Artists accused of being unproductive members of society can rejoice. The speakers at ‘The Trouble with Productivity’, a talk hosted on the 11th of January at the ICA, showed the audience that un-productivity is no longer a negative thing, and, if anything, something to be should be desired…
Lars Iyer, philosopher and author of the book Spurious, set it straight in his initial speech: it's all neo liberalism's fault. Capitalism has installed in our minds the idea that productivity is everything, neoliberalism has convinced us that we are not only consumers, but that in each one of us lies an entraipreneur ready to rule the world.
The only way to escape this all-encompassing ideology seems then to be to withdraw into a salvific inactivity, into what is more than just a noble literary otium but is indeed what the author himself defines 'arsing about'. In the end, the act of artistic creation has always entailed a certain degree of passivity – the modern equivalent of Homer's muses or of the Oracle of Delphi's divine inspiration becomes this inactivity, the time spent putting off what we should actually do.
Speaking of reprioritising one's action, Paul Pieroni, curator at Space, related his real passion for the widespread phenomenon of procrastination: his project about the so called 'Photographic Folklore' collects a series of vignettes created by bored employees during long office hours and is the visualisation of alternative creativity. A creativity that has always been considered of a second hierarchical level but that has now been revalued, and even glorifed.
But if even the "non-work" produced by our procrastination becomes worthy artistic material, then the trouble with productivity is that we can't escape productivity, and that this Dadaistic attempt to reverse our priorities cannot be extinguished in nihilism, because even nihilism is unattainable. It becomes just a violent scream of protest, an angry and sulky rejection, a celebration of doodles as art. Unproductivity folds back upon itself, and instead of substituting productivity it becomes, once more, englobed into the relentless white whale: that capitalism is the beginning and end of our whole society and our way of thinking of art.
The ICA London (www.ica.org.uk ) is hosting a series of talks intitled 'The Trouble with...' : the next appointment will be on the 14th of may with 'The Trouble with Image Politics'. To book your tickets click here (http://www.ica.org.uk/32107/Talks/The-Trouble-with-Image-Politics.html