Paranoia TV: steirischer'herbst 24.9. - 18.10. 2020
„ANDY WARHOL EXHIBITS a glittering alternative“ at mumok from September 25, 2020 to January 31, 2021
Martin Kohout & Adrienne Herr: "BATEARS" at EXILE, Vienna
Independent Space Index Vienna
Paranoia TV: steirischer'herbst 24.9. - 18.10. 2020
„ANDY WARHOL EXHIBITS a glittering alternative“ at mumok from September 25, 2020 to January 31, 2021
Martin Kohout & Adrienne Herr: "BATEARS" at EXILE, Vienna
Independent Space Index Vienna
artworks on pipes by alessandro di pietro

Alessandro Di Pietro, FELIX installation view.

In the last few years, the term post-truth gained wide popularity. Supporters use this term, trying to describe the international socio-political situation of the 2010s. This situation is characterized as being universal in its attraction to a political discourse, that relies on human emotions and affects, unverified or deliberately false facts, ideological wars and provocations, logical errors and sophisms. International and local media, the Internet and social networks play a key role in spreading and developing this approach. In such situation, it becomes impossible to get to the truth, to check the facts or to rely on logical arguments, because any, even the most powerful argument can be blown away by a nine-point wave of propaganda shouting. Truth seekers are sad and anxiously waiting for a contrivance in every conversation. Any expression of emotion or irony in professional activities is marked by them as acceptance of the main ideological agenda or as unwittingly naive adherence to it. The situation is seen as both oppressive and stalemate at the same time, it is not easy to find a way out of it.

At the same time, if you look closer, you will notice that the term "post-truth" itself is a direct result of the situation it tries to describe. Emphasizing that the discourse has captured the socio-political agenda in recent years (and, as is often pointed out, in countries, such as the United States, China and Russia), its theorists set the territorial, political and historical framework for the situation. Thus, they indicate that once "before" ("before the Internet", "before the mass media", "before Trump", "before the invention of printing") and somewhere "there" the situation was much better. In other words, they argue that there was once, and somewhere else, a sought after access to truth and objective knowledge, as well as to fair political competition and transparent flow of information.

artworks on pipes by alessandro di pietro

Alessandro Di Pietro, FELIX installation view.

However, it should not be forgotten that the situation of access to the truth described by them is in itself an ideological concept, having a specific period and place of origin, namely between the XVII and XVIII centuries of European culture. Theorists of the concept of post-truth appeal to the truth, which itself, at the same time, is a concept, and such a substitution of notions on their part inevitably puts them on a par with those politicians and public figures whom they seek to expose. It also makes it possible to accuse the supporters of the post-truth concept of reactionism, which in turn will give them an opportunity to make a similar accusation. The weak results of public discussions are, in particular, an evidence of how successful such mutual accusations can be in prolonging a discourse that deals not with the criteria of truth and the ways to clarify them, but with the reproduction of speech as such. The reproduction of this discourse equally involves those who find its existence useful for themselves as well as those who believe they are on the side of its criticism.

Of course, this does not mean that the situation in which we are now is no different from the situation in which European society was before. However, as much as intellectuals become critical of the development of the media and all, in their view, the current situation differs in terms of quantitative rather than qualitative indicators1. This viewpoint leads to the fact that marking any "epoch" or "era" (be they of "communication", "excess information", "social networks" or "postmodernism") remains nothing more than a conventional way to map the time period we live in, and any conclusions that can be drawn from such mapping can be equally successfully challenged or reversed. However, the potential success and ease of such mutual transformations can hardly be attributed to the "post-truth era", but rather to the way the language itself functions. Saussure's description of the mobile nature of the signified and a concept of performative utterance, formulated by Austin, allowed to produce many principles fundamental to the social sciences of the twentieth century, however already the Greek sophists have successfully used this feature of the language, causing the noble anger of their ideological opponents. In this sense, a humanitarian discourse specializing in linguistic speculation of all kinds represents the culmination of this almost unlimited freedom. The media and the Internet have provided access to the production of such speculation to an unprecedented number of people, thus changing the quantitative nature of the situation. It became clear that the struggle was not in the field of the least proximity to the imaginary truth, but in the field of the media coverage of a particular statement.

