Société Réaliste, "Ministère de l’Architecture: Culture States, The Future Is the Extension of the Past by Other Means," 2008. Digital print, 78 3/4 x 47 1/4 in. Courtesy of Société Réaliste.

Société Réaliste, Ministère de l’Architecture: Culture States, The Future Is the Extension of the Past by Other Means, 2008. Digital print, 78 3/4 x 47 1/4 in. Courtesy of Société Réaliste.

Société Réaliste, "Ministère de l’Architecture: Culture States, Superimposition of Political Frontiers at the Turn of Each Century Between Year 0 and Year 2000 on the European Peninsula and Its Surroundings," 2008. Digital print, 78 3/4 x 47 1/4 in. Courtesy of Société Réaliste.

Société Réaliste, Ministère de l’Architecture: Culture States, Superimposition of Political Frontiers at the Turn of Each Century Between Year 0 and Year 2000 on the European Peninsula and Its Surroundings, 2008. Digital print, 78 3/4 x 47 1/4 in. Courtesy of Société Réaliste.

Ultimately, such unresolved questions threatened to overshadow the various contributions made by Geography of Transterritories. One left feeling that the works in the show had brought crucial contradictions into focus, but only intermittently, sometimes symptomatically, and without articulating a coherent means of response. In fact, the exhibit itself sometimes fell victim to these conflicts. For example, why did an investigation of transterritoriality only include artists based in the global North?21 Why did it limit itself to the space of the gallery, forgoing any engagement with the singular geographies of the Bay Area? And why did it fail to address the ongoing immigration debates in the United States, specifically those in California? Here one wishes that Hou had acknowledged activist artists such as Ricardo Dominguez, who has worked to minimize fatalities along the United States-Mexico border by distributing GPS-enabled cell phones that are pre-programmed with safe transit routes to prospective Mexican migrants.22

The easy way to resolve such contradictions would be to claim that critical geographies have yet to answer Jameson’s call for forms of “cognitive mapping” that could enable a fractious Left to orient itself relative to the ever-elusive movements of global capital.23 But this would impose a familiar meta-narrative onto a conjuncture that might only seem to be an impasse, one that could allow us to chart new routes that don’t appear on existing maps. Is it really the case that a socialist micropolitics can’t succeed without a concept of social totality? Experimental practices like Biemann’s and Motta’s seem to indicate otherwise. And is mapping necessarily didactic, as Jameson would seem to have it? Exhibitions like Hou’s, despite their compromises, suggest ways that geography can track affective intensities, intuitive impulses, and ethical claims. They also show how mapping can function as a form of negation, gauging moments of resistance. In doing so, they ask that we attend to the ways that aesthetics and politics often interact in what Jacques Ranciere has termed “zones of indistinction,” in which the terms of given aesthetico-political logics are transformed in response to local, contingent antagonisms.24 How can such zones be produced, identified, and mapped? What sorts of experience, community, or contestation do they enable? In order to respond, we would need a geography that we still await, one that could both recognize and affirm the singular space opened by a question.

Andrew Stefan Weiner is a Ph.D. candidate in the Rhetoric Department at the University of California, Berkeley. He has contributed critical essays and articles to Grey Room, Parkett, Afterall, and Qui Parle.

Footnotes

  1. As noted before, Motta is currently based in New York. Arcega works in San Francisco, Biemann works in Zurich, and both Claire Fontaine and Societe Realiste are based in Paris.
  2. See Richard Marosi, “UC San Diego Professor Who Studies Disobedience Gains Followers–And Investigators,” Los Angeles Times, May 7, 2010. Available online at http:// articles.latimes.com/2010/ may/07/local/la-me-ucsdprofessor- 20100507-53.
  3. See Fredric Jameson, “Cognitive Mapping,” in Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture, Cary Nelson and Lawrence Grossberg, eds. (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1988), 347-60.
  4. Ranciere outlines this position in “Problems and Transformations of Critical Art,” in Jacques Ranciere, Aesthetics and Its Discontents, trans. Steven Corcoran (Cambridge: Polity, 2009), 45-60