Sometimes words reappear into the public sphere to act as antidotes to the status quo—words that offer alternatives to endure, resist, and adapt to transitions and flux, but that also make it possible to inhabit different places and anticipate the near future. During the past decades, one of these words has been resilience, a term with many interpretations, yet essentially defined in psychology as an ability to reinvent ourselves after adversity. Arguably determined by many as a capacity and ability to return to prior conditions after shock, resilience is also thought of as a radical spin that can have an impact in the next era. However, “resilience has a peculiar logic. It is not about a future that is better, but rather about an ecology that can absorb constant shocks while maintaining its functionality and organization",1 as Orit Halpern notably underlines. In such ways, everyday life allows for endurance precisely at the very height of radical changes in our environments—a fitful political climate and restlessness in the social arena. From this perspective, “normalcy” remains feasible even when acceleration and turbulence prevail for the sole reason that as individuals, we have developed forms ofurgent resilience, in particular unconscious shifts, splits, detours, and deviations that hasten our reincorporation into the world. These impulsive behaviors are not necessarily forms of resistance, protest, and unrest—either healing or comforting panaceas—but rather slight and random actions that unwittingly bypass our imminent reality. As a result, ordinary life is imbued with resilient actions that make it possible for us to “withstand” while simultaneously having an impact in the reality thereafter.
In essence, contemporary art—in responding nimbly to immediacy—develops similar short-lived experiences that displace the daily life of bystanders and participants alike. Even still, beyond the blatant dissimilarities between “real” and “hypothetical” forms, one could say that while an act of urgent resilience is a reflex, a work of art is a rehearsal. In other words, contemporary art is always projected, brainstormed, and analyzed in anticipation: i.e., performed. In doing so, it is conditioned to act simultaneously between present and future, but mainly to return to the past to fathom the current state of affairs. Performing resilience is thereby less about an impulsive act of resistance and more about embodying history to shape our possible, probable, and preferable futures. The affinity between both forms of resilience, urgent and performed, lies in the fact that they will both eventually reverberate somewhere else in the world, equally affecting social life—regardless of their transient nature and ensuing disappearance.
To dedicate our first edition of the INSITE Journal to resilience consequently responds not only to understanding why we are resilient, but also to asking how we perform resilience today. Throughout its twenty-eight-year history, INSITE has been immersed in the reality and exigencies of its immediate context, where artists incisively have had an impact in the public realm—from metropolitan neighborhoods to larger binational regions. Planned over extended periods of time, these projects represent specific microhistories that once were demanding and critical. However, to return and reinterpret them today, with different issues at stake, is an opportunity to look at how contemporary art unfolds and relocates meanings in the social space, and beyond the zeitgeist of its time. To intersperse them with ongoing debates about our present state of affairs reminds us of how art continues to shape our sense of urgency and belonging in the world.
In this first issue of the INSITE Journal we spotlight writing for inSite_05 by cultural geographer David Harvey in which he asked fundamental questions such as: What does it mean to be human right now? Who are we and what do we want to become? What kind of world do we want to live in? At the same time, we must understand our immediate reality, and intervene—at a personal level—in far-reaching worldwide developments.
In the IN FOCUS section, in his perception of Nari Ward’s work Untitled Depot (INSITE 97), Chris Sharp brings attention to democracy today by borrowing the political analogy of an “empty place” as a symbolic dimension always in conflict, while Lucía Sanromán chronicles the work by artists Michael Schnorr and Ulf Rollof, Abandonado II (inSITE92 and inSITE94), while reflecting on the present vulnerability of the Tijuana-San Diego border. In ESSAYS, Sandra Pinardi elucidates the distinctions between the autonomy of modern art and the “enunciative events” that define contemporary art in the realization of “the common”; and Simon Sheikh outlines how contemporary art and cultural institutions address the “social” in the political current state of affairs. DOCUMENTS is dedicated to Johnny Coleman’s work Ruminations (1992) based on the 1992 riots in Los Angeles incited by the verdict in Rodney King’s case claiming police brutality; and Betsabeé Romero’s Ayate Car (1997), a 1952 refurbished Ford intentionally deserted at the border, which fused Mexican imagery with American low-rider culture.