PRINT April 2011


Christian von Borries

Berlin-based conductor and composer Christian von Borries is also a creator of site-specific projects. His work has been commissioned by Documenta 12, Kunstfest Weimar, the Lucerne Festival, and the Volksbühne Berlin; in 2002, he cofounded the record label Masse und Macht; and last year, he produced his first film, The Dubai in Me. This month, he will present Global Design, a multimedia orchestral work staged on a cargo ship in Hamburg’s Free Harbor.


    The faux-pas term of the 2000s, intellectual property is nearly impossible to protect. There are only two options left: a police state, or to turn the whole thing off—to drive tanks into the Ukraine (major server farms such as Tangram are based there) and shut down every single machine. Let’s just abandon it now; the idea of intellectual property never helped artists or those on the receiving end anyway, just corporate interests. Richard Prince—unthinkable today! And the old European business model that grounds the concept doesn’t translate well to other cultures. For example, the Chinese language has many words to describe things that are neither copy nor original, some even suggesting that a copy is the more valuable of the two.


    is an author from Munich and the Jenny Holzer of our time. Give his assault of ready-made new German words a read—frozen face syndrome, zen mail, patriotic investment, downshifting, toxic shares, Newropa, plamegate, tweenager, soft news, iPorn, rankism, lazy interactivity, modern patriotism, midisage, edge city, adult pop, debriefing, shockumentary, non-target, stealth politics, agenda setter—or consider his slide show of three-letter words: FBI, Gap, MIT, MTV, BMW. Please don’t say new language doesn’t affect us! Neumeister knows that words alter the way we think.

    Andreas Neumeister, Da Real World/Three Letter Pictures (details), 1995–, slides of images showing three-letter acronyms, dimensions variable. From left: TLP/MIT, n.d., TLP/MTV, n.d. Andreas Neumeister, Da Real World/Three Letter Pictures (details), 1995–, slides of images showing three-letter acronyms, dimensions variable. From left: TLP/MIT, n.d., TLP/MTV, n.d.

    A professor of Chinese language and literature at Beijing’s famous Tsinghua University, Wang is the author of the best book regarding Western misconceptions of contemporary China. The End of the Revolution: China and the Limits of Modernity (2010) helps us understand today’s world. According to Wang, when Chinese visitors travel to Germany, they want to see Karl Marx’s birthplace in Trier (no Americans there!), Beethoven’s birthplace in Bonn, and the Hugo Boss outlet mall in tiny Metzingen. To misquote an old Soviet saying, “Learning from the Chinese means learning to prevail.”


    The filmmaker who reinvented the silent movie, making it anti-narrative, looped, and multiangled, Mik creates high-end cinematography in precisely conceived settings that depict in images what Gustav Mahler conceived in music—a disturbed world of uncertainties. Mik’s new video, Shifting Sitting, 2011, features an alienating court hearing projected across three screens, with multiple Berlusconis. Don’t trust what you see! Mik doesn’t, tending to speak in allegory, always mistrusting political narration.

    Aernout Mik, Osmosis and Excess, 2005, color video. Production still. Photo: Florian Braun. Aernout Mik, Osmosis and Excess, 2005, color video. Production still. Photo: Florian Braun.

    The filmmaker who reinvented the “poor image” and the political art film, Steyerl makes videos that would be unthinkable without Baudrillard’s theory of simulation and Situationist discourse. In her recent piece In Free Fall, 2010, Steyerl uses low-resolution found footage as a political tool. Surprisingly and unfortunately, not much of her work exists online. Apparently, being so low-key can be a political shortcoming.

    Hito Steyerl, In Free Fall, 2010, still from a color HD video, 32 minutes. Hito Steyerl, In Free Fall, 2010, still from a color HD video, 32 minutes.

    The media archaeologist who gave us Discourse Networks 1800/1900 (1985) and Gramophone, Film, Typewriter (1986), Kittler taught us that one cannot analyze twentieth-century technology without considering the military-industrial complex. He also questioned the critical theory of Adorno, finding it too easily and arrogantly used by the Old Left. But he questioned the timeworn binary of political Left and Right, too, and then went on to describe how Richard Wagner invented a kind of music that hit our unconsciousness like nothing before, sexually loaded and anti-Christian, even! Dangerous material, to say the least.


    Still in transit from New York, Mahler died one hundred years ago in Vienna this month. He had been carrying a score by Charles Ives, a disturbing all-American piece of music that he had planned to perform in Europe. For his own symphonies, Mahler incorporated the reality he heard in the streets—sampling with his memory long before sampling technology existed. Find a free download of Kirill Kondrashin’s Soviet Years recording of Mahler’s Symphony no. 3 (the Soviet years are over, and this recording is old enough that nobody would get any royalties anyway), and you will experience a most troubled European sound track that reaches far into the future. As you enjoy the old recording’s surface noise, please consider that for copyright reasons, sampled music has become more and more difficult to make.

    Gustav Mahler, Symphony no. 3 in variable key, I Kräftig entschieden (1/3). Kirill Kondrashin, Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra, ca. 1969.

    Gustav Mahler, ca. 1909. Gustav Mahler, ca. 1909.

    These French architects invent functional structures that are also political. They build social housing out of prefabricated greenhouse material and refuse to design facades, doubling square footage while maintaining low cost. The inhabitants of these buildings live with the seasons: under a partially transparent roof, with walls that, in the summer, open to the air. Lacaton and Vassal prove Oscar Niemeyer’s saying wrong—architecture is not only for the rich. Where the bourgeoisie would erect penthouses, these two build greenhouses, offering architecture as a toolbox for all of us.

    Lacaton & Vassal, Latapie House, 1993, Floirac, France. Lacaton & Vassal, Latapie House, 1993, Floirac, France.

    A critic and writer originally from Queens, New York, Riff moved to Moscow some years ago and helped form the Saint Petersburg–based artist/activist collective Chto Delat?. But he is not to be mistaken for having taken up some surface-leftist art-world lifestyle—last year, he cocurated the first Ural Industrial Biennale of Contemporary Art in Ekaterinburg, Russia, and the “Potosí Principle” exhibition in Madrid (after Marx’s association of that city with the birth of modern capitalism). If freedom, liberty, and democracy weren’t such decayed terms in the US, maybe political exhibitions would have more of an impact in the States. Marx badly needs to be revisited anew, Riff insists.

  10. HIJRA

    The Islamic name for Muhammad’s journey from Mecca to Medina, the word hijra has taken on multiple meanings since. In recent years, young Arabs and Africans have begun using the term for their passage to Europe across the Mediterranean Sea. Thousands have died on this voyage, and the European Union, contracting Frontex paramilitary units to control immigration, only makes conditions worse. It feels shameful to hold an EU passport these days. To carry out its task, Frontex has been known to strip refugee ships of their gas and water, compromising the immigrant passengers’ survival and forcing them to retreat. Yet young democrats from Tunisia are risking their lives to make the trip right now. Where is the political and artistic outcry?