The new abduction of Europe: debt, war, democratic revolutions

Rembrandt. The Rape of Europe. 1632. Digital image courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program, The Paul Getty Museum
Rembrandt. The Rape of Europe. 1632. Digital image courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program, The Paul Getty Museum

This encounter reflects on the formation of a new type of European political and cultural agency following the exhaustion of a union based on the market economy and on the precarious geopolitical balance of the States.

Organised within the framework of The Uses of Art , a project by the European museum network L´Internationale, this event reflects on the formation of new cultural and political agents as a result of the insufficiency of the institutional structures that have articulated the European project up to now. Structured into workshops and round tables, the event seeks to pave the way for a renewed social pact between institutions and civil society.

The reasons that the institutional structures have proven insufficient are various and complex.  On the one hand, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, which reduced the need for a united Europe as anti-Soviet as it had originally been anti-Fascist. Another factor was the primarily economic slant of the EU process in the 1990s, which neglected the cultural and political foundations that would make the European project capable of responding to the processes of democratic agency in a society in continuous transformation.

A new “abduction of Europe” has occurred but this time it is not the crafty Zeus who, charmed by the Phoenician woman named Europa, abducts her in order to offer her the pleasure and glory of the Greek kingdom. Instead, it is financial logic that abducts her, and at a very high price: the very identity of Europe as the potential for change and for democratic emancipation. Spurred by this dramatic urgency, the encounter intends to help lay the foundations of a radically new form of political and cultural agency. Aware of the changes occurring in the world system and of the end of liberal public sphere, The new abduction of Europe seeks the emergence of new actors arising from collective intelligence and the transformation of museums and cultural institutions in recognition.

Despite an almost existential precariousness, it is the world of art and of the new cognitive work movements that have most theorised and practiced a different Europe, conceiving of it as a space in which to imagine a new critical and common process. An expectation which, in the framework of L’Internationale –a museum network based on horizontality between institutions and also between institutions and society– tries to define a common vocabulary, so as to bolster a unifying project that breaks through the border between debate and action and that, in short, thinks about the potential and accumulation of culture in times of austerity and scarcity.

Program

Opening Session
27 February, 2014. 7:00 - 8:30 p.m.

7:00 - 7:30 p.m. Introduction by Manuel Borja-Villel, Zdenka Badovinac and Bartomeu Marí
7:30 - 8:30 p.m. Conversation with Jesús Carrillo, Antonio Negri, and Raúl Sánchez Cedillo

The invited speakers will talk about the functions of Europe in the artistic and political imagination of the 21st century, following one hundred years of exhaustion of colonial Europe and the idea of nation-states. Europe is viewed as a tragedy of brotherhood and anti-fascism, as well as a constant strife for political and institutional creations, quite distant from the images of the people passed down to us from Romanticism.

Round Tables
28 February and 1 March, 2014

The event will have two round tables, with important European thinkers, which will be open to the public and also streamed live. At both debates there will be active moderation and a direct dialogue with members of the audience, those present physically and those participating through the social networks. The two tables will examine the most pressing questions related to Europe’s present.

Session 1  
28 February. 6:30 - 9:30 p.m.

Round table 1. Organising in times of institutional crisis. Dialogue between Antonio Negri, Valery Alzaga and Ada Colau. Moderated by Raúl Sánchez Cedillo

The austerity policies put in place by European governments through the Troika have turned a financial crisis into a project bent on the destruction of social and workers’ rights, and they have established a regime of infinite debt on individuals and institutions. But new political and institutional creations are demonstrating that debt and democracy based on citizen participation and on social rights are incompatible. In these creations we get a glimpse of prototypes of a Europe made from the bottom up, out of the sense of brotherhood of the social struggles and self-organisation by citizens.

Round table 2. New democracies and forms of the commons. Dialogue between Isabell Lorey, Montserrat Galcerán and Marina Garcés. Moderated by Raúl Sánchez Cedillo.

The ideal of social and political citizenship in Europe has never been more than a distant aspiration, constantly belied by the facts. While in effect, it was dominated by a white, male, industrial, national and state-oriented figure. And with the hegemony of the neoliberal paradigm, even the collective reference associated with the working class and union movements has disappeared. The “government of the precarious” is imbued with individualism and the abandonment of collective solidarities. However, the practices of the commons, both those linked to the “natural commons” (water, land, renewable energies) and those linked to the “artificial commons” (knowledge, care-giving, networks) enable us to imagine a Europe united by new institutions of the commons, born out of cooperation and care-giving between precarious lives that have taken the form of a challenge.


Session 2  
1 March. 6:30 - 9:30 p.m.

Round table 3. Europe as a province. Dialogue between Ranabir Samaddar, Sandro Mezzadra and Jesús Carrillo. Moderated by Francesco Salvini

The ambiguity of the European project can be seen in its very history. The antifascist brotherhood of the “founding fathers” never questioned the colonial and imperialist reality of the founding nations. The return of the repressed lives in the peripheries of European cities, as the post-colonial reality; banlieue, internal borders and the political exclusion of millions of people. At the same time, the convulsions of the globalisation process all over the world put the continent in a provincial position, i.e. no longer central. The end of the colonial legacy of the European nations is considered a condition for democratic emancipation on the continent.

