Editors’ Note. Open for Maintenance
by Marina Fokidis, Monika Szewczyk
Welcome back to South as a State of Mind. It seems like yesterday when we began in 2012, in Athens, “possessed by a spirit of absurd authority” guided by ideas that derive from southern mythologies. These proved powerful for facing down an image of our future—an image presented to us as bleak and closed, after much rational calculation.
We never thought of the ‘South’ in purely geographical terms. For us, it stood and still stands as a parableupon which we build our endless quest for imaginaryterritories where intellectual freedom, as well as new/old methodologies, new/old ways, new/old pasts andnew/old presents, even new/old words, can flourishbeyond any sense of compromise and any tactics ofcrypto-colonisation.
Within history (and the realms of theory, political science, and contemporary art practice), the notion of the ‘Global South’ has provided a strong defensive mobilisation against the hegemony of the North. At times, however, efforts to forge a counter-discourse to hegemony can become hegemonic themselves. Models of inclusionand exclusion, even if profoundly necessary whenformed and adopted, can eventually defeat their own purpose. So, we have continued to ask ourselves: How can the very ideas of liberation and self-determination escape the subjective viewpoint of the ‘author’ that brings them together? Rather than articulating, re-articulating and otherwise fixating on a series of presupposed cultural and historical traits, we have tended to question time and place as they are perpetually shaped. South stands for direction and movement and questioning. How is the notion of “common post-colonial heritage” upheld in times of this thriving neo-colonialism, triggered by the global economy?
During the course of making our first five issues, South became a gathering place for shared intensities, for placing sovereignties in relation, for a growing affective network. The axiom of “South as a State of Mind” has always cohered for us more as a space of resistance than an affirmation. Then, in 2015, the magazine became the journal of documenta 14 for its sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth issues under the editorship of Quinn Latimer and Adam Szymczyk. The idea that a small independent magazine would temporarily ‘host’—metaphorically speaking of course—a large establishment such as documenta expressed the urge to further the debate around Institutional Critique. This has proven crucial to our being. The results are forever part of our evolving history and we will remain welcoming to all the ideas, attitudes and characters that sustained and transformed South as a State of Mind, putting us in contact with many new readers and collective ways of learning.
But where do we go from here?
How can we re-emerge from the glorious and beautiful ruins of the four documenta 14 issues, and forge an economy for our future? The future of an independent and moderately sized magazine that continues to come out of Athens today?
“There should be as many magazines as there are valid states of mind” notes Antonin Artaud in his text There Aren’t Enough Magazines, which Quinn and Adam so pertinently invoked in their farewell letter in South as a State of Mind #9. May there also be as many magazines as there are valid economies. But how few of those exist today …
What if, momentarily, we render economy as a state of mind? And ‘self-possessed’ once more, against all pragmatic odds, open South as a State of Mind (magazine) for maintenance? It is in this state—of mind, of economy—that we found many ‘fellow travellers’ whom you will meet in this issue. Sharing ideas and ways of knowing as well as institutional platforms, editorship, contributions, design, financial support, advertisements, advice and pure bonding, we gather together in order to imagine a genuine possibility for ‘democracy’ which puts the citizen, the privileged city-less cosmopolitan, the refugee, the immigrant, the proletarian, the peasant, and myriad marginalised subjects into vital, changeable (not hierarchical) association.
Now, a new cycle begins, but it is not a clean slate. Let’s not obsess about cleanliness, even if maintenance is required. Carefully preserving the multiple traits of our history across all nine previous issues we have opened the windows to let new winds in. We need to understand the challenges of real life and shape a structure which could be sustainable and have longevity, so that as we invent our tradition the magazine continues to be reconfigured, rethought and redesigned, always to meet the everyday needs of real life.
Our deepest gratitude goes to all those who trusted us so far with their contributions, shaped our editorial and advisory committees, financially supported our ideas and gave flesh and bone to our endeavour. A big thank you goes to the Goethe Institut as well as to the Schwarz Foundation, among others, as without their help this magazine would not be in your hands today.
For this crucial tenth issue of South as a State of Mind, we wanted to fully embody the transitional state of staying afloat in which we find ourselves—maintaining our energy, maintaining the sovereignty that strengthens this particular state (of mind), nurturing friendships (including the commitment to Athens as a base and to the South as parable for shared direction) and thereby maintaining and growing our networks of resistance to the increasingly violent spread of empire across this planet. But what does it mean to maintain? If the word at first strikes you as vaguely conservative or at odds with the productive or creative or sexy vocabularies put in the service of art and culture (which remain our preoccupations) please stay with us. The pages that follow, the contributors who use them fully, open up this much-maligned method.
