An Undo in Twenty Three Parts - FREE with A5 SAE

 FREE with an A5 SAE. (Voluntary Donation: £2.)

This pamphlet of critical art writing was commissioned for REDO Pakistan (A Declaration of War Against the Present Times).

This writing emerged out of a final essay that Gemma Sharpe produced for the MFA programme in Art Writing at Goldsmiths, which she completed in 2010. Undertaking thesis research on the role of art writing and criticism as it forms and informs discourse within an increasingly 'international' art world, her research questioned the ability of art writers to provide proper critique within this environment. The research involved extensive international travel, particularly in South Asia, and 'An Undo in Twentythree Parts' is a piece of generative self-criticism that itself sits within the core of the wider research project. It highlights ethical issues within the project and its undertaking, while attempting to form a discourse based on these problems.



Supported by a grant from Arts Council England.


Debuted at Deleuze, Iqbal, and Nuclear Nationalism event at HOUSE gallery,  September 2010.





JAI HO!!… aaja aaja aaja… The international curator shouts, “LOOK! I’m super-plural! I’ll tell you about the dispersion of Coke labels and of translation movements and my new definition of Glocalization. I’m a secular consumer of a hybrid world and where the Coke labels have gone, I can go. I’ve found the slipstream and we’re all drinking from the same cup and isn’t that amazing? Go ON, have some coke.” (And there begins the rubric for another big show). At an art fair in New Delhi, Hans Ulrich elbowed me in the ribs. He didn’t apologise but I don’t think he noticed. ‘Hans Ulrich Imperialist’ Hamja calls him. Nicolas Bourriaud was at the fairground too, and thinking of them I wonder whether the BIG GLOBAL SHOW’s trick of free market join the dots in the curatorial rubric is a new kind of Orientalism: “I won’t describe the delight of halwa puri in the Old Town because it would make me an Orientalist but instead I’ll paint for you a picture of that which I take to be its inverse. Its inverse is the sign that I recognise. It is rhizomatic America. It is the Coke label, the Dubai airport waiting lounge and the Chinese Han logo on the crane over an Asian building site.”


Coin a clunky neologism, after Claire Bishop, after Mouffe and Laclau, perhaps even after Sade, and against Nicolas Bourriaud: relationally antagonistic research, which might also work as a subtitle for criticism. Negotiating necessary risk to conceptualise a more polemical grounds for apprehending situations through acts of research or textual accumulation and cultural engagement, the critic engaged in relationally antagonistic research tests the ethics of speaking directly, ‘measuring silences, if necessary, into the object of investigation,’ and thence risks encounters of revolt from that which is spoken about, with or on behalf of. Implicated in a progressive political redoing, within which one is continually reconstituted as an object, within this mode of practice adversity realism is acknowledged from the start as an ontological foundation rather than a reason for discontinuation.


Where one deconstructs a thing by pushing it aside, what necessarily follows is a colonisation of the void you have initiated. You begin with dissatisfaction. But in committing to a project of undo, you are implicated in the project of a redo, perhaps then unaware of the causal redoings that will fall out of your hands. (Iqbal, in his marble tomb, will never see what became of his vision). One digs a tract in the ground, shovelling away unwanted earth in order to fill that space with a soil more amenable to one’s seed – terriorializing the valley that you have deterritorialized with your scorn, your polemic, your poetry, your criticism or your disturbances. But remember, “you may make a rupture, draw a line of flight, yet there is still a danger that you will reencounter organizations that restratify everything, formations that restore power to the signifier, attributions that reconstitute a subject – anything you like, from Oedipal resurgences to fascist corrections.”
“Realistic dissidence is the trademark of anyone who has a new idea in business.” (I have heard Feminists ‘blamed’ for miniskirts, readymeals and Sarah Palin). A tract by Valerie Solanas, “you know, the one who shot Andy Warhol,” is fashionably redone and republished and her declarations of war against a present time cannot be branded with the illegality of hate speech when they are nestled within VERSO hardcovers and brothered by an academic introduction. Her dissidence is just another Once Upon A Time.


The market went BOOM! “…Throw up your arms. Have some Coke…” Where the biennale goes, the art fair follows, (and then the museum, and then the magazine, and then after all of that, the body of critics who, between adverts for watches and the next biennale, finally have somewhere to go).


To subscribe to our event updates|newsletter|mailing list - email us with "SUBSCRIBE" in the title: