We’re Only In It For The Money

21 Sep

“We’re only in it for the money” once resonated of something provocative. When Frank Zappa said it in 1968 echoed of a spoiled, doped, post-war American well-fare state, surfer culture and cruise culture, with an excellent critical edge. This was the time of active self-precarisation, free sex, hippies, a handful of liberation movement, and an almost cute belief in the possibility of an outside. When, Ebba Grön – the Swedish Sex Pistols (only problem, they were kind of authentic) – in 1982 baptized their first album “We’re only in it for the money”, life was fairly different. Remember – MTV launched August 1, 1981, yet the slogan had balls, carried a sense of factory worker mixed with a firm belief in communism and at-least-look-a-little-scary. This time self-precarious was swopped for a kind of pride slash fuck you parasite attitude.

Independently of perspective, actual or ironic, we’re only in it for the money proposed an outside, a place where politics didn’t rule where harmony was established and were, on second thought, life must have been like permanent house music: boring, stylized and middle-class drunk Ibiza. But what does it mean today, when there is no outside when there is only one option and we have no choice but to be “in it for the money”, when provocation has been incorporated in economical discourse, when free social networks are integral to marketing campaigns and your biggest wish is that your product is hijacked by your customer. To name your debut album “we’re only…” today could only be the work of either Ashley Simpson or a Turbo-folk group from Novi Sad.

In the 60s individuals and groups made themselves precarious, moved out into the forests and practiced free sex; cut themselves loose from middleclass USA and celebrated the individual. In today’s political landscape self-precarisation is a wet-dream for neo-liberalism, the perfect self-employed entrepreneur being so goddamn creative and imaginative with his home made, half Chinese import, put it together yourself services. Individual is everything, but of course we tend to forget that there is somebody that makes piles of money on you working on yourself. Why? Well, otherwise you’d be striving for something else. Your imagination is not yours, Leonardo Di Caprio isn’t science fiction, contemporary capitalism is “Inception” – it’s really good – especially Ellen Page as the young architect or is she the brain behind it all, the business.

Be more yourself, re-create your identity from a DIY kit that is offered by every corporate, cultural, non-profit and community agency, but identity is always provided and produced and only the illusion of deterritorialization. Yourself is like Kellog’s hell of lot of different ones but they are all Kellog’s and there’s no way for you to not choose. Pas de tous, you are so fucked – doomed not only to be human but also human with a name. Just like Kellog’s identity, the contemporary social apparatus has terminated its intrinsic self-annihilation capacity in favor of this precise illusion, re-create yourself through centrally distributed social networks. This social apparatus, following Agamben, is designed to maintain itself intact, yet producing the illusion of progress, alternation, differentiation. The result, at least initially, is the exhaustion and empting out of energy sources. This is like a British television series that doesn’t change the template until its far too late.

Recently Maurizio Lazzarato proposed that “capitalism is not a mode of production, but a production of modes and worlds”, in other words capitalism has become ubiquitous and thus obsolete to any significant critique (and we know that criticality only is a lubricant for capitalism. Irit Rogoff, roll your eyes). Other thinkers and economists, such as Paulo Virno, Akseli Virtanen and Christian Marazzi argue in parallel with Lazzarato that contemporary capitalism equals life. Dualities such as work and life, private and public, producer and consumer, subject and object are thus falling apart and we experience an emergence of a hyper-multiplicity, i.e. an endless heterogenization in which infinite forkings can only but play along with a capitalism within which manufacturing, and thus conventional modes of measure, are no longer relevant. Today, commodities and goods are like appendixes to the real shit, the necessary leftover for the production of immaterial value, cognitive capital.

We experience a transformation of valorization processes dedicated to the production of goods and services, processes that, so to say, are extending beyond factory gates, in the sense that valorization enters directly into the sphere of the circulation of capital. In other words an extension of the process of extracting value from the sphere of reproduction and distribution, to a bio-economy or bio-capitalism whose form is characterized by its growing entanglement with the lives of human beings.

