Common Affairs



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Graz, 2008
176 pages
10 cm x 17 cm
45 colour plates

Edition Camera Austria

ISBN: 978-3-900508-74-6

With contributions by Ursula Biemann, Mladen Bizumic, Kristleifur Björnsson, Claus Föttinger, Mustafa Maluka, Josephine Meckseper and Lily van der Stokker.
Edited by Reinhard Braun.


The exhibition project “Common Affairs,” developed as a contribution to the steirischer herbst festival 2008, fields the question of possible terrains of the political–terrains in which common affairs become public and can welcome debate. Where are these terrains likely to be found today? Which issues can be considered common affairs when “[i]t is difficult to say where collective experience ends and individual experience begins” (Paolo Virno). The exhibition and contributions to the catalogue accordingly focus on migration, image politics, lifestyle, and cultural history as reservoirs for construction and critique of everyday life, collectivism, and history. This prefaces the question lingering in the background: “Can properly political relations be wrested from a totally administered world?” (Brian Holmes).

Josephine Meckseper details her works as “crystallization points of absurd antipodes and coincidences with which we have become accustomed to living,” posing in her photographic works and installations questions about the relationship between global politics and private consumption. Ursula Biemann singles out the politics of mobility in her video work by example of the story of a Belarussian migrant crossing Europe. Kristleifur Björnsson works with Internet images in rendering the authenticity inherent in their fictionalism and factitiousness. Mladen Bizumic wonders: Do photographic images exist that refrain from relating meaning, identity, a story, or politics? Mustafa Maluka, in his pictorial portraits, points out the difficulties in understanding cultural differences beyond contested memories of colonialism. Claus Föttinger’s installations revolve around the banalization of history and politics, but also around choosing to not acknowledge them, hence yielding options for the creation of an “individual” history. Lily van der Stokker works in her murals with strategies of banalization and a type of strategic naïveté.
Hence, the participating artists approximate from different angles questions of the possibilities for keeping separate or associating subjective action and political contexts, that is, questions of possibilities arising from common affairs. An essay by curator Reinhard Braun positions these questions in the context of current debates on the political between “empire” and “multitude,” on the distribution of the sensible, cultural studies, and faitiches.