Installations, videos and projects in public space

by Oliver Ressler

Oliver Ressler’s Project I’M Fired (IMF) at Virtual Manifesta

Marina Grzinic

Oliver Ressler’s project – I AM FIRED – that is known also as IMF can be re-read, if we push just a little bit our knowledge and imagination, as a short rebus of the initials for The International Monetary Fund – IMF. At first one could think about Ressler’s IMF in a relation to the real and overpowered IMF as a kind of an effective language game, but after accessing the project at Virtual Manifesta WWW we see that all the connections are more than just intentional, they are strategically positioned.

The story went as follows: Oliver Ressler has originally proposed the IMF project, that is now possible to be seen as intrinsic part of the www site of VIRTUAL MANIFESTA, to be part of the real Manifesta 2000 in Ljubljana exhibition project (June-September 2000). Manifesta is a biennial art fair of works of what is perceived as the New European young and prosperous selected community of artists. Despite the support and appreciation of one of the actual curators of the curatorial team of Manifesta 2000 – Ole Bouman, the project was not accepted in the end by the remaining three other curators (Bonami, Hlavajova and Rhomberg). Bouman supported strongly Ressler’s project and did not succeed, he was over voted. Ole Bouman decided to put visible these internal fights organizing the www project: Virtual Manifesta. On this site some other projects, besides Ressler’s IMF, are presented: projects that Bouman wanted to include in the Real Manifesta, but because of the process of selecting and the way of working of the curatorial team, he did not succeed to show, to lobby, to include and present.

Important are at least two points that Ressler’s IMF, along with other projects in the Virtual Manifesta, can teach us: this project functions as a kind of a test for all the not included and disproved projects by the curatorial team, and show an internal non transparent process of decision making when selecting the artists and their works for Manifesta. Ole Bouman realized the web-project Virtual Manifesta as a response, with Bouman’s words, to strong disagreements and differences in curatorial visions between the four curators.

About Virtual Manifesta, I can say it is important that such project is done and displayed in the end, but the problem is that it came AFTER the REAL Manifesta. Virtual Manifesta is too late or deals with a delay in real time. Nevertheless it stays as a sign of a condition of production of such global shows, making at least more visible the process of how such projects are constructed in today’s global art capital situation. It opens the vision how much and how further the process of negotiation has to be pushed – how much of the critical and curatorial principle has to be “eaten” to accomplish the mechanism of art capitalism and of the art market that wants successful projects, where successful means in more of the cases — just an abstract positioning.

One wonders still why Ressler’s IMF project was not accepted? The reason can be simple as it was enough of other projects that were selected earlier and Ressler’s work was over numbering the whole Manifesta. This is again another characteristic of such shows, everything can stay for everything, the measure is not based on quality and critical re-articulation of the position of art, but on absolute exchange. This is the perfect way how capital functions, it exchanges everything for everything, for the sake of abstract circulation that functions not as aesthetic, but anesthesia.

Ressler’s work is excellent in the way how it proposes in a very precise manner the articulation between art, capital and global economics that control politics. But lets go step by step. Ressler project discusses the most traumatic point of Balkan – the so called instrument, the key, the engine, which provoked the war in the Balkans. Ljubljana and Slovenia is certainly not a Balkan any more, but it is ideal to rethink the Balkan and the Yugoslav conflict here. Slovenia is at the crossroads. If somebody proposes a project for the Manifesta in Ljubljana, s/he can not avoid the conditions of production of art and culture: Slovenia was part of Yugoslavia, and of the war ranging in these aeries in the Balkan. Ressler took the direct path, he is not one of the many that are still thinking about the Balkan’s war as the war between ex-Yugoslav tribes; an easy way of feeding Western Europeans consciences, an easy way to say that the developed Europe has nothing to do with the war in ex-Yugoslavia. He enters deep in the research and connects the IMF strategies in the end of the 80’s and the Yugoslav crisis. Ressler is showing to the reader of his project – as you have to read Ressler’ IMF, if you want to proceed along Ressler’s project – , that is a deep connection between IMF, market colonialism, escalation of diplomacy, globalization of poverty, passive privatization and the dismantle of public sector. The IMF’s therapy (all coinage are coming from Ressler’s excellent vocabulary) and Yugoslavia’s initial social disorder are intrinsically linked, forming a path that leads us beyond the paradigm of “mad Slavs” that fight and kill each others simply because being blood thirsty. The Slavs will have to wait for decades for the “Schindler list”.

Ressler pushed the process of interpretation at such a speed that this same global capital structure (that is part of the Manifesta background as well) erased himself as well in the end. Ressler was fired as he was too precise and direct. He learned on his proper body and his proper work that in the golden triangle of capital as global-multicultural-spiritual, all what Manifesta definitely is, the post-political discourse must be seen not as a conflict between global/national ideological visions, but as an abstract collaboration.

Multiculturalism is the cultural logic of global capitalism, as new spiritualism is its ideology; multiculturalism is about abstract multiplication (as Manifesta taught us); when at Manifesta the works were radical in content they were arranged in the space of the city of Ljubljana, in galleries and museums in such a way that could not disturb our minds. Excellent works displayed in difficult corners and small spaces without a possibility to be really watched…

Global capitalism needs particular identities in abstract collaboration, without critical reasoning. As Jacques Rancière developed in his theory of the post-political, it is about the collaboration of enlightened technocrats (economists, lawyers, public opinion experts) and liberal multiculturalists. Manifesta 3 was in its absolutely abstracted version, the international legitimization of the internal enlightened technocrats of post-socialism (Cankarjev dom, etc.) by international multiculturalists. Ressler who explained us in details a similar mechanism should not be surprised, he had to be fired in order to let the abstract mechanism of global capital to work on smoothly.

from: Eikon Nr. 34, 2001