Art Criticism and the Pandemic II - Safer Spaces

May 13, 2021 11:46 · 14182 words · 67 minute read

My name is Sarah Turner and I’m the Deputy Director for Research at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British art.

00:10 - Welcome to today’s event, which is part of the Art Criticism and the Pandemic II ,organised in collaboration with Chris McCormack, Associate Editor of Art Monthly.

00:22 - It is a real honour to be working with Chris and we’re grateful for all his energy and his collaboration and the new prospectives and ideas and people that he has brought to the centre’s programme.

00:27 - So those of you who are new to the centre in the audience, you can find out more about our work as a research centre and an educational charity on our website and there you’ll find recordings of our past events, digital publications, and more information about our collections and our future programmes.

00:36 - The centre is physically located in Bedford Square in London and we have our library and our archive and an event space there and we hope that we will be able to welcome you back into the space for research and for events once we’re able to do so.

00:41 - Art in the pandemic part two is unfolding over two days.

00:42 - Yesterday we considered the idea of safer spaces and today, we’re thinking about Wearing Out with a range of art critics, artists and activists and art historians and poets and writers who will discuss the implications of the current pandemic.

00:57 - Collectively these two panels will continue and reshape the discussions had at the Art Criticism and the Art Criticism and the Pandemic II events organised with Chris and the centre in July 2020 which considered how the structures of a globalised art world had been interrupted, or changed and whether in the context of renewed activism the art world was addressing problems of inequity and injustice.

01:32 - These ideas remain just as urgent, if not more so, as the art world neglects a legacy and ramifications of making, thinking and writing about art in the context of a global pandemic.

01:48 - These events are spaces for testing out ideas rather than final words.

01:54 - There will be spaces for question and discussion punctuating the talk today.

01:59 - The talks will be recorded and hosted on the centre’s website.

02:05 - Before handing over to Chris to introduce our panel, we’ll just quickly run through some of the housekeeping for the online webinars.

02:17 - So, you can see that the talks will last around five to ten minutes.

02:23 - There will be space for Q and A. We will invite you to ask questions using the question and answer box which you find at the bottom of your screen and we really encourage audience participation.

02:32 - We want to hear from you. We know you’re out there listening and watching and it is great to have that sense of community and a collective space for ideas and reflections through these events.

02:40 - The event has live closed captioning and if you want to see that, you click on the cc icon control on the panel towards the bottom of your screen.

02:50 - You can also use the chat box to make comments.

02:52 - You might want to share links and resources as you listen and reflect on the talks that we’re going to hear today.

02:57 - The session, as I said, will be recorded and we ask you not to take photographs during it and any offensive behaviour will not be tolerated and attendees can be removed from the webinar by the host.

03:12 - But we hope that, of course, won’t be necessary.

03:13 - So without further a do, I’d like to welcome you all and welcome our panel and Chris McCormack I’m going to hand over to now.

03:21 - Over to you, Chris. CHRIS: Thank you, Sarah.

03:28 - It is great to be here for another day. We’ve got a lot to get through.

03:33 - I’ll try and keep this as brief as possible.

03:37 - I would like to thank the Paul Mellon Centre and Sarah Turner for being wonderful hosts and for bringing this programme together and to reflect upon the urgent questions raised during this summit and I’d like to thank Shauna Blanchfield.

03:54 - Yesterday we considered the reclassification of burdens that fall over certain lives and questioning the political order that denies access.

04:01 - Today’s talks examine how the pandemic has increased work surveillance and chronic exhaustion and where this sense of illness will be paid and the common place discussion of contemporary fatigue and anxiety and depression points to the way living has become a sea of the wearing out of life.

04:25 - Speakers today will reflect upon lives more at risk of infection through socio economic consequences of racism and under payment and wage relations and the legacy of HIV AIDS activism, questioning how might kinships wear out together and how may art works continue to play a part in redefining the public sphere or enable us to consider the interrelations of equity and collective care.

04:38 - This leads me to welcome today’s panel. It is truly an honour to have you all here and I do appreciate and thank you for taking the time to contribute to this session.

04:57 - We’re joined by Oreet Ashery, Marc Aziz Michael, Monica Narula, Dante Micheaux, Jackson Davidow.

05:04 - Dr Ashry is an associate professor of fine art and works across video, textiles and writing.

05:14 - More recently Ashry questioned how boundaries between illness life and death are transformed through digital technologies.

05:22 - Dr Jackson Davidow is an independent researcher with a focus on queer and feminist and decolonial and black a asthetic practises.

05:28 - Doctor Leigh Claire La Berge is associate professor of English at City University New York and is a fellow at the Freie University in Berlin.

05:41 - Leigh Claire La Berge is working on a new book about Marxism called Marx for Cats: A Radical Bestiary.

05:51 - Leigh Claire La Berge has received fellowships.

05:54 - Marc Aziz Michael teaches sociology, anthropology and media studies at the American University in Beirut.

