Tag Archives: the commons

How can you be at home in an alien world? (Call for participation)

How can you be at home in an alien world?             

On the occasion of SKOR’s symposium Social Housing – Housing the Social, the members of Chto Delat and Ultra-red invite you to participate in a two-day seminar prior to the symposium and to perform a collaborative learning play on the first evening of the symposium.

DATES OF SEMINAR: 2–3.11.2011 (from 10 AM till midnight)

Learning Play on 4th of November at 9 PM

DATES OF SYMPOSIUM: 4–5.11.2011

LOCATION: Felix Meritis, Amsterdam

  … the metropolis is now the point of massive collision—dare we call it class struggle?—over the accumulation by dispossession visited upon the least well-off and the developmental drive that seeks to colonize space for the affluent . . . democratization of [the right to the city], and the construction of a broad social movement to enforce its will is imperative if the dispossessed are to take back the control which they have for so long been denied, and if they are to institute new modes of urbanization.

– David Harvey

The conditions within which Chto Delat and Ultra-red will take up their work on the theme of the social are those of the global financial crisis. The latter is often used to justify the dismantling of welfare states and the withdrawal of commitments to the notion of the commons that underlay their development in the first place. Now it is every atom for itself, situated in a vortex driven by the fatal master-slave dialectic between the private and the common.

The social is currently acknowledged as being a luxury we simply cannot afford. Thus, it must be sacrificed along with other public goods including education, health care, infrastructure and housing. This is more than simply a retreat from the social. It also permits the commodity value of former public goods to be realized and circulated within the systems of capitalist speculation. Volunteerism and self-help, once signatures of the social, are now co-opted to fill gaps resulting from the privatizing of property and services. In reaction to these dispossessions, citizens of cities in countries across the globe are occupying strategic urban spaces. These occupations – temporary productions of common space by the deterritorialized and expropriated on enemy terrain – are to be understood as an emphatic reclamation of rights repressed for decades. They direct us toward some fundamental questions. What is the social today? How has its construction changed? Why has it become so vulnerable to the attacks of capital and privatization? Why are ideas of the social so indispensable for the imagination of freedoms? How can we be at home in an alien world?

This seminar breaks with the conventions of discussions and conferences in order to promote a dialogical and investigative relationship to knowledge production. As we eat, talk and rehearse together, we will address and investigate ideas around collectivity and the politicized subject of “the social.” We will explore what political stakes may serve to bind us in solidarity to each other. And we will turn our surroundings into what Henri Lefebvre called a “representational space configured and changed to underscore our temporary occupation.”

The seminar will culminate in a staging of a Brechtian learning play during the first evening of the symposium. Using Bertolt Brecht’s learning-play model, Chto Delat and Ultra-red invite participants to collectively develop an educational didactic performance. Centered around the theme of the social but without fixed texts, participants are asked to develop and articulate their own position through the process of acquiring and advocating their attitudes.

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ABOUT THE ARTISTS COLLECTIVES

Chto Delat (What is to be done?)

The platform Chto Delat was founded in early 2003 in Petersburg with the goal of merging political theory, art and activism. The platform’s activity consists in developing a network of collective initiatives in Russia and setting them into an international context. The platform is coordinated by a workgroup of the same name. The collective initiatives developed inside the platform engage in a variety of art projects, including video works, installations, actions in public space, radio programs, and different forms of artistic research. During this seminar the platform will be represented by David Riff, Tsaplya (Olga Egorova) and Dmitry Vilensky.

Ultra-red

Founded in 1994 by two AIDS activists, Ultra-red has expanded to include artists, researchers and organizers from different social movements including the struggles of migration, anti-racism, participatory community development, and the politics of HIV/AIDS. By exploring acoustic space as enunciative of social relations, Ultra-red utilizes sound-based research to directly engage political struggle. With ten associates working in North America and Europe, Ultra-red pursue a dynamic exchange between art and political organizing producing radio broadcasts, performances, recordings, essays, and installations. Ultra-red members are currently conducting investigations in Los Angeles, New York, London, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Berlin and Oslo. During this seminar Ultra-red will be represented by Elliot Perkins, Robert Sember and Leonardo Vilchis.

