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Have you been waiting for the conversation to begin? – Marius Fischer & Eero Karjalainen

Eisennricht: Have you been waiting for the conversation to begin? – Marius Fischer & Eero Karjalainen

August 11, 2023


I take the risk of giving a very relativistic answer, because: Yes, I have been waiting for this communication between you and me to start. However, when I think about it longer, I find it difficult to think of a time when I am waiting for nothing. To put it bluntly: it could be said that there is always waiting for something.


What opens up for me through this question is the period of time – about three weeks – between our first meeting and now writing about the different thematics of waiting because I’ve been starting to formulate ideas or sentences around the topic without knowing at all how this dialogue would develop.

I agree that (at least from a living & human point of view) we are always waiting for something. This is why the topic of this issue of Eisenbricht made me think about the experience of waiting, the possible representations of it. Do you have any examples of experiences where waiting itself has been as “important” as the thing you have been waiting for – for example through a work of art?

August 29, 2023


I would take your question even further (perhaps even exaggerate it a little) and say that the question for me is not only about a period of time, but about time and temporality itself.

One work that comes to mind in relation to time and passing time is the 16-minute short film "Manhattan Mouse Museum" by Tacita Dean, released in 2011. Dean films Claes Oldenburg dusting collected objects in his Manhattan studio. By filming Oldenburg and his objects, Dean artistically appropriates both Oldenburg and his objects. In addition to the "protagonist" Oldenburg and his objects, his gesture of dusting is also captured on film. The dusting has an artistic effect through the film – not only the dusting, but also the dust. In the dust, the past time materialises, it is the indexicality of fading time. Here, waiting becomes a condition of having to dust. (Ever since I saw this short film, I always particularly like to look for dust in exhibitions.)

And the act of waiting also involves a certain passivity, I would say, but at the same time – and this makes it exciting from a philosophical perspective – it is something active that can never be completely finished, because when the waiting is finished, then one is no longer waiting. In other words, one could interpret waiting as active passivity and simultaneous passive activity, or as a question: is waiting doing-nothing or nothing-to-do? Both and neither; the doing-nothing and nothing-to-do collapse in waiting. It is, as it were, the negativity of activity and the affirmation of passivity, and through this coincidence of time in waiting, waiting places the subject in a relation to an (im)possibility in the first place.

The difficult thing is to consciously perceive time at all. But since waiting has mostly negative connotations, it offers something akin to a disturbance. Waiting disturbs me. It is this moment of disturbance, a disruptive moment of time, that opens up or can open up the space of possibilities, a reflection of time, in the first place.

September 3, 2023


Thinking about waiting as something that unveils notions of time, one is urged to think: who is the perceiving subject here? From a human-centered point of view I agree with you, Marius – waiting has qualities of passiveness and activeness which emerge at the same time. But we need to ask if waiting is linked to (at least in some ways) the capitalistic conditions which frame the contemporary and are exaggerated in the post-Fordian age? Is waiting, as something that constructs from passivity and activity, a limited act for the human?

The idea of waiting, thus, reveals something else: the naturalistic view of time as moving in a linear way. For Henri Bergson, every act of a certain thing affects the following act of that specific thing. The repetition of an act is never like the one preceding it; it has changed because our experience of it is present as an influencing agent. Time is multilayered, it overlaps itself, and this is something that the act – or better: happening – of waiting reveals.

September 7, 2023


You make a very interesting point! I have some thoughts and questions about this. You write that waiting can be seen from a human-centered point of view, which implies that this point of view can be abandoned. I would be interested to read from you whether you indeed mean that the human point of view can be abandoned? My other question would be in what relation do you understand waiting and capitalism?

September 11, 2023


This is exactly the question I am interested in at the moment regarding waiting: should we try to abandon the anthropocentric (infra)structures of experience or, rather, focus on the messiness of temporalities occurring at the same time¹, creating different rhythms of coexistence? This is how I come to think about waiting as a symptom of the capitalist conditions which affect our everyday lives. Living in a hyperculture, day-to-day life could, in my view, be seen as a string of different acts of waiting; presence loses meaning. Can one stop waiting and be present here and now?

