he returned with a video-lecture about „Reoccupying the Mainstream" in the frame of the symposium „Sichtungen III“ in which he talks about how to overcome the ideology of capitalist realism and start thinking about a new positive political project: „If we want to combat capitalist realism then we need to be able to articulate, to project an alternative realism.“ We were talking about further collaboration with him last year but it did not work out because Mark wasn’t well. His books „Capitalist Realism“ and „The Ghosts of my Life. Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Future“ will continue to be a very important inspiration for our work.
Podiumsgespräch im Rahmen der Veranstaltung "Die Ästhetik des Widerstands - Zum 100. Geburtstag von Peter Weiss"
A Collective Chronicle of Thoughts and Observations ist ein Projekt im Rahmen des Bündnisses internationaler Produktionshäuser, gefördert von der Beauftragten der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien.