How to perform in a society of spectacle? And why? Postspectacle doesn't really have an answer, but by dealing with these questions some practices emerged. One is to dislocate the performance. For instance, Postspectacle invited the Romanian Army to host a dance workshop and perform a drill show in a contemporary performance black box. A reversed operation is to infiltrate the big stages of mass media, business and politics with the skills, knowledge and approaches from contemporary arts. The Presidential Candidate is one of the results of this operation. Another constant practice is to introduce strange feedback loops, altering, expanding or breaking some of the implicit conditions at work in the situations in which Postspectacle appears.

Esthetic Entities for Sale at Art Brussels
Dark Charity/ Grey Donors at MUMOK
End Pit at Depo Istanbul
Postspectacle Shelter at MNAC Bucharest
2012, The Ultimate Apocalypse, at OTV (Mirror TV)Postspectacle at Mall
Presidential Candidate
The Inauguration of the People's Salvation Cathedral
We are all Romanians Now (in Oslo)
Romanian Presidential Candidacy in Vienna
The Extraordinary Congress of the Presidential Candidates in Cluj
Military Workshop @CNDB
Military Performance @CNDB
Dorato Action - Pavilion Discredit
Postspectacle as Esthetic Entity
Neocatarsis

Follow @postspectacle and its initiators: Florin Flueras, Ion Dumitrescu

Esthetic Entities for Sale at Art Brussels

Postspectacle (represented by Florin Flueras and Ion Dumitrescu) proposes for the Black Market a workshop on esthetic entities and Postspectacle operations, and an auction of selling itself and other esthetic entities.

In the last 10 years entities with a complex esthetic operativity emerged in the zones of dance and visual arts of Bucharest. The names of the entities are often the symptom of a problem or a question: they may function as a reaction, as almost empty concepts in the beginning, triggering practices afterwards. They are esthetic compositions of people, processes, capacities, frames, concepts, behaviors, attitudes, affects. They are conceptual operations that function as platforms, as ecosystems, as wholes, that precede the details, as esthetic artificial organisms. They are art worlds. Esthetic Entities as Presidential Candidate, Unsorcery, The Bureau of Melodramatic Research, Black Hyperbox, Romanian Dance History, Postspectacle, are for sale in an auction at Art Brussels and through other sell strategies that will happen unscheduled.

In Postspectacle, a constant practice is to introduce strange feedback loops, altering, expanding or breaking some of the implicit conditions at work in the respective situations. Postspectacle strategies and an overview on operations of other esthetic entities will be approached during the workshop.


Esthetic Entities

Retroactive self-constitution

In the past ten years entities with a complex esthetic operativity emerged in the zones of dance and visual arts of Bucharest. Attempts at understanding them are mostly made by insiders, as is the case of this text. Apart from the necessity of grasping what are you part of and to figure these entities out, self-reflection functions as an engine that self-constitutes them. The entities expand in the direction in which they conceptualize themselves, they shape themselves through self-reflection. Self-conceptualization is an internal dynamic for substantiating an esthetic entity, but once a dynamic of self-referentiality is in place, this often extends to the outside. In Postspectacle, one of the esthetic entities, a constant practice is to introduce strange feedback loops, altering, expanding or breaking some of the implicit conditions at work in the respective situations. In the case of Kunsthalle Batiștei, another esthetic entity, a self-referential intervention is made in the basic layer of identity formation, in the correspondence between the name and the project. There is an operation of forced association with a group of institutional practices that enters into a strange relation with its own behaviors, producing some institutional fog around its identity.

The entities’ names are often the symptom of a problem or a question. They may function as a reaction, as almost empty concepts in the beginning, triggering a practice afterward. Postspectacle started as a vague desire to move forward from the spectacle, without knowing what Postspectacle is or could be. It started from the question: what is the point of adding another spectacle to the art world when we are already living in a generalized spectacle? A practice emerged around this question, and consisted in bringing the "outside spectacle" to art spaces. For instance, Postspectacle invited the Romanian Army to host a dance workshop and perform a drill show in a contemporary performance black box. A second practice that Postspectacle developed was to use the performing skills and knowledge of performance on the big stages of mass media, business and politics. The Presidential Candidate, another conceptual entity, was born out of this practice.

In a similar way, Artworld started as a reaction to the type of reality and subjectivity produced in the contemporary world. It started as a desire to compose and explore new ways of worlding, through art. In the process, concepts and practices appeared: Second Body, Dead Thinking, Eternal Feeding, End Dream, Black Hyperbox. The esthetic entities and the concepts that they generate usually start from vague intuitions, and in time, thinking and practices coagulate around them, making them more substantial. They set in motion certain vectors of intention, orient practices and act as attractors to further thoughts. They are not oriented toward conceptualizing some sort of past experience, but to create conditions for new possibility of thought and practice. Actualizing themselves on their own path, the esthetic entities retro-act on themselves from the future.

Their functioning is the content

Dreaming is one of Artworld's preoccupations, not so much the content of dreams as the activity of dreaming in an expanded sense, including the simulational character of consciousness and world creation. There is an operation of self-referentiality at work in this process: a type of simulation, the awake state, is focused on the mechanism of simulation itself, the dreaming. Usually the reflection upon the simulation does not unfold at the same time with the content of the simulation, but sometimes the self-referential dynamic accelerates and the timing of the reflective operation coincides with the timing of the simulation itself. This is the case in the dreams in which the focus of dreaming, besides the content of the dream, becomes the operation of dreaming itself, and this is somehow the case for many esthetic entities as mediums in which the focus becomes the processes that are conditioning their own existence. The Romanian Dance History is an esthetic entity that enters uninvited on stages of important performances, in important festivals, after the applause, when the audience is ready to leave, saying with a humble attitude something like: "Hello, we are the Romanian Dance History, we are very happy to be here, it is very nice. We would like to present you the Romanian Dance History, it would be short because The Romanian Dance History is weak." After that, some excerpts from Romanian Dance History are presented, but the content doesn't matter too much. The implicit activity, the conceptual operation that matters is the unsolicited and alien way of appearing in front of the audience, the forced insertion in the program, skipping and overriding the structures of validation, going around the gates of access, the esthetic content becoming a type of self-referential functioning in its own medium.

In an act of last moment censorship, The Presidential Candidate was eliminated from the Just do it. Branding Biopolitics exhibition at Pavilion Unicredit. The Candidate continued to behave as if nothing had happened, and a promotion campaign was launched. People were invited to celebrate the opening with the Candidate, and with a glass of Dorato champagne (a good-looking bottle with a very cheap and dubious content). The exhibition was announced everywhere as a Presidential Candidate's event, and the opening as a performance. It turned out to be a very strange scandal as a result of Pavilion staff’s violent reaction. But, again, no matter how interesting the evening as a performance was, the actual work, the main esthetic operation, was the activity of reframing – as a reversal of the usual situation of artists acting under the institutional umbrella, in this case the artists were framing the institution – pointing to the activities of framing in themselves, focusing on their own operativity in their implicit mediums. The same with Kunsthalle Batiștei actions of emulating the art functioning of important art institutions, with an attitude of seriosity and importance in the name, in the public communication, in the type of actions that were launched. It was an imitation of success, in a small precarious garage, without money or any legal status. Because of these inadequacies, the usual smoothness and normalcy of the institutional operations have a second intention, a second effect, a looping dynamic that points to its own operativity more than to the content of its artistic activities.

The accent on their own positions in the structures of the respective event creates a self-referential dynamic that makes the esthetic entities interfere with their determinations, with the implicit atmosphere in their mediums. Self-referentiality affects the overall conditions in which the entity is immersed and, like in dreaming about dreaming, structural effects in the implicit worlding or an exit can be the result. The art world has its clues and pointers that implicitly orient the behaviors, acting as a loose and transparent frame for what is possible to perceive, imagine, think, and do. But an ambiental, or esthetic power is at work everywhere not only in the art world, every world has its orientative ambience. The esthetic entities experiment on a small scale with models that are no longer based on critique, denuniciation, exposure or acts of resistance from inside, but based on directly changing the structural ambience of their respective worlds. They seem to say that new environments are needed, rather than critique and resistance in the implicit ones.

