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magazine / archive / Barbara Visser | MOUSSE CONTEMPORARY ART MAGAZINE
"Contemporary capitalism prods us to make the most of our potential, sticking with the program and doing our best. Sven Lütticken offers fascinating insights into the concepts of sleep and boredom and the potential of refusal as a counter-politics of the times, whose hero might be Melville’s Bartleby, the scrivener who not only stops writing but also explains that he would “prefer not to.” Intuition tells us that these modern concepts developed between the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution are as anachronistic as they are absolutely timely today."



"The music video shows the band performing in front of a giant silhouette of a cassette tape. Bow Wow Wow, with their “pirate” look, promoted a medium associated with pirating music, but also a medium that was creating new markets and contributed to making music ever more portable, ever more intimate (the Sony Walkman was introduced globally in 1980), thus helping to make the day a “media day.” Technology may be an emancipatory force and hasten the demolition of patriarchy, but this hardly means that “school’s out forever,” as the song has it: if anything, school is everywhere and learning is life-long, a permanent retooling of the subject. Of course, the song was released in a period with mass (youth) unemployment, with old industries in decline. If a sizable (well-educated) part of the no future generation would go on to have careers in the economic bubble produced by deregulation, mass unemployment nevertheless became structural in western European states, which are still shuffling around members of the former working class from one pseudo-job to the next."



"Meanwhile, popular discourse tends to dream of boredom as a psycho-temporal mode that is under threat and that is as important as sleeping, being a sort of waking equivalent of sleep: “It’s sad to think kids of this generation won’t be able to experience boredom like we have. Consider how boredom was handled at a younger age, as though it was a matter of solving a problem. Do children really need to worry about that, or can they just boot up their iPad? […] Instead of embracing boredom and using it as a creative application, we choose to replace it with some ‘busy’ activity. Instead of sitting in thought, we impulsively pull out our phones.”(21) However, relearning how to be bored is not a Craryesque exercise in imagining a different future beyond catastrophe, but rather an attempt at improving one’s performance: “It probably sounds a little counterintuitive to suggest to anyone that they start slacking off, but in reality it’s about as important to your brain’s health as sleeping is. Being bored, procrastinating, and embracing distraction all help your brain function. In turn, you understand decisions better. You learn easier.”(22)

Boredom is a modern concept. Just as people had gay sex before modern notions of homosexuality were around, this does of course not mean that premodern people never experienced states that we would now characterize as boredom. Rather, it means that boredom “in the modern sense that combines an existential and a temporal connotation” only become a theoretical concept and a problem in the late 18th century—in fact, the English term boredom emerged precisely in that moment, under the combined impact of the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. As Elizabeth Goodstein puts it, boredom “epitomizes the dilemma of the autonomous modern subject,” linking “existential questions” to “a peculiarly modern experience of empty, meaningless time.”(23) Boredom became a crucial notion for the 1960s avant-garde in different ways. On the one hand, the Cagean neo-avant-garde (Fluxus) embraced boredom as a productive strategy; on the other, the Situationist International attacked boredom as a disastrous symptom of capitalism.

In the late 1960s, Situationist and pro-situ slogans such as “Boredom is always counter-revolutionary” and “there’s nothing they won’t do to raise the standard of boredom” made the term a battle cry, though it is not particularly prominent in Debord’s writings. Boredom for the SI was a symptom of the inhuman nature of capitalism. As Raoul Vaneigem put it: “We do not want a world in which the guarantee that we will not die of starvation is bought by accepting the risk of dying of boredom.”(24) Boredom is a kind of byproduct of industrial labor that creates new markets for entertainment, for while boredom during working hours is unavoidable and can only be alleviated in part by half-hearted measures (playing music to the workers), boredom also infects “free time,” where various leisure activities and the products of the entertainment industry are ready to help—if only, as the slogan has it, “to raise the standard of boredom.”"



"Thus Bartleby, or Bartleby’s phrase, exists in a now-time for many of today’s real-time, just-in-time workers. But does its potential remain just that? Do we ultimately prefer to “not do” anything with it and about it? What are the possibilities and the limitations of an anachronistic politics and aesthetics of boredom, sleep, laziness, and “preferring not to?” The imperative to perform non-stop is insidious; we are constantly reminded that we may miss out altogether if we don’t get with the program. Recently, Nobel Prize winner Peter Higgs noted that “Today, I wouldn’t get an academic job. It’s as simple as that. I don’t think I would be regarded as productive enough.”(34) He would, in other words, be seen as slothful, and rejected in favor of more promising and productive candidates. Today’s academia is marked by a drive for quantification and control; immaterial labor needs to become measurable. The increasing integration of art in the academic system, with the rise of artistic PhD programs, is another example of this. The seeming paradox is that we are dealing with a form of labor that is already beyond measure, that is intensified and permanent (24/7). However, what is measured is not temporal input (as in the days of punch cards) but output. When a university transforms its offices into “flex-work stations” with a “clean-desk-policy,” the hidden agenda seems to be to make sure that employees stay away from the office as much as possible—making the whole world their potential office.

In the edu-factory, as elsewhere, “associations of liberated time” need to be formed that go beyond individual qualms about the system’s insane extension and intensification of labor—qualms that must remain inefficient if they remain individual. While it is obvious that an aesthetic-political liberation of time will never be linear, and is always ready to collapse under the contradictory temporal demands made on its various participants, this does not make the project any less crucial and urgent. A genuine “association of liberated time” should not only comprise artists and academics, but also their less visible counterparts: migrants workers performing jobs that combine rote routine with the “dynamic” precarity of neoliberalism, or illegal sans-papiers whose motto is a state-imposed “never work,” as they are forbidden from “taking away jobs” and terrorized into boredom while struggling to find a place to sleep.(35)"
laziness  sloth  capitalism  liberation  freedom  2014  svenlütticken  labor  work  resistance  anarchism  bartlebythescrivner  hermanschuurman  demoker  guydebord  karlmarx  marxism  communism  dedollehond  paullafargue  situationist  malcomclaren  bowwowwow  pirating  music  1980s  lifelonglearning  unemployment  idleness  leisure  leisurearts  artleisure  sleep  boredom  learning  raoulvaneigem  freetime  openstudio  openstudioproject  lcproject  revolution  fluxus  productivity  giorgioagamben  potentiality  hermanmelville 
july 2014 by robertogreco

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