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“Illness as a political category”

by Iskra Geshoska, President of Kontrapunkt and program coordinator of the CRIC - Festival of Critical Culture in Skopje

It was about time that we came to terms with our morality, our finality, our transience, the possibility of loss, because that may be the only way to understand the need for care, solidarity, empathy. The suffering of millions of poor, rejected, destroyed, oppressed people all over the planet that is literally screaming because we wound it on a daily basis because of our mindlessness and greed, passes almost without notice – we arrogantly ignore the pain and suffering of thousands of people, because that “dying” is happening “somewhere over there”, not in our “civilized and emancipated” and “well kept” back yard. But here we are now, even our arrogance must face death, must face finality. We are now co-suffering, albeit, again, with variabilities in light of privileges.

In this immunizing state, everything that was a key advantage of Western democracies (freedom, mobility, exchange) fell into the abyss in just a few months. Culture for me presupposes a paradigm for community, for cultivating the individual through the common. And I think that we should develop new possible strategies for communities, for society, through cultural and artistic creation.

Artistic and cultural production is a serious armature that gives rise to all societal dynamics. And, in times of emergency, in times when so-called “normalcy” has fallen off its course, in times of urgency, of suffering, it has always been that zone through which, on the one hand, the political is summed up and reflected on, and on the other hand, through which new options are offered not only for its expression, but also for its societal appearance. In times of crisis, of tension, suffering, revolt, culture does not die, but rather gives birth to different forms that are the basis for future survival. In wars, in captivity, in oppression, the artist has always participated and fought proactively with their work, but also with their voice, manifestly and strategically presenting, primarily, a new vision of the political.

Illness, in additional to being a medical category, is also a political one. Illness is a mark, a sign, a culture, a source of values and of the need for a new intimate, but also collective, social organization.

This is a civilization marked by entropy. The decay is not solely material. It spreads like a spider's web through all capillaries, like a monster it entangles both our minds and hearts. In that entanglement, more and more thrombi are being created that do not allow the free circulation of creative juices through the capillaries of culture, of society. But, fortunately, some rare high-quality attempts that endure against entropy are also made. These are the strategies of dissent, of creative resistance, of advocacy for that which, and for those who, have been thrown to the margins.

So now, instead of talking about some “objective” and archived knowledge of culture, we need to talk about subjective meanings, about the significance it has for people who shape their own experiences by giving meaning to the things and processes that surround them. That is why cultural and artistic production must now be seen and read, not only through high value systems, but also through overall social, economic, political, and technological developmental or retrograde dynamics and changes. And it is precisely because of this that valuation belongs in the category of societal, socio-cultural criticism that is not exempt from rom certain societal, social, political, and ideological representation.

The quarantine concept of living, distance as a category, isolation, loneliness, although, from Aristotle onwards, are unacceptable to man, whom he conceived and defined as a social being, can still evoke a different kind of reflection in relation to the world and humanity which will give birth to new formats of opinion of artistic and cultural production. We need to understand and accept that we have been broken through this quarantine narrative. But the knowledge of our fragility should encourage an ennobled protest and resistance that will further strengthen the artist's responsibility to rethink their place in the world and to rethink the world itself.

In a climate of challenge and denigration of all value systems, at a historical-political moment when there is global confusion, anxiety, fear, the moment is ripe when art, in strong synergy with its extensions to the political, economic, social, and all issues obviously undermining the world and life itself, needs to return to asking the deepest questions about the responsibility and role of man in the processes that take place in the political and social milieu. It must symbolically and factually change the paradigm of “isolation”. Disease has imposed isolation on us as a necessary model of living. Art can elevate the significance of that isolation to a different political level – namely, isolation has never been foreign to the artist. In the world of creative production, it was that bridge through which the artist became even more intensely connected to the true face of the world, penetrating it deeply, recognizing it and reacting critically to it. In isolation, many great authors assert, they stop the passage through mechanical time, in which reflection is absent. In the bubble of isolation, they become more sensitive, more awake, more perceptive, and with a sharper critical spirit.

Through political engagement and through the attitude of the artist, concepts of micro-resistance that are revealed on the capillary level of society should be created. The feeling that the world is in danger, that the world is coming to degradation, that everything familiar is becoming unfamiliar, that all our plans and concepts, our whole lives are unfolding in a controlled, planned way, give space to culture to find new spaces in which to act, to come together. To create new models of communities in which different perspectives of the world will be considered.