Recommended Reading | Arcadia Missa, by Rózsa Farkas

Rózsa Farkas, founder of Peckham gallery Arcadia Missa gives us her December reading list.

hashtag 2012, hyperlink 2013


For this reading list, I thought I’d set out a view of the things to come at Arcadia Missa (A_M).

The #2012 hashtag doesn’t work in twitter, but it still exists as an image-object, an aestheticised form of itself.

This reading list is related to the work and research around A_M’s curatorial practice, and an attempt to think – 2012, what it was/is, as a situation, rather than a flat (and at best, linguistic) object to be mused.  Generally speaking I’d say this reading list is the residue of the Open Office programme and is a bed on which to sow a new curatorial framework for A_M in 2013.

The order of the texts and books in the list is important - like a recipe to produce my train of thought.

Increasingly in the arts, (one point in society surrounded by cuts) we are not only feeling austerity measures, but also instigating them as a way to define ourselves, relations and context.  When questioning and critiquing the surrounding materials of the everyday, we risk leaning toward fetishising, and thus nullifying, what seems to be a pointed conversation.

Collective author pseudonym, Rosa Kerosene’s The Economy Has Left The Building (2008) was one of the first publications ‘post-crash’, that attempted to dissect what had happened/was to come in the fullest capacity, by not only treating these conversations as things which affect the very pores of our own subjective interactions and reality in itself, but also (very much via the journal’s various authors), aligned the sign of the times to previous ‘struggles’ and senses of abandonment by national and global economic policy.

This conversation was almost ratified for arts’ workers in 2011 when austerity measures led to Arts Council cuts, and many had to address the entrepreneurial guise of cultures’ systems of institution and post-Fordism within cultural capitalism.  Researcher Pascal Gielen’s new book, co-edited with Paul De Bruyne, Teaching Art in the Neo Liberal Realm - Idealism Versus Cynicism is important, not only to reflect on the mindset in the wake of recession, but also to think clearly about how the build up to, and fall out from it, affects our productive practices within arts institutions.

Turning the hashtag 2012 into a functional hyperlink 2013 – third in the reading list is a review concerned with the confused, and in my opinion sterilized, use of Multitude by Hardt and Negri.  Re-read recently it’s particularly interesting when bearing in mind the review’s pre-twitter origins (2005):

If in Empire the bourgeoisie are the corporations making up the Biopower(ful) nation state, then the Multitudinous network is too part of that bourgeoisie.  Forever embedded in the companies which embed us. The “Multitude re-imagines the proletariat as a heterogeneous web of workers, migrants, social movements and non governmental organisations”.

In Multitude, Hardt and Negri propose a new model of ‘Biopolitical Production’.  Thinking of this term a few years since used in Multitude, we see it at the forefront of debate - debates on precarity and questions on immaterial labour.  Biopolitical production has in ways manifested as simply social networks (or ‘Multitude’?) and is entrenched in global capital.

For building conversations on precarity and labour, which was intrinsic to the curation of the Open Office, I have come to think of the un-unique displacement of the term ‘Multitude’ as being akin to the flattened #2012.  Perhaps political, fearful, weary, whatever – it’s now whatever inflected with #pomo irony, or as described by Thomas N Hale and Anne-Marie Slaughter here when reflecting on Multitude: “post modern pastiche”. 

I see Hardt and Negri’s hope for networked pluralism pre-twitter, and their use of the term ‘Multitude’ as positing ‘The Multitude’ as thing – a network, and not as a progressive idea of what if - what it could/will be.  The network-as-Multitude has an active potential, an active potential such as #ows – so active within the network, yet rendered almost a symbol (like its hashtag) increasingly within Empire irl.  The Multitude is part of a trans-national empire.  This is illustrated in the ‘From Nation State to Network’ section from this review, the trans-national/governmental still maintains nation states.  It left me feeling that maybe the multitude/network-as-body has been mis-anthropomorphised to continue to exert the order of Biopower.

As an aside, and as a positive and fertile text for understanding and attempting, enacting and radicalising the almost autonomous forms in the network, I would always recommend Eleanor Ivory Weber’s text from our recent issue of How to Sleep Faster (issue 3) Psycho Sleights of Hand: Autonomy and Cybernetics. Look to this for a realist, informative and oppositional text to the romanticised precarity I’m presently so surrounded and inflected with.

So if we continue along the train of thought that the Multitude has been hashtagged and squashed into the network as object/body – then I can’t help seeing this body as Tiqqun’s Young-Girl.  The term Young-Girl (or Jeune-Fille) has swelled in the second half of 2012, taking over to oh-so-sweetly personify every which way I view the landscape I step out amongst.  As the Multitude network is perhaps wrongly a body, I feel the need not swerve from, but continually re-evaluate the scarily apt Preliminary Materials for the Theory of the Young-Girl (originally written by Tiqqun in 1999), if only to avoid the misleading anthropomorphic technique of subjectivising our discourse, and not much else.  In this I also mean myself.

So what is un-subjectivised? It all points to body, yet where do we find our own abstracted forms - in the crease of the skin against a Photoshopped background?  Trying to re-claw the Young-Girl, do not let that term be Young-Girlified, we (as Rosa Kerosene did) need to align some of what has gone before, and let it emanate from within.  To regain a personal-as-truly-political subjectivisation of the discourse next in the list is Guattari’s, To Have Done With the Massacre of the Body (originally published in the banned Recherches Three Billion Perverts, 1973). This is immediately followed with what I can perfectly corroborate it to; queerlibido’s blog post Unapologetic Bodies: Or, You’re a Hot Mess (And I Love You For It)

Using these two texts, from Guattari and Alok to re-find our own body as the original site for subjectivity, perhaps viewing and experiencing our place within the mesh that holds together Young-Girl ‘bodies’, it is the lack, the blind sight described in the novel, Love in Relief by Guy Hoquenghem, which makes this book the final one in the list.

Endeavouring to rupture a smooth, sexy, already subsumed, image of precarity, I can take ideas from this fiction, apply it to an understanding of the Young-Girlscape, and for now think that this is how ‘precarity’ after the economy has left the building can become immanent, and a hyperlinked 2013 active.

Posted on
06 December 2012
By Rózsa Farkas