In many ways, such conditions are much more severe than those in which the producer of public speech was previously located. Its dominant position, previously achieved by giving it the right to speak through institutional and academic legitimization, has now lost its status. The capture of media channels and the expansion of the audience are becoming dominant principles of public representation of oneself and one's product, whether it is a politician, poet or dermatologist. Those who refer to the left-wing discourse, in turn, often demonize such an aspiration, preferring to it a more thought-out (and therefore, in their opinion, more boring for the average citizen) and much less emotionally burdened (and thus, in their opinion, doomed to a much smaller media coverage) work on the production of statements. Such strategy is again based on the belief that the changes taking place in the public consciousness in recent years are of a qualitative nature, which, in turn, allows the bearers of this belief to hold on to the belief that mass communication technologies as media are inherently vicious (a vivid example of such propaganda is the series "Black Mirror", whose heroes live in ominous ontological paradigms, and this dystopian habitat the creators of the series justify by the presence in the life of the heroes of technology itself).

artworks on pipes by alessandro di pietro

Alessandro Di Pietro, FELIX installation view.

As such, the media as a technology cannot be ethically colored, nor can it be a powder technology or a fission reaction of heavy nuclei. But if we say so, can we say that we know where the boundary beyond which ethical use of mass communication arises? If we do not use the term in the form of rhetorical figures of the mass media itself, we will see that we can only focus on the limits of the legal norm. Outside it, we will inevitably find ourselves in the same discursive linguistic vortex of the simultaneous potential legitimacy of both the notion and its opposites. Moreover, an excessive commitment to a kind of "ethical purity" deprives the adherent of such an approach of the possibility to act in a media field, overwhelmed by contradictions and requiring anyone in that field to take such contradictions into account. Lenin once called "an infantile disorder" such unwillingness to accept the need to take contradictions into account2, and this unwillingness still prevents many of us from acting more effective than we do now (the notion of effectiveness in this sense needs to be reappropriated by us from the vocabulary of capitalist management in order to develop criteria for evaluating our own work in the light of the tasks at hand).

This leads us to the question of what art should be, which is an example of a responsible socio-political position and at the same time disagrees with being on the media periphery. It is worth noting that this question already contains a discrepancy with what has been described above. The concept of social and political responsibility is abstract and conceptual enough to be represented by opposing positions without prejudice to oneself. This principle is the basis of many literary works, as well as the artistic form chosen by their authors. De Sade's texts are a vivid example of this: pornographic exersions born out of a demanding question about the ambiguity of bourgeois morality. For his part, Pasolini's Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, one of the most brutal and aesthetically refined films of his time, appeals to the question of ethical norm, openly unfolding before the viewer the entire hypnotic appeal of its violation. That is why it would be pointless to try to answer the question "on whose side" the artist stands when exploring only the formal criteria of his individual work. The formal criteria in this sense should include not only the plastic features of his objects, but also the way in which the artist describes (or refuses to describe) his conceptual approach.

In general, the question of the "sides" in the case of cultural — and, more broadly, humanitarian — figures often takes exceptionally painful and dramatic forms, as this very sphere still retains (at least in its own eyes) the preferential right of access to the truth and the development of ways to recognize it. In this regard, it is humanitarian workers who experience the loss of truthmarks as a violent threat, the opposition to which becomes a matter of personal professional solvency. In general, for the same reason, the proposal not to pay attention to the formal characteristics of one or another of the artist's work, focusing on other features of his project, runs the risk of a barrage of indignation, as meets a flurry of indignation statement that today the relationship between the object of art and its meaning are more than ever optional and mobile. After all, the search for truth requires a comprehensive approach, each detail in which should be given its own, extremely important role.

artworks on pipes by alessandro di pietro

Alessandro Di Pietro, FELIX installation view.

However, we can still assert that the formal element of an object of art is not its instrumentalizing function. What appears to be an object of art, as well as what the artist himself claims about it — the conceptual webs he weaves, do not have the decisive power to become factors that will play a major role in the perception of this object of art by the viewer. It is known that an artist is free to collect absolutely any plastic and conceptual combinations in order to produce art, but a bad artist does not understand the absolute interchangeability of these combinations. It is in this sense that the plastic and conceptual forms chosen by the artist can be easily taken out of the brackets of analysis of his political position, as well as the analysis of how exactly this or that art object will function. In particular, it happens this way due to the above described situation of simultaneous legitimacy of opposites the artist has to deal with. It should be noted once again that this situation is not a merit or a vice of modernity. To be convinced of this, it is enough to turn to the analysis of the folk carnival culture of the Middle Ages, literally turning upside down all the language and symbolic codes of its time3 or, closer to the present day, a separate phenomenon of Nietzsche, which saw the possibility to philosophize only under the condition of giving the universal right of difference itself4. And this is not so much about dialectics as a method that needs to accept contradictions for the sake of their infinite destruction, but rather about a situation in which truth behaves as a rhizomatic structure, at every point of which one is equally equidistant from the absent center, and in which the difference does not exist for the sake of being constantly eliminated.

