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Brian Holmes - Biography

Brian Holmes, Ph.D., is an art critic, activist and translator, living in Paris, interested primarily in the intersections of artistic and political practice. He holds a doctorate in Romance Languages and Literatures from the University of California at Berkeley. Brian Homes was the English editor of publications for Documenta X, Kassel, Germany since 1997. Brian was a member of the graphic arts group 'Ne pas plier' from 1999 to 2001, and has recently worked with the French conceptual art group 'Bureau d'Études' .

Brian Holmes is a frequent contributor to the international listserve Nettime, a member of the editorial committee of the political-economy journal Multitudes (Paris) and of the art magazines Springerin (Vienna) and Brumaria (Barcelona). Brian is also a regular contributor to the magazine Parachute (Montreal), and a founder, with 'Bureau d'Études, of the new journal Autonomie Artistique (Paris). He is the author of a collection of essays, Hieroglyphs of the Future: Art and Politics in a Networked Era (Zagreb: Arkzin, 2003) and was in charge of a special issue of Multitudes on Art contemporain : la recherche du dehors.

Brian Holmes envisions the political possibilities of art as he writes in his blog:

One of the strong possibilities of art today is to combine theoretical, sociological or scientific research with a feel for the ways that aesthetic form can influence collective process, so as to de-normalize the investigation and open up both critical and constructive paths. Projects carried out in this way have complex referential content, but they also depend on a highly self-reflexive and deeply playful exercise of the basic human capacities: perception, affect, thought, expression and relation.

Brian Homes investigates political action, envisioning it as a performance. It is performative in that public political action is done with the intention of transforming those who participate in it. These forms of action are not bound to an artistic or symbolic realm, political confrontations require a greater risk. A risk of embodied experience that demands upon the participants a kind of transgression. Brian Holmes work is bent on investigating the depth and power of political action, which derives its symbolic force due to its efficacy.

In 2003 Holmes published a collection of essays entitled, Hieroglyphs of the Future (Zagreb:Arkzin/WHW, 2003), which addresses the shifting contemporary struggle against Capitalism while simultaneously appropriating these tools of propaganda to seek out solutions. In 2001, his essay, from the later collection, Hieroglyphs of the Future: Jacques Ranciere and the Aesthetics of Equality, appeared in the critically acclaimed art and culture magazine, Cabinet. His collaborations with the French art collective, Bureau d’Etudes, have informed many of these essays.

Brian Holmes is also a member of the activist association, Ne Pas Plier (Do Not Bend). Holmes’ diverse activities from art, to activism, to geopoetics, coalesce in much of his work, particularly in the seminar, Continental Drift, a reading group organized at the artist run space, 16 Beaver Group. This part seminar, part blog, later became the book, Escape the Overcode: Activist Art in the Control Society (Van Abbemuseum, WHW, 2009).

Much of Holmes’ work is a call to action or more specifically an invitation to the reader to participate. Potentials, Experiments, Do-It Yourself Geopolitics and 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover, are just a few of the titles of some of his essays in Escape the Overcode. Perhaps this inherent invitation in Holmes’ writing is what allows Holmes’ work to morph seamlessly from a reading seminar to an interactive blog, where readers are encouraged to post feedback to direct the narrative of the conversation, to, finally, a published book. Brian Holme’s has been influenced in no small part by the works of Gilles Delueze and Felix Guattari. He takes inspiration from them as well as Julia Kristeva and many other contemporary philosophers interested in the politics and the philosophy of resistance.

Brian Holmes’ unique experience and subsequent weaving of theory, art, activism, geopolitics and geopoetics offer us powerful tools for change. In Escape the Overcode, Holmes writes in his introduction:

And so finally we reach the scale of intimacy, of skin, of shared heartbeats and feelings, the scale that goes from families and lovers to people together on a street corner, in a sauna, a living room or a cafe. It would seem that intimacy is irretrievably weighted down in our time, burdened with data and surveillance and seduction, crushed with the determining influence of all the other scales. But intimacy is still an unpredictable force, a space of gestation and therefore a wellspring of gesture, the biological spring from which affect drinks. Only we can traverse all the scales, becoming other along the way. From the lovers’ bed to the wild embrace of the crowd to the alien touch of networks, it may be that intimacy and its artistic expressions are what will astonish the twenty-first century.

This lateral thinking offers up relevant questions when addressing polarity in art and activism. Operating, not as manifesto, but more akin to the Fluxus book, An Anthology of Chance Operations (Jackson Mac Low/La Monte Young, 1963), which consisted of a series of instructions or invitations to the audience/reader, Holmes’ writing has greatly changed the way we think about the geopolitical and the geopoetical.

Brian Holmes is a professor of philosophy at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland, where he teaches an Intensive Summer Workshop.