When Politics Become Form

Ivor Stodolsky with Margarita Tsomou as respondent

When radical art and political theory can be hyper­commodified – as the fetishistic facsimile of nearly forty pages of Das Kapital in this year’s Venice Biennale eighty­five­euro catalogue amply demonstrates – direct action is one way to make clear the difference between politics and its mere form. The question of how one might effectively counter a corporate oligarchy is, however, more complex. It will be broached by comparing diverse forms of protest against the Guggenheim Foundation – by Gulf Labor, a coalition of artists, activists & academics which protests human rights abuses surrounding the construction of the Guggenheim in Abu Dhabi, and by Checkpoint Helsinki, which started as a movement of art practitioners and citizens against the expropriation of government budgets for a new Guggenheim franchise in Helsinki. Can small/elite organizational structures be effective, and to what extent is protest neutralized and recuperated by an institution once it is accepted as part of the establishment? Are mass­movement organizations democratically viable or even desirable? Or are new previously unfeasible institutions of mass democracy becoming “imaginable” on the pre­mondial horizon?