The open, South-facing window on to our world reveals many attempts to hold on to—to maintain—tyrannical power, hegemony or what Suely Rolnik terms the broad “Abuse of Life.” Within these regimes and within their molecules that burrow deep inside most of us, a “colonial-capitalistic unconscious” reduces the subjective experience to the consciousness of a subject. In defiance, Rolnik outlines steps for harnessing worldwide power by constructing the commons based on empathy and resonance. Likewise, through his critique of Berlin’s Humboldt Forum—portrayed as a choking institution—Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung advises us to listen to the voices that do not occupy the epicentre, even to dismantle the epicentre as a whole. Through her involvement with the Public Archive of the State of Bahia in Brazil, Ana Pato further confronts the institutionalisation (and erasure) of memory produced by Western colonial society. In contrast, in the collective reimagining of Indigenous institutions, as narrated by Sandra Benites and Pablo Lafuente, memories remain “important to identifying the paths for stepping ahead; not for creating more misunderstandings beyond those that were already created.” Rather, “what is aimed at is not the solution of problems, but their prevention, and the creation of tools that appear alongside histories.”
Another type of tool gets a sharpening: the facsimile of Mierle Laderman Ukeles’s original Manifesto for Maintenance Art and Proposal for the Exhibition “Care”, written nearly half a century ago, presents the full spectrum of maintenance activity (reproduction, attention, cleaning) as forms of art and potentially revolutionary acts. Writing between turns at the picket lines surrounding Goldsmiths University where she teaches, Marina Vishmidt’s “Pure Maintenance” picks up on the problems set out by Ukeles (“the sourball of every revolution: […] who’s going to pick up the garbage on Monday morning?”, which finds echoes in a poem by Wisława Szymborska we have also republished), and connects them to a necessarily ongoing project of negation, or what she terms, with Isabelle Stengers, “a planetary struggle against the totality of the capital relation.” The ramifications of this struggle in today’s Venezuela are fully felt in Ángela Bonadies’s The Kitchen, an image-text essay comprised of video stills and a manifesto that casts the notion of maintenance ambiguously: a loving look at a cook (which manages to respect her wish to remain unrecognisable) and words for the tenacious grip on power by the Bolivarian government whose leader seeks total visibility. Attempts at maintaining state power by monopolising narration in Turkey, and “a double case of maintenance violence” in Greece are further investigated by Ayse Çavdar and Angela Dimitrakaki respectively.1
The aforementioned questions of (hegemonic) narration combine with questions of cultural misappropriations, which exploit misery as if it were a commodity in the contributions of the film writer Miquel Martí Freixas and the director Luis Ospina (in dialogue with Ángela Bonadies). They explore the dynamics of Pornomiseria, a term deployed by Ospina with his collaborator Carlos Mayolo in the making of Agarrando Pueblo or “The Vampires of Poverty”, Carlos Mayolo. This section may be read as much alongside Yorgos Tzirtzilakis’s complex historical, geopolitical and poetic articulation of “joy-making mourning”—a deft counter to the widespread assumption, which has captured the Northern/Western imaginary, that “the Greeks are a happy people”—as alongside the text which immediately follows it, the story of another pueblo by Lucy Lippard.
Lippard’s excerpt from her forthcoming chronicle of Galisteo, the tiny New Mexican town she chose as her home a quarter of a century ago, combines geological, agricultural and historical times as well as the human time of individuals and groupings. Jorge Garcia’s account of Mesoamerican calendrical cycles governed by the movement of bodies much greater than our human flesh—the Sun, the Moon, Venus and this blue planet—further unsettles the centrality of (Western) humans in the telling of history. And Megha Ralapati’s consideration of the living root bridges of Meghalaya, built and maintained across generations, defies prevailing notions of “art made by individuals”, as Ukeles already questioned. These texts may prompt a rereading of contributions by Rolnik, Ndikung, Vishmidt or Lafuente and Benites for signs of new or newly germinating forms of life, and new or renewed ways of keeping time.
Our own relaunch syncs with the opening of the 10th Berlin Biennale, whose curators and selected artists contribute a crucial segment to this issue. Gabi Ngcobo and her team comment on assumed beingness and know-hows in “I’m Not Who You Think I’m Not a Manifesto.” South becomes an active site of this biennale, a venue for its public programme and a partner in their collective synergy for self-preservation. Among the contributions is the poem “High Tide” by Koleka Putuma, published in our pages for the first time and exclusively. The new edition of South is offered to the public under these verses at May-Ayim-Ufer in Berlin. May the sirens for which the poet writes send their blue light and their blessings to our restart.
1 As we each solicited, read and discussed different contributions to this issue, we noted different preoccupations and interpretations, in distinction to all these attempts to control meaning. Many of our South as a State of Mind working sessions occurred in kitchens, in Athens and Kassel, also Salvador, Berlin and Vancouver, so it seems all the more fitting now that a still from Ángela Bonadies’s video The Kitchen also appears on our cover, even if we chose this image a long time ago.