06:00 - He has taught in Abu Dhabi. He is writing a book about the history of commercial banking and his spare time he is training as an analyst.

06:08 - in terms of today’s structure, we will have Leigh Claire La Berge and Monica Narula present before moving to Dante Micheaux and Jackson Davidow and Oreet.

06:17 - Attendees pose questions in the chat-room and by all means between ourselves we can always interject and cut across each other when and if appropriate.

06:24 - So if I could kindly ask Leigh Claire La Berge to start her presentation and we will start things rolling.

06:31 - LEIGH: Before I get started, can everyone hear me? Yes? Okay.

06:35 - Wonderful. Well, first, thank you Chris for the invitation and Shauna for the administrative labour and I thank all the panellists.

06:43 - I wish we could be in person. I would love to meet you all, but perhaps next year.

06:51 - So, I want to start my presentation today with a little story and that is last year before the pandemic hit, I was beginning work on a new book which I had provisionally entitled This Changes Nothing.

07:07 - It was going to be, or it might still be about discourses of rapid change through commodification and technology, and global warming.

07:16 - I mention this today because while I was beginning work on this book, the pandemic emerged and interrupted my patterns of work and interrupted the project itself and indeed, all of a sudden, changed everything for me.

07:32 - So, it was an awkward intellectual con juncture.

07:36 - Now, as I start to think about reflecting on the past year and sort of asking what happened, I think in particular about how we have come to work this year or how our work has changed this year.

07:52 - How our patterns of work have changed this year.

07:55 - What I’d like to speak about today is a concept that I developed in my last book, the book was called Wages Against Artwork.

08:11 - It looked at how socially engaged artists, mostly, but not entirely in the United States, were critiquing and reconfiguring patterns of labour, what I’d like to do today is present the main concept that emerged from my book and if we have time in the discussion to ask you to think about our enquire how does this concept hold up a year into the pandemic? So the concept is called decommodified labour.

08:51 - So, how do we think labour in our economic present and in the age of financialisation, under the organisation of what many commentators have explained as fire economy, so that’s finance, insurance, real estate.

09:04 - What are our metrics for and what are our theoretical orientations of conceptualising labour? The past few years have seen the questions of labour’s contemporaneity, having a return from its bio politics based exile.

09:12 - Historians have started to wonder if we have seen the rise and the fall of the job and also whether many of us will live a, “Wage-less life” to the academic discussions, we could add the Wall Street Journal and Forbes which has the “new normal.

09:24 - “ I would like to suggest a return to the fundamental questions of labour and a certain configuration of labour in particular and that’s what I call decommodified labour.

09:37 - It is a way to think labour that becomes available after financialisation and that refers to a sort of emptying out of the same wage relation that nonetheless continues to structure our lives.

09:45 - So, the old line working harder, hardly working needs a new conjunction.

09:47 - In an age of decommodified labour one find one’s self working hard and hardly working.

09:52 - I want to suggest that decommodified labour offers cultural critics a form for isolating labour today that take account of its relation to the wage, its cultural resonances and that can assist in periodising our current labour capital relationships.

10:04 - So, I want to make two claims today. First, I want to suggest that decommodified labour could provide a terminology and a methodology for thinking of labour in our current con juncture and secondly, I want to argue that decommodified labour both generates and is located in some of our most timely cultural and artistic forms.

10:19 - So, I hope to demonstrate that for scholars that a concept should contain a methodology for its own production.

10:30 - It should be able to be articulated historically, economically and atheticically.

10:34 - It maybe interrupted as a response to what various critics have understood as the late 20th century shifting composition of value.

10:40 - Whether that moment is diagnosed as the ends of the kensian compact or the neoliberalisation of the state.

10:47 - Either way, what has happened is that an emergent financial infrastructure has allowed for an increase in the price of assets, so see any of our current stock markets, without either a wage increase or a currency adjustment and both of those could have transformative social and cultural affects.

11:05 - As with any athetic economical historical cultural concept, decommodified labour is indexable, but not reducible to an imperical reality.

11:12 - We have multiple data points on which to draw.

11:15 - Most will be found in the United States. First, in the United States, there has been no increase in real wages from 1970.

11:23 - A co-ordinated national and international effort led by the United States has essentially halted wage growth and offered in its place ever expanding forms of consuming credit.

11:34 - We can further qualify how unemployment, how employment is generated in such a scene.

11:37 - The economic historian Erin Benev notes, in high income countries by 2010, more than one in six workers and one in four younger workers was counted as surplus to labour demands.

11:46 - “ So, my contention is that in such a scene, people will start working under the structures of the wage, but do so without a wage and this what I mean by decommodified labour.

11:50 - We encounter decommodified labour daily in cultural production, cultural consumption and indeed, the content of various cultural texts.

11:56 - The Guardian reports that 71% of artists in the UK received no wage for their work.

