SHUMON BASAR

In 2011, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Shumon Basar, and Joseph Grima together proclaimed the establishment of “Posthastism.” In June 2012, their movement arrived to The Pavilion in Beiing in the form of a one-day exhibition titled “Beijing Posthastism.” Alongside film screenings and live performance, the three curators laid out the terms of “The Posthastist Manifesto,” calling for, among other things, “new slownesses,” and affirming that “resistance is slow.” LEAP, of course, hastily took the opportunity to interview curator Shumon Basar.

LEAP

The three of you were using your BlackBerries at the event. Hans also mentioned that you communicated through BBM, which gave birth to the statement: “Posthastism is a BBM movement.” How does the instantaneity of the instrument correspond to the Posthastist idea of slowness?

Shumon Basar

One produces the other. This feeling of “posthaste” we seemed to share when we began to write to each other on our BlackBerries, was a product of all those clichés of modern life: speed, acceleration, deadlines, travel, restlessness. After sustained periods living and working like this, one comes to a point where this mode becomes, paradoxically, unproductive. Posthastism, importantly, is not like Futurism or the Slow Movement, where the complexity of the world is reduced to an either/or stipulation. We acknowledge that there are times to be fast, and precisely because of this, there must be decelerated or isolated times. One produces the other.

LEAP

Posthastism is an “ism.” Does it point to a new kind of humanism? Or is there a possibility that Posthastism would, like all those movements under the umbrella of postmodernism (e.g. environmentalism), become an ideological operation, a discourse system with manifest stances?

SB

We would shy against Posthastism becoming ideological or operational in any dogmatic way. We are aware of the contradictions inherent in what we have pronounced and we embrace these contradictions. It may be an “ism” by name but it is very unlikely that it is an “ism” by nature.

LEAP

Evidently, Posthastism is connected to time, or the sensation of time. Situated in this relationship, is Posthastism some kind of “untimeliness”? Or does it in fact adhere to time through disjunction or anachronism, as defined by Agamben, suggesting detachment from the “contemporary”?

SB

Time is everything, everything is time. What time is outside of time? Just yesterday, scientists declared they had found the elusive Higgs Boson particle that, up till now, was the missing piece of mathematics in the equation of the universe. This alters and maintains our understanding of time. Ever since the Renaissance, and further on, the Enlightenment, time has become unidirectional and increasingly standardized across the world. In fact, it is hard to conceive of a “flat world” without the flattening of time to aid the movement of capital and goods from dissimilar parts of the world. Posthastism asks us to simply acknowledge that what we are led to believe is time is in fact a kind of sublimation of this standardized metric— and that there are a multitude of times within time that one should explore, enjoy and exploit.

LEAP

The homogenization of time has become increasingly problematic in contemporary China, where the Internet and high-speed railway have brought about a new contemporaneity as well as, inevitably, a new citizenship. What is the ideal relationship between the individual and the community in a Posthastist context? Is mutual resistance or antagonism necessary, like the two cars in the video by Liu Chuang?

SB

We are now broaching sociological ethics, and I don’t believe that Posthastism would claim agency this way. However, your question brings up the question of the relationship between our atomized selves and larger aggregates of individuals: couples, families, neighborhoods, villages, cities, countries. It is true that we seem to believe we are replacing direct proximity with communication proximity: they may be related but they are not, categorically, the same thing. Saying this, the word “community” has been co-opted often in a distorted, and nostalgic way. Reality has probably exceeded the language we have inherited to describe it. We need new words for the new concepts.

Olafur Eliasson’s film Movement Microscope

LEAP

Posthastism seems to possess an inclination toward “anti-speed,” against the homogenization of perceptions as a result of continuous acceleration. The emphasis on deceleration could be seen as an archaeology of sensations: tea-tasting, long tracking shots, slow-walking, etc. Does Posthastism imply a nostalgia for the senses, a hope that we return to a state of experiential freedom and openness to the outer world through the necromancy of lost perceptive experiences? Or does it aim at creating other, new perceptive experiences?

SB

As I said above, Posthastism should not be mistaken as a singular dogma. It is also, for us, a concept in progress, and as such, you are hearing us work things out between ourselves. Again, this is different to a conventional manifesto, which is launched on the world complete and intact and inviolable: Point 65 of our manifesto says, “Continuous editing is Posthastist.” Nostalgia originally meant a “hypochondria of the heart,” and if we refer to this definition, I would say, “OK.” But we would not advocate the popularized version of nostalgia, which is an escape from the present moment into a fantasy of the past. Posthastism does not prioritize the past over the present. All times should happen at all times.

LEAP

As a modern man, “a man of the crowd,” Benjamin’s flâneur resists the mechanicalness of urban experience through lounging and strolling freely in the metropolis—perhaps we can call them the Posthastists of the nineteenth century. But Benjamin also sees a capitalistic logic in the flâneur-as-commodity in mercantile Paris, reflecting a new consumerist economics. Similarly, is there a risk that Posthastism might become a peculiar existence integrated into the global capitalist spectacle, instead of its real opponent?

SB

Capitalism is powerful precisely because it can absorb and accommodate the very forces that seem to oppose it. This is nothing new and it will always happen. To not play the system is to reinforce the dominance of the system. We cannot take responsibility of all the possible ways in which Posthastism may be interpreted and misinterpreted; it is inherent to the act of enunciating something to the world that what you say or mean will take on a life of its own, only to become the very opposite of what you intended it to be. Posthastism certainly wants to highlight alternatives to the idea that progress equals growth, and vice versa; but at the same time, we are aware that such a position can quickly become the orthodoxy it tries to denounce.

LEAP

The “slow life” has become a hyped-up commercial gimmick and a model for the construction of new spectacles. How would Posthastism distance itself from it so as not to surrender to contemporary art’s intellectual games and bourgeois yuppiedom? In other words, how would it avoid becoming merely a “poetics” or “rhetoric”?

SB

There is nothing “mere” about poetics— in fact, Czesław Miłosz said that poetry is the only art form that resisted commodification: no one became rich through writing and publishing poetry. We would claim this therefore as Posthastist. You are right that the rhetorics of “slowness” have transformed into the privileged affectations of the organic food consuming middle classes. It is therefore our responsibility to be as precise as we can with our language and our enunciations. Ensuring that Posthastism is not pure or singular will hopefully save it from the kind of easy spectacularization you refer to.

LEAP

Can you talk about your own work rhythm and method?

SB

I’m not sure this is so interesting to your readers; all I can say is that I seemed to follow Brian Eno’s advice 15 years before I heard it, which is, “In your 20s, do everything.” This continued into my early 30s, and then, at 33 (yes, the age that Jesus was killed), I decided to stop the increasing pace of my activities. Ever since, I attempt to modulate each year with periods of crazy haste and then periods of de-linked geographical isolation. Displacing yourself constantly is a good way to do this; to detach from the insurgent force of pseudo-destiny that our work cultures lead us to falsely believe in, as if it were a matter of life or death.

Beijing Posthastism

The Pavilion, Beijing

2012.06.22

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Post in: My Miles | September 28 , 2012 | Tag in: LEAP 16 | INTERVIEW: Thomas Yang / PHOTO: Wenjei Cheng
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