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State of Affairs

Without delving too much into Wittgenstein's vision of reality, we can discern that the term “state of affairs” refers to various combinations of objects or things. Suffice it to say, an object is like a building block in our system of representation, a bit like the way in which primary colors are constitutive of our vision. Objects are simple. They are basic elements that are made up of language, and a name usually stands for an object.

The Mystical

Is this something that cannot be put into words, a state of affairs (Sachverhalt), a term that is closely associated with 19th century Austrian philosophy from Bolzano to Meinong? If it were an atomic fact or a more complex situation (Sachlage), then we could still describe it, therefore, within the discursive function of language.

I am Prehistory

You’re standing in front of a prehistoric work of art: or at least, you’re being told that it’s a “work of art,” and you’re also being told that it’s “prehistoric”—let’s say roughly 25 or 35 thousand years old. It’s a group of animals drawn in charcoal across a cave wall, for instance, or perhaps it’s a small faceless female figure with visible genitalia that’s engraved onto a fragment of a mammoth’s ivory tusk. All these facts were provided by experts to you in just a few minutes.

The Promise

Impatient, she walks out of the bus in between stops and continues to the auction house by foot. At the main entrance, she follows the person in front of her through the revolving door and pursues her path upstairs. From the staircase, she hears the harangues of the auctioneers: “18,000, 19,000, do I hear one more?”; “Lot 94, Aube, oil on canvas by Henri Jeanennet, starting bid at 5,000.”

Resilient Objects: Surviving the Collapse of the Institution

In 2018, on a warm September night in Rio de Janeiro, the exposed electrical wiring of a poorly installed air conditioner short-circuited, starting a fire that destroyed most of the 20 million artifacts and natural specimens stored and displayed at the National Museum of Brazil within a matter of hours.

In Conversation

Dance in the Making

This conversation between Diana Vishneva, Anna Yudina, and Olivier Berggruen explores the evolution of dance, seen from the perspective of an “art form in the making,” to use William Forsythe’s memorable formulation.

Lady Lay


In Conversation

Anicka Yi with Olivier Berggruen

A symbiotic organism in its own right, Anicka Yi’s work fuses multi-sensory experience with synthetic and evolutionary biology to form lush bio-fictional landscapes. Utilizing a “biopolitics of the senses” Yi challenges traditional approaches to the human sensorium, emphasizing olfaction as well as microbial and embodied intelligence. Through her “techno-sensual” artistic exploration, Yi is opening new discourse in the realms of cognition, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, introducing concepts of the sensorial ecology of intelligence, the machine microbiome, machine ecosystems, and “biologized” machines.

Symbiontics: a view of present conditions from a place of entanglement

The specifics demanded of pandemical philosophy call up the paradox of connection at a distance. Connection forged by the act of communication across a few feet of air, that can nonetheless vector thousands of virions, expelled from the breath of a single speaker.1 (These are the unwitting microbial aggressions that connect us as linked vectors of a pathogen.) Connection across antagonistic lines, as bodies classed and raced by governmentality are literally (op)pressed by other bodies deposed to govern them with intimate, grinding, daily violence. (These are the witting macro- and micro-aggressions that connect us via the flexible ligaments of divisive racism.)

The Case for Impure Vision

It is well known that in the wake of the Romantic era, Cézanne and a host of other artists dreamed of restoring a sense of innocence and purity to our senses—the naiveté of the artist and the innocence of the viewer. Is there such a thing as pure vision? When we are confronted with a painting, is it possible for us to see the object in pure visual terms without being influenced by a host of factors such as one’s prior history of seeing art or one’s acquaintance with art history?


The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2020

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