A panel event held on March 12th, 2013 at King's College in Hailfax, Canada
Gary Burrill (Member of the Legislative Assembly for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, Nova Scotia New Democratic Party)
Arthur McCalla (Religious Studies, Mount Saint Vincent University)
Katie Toth (Layperson, United Church of Canada)
Antoni Wysocki (STAND)
Religion necessarily appears to the left today as a question of for or against. But "religion" and "the left" are by no means transhistorical categories. A massive historical divide separates the Abbe Sieyes's conflict with Pope Pius VI from invading Soviet and American armies' conflict with the Afghan mujahideen.
At the beginning of the 20th century, socialist politics served as the church of the working class. It was not merely secular but secularist. Yet, as working class politics unfolded in defeat and betrayal over the course of the 20th century, the left seemed to drift inexorably to the right. This rightward drift was mirrored in religion, and this seemed to render plausible the antipathies of left-secularists such as Christopher Hitchens. Yet during this same period, ostensibly progressive religious movements gained ground by capturing the socially conscious impulses generated in the absence of working class politics. Religion seemed to claim a monopoly on the ideology of peace and social justice. Increasingly, under neoliberal reforms, religion even came to monopolize the provision of social welfare. The left, seemingly overcoming its "theophobia," found itself going to church in hopes of organizing the working class, dropping its erstwhile secularism in the process.
How the left might overcome its current impasses is anybody's guess. An approach towards genuinely reform-minded religionists would seem to offer a means of winning adherents to radical politics without ceding any ground that wasn't already lost to the left decades ago. But while the Left may be bankrupt, religion isn't going out of business any time soon. One is tempted to wonder if the player is not in fact being played.
1) Today, some of the most active organizations working with socially-concerned student activists are religious organizations. What does this phenomenon-- community activism, under religion-inflected banners, as ostensible leftism-- say about the current state and future tasks of the political left?
2) The political (and personal) liquidation of the secular left in many parts of the third world during the terminal decades of the cold war occurred alongside the gradual shifting of responsibility for social welfare provision from the state to organizations within civil society, often religious, in the first world. Have these global shifts demanded something new from the left vis a vis religion, and if so, what? If not, why not? More generally, is there a relationship between the death of the left and the revitalization of religion?
3) The Polish revolutionary Marxist, Rosa Luxemburg, stated that socialism would 'complete' Christianity. Does this complicate the traditional Marxist antipathy to religion?
4) To what degree can or should (or must) the left, today, cede organizational ground to religion? How ought those on the left distinguish between tactical cooperation and tailism vis-a-vis religion?
5) Is capitalist society generative of religious organization as a mass phenomenon in the same way that it is generative of left-political organization as a (once-) mass phenomenon? More broadly, what implications for the left follow from your understanding of religion as a mass social phenomenon within capitalism?
6) Early in his career Karl Marx critiqued the secularism of Young Hegelian thinkers for failing to grasp the social and political dimensions of theological questions. One gets a sense of coming full circle; that political questions on the Left today are increasingly explained in theological terms. What do you make of the recent claims by Communist and Marxist thinkers, for example Alain Badiou or Terry Eagleton, in locating the first examples of universalism in the Apostles? Alternately, what of their atheist interlocutors like Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens, who seem preoccupied with picking through the inconsistencies of religion and make no attempt to understand why so many people are religious? What are the political stakes of these developments? How do you account for the seeming inability of the Left do what seemed possible for Marx, namely to locate the political dimensions of religion and overcome them?
JULIETA ARANDA | GREGG HOROWITZ | PAUL MATTICK | YATES MCKEE
This event is free and open to the public.
“Aging in the Afterlife: The Many Deaths of Art” is part of a larger series of panels and events centered around the theme of the death of art that will take place around the month of February 2013 in NYC. Another event, on architecture, “Ruins of modernity: The failure of revolutionary architecture in the 20th century,” will be held on February 7. For info on other events in this series, please consult the website for further updates.