Classical capitalism resorted primarily to the function of transformation of raw material carried out by machines and bodies of the workers. Bio-capitalism produces value by extracting it not only from the body functioning as the material instrument of work, but also from the body understood in its globality. An example is how capitalism has colonialized the sphere of circulation of language, semio-capitalism is the term used by Franco Bifo, to the point of transforming the consumer into a veritable producer of economical value. The customer is today a co-producer. The individual is now the co-producer of what he consumes, contributing to creating the market, producing performances, managing damages and hazards, sorting litter, even administration. The coproduction concerns all the mass performances and specifically services: retail, bank, transportation, free time, restaurant, media, education, health, culture… most of culture and experience has thus become the watchword, this is all about being activated.

Outsourcing is a common phenomenon but today it extends beyond the cleaning service or consultants, today outsourcing has gained a new name “crowdsourcing”, which implies that the user or consumer functions as labor, usually involuntary or in exchange of access to e.g. a social network. Every time you login to your Facebook account you work for Mr Zuckerberg.
This process is what Christian Marazzi has named financialization of life, which implies the extraction of surplus value from common action such as sharing a blog post, linking a page, commenting, but of course also sharing an experience, such as a concert, performance or museum visit.
As long as capitalism has existed we have always been both producers and consumers but what is taking place now is that the boundaries are dissolving. Not only in respect of how IKEA outsourced the assembling of their products, not because they like you and me to handle a screwdriver but because it was an option to displace a large economy and only lower the prices of the products marginally, but in respect that life itself has become economy. This is what bio-capitalism proposes: that the body in its globality has become commodity, that life as such (bare life, see Agamben) has become economy.

Leaving Fordist-production behind us also implies leaving goods and conventional processes of manufacturing. Post-Fordist society is also leaving behind service and enters new economical spheres, a first step was experience but today immaterial capital, has as we have seen entered the body and its globality. If a cultural venue, e.g. the museum can be correlated to the modes of production of society in general, the sphere of the venue (museum) necessarily has to leave objects and its reproduction (or non-reproduction) behind. If the 19th century museum celebrated the nation and the 20th century museum celebrated industrial society, what is the museum celebrating today: immaterial labor and the financialization of life?
More over, is not the institutions that we surround ourselves with correlated to modes of production, e.g. the separation between life and labor. Thus when such dualities evaporate, when hyper-multiplicity enters life don’t our institutions have only two futures: to change rapidly and drastically or to become bastions of the past.

If the cultural venue and its artist should have any future the first thing to do is to stop thinking about representation, design, audience etc and rethink what position and how art operates under these circumstances.

Can we address the cultural venue in respect of rent, we – directors, curators etc – so to say rent the museum from the nation, which in democracy means the people that also are our clients, who comes to the museum and pay rent to take part of an experience. This is exactly the implication of contemporary capitalism where the very circulation of value produces economy, in the sense of work, employment, well-fare. One could say that this is the moment where rent become profitable.

In respect of the process of enclosures, capitalist rent has been the other face of the common. It is the outcome of a process of expropriation that is the starting point and essential feature of the reproduction of capital over time and space.

Rent, in other words, represents not only the starting point but also the becoming of contemporary capitalism, because as the law of value-labor time is in crisis and the cooperation of labor appears to become increasingly autonomous from the managerial functions of capital, the very frontiers between rent and profit begin to disintegrate.
How, and in respect of what modes of valorization, does rent, when introduced to the museum, become a mode of production of culture.

In order to produce art that has any validity at all we have no choice but to take up the arms of contemporary bio-capitalism. You know there is a difference of being corrupt and knowing corruption, let’s go all the way: long live corruption. Sell out, unground. This is not about staying healthy  and at the outside, the only way to investigate illness is by becoming infected, engaging in pathology: paraseptic. The first step is to engage in how the transformation of economical reality is provocative in respect of contemporary art venues and formats, artistic and cultural production.
Yes, we’re only in it for the money.

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3 Responses to “We’re Only In It For The Money”

  1. schusch September 21, 2010 at 19:28 #

    In It?

  2. esthel September 21, 2010 at 22:56 #

    Maybe you could invent the fake corrupted artist. Why don ´t you make fake art works , repeat the same format, never innovate. Get payed, and use some of that money to do what you want, were you want,with whom you want and burn the rest. Capitalism will not notice until is too late.Burn the money, make a leak.

    • Marten Spangberg September 21, 2010 at 23:21 #

      Nah, that most of all sounds like a cynical use of a economical however corrupt situation. Too inventive and in the wrong way. But perhaps it is something to write a post about. That fake is not an option.

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