What type of writing is explaining the present? This activity brings together a group of writers and theorists representative of the return to the essay as a type of writing that is both prospective and interrogative, that makes proposals and also poses questions, and that has become one of the few spaces where readers find arguments regarding the social and institutional crisis.
Over half a century ago, Maurice Blanchot said that “all art draws its origin from an exceptional fault.” Now, with a present, and a country, in a state of precariety, this phrase is gaining strength and at the same time it points to a certain hope. Given today’s critical situation, it is reasonable to imagine a sort of cultural relaunch which, arising from everything that has brought us here, is also capable of countering it, with new wisdom.
The contemporary essay illustrates the impact of this potential. Shaken by the crisis, although not limited to it in its subject matter, the essay has begun to think from events, instead of about them. And from there, it bursts in on reality, showing that a good essay, more than “studying” a problem, manages to insert it into the order of events.
For this reason, the new essay has often been dissociable from activism, although its authors have taken part in the debate free of the rhetoric and the position that characterised the old figure of the organic intellectual in the past. For them, the transformation of the circumstances cannot be separated from the transformation of the tools of the essay used to address such circumstances. We are talking about an essay that – in all its heterogeneity – clearly contains a sense of critique, but that also has a self-critical dimension.
By expanding the limits and usual structures of this genre, this type of essay no longer behaves exclusively like a literary genre or an academic pursuit. It is also an attitude and, especially, a map that foreshadows another cartography of society; a sketch of an early, imperfect estimate of a reality that is not yet fully formed.
With this perspective, the May 15th movement can connect with the global impact of the 1968 events and the capitalism crisis associated with the fall of the Berlin Wall. At the same time, there are signs of a return to our debts to modernity, to another way of dealing with daily life, the construction of community, family, the place of the new technologies and the meaning and definition of democracy in a period characterised by the degradation of politics.
Interested in what is emerging, Museo Reina Sofía has invited four key authors to debate with one another and with the audience, in an initial exploration of this phenomenon. The authors participating in the event have recently published books that have knocked down taboos, myths that were supposedly untouchable. Hovering over them is the certainty that thinking the present is nothing but anticipating the future and subjecting it to debate.
Antonio Baños. Author of La economía no existe. Un libelo contra la econocracia (Los libros del lince, 2009), Posteconomía: Hacia un capitalismo feudal (Los libros del lince, 2012) and La rebel-lió catalana (La Butxaca, 2013). He is a journalist and has worked in the written press and also as a contributor to the public radio program Asuntos Propios, in the section Economía para idiotas. In television, he works with the channels La Sexta and Cuatro.
Ramón González Férriz. Last year he published La revolución divertida (Debate, 2012), his first book. He is an editor, translator and media writer. He is in charge of the Spanish division of the cultural journal Letras Libres, and he writes about culture and politics in the Spanish and Latin American media.
Iván de la Nuez. He is an essayist, critic and exhibition curator. He just published El comunista manifiesto: Un fantasma vuelve a recorrer el mundo (Galaxia Gutenberg, 2013). He has served as director of La Virreina Centre de la Imatge and also as the director of cultural activities at CCCB. His books include La balsa perpetua (Casiopea, 1998), El mapa de sal (Mondadori, 2010), Fantasía roja. Los intelectuales de izquierda y la revolución cubana (Debolsillo, 2010), and Inundaciones. Del Muro a Guantánamo: invasiones artísticas en las fronteras políticas (Debate, 2010).
Cesar Rendueles. Professor of sociological theory at the Faculty of Political Science and Sociology at Universidad Complutense de Madrid. He recently published Sociofobia (Capitán Swing, 2013). A founding member of the cultural intervention collective Ladinamo, he has also been in charge of cultural coordination and project direction at the Círculo de Bellas Artes of Madrid. He has published two compilations of works by Karl Marx: an anthology of selections from Capital and a selection of texts on the theory of historical materialism. He has edited the publication in Spanish of essays by authors such as Walter Benjamin, Karl Polanyi and Jeremy Bentham and he curated the exhibition Walter Benjamin. Constelaciones (Círculo de Bellas Artes, 2010-2011).