eipcp Institute reflection zone
12 2002

Temporary Overlaps

Gerald Raunig




"What is decisive is the fact that we are in a process of understanding and experiencing the relationship between theory and practice in a new way. Until now practice was either understood as an application of theory, as a mere consequence, or it was assumed that practice must inspire theory, that it could bring forth new theories. In either sense, its relationships were seen as representing a process of totalization..." (Gilles Deleuze)

The idea most commonly projected onto theory in the cultural field is that theoretical work - be it defined as philosophical, sociological, art historical or as art criticism - must always necessarily lag behind practice. Seen in this way, theory becomes a useful idiot, good enough to be tolerated as a player in the usual game of increasing and decreasing value in the operations of culture. This setting also includes the clichéd dichotomous imagery of the artist driven by emotions and the theorist guided by reason, of productive art and reproductive science, of action/production in one case and representation in the other.

On the other hand, art is often instrumentalized as an easily digestible form of communication or as a source of illustrative examples that can be interpreted as needed, as a means for somehow conveying to "the people", "the man on the street", highly specialized and thus not easily communicable forms of knowledge. Such images of simple or "holistic" receptiveness or of the informative character of art can ultimately lead to the utilization of art for popularizing themes that cannot be brought to bear politically.

In contrast to these kinds of rigid, instrumentalizing and hierarchicizing notions, the concept of eipcp is one that cancels out abrupt field demarcations, avoiding sequential models and temporarily opening up border spaces, in which different positions of artistic practice, political action and theory production can oscillate. It is evident here that theory is also a practice, that multiple practices and fields are juxtaposed, which have more or less permeable borders, constantly shifting boundaries and temporary overlaps. And it is exactly these overlaps, which are also capable of canceling out the before and after, that we find most relevant for a productive further development of the relationships between the practices of art and theory production.

The eipcp also attempts to impel these kinds of mutual overlaps through applied means and methods. For instance, the participation of theoreticians in art production or conducting intensive workshops with artists and theoreticians is a way to work on the overlapping of reception and action. In the best case, a chain of constituent activities is produced without completely exchanging the respective links or lines, without dissolving the respective specific competencies into a diffuse whole. The objective is to impel and multiply critical public spheres in a larger context together with other political and cultural initiatives. At a micro level, we aim to produce temporary zones of overlaps, to which the already existent network of relationships and correspondences can be newly linked, but without risking a synthesis or identification of any kind. At the same time, the relationship of the different lines remains a precarious one: the problem consists in avoiding mutual utilization and instrumentalization, preventing the primacy of one over another, and not switching on the motor of mutual reflection and surveillance.

In analogy to the post-structuralist concepts of superimpositions and overlaps, it is a matter of testing forms of subjectification that suggest a development from "universal" to "specific intellectuals". What characterizes these modes of subjectification is not talking, writing, theorizing about art, politics, etc., but rather bringing different specific competencies into transversal cooperations. A specific transversal mobilization of the specific is condensed, the perspective of which is to translate transsectoriality into transnationality (and vice versa). With this, the institute primarily inscribes itself in a context that spans between borders marked by nation-states, supranational re-organization (EU) and their fault lines. This context requires specific modes of movement and local references, a persistent praxis of translation, and finally also the intensive treatment of the thicket of languages in the multilingual style of eipcp.