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How To Live in Relinquishment of The World?

Eduarda Neves



"Simple sums you find a help in times of trouble. A haven."

Samuel Beckett, Company



Little does indifference matter if anything is possible. If almost anything is possible. Day and night. Imagining that art, just like all things, has its own rotation period. It is the former which has long been telling us that the world, more or less illuminated, more or less obscured, needs to survive. A free space for the days that go by. In order not to end. The absent elderly in Tadeusz Kantor's Dead Clas [1], live on. They get up and sit. Repeatedly. In solidarity they bear the graves. On different occasions, they laugh behind the window and run away. A ball. Artists. Memories are rendered incomprehensible. Deaf, paralytic, assaulted. They pose for the photograph much like dead bodies in old daguerreotypes. They wait for the photographer's exact moment and remain attentive to the manifold shots; the mechanism of the camera obscura is a mysterious one. You never know what may happen on the other side, that which separates us by a thread. The old man on the bicycle approaches and shouts: "Attention." Enthralled, he shoots.

An online exhibition. Pandemic fatigue is the diagnostic slapped onto newspapers. They will not cease seizing us. Long-standing forms. More retirement homes with dozens of infected. The elastic time of consciousness and the duty of consolation. We have been forgiven in every possible way, and therefore there is nothing to add. It suffices to shout. The noise of the Kantorian machine of annihilation which brings death to mind. Prophecies. The death of art. The spirit that will no longer be an absolute one, and the being that aspires to be outside the event.


Metaphysics everywhere. It is just like success:

He who seeks his true countenance, let him be of good cheer: he'll find it, convulsed with anguish, the eyes out on stalks. He who longs to have lived, while he was alive, let him be reassured: life will tell him how. (That's all very comforting.) … What can it matter to me, that I succeed or fail? The undertaking is none of mine. If they want me to succeed I'll fail (and vice versa), so as not to be rid of my tormentors. [2]


We grow used to scheduled behaviours, a branch of the metaphysics of objectivity. We usually call them priorities as well. The Golden Globes have been awarded. Winners and losers. Covid and not Covid. In the end, Netflix won. Platforms, just like Sars-CoV-2, multiply in order to survive. Beckett wrote he did not like nor dislike paintings, since they are not sausages. In democracy, groups of extra-party, independent citizens are prevented from standing for election. In democracy, several independent artists have long been prevented from being so. Democracy and repression. In the days preceding the government's announcement on new guidelines for lifting lockdown, protests and deaths in Myanmar are reported in news media, the European Union criticises repression, some political parties accuse EDP of tax benefit abuse. Jamal Khashoggi's fiancée calls for sanctions against Saudi crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman, who is suspected of legitimising the journalist's capture or death. The prince will not be invited to visit the USA in the foreseeable future. The maze does not change much; it is a timeless form. The mould for an infinite drawing

Second online exhibition. Empty cities dramatise death. At the grocery shop, two powerless heads leaf through travel adverts as they talk about the prize awarded by the University of Coimbra to Cardinal José Tolentino de Mendonça. They say the latter embodies the former's values. Empty chairs at the outdoor café. More beaten up women, and artists speaking against the lack of government support. The money that has not yet arrived. Things like these. The utter ineffectiveness of the moral act disturbs any Darwinist appearance. It is of little use to invoke the beauty of day or the splendour of dawn. Every morning, every night comes about as an assault. We are not yet able to act; we celebrate failure. There are problems which, as certain authors have taught us, are not yet topical. Nietzsche himself knew he was one thing, and his writings were another:


Here, before I speak of the books themselves, I shall touch upon the question of the understanding and misunderstanding with which they have met. I shall proceed to do this in as perfunctory a manner as the occasion demands; for the time has by no means come for this question. My time has not yet come either; some are born posthumously. [3]


We can also read on a Portuguese ISP's website that Grimes, married to a tech tycoon, will donate part of her profits to a non-profit organisation dedicated to reducing carbon emissions. She has launched a digital art collection titled WarNymph, auctioning it on the Nifty Gateway platform: "The piece Newborn 2, originally priced at $20, was sold in under 10 minutes, with the best offer reaching $300,000. The artwork has already been relisted on the platform at $2.5 million." Showing solidarity with charity, just like in some American film, platforms were born to win. As were tycoons. In keeping with most of contemporary art, the pop singer addresses the Anthropocene as well: Miss Anthropocene is an album of hers. Always a topical one, this theme-park of walking folk [4] paraphrasing Sloterdijk.

Third online exhibition. Another to visit virtually. The audience that rejects the spectacle of hunger. Domestication, IRS-less bitcoin, and rising civil disobedience. A funeral parlour announces that cremations, tombs, and tombstones may be cheaper in 2021. The Dead Class has not ended. The same, repeating, pushing words. Kantor said memory is like a daguerreotype. The delirious elderly utter euphoric sentences that nobody understands. All of them subjected to who knows what. The night leads them closer to arrival. Perhaps life is gathered in that mechanical cradle. We patiently wait for the sky to steer us clear of our disheartening surroundings. Always the same excess of signification, of common resonance. Ill by complacency. Spring has come:


The whole world. Mad is he who wins behind the scenes. In the dark, the voice is aimed at those that remain on the margins. This, the voice says, this is what your intelligence, your spring, your beliefs have become. This is what your principles, your museums, your discourses have turned into. [5]


More vaccines, and the ensuing price rise from July on. Financial scarcity and profit. The Clubhouse app has already garnered millions of voice-oriented fans in a world which increasingly hinders the word; confined but happy personal trainers, they say. The establishment's international magazines have already announced the top artists of 2020. The Eurovision song Contest. In this sort of penal colony, each fabricates the artists they like.

Variations of the state of art.

We are far away now. Nothing but the urge to go. When there is no body, there is no corpus. Art is rendered a colossal fatigue. Before one's withdrawal. Or before one's relinquishment of the world.



Eduarda Neves has a degree in Philosophy and a PhD in Aesthetics. She is a professor of contemporary art theory and criticism, an area in which she has published various works, and an independent curator. Her research and curatorial activities cross the fields of art, philosophy, and politics.


Translation PT-EN: Diogo Montenegro.



[1] Polish theatre director Tadeusz Kantor's Dead Class is a seminal work in contemporary theatre. The first performance took place in Krakow in 1975. 

[2] SSamuel Beckett - The Unnamable. London: Faber and Faber, 2010, p. 78.

[3] Friedrich Nietzsche - Ecce Homo. Edinburgh and London: T. N. Foulis, 1911.

[4] PPeter Sloterdijk - Normas para el parque humano. Madrid: Ediciones Siruela, 2000, p. 77.

[5] Christian Bobin - Um vestido curto de festa. Lisbon: Editora Barco Bêbado, 2020, p. 83.


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