Transversal

To be part of an esthetic entity usually means a constant rethinking of your position in the fields of different mediums, formats, and disciplines. All these domains have their constraints, silent prescriptions and expectations, dragging along their social pressures with their implicit orientations and frames for action. For many conceptual entities the question is not so much how to move outside of these constraints to be free, but what kind of dynamic could emerge between collisions of formats and constraints. Acknowledging dependency and the potential of constraints, The Bureau of Melodramatic Research sees itself as a "dependent institution." Oscillating between pseudo-academic frames and formats and pseudo-melodramatic ones, the Bureau often overlaps or collides cheesy and exaggerated feminine emotionality with urgent global issues and abstract theory. Sometimes a new genre emerges where everything is at the mercy of abstract passions, philosophically speculative dramas and powerfully rational emotions.

An inadequacy is assumed by many of the esthetic entities. The Presidential Candidate sometimes appears as an artist in political contexts, and often as politician in artistic ones, gaining advantages such as the possibility of entering political campaigns before the legal terms because "it is just art." The Robin Hood Fund, another esthetic entity, operates within the financial markets and in contemporary arts, parasitizing, transferring knowledge and opening possibilities for access to sophisticated financial instruments otherwise accessible just for very rich people and companies. Many art venues were transformed into temporary Robin Hood financial offices. And many times we had the pleasure of saying, in art environments, that we are bankers. There is a perverse desire to dislocate and transport an entire apparatus from one field to another, to push toward non-art territories, and to bring something alien into the art frames, such as real financial operations, presidential candidate campaigns and abstract philosophy.

The collision of mediums and disciplines can be messy, destabilizing and, for many entities, desirable. In Artworld, instability is by design. The stated desired dynamic is a productive alienation from concepts through experience and from experience through thinking. The Postspectacle Shelter was another environment programmed for all sorts of collisions. This was an event of the Presidential Candidate in the House of the People, which houses the Romanian Parliament and the National Museum of Contemporary Art. In the same space coexisted: a tribune for presidential candidates, a spot for philosophical workshops, a corner for medical assistance, and a canteen where food was cooked and served for homeless people, artists, and philosophers. It was an overlapping of a charity event, a presidential campaign, a philosophical conference, a day shelter, a canteen and an art show. The event marked a rupture of the entities both from the art scene and the activist world. There was criticism and some frustration about the unclear nature of Postspectacle Shelter. Is it art, activism, charity, political event, or what? It was indeed a controversial, monstrous project and, unsurprisingly, the only support for it came from other esthetic entities.

Alienating

The esthetic entities are often inadequate, long-term, complicated, playing with improper formats, pushing toward all kinds of not-yet-art zones, difficult to frame and present. Entities like Artworld, Cooperativa Performativa, Black Hyperbox and the Presidential Candidate experiment with ways of collaborating beyond consensus, replacing the necessity of a common agreement and common product, which are somehow implicit in collaborations, with an amplification of alienation, where each individual has the space to pursue a different direction in the proximity of the others. These forms of collaboration are not represented but enacted in the usually hidden and problematic aspects of art projects, in the inside relations and implicit dynamics. But even if these forms of collaboration are not on display, they leave traces in any form of presentation, and attention for them expands a sensibility for the forms of organization and governance present behind any artwork in general, the individual work included.

But sometimes there are no art products at all that are recognizable as such. In Blank Mountain College some of us met in a place for a while, without any special agenda or aim and, after some time, we met again and continued somewhere else, and again elsewhere. Blank Mountain College seems suspiciously unambitious. It's atypical because the implicit impulse is to exploit a situation to the maximum, to use the opportunity of having some resources at one’s disposal, to convert any occasion, to be maximally productive, always on a way to success. In the desperate art world, Blank Mountain College, like other esthetic entities, feels like a lost opportunity. But the apparent poverty or emptiness actually unlocks potential. From the inside, the ambition void felt like a relief, because you are suddenly disconnected from implicit orientations and have the luxury of a less instrumentalized time. And the lack of pre-determination and instrumentalization produced a different quality of interactions and a special environment.

When the requirement is to fill a niche, to be clearly identifiable and assigned to a type of art, the complexity and unpredictability of the entities, with their distance from the implicit approaches and formats, seems alienating. While artists are expected to manage themselves and more or less consciously adjust their attitudes and behaviors to implicit art world demands, performing in the sphere of success's requirements, the entities often push their artists toward "unsuccessful" attitudes and behaviors. As an entities' artist, you can expect to remain under the radar of mainstream institutions, hidden in a pre-career stage, with a para-art presence. A self-reflexive para-art, the acknowledged situation, feeds back the thinking and actions of the entities, influencing ideas and situations such as "being no-one," "losership," "give up hope," "dead thinking." Paradoxically, this negativity has a positive feel, creating a bit of a nothing-to-lose atmosphere. It is more fun than desperation, or is maybe a funny desperation. What from the art world perspective can be seen as a persistent defiance toward the requirements of success, and self-sabotage, is neutral or even positive from the point of view of the entities’ system of valorization.

Besides the esthetic entities’ alienation in the art fields there is a second, subjective alienation. In time, the esthetic entities function more and more as environments, shaping the artistic visions and options for the people involved. After a while, it's not only that artists work and develop the entities, but more and more the entities shape and work upon their artists. In the process, they recode and override some of the structures and implicit commands that shape what is possible and desirable to perform and imagine in the art world. For entities' artists, it becomes difficult to be totally embedded in the art world’s implicit suggestions and habits. This exteriorization of personal artistic agency could feel like alienation for the people involved, but mostly a necessary and desired one, and with larger implications. Like any other world, the contemporary world formats subjectivities with some implicit thoughts, patterns of behavior, and perceptions. To have a perspective and an influence on these layers, it is important to create ways of acting from exterior ways of alienating oneself. Some external devices are needed to trigger us out of our own inscribed patterns and regularities. The esthetic entities can function as exit devices from the particular type of subjectivity encouraged by the art environments, and maybe even from the usual production of subjectivity in the society.

Art worlds

The esthetic entities are not objects to be exhibited, nor performances to be seen or texts to be read. They are not research or experiments nor immaterial art, but they can be all of these and more. They don't have a sharp and clear presence. They cannot be presented as events or finalized and condensed as products. They include artistic processes and products but their esthetic capacities are somehow always beyond their appearances. Their esthetic emerges from an amalgam of elements, from their complexity. They are esthetic compositions of people, processes, capacities, frames, concepts, behaviors, attitudes, affects. They are conceptual operations that function as platforms, as ecosystems, as wholes, that precede the details, as esthetic artificial organisms. They work as worlds, in the sense of complete behavioral spaces that affect the transcendental implicit conditions of their own existence, as the physical worlds curve the time and space around them.

They are small experimental worlds, like spaceships that have to be self-sufficient and to endure extremely hostile environments. Like the explorers who leave behind the long tuned structures functional at home, the esthetic entities have to rethink all the vital components, to mess with the foundations. The homely safety net is missing and all kind of things have to be improvised. An esthetic entity has to reinvent esthetic operations, forms of collaborations, and of presentation, to mess with its own determinations, and implicitly be at risk with its environment. Failures happen, premature disparitions or monstrosities could appear. Because they are messing with the consensual realities, they are unpleasant. In the beginning nobody likes new esthetic entities, but in time they can be absorbed and become cultural goods, and function as zombie-entities, or they can expire when their time has passed. Eventually, if they don't have a good death, they may haunt the living as ghosts or just disappear as if they had never occurred.


1. Robin Hood Fund is an international entity that has as founder members many artists who are active in the other esthetic entities mentioned.

2. Blank Mountain College was born in Oslo and the initiators are in contact or active in other esthetic entities mentioned.


