In planning this issue, we asked ourselves — after the shock of Trump’s election and as the first effects of Brexit were starting to be felt — how the political climate had transformed and affected cultural and institutional mechanisms of thought and expression. The issue wrapped up just before the results of the French presidential elections, where the risk of a swing to the extreme right is actual. What forms could possibly evoke this political climate at the level of the sensible? Like in Antonioni’s Red Desert, the spectator watches as the penchants of characters unfold, lost in an industrial environment increasingly dehumanized by the colors that mark its landscape.
Our first idea was to try out a new format, the journalistic format of the “report.” One thinks of report-backs orienting discussions or symposiums, or conferences, that could permit a more efficient use of what’s at stake and link up to other existent theoretical positions.
There was an urge to make up for lost time—to make intensive use of new theoretical approaches that touched on discussions around identity politics, intersectionality, the communism of the sensible, languages of uprisings and feminist models of critique. Certain events spurred an initial working-through of these questions: Angela Davis and Gina Dent’s visit to Paris in November, the exhibition The Color Line at Musée du quai Branly, the symposium hosted in conjunction with Uprisings at Jeu De Paume, the opening of La Colonie by Kader
Attia, and also recently in Rome, the symposium “Sensible Commons” that again places Rancière at the center of questions on the communal sharing of aesthetic experience.
The crisis and confusion of traditional political polarizations begets a confusion of language, with neologisms and terms that indicate, at the level of representational politics, a mutant change in meaning. It’s there that the impotence of liberal and social democratic forms of thought is apparent, reflecting a paranoid schizophrenic state that enables reactionary discourses to insert themselves. After the U.S. elections, analyses of media manipulation, trolling and hackings—“processes of cognitive learning of mass reality” — have not stopped being made. Yet these analyses offer little in terms of practices of opposition.
What remains legible are positions taken by alternative media and communities on social networks. What brings us to the uses of language. Do we make use of the very (capitalist) language of that which we seek to critique, so as to take stock of the dynamic of these mutations, to pick apart these languages so as to put them in practice in other literary endeavors? More than ever we have to work the surface and temporality of language, and images too—to not stop experiment- ing with articulations, permutations, displacements, translations and with styles.
In ways more or less direct, more or less journalistic, and more than often collective, the texts in this issue are all conscious of contemporary debates around language and the current radicalization of identity politics. This issue brought us to ask how the texts engage, by way of form, in political events and for what types of readers.