Round table 4. For a new social contract on culture. Dialogue between Bojana Piskur and Hilary Wainwright. Moderated by Yaiza Hernández

Culture, which was one of the pillars of the ideological reconstruction of Europe after the war, has seen its enlightened foundations slowly erode as a result of its enclosure in the market and in art institutions, and because of its distance from society’s conflicts and contemporary subjectification processes. What would be the basic elements of this new contract that would put culture at the centre of social emancipation processes?


Participants

Valery Alzaga. Chicana union organiser and migrant rights activist. She has also worked as a union co-ordinator in Europe and Africa. She is researching the development of new forms of bio-unionism and emotional organisation.

Zdenka Badovinac. Director of Moderna Galerija in Ljubljana (Slovenia) since 1993. Curator and art historian. Founding and executive member of the European museum network L’Internationale.

Manuel Borja-Villel. Director of Museo Reina Sofía since 2008. He has also been the director of Fundació Tàpies (1990-1998) and of MACBA (1998-2007). Executive member of the European museum network L´Internationale.

Jesús Carrillo. Head of Cultural Programs at Museo Reina Sofía and professor of art history at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid.

Ada Colau. Activist and spokesperson of PAH (Platform for Mortgage Victims). She has been involved in numerous social movements since 2001. She is the co-author, along with Adriá Alemany, of the book Vidas hipotecadas. De la burbuja inmobiliaria al derecho a la vivienda (2012).

Montserrat Galcerán. Professor of philosophy at Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Social activist and writer, she is the author of Innovación tecnológica y sociedad de masas (1997) and Deseo (y) libertad. Presupuestos de la acción colectiva (2009).

Marina Garcés. Professor of philosophy at the University of Zaragoza and consultant at Universitat Oberta de Catalunya. Since 2002 she has been promoting and coordinating the collective project Espai en Blanc, which works towards an engaged, practical and experimental relationship with philosophical thought. She is the author of Un mundo común (2013) and En las prisiones de lo posible (2012) and she has also contributed to many journals and collective publications.

Yaiza Hernández. Lecturer in the MRes Art at Central Saint Martins (London) and a PhD candidate at the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy. Until 2012, she was Head of Public Programmes at MACBA, before that, she worked as director of CENDEAC (Murcia) and curator at CAAM (Las Palmas). She have recently published Inter/Multi/Cross/Trans. (Montehermoso, 2011). She is currently preparing Repressive Tolerance, and General Theory.

Isabell Lorey. Visiting professor of political theory at the Centre for Gender Studies at the University of Basel. She conducts research about the precarization of work and life in neoliberal society, social movements, democracy and representation. She is part of the collective kpD -kleines postfordistisches Drama- and she has published, among other works, Governmentality and self-precarization (2006) and Occupy! Die aktuellen Kämpfe um die Besetzung des Politischen (2012).

Bartomeu Marí. Director of MACBA since 2008, he has also been the director of Witte de With, Rotterdam (1996-2001). Executive member of the European museum network L´Internationale.

Sandro Mezzadra. Professor of contemporary political theory and post-colonial studies at the University of Bologna. He is co-director of the magazine DeriveApprodi, a member of the editorial collective Studi Culturali and he also contributes to the newspaper Il Manifesto. He has published The Right to Escape. Migration, citizenship and globalization (2004) and La condizione postcoloniale. Storia e politica nel mondo globale (2008), among other works.

Antonio Negri. Post-operaist philosopher and thinker, co-author, with Michael Hardt, of Empire (2002), Multitude: War and Democracy in the Age of Empire (2004) and Commonwealth (2011) and Declaration (2013).

Bojana Piskur. Art historian, curator at the Moderna Galerija of Ljubljana and a founding member of the group Radical Education.

Emmanuel Rodríguez. Holder of an undergraduate degree in sociology from Spain’s National University of Distance Education and a PhD in history from Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Author of the books El gobierno imposible; trabajo y fronteras en las metrópolis de la abundancia (2011) and Hipótesis democracia (2013). He is co-founder of Universidad Nómada.

Francesco Salvini. Sociologist and researcher at Queen Mary University, he also forms part of the social centre Exit-Raval and of Universidad Nómada.

Ranabir Samaddar. Director of the Calcutta Research Group. He has studied the issue of human rights in the conflicts of south Asia. He has published The Politics of Dialogue (2004), Emergence of the Political Subject (2009) and The Nation Form (2012).

Raúl Sánchez Cedillo. Translator and editor of books by authors such as Toni Negri and Felix Guattari. Since the 1990s he has been involved in various political networks and research groups in post-operaist circles. He is part of Universidad Nómada and of the Fundación de los Comunes.

Hilary Wainwright. Feminist sociologist and activist, she is a researcher at the Transnational Institute and at the International Centre for Participation Studies (ICPS). She is the editor of the British magazine Red Pepper.

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Dates: February 27 - March 1, 2014

Organized by: L’internationale, European network of museums, and Fundación de los Comunes within the framework of The Uses of Art

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