Pathologies of Hope

Baz Kershaw


Performance Paradigm: As you know this issue is entitled ‘The End of Ethics: performance, politics, war’ in response to an emergent global socio-political dynamic initiated by a US led return to ‘situation ethics’ in which even the use of torture is seriously discussed as a defensible option for intelligence gathering. At the end of ethics what use is radical performance? Is there still room for a ‘pathological hope’? Can you talk about your own understanding of the relationships between politics, performance and ethics?

Baz Kershaw: The closer the world gets to the ‘end of ethics’ the more need there will be for radical performance activists who suffer from ‘pathologies of hope’. Because the ‘end of ethics’ scenario simply reinforces all the premiums on pessimism and cynicism fostered by a modernism already gone well and truly rabid. Just look around you with an eye for glaring fixations. Politically and ethically the signs of the modernist disease are everywhere, whether in the strains of post-modern relativism (situational ethics) post-9/11 fundamentalism (positional ethics) or post-globalised capitalism (incidental ethics) or the dissimulated fevered craving for a post-ecological bio-meltdown yet to come (sacrificial ethics). Paradoxically, these forces seem to be working together to produce widespread forms of moral panic and abandon. These generate futures of delusion in which beginnings become ends, new absolutes become contingencies, long views on what’s coming up for the human-animal become fantasy guesswork. For radicals wanting a change for the ‘better’ (of course there are some that want it worse) all this chronically ups the anti on how to act and what to perform.

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