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50: The Retreat


| Fall 2014 |

Edited by Sarah Blacker, Imre Szeman, and Heather Zwicker

The question of why the practice of retreat is important, of why it is different from forms of self-alienation, and of why (what might seem like) passivity could be a positive form of agency, remains open. However, the notion and the act of retreat, withdrawal or exodus could be a necessary ground for politics and the politics of aesthetics today, since the productive process of cooperative constitution at the core of the social also owes its potential and validity to the act of spontaneous refusal. Politics and art are projects of infinite creative production triggered by a force that always starts from choice—choosing to do or not to do—and propelled forward by local affections and joyful passions. In retreat, consciousness produces itself by stating the full presence of the present-being without witness and without stage, sensing a homo- or homeo- (‘similar’ or ‘common’ or ‘shared’ in Greek, belonging to humus or the ‘earth’, rather than to homo-, ‘human’, as in Latin) enriched by the love of a collective intelligence yet to be regained. In The Pleasure of the Text, Roland Barthes states, “there is only one way left to escape the alienation of present day society: to retreat ahead of it.” This issue of PUBLIC generates new ways of retreating ahead of the limits, aporias, problems, and crises of a century caught between imaginative and conceptual fertility and sterility—not to effect some questionable escape, but to allow for the generation of new spaces of openness, freedom, and possibility.

The Retreat it is the product of a collaboration between dOCUMENTA (13), the Banff Centre, and Banff Research in Culture (BRiC).


  • Introduction: “Between the Exception and the Rule”, Imre Szeman and Sarah Blacker
  •  A Figure of Ambivalent Retreat: The Case of Gisela Elsner, Carrie Smith-Prei
  •  ..., …, …, …, …, …, (Exile), Raymond Boisjoly
  •  Is Retreat a Metaphor?, Catherine Malabou
  •  Ankyloglossia (n. Tongue-tie), Emma Waltraud Howes
  • Retreating in/from Art Institutions, Heather Anderson
  •  Doors Open, Doors Closed, Franziska Stenglin
  •  The Conspiracy Called Movement, Franco Berardi
  •  The Daily Sleeper, Joanne Bristol
  •  In Praise of Discrepancy? Art and Ideology Revisited, Bruno Bosteels
  •  The Dead Man Drifted Along in the Breeze., David Butler
  •  Down the Rabbit Hole: Five Theses on the Subject of Retreat in the Time of Global Capital, Kate Lawless
  •  Retreat/ No Retreat, Nico Dockx
  •  Finding a Fire Before it Flames, Jason Gomez
  •  The Spectre of Form: Letters from an Absent Sovereign, Andrew Pendakis
  • Desert of Exchange/Garden of Sovereignty, Maria Whiteman
  •  Beacon, Ivan Jurakic and Tor Lukasik-Foss, TH&B (Splinter-Cell)
  •  Ownership in Retreat?, Imre Szeman
  •  Afterword, Alice Ming Wai Jim


  • Jill Glessing, Kara Walker: A Subtlety, Domino Sugar Factory, Brooklyn
  • Catalina Gonzalez, Humboldt Magnussen: Viking Blood, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Toronto
  • Caoimhe Morgan-Feir, Coming to Terms, Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, Toronto
  • Ray Ellenwood, CE QUI SERA What will be LO QUE SERÁ: Almanac of the International Surrealist Movement edited by Her de Vries and Laurens Vancrevel
  • Jim Feast, Assault on the Impossible: Dutch Collective Imagination in the Sixties and Seventies edited by Markolijn Van Riemsijk with Jordan Zinovich
  • Lewis Kaye, On the Threshold of Beauty: Philips and the Origins of Electronic Music in the Netherlands, 1925–1965 by Kees Tazelaar

PLUS: a nano-media insert by artists Christine Davis and Scott Lyall in collaboration with the Ciber Lab at Simon Fraser University.