What We Learned From Hans Ulrich Obrist’s Epic Interview With Julian Assange

Ben Davis in Artinfo:

Assange_ben_stansall_afpget All told, curator Hans Ulrich Obrist's two-part interview with Julian Assange, published in the May and June issues of e-Flux Journal, the ambitious online theory site, comes to something like 40 pages when printed out. It's probably one of the more consequential things that Obrist has ever put his name on, even if the pairing of the clubbable contemporary art curator and the prickly info warrior seems odd at first.

It works, however, on two levels. WikiLeaks, the organization that Assange has become the face of, has exposed the United States' secret assassination squads in Afghanistan and secret bombing campaigns in Yemen. Nevertheless, it has also become bogged down in sordid allegations about Assange's personal life (even as the U.S. government's open torture of accused leaker Bradley Manning has become a human rights scandal). In his interview, Obrist basically treats Assange as an artist (“science, mathematics, quantum theory — all of these come together in your work”), thereby for the most part refocusing the discussion on the issues that his work addresses rather than his biography. That is to say, the interview focuses on the philosophy that first made him a figure of international significance.

At the same time, the pairing works because there's a convincing case to be made that Assange is relevant to contemporary artists: questions of how to relate to the looming power of the corporate media, how individuals navigate the sprawling universe of contemporary information, and what the limits of free speech are today are all concerns of the most important recent art (and Obrist submits his interlocutor to questions contributed by the likes of Paul Chan, Martha Rosler, Superflex, and a pre-detention Ai Weiwei — who asks about how individuals can stand up to power — to prove it).

More here.