The following interview with Oliver Ressler was conducted on 20/11/2008 for China Airlines Sky Couch Magazine, but its publication was cancelled “due to an unpredictable cause”…
Question: How do you select the works for the exhibition you are curating for the current Taipei Biennial? What can be the standard for your choices?
Oliver Ressler: All the invited artists focus in their exhibited works on the so-called counter-globalization movement. They don’t do their work from a neutral perspective, but they are active in the movement or identify with its main goals. In choosing existing videos, photographs, slides or installations from 12 international artists, I tried to cover some of the most important stations of this movement of the movements, which starts with the protests against the WTO in Seattle in 1999, leads over to Prague, Genoa, Buenos Aires, Gleneagles in Scotland, St. Petersburg and then to Heiligendamm in Germany.
Q: Why do you call the counter-globalization movement, “the movement of the movements”?
O.R.: “Counter-globalization movement” is actually a quite strange term, even though most people currently use it. The movement is not against globalization in general; for example, it is for the globalization of human rights, labor rights, indigenous rights or high environmental standards. In addition, this movement appears at these international summits of the World Bank, IMF, WTO or G8. Therefore, this movement is active on a global level and tries to globalize its resistance. The only globalization it definitely counters is the globalization of capitalism, and there are many reasons for that. The term “movement of the movements” refers to a horizontally organized movement of loose groups and individuals with no leaders.
Q: Outside of street protest, what other methods enhance communal understanding?
O.R.: The movement consists of ten thousands of groups and individuals all over the world, and most are active on a local level; for example, in community centers, squats, exchange rings, schools and much more. However, of course, the highest visibility is gained in these international demonstrations, because they occur at events with thousands of journalists from all over the world.
Q: What do you think is a better solution to global issues if Leaders Summit Meetings such as G8 is not considered legitimate for determining global policy?
O.R.: That is a quite a difficult question without a simple answer. The globalized capitalist societies have such a deep political, economic and ecological crises that problems cannot be solved, for example, by simply enlarging the states that define the main shapes of this world from a group of 8 to let’s say 30 states. I think our societies have to be changed in a way that guarantees a much more direct involvement of people in decision-making processes in those aspects that influence their lives. And then, there must be various levels of international meetings, where democratically elected delegates (not representatives) from smaller communities work on shaping the principles of how international relations should be organized. I think the system of representative democracy completely failed; at least how it exists nowadays, which is corrupted through the interests of the economic and political elites.
Q: In your video work “What Would It Mean To Win?” you try to discuss the possibility of using the term “we” in a social movement. What is your attitude to those who have different ideas? Is there a possibility of democracy on a global scale?
O.R.: One exciting thing about participating in an art biennial is that many people from different backgrounds come together. I am very interested in presenting some viewpoints from the movement of the movements; for example, to an audience that is not familiar with these political ideas. In order to make such a movement more influential, it must become much bigger, so it is good to try different strategies to get allies in current and upcoming struggles. Still you have to define a precise border: people with nationalistic, sexist, racist or homophobic viewpoints have to be excluded from any progressive movement.
A real functioning democracy on a global scale would be an ideal thing, but I even doubt that those states usually called democracies are real functioning democracies. Therefore, it will be a long, long struggle until we reach democracy, be it on a national or on a global level.
Q: What is your wish for the New Year?
O.R.: I am not a big fan of wishes… If we want something, we have to fight for it, otherwise it will not happen. The progressive social movements urgently need to get much, much stronger in the next year. It hurts to see that while huge financial crises fundamentally challenge the continuation of business as usual, no strong movement exists to not only criticize or kindly ask governments, but also that would simply force them to reboot this whole corrupt system and to free the way for social movements seeking to create a new system from below. No movement is yet strong enough to hinder nation-states from socializing the financial losses of banks and insurance companies. Unfortunately, in the upcoming decades, all people will have to pay for private financial losses of gamblers.