Ronald Regan: Hi Ed. Call me Ron.
Edward Said: Hi Ron, you don’t mind do you.
Marcel Broodthaers: Hello Edward. Well I’m told we are waiting for Jane Fonda.
— Arpanet Dialogues, vol. 1
In the fictional serial Arpanet Dialogues, an ongoing collaboration by Bassam el Baroni, Jeremy Beaudry, and Nav Haq, the creators of the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) invite diverse quadruples to test out their chat app in secret US State Department testing centers from 1975-1979. Flowing like a script from absurdist theatre, salient nods to late-1970s politics current import are flanked between revolutionary rhapsodies. In this ersatz chat room, Ronnie gets his patriot on, MB lets loose his emotional side, and Said tantrums that Jane will understand him.
Published a few months later, Volume 2, which debuted at Art Dubai, takes a poker-faced, allegorical tone. Though Marxist Economist Samir Amin, activist Steve Biko, last historian Francis Fukuyama, and modernist architect Minoru Yamasaki only talk Soweto, econ, and architecture, the gravity between the two works’ publication dates is apparent. Fukuyama pushes the neo-liberal democracy as endgame. Biko relays his doubts about applying readymade political action to an uprising. Amin foretells the future of capitalism. And the failure of Yamasaki’s partitioned utopian dreams take on surplus meaning when he sadly laments, “they destroyed my buildings in the end.”
Synthesizing the fantasy of Yamasaki’s building’s destruction in his 2009 video Pruitt-Igoe Falls, Cyprien Gaillard replaces the eponymous St. Louis housing project with a demolition in Glasgow. Staging a symbolic death, Gaillard’s work is hardly a reference to the absence of Yamasaki’s other razed buildings. But in this tenacious milieu, who knows what anyone will be accused of next. This week I was scheduled to chat up arts practitioners, but amidst Japan’s nuclear disaster hitting Soviet slopes and militaries cracking down, I’ve been left unaccompanied for this post to dream up fabricated news feeds more surreal than what’s hot on the press. So far it isn’t working.
In yesterday’s Ai Weiwei update, the Chinese government switched its tune, leaving reporters to speculate over the role that “Internet plagiarism” and a nude photo of Mr. Weiwei donning a toy have played in his incarceration. Though as one reporter postulated, it was the caption that did it: “Fuck your mother, the party central committee.” While a far cry from Lynda Benglis’s own performative gesture as nude artist with toy, I can’t help but wonder if we’d still have gotten October out of the debacle if her caption had been a shout out to an armed women’s liberation front or an anti-sunscreen slogan.