Extensions of Fatigue: A Conversation with Martí Peran

In 2015, Peran assembled a number of artistic interventions and inscriptions for an exhibition about fatigue. General Indisposition. An Essay about Fatigue looks into the self-production of identity at the intersections of industrial capitalism’s exchange mechanisms and post-Fordist’s workforce for subjectivity. As the exhibition opens up an ecology of fatigue and and exhaustion in domains of art, it also discusses the emancipatory potential of fatigue as “(a) moment of arrest and pause with starting sabotage.”

Peran has registered the structure of fatigue as an argument of the exhibitionary in artistic and creative production. In a specific form of showing, the site and condition of an exhibition accommodates what Peran calls General Indisposition in order to think through how fatigue could be “the start of a strike that politicizes discomfort.”1 He struggles to move away from the nostalgia and apologias of and for idleness, melancholic passivity, and the production of suspensions as mobilizing factors that reset or reinstall productivity. Peran positions three interrelated questions: “[H]ow do we turn this argument into an exhibition? How do we articulate a situation capable of placing this content in aesthetic order? Is it necessary to formalize this tiredness?”

In this conversation, I returned to some junctures in Peran’s proposition, in which the “implied performativity” of fatigue might have been carried through in a history of translation and the rhetoric of conservation in cultural production. The exchange moves along rather swiftly on internationalism, collaboration, cultural development, economies of critique, and tensions across an “autonomous” artwork, the artist, and the curatorial. This initial engagement on the discursive relationship between fatigue and exposition notes what other possible affinities can be expounded.

A critic and curator, Martí Peran works as a faculty member of the University of Barcelona (UB). He is co-editor of Roulette and was a member of the editorial board of Transversal (1996-2002). He has curated several historical and contemporary art exhibitions, including General Indisposition. An Essay about Fatigue (Barcelona, 2015). 
The email interview took place between June and August 2016.

Renan Laru-an: Why do you think the artist as an institution remains to be a frontier in processing and buffering fatigue and exhaustion?

Martí Peran: The art sphere – or of creation in general – is the paradigm of new production models: constant and precarious self-management of molecular projects in a horizon-less future. The artist is the figure that best embodies the new self-worker in the worst conditions. The new capital’s general slogan could be summarized in the obligation to be all artists in the operation of self-making ourselves. In this perspective, there is no more possible redemption through art. To be an artist no longer frees us, but squarely puts us in the mobilization that causes general fatigue.

RL: It might not be immediately attendant to the translation of fatigue and exhaustion, but I thought it would be necessary to unpack what you have described as “delocalized cultural capitalism (geopolitics of knowledge)”2 as a condition in which fatigue and exhaustion grow. The movement of knowledge on a fictional conveyor belt of “differences as raw material”3 emerges from the tension between the reproduction and revitalization (updating) of tradition. The Cold War project of Area Studies sees to reincarnate itself in this operation, where as you sketched in your essay “The Geopolitics of Art,” eventually triangulates the risks of “internal colonialism,” “local difference as an object of study and raw material,” and “cooptation of imagination in the networks of information-connection.” How can we imagine a (vulnerable) point in this production line where a strategically essential co-production is possible? Do we need to find other alignments aside from operational references, such as ‘strategically essential’ and co-production, before imagining intersections for integration?

MP: Since the so-called postmodernism, culture has disappeared. On the one hand, it has become a production area of desire and consumption, far from its traditional role as a critical account installed in non-reconciliation with any given condition of reality. Culture no longer opens worlds, but helps to replicate the world through infinite variations of his ghosts. On the other hand, the field of cultural production has become the paradigm of the new labor and exploitation mode: self-management of creative projects in order to ensure the general mobilization in the infinite repetition of the present. With this in mind, culture is the central place for fatigue generated by this unstoppable productivity.

RL: The cultural turn of the Development Project coincides or even overlaps with postmodernism. The deregulation of state functions allows notions of Development to operate in the logic of agency over structure, in which, as we have witnessed transnationally, the said logic has innovated flexibility between the public and the private, and among new models of/alternative to infrastructures. The impulse to socialize culture in the mode of internationalism, for sure, has contributed to this fatigue. The recurring projects of internationalism are now abrasively and conveniently paired with decolonization and institutional critique. I, on the other hand, would drag the idea of a bond of fatigues to the condition, in which culture (reflexively poised as a site of criticality) has disappeared. This kinship of tiredness looks sleepless, total vigilant that at times, paranoid. What is culture self-recuperating as it struggles to reach the state of “culture has disappeared” or as it sleeps in the site of “culture has disappeared”? Or, will it subject itself to a new passage of fatigue?

