Seminar 58 // 16, 17, 18 June 2016 // London


Curatorial/Knowledge Seminar, 16–18 June 2016


Thursday, 16 June 2016, 11am – 6pm

Location: Richard Hoggart Building, Room 255

11am – 6pm:

Kai van Eikels (performance theorist, Free University of Berlin):

Art and Other People’s Work

Modern Art has a history of reflecting on itself as work. Where artists include knowledgeable, critical or ironic references to working conditions in their artworks, this has the effect of enhancing the work’s complexity, and hence aesthetic value—and sometimes also its economic value, as the bourgeois concept of art requires both that the aesthetic value never be reduced to the economic value and that the economic value never be entirely separated from the aesthetic value. These reflections concerning ‘art as work’ point to the artist as someone who is (also) working. And consequently, artists’ self-exploitation has been at the centre of discussions on precariousness for many years, and the willingness of artists to trade in a fair income for the pleasure of doing something ‘creative’ and for social esteem inspired post-Fordist attempts to establish similar forms of happy exploitation at the company workplace. But what about the many people who are working in the field of artistic production without being artists—or more precisely, without being credited as the creators of the artworks they are helping to produce, contributing to what will then be perceived and appreciated as a work from the position of ‘performers’ or ‘participants,’ with an unclear professional status? Mostly anonymous, often badly paid, they are implementing artist’s concepts or letting their bodies be used to fit installations, performances, photos and films with human material. The curator, who is not an employee and a representative of a cultural institution but a ‘free’ collaborator, also belongs among these workers.

In the 1970s, French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu claimed that for a critical assessment of labour conditions it is crucial to conceive of work as other people’s work. Is it not precisely modern art’s preoccupation with self-reflection and its added-value, which renders artists unable to recognize the work other people are doing for them? And moreover, to recognize the dimension of their own work that is, or would be, labour, i.e. work they are doing just as anybody else? Does this inability to see work as other people’s work not limit art’s capacity to engage with political movements that are trying to counter neoliberalism, regardless of individual artist’s good intentions? Is there not an ‘essential’ liberal capitalism embedded in the very concept of aesthetic value, prior to financial speculation hijacking art markets and the like?

I would like to explore these questions, starting from a few theoretical remarks on aesthetic and economic value and the economic history of aesthetics from around 1800 to the present, and then discuss some recent examples of artists dealing—in bad and less bad ways—with labour conditions in the production process: Marina Abramovic’s casting for her 2011 MoCA gala dinner performance, and performer Sarah Wookey’s public letter on why she refused to work for her; Adam Linder’s use of work contracts in his performance “Some Cleaning;” Koki Tanaka’s ongoing video experiments with collaboration beyond the division of labour…

– Diedrich Diederichsen, ‘On (Surplus) Value in Art’,
– Sarah Wookey’s explanation why she refused to participate in Abramovic’s performance,
– Yvonne Rainer’s letter of protest against Abramovic to MoCA director Jeffrey Deitch,

Lunch Break: 2–3pm

Friday, 17 June 2016, 11am – 6pm

Location: Richard Hoggart Building, Room 255

11am – 2pm:

MA students from the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths:

Curating Research Architecture

What does it mean to curate research? An exhibition is a site where knowledge is both shared and created. Working towards a degree show in September, MAs from the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths will organise a series of workshops that invite practitioners to discuss the various ways in which the processes of research and knowledge generation can be effectively displayed and disseminated.

The Centre for Research Architecture is a pedagogical experiment and political project that sits at the intersection of many fields and disciplines from architecture and media to law and climate science. Practitioners from a wide range of backgrounds work within new conceptual frameworks, developing cutting-edge tools for undertaking spatial research and critical analysis. Workshops will take place at several key institutions with a strong engagement with research-based practice.

2–3pm: Lunch Break


Elvira Lamanna (MRes Curatorial/Knowledge) – Research Presentation

Embodiments of a ‘We’

A critical ‘we’ is adopted by some feminist philosophers as a provocative claim and action that challenges all dominant positions (even their own ones). In our neoliberal society a dominant ‘we’ tends to homogenise every person and knowledge systems without acknowledging differences or specificities, and it already decides which (dominant) discourses count. This dominant perspective of ‘we’ brings about passivity, impotence, de-humanisation and a dominant system of language with impositions on bodies and their time that do not take into account a ‘care’ for the self or for others. However, some autonomous organisations struggle against the precariousness of our existences and aim to produce knowledge, between theory and praxis, based on processes of mutual ‘consciousness’ and self-empowerment with specific groups of people (such us precarious and migrant women). This research investigates some contemporary autonomous organisations – Espai en Blanc, Maiz and Precarias a la deriva – which have been founded by activist philosophers in order to create embodiments of a ‘we”’.

– Marina Garcés, ‘What Are We Capable Of?’,
– Rubia Salgado, ‘Multilingual But Monolingual’,


Karthik KG (MRes Curatorial/Knowledge) – Research Presentation

Unique Identification and the ‘Dividual’

The data-driven epistemology of our ‘information age’ has made it possible to conceive unique identity projects such as UID – a project by the Indian government that aims to provide unique identity numbers to all residents upon collection of demographic and biometric data. Such projects have raised concerns at various levels, for example in relation to their technical feasibility, to security issues, or to privacy. Keeping such concerns as the backdrop, this research is interested in looking at the genealogical development of identification techniques since the 19th century. Tracing this development through two epistemological models – identifying through traces and processing of data – could give us a sense of what is at stake in the transformation of the ‘mass/individual’ pair towards the ‘dividual’ that Deleuze mentions. If ‘dividual’ is what we are becoming now, how could we locate a potential for resistance in the ontology of ‘dividual’?

– Gilles Deleuze, ‘Postscript on the Societies of Control’
– Stefan Nowotny, ‘Invisibly Seeing the Invisible’,

8pm: Dinner together

Saturday, 18 June 2016, 12–4pm

Location: Warmington Tower, Goldsmiths, Ground Floor, Seminar Room A.

Reading Group, chaired by Miguel Amado (MRes C/K) and Madeleine Hodge (MRes C/K)

In this session we combine a text by the African scholar Achille Mbembe and a film by the Karrabing Film Collective, an Australian ‘grassroots indigenous-based media group’. We begin with Mbembe’s introduction to his book On the Postcolony, published in 2001, which further elaborates the notion of ‘banality of power’ he originally put forward in a 1992 article. After this discussion, we watch When the Dogs Talked, from 2014, a key example of the Karrabing Film Collective’s production, in which they examine the issues facing their communities.

We propose these works as a way of thinking the otherwise and the elsewhere. They explore the effort of existing within and alongside late liberalism’s stranglehold on other forms of life, and together they challenge anthropological and sociological fantasies of dispossession. Mbembe proposes that the languages we use to describe these are born of violence and dislocation rooted in colonial Western philosophical traditions, while the Karrabing Film Collective’s undertaking is an active attempt to establish new forms of social imaginary.

– Achille Mbembe, ‘Introduction: Time on the Move’, from On the Postcolony,

– Karrabing Film Collective, When the Dogs Talked (to be watched together in the seminar)

Further materials:
– Karrabing Film Collective, Holding Up the World, Part I, e-flux Journal #58,
– Audra Simpson, Elizabeth A. Povinelli, and Liza Johnson Holding Up the World, Part IV, e-flux Journal #58,
– Elizabeth A. Povinelli, Routes/Worlds, e-flux Journal #27,



Seminar Dates: 
Thu, 16/06/2016 - 09:00 - Sat, 18/06/2016 - 14:00