Claire Fontaine, The Weeping Wall Inside Us All, 2009 Neon
"TIQQUN" IS A WORD that references the Jewish messianic tradition. It derives from “tikkun olam,” a Hebrew phrase that has been interpreted to mean “reparation,” “restitution,” “healing of the world” and “social justice.” The term was taken up as the name of an anonymous collective of political activists in France in the late 1990s; it is also the name of the otherwise unrelated magazine Tikkun. The French collective published two issues of their eponymous journal Tiqqun before disbanding in 2001. While their writings have been available for free on the Internet for some time, in the original French as well as in English (thanks to the labor of an anonymous translator), some of the pieces collected in the journal are now being individually published in English translation by Semiotext(e), a publisher whose long and colorful history of importing rambunctious French theorists into the United States lends just the right air of notoriety to the new translations of Tiqqun. Preliminary Materials for a Theory of the Young-Girl is the third of Tiqqun’s texts to be translated into English; already available from Semiotext(e) are Introduction to Civil War (2010) and This Is Not a Program (2011).
The Tiqqun collective regarded itself as the successor to the Situationist International, a group of avant-garde European critics of commodity capitalism who sought to redefine urban space with their utopian-minded radicalism. The SI produced a number of influential texts throughout the 1950s and 60s; the group’s undeclared leader, Guy Debord, would go on to achieve fame as an intellectual catalyst in the student movement of 1968. Much of Tiqqun’s writing either quotes or pays implicit homage to Debord’s classic Society of the Spectacle (1967). The group also adopted Debord’s stylistic posture: a beguilingly hip but self-aware prose that is by turns incisive and poetic. Tiqqun is a lazier and messier bunch of revolutionaries, slouching into their analysis with the same ennui they purport, at times, to criticize. But this performativity is deliberate, productive, and rather entertaining — Preliminary Materials is an acid social critique composed as a constellation of observations and quotations, resulting in a rollicking mash-up that cites Marx and Debord alongside women’s magazines, Georg Simmel, Pierre Klossowski, Franz Kafka, and the Polish-Argentine writer Witold Gombrowicz, among others.
Tiqqun’s theoretical perspective is heavily influenced by Michel Foucault, whose late writings on biopower and governmentality have enjoyed considerable attention, especially since the rise of global terrorism, the security state, and the gradual realization that the American war machine is also a perpetual-motion machine. Foucault’s term “biopower” refers to the State’s interest in exercising power over life and human productivity through increased regulation of populations by governments and their demographic apparatuses of surveillance, analysis, and “management.” Tiqqun understood their contemporary moment — the turn of the millennium — as the historical moment in which biopower was in the pro...read more