To The Reader

To The Reader emerges from the understanding that capitalism is, first and foremost, a social relation that defines our behaviour. The exhibition is grounded in our current historical period. The basis for capitalism as a mode of organization has never been weaker, but paradoxically has seen almost no credible articulations of dissent. Perhaps there have been some fairly weak moral pleas for it to behave more pleasantly, and vague ideas that a return to Fordism and Keynesianism might be a good idea.

In the art world, this has been echoed with a fetishization of the ideals of exodus and withdrawal and, more recently, a turn to the anti-politics of the object. The artists here alternatively opt, as theorist Donna Haraway would put it, to ‘stay with the trouble’. Instead of attempting to objectify capital to produce a critique from a safe ethical distance, the works rather inhabit and map the flows of the supposedly non-ideological system, making visible that which is hidden and complicating that which is presented to us as natural.

A number of densely related themes run through the exhibition. First there is the question of labour, as the place in which capitalism makes itself most apparent to us in our day-to-day lives and through which we are forced to sell our time, to reproduce our material conditions. Long after the faded promise of emancipation through automation we find ourselves subject to work in entirely new and increasingly pervasive ways, as communication technologies have entered the home and our person. Coupled with this, since the 1980s there has been the assumption that private business is more efficient than the state and all public services should be handed over to private firms who in their quest for profit have driven down pay and conditions for workers.

The second theme is the image production that capital produces, as recently noted by John Russell, an artist in the exhibition. ‘Capitalism is not continuous flux, algorithmic automatism, and dematerialized circulation, but instead breakdown, stagflation, crisis, primitive accumulation, violence, and the illusion of growth. It can never perform its own self-image successfully but always falls back on brute power (unnetworked, unambiguous, dumb). It is a system whose strongest production is the production of the image of its own productivity.’

Third, and maybe most important, is the constant pressure to perform oneself and possess an individual sovereignty that is imposed on us through capitalism’s demand for competition and commodification of social bonds leaving it increasingly difficult to collectivize on grounds beyond consumer preference.

The exhibition itself will be a tightly packed constellation of existing, newly commissioned and extended works, thinking through some of the contradictions we find ourselves entangled within. Whilst some of the information and ideas dealt with are necessarily complex, the exhibition will maintain a level of humour, understanding the importance for a certain lightness of touch when dealing with complexity.


You are Just in the Middle of the Beginning

‘You are Just in the Middle of the Beginning’ is a curatorial project exploring ideas of the temporalities of now, particularly attentive to the intersections of technology with politics and their entanglement in our comprehension of time. The project will unfold over a period – researching, developing and ultimately making public both artistic and theoretical articulations, to open fresh angles of vision to think critically about the present.

Focussing on the psychic and social affects and desires that are generated by the constant pressures to perform exerted upon us by an ‘always on’ culture, the project will explore what it means to live a life increasingly mediated through a relationship to the digital.

Globalisation in its development since 1989, through the now ubiquitous neoliberal governance of a victorious West and the development of the World Wide Web, bringing with it the increasing digitalisation of our interactions, has seen dramatic shifts in our understandings of geography. However what is becoming increasingly apparent today is that whilst this territorial shift was happening another potentially more radical shift was taking place in our understanding of time, whether it be the collapse of work and leisure time into playbouring on Facebook in bed or the endlessly fractalising time of the project. This collapse of time has lead to a new set of subjectivities and intimacies emerging. As we are overawed by the amount of information now available and the correlative diminution in the time available to synthesise this into applicable knowledge, we enter into a panicked state leading ultimately to exhaustion.

Technologies once venerated for their emancipatory potentials are now showing their dark side when appropriated into the flows of capitalist production. In the 60s a vision of the future existed in which we were released from the immiseration of work through the development of machines to replace the functions of manual labour. This in a sense has come to pass and the machine has largely replaced the human in production of material goods. However what wasn’t taken into account in those predictions was the wage-labour relation intrinsic to the capitalist mode of production. Now the subject of exploitation within labour has shifted from the worker’s body to the worker’s affect.

Additionally one thing that it is important to state is that this is not a call for a retreat to a romanticised supposedly pre-lapsarian time, but rather an attempt to lay some groundwork towards becoming conscious of the current conditions we find ourselves entangled within.