The esthetic entities were for sale at Art Brussels 2016.

Losership & Dead Thinking

a discussion between Ion Dumitrescu and Florin Flueraș, at MNAC, 15 Oct, 19:00:


He has no power. He achieves nothing. He has no reputation - The Perfect Man, Chuang Tzu

In the wake of the elections, in the aftermath of losing the elections, the presidential candidate goes further, entering post-hope territory, where one should be prepared to confidently join a losing majority rather than a winning minority.

The two experts will make brief introductions into the concepts stated in the title followed by a discussion regarding the pros and cons of success hunting in the light of today’s losership horizon. Particular case study: achievements and underachievements in art and creative industries. We will see in which situations healthy thinking is applicable and in which situations dead thinking could be more counterproductive and helpful.

Follow #losership and #deadthinking

2012, The Ultimate Apocalypse, at OTV (Mirror TV)

Iuliana Stoianescu, Ion Dumitrescu and Florin Flueras appeared on Romanian national television OTV (Mirror Television) on December 21, 2009 posing as researchers of the 2012 phenomena. At that time the interest for the subject was high, the movie 2012 was in cinemas and speculations about the Mayan calendar were at their peak. OTV station, true to its name, was functioning as a mirror for what was happening in the country.

How to perform in a society of spectacle? And why? Postspectacle doesn't really have an answer, but by dealing with these questions some practices emerged. One is to infiltrate the big stages of mass media, business and politics with the skills, knowledge and approaches from contemporary arts. Another constant practice is to introduce strange feedback loops, altering, expanding or breaking some of the implicit conditions at work in the situations in which Postspectacle appears.

Is this the End of Postspectacle?

What happens with a concept after its time has passed? A concept appears when it is necessary and it’s totally unpleasant in the beginning, nobody likes a new concept. Then, usually with time, it expires. After a certain period it might eventually attain acceptance and recognition, because it becomes accessible and inoffensive. It becomes a cultural good and continue as zombie-concept. Some concepts and practices die or are absorbed. Eventually, if they don't have a good death, they may haunt the living as ghosts while others just disappear as if they never occurred. One of these endings probably stroke Postspectacle too. Or maybe now when we make a spectacle of ourselves everyday on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, the Postspectacle concept is still necessary and it is we who are exhausted, and Postspectacle must go on through somebody else. An important omen is the fact that until now we refused the invitations to participate in exhibitions and display videos of the Postspectacle actions. What is happening, is this the end of Postspectacle? Or finally we came to embody our slogans, we gave up hope and we are riding the “proud to be grey” wave.

Discussion between Florin Flueras and Ion Dumitrescu at Salonul de Proiecte. Thursday, March 5, 18h00, right before the opening of Heroism Rises in a Warehouse exhibition, in which the video of Postspectacle at Mall will be presented for the first time.


The Extraordinary Congress of the Presidential Candidates in Cluj

A presidential candidate is primarily an interface between the economic interests of the important people and the needs of the common people. She has to have the ability to make the latter believe that their exploitation and the capturing of value from them is for their own good. In Cluj we will start the process of acquiring these basic skills, and we will learn how to deflate and annihilate important political and environmental problems like Save Roșia Montana, fracking shale gas extraction, GMO agriculture, etc. Come to our workshop for improving and professionalizing the presidential candidates. You never know when the time will come for you to candidate. Somewhere deep in your heart you know that you have what it gets to be a president. At the end of the workshop you have the chance to meet the electorate for the first time during the Extraordinary Congress of the Presidential Candidates.

Candidacy Training, 12 Nov, 18h30, Fabrica de Pensule;
The Candidates Convention, 13 Nov, 18h00, Casa Tranzit.
The Candidates announced till now: Veda Popovici, Mihai Lukacs, Ion Dumitrescu, Florin Flueras, the list is open.


Why artists?

Why artists? - Franco Berardi Bifo's article ends under the influence of Postspectacle Shelter opening that he so movingly officiated:

Invited by a group of artists and activists, in April 2012 I spent some days in Bucharest and delivered a speech at the Museum of Contemporary Art. When I entered the space where a small crowd of listeners were gathering I saw two words written on the wall: No hope.

According to a recent survey it seems that 58% of Rumanians declare they are nostalgic for Ceausescu. Can you imagine someone longing for Ceausescu? My hosts told me: we have been the victims of two opposing nightmares: the communist nightmare of the past and the capitalist nightmare we are suffering now. Hope is over, for us, but the same can be said for our fellow humans all over the planet. "Give up hope, therefore, is our contribution to the emergence of a new consciousness" told me Florin Flueras, a dancer and activist who practices dystopic irony. Hope and growth are traps and our life is taken in these traps.

Dystopic irony (dyst-irony) is the language of those who understand without cynicism that the modern promise has been trashed because of the identification of Modernity and the capitalist dogma. Dystopia is the current imagination of future and irony is the rhetorical distance from the hypocritical discourse of power based on fake concepts such as competition, austerity, recovery and growth.

"Give up hope" is a dyst-ironic provocation meaning: don't trust the promises of power, don't expect growth, capitalism is agonizing, if we don't change the expectations that capitalism has produced we'll fall into depression and fascism.


Read the article


Dark Charity/ Grey Donors at MUMOK Vienna

Performance by the Presidential Candidate and the Bureau of Melodramatic Research at MUMOK.


The common charity is done to improve a bit the situation, materially or financially, it is a ‘white’ charity with the aim to clean, stabilize, enlighten, secure. Dark charity is a reversed charity which will unground, destabilize, unsecure, metamorphose. This is the charity in which the Presidential Candidate and the Bureau of Melodramatic Research are involved.

The Charity gala was organized for the Viennese people and all our sponsors in MUMOK Kino for the Changer D'Image program. Our contribution was curated by Raluca Voinea.

Charity hostesses making their appearance on uplifting jodler-tune
Charity Gala auf Deutsch für unsere Sponsoren
The Charity team singing We are the World (Karaoke)
With the audience together
The start of the acts of giving
Florin Flueras offering darkness to Vienna
Alina Popa offering freedom to talk-alone
 Ion Dumitrescu offering Bulgarian time signature
Claude Karnoouh live from Bucharest for the Viennese people
Finally the charity team with the Viennese receivers and the gifts

End Pit

This was our press release for End Pit at Depo Istanbul written before the events took over in late May 2013. We don't know if and how it makes sense to do what we wanted to do after these charged chemical days but we can find out about that together:

I don't approve of vertical structures; I rather favor horizontal ones. Four stories should be above the ground, while the other four should be built underground - Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

If gold is the material associated with the sun, brightness, stability, enlightenment, highest value, peak of visibility and light of knowledge, what could be the anti-gold, the ungold of darkness, unknowing, holes, unvisual? What is the relation between abysmal pits and soaring pillars, between forms of life of the heights and forms of life of the depths? When you turn the ceiling into a pit and the pit into a ceiling verticality and horizontality lose their meaning, confusion occurs, you lose the ground of the known while the pits of unknowing are opening "under" you.

The ethical distribution of verticality and horizontality is a strict anthropocentric process - what happens if we de-link hierarchy from altitude and de-humanize verticality? In a time of flat ontologies and smooth planes of emergence, the prominences and high-deep striations hold something oddly radical. Today's imperative of horizontality is shared by the occupy movements, with their resistance rhetoric, as well as the neo-liberal think-tanks, caught in the neural drive of focus groups and brainstorming sessions. Horizontalism at this stage shows already signs of conformity setting in motion all too familiar normative dynamics. Mining proliferates in these well-meaning horizontalities as verticality has disguised itself in a plane. Affective mining and toxic digging employ the same procedures of the extractive economy.

The end pit is conceived as the terminus point of all leaks, the final lake of leaks, impermeable basins that supposedly wipe out the memory of extracted gold. But in the vicinity of waste pounds - apart from inevitable soil contaminations - nether spheres emerge that enforce new spaces of unpredictability. From there no certainty whatsoever can direct the sense and composition of further deposits.

