Familiar Lexicon: Change the World Without Taking Power (a Portrait of John Holloway) is a video by Marcelo Expósito published, along with an accompanying text, in issue 0 of the Latin American online journal des-bordes (http://www.des-bordes.net).
This video was originally produced for Multiversity, ovvero l'arte della sovversione1, a conference organised within one of the innovative social centre experiments currently taking place throughout Europe: Venice-based S.a.L.E, which seeks to politically organise the "creative class" in an attempt to transform the social centre format into a productive space that can draw consequences from some of the discussions that have taken place, or are currently taking place, around the avant-garde and politicised art (is it possible to shift the logic contained within Walter Benjamin's The Author as Producer to the construction of a political machine for artistic and creative production with the potential to reinforce the virtual autonomy of living labour?).
The raw material consists of images from the early days of the Zapatista uprising in January 1994, and an interview with John Holloway recorded in Puebla in 2005. The interview is based on the model of recorded images that seek to construct a specific vocabulary through a dialogue with a singular subject: the Gilles Deleuze A-Z that resulted from the conversation brilliantly led by Claire Parnet in 1987. Familiar Lexicon: Change the World Without Taking Power (Portrait of John Holloway) transforms the all-encompassing intent behind the idea of a "dictionary" into a more modest attempt to compile a few elements of the "family lexicon" that constitutes the language of the new movements. As per Heinrich von Kleist’s idea of gradual production of thoughts whilst speaking, this vocabulary is revealed through the course of the conversation, framing and editing, which literally seek to show how thought is embodied. Just as political concepts that lead to dynamics of change (which can be appropriated by other subjects, and which circulate so as to be verified through different practices) don't arise through isolated gestures or thought ex nihilo, but from actual experiences and specific bodies and struggles.
The video also tacitly takes part in the debate on the relationship between representation and politics, mainly by posing two questions. Firstly - is it possible to conceive of a kind of "representation" of politics in terms that go beyond a codified abstraction? That is, can there be a kind of representation that doesn’t simply seek to translate a pre-existing reality into a secondary code, but rather seeks to produce a system of codes with the aim of helping to analyse, on a parallel plane, an "other" previous system of codes, strictly without abandoning political experience? Which inevitably leads to a second question – can artistic codes be used to think about how political action is also constructed through symbolic production? In other words, is it possible to use the incisive contents of the toolbox that has been laboriously built up through the artistic politicisation experiences of the 20th Century to help make the singular expressive forms of the latest cycle of political creativity legible? Not in order to “artistify” them, but rather to work within them based on the specificity of a tradition that – whether through force of habit or tactically – we continue to call “artistic”.
Translation: Nuria Rodríguez.