Civilisation through museification
"Yes, neither the psychologist, nor the cultural theorist, nor the aesthetician, nor indeed the artist can readily share the general euphoria in view of the disappearance of borders. This is not about making everything disappear in the fortuity of sameness. After all, the very meaning of borders is to create meaning in the first place. Because meaning only exists for people top and bottom, master and servant — the recognition of meaning is founded on the ability to distinguish, to see, that is to say, also to provide a marker for that which is distinguished, which is conventionally referred to as drawing borders.
However, a fundamental change is occurring, and that is the future European outlook on the meaning of distinction by placing a distinguishing marker. Historically, the prime distinction was the one between friend and foe, between us and them, us and the others, us and them over there. The result of this distinction is that both sides saw themselves as distinct from the other, that is to say, each asserted his own unique cultural identity, linguistic, ethnic cultural identity, as if there were some kind of opposition with each other. Hence, one side's assertion of secularity, of uniqueness was, in a sense, the refutation of the other side's claim to be unique. This led to the concept of the cultural struggle as the final decision about who was right in their claim to represent the superior, dominant, hegemonic or other conception.
In the European context, that we are now pursuing with the border station project, the project of world civilisation, things are very different: this concept sterns from the arts and has been developed furthest in terms of methodology in various fields of the arts, above all in archaeology, and states the following: in order to establish the uniqueness of a particular assertion, one must agree on the criteria of distinction on the basis of which to distinguish. Archaeologists, for example, develop criteria according to which they distinguish artefacts, by epoch, region, etc. The following becomes clear: if an archaeologist lines up twenty-seven pieces of pottery and develops distinguishing criteria, each of these twenty-seven units becomes significant as it is only possible to distinguish them based on their relationship to the other. That is to say, one needs the other in order to be able to assert the uniqueness of that which is distinguished. In other words, the challenge is to see unity in difference and difference in unity: this is an old fundamental law of structuralism.
The better we can distinguish, the more significant that which is distinguished, albeit only in terms of the other. I cannot assert that this one is the fulfilment, the supremacy even, the claim to leadership indeed, or whatever in a particular craft or in a particular artefact. This uniqueness exists solely in relation to something else. That is to say, the European concept of unity through distinction is based on the very fact that it grants the Jewish, Turkish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or other positions the right to be distinct, but only with regard to the others that make these criteria of distinction possible in the first place, — so that there exists unity in difference and difference in unity. For if one were to abolish difference, none of these statements would have meaning, as meaning arises only on the basis of difference.
So the institutions were created, for example museums in which this kind of display of uniqueness is exhibited on the basis of generality, generality on the basis of difference. The concept, then, is that we do not level down the borders but rather justify them with regard to the possibility of seeing difference itself as unity. Difference is the justification of unity, and unity produces criteria for distinction. This is the concept of civilisation. Today is World Civilisation Day, when the aim is to abandon the age-old culturalist struggles for supremacy, for uniqueness by eradicating everyone else: I assert my uniqueness by portraying everyone else as marginal, as insignificant, as apes, as mere after-artists or after-cultures; this is eliminated by transferring the conflict into the context of science and culture.
The most important example of the strategy of pacification in cultural struggles, specifically drawing on the possibilities offered by the scientific concept, was developed by Atatürk, of all people, in 1934, on 24 November (that is, today). He accomplished something quite exemplary in a particular respect, and it is this respect that we celebrate today: Hagia Sophia is divorced from the cultural struggle and museified…
— Civilisation through museification —comparability of all things based on their difference. He called this civilisation through museification. Museification does not imply fusty, withered, etc ., but rather the comparability of all things based on their difference.
Here at ZOLLAMT, you are doing this for the second time on this scale, and when it comes to this world civilisation idea through museification, you pretty much lead the field in Europe — Radlpass six years ago (2006) and now here in Bad Radkersburg. The border station (Zollamt) as a place that illustrates the fact that transit implies changing from one state to another; the ability of having recognised the importance of the two distinct levels, this life/the hereafter, top/bottom, human/divine, etc. Transformed into an art space, this border station is a prime European example of a world civilisation in which everyone can maintain their own distinct historicity and creation of artefacts of political , linguistic ethnic conceptions, but only with regard to the ability to give reasons as to why they must distinguish themselves from others and why they must relate themselves to others in order to assert their own uniqueness. And this is civilisation through the arts and sciences, that which is implied by world civilisation through museification.
And when a border station is converted into an art space, this kind of transition from distinction in order to dominate that which one distinguishes oneself from is transformed into the recognition of the other as a condition of the possibility of distinction. This is an accomplishment of global historical importance that was developed as of 1400 in Europe, with the secession of the arts and sciences from the religious context: autonomy, authority through authorship, etc. Border station as an exemplary process of European transformation of cultural antagonisms, of contrasts based on distinction - I want to dominate the other... into the recognition that I depend on the other precisely because of his or her difference, because of my own uniqueness... if you do not distinguish, you cannot be recognised.
Commitment to distinction, that is to say, borders in respect of the recognition that each distinct unit depends on the other, that differences result from unity. This border station project represents the activation of the age-old complementary link between rational and irrational, counterfactual and factual, calculation and absurdity, or calculation and love – which is essentially civilisational as there can be no ideological differentiation between cultures based on their self-assertion, but instead only a differentiation based on the distinguishing criteria mutually recognised on the basis of distinguishing everything, these being the criteria of science. This is the programme. Thank you."
Bazon BROCK, excerpt from the opening speech 24/11/2012
TRANSLATION: Richard WATTS