In our case, there is no contradiction in the conversation about the instrumentality of the object of art and its simultaneous autonomy (aesthetic, ethical, institutional). In order to be sure of this, it is first necessary to understand what it means to be instrumental for today's art in principle. Boris Groys, analyzing the way art functions on the Internet5, says that art taken out of museums and other instances that legitimize its display as art and at the same time fictionalize the object of art as such, loses this property of representing fictionality. In other words, the art that the viewer encounters on the Internet is no longer art in the sense that was ascribed to him throughout the epoch of
modernity, since the museum's inception as a special venue. This is due to the complex loss of distance separating the art object from the viewer. Firstly, it is the physical distance that had to be traveled to the venue; a symbolic distance in the form of a ramified museum hall, outside which there was a "world of ordinary things"; and it is also the ideological distance in the form of a selection, which was made by the museum, giving the status of art only certain objects. All these distances placed the object of art in a transparent bubble of truth, which gave rise to the desired effect of fictionality, described by Groys — the fictionality contained in the object of art. In fact, in order to be able to transmit fiction, the object of art had to be connected to the regime of truth. In turn, the Internet, which destroys the institutional criteria of truthfulness of expression, removes fiction from the object of art.

Groys does not directly appeal to the regime of truth of a work of art6, but draws a clear line between the object of art as such (which today is not clear where and what it is) and the documentation of this object, which the artist presents to the world via the Internet. Groys refuses to give the Internet documentation of art any autonomous from the original, phenomenologically significant qualities, turning instead to the conversation about the utopian, unattainable autonomy of the author himself. He agrees with Douglas Crimp about the relevance of the Benjamin's position on the absence of aura of reproduced art and allows art documentation to be just a document, a part of the artist's archive — an archive that the artist collects and stores online and which, if it has the potential for future influence on context, is subtle. Benjamin's idea of aura, in turn, is closely linked to the idea of truth to which the original has access. Benjamin's truth is the truth of the romantic hero: it is unique, destructive, dangerous and very expensive (expensive often not only in the symbolic, but also in the literal and material sense of the word). This truth cannot be divided into parts without harming itself and cannot be presented as a thousand copies of equal value, like a film in celluloid; it requires mystical distance and is destroyed by touch.

artworks on pipes by alessandro di pietro

Alessandro Di Pietro, FELIX installation view.

However, we must not forget that truth has another property, which it gives to each object belonging to it. Truth paralyzes its object just as a spider paralyzes the victim by injecting poison into its body. What begins to belong to the truth, is removed from the physical world of things and begins to have another, especially calculated value. It is in this sense that we should talk about the objects of art belonging to the instance of truth (i.e. those that are either already kept in museums or are produced with a built-in claim to belong there) — are paralyzed, liquefied by its poison and risk falling apart in every physical or media transportation. For the same reason, their aesthetic autonomy becomes very conditional. When liberated from any contextual, ideological, and even institutional anchors, such an object of art remains a hostage of truth, and to liberate itself from it is equivalent to its own symbolic and, as a consequence, physical destruction.

At the same time, art, which is the fruit of the vicious union between the artist and the Internet, has the possibility (at least for a certain period of time) to remain independent of this paralyzing force, which, on the one hand, makes it possible to speak about the special character of its autonomy and, at the same time, about the symbolic mobility inaccessible to the former art. This object of art, as Groys points out, is no longer capable of retaining its own fictionality, but this is exactly what leads to two important consequences. On the one hand, this equalizes the rights of representation of the original object and its documentation-copy, allowing the latter not only to point to the first, but also to be its full legal deputies in matters of aesthetic impact on the viewer. This means that we can afford to talk about the principles of media functioning, about new types of aura, about the aesthetic effect and other things as applied to the documentation of the object, and not only (and not so much) with regard to itself. On the other hand, the phenomenological facet that separated art objects from non-art objects during the whole period of modernity, disappears (not counting the short-term weakening of this facet during the period of activity of Russian Avant-garde artists), which makes the art object a tool that can be applied directly in the field. Thus, the autonomy of an object of art is combined with the possibility for it to have an instrumental character, and it is important to note that these features in themselves do not carry any ethical or — more broadly — specific content load. Rather, they point to the specific contemporary place of art among other objects, being essentially a technology that everyone is free to apply in their own interests.