For Heidegger, “expecting is founded upon awaiting, and is a mode of that future which temporalizes itself authentically as anticipation.” The now-moment has a central leverage in the phenomenology of waiting since it cannot be experienced.

The experience of waiting for me is not clear, theoretically, or concretely; it only reveals itself to me through, for example, a work of art where a blurring reaction to a structure of beginning and ending is conceived. I would like to ask about the disturbance of waiting, which you mention, and which seems extremely interesting, Marius: waiting is in-between, so how do you position yourself to it? Do we need a future to think about? If we abandon the idea of a future, can we abandon the structures of waiting?

September 12, 2023


But how is it possible to abandon those structures? Is it not also important – to speak with Kant – to think further or “actualise” transcendental movements of thought, such as the a priori of cognition (Erkenntnis)? So how can I get behind those structures? This is certainly a question that interests me: whether it is even possible to get “behind” them; for is not every interpretation of things – including time – in the end a human/anthropological/subjective conception of things and does this not mean – to stay with Kant – that the thing-in-itself always remains hidden to humanity? And perhaps a disruptive moment, like that of waiting, holds the possibility of thinking in new ways about relations? Also, in relation to system-critical questions, such as those of waiting and capitalism.

That's why the relation between time and capitalism is a fascinating point that you raise; especially if time is interpreted here as pure quantity in a capitalist society. I think we are all familiar with the saying “Time is Money” – a prime example of the reification of time that gives a negative colouring to waiting.

For me, too, the experience of waiting is not clear, and I agree with you, that a work of art can help trace my relation to time. What the artwork can do just as well is to disrupt time. Art can create a disruptive moment, a moment in which I can think differently about my relation in and to time. I also interpret waiting in this analogy. It can lead me to think anew about myself, my environment, my needs. I don't think we necessarily have to give up the idea of a future, but we must create more disruptive moments and reflect on these.

Perhaps to stay with Heidegger: In his essay (“Der Ursprung des Kunstwerkes” – “The Origin of the Artwork”), Heidegger makes a threefold distinction. He distinguishes between things, Zeug (there is no proper translation) and the work of art. The thing is natural, like the stone by the wayside. Zeug is produced by man, as the German word Werkzeug (or Flugzeug and Fahrzeug) indicates. Because Zeug is produced by humans (is put into being), the being of Zeug recedes into the background, it is no longer heard by humans, although it is there. Only when Zeug experiences a disruption, the shoes get broken, the hammer breaks or the car breaks down, only then do we think about our relationship to Zeug. I would also interpret this moment as a disruptive moment. Consequently, together with the capitalist and quantitative assumption of time, waiting is the disruption of that time.

September 17, 2023


Precisely! The disruption can start from or be the initial encounter with the work, where something is put into motion. Still, I am wondering about the character of time when waiting, but you show, aptly, that I might not get to a final point even if I wait forever.

This idea of disruption makes me think about the exhibition as a form of presenting ideas and knowledge production, and as a seminal agent in the infrastructures of contemporary art. The work of art can completely blur our experience of time – this is taken as given, an awkward example being the character of, let’s say, the music of Richard Wagner. But I don’t think we can fully, in this time, understand the potentiality of the work of art as something that can create a disruption without thinking about the exhibition: for example, documenta fifteen, curated by ruangrupa, it was exactly a 100-day-moment, where the idea of time was looked at not in a linear, but in a traverse way. The idea of a future as something that is better than the moment we are living in now – that the future is safe – is the idea we ought to abandon: to follow Donna Haraway, we need to learn to be truly present. And this is something that the exhibition, as a form of action constantly grounds in different relations. In the exhibition, a wave of disruptions take place; the exhibition has a unique relation to time and to waiting, as they are both questioned through the placements of objects in the space. For dreaming of a future, the exhibition is an apt form. I would like to take this back a step or two and ask you, Marius, what's your relation to the (in many ways) problematic form of the exhibition?

September 18, 2023


I agree with you that one should not blindly assume that the future will be certain or even that the future will be better – here, too, the question is for whom the future is certain and for whom not. For whom will the future be better and for whom worse; that's why I would always be careful to say that although the future remains uncertain, this is good and bad at the same time.