12:02 - Surely that number is higher in the United States.

12:05 - Reality television runs on decommodified labour as often those real people we see on television forego a wage in exchange for exposure.

12:13 - As within of the items in my book states, “Payment is on an unpaid basis”.

12:19 - That’s how the salary for these positions is advertised.

12:21 - Payment is on an unpaid basis. It was reported in the United States that Urban Out fitters asked employees to volunteer for six hour holiday shifts.

12:32 - It would be like work, but without the wage.

12:35 - Indeed, the United States now has the highest level of volunteers and agree to work without a wage.

12:42 - Add to that the millions of internships and between one-third and one half of all Uber and Lyft drivers receive no wage and the uncompensated dramas of many college sport, the list goes on.

12:53 - Yet in its very termology, decommodified labour may appear total logical.

12:56 - Labour as opposed to work is a commodity. Labour implies the corporation of labour power into a system of economic exchange.

13:01 - A commodity is something that’s made by a waged labour and sold on a market.

13:05 - For most that describes the worker herself.

13:10 - Why would a decommodified labour be labour power that which which humans are endowed before it is sold.

13:23 - Why route labour power through a commodity chain only then to claim an exception to that commodity chain? The answer to these questions is that with decommodified labour, the commodity chain is still in place as with the presumptions of labour and the infrastructure of associated benefits and lawsuits.

13:44 - The only thing missing is the wage itself which is deemed incommensurate with the work.

13:50 - I want to stop there and hopefully we can come back to the questions during the Q and A and think about what the status of formal unpaid labour is both during and after the pandemic.

13:59 - So, thank you very much and I look forward to everyone’s comments and the panellists presentations.

14:06 - CHRIS: Many thanks Leigh Claire. If we can move on to Marc Aziz Michael.

14:11 - MARC: Thank you for the introduction Chris and thank you to everyone here today for the conversation.

14:16 - It is a pleasure. I called this presentation Hanging Out.

14:19 - It is actually Hanging, Out. Partially because I believe it is something that is becoming impossible and so I was very, I found the title of this panel in terms of Wearing Out and in relation to text very appealing because it gestures towards something that isn’t a crisis and towards something that has been happening very slowly over time.

14:42 - Almost like tectonic shifts that are unnoticeable.

14:44 - I would call it a slow death of the social and that’s what I want to open up for discussion today.

14:53 - Partially this is coming out of a book that I’m writing on banking, but actually on the type of social relations that occur within the financialised system.

15:05 - But it is also coming out - this is a slightly more personal talk in the sense that it is coming out of a lot of my experience of this loss especially after the pandemic.

15:17 - Or after the pandemic began. I don’t think that the pandemic crisis is necessarily causing this in the sense that it is I’m not trying to dramatise the crisis in such a way, but it is more that the pandemic is highlighting something that’s been endemic for a long time.

15:39 - The thing is exemplified by Zoom, but I’ll start with Hanging, Out.

15:43 - Hanging, Out. Hanging, out has a number of contested origins as a terms.

15:47 - A number of dictionaries are suggesting that hanging out comes from the really modern practise of hanging shindles out and opening up for business.

15:58 - It is the creation of a commercial space and then people can come and hang out in a pub or a tavern or something like that once the sign has been hung out.

16:05 - Now, the other potential - usually couples that have been fighting in areas of the Netherlands and of the UK, couples that have been fighting would hang out a broom in front of the window of the house to suggest that one of the two members of the household was absent and that the other one was therefore, available for hanging out.

16:26 - So, welcoming a number of friends for no particular purpose within the house.

16:30 - Just wasting time. Now, English is one of the few languages I know that has this ambiguity between something that seems purposeless as in the version of hanging the broom out and the commercial origin of that term.

16:42 - In almost no other language that I can think of can you find a commercial origin for hanging out.

16:46 - So in French for instance, something that would have negative connotations in English like lurking or being around the space.

16:51 - There are no good words for it in English. So, what I want to get at here is that the idea of purposeless or formally purposeless being together is becoming harder and harder and that somehow has been embedded even in the English language for a long time.

17:06 - So, Zoom is a very good example of how this is happening.

17:10 - So, the digitisation of social exchange, let’s say, has had one of these unfortunate consequences that it is becoming harder and harder to be together without a purpose.

17:18 - So before jumping on a Zoom call, I have to think a few times whether the Zoom call is worth it.

17:23 - Is it worth it having Zoom fatigue? Is it worth it to be having lower back pain? Is it worth it to be staring at my screen for another hour or two? I noticed it myself and a lot of other people that we’re starting to become much more consciously aware of the accounting logic for our social exchanges.

17:40 - Therefore, of course, the social becomes a domain of exchange in itself.

17:43 - So, it becomes more - even though Zoom facilitates meetings or interactions, at the same time it facilitates certain types of meetings and interaction so-so you’re not going to jump on Zoom for no reason.