If we call the way art functions on the Internet a technology, it means that we can also talk about concrete ways of successful implementation of this technology. Then it is the task that the individual user of the technology, be it an artist, blogger, curator, etc., will set for himself, which will contain something that, in turn, can be analyzed and criticized. At the same time, analysis of such a task implies long-term observation and inclusion of more elements to check the effectiveness of the technology's application than a single work. This leads us to the fact that the discussion about the technology of art functioning on the Internet is connected with the question of project activities of a particular content producer or organizer, taking the place of analysis of only some parts. In a sense, we encounter a reduced copy of the principle of big data analysis when disparate parts of a project, different from each other, are analyzed as belonging to a single project thread and therefore have certain connections and connection regularities in the project. Here, art analysis can find common points with speculative fabrications of big data processing algorithms, and here, as in the case of machine-processing algorithms, there is no room for the "truth of subjectivity" of an individual author.

artworks on pipes by alessandro di pietro

Alessandro Di Pietro, FELIX installation view.

It is the fact that within the project the author disappears and dissolves as an independent unit, becoming a producer of content in the infinite feed of its kind for the algorithm of analysis, that is one of the aspects of criticism of the project work in the field of art. Such criticism is also supported by the above mentioned statement that the viewer is no longer interested in a separate work, that he, as a butterfly, can be attracted only by the light of a project. This state of affairs is seen as catastrophic for the critique of a project, being a confirmation of the ontological destruction of the subject. However, resisting the destruction of the subject today will be tantamount to a desire to return to places long and irrevocably abandoned, just as romanticism shouts into the emptiness of infinite spaces left by man, not only by God. The neoliberal crisis is directly related to the crisis of the concept of subjectivity, since the former is a direct descendant of the latter. This means that if we want to be consistent in our critique of neoliberalism, we must have the courage to abandon the previous concepts of subjectivity in favor of a speculative search for new forms, without fear of bringing to a logical (and practical) end any of its former existence. For this reason, it will be inconsistent to complain about the lack of attention to the personality of the individual author and his individual work — to continue the analysis at the level of the individual creative act and the individual product of the creative work today in a certain sense means to be on the side of neoliberal discourse, no matter how detached from this the strict critic feels.

Thus, a separate object of art gives way to a project in which it becomes embedded and the question of creation and development of which can be approached from quite pragmatic positions. It turns out that the project now takes the place of a museum, appropriating the truth and giving it some separate objects of art at its own discretion. In a certain sense it is possible to agree with it, however, it already will be other type of truth, like the documentation, that possesses some other type of aura. Unlike a museum institution that stops and seizes an object of art, the project aims to build up both its own dynamics and the dynamics of its parts. The truth of the project is the truth that accelerates, not slows down, the processes of growth and deformation of the general structure; it constantly moves and changes due to the constant mobility of the project itself. It is a truth that supports many differences, creating an illusion of a common flow; a truth in which A becomes equally non-A. In short, this is a truth that cancels itself and can only continue to exist through this abolition. In a sense, this is the truth of Internet technology, and successful Internet projects, in turn, skillfully use the same principles.

A project is a structure to which the notions of quality, efficiency, resources, objectives and scope apply. It is a pragmatism of figures: calculation of traffic, change of schedules of activity of social networks, increase of audience, frequency of feedback... In turn, the object of art inside the project, contrary to the opinion of skeptical supporters of the former types of truth, is not depreciated and does not cease to be art. More precisely, of course, it is devalued and ceases to be so! But only if we talk about such a value and such a type of art, which for many years were produced, on the one hand, by the truth concept of modernity, on the other hand — by legitimization through museum institutions, which directly depend on this concept, and with the third — by the concept of the author-subject claiming privileged access to the truth. The project, which includes one or another art object, helps it to build up its own instrumentalism, and the simultaneous inclusion of the same object in different projects (just as the same exhibition documentation appears in different blogs, sometimes of different topics) allows it to remain conceptually mobile. For this reason, it is impossible to put a mark equally between the project and the archive — these structures differ in their instrumental character: if the archive is, first of all, a technology of extraction and preservation, then the project is a technology of communication and mobile changes.

artworks on pipes by alessandro di pietro

Alessandro Di Pietro, FELIX installation view.

Due to its peculiarities, the project exists on the same plane as the mass media. This means that it is in their field and accepts all the peculiarities of their functioning. The project can be charged with the same charges as the mass media and with the same success. Structurally, there are practically no differences between them and the most important similarity can be singled out. This similarity is in their common ultimate goal, namely, to capture as much of their influence as possible. The only fundamental difference between a mass media channel and a single project can be found in the current prevailing situation of the difference as such: their content may differ. The project's basic mobility and variability make it possible for it to contain completely different content, and we argue that there is no content that cannot be organized into a project. This, in turn, brings us back to the question of how art functions within the project. The principle of ethical assessment cannot be applied to a project as a technology, but it can be applied to the project content. This means that the analysis of an art project involves the analysis of its individual parts, and the rejection of such an analysis will in turn indicate a false perception of the project as one that, regardless of its content, has some substantive characteristics.

