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SYNAPSE Workshop 2015 | June 30 – July 4, 2015


15.09.15 | PROJECT: Blog | AUTHOR: Anna-Sophie Springer

At the end of this month, the HKW will launch their new extensive programming theme, 100 Years of Now, which will set the Haus’s tone for the next two years:

100 Years of Now combines diagnoses of our times with scopes of action, explores the potentials of the past, and unlocks alternative futures. Until 2018, HKW will be probing the countermovement to the dictatorship of the moment.”

This post links to a few texts I’ve recently read that resonate with the new cycle.


In his short book, 24/7 (Verso, 2014) Jonathan Crary analyzes how capitalism has produced a state of hyperconnectivity that never stops. Arguing for the value of human sleep, he critiques the production of a certain timelessness, a continuous present, in which both the sense of part and future are eroded. If you haven’t yet read this little book, I strongly recommend it if you want to take off one afternoon. But be warned, for it is not a very refreshing read. Focusing on the control and surveillance mechanisms of technological culture, the text gives very little space to hope, emphasizing much rather the feelings of contemporary anxiety we all seem to embody so well these days.

While addressing very similar issues as Crary, the recent essay of Pakistani novelist Mohsin Hamid—”Living in the Age of Permawar“—I found capable of powerfully producing a sense of mutual solidarity. More strongly so than Crary’s piece, which really manages to drive home its points about the intensification of loneliness vs. collectivity and actionability at the center of his concern. Regarding the roles and states of the “Now,” both of these texts are great food for thought.


Regarding a current situation in-between a past and a future, there is Eleanor Robertson’s short article in the Guardian. Like many of my past blog posts, her text deals with the relationships of humans to monkeys. But the point of her piece is to remind us of the differences between the species, arguing that the one thing to really do if humans wanted to save chimpanzees, would be to leave them and their habitats completely alone. This is a great idea, but one which we know is difficult to impossible in today’s mad world in which conservationists have begun often to work from and towards so-called “Anthropocene baselines” (the conditions of an ecosystem given its exposure to anthropogenic transformation) rather than “historical baselines” (the state of an ecosystem before human influence).


Regarding these questions against the background of the curatorial work at the Haus, you should really take a look at the interview between HKW curator Anselm Franke and our fellow Synapse member Etienne Turpin included in the open access anthology Art in the Anthropocene (Open Humanities Press, 2015), which Etienne co-edited together with Heather Davis (who will be giving a talk during the first days of 100 Years of Now). Entitled “Fates of Negativity,” Etienne and Anselm discuss all of Anselm’s previous exhibition projects at the HKW up until Ape Culture from this summer.

Drawing an arc from The Whole Earth exhibition (2013) to Ape Culture—and talking about consequentiality and inconsequentiality that the aforementioned texts are also all dealing with—they coin and discuss a critical concept, which they call “The Now of Recognizability”:

“When primatologists tell you that for decades now we have been realizing, step by step, that there are cultural properties in ape populations, they will say, in the same breath, ‘but it’s too late.’ This is what I think is really important to listen to and to understand when considering the characterization of the ‘now of recognizability.’ To be attuned to its possibilities and negativities, to this too-late-ness, is very practical; of course, they know as scientists and activists that the ape habitats will be destroyed. Barring some revolution or catastrophe that they cannot even believe in, and given the expert calculations, it’s impossible to save the apes’ forests. So they operate in this strange double register of knowledge; it brings to mind this old anthropologist figure, who feverishly records as much as he can before it all goes away, as its going away.”


But, read for yourself!

I have extracted the interview from the open access PDF and made it available directly here:

If you want the whole book you can order a copy from here and/or download the complete PDF from here.

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Video: Excerpt from Christian Marclay, The Clock (2010)

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