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With the benefit of hindsight, what role does new media play in artistic practices, activism, and as an agent for social change in the Middle East and North Africa today?

Bassam El Baroni
2 November 2012

'Networks have no inside, only radiating connectors. They are all edges. They provide connections but no structure. One does not reside in a network, but rather moves to other points through the edges'.

Bruno Latour, 'Some Experiments in Art and Politics', e-flux journal, 03/2011.

 With the benefit of hindsight, one should have realised that we exist in what some thinkers have dubbed a 'stationary state'. The stationary state is the condition of non-growth and the incapacity of the world economy to renew itself in order to move towards a new era of accumulation. It asserts that neoliberal capitalism will continue to be what shapes the socio-political landscape – from an economic perspective – for a long time to come, but just as it is, there will be no end in the foreseeable future to the current crisis where capitalism will emerge stronger and fairer. While this condition delineates our possibilities, we have also come to realise the rise in social antagonism as an evident and continuously present element within many societies; constant every day antagonisms based on ideologies, perceived identities, histories, or class. Art's challenge today is to exist and be practiced meaningfully within this static 'longue durée' of the economic order that resists all the antagonisms that can be thrown at it. Facebook, Twitter, You Tube etc. are the networks that have no inside yet are connectors, using Latour's vocabulary. It is no coincidence that they are seen as essential networks during this stationary condition, since there is a general inability to develop new socio-political and economic concepts that can shape the world differently. Because these networks have no inside, they can be filled up with all types of stuff from extremism, terrorism, fascism to leftist, anarchist, and the newer, less-defined movements. In short, they are playgrounds for antagonism in an epoch that is looking for something but has yet to formulate the proper structure for it to exist.

Bassam El Baroni

is a curator, an art critic, and the director of the non-profit art space Alexandria Contemporary Arts Forum (ACAF), which he co-founded in late 2005. He is also a PhD researcher in the Curatorial/Knowledge programme at Goldsmiths, University of London. El Baroni is co-curating Norway's Lofoten International Art Festival, Lofoten Islands, 2013 and recently curated the group exhibition When it Stops Dripping from the Ceiling (An Exhibition That Thinks About Edification), Kadist Art Foundation, Paris, 2012. In addition, he was co-curator of Manifesta 8, 2010, Murcia, Spain. His other projects include: the ongoing online collaboration The ARPANET Dialogues (with Jeremy Beaudry and Nav Haq), 2010-present; the publication Fifteen Ways to Leave Badiou (2011); and the exhibition Trapped in Amber (co-curated with Helga-Marie Nordby), UKS, Oslo, 2009. El Baroni lives and works in Alexandria, Egypt.


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