The Exile of our Longing: Notes Towards a Position

By Kodwo Eshun and The Otolith Group

A free state: a place, a time, a temperature, where, under certain conditions, a space of possibility is built, word by word, image by image, face to face.

Today, there is more resistance to abusive power than ever before but little or no language for those actions nor the yearnings that drive them. Our desires to find a free space are contained by those same traditions of resistance we hold dear. On a bad day, I find myself pondering whether the critical weapons we wield with such pride have become consolation prizes for thinkers intimate with defeated radicalism. What we are for is so much more complicated, so much more fragile than what we are against; yet, who, among us has not found themselves busy, embattled by dictates and deadlines, only to be struck, vividly, indelibly, by what Marcuse once called ‘the exile of our longing for non-sacrificial freedom’.

What if that ‘exile of our longing’ became a starting point for discussion? If that loss, felt as such, became the affective charge through which the state of a ‘non-sacrificial freedom’ began tentatively, to emerge? If fear has a face and a name, perhaps freedom from fear does, too. A free state, then, would be the attempt to create a temporary time-space where it becomes possible to pursue freedom from the fear of a utopian imagination.

Think of A Free State as an all too brief experiment in the indulgence of the intellect. As a self-conscious attempt to create a post-liberated thought process. A moment when the potential to decolonise one’s dream space may in turn cultivate the preconditions for change.

First printed in the Conference Guide to A Free State, March 2004