Also, your reference to documenta fifteen is a very important one when talking about “recent” disturbances in art and especially in exhibitions. We probably don't have the time and space to talk in detail about what happened at documenta fifteen, but I would like to briefly emphasise here that – regarding documenta fifteen – not every disruption is positive, that disruption is not per se “good”. What the case and the discussion about the artist group ruangrupa and the – in my opinion obvious – anti-Semitic caricature has produced in the aftermath is a debate about anti-Semitism in the art world. In other words, that this disruption has, in the broadest sense, led to think anew or differently about a relation; Specifically about the relation between anti-Semitism and art (though I must equally stress here that in many discussions after the incident, it was not handled well, and each institution tended to blame "the others").

And thank you for asking me how I relate to exhibitions. What I find exciting about the idea of disruption is that disruption draws attention to the fact that a previous or current system has reached a limit somewhere. In general, I am interested in these boundaries of theory, of art or philosophy, and especially by “who” and by what those boundaries are drawn. My first thought about exhibitions usually revolves around what an exhibition includes and (more interestingly for me) what it excludes. A simple example would certainly be to say that in an abstract formulation “art” (whatever that is supposed to be) is “for everyone”: art is for everyone...

However, this assumption cannot be considered without taking institutions into account, and institutions have clear boundaries, clear functions of inclusion and exclusion. If you look at empirical studies on museums, for example, it is evident that it is not “the people” who go to museums, but only a certain milieu, a certain group or a certain position in society that can be found in the museum. Institutions are therefore always an establishment of power-relations that exclude certain groups, and consequently the same holds for exhibitions: who has access to these exhibitions etc.

September 22, 2023


When talking and thinking about institutions in the context of the exhibition – museums or national / state funded spaces or events – we need to also talk about the allocation of funds. It’s easy for someone like me, living and operating in the (somewhat) social-democratic Nordic countries, to notice a patronizing attitude from the institutions towards the public; the museum or a similar institution is seen (from its own point of view) as producing something that elevates or even educates the visitor. I am not making this comment to oppose cultural institutions, but rather to draw the attention to tangentially agree with your point: whom is the exhibition made for?

This is also something that I thought about when visiting the latest edition of documenta of which (you are probably right) we cannot analyze comprehensively here. The exhibition reached multiple locations, both public and semi-public, in Kassel, and the boundaries of when something – excuse the banality – started or ended, were not clear. But it was not, also, always clear for me who it was for? A panel discussion followed by a dinner in a language that most of the “visitors” do not understand, without any interpretation, or similar event – these are not only questions of accessibility but also about the role of the organizer in what is passed on and for whom.

But then again, as we discuss the exhibition, a disruption has happened. And, for me at least, documenta fifteen was something else, something that I had not seen before: the exhibition – the disruptions emerging from art, let’s say – has also spilled to the way we think and what we think about.

September 23, 2023


That is exactly what interests me about moments of disturbance: what do they disturb, what do they point to, who feels disturbed by it, etc.? And perhaps to return to the “actual” topic: waiting also represents a moment of disturbance for me. Perhaps one could describe it in such a way that waiting makes my own temporality perceptible to me. Waiting also makes me feel my powerlessness in the face of time; I can do whatever I want, time always passes at the same speed.

When I read Franz Kafka's journal entry some time ago, I had to laugh a lot: there he writes that he is always late, because he doesn't feel the pain of waiting, he waits – so he stresses – like a cow. I found this passage so interesting because it equates pain and waiting in a certain way. In other words, it indicates that waiting is disruptive.


Marius Fischer (he/him) studied cultural studies, art theory and philosophy in Lüneburg and Leipzig and at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna, where he currently lives.

Eero Karjalainen (he/him) is a critic based in Helsinki. Currently, he is interested in the intersection of cosmotechnics, the spatialization of writing, and infrastructural critique. Karjalainen has graduated from the University of Helsinki, majoring in aesthetics, and currently studies theory of contemporary art at the Academy of Fine Arts, Helsinki.

¹ See e.g., Karen Barad 2007. Meeting the Universe Halfway. Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Durham: Duke University Press.


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