Cookies disclaimer
Our site saves small pieces of text information (cookies) on your device in order to deliver better content and for statistical purposes. You can disable the usage of cookies by changing the settings of your browser. By browsing our website without changing the browser settings you grant us permission to store that information on your device. I agree


Françoise Vergès

MARION VON OSTEN (1963-2020)

Marion von Osten, 2019

Marion von Osten, 2019

Obituaries are generally written by journalists, colleagues, family members, or friends of the deceased in order to recall professional accomplishments and celebrate a life. Although I was none of these to Marion von Osten, and I did not know her well, I can say that I have lost a “sister and comrade in struggle” and will speak from that place. She will be deeply missed by those who fight throughout the world against unsatiated greed, racism, sexism, and the politics of looting, lying, and extracting. Through her work, she contributed to the global struggle against increased inequalities, dispossessions, exploitations, and injustices, as well as against the intensification of the lie that some lives do not matter. She understood that these issues must be addressed from a plurality of positions. Her work matters because in times of increased brutality, dispossession, and exploitation, when so many lives are made insubstantial, when new forms of fascism are emerging in Europe, in the time of a pandemic that has claimed so many lives and has allowed governments to reinforce surveillance and control, we need every energy, every strength, every commitment for envisioning the possibilities for worldmaking outside of the neoliberal iron hand.

We are many engaged in this struggle and Marion von Osten was one of us. She belonged to what I will call an international brigade – political, theoretical, cultural, and artistic – which always chooses friendship, love, hospitality, and solidarity over indifference, hatred, inhospitality, and hostility. A brigade with no rigid rules and whose membership is based on the common and collective desire to creatively investigate the fields of labor, knowledge, co-education, liberation, and decolonial feminism, to create sanctuaries, refuges, and collaborative platforms, and to establish circuits of solidarity. Marion von Osten understood why solidarity is crucial, that it is not about mere empathy but about interdependency between subjects with very different conditions of existence but who recognize that they have common enemies: racism, sexism, neoliberalism, imperialism. These enemies act in entangled ways to create a matrix of daily rituals of racial, sexual, gendered, and class humiliations and discriminations. They bring wars, death, and ruination. Hence the emphasis on common transnational routes of abolition.

I will not list her many accomplishments; others have done this very well and will continue to do so. Her close friends have eloquently spoken about her personal qualities – generosity, curiosity, gregarious laughter, her humor. But those who did not have the privilege to have Marion as a friend also have something to say because they seek, as she did, to decolonize cultural production, to question the representation of the artist as genius and entrepreneur, and to challenge European modernity. I think that acknowledging debt is a decolonial act, one whose importance has taken on new meaning since neoliberalism has turned the belief that we are self-making individuals into a law. And we owe a debt to Marion, for her intuitions and artistic propositions, for her enlightening analysis of the ways in which neoliberalism destroys emancipatory creativity, and for her advocacy of utopian thinking to imagine real change. She has her place in our decolonial library.

“The injunction to transform oneself into a creative being and an entrepreneurial individual,” she said in 2004, “thus absorbed the slogans in favor of autonomy of the 1960s and 1970s. Not only does the call for self-determination and participation no longer go hand in hand with an emancipatory utopia, but it has indeed become a social obligation.” [1] Her understanding that taking on multiple roles is a necessity to “inhabit the different possible articulations in the field of art, of the group as an intellectual laboratory,” remains a lesson for decolonial artistic and cultural practice.

Rest in Power, Marion von Osten, sister and comrade in struggle. You will not be forgotten.

Françoise Vergès


[1]Marion von Osten, “À double tranchant. Créer une exposition-projet sur les transformations contemporaines de la créativité,” in: Multitudes, vol. 15, no. 1 (Winter, 2004), pp. 239–49, quote p. 241 (my translation).