THE DAY AFTER THE ONE BEFORE
What, being simply a mirror held up to an enforced economic system, calls itself art? What hand holds the mirror? If it is clear that no aesthetic revolution is possible without an equivalent revolution in the idea of the world, nor is social revolution possible without a revolution in the very idea of representation.
Today, the “situation” has completely changed from what it was before. Where it used to be possible to speak of culture, art, literature, now these words mean less than nothing. Something has happened that is utterly at odds with everything such words have been made to stand for. A radical break has occurred & this must be reflected in what we do & how we think, instead of pretending it’s possible to “return” to any kind of business-as-usual “new normality,” providing alibis for a corrupt & broken system’s resurrection.
That is why it is not possible under “present circumstances” to speak of being an artist or making a piece of “art”: the endless opportunistic drivel that parades on social media as catastrophe “art,” quarantine “art,” of little egos stuck in a doll house, their miniature stade du miroir. This complacency has to be destroyed. Art, from a position of self-imposed exile, must destroy it.
COVID-19 & THE “RETURN TO NATURE”
There is no more culture. There is only an impulse, by differing degrees of bad faith, towards an aesthetic proxy for “emancipation.” Call it the freedom to bear witness to that mode-of-production within which society itself is a museum artefact, priced out of reach.
Even those who insist the virus is the “product” of social relations, envisage only a catalyst of environmental redress (the “revenge-of-nature” motif). Like Hamlet they proclaim that the world is out of joint, & like Hamlet they lament the task that has befallen them to “set it right.” Instead, the burden of revolution will itself be redeemed by the hidden-hand of a pandemic that won’t equalize, so much as make manifest the false consciousness of the prevailing status quo.
This may be the “tragic” counterpart to the view that CoViD-19 all by itself will deconstruct the Corporate-State Apparatus & bring about an automatic revolution.
Those besotted with the idea that the socalled Anthropocene is a “natural phenomenon,” are also those who (in an inverted & barely ironic movement) fetishize the Corporate-State as an instrument either of worldly redemption or of otherworldly transcendence. In this equation, the current pandemic is in fact reduced to a movement of alien capital, producing a “new” mass subjectivity of human obsolescence. This revenge of “nature” upon errant humanity amounts to nothing more than the substitution of one kind of economic being for another.
The making of “automatic revolution” is as contemptuous as the waging of business “art” under conditions of real immiseration.
The pre-condition of automation isn’t subjective alienation, but its constitutive ambivalence (there is no antecedent “subject”: the subject itself, from its origins, is the product of a repetition automatism). There has always been far more to the logic of alienation than its reduction to this pathetic fallacy.
The present reaction (the pseudo-critical ventriloquism of the principle of inaction) brings into view the precisely pandemic form of the Corporate-State. The pandemic mode-of-production doesn’t transform the meaning of work (including art-work) – e.g. through an apparently catastrophic increase in unemployment, etc. – but refigures its terms.
We must grasp the contemporary mechanisms of labour & alienated-consumption in relation to a logistics of pandemic – of transmission, of asymptomaticity, immunity, fatality – calculated to produce social data-nodes within a circulatory economy defined by the (seemingly) paradoxical strictures of a generalised quarantine (the completion of the project of social separation, as counterpart to the socalled cybernetic revolution: integration by disintegration).
IN PANIC WE TRUST
A belief has emerged in which the present pandemic resolves all the insoluble “political” problems that have hung for so long like an albatross around the neck of a “society” bereft of autonomous agency (separate from the dictates of capital). There are even those who find comfort in the rituals of “social distancing” as if they were new foundations on which to resurrect a lost sense of “community” – just as once upon a time “social media.” Combined with “social distancing apps,” a new automatic community is conjured out of the mass narcissistic impulses of a consumer class that has lost its raison d’être. Avid for the first opportunity to throw everything to the wind & sacrifice the “collective” idea once more to the cash register, they are history’s tragic clowns. Those who confuse panic with solidarity are those who are most willing to “confuse” self-interest with the “common good,” & opportunism with the self-evidence of “common sense.”
Automation has too-insistently been claimed as the necessary precondition of an on-going modernity. Yet the objective of automation has never been necessity but its contrary, the accelerated & scaled production of surplus, in an economic expansion premised entirely upon the circulation & consumption of inessentials.
There has never been any question of such a mode-of-production being in any way geared to the satisfaction of “subjective” productive impulses (individuals perceiving themselves as “adding anything personal to automated production”) – as if the one were somehow an extension, enlargement or evolution of the other.
Automation “liberates” nothing but the capacity for unfettered consumption: consumption rendered as an autonomous social force.
Pandemic automation is the ultimate distributed mode-of-capture within this force & the final point of reference for “social” action. In other words, the final subsumption of the political into the logistical.
Political automatism requires no other perspective than this & has been able to accomplish its goals without recourse to anything more than a parody of critical self-consciousness (the Situationist fallacy, more alive today than ever, that “automation can develop rapidly only once it has established as a goal a perspective contrary to its own establishment, & only if it is known how to realise such a general perspective in the process of development of automation…” [Jorn]).
Whatever “internal contradictions” those who proclaim automatic revolution expect will be brought out into the open by the global economic shutdown, these do not represent a virus within the system, but the virus of the system. They are the very genome of the Corporate-State.
15 April 2020