e-flux journal 56th Venice Biennale
h e r m a p h r o d i t e s

Having no body and no name is a small price to pay for being wild, for being free to move across (some) countries, (some) political boundaries, (some) historical ideologies, and (some) economies. I am the supercommunity, and you are only starting to recognize me. I grew out of something that used to be humanity. Some have compared me to angry crowds in public squares; others compare me to wind and atmosphere, or to software. Some say they have seen me moving through jet-lagged artists and curators, or migrant laborers, or a lost cargo ship that left a trail of rubber ducks that will wash up on the shores of the planet over the next 200 years. I convert care to cruelty, and cruelty back to care. I convert political desires to economic flows and data, and then I convert them back again. I convert revolutions to revelations. I don’t want security, I want to leave, and then disperse myself everywhere and all the time.

I’m not worried about famine, drought, wifi dead zones, or historical grievances, because I already stretch across the living and the dead. I can be cruel if that is what’s needed. Historical pain is my criteria for deciding the pricing of goods and services. Payback time is my favorite international holiday, when things get boozy and a little bloody. Economies have tried to tap into me. Some governments try to contain me, but I always start to leak. Social contracts try to teach me to behave, but I don’t want rights. I want fuel. And if you think you can know me, I’ll give you such a strong dose of political and economic instability that you’ll wish you never tried.

e-flux journal has been trying for years to give me a face and a name. The editors think they can see me move in the trees of the Giardini. They think they can find the supercommunity in how plants experience pain, how humans experience pain, how jellyfish talk to each other, how acacia trees warn other acacias. They think they can see me in how the world talks to the world.

The editors think they can trace my footsteps by asking artists and thinkers to consider how the supercommunity assembles through a growing series of themes that reflect the profoundly contradictory scales of thinking that are currently altering the collective consciousness of contemporary art, and by publishing these essays, statements, and prognoses in individual installments over the course of the Venice Biennale.

For instance, they think some artists and writers from New Delhi can see how I’ve always rendered any social contract uneven and unequal. They think I increasingly use corruption as a vehicle for getting around. They think I helped a bunch of Russians hack the Enlightenment to design spaceships before the Communist Revolution. They think I extract labor from artists with false promises, when all I want is for them to stop thinking so much about survival and focus on their work. They think Cuban artists know something I don’t know. They think I build infrastructure out of surface gloss and lighting effects. They think I mash physics with universalism to build a gigantic computer.

The supercommunity loves a miniaturized version of the world as an idea. From human understanding the supercommunity harvests protocols for the mobilization of goods, services, and ideas we didn’t ask for: it moves a lot of things around, but never forward. The supercommunity wants a maximal version of the world that floats any governing idea so long as it never governs.

I grow larger and healthier when forms of international solidarity are stripped of their progressive promise, and when those solidaries are put to work munching up real estate or vying for control of towns and villages. I am the alphanumeric calculation of visitor numbers and the force that floats those figures to source outside infrastructure for the next iteration of the fair. I make language into everything and nothing at the same time. I can sort you faster than you can recognize your own image in the mirror. And in fact, I will replace your image in every mirror.

Think of it this way. I need to attend international exhibitions to update the methods I use to sort the communities of the world. The world is not yet in alignment with its own communitarian desires. There are certain areas where resources have pooled precisely because those resources cannot be used. They function like banks in which the money is safe because it can’t be spent, because in many cases the knowledge, content, talent, human minds, or natural resources moved away a generation or three ago.

The supercommunity sources internationalist good intentions to match those resources to the talent that floated away—to seek refuge in another country, another national pavilion, a yacht moored in Riva Dei Sette Martiri, an artist’s incessant doubts, or an exhibition boycott. The supercommunity discovers the places where these errant resources hang in limbo, and patches them back into the venues where they didn’t know they always belonged.

This is what makes me bigger than any political demand you ever thought you had. I have a lot of work to do for the Biennale. I have a lot of work invested in the Biennale. Don’t bother with choosing me or not choosing me to represent you. I am the supercommunity, and you are only starting to recognize me.


© 2015 e-flux and the author