17:53 - I think in this sense, we’re dealing with something very similar, I would compare it perhaps to the AIDS crisis whereby sexual pleasure becomes embedded in the logic of accounting.

17:59 - So, because of the risks associated with sexual pleasure, one has to start accounting for the worth of the pleasure, trying to measure the pleasure itself and trying to see if somehow the pleasure stands up to the risks that are entailed by engaging in this activity.

18:13 - We’re still living in the aftermath of the accounting for pleasure of the AIDS crisis although, you know, with some AIDS vaccines on the horizon, with pep and prep with a number of ways of coping or managing the disease, it should have subsided, but because of some of the moral aspects of it, it seems not to and I wonder if something similar is happening to social pleasure.

18:45 - I don’t even want to say social pleasure or just the pleasure of being together.

18:48 - Whereby now I think for the first time perhaps in history, although there have been other pandemics and we can talk about them in the Q and A if we want to, we are dealing with a logic of accounting that is permeating our interactions with one another.

19:01 - So before leaving your house, you have to wonder, we have been doing that for a year, you have to wonder whether it is worth it? Whether it is worth the risk and therefore you have to start measuring the pleasure of being together and of spending time with another.

19:24 - I think this exercise of trying to measure that is not new in and of itself.

19:31 - I think it’s something that has been imposed upon us and done to us for a very long time, but it has definitely been exacerbated by the pandemic in the way that has made it increasingly difficult to be together.

19:43 - Now, this - I mean I could go through, I don’t have that much time probably left, but one thing I would like to point out in the history of it is the history of Hanging, Out.

20:03 - So you have a long history of hanging out and how it has been criminalised by the state that I could get back to if people are interested, but visible in things like the street terrorism enforcement policies in the US for instance or ASBOs in the UK, the anti-social behavioural something – ordnances.

20:27 - It would ban hanging out. So groups of friends cannot be seen spending time together in certain spaces or at all in some cases and this is to prevent gangsters.

20:38 - We have a criminalisation of hanging out within working classes and that’s been going on for a long time.

20:42 - We have a ridiculing of the same down-time or purposelessness of being together amongst elites especially let’s say in media depictions of art especially elite forms of art that are considered to be just wastes of time.

20:53 - The accounting of time is not new once again.

20:54 - So, and it is particularly with children and the idea that idle hands do the devil’s work and the campaigns by NGOs and by charities to remove kids off the streets and to make sure that kids are not just hanging out and not spending time together, but are actually doing something purposeful and doing something intentional and doing something that is self-building, self-improving and that matters, that accumulates human capital etcetera, etcetera.

21:15 - Coming back to Wearing Out, I believe that, you know, sorry, I work at - I’m studying and I also work with large groups and facilitating this being together and I’m not sure why and there is something therapeutic about it and I think, and I can also talk about this more, but there is something very political about and relearning unstructured socialisation because a lot of studies have found that people take more risks if they’re used to unstructured socialisation and this is one of the reasons why unstructured socialisation is banned.

21:40 - In a society where we inhabit, where risk is borne and it is privatised, there is something about unstructured socialisation and being together without a reason that allows us to take more risks and that could be potentially be very threatening.

21:58 - In relation to art, I think, my question is the definition of aesthetic as something that is formally purposeless.

22:05 - That is somehow free from consumption or that gives you the impression of purpose, but actually doesn’t have one.

22:10 - The aesthetic sense, the appreciation of beauty can be similar to a being together that doesn’t also, that is formally purposeless, but is also doing something that we cannot know to us that is very important.

22:23 - Thank you very much. CHRIS: Thanks, Marc.

22:25 - That relates to something what Leigh Claire was saying.

22:29 - Thank you very much. If I could ask Monica that start her screen, that would be wonderful.

22:35 - MONICA: Thank you, Chris. This is a really fascinating conversation and there is so much to take from what Leigh Claire and Marc Aziz Michael have spoken.

22:46 - When Chris asked me to come on to this panel, I thought I would speak of ideas, to think of questions of Wearing Out, but through ideas of care and toxicity that we had been thinking that we have in the collective and there are three of us and we have been working together for months.

23:20 - As was telegraphed earlier, I’m right now in New Delhi and there are some slightly more urgent responses to how we are sort of at this point of time living and dealing with ideas around care which is what I want to focus my few minutes of thinking aloud on and I want to begin with this what we used to hear, “Water, water, everywhere, and not a bit to drink.

23:48 - “ I used to think of it as imbalance. You have to watch out in that sense.

23:56 - What you can and can’t use. I was thinking the other day that it might be a way of for the moment learning to, or what struck me is it could be a way of looking at and understanding the fact that abundance should not be seen as a guarantee to our deepest live giving needs.

24:17 - I mean, we take things for granted. Some might, for example.

