Editorial. Coexistence?!

by Pip Day, Marina Fokidis, Marcelo Rezende

Suzanne Kite and Devin Ronneberg, Ínyan Iyé (Telling Rock) (detail), 2019
Photo by Kyle Smith


It took us a while, we know, but luckily the new issue of South as a State of Mind is finally out and presumably in your hands!

Coexistence: easier said than lived…

“The impulse to reflect on what has been lived, the desire to process things by externalising them…” seems to be the way out of trauma, as described by prison abolitionist, writer and activist, Jackie Wang, in her text featured on the following pages. Our eleventh issue focusses on the ‘practice’ of coexistence – emotional, cultural geographical, financial – and other, as-yet-undefined modes of togetherness between living beings. Symbiosis, tolerance and radical hospitality are some of our wishes for a ‘being in common’.

Where do we start though, if we want to open up a possibility for discursive change to occur? Whose experiences are being narrated and why? Who defines what and where we are, at this very moment? How can we fight asymmetries and unjustified hierarchies within so-called ‘meta’ colonial times? How can we respond to the popularity of the ultra-right, authoritarian, nationalist governmental morphologies? How can we re-define the way our differences bring us together and celebrate them – as Audre Lorde suggests?

Diverse observations, dialogues and desires, weave new narratives en chemin, they are fluid and open to constructive complexification. These narratives  have as much to do with the people and places we encounter and relate to, as with our awareness of ourselves. Yet, we ask: from which vantage point do we perceive our surroundings? Maybe by questioning the notions of place, perspective and orientation, we can arrive at the formation of new vocabularies that encompass risk and danger but also promise new forms of solidarity and interconnectedness.

The current issue is partially inspired by various past ‘editorial’endeavours. One of them is a publication titled, Global Visions: Towards a New Internationalism in the Visual Arts (ed. by Jean Fisher), which stemmed from the Iniva symposium, A New Internationalism, held at the Tate Gallery (now Tate Britain) in London in 1994, a quarter of a century ago. What has really changed since then, besides the terminology? Two of the participants, Sarat Maharaj and Olu Oguibe address this question by responding to their original texts, which you will find reprinted in the issue.

Another inspiration is the Peruvian avant-garde journal Amauta, an ancestor we had never known before, but discovered during a visit to the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, less than six months ago. Curator, Natalia Majluf shares with us her concerns and the urgency of putting together an exhibition on the Avant-Garde Networks of Amauta in Argentina, Mexico and Peru during the 1920s. The third inspiration is found in Forough Farrokhzad’s film from the sixties titled, The House Is Black, an ode to radical coexistence, love, and togetherness. The writing duo Alphabet Collection revisit this twenty-minute ensemble of words, images, poetry and cinema and discuss its relevance for today.

The Other is a ghost, the ghost of the Other. Is there a real possibility to establish a new social pact that goes beyond the perpetually repeated clichés concerning what it means to share the same social space? This question could summarize today’s condition: the constant crisis observed in the political, economic and cultural arenas during the first two decades of this century. Embedded in this crisis, one can find corrupted democracy; the regimes of forces that are disguised as a conservative religious discourse; the distrust of politics as an organized system; the economy as an ideology in itself, that creates a strategy of convincement about the character of development, thus taking off the table any horizon of social justice. If this historical and cultural landscape can be understood as a description of our fever, what precisely would the disease be? Before any chance of a cure, a proper diagnosis is necessary.

This new issue of South as a State of Mind proposes a closer look at this political and social body, that strains under shock, stress and mental tiredness. However, this condition cannot be accepted as an end game of history. The possibilities of promoting a reaction are not dead and buried. For the Brazilian philosopher and psychoanalyst Christian Dunker, who contributes to the issue, the answer lies in finding a new space where the normative discourse, even if full of good intentions (the hell of good intentions), should be totally refused – opening the way – to a chance for a non-institutional answer. Less rules and more negotiations outside of the institutional frame are urgently needed.

What then could this process be?

Perhaps it is the gesture of renewing the concepts: ‘power’ and ‘rhythm’, as proposed by the Russian historian Zinaida Chekantseva; or the analysis of the ‘void’ as full, relational and political, as suggested by quantum physicist and queer theorist Karen Barad; or even the act of contextualizing knowledge production in the space-time of geographic ambiguity as discussed by curators and researchers, Binna Choi and You Mi.

New frameworks are needed for the decentred geographies and global liberation, that are attuned to the politics and aesthetics of social movements in the here and now – asserts writer, curator and professor of political philosophy and human rights Oscar Guardiola-Rivera. The fulfilments of this need might be met with the act of rebuilding the right to existence before any chance of co-existence, as is defined by Zapatista women in Mexico in a text compiled by Andrea Ancira and Sofía Olascoaga; or with the invention of alternative strategies to face the tragic everyday genocide of indigenous nations around the globe, as discussed in two different contributions by artists Suzanne Kite and Maȟpíya Nážiŋ as well as by president of The Corporation of Selk’nam People in Chile for the Resurgence and Revival of Cultural Identity, Hema’ny Nancy Molina Vargas.

As suggested by the artist and activist Jakob Jakobsen in his project “Hospital Prison University Archive”, everything is in the process of becoming.

Now we are looking at this organism in fever. The medicines accepted as the more efficient ones are no longer working. Everything is old, and at the same time everything is new, as the universal archive of minds shows every day. To continue with our metaphor, the thermometer is broken. How can we analyse this becoming? How can we reorganize an answer so that it is collective?

Vijay Prashad, director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research locates relief from this endless oscillation between despair and hope in building strong left movements and forming a genuinely socialist world; while curator Pierre Bal-Blanc – with his nomadic project, Collective Exhibition for a Single Body – and writer Sara Lee Burd – with her account of the Matanzas exhibition, part of the 13th Havana Biennial – offer two ‘medicinal’ alternatives that go beyond the cerebral.

How to live together is the eternal question. Without knowing, we are being entangled in the public body of the weather, proposes researcher and curator Daniel Blanga Gubbay; while artist and poet Cecilia Vicuña starts her poem – dedicated to this issue – with one possible answer to this proposal: “South is sawei: Sun in P.I.E. (Proto Indo European) Etymological Dictionary”.

Definite answers? These never surface. South as a State of Mind looks at the problem; it recognises that the sick body is still breathing.

Our eleventh issue on coexistence is offered for the first time to the ‘international’ public in Bamako, Mali, as part of the opening programme of the 12th Rencontres de Bamako / Biennale Africaine de la Photographie, which also celebrates twenty-five years of existence since its inauguration in 1994, the same year that the aforementioned Iniva symposium on forms of ‘new internationalism’ took place. Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, the Biennale’s artistic director, together with his team discuss the parameters that shaped their curatorial trajectory in a specially dedicated segment of this issue which acts as an extended topography of the Biennale itself.

Once more, we would like to thank all our friends: contributors, supporters, advisors, who continue to believe in us. It is not something evident, we know, and thus we really value their care and affection immensely. It is what gives us the possibility to ‘co- exist’.


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