Letter from Brian Holmes

February 22, 2010


Dear friends -


Greetings, this is just a note to say how much I'm looking forward to meet everyone who will participate in the upcoming sessions in Southern California. All those I've been in touch with seem to be taking it as a chance to reflect on the current political and economic situation and on the shocks affecting cultural and intellectual production - which is exactly the point. I'm committed to the project of self-organized seminars and also to critical insertions in institutional contexts, and I really appreciate the enthusiasm that has been put into preparing these events. Thanks in advance to everyone who has been organizing: Zen Dochterman, Cara Baldwin, Jason Smith, Sean Dockray, Liz Glynn, Solomon Bothwell, Christina Ulke, Marc Herbst, Robby Herbst, the Journal of Aesthetics & Protest and the Public School, as well as a number of others in various corners of the UC system.


Continental Drift has always been about confronting research programs, artistic experiments and activist inventions with the intensifying pace of change in society. Four initial meetings organized in New York in collaboration with Claire Pentecost and the 16 Beaver Group were devoted to analyzing and also feeling out the major shifts brought on by neoliberal globalization after 1989, and especially, by the grotesquely failed bid for US empire. A further event in Zagreb, hosted by the WHW curatorial collective, tried to geographically shift the perspective on those issues. Today a long wave of economic growth and new technological rollout, begun in the early 90s, has clearly broken and brought a full-fledged crisis to the heart of the capitalist world-system, which is also the country we live in. The collapse of state budgets and the California education crisis is right in the middle of a much larger development, which will undoubtedly mark a turning point in our society and in the world. I've started a new research program to look into this:




What I bring to the table is only a small part of a collaboratively organized discussion, among people whose approaches and goals are often quite different. The Public School is developing a mode of collective self-education that could become very significant as the institutions freeze up in the security panic and the budget collapse. Building up this form of careful collaborative discourse, we can also start changing the other, looser or more formalized contexts in which we work. Although it is rather threatening and in no way easy to face, I see the economic crisis as a chance to spark changes that our society has been putting off for decades. We will try to measure both the depth of that inertia and the possibilities of the present, in a way that respects everybody's real situation and their voice, while hopefully opening up new territories for alternative and oppositional practice.


see you soon, Brian