Dark markets, grey border areas, pressure zones, insufficient light exposure and the consequent deformities are generating uncharted fields of destruction and potentiality. The end pit is a point from where the free fall becomes impossible, it is the start of a convoluted, tortuous movement of live and poisoning sediments through the veins of the earth. End Pit is not an end in itself but a sprawling regression, a contagious closure of voids.

Alina Popa, Irina Gheorghe, Ștefan Tiron, Claudiu Cobilanschi, Florin Flueraș, Ion Dumitrescu
(The Bureau of Melodramatic Research, ParadisGaraj, Presidential Candidate)


film still from Luis Bunuel's 1965 film Simon of the Desert




















DOWNLOAD END PIT PUBLICATION:DOWNLOAD PDF   DOWNLOAD EPUB




The performance took place on the 6th of June at 19:30 in DEPO Istanbul.






















Later in June 2013, during the anti-government and anti-capitalist protests in Istanbul a forum was held in the exhibition space to discuss the recent events and ways of social action. Thanks Ali Taptik for sending us the photo.

Photo: Ali Taptik

Presidential Candidacy in Sao Paulo

If in Europe the slogan of the Candidate is "Give up Hope" in Brazil it had to be "Paraiso Agora!"

The Romanian Presidential Candidacy Fundraiser @ Documenta 13



"Hey, do you want some Romanian radical art? 
 No thanks, I'm ok."

On the 10th of September the Romanian Presidential Candidacy landed in Kassel with great expectations for a fundraiser at Documenta 13 and for a meeting with our accomplices, The Robin Hood Minor Asset Management, during the final SCEPSI installment hosted there by Franco Bifo Berardi.

As our affection for the first world has grown our addiction is getting even more serious. We need the money and the good spirit of the north but we have no more time for applying or negotiating with curators and programmers, our patience has run out and the elections are approaching. The periphery needs cash, now!

This time we came from the splendid fiords of Norway to the frictionless trams of Kassel. At Documenta 13 it seemed that nothing could go wrong, wellness was floating in the air. We encountered smooth and unstriated spaces through which contemporary art consumers were drifting without obstacles from Fridericianum to Neue Galerie, sliding effortlessly from Hauptbahnhof exhibitions to Karlsaue Park and beyond, so that one could say that the whole city, indoors and outdoors, was nicely lubricated in order for the contemporary art-goers to enjoy the big event.

Coming from a campaign event in Oslo, The Romanian Presidential Candidacy felt again the happiness of the west/north all around, this time in Kassel, manifesting through every pore of most of the curator's (and her sub-curators) selections, a glee visible also in the abundant crowd of joyful visitors marching through this well thought exhibition multiplex where diversity and accessibility were the main assets. A shopping center without the shopping, or even better, we named it, Kassel Stock Un-Exchange. A perfect mix of all the tendencies and art streams of today, for those who wanted to bid on object oriented art there were plenty of occasions, for immaterial fetishism dozens of books, lectures and Neue Galerie. During the three months one could have found also occupiers and politically engaged performances, theoretical insights and retro excavation. Just place your cognitive shares and may the best stock win!

But the most disturbing phenomenon discovered by us, as we attended the SCEPSI event, was that Documenta was also a place for politically correct new-ageists dreaming of communal values within a frame (Documenta 13 itself) that harvested 29 million for its budget. They pretended that all was constructed in the name of love and solidarity. A sort of schizophrenia that is typical for the contemporary art operators of today (one can check the Artleaks cases).

As soon as the Robin Hood crew, in its presentation, talked about money and imitating Wall Street Stock Exchange anger exploded in the room of Ständehaus, the mentioning of "touching money" triggered instant irritation, suddenly the civil war that Bifo was prophesying for Europe in the opening of the evening, was right there, indoors, between ideologically correct artists endorsing back-to-the-nature rhetoric, curators, pure activists and the parasites of the Robin Hood and The Romanian Presidential Candidacy, or let's say between a Bane/Bruce Wayne hybrid and Catwoman, if we look at it through the perspective of the last Batman movie.

ATP, Walid Raad's performance, the missing link

In the first part of his performance "Scratching on things I could disavow", Walid Raad displayed a sort of map - a very wide and playful one - that was tracing different and specific connections between the art world, capital and the army. Everything on that chart, starting with APT (Artist Pension Trust) continuing with a world-class team of art professionals and leading to Israel intelligence army elite seemed intertwined. A twisted interplay appeared between young ferocious business entrepreneurs, well motivated curators and known or less known visual artists scared of a future without a safety net.

We witnessed how Walid Raad was very vividly describing the rules and conditions of ATP as well as showing us the competition in the creation of algorithms that are meant as compasses in this ever more complex and vast domain of contemporary art market.

When we stepped outside the venue we felt like walking on that map, but something was unsatisfactory. A missing link was somehow eluding our view. We also thought a lot of Robin's Hood own algorithm, that one that allegedly is nosing in the trade temple, desacralizing and detouring money, the type of procedure that disturbed the Documenta Feng-Shui at Scepsi event.

What kind of puzzle-piece was missing from Walid's Raad map? What if another map-board would be added to the Walid's original and insightful one, one left unfinished on which some other ramifications would be drawn? A piece that would also tie the author himself to Documenta and its curators (some of them already APT members), a virtual add-on to the initial map that reveals its tentacles and continues to expand tridimensional in all directions only to come together in the end at Documenta.

Although this intricate web was still difficult to unfurl, one thing was sure, we were nowhere on that cartography. Apparently there were no links to Romanian artists, Bucharest or other Romanian cities because this is another planet, orbiting in the Outernational system. Arabian wealthy cities may be in the interest of APT, but not Europe's periphery. We watched with envy, we would have wanted to be in that map. We felt outcast, no curators called any of us to join in. Romanian performance art is mostly obscure to the global market because apparently it has nothing to sell. There was nothing we could've contributed to the collection of the ATP. I forgot to mention that in order to be a member one has to give to the Artists Pension Trust one work per year for a period of twenty years. So in this give-up-hope situation we felt even more motivated for our fundraiser.

Fundraiser, black-dealing romanian performance art

The Romanian Presidential Candidacy was at first intimidated by the grandeur and dimensions of Documenta 13, but as soon as we woke up from the western awe we decided that is time to get some direct cash from anyone interested in buying Romanian contemporary and avant-garde art. During our dealing procedures we met very often the precariat, artists on a budget, people that were unable to spend 5 euros on a CD with rare Romanian radical performance art but most of them carrying the sixty-eight euro catalogue "Book of Books" in their back pack. Documenta was unwarned, as we were dealing art on the halls and corridors of the Fridericianum we met no resistance.
The volunteers and guards were not trained for this, the frame was unsecured in front of this type of activity. We were spotting potential clients everywhere, they seemed hungry for new experiences although in the same old format of a museum/gallery. We became traders of experience economy; we upgraded the customary practice inside a biennale-documenta-manifesta from passive spectatorship to toxic interactive black-market. We mostly approached them while they were standing at long cues outside or inside the Fridericianum.

The fundraiser took us also in front of curators-customers, we tried to sell our merchandise also to baby curators and mature art consumers, journalists, art pilgrims - and many reacted with great scare and suspicion. They made us feel like rough art pushers from the Wild East. But some of them greeted us with smiles while others gave in and emptied their pockets. They risked a crumpled euro investment in romanian performance art without knowing that they actually have invested in the future to come, the best 10 euros they've ever spent. Yet others were inspired, some of the precarious artists we encountered during the proceedings even told us that they would employ our blackmarket strategy!

