Images, words and political praxes from the bodies of precariousness: notes for a discourse theory
It is not a measurement. Nor is it a coordinate or the statement of a convention.
The moment that expresses the margins of representation, the cadence needed for discerning the constructive quality of the image, is real time.
the works and the days: (dis)organising production
“What is the ‘score’ that post-Fordist workers have unceasingly had to play from the moment they were called upon to give proof of virtuosity? The answer is something like this: the sui generis ‘score’ of present-day labour is Intellect qua public Intellect, general intellect, global social knowledge, shared linguistic ability. And we could also say: production demands virtuosity and thus introduces many traits that are peculiar to political action, precisely and solely because Intellect has become the principal productive force, premise and epicentre of every poiesis.”
Thus, in a recent text, and once again discussing “general intellect”, defined by Marx in 1850, the Italian philosopher Paolo Virno begins to elucidate some of the fundamental components of what is known as immaterial work, while at the same time pondering how to reendow with (counter)power those characteristics which, like flexibility, reticularity, imagination or capacity for improvisation, were once the patrimony of certain political praxes and which have gradually been assimilated and made profitable by the forms of transnational production, to the point of becoming typical strategies of global capital. As occurred with certain art products, the History of goods is being dematerialised and once again fetichised, acquiring the ways and value gains of symbolic production. It is the era of full-time work, of productive bodies working beyond working hours.
In the new construction of the History of “bullet time” , work-consumption is an index of visibility; it is a guarantee of existence by means of the citizenry issued by the franchise states. Its disquieting interruption of linearity has not brought about the deactivation of the dream of the end, but rather normativising micro-discourses, minor reifying mythologies.
If, until only a few decades ago, we continued to regard the term “work” as production – as opposed to reproduction – and as a concept linked to salaried employment, not only do we now speak of “Just In Time” care or hyperflexibility, but the traditional divergences are fading, and spatial and conceptual oppositions between times/places of work and leisure are no longer operative. Biowork now determines our relations. Precariousness erodes us and rearticulates our personal decisions and the making of our subjectivities.
Inhabitants as we are of “total work”, since the 1970s and in the face of traditional trade unionism, the call for negation/productive sabotage and defection becomes a fundamental position of resistance.
It is within this climate of redefinition and based on my own experience as an immaterial worker in the field of culture that real time has come into being. Reactivating certain questions already addressed in the past, the project seeks to investigate the possibility/opportunity of building a visibility and a narrativity suitable to the new working class (which, echoing certain authors, we could call cognitariat), far removed from classic militant cinema or well-meaning television documentary. At the same time, it reflects on the capacity for generating effective political forms through texts (words and images), which remove action strategies from the field of productive work and reinsert them, as Paolo Virno observes, into the public sphere.
(re)fixing the gaze, (re)occupying the representation (from precariousness)
“I believe that traditional dramatic forms can no longer work for new contents. I mean the language of images. The decoding of this language varies according to the era.”
Imbricated in a genealogy which I feel myself to be a part of, real time sets out from the dialectic of negativity in which certain audiovisual stories from the sixties are consciously based, and positions itself in defection and sabotage through narratives of negation (de-aesthetisation, unediting, defection and articulated silences) off-screen, cropping and the coincidence between the diegetic time and real time of the sequence shot, in order to propose representation as a privileged territory of political praxis, a reoccupiable and necessary space for symbolic production from which to generate, perhaps, an exodus channel for the general intellect.
Structured around two focal concepts – (dis)organisation and (re)occupation – which articulate the strategies mentioned in the foregoing paragraph, and with Chantal Akerman’s emblematic film “Jeanne Dielman” (1975) as fundamental (de)constructive material, this is a fragmentary project consisting of three parts: a short (counter)archive (unfinished, subjective, asystematic, situated in deficiency...), which sets out the materials and conditions of the work process (books, films, interviews, financing, time limits...), and seeks to demonstrate the hierarchies implicit in any ordering of knowledge and in the production of any “document” and “story”; a written text, where, through notes and based on the groups of women we have worked with, a possible theory of representation as a setting for political action is sketched; and a single channel video. As an exercise in film unediting and committed research into certain groups of European women who work in today’s conditions of precariousness, real time in its audiovisual form proposes a parallel interpretation of certain feminist discourses and actions, and certain representation strategies as referential political praxes.
Because, as I said some months ago, and backed by the demonstrations against the war in Iraq, “Encouraged by what Martha Rosler terms participatory representation, we believe that our task as artists and cultural producers in favour of struggles here and now is to build representations and stories and gestures that embody our dreams and make possible the transmission of our experiences, that generate collective memory and knowledge, that create narrations of the multitude of multitudes, of which we form a part, and that produce story/stories. To interweave the autobiographies of everyone in order to challenge the limits of the visible and invisible, confident that in this way, and through the persistent presence of our bodies in the streets - the bodies of all women, the bodies of all men –, we develop political action.”
Production: Sala Montcada, La Caixa (Barcelona)
Lenguage: Spanish /english subtitled
-(con Ursula Biemann) TOTAL WORK. Sala Montcada (Barcelona)(2003)
-ATELIER EUROPE: A SMALL POST-FORDIAN DRAMA Kunstverein (Munich) (2004)
-PROCESSOS OBERTS (Terrassa, Barcelona) www.p-oberts-org (2004)
-OS TRABALLOS E OS DÍAS. Galería Ad Hoc (Vigo) (2006) (solo exhibition)
-Genealogías del arte feminista español (Ciclo de cine). MUSAC, León (2013)
-ECONOMY. Stills, Edinburgh and CCA, Glasgow (2013)