Twin Weeks: Minus Plato the Return, the Reform and the Refresh

Happy New Year from Minus Plato! As promised in our final post of last year – following our year-long project of daily posts (‘Minus Plato Today’) – we will be now posting on a weekly schedule (every Monday). In each of these weekly posts we will develop a triple-action process of return, reform and refresh.

We will look back at posts from two-week periods from the ‘Minus Plato Today’ project between Nov 2016 and Nov 2017. Revisiting and reengaging with the artists we wrote about back then, recycling old images and reciting already-written words (‘The Return’). At the same time we will take these past posts and post about the process of refiguring and rewriting them (‘The Reform’) into thematic chapters for our forthcoming book project (No Philosopher King: an Ancient Guide to Art and Life under Trump), to be published by the AC Institute later this year (ideally in time for the November mid-term elections). Finally, we will continue to engage with current, weekly, affairs of the present, renewing our resistance (‘The Refresh”) against that ‘predatory tyrant wheezing and emitting bleak transmissions to the world from the control room’ (as David Velasco describes Trump in his first editorial as the new editor of Artforum).

These three actions of returning, reforming and refreshing make us feel like the journalists from the Kurdish DIHA news agency described (but not shown) by Hito Steyerl in her essay ‘Medya: Autonomy of Images’ (first published in 2016 in Laura Poitras’ Astro Noise: A Survival Guide and republished (with minor changes – see below) in 2017 in Duty Free Art). During the Syrian Civil War, the Battle of Kobanê could be heard from the ancient site of Göbekli Tepe the near Urfa, Turkey. While, during her visit to the ancient site in Janurary 2015, Steyerl saw many people watching the battle from the Turkish side of the boarder, she focuses on the image of two journalists who would cross the boarder to find a WiFi signal among the site’s ruins:

Look at these two guys walking through ruins holding their laptops like divining rods (Fig. 4).

They weren’t looking for water but rather for a Turkish cell-phone provider’s signal, to send their own signals from the battlefield. I spoke to them on the day of the city’s liberation. They were journalists for a Kurdish news agency  who had spent a couple of weeks inside the besieged city. Some evenings they tried to crawl out of the city underneath the barbed wire but were shot at by Turkish border guards. So they returned to the ruins, looking for a signal to file their stories. But this was not so easy. The internet changed with the weather, they said. And every evening they had to find another shelter in the midst of the destruction as they followed the migrant, unpredictable signal wafting across the border.

We wonder what space there is for the Classical (‘the ruins’) in this new year of Minus Plato? Will it remain a refuge from which to emit and file our stories? Or will it be more like a ‘migrant, unpredictable signal’ which will lead us to unexpected places, far beyond the discipline of Classics?

We hope you will join us this year for the journey through the darkness of the past, present and future ‘in the midst of the destruction’, and if any of you classicists, artists or others out there want to help us mark the path forward and become members of Minus Plato, please send an email to minusplato@gmail.com.

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