Sensory Futures #1: The work to end all labor

By on May 27, 2018

We recently celebrated the revolutionary legacy of both 1968 and 1917 – two recurring references in history, politically as well as artistically. But what do we have to celebrate today?

On the one hand, we are demonstrating for the right to fully integrate ourselves as subjects in the economic system of capitalist modes of production (the right to work, equal rights, equal wages).

On the other hand, we are drifting more towards a situation where humanity itself becomes superfluous when it is no longer necessary for the reproduction of capitalist society (unemployed, migrants, people without papers).

Therefore, the revolutionary energies seem to remain captive in the menagerie. In a current state of rising xenophobia, fascism, nationalist fronts, neoliberal depression and climate destruction to name a few – the bleak reality of modernity tells us nothing else than to urgently stress new formulations and reinventions of emancipatory politics. Is it therefore time to abandon previous revolutionary legacies…or perhaps, are they even more relevant today?

Art as a counterpower to state politics has been central to many 20th-century avant-gardes. From constructivism, dadaism, surrealism, and to the boom of artistic movements of the 1960’s such as happenings, situations, performances, and fluxus; art has been considered a political standpoint that remains influential to approaching social issues and crisis through aesthetics and critique. If we reflect on the legacy of political and artistic interventions in revolutionary terms, how are we to understand art in late capitalism?

Over the past decades, reinterpretations of Karl Marx writings have emerged, that diverges from ‘traditional Marxist’ understandings of labor and value. With its main development in Germany (Neue Marx-Lektüre and Krisis-group), their post-Marxist framework has focused less on the ‘revolutionary subject’ and more towards analyzing the core capitalist concepts: value, labor, money, commodity. How can the viewpoint from post-Marxist concepts, such as ‘critique of value’ and ‘communization’, as a form of social critique, increase understanding and criticism of the very basis of the capitalist mode of production? How can potential possibilities for political action and artistic practice occur, across and beyond the capitalist structure today?

Together with artists, writers and theorists, who all address or reflect upon these notions in their work – this one-day session aims to approach these questions through a hybrid format including talks, discussions, performances and screenings. This is an attempt to, in various ways, address and conceptualize critical aspects on (art)work, value-criticism, and revolutionary legacies – in order to put forward notions of critical thinking across and beyond capitalist modes of production, and to cross-think some (im)possible future directions.

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