The Outraged Are Among Us

By Marcin Śliwa

I’m ill and have a fever. I’m at home, following the Outraged, and scheming; for a moment I’m away from the procedures of the everyday. I’m outraged, too. My head, burning with fever, produces a stream of sneezing and revolutionary thought. Yep, something’s definitely going on, and it seems to be something irreversible. You can feel it in the air. Something is going to crack. One thinks about becoming one of the outraged, going out and putting up a tent somewhere. But somehow I’m not sure if that’s a good move, to go chanting with high-school kids about apartments for everyone and evil banks. Somehow I’m not on the side of the left-wing politician Ryszard Kalisz, who went to the protest in his Jaguar. Rather, we should do something “outraged” on our own territory. It seems to me that the Outraged provide a good opportunity to reflect on the analogies between different segments of the system: the global economy and (speculative) capital, and our own world, the world of art and culture.


Where are these analogies?

I’m wondering if art sometimes doesn’t act like speculative capital: raging across the world of people, communities, and ideas, at once capricious and premeditated; at times bringing people up to the pedestal, while on other occasions inflating unnatural bubbles, which are first used for profit, then burst, eventually abandoned in order to move on to other sectors. Has our domain also given birth to extra-democratic and extra-ideological centers of power, self-propelled mechanisms for reproducing capital — art? Now, perhaps more than ever, we must be feeling that the answer is yes.


One could go further and ask: At what cost? Who pays the price — and what is the price? What is it that we sacrifice on the altar of the system in which we are more or less willingly involved? True, we also use it for ourselves, and for our ideas. That is beyond question. Yet it would be extremely naïve to believe that we have any control over it. Even at this moment, when we seem to be stronger, reinforced by the symbolic capital that allows us to act on a larger scale. What do we forfeit then?  At what cost do “they,” the “evil ones” (or perhaps just the compliant functionaries of the system), multiply profits? How does global capitalism and capital translate into our institutions? Why did the system choose us to serve it, to endorse these credits? What is it that we mortgage and might irretrievably lose? Do we have clear accounts of loss and profit, and did we accept this pact consciously?

Last but not least in this litany of quotation marks is the question of identity: where is the fine line separating us from the “Outraged”? Even if we pay homage to them, support their demands, and invite them into our scene, there’s still SOMETHING. Something worth reflecting on, and specifying, something in the face of which we could write a new program for years and decades to come...


A mission is born in my head: to shake the artistic and cultural institutions out of the System using the Outraged’s wave of outrage. Clear analogies will make it easier to target and expose the mechanisms of the system’s self-reproduction, which have grown over time. At the same time, one does not need to erode the power of art as such, as a medium for shaping consciousness and a tool of change. We are fighting against distortions of the system, not the idea itself. A certain dose of self-criticism and self-awareness on the part of people partially complicit in the system, that is ourselves, would make our position more credible. Let us be the Warren Buffetts of art and culture! Let us be multimillionaires calling for taxation! How to belittle oneself to give voice to the lowly?


We know what we lose from the everyday struggle with procedures in our institutions, and with art brokers outside them. We know it from the feeling that the system unnoticeably absorbs us, offering various fetishes for the ego, at the same time ruthlessly exposing the limits of our revolt — as one which takes place within it. Somewhere in the course of this struggle, we lose ourselves, we lose our freshness, we burn out and adapt — to the system, naturally. We didn’t even notice when — for some of the public, and perhaps for the Outraged as well — we became the mainstream.


We need to write a program for ourselves, people who know the institutions like the back of one’s hand, and who know how much energy is needed for the everyday effort of pursuing a mission, ideas, and goals, something for which the institutions were in fact created. But they rejected it; they have not been ancillary and supplementary for a long time. We also witnessed the coming of a great mass of artists who are effectively using these procedures — commissioned by the system to reproduce hollow works, tenuous hybrids, that are doubly harmful, as they mask an ideological void. Perhaps some of them have already joined the Outraged, or will be with them before long.


We therefore need to transform the institutions, and if that doesn’t work, we need to expose them and create our own. We already have some proven ideas about how to do it peacefully, with no scaffolds and no bloodshed. A large number of proceduralists can be shaken out of the matrix and won over to our side. It will be a revelation for many. And it will give us strength and hope, and diminish the risk of burnout. The difference between the Outraged and ourselves is that we are part of the System, even if we have the right to believe that we’re a good kind of force. Let’s put the words “Ideas and goals – not procedures!” into action. Let’s use them as a program for our institutions. Are you in?


Occupy Wallstreet. Photo: Joanna Warsza, 2011


  1. yvette mattern

    in for what? I have a question. what is up with the heavy handed graphics for the biennale? It scares me. it is so dritte reich, so heavy handed. I can barely stomach gazing at the 7 logo like a black arm band and the jrimp logo is also dripping in propaganda.
    it makes me question the integrity of the authenticity of real integration and progression forward. I question the possible hoax element and it concerns me. also the free flowing references to OWS. OWS is so counter to a heavy handed designed logo. questions to answer your question.

10th Berlin Biennale