This edition of On-Curating.org places ontological and political perspectives on notions of community at the centre of its debate. We believe that such an explicit discussion of community on a theoretical level is an urgent requirement in the context of ‘curating’ since cultural articulations always implicitly or explicitly address and produce communities. It was Jacques Rancière in particular who in The Politics of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible pointed out the importance of access to visibility and audibility since these are what enables or prevents access to a community. "The distribution of the sensible makes visible who can participate in the communal according to what he does.
A particular activity determines thus who is and is not capable of being communal."1 In his perspective, aesthetics, visibility and politics are causally linked.
Jacques Rancière defines equality as a fundamental opposition to the police order, to the limiting power structures of a society. It is impossible for the police order to "respond to the moment of equality of speaking bodies"2 For Rancière, equality is produced as a process in an open set of practices. He draws two conclusions from this: "First, equality is not a state, and it is not a state that an action seeks to achieve. It is not
a precondition that an action sets out to verify. Second, this set of practices has no particular name. Equality has no visibility of its own. Its precondition must be understood in the practices that bring it into play and derived from their implications."3
According to Rancière this process approach corresponds to the traditional leftist notion of emancipation: "Emancipation is equality in actu, the logic of equality between speaking beings, which has an impact on the distribution of bodies in the community, a field characterized by inequality. How is this impact created? In order for the political to exist, there must be a space of encounter between the logic of the police and the logic of equality."4 Following Rancière one such space of encounter would be art.
Community – how does it exist and how is it conceivable: as preliminary, anticipated, challenged, unrepresentable, inoperative, non-existent, possibly impossible ...? In the modern period the term 'community', as distinguished from 'society', has repeatedly been the subject of much debate and questioning. It is questionable on the one hand with respect to the notion and practice of a holistic ensemble, with its corresponding inclusions and exclusions, and on the other hand with respect to the philosophical and political models of Being-With, in which community is
understood as an open process not subject to closure. It is questionable also because of concrete historical experiences and corresponding fantasies, failed utopias and anxieties. The debate around community in the 1980s was therefore perceived as a provocation, particularly in Germany, because of the appropriation of the term by national socialists. Today the term has been rehabilitated on the one hand and subjected to fundamental criticism because of its ontological turn on the other hand.5
It is remarkable, in particular, that the desire for ontology manifests in
a specific historical situation: The debate around
so-called communitarianism, which juxtaposed two irreconcilable positions, one republican-holistic, the other liberal-individualist, raised doubts whether community was possible at all. The notion of community did not seem to correspond with our current horizon. Numerous authors tried to position the terms that revolve around the notion of 'community' beyond concepts of communitarian collectives as derived from Marxism / communism, by relating the debates about the individual to their thinking and marking their distance to the discredited notion of a national community [Volksgemeinschaft].
What is envisioned with these endeavours and strategies is a thinking of community that does not give up a leftist (i.e. utopian or emancipatory) project but which attempts to think it under completely different auspices. The renaissance of the discussion about the community is related to political motivations, to discussions about ecological sustainability and the limits of economic growth. Debates about globalization, too, play an essential role in the strife for an adequate understanding of a postnational global community.
In their endeavour to overcome the implications
Patrick Jaojoco is a Brooklyn-based curator and writer. His research focuses on political ecology and intersections of radically nonlinear histories and temporalities. He is part of the curatorial collective Frontview, which is currently working on a project on decolonization and cartography. He has assisted with numerous institutional exhibitions, including Danilo Correale: At Work's End and Zach Blas: Contra-Internet, both curated by Laurel Ptak at Art in General, NY; and Brand New: Art and Commodity in the 1980s curated by Gianni Jetzer at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, DC. Independently, he has curated shows across New York including con•tin•u•ums (time beyond lifetimes); Low-Grade Euphoria, both at the Pfizer Building, Brooklyn; DRIIPP, an intensive collaborative project with four artists and two curators presented at the 2016 SPRING/BREAK Art Show; and humanimalands, an exhibition investigating the fluid ontologies of humans, animals, and landscapes in the Anthropocene presented at CP Projects Space. Jaojoco received his MA in Curatorial Practice from the School of Visual Arts and his BA in English Literature and Environmental Studies from New York University.