This leads us to another conclusion. All the above allows us to say that the project is the only technology to date that is capable of countering the alternative content of mass communication. A separate object of art does not have a resource that would allow it to oppose the main discourse of "communication flow". This means that art that consciously opposes projecting and thus consciously leads itself to the periphery of the media can be described as one that chooses a reactionary and conformist policy of its action7.

The current situation presents us with conditions that we need to take into account as a climatic phenomena. The widespread use of social networks, access to public expression by anyone who uses them, the crisis of subjectivity and truthfulness, the wide resonance caused by the mass media — all this causes the temptation to endow the current decades with the sad labels like "the era of post-truth" and to connect the understanding of this situation as having qualitative differences from the previous one with the lack of necessary qualities for any change in it. Metaphysical categories of the search for the truth in the case of contemporary art are now embodied in the mystical ideology of the total archive and invaluable museum, while cultural workers are melancholy sad about the author's individuality, slipping away like sand through the fingers. Probably, today the refusal of the truth is the only productive path, allowing to carry out work in the field of art or someplace else. Perhaps, in order to work, we will all have to accept that truth today can and wants to turn around the opposite way. And although this probably means that everything described above can also be rightfully turned into its own contradiction, the constructive element is that it does not make all written above useless.


  1. The conversation about qualitative change presupposes a view of historical and epistemological reality as having a certain totality (in the understanding of Habermas). In this respect, we will stick to a rather Deleuzian position, which gives preference to difference over totality. 

  2. See: "To wage war for the overthrow of the international bourgeoisie <...> and in advance to refuse to maneuver, to use the contradiction of interests (at least temporary) between the enemies, to agree and compromise with possible (at least temporary, fragile, shaky, conditional) allies, isn't this an infinitely funny thing? Doesn't it look like if, when climbing a mountain that has not been explored yet, and is still unassailable, we have given up in advance on going sometimes in a zigzag, going back sometimes, abandoning the direction we chose once and trying different directions?" (Lenin, V.I. Detskaia Bolez’n Levizny ["Left-Wing" Communism, an Infantile Disorder] // Selected works in 4 Volumes. V.4. Moscow, Publishing house of political literature. 1985. Pp. 104-105) 

  3. "Ritual and spectacular forms of [folk culture] <...> as if built on the other side of the official second world and second life, which all medieval people were more or less involved in, in which they lived at certain times. This is a special kind of double world <...>. Ignoring or underestimating the laughing of the Middle Ages distorts the picture of all the subsequent historical development of European culture. (Bakhtin, M. Tvorchestvo François Rabelais [Rabelais and His World]. Moscow, Eksmo. 2014. Pp. 11-12) 

  4. "Nietzsche replaces the speculative element of negation, opposition or contradiction with the practical element of difference — the object of assertion and enjoyment". (Deleuze, G. Nietzsche and Philosophy. Moscow, Ad Marginem Press. 2003. P. 47). By asserting the primacy of difference, Nietzsche, according to Deleuze's idea, becomes able to draw conceptually opposing things into his philosophy. 

  5. Groys, B. V Potoke [In the Flow]. Moscow, Ad Marginem Press. 2018. 

  6. In particular, perhaps because the crisis of access to the truth for a work of art was associated with, for example, philosophers such as Lukács, with a period long before the Internet, namely, modernism. In turn, Lyotard pushed this turning point back to the middle of the twentieth century. However, in our case it is not a question of conceptual, but of practical application of truthful criteria in the production and legitimization of art by the artist and the museum, respectively. Critical changes in this issue are taking place right now, at a time when, on the one hand, the predominant representation of an object of art is moving to the Internet, and, on the other hand, when the question of a copy as a full-fledged substitute for the original arises in connection with this. 

  7. In this sense, the strategy of a radical exit from the process of capitalist production, which was once chosen by artists such as Mladen Stilinović (see his famous series "Artist at Work", 1978), is no longer applicable. This has become impossible since capitalism successfully appropriated depression and fatigue (which have become the typical state of any "good manager" with consequent benefits for pharmaceutical companies), revolt and rejection of hired labour (which have become the content for business training slogans and products for young audiences), along with any other forms of escape and exit.