Seminar 56 // 17, 18, 19 March 2016 // London


Curatorial/Knowledge Seminar, 17–19 March 2016


Thursday, 17 March 2016, 11am – 5pm

Location: Lockwood Building, Room 211 (aka ‘the Hexagon’)

11am – 1.30pm:

Irit Rogoff: Infrastructure

Conventionally, infrastructures are the material and technical structures and systems that enable the efficient delivery of everything from transport and finance to education and health. Within the condition of rampant neoliberalism, which is shaping every aspect of our lives and rewriting the very understanding of education, research and cultural life, not to mention of pleasure and edification – it is a complex undertaking to see through the enmeshment of bureaucratic and managerial protocols and upbeat rhetorics of achievement and commodified experience. The institutional, the financial, the corporate join forces with cultural rhetorics in the form of infrastructures: seemingly neutral, seemingly enabling, but ultimately the very tool for denying critical entry points.

Given that infrastructures are the building blocks of capitalism’s modus operandi, that they have been detached from both ideological convictions and textual operations, is there a potential to think this model of efficient delivery critically? To introduce both subjectivity and incoherence into its workings? To use them for the study of power relations within the art world? Can what Raymond Williams famously referred to as ‘structure of feeling’ be thought as ‘infrastructures of feeling’? – Our discussion will focus on some fundamental understandings of infrastructure and present the freethought project for the Bergen Assembly 2016. (Please look through the Easterling text, it is long so there is no need to read it thoroughly but to acquaint yourselves with her mode of argument.)

– Keller Easterling, Extrastatecraft (excerpts)

Lunch Break: 1.30–2.30pm


Stefan Nowotny: Subjectivities as Infrastructures

At the beginning of his novel The Man Without Qualities Robert Musil describes the multiple perceptual, cognitive and affective engagements of a modern subject trying to cope with the complexities of urban life. This description is concluded with the following succinct observation by the novel’s protagonist, the ‘man without qualities’: ‘If one could measure the leaps that the attention took, the exertion of the eye-muscles, the pendulum-movements of the psyche, then presumably (…) the result would be a quantity compared with which the force that Atlas needed to hold the world up was trivial, and one could imagine the enormous output of energy, nowadays, of even a man who was doing nothing at all.’

Since the days of Musil we have seen tremendous increases of the energy output demanded from individuals before they even start doing something: not only because the growing complexities of life have long exceeded the scale of physical spaces, but also because perceptual, cognitive and affective engagements have been progressively put to work in the shift towards the labour regimes of ‘semiocapitalism’ (Franco Berardi). This session will set out to discuss one aspect of this process: the fact that contemporary subjectivities, instead of relating to infrastructures, are increasingly turned into infrastructures themselves and expected to compensate for declining public infrastructures. They become subjectivities ‘without qualities’ precisely to the extent that they are preoccupied as providers of all qualities. – Time, therefore, to re-pose the question which follows in Musil’s novel the above-quoted conclusion: ‘And how about someone who is doing something?’

– Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi, The Soul at Work (chapter 2 from his book The Soul at Work)

Thursday, 17 March 2016, 5–7pm

Location: Professor Stuart Hall Building, LG02

Luciana Parisi (Goldsmiths Centre for Cultural Studies) & Susan Schuppli (Goldsmiths Centre for Research Architecture): Technology and Subjectivity

With the development of interactive, asynchronous and distributive computing, computational thinking can no longer be described in terms of closed systems of axioms and deductive rules. As computational theorists remind us, axioms ARE modified, rules amended, and truths have become experimental. Whilst computational thinking has become bound to the social, the distinction between formal rules and social practices is not simply to be overcome, but needs to be rendered perceptible so that its operative dynamics can be made available for cultural analysis and critique. How is formal time embedded in the sociality of time? What arrangements of subjectivity are being produced by our algorithmic attitudes and oversight? How do these operate in tension with the emergent properties and behaviour of computational systems themselves? These and other questions inform a wide-ranging discussion around cultural approaches to understanding the social and political conditions induced by computational paradigms.

This is the final event of Permissions: The Way We Work Now (Visual Cultures Public Programme Spring 2016).


Friday, 18 March 2016, 11am – 5.30pm

Location: Richard Hoggart Building, Room 140

Mark Fisher: The Centre Cannot Hold (Capitalist Realism Isn’t Working)

Capitalist realism is the deeply embedded belief that there is no alternative to capitalism. In this session, we will consider the ways in which capitalist realism has been reinforced, reflected and challenged in culture. More importantly, we will examine the current collapse of capitalist realism. In the last five years or so, a number of new political formations and forms of consciousness have emerged. Meanwhile, the ‘centre’ which capitalist realism claimed for itself is disintegrating – a process which is terrifying as well as exhilarating. Although the collapse of the former centre has allowed new democratic socialist and libertarian communist movements to grow in confidence and influence, it has also given space to lethal modes of cybergothic authoritarianism, reactionary demagoguery, identitarian panic and internet-enabled homicidal individualism.

Now that the conditions for capitalist realism are rapidly eroding, we are increasingly living inside a demented capitalist fantasy – a fantasy of capital’s complete autonomy from workers. No question could be more urgent, then, than whether the new forms of consciousness will be able to take hold in time to avert the multiple, mutually reinforcing malignancies which threaten not only the destruction of social relations, but of the human species itself.

– Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism (please read chapters 1, 4, 5 & 6)

2–3pm: Lunch Break

8pm: Dinner together


Saturday, 19 March 2016, 12–4pm

Location: Raven Row (56 Artillery Lane, London E1 7LS; closest tube: Liverpool Street Station)

Reading Group – chaired by Ryan Inouye (MRes C/K), Elvira Lamanna (MRes C/K), and Joni Zhu (PhD C/K):

Power – Practice before Possession

Much intellectual energy is concerned with the possession of power. This reading group will focus on inquiries around the problematic of its practice. We wish to explore how critique, in terms of an intellectual activity as it is commonly understood, relates to more embodied forms of countering (a non-oppositional resistance). Drawing on earlier discussions about the ‘outside’ in Deleuze’s ‘Strategies or the Non-Stratified’ and Mark Fisher’s notion of ‘precorporation’, these texts reflect practices that exceed capture or enclosure. This itinerary runs through Bruno Latour’s essay ‘Why Has Critique Run out of Steam?,’ the chapter ‘Politics Surrounded’ in Stefano Harney and Fred Moten’s The Undercommons, and an excerpt from ‘“We the People”—Thoughts on Freedom of Assembly’ in Judith Butler’s Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly. How to think about gathering (Latour), surround (Harney and Moten) and assembly (Butler) within our respective practices? Who or what haunts you? How to exercise your possession? 

– Judith Butler, ‘We the People’—Thoughts on Freedom of Assembly (please read p. 154–165)
– Stefano Harney / Fred Moten, The Undercommons (please read p. 17–20)
– Bruno Latour, Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern (please read p. 231–243)

Seminar Dates: 
Thu, 17/03/2016 - 11:00 - Sat, 19/03/2016 - 16:00