Cohabitant pests, parasites and pushers

"So nat'ralists observe, a flea
 Hath smaller fleas that on him prey,
 And these have smaller fleas that bite 'em,
 And so proceed ad infinitum.”
 --Jonathan Swift

Parasitism allows for and enhances all the advantages and proclivities of ad infinitum progression. Characterized by mathematical non-trivial self-similarity, it permits a much finer mesh of nooks and crannies where numeric leftovers, energy crumbs and financial quanta escape, spill over and get stuck. This is why sifting, sliding automated algorithmic “internalizers” have been more and more adept at pearl diving through financial “dark pools”.
On the other hand Eastern block corruption, petty crime, parasitism and shadiness have been a mainstay anti-hero of the Western narrative of sanitation, transparency and punitive action. So now, in the era of algo trading, there is also high time for rescuing non-machine readable methods, basic tactics and skills associated with blunt hide&sell economy, art market pickpocketing and under-the-counter praxis.

Postspectacle has arrived in Norway


 The way we experience ourselves is through the collective perceptions constantly reinforced by the generalized spectacle. The affective component of perception is more and more missing, the environment is perceived as mere exteriority. The world is a screen and we are becoming screens on which the spectacle is projected on and on. Postspectacle is when the screen becomes visible and a bit of reflection occurs, when a certain degree of some sort of different reality might enter our bodies.
 Postspectacle started in 2008 from a simple question: what’s the point in adding another spectacle to the theatre in a world of generalized spectacle? Postspectacle stands for the platforms, practices, gestures and attitudes that appeared since and were generated by the crisis of spectacle and representation we outlined in those days of 2008.

Postspectacle has arrived in Norway

How can thought collect Debord’s inheritance today, in the age of the complete triumph of the spectacle? It is evident, after all, that the spectacle is language, the very communicability and linguistic being of humans. […] The extreme form of the expropriation of the Common is the spectacle, in other words, the politics in which we live. But this also means that what we encounter in the spectacle is our very linguistic nature inverted. For this reason (precisely because what is being expropriated is the possibility itself of a common good), the spectacle’s violence is so destructive; but, for the same reason, the spectacle still contains something like a positive possibility - and it is our task to use this possibility against it. (From Giorgio Agamben - Marginal Notes on Comments on the Society of the Spectacle. 1990)
 
Postspectacle has arrived in Norway. This is a truly socialist country, a more egalitarian society than any other. Despite a few problems, the common good is served and the general atmosphere seems much less charged than in the south, where frustration and financial desperation has taken over. For the past three years we have declared “abandon all spectacle now”, but here in Oslo we feel almost paralyzed, in this environment the spectacle and the good life have to be celebrated.
So give up hope and join the party!

Postspectacle at Drama House Oslo

4 September
19h00 - Postspectacle Trilogy part I with Florin Flueras and Ion Dumitrescu
21h00 - Postspectacle: an Introduction with Florin Flueras and Ion Dumitrescu

5 September
18h00 - Postspectacle Workshop with
Brynjar Åbel Bandlien and Valentina Desideri
20:30 - Biosorcery (premiere) with Florin Flueras and Alina Popa

6 September
19h00 - Neocatharsis with Florin Flueras and Ion Dumitrescu
20h00 - So what (premiere) by Valentina Desideri and Zoe Poluch

7 September
19h00 - Preview, Manuel Pelmus
20h00 - Debate: Postspectacle is not enough! with Ine Therese Berg, Valentina Desideri, Florin Flueras, Ion Dumitrescu, Manuel Pelmus and Brynjar Åbel Bandlien

8 September
18h00 - Romanian Presidential Candidacy with The Romanian Presidential Candidate
20h00 - Postspectacle Join the party 

The Crises of (Com)Passion and the Corrupt Audience

Alina Popa (co-initiator of The Bureau of Melodramatic Research)
an analysis of affect circulation and border movement in the Postspectacle Shelter 


The Crises of (Com)passion

How does the relationship between compassion and injustice work? And how does it function in an institutionalized museum context? Does the display of injustice in a museum produce any actual twist, any affective shift, or is it a mere dioramization, a caged instance of a murky reality, tamed as in a transparent time-capsule? The capital of compassion accumulates constantly through the charity-economy with artists, NGO's and foundations acting as agents of the soul—that soul which is put to work in the new financialized economy.(1) The whole image–production, which represents far-off colonial subjects as well as hidden backyard misery within the first world, is in search of the ‘becoming-spectator’. Becoming spectator to the pain of others generates the illusion of agency through involvement in a labyrinthine circuit of feelings. Rather than increasing and intensifying consciousness, it only succeeds in sustaining and reproducing social injustice and economic inequality. Becoming-spectator is always implicit in the representation of injustice.

Compassion implies hope, hope for justice; it implies the transformation of a singular instance in a potentiality for its perpetual existence. But capitalism today relies on the “relentless branding and marketing of even the most ‘inner’ aspects of subjective experience.”(2) Hope is immediately commodified as a warranty that the system will go on, so that the structural inequalities and generalized injustice fail to be challenged. Neoliberalism is a machine for engineering hope: it recycles the hopelessness of its outcomes into new hope that eventually accelerates its negation. Thus, we have to acknowledge that in the new economy of emotions, a compassion-without-hope operates. In the Postspectacle Shelter(3), an event organized in Bucharest in the building that hosts both the Parliament and the contemporary art museum, No-Hope slogans were the backdrop for the performance of compassion brought bluntly onto the artistic and political scene.(4) There was no illusion in the Shelter, or rather everything else seemed to be an illusion. The spectacle of compassion was made manifest without the smooth-out of its contradictions. All that was performed was the pure soothing effect: inviting the homeless, and offering food, medical care, knowledge, affectivity and voice. In the neoliberal ‘reality’, in order to annihilate the resistance to the exploitation both of humans and non-humans, big companies and supra-democratic organizations use whitewashing strategies, such as fighting poverty, investing in research to clean the ecosystem, and the rehabilitation of communities. In this 'reality', compassion and charity merely become the 'spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down'. In the Postspectacle Shelter only the 'sugar' was delivered, only the comfort, without the 'medicine' and nonetheless without hope. Although the situational spectacle inside the Shelter was devoid of illusions, what was enhanced was, on the contrary, an effect of unreality. It has been clear all along that no hope lies in the neoliberal 'spoonful of sugar', but is there any hope at all?
Slogan of the Presidential Candidate campaigning in the Postspectacle Shelter
Identifying the categories more prone to being deemed as compassionate easily turns into a political question. The present economy manages compassion as it organizes moods and states of mind. In this emotional organization chart, roles are assigned and registered, and the psychic space is being constantly modeled and produced on the immaterial assembly line of the postfordist factory. The idea of care becomes a commodity to be sold for profit under the strict regulation of the economic logic. We find how this affective regulation works in the dominant rhetoric of the West as capitalism arrived in the Eastern Bloc, at the beginning of the transition period. The West proclaimed itself as compassionate and performed the agency of care in the East. For example, among the homeless who came to the Shelter there was a young couple with a baby, who were wondering what the actual source of the diaper packages they got as a present had been, and then concluded that it must have been ‘the French’ (there was a group of artists from France invited for the event). The couple were actually repeating the foreign aid rhetoric, in which compassion and help have been associated with the West, as if they were delivered by some anonymous alien benefactor-force. And they were right, in that before appearing in shops and on billboards, the aid campaigns functioned as the best commercials or ‘use manuals’ for the commodities that were soon going to flood the newly opened market.

In the spectacle of compassion, the subjects of injustice are caught in the trap of performing their suffering in front of an audience who must develop a psychic transformation to-not-feel-empathy in order to adapt to the emotional requirements of the neuropolitics at work. The spectacle of compassion operates precisely as cover for lack of compassion, whereby the gaze at another’s suffering is really a mode of inadmissible envy (in-videre), not-seeing, and voyeuristic love of witnessing the pain of the other. For instance in the 'tributes' from Hunger Games(5), the spectacle seemed to be the only escape, the only way out of one’s precarious life: all that you are left with to perform is your own enacted bare life. 