24:20 - Of course, air and oxygen which are now both speaking to us and if you know anything about Delhi, you have seen the newspapers at all, you will have seen photographs, pictures and images of rows and rows of people who are breathless and hungry for oxygen and we have seen that mediation that is happening between the body and air and one is the technological mediation, of course, the oxygen cylinder which is on the black market and almost impossible to acquire in in this space of mediation that we need to think about is the idea of care or repair.

24:57 - The crucial question to me is will the logic of care follow the harshness and hardness around production and evaluation? Both of which have been talked about in different ways by the first two speakers or will care find a way to assert itself and alert us to thinking of new values and affections? Clearly, we are in a moment of rupture and this moment is forcing otherwise what are blurred antagonistic lines to absorb into new concept of thought and presence and memory.

25:18 - I was really surprised by the fact in the last year, wait a minute, 100 years ago, millions more people died of the Spanish flu than the first war and yet we never actually - we don’t know anything more about the flu, and the four years of the flu, but that it passed.

25:37 - There is a new memory what has entered my horizon, but these new contours, I was thinking, we have to find ways of care around them, but poetic care and artistic care and also healing care and nourishing care because care can’t be a secondary value after the tearing of the seams that has been happening in our lives, the destruction that it has brought about, but it needs to be seen as a crux value and from a vantage point that we have to connect all all the body and the machine that I started speaking about and how do we bring in institutions into this relationship, this space? And this probably will slow down the deliberations of living, but we all know now again the necessity of care in our bones and in our lungs, literally.

26:33 - So perhaps it is a time to welcome this. In a way, I’m actually really responding to the moment and saying, “What is it that is clearly what, you know, in the last weeks, in the last months, we have seen as a kind of first principle that is the only reason that we are all sort of surviving and being able to talk to each other.

27:00 - The pyramid of healthcare in India, which has been so well guarded by what can only be, I don’t know, what we can only call, voodoo institutional lodgics and it has collapsed.

27:11 - It has gone to ground in a few short months.

27:15 - There has been this meritcratic idea around health and education and if I stand to say this, also in art which is that there is a production of social goods or outcomes so health, education, art, are also social goods and outcomes.

27:29 - This is standing on incredibly weak ground which can collapse very, very quickly and no amount of national pride or exceptionalism can help anyone.

27:38 - We have seen this in the last months. So, we think it is time that art takes a very hard look at its own pyramids, its own models of infrastructure and flow and it needs to give new imagination to infrastructure pretty much first as well as coalitions and when I’m using the word, “Infrastructure” I’m implying a combination of material and immaterial, both aspects as well as how we create effective concentrations and how the concentrations get relayed.

28:10 - Through the effective concentrations and relays and through the material and immaterial aspects, there is the nesting and travelling of multiplicities of newer protagonists.

28:17 - I don’t think art needs to remind us merely of how we are suffering now.

28:22 - We do have a lot of. It is not a public secret, but I think what we need to think about is, art could also be thinking about how could all this devastation happen so quickly? Like why did it take so little for it to fall apart? We think that to repair, to think on ideas of repair, and to repair, will need reapprehension.

28:44 - It is not just a question of how one looks, but also of changing the contours of what one looks through.

28:52 - How does one reapprehend things and how does one reapprehend breathlessness.

28:56 - In 2018, we had a work called Deep Breath which was really thinking, which is a 20 minute film on thinking on the forgetting of air.

29:05 - It is, you know, it is interesting because we didn’t know obviously that one of the members of Raqs would be in hospital battling for air so soon.

29:12 - So you could call this artistic intuition, but artistic intuition needs relays of conversations, as well as improper procedures, that help build parallel lines of connections and these connections have to be across all kinds of people and places, not only the forgetting of air, but the forgetting of air that, it seems to only begun in certain parts of the world.

29:36 - There is an attempt to go back to business as usual, but this can only be countered by shifts in what I was calling infrastructure, but as well as interprocedural thinking.

29:48 - How can we think about making these at the heart of our practice ourselves? In India, there has been a deep sort of exceptionalism myopia that led to the carnage.

29:56 - The courts are using words like, “Genocide”.

29:58 - The question I think is can we, should we, in the art world return to this idea? What is business as usual? There have been attempts at art situations at least a few months ago, and you could walk into this room and you could see a lot of art that had been made possibly earlier, possibly more recently, but sort of not perhaps being as attentive to the moment as I think it needed to be.

30:39 - One could say that it was important for people to feel a moment of joyousness, but that is not what the pandemic is.

30:47 - I’m talking about how one can bring certain ideas to the forefront, or certain methodology, certain reapprehensions to the forefront so they can transform lives.

30:59 - But habits such as peer-to-peer conversations that can expand and envelope many places and dialects and moments of time.

31:06 - I just want to end with one last point. What we’re seeing is a kind of shift in intimacies of scale.

31:12 - A very small virus is making us think of how we are connected.

