How do you make an art work for this project?
One thing you learn very quickly at art school is that no-one will tell you how to "do it". You learn by making and critiques (crits). Crits tell you how other people are seeing what you have made. They tell you things about your own work that you didn't realise the work contained. Crits are a wonderful mechanism for incrementally pushing someone who is becoming an artist toward deeply thinking about what they are doing and how they are doing it.
You can sense there is a but here?
We all live within this world that naturalises the value form of the commodity. Value in the world we live in is living labour that takes the forms of commodities. The commodity form. So this is where it gets confusing. When it comes to aesthetics, or for that matter politics, religion, electronic games, cell phone usage, reading material, the bus we catch, clothes, etc etc, our take on the world is formed through the ideology of the value form.
Crits therefore, as well as teaching us much about art making, also reinforce a mode of understanding the world, that valorises capital.
The purpose (if Events can be said to have purpose) of the wager in the Event, is to rupture forms, rupture the very ground we stand on. It is to offer a completely new ground of being. But how to proceed upon this "new ground".
We proceed with fidelity to the wager. "We artists, we demand a world of complete equality". Such a world is not concerned with what is possible within capitalism. It is not concerned with how things have operated previously. It is not concerned with our individual ego. It doesn't care if we are embarrassed. It is a world where making can be done without fear of those things, without the corruption of those things.
But we proceed always with what we know. After the revolution in Russia, the constructivists took upon themselves an interesting project. The very first line of Marx's Capital is,
"The wealth of those societies in which the capitalist mode of production prevails, presents itself as “an immense accumulation of commodities,” its unit being a single commodity. Our investigation must therefore begin with the analysis of a commodity."
[As a member of this group I found this because I went to http://artcommunism.com/ , I went to the page "Performing Capital" (at the top right of the web page), followed down the dropbox and found "Documents", and opened the document called "Instructions for Performing Capital". It opened as a pdf. I then clicked on the link to the online Capital, https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch07.htm , and followed the index to the beginning of the book .]
Back to the constructivists.
So in early revolutionary Russia the constructivists recognised that transitioning to communism was inhibited by peoples adherence to an older mode of thought. People still understood the world in the way they did before the revolution. It is not easy to discard ideology over night. How to help people change their mode of thinking?
"How to help people change their mode of thinking? " was the art problem the constructivists faced. This is a common mode of art production. You have a problem, you solve the problem. The constructivists solved the problem by considering commodities as comrades. They made art where things were comrades. That was their solution to their art problem. That informed the art they made in answer to that problem.
Go to artcommunism.com . Go to the page Performing Capital. Go to Documents. Open Instructions for Performing Capital by clicking on the heading. Read them if you like but if you scroll down find the link to Capital. Look through the list of contents. Find something that interests you particularly. Read that bit.
Now the bit you read might be clear or obscure. It might make you think by gosh that's interesting or it might make you think Jesus wept, do people read this crap? But there may be something there that you do focus on. The constructivists focused on that word, commodity.
At random I clicked on Ch7 and read the first paragraph.
"The capitalist buys labour-power in order to use it; and labour-power in use is labour itself. The purchaser of labour-power consumes it by setting the seller of it to work. By working, the latter becomes actually, what before he only was potentially, labour-power in action, a labourer. In order that his labour may re-appear in a commodity, he must, before all things, expend it on something useful, on something capable of satisfying a want of some sort. Hence, what the capitalist sets the labourer to produce, is a particular use-value, a specified article. The fact that the production of use-values, or goods, is carried on under the control of a capitalist and on his behalf, does not alter the general character of that production. We shall, therefore, in the first place, have to consider the labour-process independently of the particular form it assumes under given social conditions."
Now I will concentrate on this one paragraph. I re read it several times. It is intriguing. If I like I can day dream off about Labour-power. In my mind it may turn into a Mattel toy like He-man. I might imagine a He-man that is labour-power. I might think "How can I make this thing I am thinking into a form?" I might decide to make this toy, or draw it, or make it out of cloth, or knit it.
This would be a sufficient art work right there. Bingo! I have done it. I would sign the docs and send Aindriu some pics of my knitted Labour-power toy etc.
You don't have to stop there. You might walk around for a week or two whether you made the toy or not, mulling over what you have read. Different things might become paramount in your mind. Some of these things might seem only loosely connected to the original text but they are 'babies' of that line of thinking. You could seize upon any of these thoughts and think, "How can I make this thing I am thinking into a form?" That would be your art problem.
How you solve it is your art work.
Why focus on the book Capital? Well in my opinion all art work is to some degree a critique. It is an evaluation of thought and a concretisation of thought. Capital the book, is a critique of capitalism. As faithful subjects of our Badiouian wager, we artists are critiquing capitalist modes of understanding the world. What better way than by using the work that is the greatest critique of capitalism ever written?
I have had another idea about how to get an artwork going. If you have read a paragraph or two of Capital (or even if you haven't), think about the area of life that that paragraph is talking about. For example;
"Labour is, first of all, a process between man and nature, a process by which man, through his own actions, mediates, regulates and controls the metabolism between himself and nature. He confronts the materials of nature as a force of nature. He sets in motion the natural forces which belong to his own body, his arms, legs, head and hands, in order to appropriate the materials of nature in a form adapted to his own needs." pg 283
I could think about where that applies. I might think,"OK, chopping wood uses my body." Or " Working at my desk/supermarket checkout/science lab/pub uses my body".
Go to the place you thought of (either in real life or in your mind but real life is better), stand there and ask yourself, "What is not allowed in this situation? What is FORBIDDEN?"
Make work (by which I mean turn those thoughts into some form) about what you have discovered.
ps. (Replace 'Man' with 'any gender' , and any pronoun you choose in the above. :-)
Badiou offers us a new ground to stand on. By declaring our wager, "we artists, we demand a world of complete equality", we create a ground outside of capitalism. Badiou's Event is the rocket ship. It is the new ground. What is possible within the new ground? Everything. But that is like saying, draw whatever you want. You can't think of anything! This is where fidelity to the trace (other attempts to make a new world) and fidelity to the wager comes in. Fidelity makes the Real intelligible. We select only that which conforms to the statement. We artists. (We are all artists). Demand.( We are not fucking around). Complete equality.( If it doesn't make us equal. Throw it away).
Bergson offers us a way to understand time outside of capitalism. Yes, we need Newtonian time to make our trains run on time, to make science work. But we don't need to live our lives by this time. Time is what happens when life is born. It is the duration of life. It is the force of life.
Gramsci lets us understand that the affective is what will change the world. It is the initial war. The war before the revolution. If you haven't won the affective war you can't fight the revolution.
In this project we are building and fighting the affective war that Gramsci spoke of. This is the early war. this is the first step in moving forward from capitalism.
Join the fight. Make art. Art like the future of the world depends on it. It does.