Creating Insecurity


Art and Culture in the Age of Security. Edited by Geoff Cox and Wolfgang Sützl

‘Today we are facing extreme and most dangerous developments in the thought of security. In the course of a gradual neutralisation of politics and the progressive surrender of traditional tasks of the state, security imposes itself as the basic principle of state activity. What used to be one among several decisive measures of public administration until the first half of the twentieth century, now becomes the sole criterion of political legitimation. The thought of security entails an essential risk. A state which has security as its sole task and source of legitimacy is a fragile organism; it can always be provoked by terrorism to become itself terrorist.’ (Giorgio Agamben)

Following the words of Giorgio Agamben (from his 2001 article ‘On Security and Terror’), security has become the basic principle of international politics after 9/11, and the ‘sole criterion of political legitimation’. But security – reducing plural, spontaneous and surprising phenomena to a level of calculability – also seems to operate against a political legitimacy based on possibilities of dissent, and stands in clear opposition to artistic creativity. Being uncalculable by nature, art is often incompatible with the demands of security and consequently viewed as a ‘risk’, leading to the arrest of artists, and a neutralisation of innovative environments for the sake of security.

Yet precisely the position of art outside the calculable seems to bring about a new politicisation of art, and some speak of art as ‘politics by other means’. Has art become the last remaining enclave of a critique of violence? Yet how ‘risky’ can art be?

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