NOTE: The seminar is limited to 20 participants. Participants must commit to attending the full seminar, which includes discussions, rehearsals and the staging of a learning play as a collective act on Friday, 4th of November. The organiser will provide only food for the duration of the seminar and entrance to the symposium. Sorry, but no support for accomodation is available because seminar is focused on local participants.

APPLICATION DEADLINE: October 23, 2011

Please send your motivation letters to:

Robert Sember: robert.sember@gmail.com (Ultra-red)

Dmitry Vilensky: dmvilen@gmail.com (Chto Delat)

Fleur van Muiswinkel: fleurvanmuiswinkel@gmail.com (curator affiliated with SKOR)

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Ephemera: Communism of Capital? (Call for papers)

Call for Papers for an ephemera Special Issue on: Communism of Capital?

Issue Editors: Armin Beverungen, Anna-Maria Murtola and Gregory Schwartz
http://www.ephemeraweb.org/journal/communismofcapital.pdf
Deadline for submissions: 29 February 2012

Today, neoliberal capitalism is increasingly put into question. Whereas two decades ago business school gurus argued that the US was ‘the most “socialist” country around’ (Drucker, 1993: 6), today’s self-appointed business leaders know they cannot do without a certain communism. George Soros, Bill Gates and others refer to themselves – not without irony – as ‘liberal communists’ (Žižek, 2008a). Recognising the evils induced by capitalism these patricians of the market proselytise market philanthropy to deliver many of the ostensible benefits of the communism of yore. Newsweek, reflecting on the national bailout of the banks in response to the financial crisis, declared: ‘We are all socialists now’ (Meacham, 2009). Yet, the one thing that seems beyond question in such projections of communism is capital itself.

At the same time, theories of cognitive capitalism, immaterial labour and biopolitical production suggest that some kind of communism is already at work within capitalism. According to Hardt and Negri, immaterial labour ‘seems to provide the potential for a kind of spontaneous and elementary communism’ (2000: 294). Similarly, Virno defines post-Fordism as ‘the communism of capital’, since it ‘puts forth, in its own way, typical demands of communism (abolition of work, dissolution of the State, etc.)’ (2004: 110-111). The contemporary enjoinments to pursue work that is authentic, ethical, spiritual, evoking and invoking the community, friendship and collaboration (Heckscher and Adler, 2006), chime in with invitations for employees in work organisations to ‘just be themselves’ (Fleming, 2009), thus delivering on some of the promises of communism. From a ‘paleo-Marxist’ perspective (Adler, 2007) we can surmise that concrete changes in technology and work organisation assure us some version of communism in substance, if not in form.

However, such projections of work organisation rely on a commons in production without opening up production to a commons that will tear apart the dominance of capital. For Negri (2008: 157-180), the communism of capital is marked by new forms of capture of the creativity of labour. For Virno (2004: 110), communist demands and objectives have been subject to ‘an insiduous and terrible interpretation’, for example in the way that unemployment and precarity accompany overwork. For Holloway (2010), more fundamentally, it is the communal, communising and communistic doing that, in capitalism, exists in the mode of being denied. For Read, capital operates ‘through the abstractions of money and labour, which are all the more effective in that they are not believed or even grasped’ – ‘the cynicism of the productive powers of the general intellect today, is a cynicism without reserve, in which every aspect of one’s existence, knowledge, communicative abilities and desires become productive’ (2008: 146, 150). The question for Negri, Virno, Holloway and Read, then, is how to overcome this enclosure by capital.

Yet even anti-capitalism seems to return only as communism of capital. As Žižek (2008b) and Fisher (2010) point out, capitalist realism already embraces a certain kind of anti-capitalism – ‘corporate anti-capitalism’ is discernible in the products of Hollywood, such as Wall-E and Avatar, but also in the way that today it is acceptable or encouraged to express anti-capitalist sentiments at work (Fleming, 2009). Anti-capitalism as a signifier thus loses its radical edge, especially as it is contained within a parliamentary democratic politics (Žižek, 2008b: 184). Indeed, the more gushing the moralism against the evils of our age, the more certain the conclusion that capitalism is an eternal, natural system of social organisation.

