The problem, however, is not only the gradual phasing-out of national cultural institutions, together with their outdated canons of beauty and elitist ideals of identity. The deeper problem is that in order to survive as exploratory and transformative practices, and in order to generate enough interest and involvement to reconstitute a socialized cultural sphere under fresh auspices, the contemporary arts have to throw off their blatant or subtle dependence on the new corporate-oriented institutions that promote an opportunistic and flexible subjectivity. This is easier said than done, as is shown by the ambiguous relations between cultural producers on the museum circuit and activists seeking forms of organization for precarious labor. Because it is easy to invest a little anguish over the biopolitical instrumentalization of one’s own creativity, in order to produce a new niche product for the originality markets – and it’s just as facile to criticize that investment. Indeed, hyperindividualization and the capitalization of everything seems to be the very formula for the breakdown of the solidarities and the emergence of liberal fascism. What’s more difficult – as those involved in the precarity movements are discovering – is to create lines of invention and critique that reinforce each other in their differences, across professional and class divides. In this respect, the role of knowledge producers in recreating an ability to say “we” is potentially decisive. By pursuing a new transvaluation of the old national values, it may be possible to arrive at what is now lacking: a sustainable constitution of multiplicity. But there is no assurance whatsoever that his potential will be realized.
- Brian Holmes