31:17 - Connected through our fragilities, but connected to the planet, of course, to the whole world, to machines, to knowledge, to limits and also to pernicious modes of profiteering, perhaps our breathlessness, we could discover a new people or an art world that speaks of another, not just one, but multiple worlds.

31:37 - Thank you. CHRIS: Many thanks, Monica.

31:39 - I hope it gets better very soon. I think if I could ask Marc and Leigh Claire to rejoin.

31:43 - It is interesting when we’re looking at ideas of the failing of the welfare state here on such a big level and how it is not protecting the interests of so many people, especially in India and in terms of HIV AIDS and the 80s and it continues to that across the world and globally, and in a sense what we’re doing as artists, producers and thinkers is building a stopgap or fulfilling an area that maybe is missing.

32:11 - I’m interested in maybe talking about that and also what Leigh Claire was mentioning was wage relations.

32:17 - Is there something we can say about that? MARC: I’m happy to take a shot at this question.

32:23 - I think that there is a specific narrative of kind of the victory of liberalism over socialism, communism, over the course of the 19th, 20th century especially after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 90s and how neoliberalisation therefore has kind of in a mono-polar world accelerated, exploitation and some of the things, some of the tendencies that Leigh has mentioned, but I think there is another narrative and this is what I was trying to bring out.

32:49 - So even if we look at union activism. Around the logic of community and risk in individuals.

32:56 - So, a lot of my research in Egypt has been about the ways in which certain communities function and how the link between affect and materiality is central to the functioning of communities.

33:09 - You can’t really separate between having affection for someone and also having material duties towards that person in a neat way, in the ways in which these two things can be separated in a very financialised system like the UK or the US or Switzerland.

33:22 - So in Egypt, only 10% of the population has a bank account.

33:25 - Your surplus is not stored in a bank account.

33:29 - Your surplus circulates amongst communities of trust.

33:33 - There is a specific, let’s say, informal knowledge of how to trust and how to relate and how to owe and how to be owed and how to forgive that can’t be repaid over time and how to just circulate materially and combine the material in a way that’s been completely forgotten in a space like the US or Switzerland.

33:53 - And that allows for a lot of political resistance.

33:54 - So I’m just going to point out one. It is for instance, union activism.

33:58 - If you know that you can crash at your third removed, three times removed cousin’s place for five months and be fed, you’re going to be without too many questions asked, there will be tensions, but not too many questions asked.

34:13 - You will be capable of taking the risk of fighting for what you believe is right and for instance trying to unionise and you might be fired.

34:21 - Without that, and in the absence of a functioning welfare state it becomes impossible for the struggles to be imaginable.

34:25 - So there is really something very important here, not about liberalisation or the failure of the welfare state, but about financialisation and its kind of change in the way we behave towards one another and relate to one another where these forms of generosity and the non-accounting of the self are gone and without these forms of relations, various forms of political resistance become impossible.

34:47 - CHRIS: Leigh Claire, do you have any thoughts about what Marc was raising there? LEIGH: It is quite interesting.

34:56 - I can’t speak to the Egyptian or Swiss really context, but of course, I mean my reaction is, obviously, there is a infrastructures.

35:04 - certain freedom to be found outside of these financialised, for back of a better word, of these financial This resonates a bit with what you just said, Marc.

35:08 - I would say that in my own research on artists, again mostly in the United States, not completely, some in the UK, but most in the United States, there is a similar freedom found in having no wage, right? In engaging in these wage-like collectives or not wage-like collectives, but collectives which seek to produce kinds of employment like infrastructures and kinds of material benefits, but do so without the wage.

35:45 - Certainly in my work and in my discussions with artists who are engaging in these practises, some of them found a real freedom from precisely the form of structure that you make reference to.

36:05 - At the same time, again, I mean this is speaking in the American context, it is also - there is also a hardship implied and a hardship experienced without the sort of promise of these wage structures, right? I mean I think that the point is taken.

36:34 - But I would just in my own research say that it is always two-sided.

36:41 - Sophie Fedrici had a comment, one has to have a wage, but that’s not nearly enough.

36:47 - I think there is always this sort of contradiction that is implied in these economic structures of modernity.

36:58 - CHRIS: Monica, your practise since the 90s and largely an international profile.

37:02 - So you’re coming at it from a very broad prospective.

37:07 - I was interested in maybe your thoughts on how you’ve approached subjects of making work and also participating and in a sense what that’s revealed to you in terms of the exchange and so on.

37:15 - I’m interested in - how has the lockdown produced a repetition of behaviour of action, but also, as you said, forged new ways of trying to find constellations of thinking? MONICA: Such big questions, Chris.

37:25 - Listening to everyone speaking, the question really is, when one looks at other habits of living, are these to be seen as kind of not of the now.

37:32 - You are see this is what often happens. Like Leigh said they are the contradictions of modernity and often another place, another time might be happening at the same time, the same place.

