“Speed” is the main theme in issue 9 of Electra magazine

Obra de Marcehl Duchamp
Marcel Duchamp "From Rotoreliefs [Optical Disks]", 1935 © The Museum of Modern Art, New York / Scala, Florence


Pursuing its purpose of thinking about the words and concepts that can be used to express our time, Speed is Electra’s main theme for its ninth issue.

Among the various terms that have been used to describe contemporary society, one of the most convenient ones is “society of speed”. The technical acceleration of modernity, which in recent times has reached an extreme state, thanks to information and digital technologies, has become the most decisive phenomenon not only in social and cultural change but also in terms of the cultural transformation that shape the way we live our lives. “In our century, speed is getting faster and faster and so is its acceleration. This magnitude has taken over everything: work and days, leisure and pleasure, anguish and expectations. Speed has changed and determined everything: politics and communication, the economy and society, science and cybernetics, art and love, food and sleep, sickness and health, life and death.”, one may read in the magazine’s editorial. Speed is a complete social phenomenon.

This edition was ready to go to print when the world slowed down due to the Covid-19 pandemic. And the latter can also be regarded from the perspective of speed, both because of its rapid and global propagation and deceleration of contact, and because of the suspension of life it caused and the frantic race to find an antidote.

The theme of Speed is explored from various perspectives in this dossier, which already includes an up-to-date and very original reflection on the pandemic. To that end, this edition includes the collaboration of renowned authors whose works have been permeated by the theme of Speed as a topic that inspires analysis and reflection: François Hartog, Frédéric Neyrat, Yves Citton, Laurent de Sutter, Federico Leoni, Aurélien Barrau, António Guerreiro and João Pacheco.

The section In the First Person offers an interview with Vandana Shiva, one of the most well-known environmental activists of our time, where she speaks of her work in support of organic agriculture. Shiva advocates for the indispensable role of women in a caring, humane and ecological economy. She also defends the need for us to resist the distortion of the original meanings of words resulting from the language of the market and colonization.

Gorbachev is the central character in a work by William Taubman, professor emeritus of Political Science and author of several works, including Gorbachev: His Life and Times (2017), which draws a picture of a “tragic hero who changed the world (but not as much as he wished”. In this portrait, politics, along with its victories and defeats, its dilemmas and disasters, its causes and its consequences, meets life, with its emotions, anguishes, perplexities and solitudes.

“Should ethical or political reasons be able to restrict literary and artistic works?” is the question that provides the theme to the section Diagonal. This question, raised by the controversy surrounding the fact that the Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Peter Handke, who publicly defended Serbian president Milosevic, is answered by João Barrento, critic, essayist and translator, and Michel Surya, writer and director of the French journal Lignes. Across the intersection between arguments and reasons, moves the shadow of some of the great debates of the past few centuries, and notions and values as crucial as freedom, creation, ethics, aesthetics and responsibility come into play.

The Book of Hours reveals two lockdown diaries: one by photographer Daniel Blaufuks, experienced near Lisbon; the other by visual artist Mariana Silva, created from New York. The introduction recalls Kafka’s statement that “Man does not grow upwards, but from inside out.”

The renowned German artist Stefan Kürten is the author of the Portfolio, with the title Pink Turns to Blue, accompanied by an essay by prominent curator and critic Gregor Jansen, director of Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, which speaks of the inspiration which Kürten’s work finds in cinema and the strange relationship between architecture, innocence and terror.

The Brazilian essayist and novelist Silviano Santiago, a great specialist in the work of Guimarães Rosa, writes about the Portuguese edition of Grande Sertão: Veredas, a novel that inspires endless fascination and complexity, and which has challenged generations of readers and scholars. It is published in English under the title The Devil to Pay in the Backlands.

A new section, Serial, starts with writer Gonçalo M. Tavares and the artist-architect collective Os Espacialistas, which reveal, throughout three editions, “Human machines, which do not work by necessity or routine but rather by the imagination of the body.”

Issue 9 of Electra marks its second anniversary. The subject matters mentioned above are joined by other interesting topics. EDP Foundation’s international magazine of thought sets the goal of thinking about the present with critical detachment, a unique perspective and creative originality, by inviting artists, philosophers, scientists, intellectuals, academics, writers, journalists. Their line of sight gradually shapes a time whose movements they follow attentively and knowledgeably.

19 Jun 2020