The pandemic is not over yet, war is here again, and the climate is changing inexorably. Absolute faith in progress, expansion, and extraction on the one hand, and incessant, unvarying repetition on the other, are not contradictions. They co-create one another and give rise to the normality from within which we circle the abyss. First comes tragedy, then farce, then the series. Is it possible to interrupt the eternal return, to act, to remember, to live together with a true difference?
Climate activists demand exnovation instead of innovation: to take a real pause in the breathless onrush of political, cultural, economic pursuits, to make space, to give things up. Postcolonial, anti-racist, and queer theory and action sharply interrupt white and patriarchal repetitive loops. Habits of speech are under scrutiny and contemporary politics of memory seek ways out of entanglement in historical memorial rituals. In the arts, on the other hand, repetition is often a critical practice. Loops, citations, parody, and drag contradict concepts of originality and individual authorship, dissolve gender binaries, and shake up traditional representations.
Arranged side-by-side in an arena and running according to a strict administrative rhythm, 100 experts from the arts, activism, theory, and a wide variety of professions present their expertise in support of and against the repetitive. Which routines need to get kicked to the curb, given fresh meaning, or taken up anew? Or is everything already there and we’re just repeating the wrong things?