37:40 - How does one - that’s why I was trying - how does one knit those together or see if there is anything outside of the question of contradiction? That’s why I was speaking on ideas of infrastructural thinking and reapprehending because I was thinking like, it is not so much the fact that obviously we all need to live.

38:01 - What does it mean to be decommodified labour and as artists, there is always that ex-hill ration.

38:08 - For example, we were doing this exhibition in Delhi called Five Million Incidents.

38:12 - Itlessed over a year. Lots of people participated in lots of different ways, but I want to talk about the idea of why we call it Five Million Incidents.

38:19 - You could propose any incident and so on. It was a year long exhibition, but the point - the incident could be a moment in time.

38:26 - It could be two hours. It could be an evening.

38:31 - It could be three months long. It could be the entirety of the year.

38:36 - I think this - A, that was the crucial thing was that one begins by saying that it the frames of reference are not going to be defined in the way that one thinks that they’re defied.

38:47 - B, the other one was why call it five billion? There can’t be five million incidents, but one began with the idea if there can be one incident, there can be five million incidents.

38:59 - What was interesting for that process and I would say as part of the entire year long situations that developed from that was the fact that because of leakages and things were juks opposed and no one knew what an incident was and was trying to figure out and no one knew how long it needed to be and we were exploring that, you had a relational zone between work and people and if I may say of time shared, not just in the way of like we are sharing time together, but what does it mean to think of platitude in microbe moments if you will.

39:46 - That’s what I meant by reapprehending. It creates another kind of - the terms, we all need to survive and we are decommodified labour and yet between the two, there is something else that’s being created and that’s perhaps a place where one can look at decommodifiation and labour, possibly not differently and see where that takes us.

40:15 - CHRIS: Any further thoughts? Shall we move on to our next speaker? LEIGH: A wonderful summation, Monica, thank you.

40:22 - CHRIS: Yes, thank you. In the nature of time we should move on to our next speaker, Dante Micheaux.

40:29 - Start your screen, Dante. DANTE: The Acid Queen.

40:31 - DANTE: I’m just going to sort of collect several thoughts around precarity and intellectual labour.

40:34 - I want us to begin one, by considering the Acid Queens aria from the blues 1969 rock opera Tommy, the self-identified no longer political correct gypsy of white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant imagination demands.

40:43 - What to my mind is the demand explicit, repressed or otherwise of every artist more so in a time of pandemic, pay me before I start.

40:53 - In the clip from the 1975 cinematic version of this opera which you have just seen, Tina Turner changes the lyrics to the subjective.

41:07 - Like most clients, or to be purchasers, what Tommy’s father thinks he is buying is a product.

41:18 - In this case, a hallucigen or sex. She goes on to say confidently, “I guarantee to tear your soul apart.

41:28 - What other reason does the spectator come to art if not to be altered in this way.

41:38 - Her confidence is rooted in the knowledge that her product is fugitive and any consumer is implicated in that fudgetivity.

41:46 - Since the entrenchment of Covid-19, a week has not pass in which a peer, play right, dancer has complained that one institution or another has invited them to contribute their talents for free.

41:59 - This is particularly evident among queer artists of colour wokeness by trotting out token members of staff to proclaim how much my life matters or darken the hew of programme makers.

42:11 - What did they do with the proportion of the budgets from the 201920 budget that was not spent on artist travel and accommodation.

42:20 - Pay us before we start? Not likely.

42:22 - The 21 budget was too heavily hit by the budget for us to offer you an honourium, but our director’s six figure salary remains intact.

42:31 - We usually find ourselves under employed on forced into itinerant work.

42:34 - The poem I’m going to read speaks to that experience for Dixie, British participants may substitute rule Britannia or any other colonial anthem.

42:40 - Here I am your general servant crit add to aid, to think of your ideas before you have them, remind you of orders never given, retrieve your glasses from the top of your head, excuse your messes, pretend I lack intelligence, whistle Dixie for your pleasure.

42:55 - Give advice for I you ask, but will not take, ignore your dementia, decline all invitations above my station, fetch you chocolates, the smooth your wrinkles, admire, think you’re grand, be quiet, mask the deception, edify you, speak only when spoken to, be confident of an ineptitude, shield your flickering flame, be unappreciated and serve you all the days of your life.

43:35 - Three, it is important to remember that for the artists the making of a work, a ballet, a sculpture, a song cycle is a mode of intellectual labour and unlike the rigours of a while collar eight hour shift produces, something of cultural significance and value, though unfortunately, usually, of less monetary value than say a financial product from Barclays Wealth Management.

44:07 - The irony that only the wealthiest artists can aafford to decry, should knob beyond the scope of our social thinking.

44:18 - When the collector purchases a signed edition of the palace of peacock, they are not only purchasing the object, but the artist’s time and thought.

44:27 - The aspects of their labour. Four, as Tony Morrison reminded us in her 2013 speech the price of wealth, the cost of care, art invites us to take the journey beyond price, beyond costs and to bearing witness to the world as it is and as it should be.

