Irit Rogoff



It seems to me that within the space of a relatively short period we have been able to move from criticism to critique, and to what I am calling at present criticality. That is that we have moved from criticism which is a form of finding fault and of exercising judgement according to a consensus of values, to critique which is examining the underlying assumptions that might allow something to appear as a convincing logic, to criticality which is operating from an uncertain ground of actual embededness. By this I mean that criticality while building on critique wants nevertheless to inhabit culture in a relation other than one of critical analysis; other than one of illuminating flaws, locating elisions, allocating blames. But what comes after the critical analysis of culture? What goes beyond the endless cataloguing of the hidden structures, the invisible powers and the numerous offences we have been preoccupied with for so long? Beyond the processes of marking and making visible those who have been included and those who have been excluded? Beyond being able to point our finger at the master narratives and at the dominant cartographies of the inherited cultural order? Beyond the celebration of emergent minority group identities, or the emphatic acknowledgement of someone else’s suffering, as an achievement in and of itself?
...
Criticality is then a recognition that we may be fully armed with theoretical knowledge, we may be capable of the most sophisticated modes of analysis but we nevertheless are also living out the very conditions we are trying to analyse and come to terms with. Therefore, criticality, is a state of duality in which one is at one and the same time, both empowered and disempowered, knowing and unknowing, thus giving a slightly different meaning to Hannah Arendt’s notion of ‘we, fellow sufferers’. So it would seem that criticality is in itself a mode of embodiment, a state from which one cannot exit or gain a critical distance but which rather marries our knowledge and our experience in ways that are not complimentary. Unlike ‘wisdom’ in which we supposedly learn from our experience, criticality is a state of profound frustration in which the knowledge and insights we have amassed do very little to alleviate the conditions we live through. So, you might well ask, what is the point then? Well , I would answer, the point of any form of critical, theoretical activity was never resolution but rather heightened awareness and the point of criticality is not to find an answer but rather to access a different mode of inhabitation. Philosophically we might say that it is a form of ontology that is being advocated, a ‘living things out’ which has a hugely transformative power as opposed to pronouncing on them. In the duration of this activity, in the actual inhabitation, a shift might occur that we generate through the modalities of that occupation rather than through a judgement upon it.
...
‘Smuggling’ is an extremely potent model through which to track the flights of knowledge, of materials, of visibility and of partiality all of whose dynamic movements are essential for the conceptualisation of new cultural practices. In addition and equally important, I want to see if ‘smuggling’ with all of its necessary ‘shadow play’ can be an active, political mode of ‘being in the world’ to paraphrase Merleau-Ponty. If it can be the mode of artists, curators and of criticality? At the heart of ‘smuggling’ is obviously contraband, its materiality and its facticity. And one of the questions that we need to ask is how do critical subjectivities intersect with contraband and what new forms of critical empowerment come out of this? In addition we would want to ask whether smuggling enables communication and if we can conceive and materialise a new theory of mobility out of it, one that links it more closely to the notions of ‘field work’, i.e. the work of fields rather than that which is located in fields, a term we are privileging at present as an understanding of our practice.
...
"Smuggling" exists in precisely such an illegitimate relation to a main event or a dominant economy without being in conflict with it and without producing a direct critical response to it.