The imperative to exhaust the spectacle potential, to empty the stage, becomes a question of transgressing ethics through a contradictory aesthetics. If a zero degree of attention is achieved, this could give way to an affective attention or ineffective attention leaking through the interstices of the sensible that has become precisely the medium where power operates today. This ineffectual attention opens an affective gap inside the current marketization of (in)attentiveness, a blindspot of the spectacle attention—the latter relying on the priming effect (6) that drives the vectors of the sensible towards what is already the established norm that keeps the system going.(7) Placing oneself in a position of ‘insensible’ self-fragilization(8) by allowing a power to affect and to be affected corrupts the interstices of the sensible.(9) Maybe this (an)aesthetic vulnerability could be the result of the radicalization of the effects of the contemporary spectacle of suffering and compassion. This could be then transformed into an (an)ethical vulnerability—the reciprocal acknowledgement of a shared fragility and precariousness of our body-psyche both politically and ontologically, while overcoming and corrupting the ethical imperatives at work in the current affective ecosystem.

By allowing the amplification effect of passion for both the anesthetic effect of the current spectacle of compassion and for one’s vulnerability facing it, the current crises of compassion could radicalize and corrupt the becoming-spectator into (mis)using his/her own fictitiousness to intervene in reality by creating aesthetico-political black holes. The Postspectacle Shelter opened up a new post-ethical thought, beyond the auto-laudatory moralism that so often drives activist thinking and self-proclaimed political art.

Compassion and Distance

There is a multiple layer of distance in compassion. The first layer enables compassion in the first place. It is the distance between the subject and object of compassion. This gap involves a sort of hierarchical relationship between the object of compassion, which is the subject of the suffering itself, and the subject of compassion, which is also the subject of the thought of suffering.(10) Compassion in itself requires an unequal relationship between the thought of emotion, which then becomes an emotion of thought (feeling the pain of others), and the lived, embodied emotion (one’s own suffering, feeling pain).

The second layer of distance comes from the overwhelming enormity of the painful spectacle, which results in feeling powerless.(11) The scenes of vulnerability produce a desire to withhold compassionate attachment, to be irritated by the scene of suffering. The spectacularization of poverty produces a numbness of empathic feeling. It produces the possibility to disconnect, to run away from the scene of suffering, to refuse actual engagement with the reality of pain. Lack of empathy (impairment of compassion) and apatheia (impairment of pathos) are the states of mind produced by the late capitalism, with its now primary function as an emotion-shaping belief system.

The third layer of distance follows the Cartesian view on the mind-body relation, wherein one’s own body and emotionality is perceived as external, detached and hence controllable by the sovereign-mind and rationality. In this case, distance—which actually characterizes the post-Renaissance dominant scientific and patriarchal paradigm—is what separates body from mind. It was believed that through will, judgment and reason, the unruly, animal body could be tamed and controlled, in the same way that the state functioned as the center of command to discipline the bodies of people under its rule. As Silvia Federici noted, “[…] the human body and not the steam engine, and not even the clock, was the first machine developed by capitalism.”(12) As a historical moment, the Cartesian paradigm simultaneously coincides with the advent of capitalism, the erosion of community and of alternative forms of communality, based on proximity and compassion, as opposed to the alienation and estrangement triggered by the dominance of capital and money relations.

The telescopic structure of compassion calls for a new tool to speculate on its complex relationship with distance and alienation. Furthermore, we need to corrupt this telescope and zoom nearer than in and farther than out. Something enabling appears as a result of the paradoxical alignment between the excess of feeling and hyperalienation. If we distance ourselves from compassion in order to know it anesthetically, while feeling it excessively at the same time, we could then reflect upon the plot twists newly produced. All the more so, if the current economy is involved in the automation of the body-psyche through its hegemonic machines that generate the plot that we follow without sensing and the affects that we capture without knowing. The body-mind is automatized both in the Foucauldian sense of discipline and control—a control that is achieved though operations at a distance—and in the posthumanist sense of the prostheticity, which again poses the problem of distance, in that the co-evolution of technology and the human necessitates the externalization of one’s cognition into the tools that will then help the human rule over nature—which rather reveals a trickster mechanism of nature to hopelessly self-help.(13) This melodramatic telescope proves to be an affective prosthetic tool for creating auto-glitches in the body-mind’s emotional and mental programming.

Bodies Out of Place. The Power of Homelessness

As we are more and more becoming precarious and home-less, there is a backlash of intense movements of home-finding and home-creating as all-too-familiar (and dangerous) ways of escaping the frail ground of economic insecurity and no-future-ism.(14) The new old homes are the solid, enclosed (and oppressive) territories of nationalism, racism, homophobia, speciesism, all the community-forming practices based upon exclusion and impaired compassion, or on identity politics, be it related to nation, ethnicity, sex orientation, species, and so on. The alignment of family and homeness with whiteness, heteronormativity and carnophallogocentrism(15) “is powerful, and works to transform all these features into familial ties, into a form of racial kindred that recognizes all non-white [and queer subjects] others as strangers, as 'bodies out of place'.”(16) Identity politics is based on a unidirectional empathy (excluding the bodies out of place), on a compassion-within-borders, which is strictly regulated top-down by the neoliberal economic hegemony, by the state and religion.

Likewise, the institutionalization of resistance and autonomy potential through the NGO system is part of another home-seeking mechanism, which acts through division and dissipation. It finds a cozy home for every social anomaly, disregarding the 'homelessness' of all these anomalies in accordance with the arbitrariness of power and avoiding to grapple with their common cause, which is eventually left unchallenged.(17) We can speak of a unidirectional empathy to characterize the affective restraints of the charity economy that “treats the symptoms and not the sources”. This system of rationalized--algorithmic philanthropy is another mechanism by which “a generalized impaired compassion is being institutionalized on a grand scale.”(18)

For art, home equals the art institution. There is an inflation of art with socio-political content today, which is in constant search for homes, and like the NGO system, it doesn't challenge the causes but only quarantined effects, disregarding the position from which it criticizes and who actually profits from the symbolic capital it amasses. As long as it remains inside the comfort zone of the home-institution, the subversive, disruptive potential of this alleged revolutionary art is easily tamed and its acts of representation cannot escape depoliticization, its semiotic charge cannot turn into action. Maybe political art today relies too much on a hope-rhetoric that disregards all the present refrains of collapse echoed by an art system deeply embedded in the capitalist profit-logic, by the fiasco-politics of Western representative democracy, the abysmal effects of the current expanded biopolitics, or the coming ecological catastrophe.

The state of homelessness is usually associated with the refusal to work. It is a position outside the production time; it is not anymore factory or corporation time, but personal time—as productivity now equates the speed of reaction, the velocity of response-ability and the constant shaping of subjectivity. Homelessness is sheer precariousness (physical) combined with dark precarity (economical). It is the anticipation of the imminent generalized dystopia. A homeless person on the street said: “I have no place to sleep so at night I study, I do my research on the street.” The depressed cannot wake up, the homeless cannot sleep. There is an inverted depression characterizing the homeless. They are hyper-active waste of the neoliberal flood of meaning and information overflow. They embody the dark restlessness and über-consciousness. This forced state of renunciation and hopelessness allows them to drill in time and sensitively connect with the no-future that lurks upon the world. Interestingly, the most precarious social strata, and the homeless in particular, were oftentimes portrayed in horror movies as the most sensitive to dark forces—the chronic social instability makes them also prone to possession—as in John Carpenter’s 1987 Prince of Darkness.


Prince of Darkness, John Carpenter, 1987

Homelessness becomes a kind of ominous, pre-apocalyptic state, both virtual and actual. In its actuality it defines bodies out of place, at the mercy of the neoliberal compassion apparatus. Nevertheless, in its virtuality, 'homelessness' can become a state of continuous de-subjectivation, a zero degree of being, from where new forms of life could appear. The refusal of 'homes' is bound up to the refusal of work, to the acceptance of fragility and precariousness (as opposed to precarity), to the state of being possessed by the no-hope affect. Even the escape from normative subjectivities is hopeless since transgression has recently become the norm. One can only say, repeating another Postspectacle slogan: “Proud to Be Grey”.

