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Afterall Journal

Issue 10

Autumn/Winter 2004

Editors: Charles Esche, Thomas Lawson, Mark Lewis, Silke Otto-Knapp, Zoe Crosher.

Founding editors: Charles Esche, Mark Lewis.

Table of contents


Contextual Essays

  • The Death Drive – Laura Mulvey
  • Gestures of Exhibiting – Beatrice von Bismarck


Joëlle Tuerlinckx

  • Stories of O – Catherine Wood
  • Une nouvelle archiviste est nommée dans la ville: Joëlle Tuerlinckx at the Renaissance Society – Matthew Evans Teti

Monika Baer

  • Painter and Collector – Jennifer Allen
  • Untranslatable Painting – Hanne Loreck

René Daniëls

  • With Respect to Disrespect – John Chilver
  • At the Crossroads of Painting – Adam Berg

Edgar Arceneaux

  • Edgar Arceneaux’s Search for the Meaning Among Infinite Variations – Charles Gaines
  • Drawings of Removal – Catrin Lorch
  • Sam Durant Speaking of Others – Mary Leclère
  • The Agency of Letters – Jonathan Flatley


Written by Charles Esche

The default victory of capitalism, a tragedy waiting to happen for 30 years at least, threw class-consciousness to the wolves…

If the mind, while imagining non-existent things as present to it, is at the same time conscious that they do not really exist, this power of imagination must be set down to the efficacy of its nature, and not to a fault, especially if this faculty of imagination depend solely on its own nature – that is if this faculty of imagination be free.

– Baruch Spinoza

The default victory of capitalism, a tragedy waiting to happen for 30 years at least, threw class-consciousness to the wolves. Historical determinism and dialectical materialism happened in topsy-turvy fashion. The past became the future. Except we already knew, even before 1989, that the future we had imagined was locked into the mass-labour experience of factory work and trade-union organisation, while the present looked a lot more like the unchecked exploitation of communism’s dreams of internationalism and non-alienated labour. Dreams that all real existing socialist states had long since relegated to a utopian neverland of world revolution. In the here-and-now of global capital, solidarity melted into air and free intellectual labour came to be the paradigm of the new Empire of Flows and Control.

We’ve learnt, from Negri and others, that there is no outside, no externalities from which to gain purchase on a total imperial system that invades our own bodies. As a totalist system, and avoiding the possibility of sudden superhuman transformation, we seem held in check by the unavailability of perspectival critique or alternative worldviews. Everything remains at the local, reformist level and the diversity of the ‘anti-capitalist movement’ is still only able to define itself in the negative. Yet the human imagination, as understood in Spinoza’s terms as the faculty of freedom, still requires the possibility to create its ‘non-existent things’ in social terms as much as physical or psychological. We are thus caught in a political bind that has huge implications for our artistic and imaginative lives. Our shared desire for such things as solidarity, progressive social change, even simple resistance, is thrown back as nonsensical, unrealistic and impossible within the conditions as they are pre-defined by those that, mostly unconsciously, try to satisfy and maintain the logic of the totalist system. In this situation, to look to the political realm for imaginative freedom is inevitably dispiriting. We are in a peculiar historical moment when some can proclaim ‘the end of history’ in order to reconcile its peculiarities to system maintenance, while others wait for a return to ‘agonistic politics’ within a totalism that by definition cannot accommodate any such discourse.


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