At this impasse we might be at once more sceptical and more hopeful. We might hedge doubts about the communism of capital in view of Groys’ (2009) argument that language – the basis of a communist politics – will remain silent as long as the commodity form mediates it. We might question the communism of capital by insisting, with Ranciere (2010), on the politics of emancipation and not the logos of history as the purveyor of communism. We might deny its ethical claims by revealing the underlying ‘ontology of profit’ (Badiou, 2008: 47) – that with capitalism as ‘a system that hands the organization of our collective life over to the lowest instincts, to greed, rivalry and unconscious egotism’ (Badiou, 2010: 96) the communism of capital is a simulacra of late capitalism. And if communism is ‘not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself’, then where are we to look for ‘the real movement which abolishes the present state of things’ (Marx and Engels, 1998: 57; emphases in original)?

Contributions

For this special issue of ephemera we invite contributions that address various aspects of what could be conceived as the communism of capital. We are especially interested in papers that try to cover the following interrelated areas of organisational inquiry.

First, we are interested in contributions that seek to locate the attempts by capital to organise society as producers. For example, in what ways are social forms mobilised in the name of a discernible communism, and how do such dispositifs reproduce the dominance of capital? Based on postworkerist/autonomist thought, how or to what extent is production based on the common, and what kinds of political effects does this produce? Alternatively, drawing on the Lacanian/Hegelian tradition, how does anti-capitalist ideology work in practice in the organisation of work, and what negations and contradictions are involved?

Second, papers could explore how capital organises consumption in society via affective, discursive and cognitive means. For example, how do contemporary ideas of corporate social responsibility, business ethics or leadership utilise ideas of communism? In what ways, and to what extent, do efforts to purvey capitalism as, essentially, a creature of communism lead to new ways of constructing (and consuming) the subjects of capital?

Third, we welcome papers that interrogate how capital organises politics and the state. For example, there is a way in which the state, by over-coding existing codes and values, uses the terminology and imagery of ‘community’ to refer to ways of fragmenting and depoliticising its social responsibility in the face of escalating inequality, poverty and precarity generated by capital. How might we understand this apparent harkening to deep-seated, basic communalism in terms of the communism of capital, with the state presiding over the inscription of the social body as a renewed object of appropriation of capital?

Finally, we welcome theoretical or empirical contributions that bring together or provide a cross-examination of some or all of the above areas of inquiry. For example, following Guattari and Negri’s (2010) proposition of the pre-eminence of organisation, how might we move from the communism of capital towards the communism discussed by Marx and Engels in 1848? Or, in addition to the post-workerist, autonomist, Lacan- and Hegel-inspired approaches that we have discussed here, in what other ways might communism, beyond capital, today be thought or advanced?

Deadline for submissions: 29 February 2012

Please send your submissions to the editors. All contributions should follow ephemera guidelines – see http://www.ephemeraweb.org/journal/submit.htm. In addition to full papers, we also invite notes, reviews, and other kinds of contributions – please get in touch to discuss how you would like to contribute. In anticipation of the special issue, we plan to host an event on the themes, at which we will ask the selected contributors to present their work.

Armin Beverungen, armin.beverungen@googlemail.com

Anna-Maria Murtola, annamariamurtola@gmail.com

Gregory Schwartz, g.schwartz01@gmail.com

References

Adler, P. (2007) ‘The future of critical management studies: A paleo-Marxist critique of labour process theory’, Organization Studies, 28(9): 1313-1345.

Badiou, A. (2008) The meaning of Sarkozy, trans. D. Fernbach. London: Verso.

Badiou, A. (2010) The communist hypothesis, trans. D. Macey and S. Corcoran. London: Verso.

Drucker, P. (1993) Post-capitalist society. New York: HarperBusiness.

Fisher, M. (2010) Capitalist realism: Is there no alternative? London: Zero Books.

Fleming, P. (2009) Authenticity and the cultural politics of work. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Groys, B. (2009) The communist postscript. London: Verso.

Guattari, F. and A. Negri (2010) New lines of alliance, new spaces of liberty, trans. M. Ryan, J. Becker, A. Bove and N. Le Blanc. London: Minor Compositions / Autonomedia / MayFly.

Hardt, M. and A. Negri (2000) Empire. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

Heckscher, C. and P. S. Adler (2006) The firm as collaborative community: Reconstructing trust in the knowledge economy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Holloway, J. (2010) Crack capitalism. London: Pluto Press.

