In an interview for Frieze, Simon Critchley talks to Dan Fox about community, collaboration, avant-garde rituals, being "religious without religion," and his forthcoming book The Faith of the Faithless (Verso, 2012).
Your forthcoming book is called Faith of the Faithless. Could you explain its central themes?
Part of it is on experimentalism in art and politics: are Utopian conceptions of community practicable? I look at the history of certain heretical groups—such as the Cathars, the Diggers, 19th-century Utopian socialism—and the Situationists. I talk about The Invisible Committee, the French group who wrote The Coming Insurrection —who are trying to recover a conception of Communism—and make a link between them and various activities in contemporary art around the idea of collective intelligence. What sense can we make of collaboration as an artistic practice? Part of it is an almost mystical idea of the group, what Sartre called the ‘group-in-fusion'. I'm looking at a number of artists associated with what has been branded ‘relational aesthetics', as well as the idea that collaboration—anonymity—is sustained by a faith that something will come about through those processes. Artistically and politically, the avant-garde has always been concerned with figuring ideas of the group based around a kind of faith.