Telescoping through the multiple homes that await our stabilization after every transgression, we could then radicalize the unhome operation to the level of the whole planet. In the midst of the ecological crisis it becomes apparent that even the home of all the homeless—the Earth—will soon rid itself of the human. By becoming possessed by the affect of the imminent extinction and escaping the promised security and success of all 'homes', we end up ridding ourselves of all preservational desires: we can maybe escape our humanity.

When the body disorganizes and disconnects from its familiar, habitual structure, when its movements override the normative patterns prescribed by the late capitalist rules, then maybe the body can become something else. Perhaps what it becomes is the norm that it already was: a homeless, alien body. If 'homelessness' at a molecular level is the displacement of the habitual microstructures from the monolithic body-home and their autonomization, at a macro level it can displace the whole monolith of thinking the human and the body altogether.

Feeding-Feeling

The newly developed system of 'Food Banks' in Great Britain seems like a prophecy for the reality to come.(19) The homeless are offered due-to-expire supermarket products in return for sentiments of gratefulness towards the merciful new economy and the religious big-hearted-ness. As in the case of the Food Banks, aid and compassion usually come along together with religious indoctrination. The present charity system replaced the function of the former welfare state, as the emotional turn in politics took place along with the post-70's financialized economy. Compassion management has changed from being regulated by public policies to being part of corporation strategies and the affiliated NGO system. Social assistance transitioned from a right to an opportunity that depends on humbleness and speed. This movement is another link in the neoliberal chain of impaired compassion. The Trusts manage compassion and food.(20) The food they distribute through their centers (one example is the Hope Centre, another name worthy of the dystopian script) is actually the debris of technologically processed stamps, which remain unsold at the end of the day. The circuit of compassion is completed by the specificity of the working conditions. The standardized care is performed by volunteers. Volunteerism is the legitimate form of compassion today. It is based on both a unidirectional empathy (promoted by the employers - foundations, trusts) and on a lack of empathy (the volunteers perform unpaid labor). No trust, no hope.


'Food Bank’ in the Postspectacle Shelter

There was an interesting relation between food and affect in the Postspectacle Shelter. Food was the materialized desire. It was what actually becomes body, and the emotions shape bodies as well. So, on this level, there is a resemblance to the two main acts of production: circulation and distribution/food and affect. Hierarchically, food has always been subaltern to the higher functions of the body-mind. It becomes epistemologically necessary to re-think a flat organization of food and affect. The homeless who usually come to openings for a snack and a drink (called Pișcotari in Romanian) were always treated as inferior because they preferred food to emotional, cathartic states of mind allegedly stimulated by art. There is an emancipatory potential in the subjectivity of this spectator (embodied by the homeless), who doesn’t privilege catharsis over bodily needs. In a society ruled by economic laws, the politics of food is well entangled with a politics of emotions. The immateriality of food can be literally incorporated and at the same time the materiality of affect is being felt. Both are flows that shape subjectivity and create forms of life. Thinking the environment in terms of domination and extraction—mainly since the beginning of agriculture on a large scale—has shaped subjectivities around the fixation on securing the future: the crops ensured food in excess and in reserve as opposed to the hunter-gatherer’s just-in-time nourishment. This is only one instance of the feedback loop between the politics of food and the politics of emotion.


'Food Bank’ in the Postspectacle Shelter

The Corrupt Audience and the Illusion of Spectatorship

On stage: the audience-performers/ performing audience : the guards, the museum wards, the director, the employees, the artists, the homeless, the NGO, the philosophers of depression, surveillance cameras etc.

When the only audience is corrupt, and does not respond to the same rules of valorization as the ones established by the history of an institution, like the museum, a solipsistic game riddled with holes of meaninglessness starts unfolding. New forms of truth-telling can arise if the spectator de-automatizes affectively and semiotically from the system of valorization that makes art art. Maybe bringing the homeless as audience is a necessary act of cynicism; it breaks the art bubble autarkeia, and annihilates the usual self-gratulatory ceremony (which happens in restricted circles, while self-praising the practice of addressing a wider public). This practice can be a contemporary parrhesiastic game to change perception of art/institutions/politics for performers and audience alike. The homeless seem to be paradigmatic for the function of the subversive spectator. They are the unbearable audience: the constant reminder that biopolitics is real and the spectacle has crept inside to teach us how to play our role outside. The rupture between the audience and the performers makes one think that each plays her/his own show at the end of which the applause comes for something other that what was meant, leaving one hopeless and devoid of meaning, In the Postspectacle Shelter, the performance is beyond feedback, beyond appreciation.

The Postspectacle Shelter operated an aesthetic intervention to re-enact the crises of compassion—its internal contradiction. Postspectacle recognized that the only possible place to both stage reality and affirm the real effect of the stage where we play every day as bodies in and out of place is a No Hope shelter. A shelter which takes over a public institution by overstating its past and present failed promises of compassion and care for the people: The House of the People, now mainly housing the Romanian Parliament. The grand narrative of Romanian modernity produced this concept of a grand 'home' which was to never belong to the people, as its name so performatively promised. At the same time, the current representative democracy failed to meet the necessities of the demos; the people itself stopped believing in it. Hence, everybody invited could fearlessly play on the political stage constructed in the Shelter: by addressing the audience from the open tribune of the Presidential Candidate you became what you already were—the spectacle itself.

Freeing the homeless from 'representativity', from being caught in the rogue algorithm of compassion operates a shift in the relationship between representation and injustice. There is no sure 'home' for the spectator and the performer. The audience is as fragile as the performing bodies. The assigned roles inside the spectacle are in themselves precarious, unstable, oscillatory. The partial-spectator becomes the partial-performer and vice versa. There is no pure audience. Like in the performance of compassion, mere spectatorship generates the illusion of agency, but there is first and foremost the illusion of spectatorship that shadows any oscillation between comforting agency and the much-feared passivity. The stakes are not about seeing a spectacle, but about sensing the movement, the uncertainty of every moment, the fragility of borders and of the possible outcomes.


One of the Presidential Candidates addressing the audience in the Postspectacle Shelter

To be passive as a corrupt audience in a museum is a subversion of the codes imposed by such an institution. And passivity has always been associated with the incapacity of judgment—demonized and deplored. On the contrary, I contend that precisely this incapacity should be regarded as a positive anesthesia, wherein becoming insensate draws one closer to the inhuman prosthesis that one is. Maybe this corruption of the sensible is the flipside of the emotional overflow of the outside spectacle to which one becomes attuned even through one’s own inattentiveness. While even emotions are introduced into machines that make them effective and marketable, automating inequality, the glitch introduced by this affective corruption could be as well automatically proliferated.

'Passive' and 'passion' have a common Latin root—passio—which means 'suffering'. Com-passion should be common passion, a shared passion, a suffering experienced together. Or rather becoming ‘possessed’ and homeless in common. “To be passive is to be enacted upon, as a negation that is already felt as suffering. The fear of passivity is tied to the fear of emotionality, in which weakness is defined in terms of a tendency to be shaped by others.”(21) The affect cannot be incubated in the body, there is no well-sealed interiority: it has already started leaking its inhumanity out of the human. There is a permeability, fluidity of affectivity—affect is homeless. No vacuum chamber to isolate it inside the body. That is why the psychological apparatus is so deceptive. Compassion as co-passivity should be the shared capacity of being affected, acted upon and possessed. Of being able to co-suffer and abide in the negativity and hopelessness of this sufferance both as a partial-spectator (the subject of compassion) and a partial-performer (the object of compassion).


1 Franco Bifo Berardi, The Soul at Work From Alienation to Autonomy (Cambridge, Massachussets and London: The MIT Press, 2009).

2 See Steven Shaviro’s “Post-Cinematic Affect: On Grace Jones, Boarding Gate and Southland Tales” in Film-Philosophy Journal, Vol 14, No 1, 2010. Retrieved from http://www.film-philosophy.com/index.php/f-p/article/view/220.