Marx, K. and F. Engels (1992 [1848]) The communist manifesto. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Marx, K. and F. Engels (1998) The German ideology. New York: Prometheus Books.

Meacham, J. (2009) ‘We are all socialists now’, Newsweek, 6 February 2009. [http://www.newsweek.com/2009/02/06/we-are-all-socialists-now.html].

Negri, A. (2008) Goodbye Mr. Socialism: Radical politics in the 21st century. London: Serpent’s Tail.

Ranciere, J. (2010) ‘Communists without communism?’, in C. Douzinas and S. Žižek (eds.) The idea of communism. London: Verso.

Read, J. (2008) ‘The age of cynicism: Deleuze and Guattari on the production of subjectivity in capitalism’, in I. Buchanan and N. Thoburn (eds.) Deleuze and politics. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press

Virno, P. (2004) A grammar of the multitude: For an analysis of contemporary forms of life. New York: Semiotext(e).

Žižek, S. (2008a) Violence. London: Profile Books.

Žižek, S. (2008b) In defense of lost causes. London: Verso.

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Oliver Ressler: Resist to Exist

Resist to Exist

A project in public space in Copenhagen
by Oliver Ressler

The project Resist to Exist consists of two elements, which are presented next to each other within sight of the S-train station Bispebjerg in Copenhagen.

The first element of the intervention is a freestanding billboard of 366 x 244 cm that shows a photographic image with fenced-in containers of the shipping and oil conglomerate Maersk—the largest Danish corporation and the world’s largest container-shipping corporation. Containers are the most important means of transportation for goods around the globe and therefore essential for the continuation of the world-market. Major parts of the fence on the image are destroyed, as if they were taken down in an uprising.

This billboard is accompanied by 12 meters of fence placed on the lawn next to the billboard. It appears to be pieces from the extracted fence on the billboard. Concrete panels are beneath the fence, so that it is slightly above the ground. This metal structure can be used as a grill for a huge barbecue freely available to the public. The fence, which previously formed a barrier between a transnational corporation and the public, has been transformed into a “commons”—into something joyful, practical and meaningful where people can meet. It creates an image for the dispossession of the “republic of property” through the “multitude of the poor” that emerges “at the center of the project for revolutionary transformation” (1).

According to the social theorist David Harvey, the main achievement of neoliberalization has been to redistribute, rather than generate, wealth and income. In this “accumulation by dispossession”, existing wealth is extracted by transnational corporations from areas all around the world, usually from the poor or the public sector, through legal or illegal means, and most often in situations where the limits of legality are unclear. (2) The billboard imagines the reclaiming of this previously expropriated wealth, the attempt of the people to win it back.

The project Resist to Exist is a re-appropriation of activities that protagonists of social movements such as the Piqueteros practiced in the uprising during the crisis in Argentina in 2001. For them, destroying fences and re-using them as tools to prepare a meal, became an act of survival. In order to exist, boundaries between what appeared to be immovable were dismantled.

The project in Copenhagen takes place in an old railroad area, which residents from 2002 to 2007 tried to transform into a park (with barbecue areas) and cultural facilities according to their needs. The municipal officials finally forced out the residents. The project is also within view of the Føtex shopping center, one of many subsidiaries of Maersk.

Resist to Exist pursues the question whether an activist practice—which was performed in a specific historical situation—can gain a new relevance in this current situation, where not a single state, but the capitalist system as a whole is in crisis.

The project will open with a free barbecue for everyone at 3:00 pm on July 30 and remain in place until August 21, 2011. During this period, it is open to everyone to use for meetings and barbecues at any time.

The project was done during a residency at ANA – Astrid Noack’s Atelier (www.astrid-noack.dk) in Copenhagen in July 2011, supported by Statens Kunstråd, Nørrebro Lokaludvalg and BM:UKK.

Credits: Kirsten Dufour (ANA, YNKB), Katrine Skovgaard (ANA), Biba Fibiger, Andreas Lykke Jensen, John Jordan, Bjørn O., Katarzyna Winiecka.

(1) Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt: Commonwealth, Cambridge, 2009, p. 55
(2) Ibid., p. 230 – 231

For a German text please visit: http://www.ressler.at/de/resist_to_exist/

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