MP: The most striking aspect of this logic is that it’s no longer the story that is at stake that matters, but on the contrary the dynamics that guarantees their mobilization. This is how the current imperialism has no objection to admitting “differences” if these are prepared to enter into the logic of its creative post-production. The only alternative, in my opinion, is to abandon the space of the cultural machine capable of processing all the accounts and, instead, retrieve genuinely collaborative practices. The mere “participation” guarantees only entrance into a game framework already established and unable to change its rules. On its behalf, the “partnership” presupposes an encounter between different ones that, by means of their meeting, modify the game framework from which each one came from. This is the important thing: to articulate a collaboration capable of acting as a sort of pre-figurative politics that invents the common space on every occasion.

RL: The currency of (Western) criticality is incisively “absented” in the desire of a collaboration as a pre-figurative politicality. The great tradition of reflexivity and criticality since the imperial dissemination of civility is interrogated in the mechanisms of creative post-production and self-management performed by “new” participating subjectivities in the global exchange. You invoked the “difficulties of equivalence” that stand between the “Western economy of image” and “other cultural systems” in producing faculties of and networks for approximation. Once resolved, how do we address the uneven and (mal)distributed economies of critique in transnational image and knowledge production?

MP: The surplus of images has reached the maximum degree of pollution. In turn, the planetary connection ensures the exchange of images regardless of the visual regimes from which they come from. Images no longer speak anywhere. In this situation, the political task is to return to the linguistic battlefield. It won’t be possible to do things differently if we do not start talking differently. The most urgent imperative is a language inventiveness.

RL: The functionalism of context-specificity seems to have been depleted. Perhaps, we can also expound the incapacity of images to speak, or the impasse of speaking images, to the overzealous and overdetermined transaction of dialogue, producing dialogues. Moving to a linguistic arena, the discursive architecture of art and culture is not necessarily hospitable to a diverse inventiveness; it is seductive in staging diversity, but it remains a stock room. What do you think of an ecology of monologues as a point of departure for a language? Or maybe, the ecology of exhausted monologues?

MP: It’s very interesting the way you posed it. The monologue avoids creating “value”, the consensual promotion of concepts-slogans, which are inevitably mystified either as moral capital, as a political principle or as a commodity. We are too blinded by the supposed need for consensus. The monologue is a linguistic space freed from negotiation. Now, it seems that everything could be solved by the universal application of mediation, participation, collaboration processes [etc.] without realizing that this entails the strengthening of the social cohesion model that becomes universally inclusive. It is essential “to stop” this false dialogue unable to change the status quo. The inventiveness of language should grow in the awareness of fatigue, in the will to stay in it to resist self-exploitation; clearly, this means that this inventiveness enjoys some monologist condition. The monologue, in this perspective, is a form of silence, a way of disappearing. One way to cease-to-be when we are forced to be.

RL: What can the exhibitionary and curatorial show about fatigue and exhaustion that an “autonomous” artwork cannot show?

MP: An artwork executed from fatigue “exposes” its intensity. Fatigue is not an awakening of consciousness, but a reality that increases up to the “fatigue limit” (the physical law of maximum resistance of materials) occupying as much space as possible. A “tired” artwork completely occupies the semiotic space, so an exhibition cannot add anything because there is no vacant space. The sole purpose of an exhibition “about” fatigue through a set of works is that it forces to remain on the outside of the fatigue itself to detect it as a theme susceptible of being reflected. In other words, an artwork is an intense extension of fatigue; an exhibition is a strategy of Brechtian “estrangement”.




Translation by Marzia Matarese

  1.  Marti Peran (2015). General Indisposition: an Essay about Fatigue. Retrieved from http://artscoming.com/en/Articulo/general-indisposition/.
  2.  Marti Peran (2013). The Geopolitics of Art as a “Querelle” in Roulette 8
  3.  Ibid.

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