3 In the Postspectacle Shelter, the homeless were offered food and medical assistance, and a voice in the Presidential Candidacy. The House of People was through this practical gesture given back to the People – now claustrated between the heavy brackets of double walls, that of the Parliament and of contemporary art. http://postspectacle.blogspot.ro/2012/04/presidential-candidate-invites-you-to.html

4 The Postspectacle Shelter was organized in a place with both artistic and political importance, the House of the People built by Ceausescu and never entirely finished (but after the Romanian revolution in 1989), whose Western wing was transformed into the National Museum of Contemporary Art (MNAC) in 2004.

5 Hunger Games is a 2012 SF film, directed by Gary Ross, after the homonymous book of Suzanne Collins. “The story takes place in a dystopian post-apocalyptic future in the nation of Panem, where 12 boys and 12 girls must participate in the Hunger Games–a televised annual event in which the "tributes" are required to fight to the death until there is one remaining victor.” (source: Wikipedia)

6 See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priming_%28psychology%29.

7 This difference between affective and spectacle attention has been signaled to me by Florin Flueras.

8 Term used by Bracha Ettinger in a lecture at Future Art Base (Helsinki) in 2012. Self-fragilization in Ettinger's sense implies the dispersal and loss of the self, becoming sub-subjective. It is thus a concept opposed to oversensitivity.

9 “An individual is first of all a singular essence, which is to say, a degree of power. A characteristic relation corresponds to this essence, and a certain capacity for being affected corresponds to this degree of power. Furthermore, this relation subsumes parts; this capacity for being affected is necessarily filled by affections.” (Gilles Deleuze, Spinoza: Practical Philosophy, trans. Robert Hurley [San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1988], 27).

10 See Lauren Berlant (Ed.), Compassion The Culture and Politics of an Emotion (New York and London: Routledge, 2004), 20.

11 “Citizens of modernity, consumers of violence as spectacle, adepts of proximity without risk, are schooled to be cynical about the possibility of sincerity. Some people will do anything to keep themselves from being moved.” (Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others [New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002], 86).

12 Silvia Federici, The Caliban and the Witch (New York: Autonomedia, 2004), 146.

13 Prostheticity “in the sense of the embodiment and embeddedness of the human being in not just its biological but also its technological world, the prosthetic coevolution of the human animal with the technicity of tools and external archival mechanisms (such as language and culture).” (Cary Wolfe, What is Posthumanism? [Minneapolis London: University of Minnesota Press, 2010], xv).

14 "Welcome Home!" was one of the most repeated slogans of Mihail Neamțu, which he propagandistically used in his hysterical speech against the ruling social-democratic party during the right wing's official demonstration at the beginning of July 2012. He was referring to the alive, dead and 'unborn' Romanians patriots who are against the idea of emigration. Neamțu is an important figure of the center-right party in Romania, and an assiduous promoter of the neoliberal doctrine.

15 In the periods of the mad cow disease outbreak, in countries such as Great Britain in the 80's and 90's, and Canada in 2000's, there was a powerful nationalist discourse tied to the consumption of beef. As Nicole Shukin notes, there “were dramatic public displays of cooking, serving, and consuming Canadian beef, modeling a metabolic commitment to the health and “carnophallogocentrism” of the nation through patriotic displays of meat eating. Not only is the purity of a nation’s meat representative, on a deeply affective level, of its domestic economy; meat also enciphers ideological investments in the masculinist virility and racial purity of the national body.” (Nicole Shukin, Animal Capital Rendering Life in Biopolitical Times [Minneapolis London: University of Minnesota Press, 2009], 227). Carnophallogocentrism is a term coined by Jacques Derrida to refer to the sacrificial (carno), masculine (phallo) and language-centered (logo) dimensions of classical subjectivity.

16 Sara Ahmed, The Cultural Politics of Emotion (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2004), 2.

17 Arbitrary power is a concept developed by Akseli Virtanen.

18 See Gary Olson’s Empathy and Neuropolitics: This is your brain on neoliberal culture. Any questions? Available at: http://home.moravian.edu/public/polsci/pdfs/EmpathyAnd%20Neuropolitics.pdf

19 See Amelia Gentleman’s Food Banks: A Life on Handouts Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/jul/18/food-banks-on-hand-outs on July 18, 2012.

20 Although it is a name worthy of dystopian novels, these are foundations which administrate the Food Banks.

21 Sara Ahmed, The Cultural Politics of Emotion, 2.

Facing the Wall, Disaster, Collapse and the Impossibility-to-not-Love

with Akseli Virtanen and KAFKAMACHINE Team
workshop about:

Exhaustion of the possible. Three metamorphoses of the spirit. From biopower to arbitrary power. To function “in another way” (Benjamin). Economy as oikonomia. Topoi koinoi. An-arche. The secret bond between anarchy and government. Production of ethics. Production of memory. Giorgio Agamben and Paolo Virno’s on coming politics. Good and evil share the same root. Distance to environment. Mode of potentiality. Endless regression. Openness to the world. Experience of potentiality. Exhaustion of the realizable vs. exhaustion of the possible. Pathos of distance. Disaster, fragilization and desubjectivation. Impossibility-to-not-love. Copoiesis. Kafkamachine. Cooperation to come. Robin Hood Investment Fund of the Precariat. Minor Asset Management.

KAFKAMACHINE arouse in the midst of the marvels of financial economy and crises of Europe, when the precariousness of immaterial labour defines our every day, financial capitalism exercises its arbitrary power and forces us to continuously exploit ourselves and our friends while cynicism, opportunism, depression and detachment from others have become the only means of our survival. After the economic collapse, there seems to be nothing that holds Europe together anymore. Except our fear and apatheia. Just like in the Greek myth about the beginning of Europe, the Bull is raping Europa maiden again. Just look at Greece, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Spain, Romania, Finland... And there is nothing we can do, nothing works. There is no solidarity, no shared place or time for a creation of community, of conscious collective subjectivity. There is no way out. The old political practices have totally lost their operationality.

KAFKAMACHINE is made out of loosers, sad figures, dark souls, cynical opportunists and depressed princesses. ”We are not tough or heroic, we are soft and feeble. We don’t march or demonstrate. We have difficulties in getting up from the bed. More, we are dependent on each other to see this. We are molle people, the future of cooperation.” There may be some self-sarcasm in this introduction, but only to express that there is no heroism in the exhaustion and disillusionment we are experiencing at the moment when seeking a way forward together is necessary but without any one being able to guide the way. The cognomen of the project is n-1, the one that disappeared. There is no other ground but the broken one.

We have difficulties in believing what is happening to us, because nothing seems to happen. We are tired of being ourselves because the self-evidencies of our lives don't work anymore. We know they don't, even if we still try to pretend that they do. We need reinvention of ourselves, but have no strength or appeal for it. That is why we all sound like déjà vu. The realm of possible at our disposal is exhausted. And when there is no access to possible, there is just the actual: there is no change. How do you build a way back to the possible? How do you invent a way out when there is no way out? KAFKAMACHINE is an organizational experiment on cooperations to come.
This is our story, the story of our lives, naked in front of the arbitrariness of the world, alone and lost, when the one has disappeared.

Akseli Virtanen is a member of Mollecular organization and the coordinator of Future Art Base in Helsinki (Aalto University School of Art). He is currently working on “Parasite –Investment Fund of the Precariat” and “Kafka machine” film project based on Félix Guattari’s project plan. He also teaches new political economy and philosophy of cooperation at the Aalto University School of Economics. His recents books include the Molecular Organization of Félix Guattari (2011), Economy and Social Theory Vol 1-3 (2011-2012), Introduction to Bracha Ettinger's Copoiesis (2009), The Place of Mutation. Vagus, Nomos, Multitudo (2007), A Critique of Biopolitical Economy. The End of Modern Economy and Birth of Arbitrary Power (2006), Dictionary of New Work. A Map to Precarious Life (2006). He edits "Polemos" and "Memory books of cooperation" book series.