CRISIS AND BORDERS
THROUGH THE FLAGS OF FILIPPO MINELLI
Santiago Zabala (ICREA - UPF)
Every crisis has its artist. These are not necessarily a product of the crisis as much as a response. Umberto Boccioni’s Futurism was a response to new technologies at the beginning of the 20th century, John Cage’s Neo-Dada Movement to the Cold War, and Judy Chicago’s Feminist Art Movement to civil and queer rights. Together with many others these artist were responding to crisis and emergencies, in other words, to existential threats.
Today there are a number of existential threats: environmental annihilation, nuclear war, and electoral interference through social media. But the greatest crisis today is the absence of crisis, or as Martin Heidegger put it, “the absence of emergencies.” It is important to distinguish between emergencies and the absence of emergencies. The former has become the axiomatic term through which sovereigns legitimize any imposed order through the framing concept of a “state of exception,” as Carl Schmitt, Walter Benjamin, and Giorgio Agamben have all explained. The latter instead is the result of a world where politics, finance, and privacy have been forced into previously established frames. Donald Trump, for example, rather than constituting an emergency, seems to be the incarnation of the absence of emergencies—a state of broadcast emergency signals that are meant to drown out the sounds of the most real emergencies, from climate change to civil and human rights.
© Filippo Minelli, from Contradictions and Non Sense Democracy. Projects realized (until now) between Milano > Genova > Barçelona > Algeciras > Ceuta > Marrakesh > Dakhla > Nouadhibou > Atar > Nouakchott > Bamako > Mopti > Timbouktou. The article's opening image is part of Minelli's photographic project Ctrl+Alt+Delete, which investigates identity, landscape and interruption across Russia, USA and Spain.
The Italian artist Filippo Minelli’s sculptures, installations, and performances are meant to thrust us into the absence of emergencies that characterize our age. This is probably why most of his works take place in different locations throughout the world. For example, he performed Silence/Shape, which consist of color smoke bombs, in London, Miami, and Seoul and Contradictions that consists in writing the names of social networks and corporations on the walls of slums in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Mali. Another interesting project, in particular for Philosophy in a Time of Crisis, is Across the Border which will be shown in Manifesta 12 European Biennale in Palermo from June to November. This is a participatory project where people from around the world send a photo or video waving a flag (sewed by local workers) with a word that ideally connects their place with another in the world. In the photo from Budapest the performer, who is Vietnamese, chose “Ho Chi Minh” to recall his culture as in Hungary they are an important Asian community. But what are these flags telling us?
© Filippo Minelli, from Across the Border. An ongoing participatory project that "transforms the specific nature of flags – the identification of a territory and its population – in a spontaneous connection tool", realized between Srilanka, Mongolia, Italy, Hungary, Cina, Romania, The Netherlands, Ukraine, Spain, Bosnia y Herzegovina, Spain, Republic of Korea, Russia, Germany, Poland and Russia.
These flags, which are created following Minelli’s instructions, are meant to change its meaning: instead of signs to define borders they become forms to share absent experiences that otherwise would be ignored. But what sort of experiences are these? They are existential experiences: personal messages, narrations, and histories which emerge from crisis produced by borders. The messages that cross borders through these flags are not only responses to an age where communication is framed within social media and networks, but also calls for existential interventions meant to save us. Through this projects the Italian artist manages to thrust us into absent existences at the margins, that is, borders which he invites us to acknowledge as the title indicates.
Minelli’s art is a response to an age where the greatest emergency is the absence of emergencies. This is why most of his projects take place in different countries and cities throughout the world. He does not look for simple emergencies, but rather for those absent emergencies which emerge at the margins. Salvation takes place here.
Agamben, Giorgio. 2005. State of Exception. Translated by Kevin Attell. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 2012.
Benjamin, Walter. 2006. Selected Writings. Edited by Howard Eiland and Michael W. Jennings. Vol. 4, 1938–19. Harvard: Harvard University Press.
Heidegger, Martin. 2014. Überlegungen VII–XI (Schwarze Hefte 1938/39), ed, P. Trawny, vol. 95, Gesamtausgabe. Frankfurt: Vittorio Klostermann.
Heidegger, Martin. 2012. Contributions to Philosophy (Of the Event) (1989), trans. Richard Rojcewicz and Daniela Vallega-Neu. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Schmitt, Carl. 2005. Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty. Translated by George Schwab. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
Zabala, Santiago, “Out of Network: The Art of Filippo Minelli,” April 16th 2013, The New York Times.
Zabala, Santiago, (eds), The Emergency of Philosophy, Special Issue of Philosophy Today: An International Journal of Contemporary Philosophy, Volume 59, Issue 4 (Fall 2015). With contributions from Gianni Vattimo, Adrian Parr, and many others.
Zabala, Santiago. 2017. Why Only Art Can Save Us: Aesthetics and the Absence of Emergency. New York: Columbia University Press.
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