The “death of art” has been a recurring theme within aesthetic and philosophical discourse for over two centuries. At times, this “death” has been proclaimed as an accomplished fact; at others, artists themselves have taken the “death of art” as a goal to be accomplished. So while this widely perceived “death” is lamented by many as a loss, it is celebrated by others as a moment of life renewed. For them, art is all the better for having disburdened itself of the baggage of outmoded modernist ideologies. Insofar as the “death” of longstanding cultural traditions has in the past typically been understood to signal a deeper crisis in society at large, however, the meaning of death necessarily takes on a different aspect today — especially when the tradition in question is modernism, the so-called the “tradition of the new” (Rosenberg). Because the notions of “death” and “crisis” appear to belong to the very edifice of modernity that has just been rejected, these too are are to be jettisoned as part of its conventional yoke. Modernity itself having become passé, even the notion of art’s “death” would seem to have died along with modernism.
We thus ask our panelists not merely whether art is at present “dead,” but also if traditions are even permitted the right to perish in conservative times. If some once held that the persistence of philosophy indicated the persistence of obsolete social conditions, does the persistence of art signal ongoing social conditions that ought to have long ago withered away? If so, what forms of political and artistic practice would be sufficient to realize art, and in what ways would realizing art signal something beyond art? Marx felt that the increasing worldliness of philosophy in his time (heralded by the culmination of philosophy in Hegel) demanded not only the end of philosophy, but also that the world itself become philosophical. If avant-garde movements once declared uncompromising war on art in order to tear down the barrier between art and life, would the end or overcoming of art not similarly require that the world itself become artistic?
Julieta Aranda was born in Mexico City, and currently lives and works between Berlin and New York. Central to Aranda’s multidimensional practice are her involvement with circulation mechanisms and the idea of a “poetics of circulation”; the possibility of a politicized subjectivity through the perception and use of time, and the notion of power over the imaginary. Julieta Aranda’s work has been exhibited internationally in venues such as Witte de With (2013), Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Villa Croce, Genova (2013), ArtPostions, Miami Basel (2012), MACRO Roma (2012) Documenta 13 (2012), N.B.K. (2012), Gwangju Biennial (2012), Venice Biennial (2011), Stroom den Haag (2011), “Living as form,” Creative Time, NY (2011), Istanbul Biennial (2011), Portikus, Frankfurt (2011), New Museum (2010), Solomon Guggenheim Museum (2009), New Museum of Contemporary Art, NY (2010), Kunstverein Arnsberg (2010), MOCA Miami (2009), Witte de With (2010), Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2007), 2nd Moscow Biennial (2007) MUSAC, Spain (2010 and 2006), and VII Havanna Biennial; amongst others. As a co-director of e-flux together with Anton Vidokle, Julieta Aranda has developed the projects Time/Bank, Pawnshop, and e-flux video rental, all of which started in the e-flux storefront in new York, and have traveled to many venues worldwide.
Gregg Horowitz is Professor of Philosophy and Chair of Social Science and Cultural Studies at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY and Adjoint Associate Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University. He writes on aesthetics and the philosophy of art, psychoanalysis, and political theory. His publications include the books Sustaining Loss: Art and Mournful Life (Stanford, 2001) and The Wake of Art: Philosophy, Criticism and the Ends of Taste (Routledge, 1998, with Arthur C. Danto and Tom Huhn) and, recently, articles on “Absolute Bodies: The Video Puppets of Tony Oursler” (Parallax, 2010), “The Homeopathic Image, or, Trauma, Intimacy and Poetry,” (Critical Horizons, 2010), and “A Late Adventure of the Feelings: Loss, Trauma and the Limits of Psychoanalysis” (in The Trauma Controversy: Philosophical and Interdisciplinary Dialogues, SUNY Press, 2009).
Paul Mattick, who teaches philosophy at Adelphi University, is the author of Art in Its Time and co-author, with Katy Siegel, of Artworks: Money. He has written criticism for Arts, Art in America, Artforum, The Nation, and The Brooklyn Rail, as well as catalogue essays for exhibitions at a number of museums and galleries.
Yates McKee is an organizer with Strike Debt and co-editor of the magazine Tidal: Occupy Theory, Occupy Strategy. His work as an art critic has appeared in venues including October, Grey Room, Texte Zur Kunst, Oxford Art Journal, The Nation, and Waging Nonviolence. He recently co-edited a volume for Zone Books entitled Sensible Politics: The Visual Cultures of Nongovernmental Activism.