Bassam El Baroni

Bassam El Baroni is Assistant Professor in Curating at the School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Aalto University, Finland. He is the author of various essays on artists, art, and curating, editor of Fifteen Ways to Leave Badiou, and coeditor, with Ida Soulard and Abinadi Meza, of Manual for a Future Desert.

  • Between the Material and the Possible

    Between the Material and the Possible

    Infrastructural Re-examination and Speculation in Art

    Bassam El Baroni

    The revisioning of our infrastructural futures, local and global relationalities, and historical and political legacies.

    From questions around space settlements to the possibility of repurposing blockchain infrastructures and financial instruments for redistributive purposes, and from the diagrammatic potential of infrastructural thinking in artistic practices to scenario planning and economic strategizing, this collection of essays brings together critical analysis from a broad group of contributors engaged in the revisioning of our infrastructural futures. Their interrogations span local and global relationalities, historical and political legacies, as well as future-oriented infrastructural hypotheses.

    Forming a comprehensive picture of the multiple processes, regulations, institutions, technologies, networks, and operations that we have come to understand as the distributed infrastructural arena in which we act, yield, and plot is a perennial challenge. Over the past decade, a growing number of artists, theorists, curators, and researchers have moved from “institutional critique” to “infrastructural critique,” or toward “infrastructural speculation,” in which they explore the potential of creative infrastructure-related visions and scenarios. In attempts to counter the impasse of “the cancelled future,” art has immersed itself in systemic critiques and propositional thinking, addressing major challenges, such as the rampant financialization of the economy and runaway climate change.

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Contributor

  • The Nightmare of Participation

    The Nightmare of Participation

    (Crossbench Praxis as a Mode of Criticality)

    Markus Miessen

    Welcome to Harmonistan! Over the last decade, the term “participation” has become increasingly overused. When everyone has been turned into a participant, the often uncritical, innocent, and romantic use of the term has become frightening. Supported by a repeatedly nostalgic veneer of worthiness, phony solidarity, and political correctness, participation has become the default of politicians withdrawing from responsibility. Similar to the notion of an independent politician dissociated from a specific party, this third part of Miessen's “Participation” trilogy encourages the role of what he calls the “crossbench practitioner,” an “uninterested outsider” and “uncalled participator” who is not limited by existing protocols, and who enters the arena with nothing but creative intellect and the will to generate change.

    Miessen argues for an urgent inversion of participation, a model beyond modes of consensus. Instead of reading participation as the charitable savior of political struggle, Miessen candidly reflects on the limits and traps of its real motivations. Rather than breading the next generation of consensual facilitators and mediators, he argues for conflict as an enabling, instead of disabling, force. The book calls for a format of conflictual participation—no longer a process by which others are invited “in,” but a means of acting without mandate, as uninvited irritant: a forced entry into fields of knowledge that arguably benefit from exterior thinking. Sometimes, democracy has to be avoided at all costs.

    Markus Miessen (*1978) is an architect, consultant, and writer based in Berlin. He runs the collaborative agency for spatial practice Studio Miessen and is director of the Winter School Middle East (Kuwait). Miessen has taught at institutions such as the Architectural Association (London), Columbia, and MIT. He is currently a Professor for Architecture and Curatorial Practice at the Hochschule für Gestaltung in Karlsruhe, Germany, a Harvard Fellow, and completing his PhD at the Centre for Research Architecture (Goldsmiths, London). www.studiomiessen.com

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