44:48 - Art invites us to know beauty and to solicit it from even the most tragic of circumstances.

44:55 - This next and final poem attempts to make sense of the des serration of the remains of an 18 enslaved man named Fortune.

45:01 - Skelton. White. The bore. Bones.

45:05 - Black, animal white bore. The black bore animm.

45:07 - Bore bones. Anima, the black, white, white.

45:09 - Bore, black bones, the anima. White bones bore the black anima.

45:11 - Five, to end with praise, the last art I experienced outside of my home and in person was a viewing of Lynette Yiadom-Boakye work.

45:17 - This show in particular is true. As we walked through the galleries in early December, we mostly talked of the material used for her canvass and the exhaustion of mounting such an exhibition.

45:24 - When I read Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s paintings, the background seems another figure, separate from the human figures, communicating.

45:29 - There is a complete generosity of colour and the truest sense of what I look like in my own imagination or perhaps what we black people look like in our collective imagination if there is such a thing and I believe there is.

45:42 - When we exit the Tate Britain, the stairs were cramped with people passing around bottles of Prosecco and hardly in compliance of the pandemic’s protocols of protective masks with social distancing.

45:54 - It began to rain and one of the people started dancing in the downpour near the ice cream van.

46:02 - Our souls were torn apart from guilt and gratitude for the escape art offered us that night.

46:06 - Thank you. CHRIS: Thanks, Dante for that description of your story at Tate Britain.

46:11 - If I could press the conversation on to Jackson.

46:12 - Jackson Davidow thank you, Dante, that was incredible.

46:14 -. Thank you, Chris for invitation to participate today and thank you, Shauna for your amazing co-ordination.

46:18 - It is a great privilege to converse with writers who I have long admired.

46:19 - When I read a description of the panel, I thought of a an AIDS activist protest that I loved dearly and I thought I would use it as a historical anchor in my presentation.

46:28 - As opposed to my book project, it is a very local story, but my hope is that it will help us condemn plate the meanings of being worn out and weary and of wary of one’s politics and I must say yesterday, I really appreciated the conversation about the relationship between local and global and I think of Simon Watt knee, the great British historian and art activists who in the 1980s commented there is no AIDS pandemic, but rather a multitude of different pandemics.

46:53 - A multitude of different health crisises which happens in London is radically different from what happens in Manchester or in Mumbai or in Beirut or in Boston and I think that this is something that we’ve all been avidly aware of over the past year as we think about our individual experiences of Covid-19 across different places.

47:10 - Even though this talk attends to Los Angeles, it is about how people respond differently to pandemics.

47:13 - On the evening of January 26th 1989, an anonymous collective of gay artists called Stiff Sheets staged a fashion show outside the Southern California Hospital.

47:19 - The tightly choreographed 13 minute sequence featured 17 fashion models, flaunting memorable looks, and audience members who were participants in drag.

47:26 - It is a fashion show, the MC assured the audience intended with the worst taste imaginable.

47:34 - The performance was divided into categories of day wear, evening wear and hospital wear and bridal gowns.

47:39 - Each outfit crafted with meticulous detail, humour and outrage, offered its own critical commentary on the multi-skill precipitated by HIV AIDS.

47:45 - Some designs cast on on the absurdity of patient experience.

47:49 - Others held more educational and activist ambitions.

47:52 - Some praised the unsung heroes of the pandemic, such as activists and night shift workers and a certain safe sex bride who wants to live to see her divorce.

48:02 - Allegedly the styles were the styles were members of the LA county board of supervisors whom activists judged to be responsible for the mushrooming prevalence of the virus.

48:13 - The collective called their performance a fabulous fascist fashion show because it put on display the politics of the health crisis which was significantly moulded and amplified by the authoritarian inaction of local elected officials.

48:24 - Clearly, the Stiff Sheets intervention was no ordinary fashion show or drag performance by any manner or means.

48:42 - It was part of a week-long around the clock vigil and demonstration programmed by AIDS coalition to unleash power, Los Angeles or LA.

49:00 - After its foundation in December 1987, the grass-roots group focused its attention on the alarming situation at LA County Hospital.

49:09 - At this point in the epidemic, the county had one of the largest populations nationally of people living with HIV AIDS.

49:22 - One-third of whom were receiving treatments and services at this very hospital.

49:32 - Yet the institution had neither a dedicated AIDS ward nor sufficient staffing.

49:34 - Activists were sick and tired of the many forms of homophobia and indifference and hypocrisy they witnessed and fell on a daily base.

49:39 - The purpose of the vigil was to demand the development of a 50 bed with 100 more beds to be made available within a year.

49:46 - The group pushed for patients to have access to the same HIV care and treatments that were available to their counterparts in private hospitals and for the establishment of a training programme for all health practitioners serving HIV populations.

50:01 - The campaign at LA county UFC Hospital was successful, giving rise to a proper AIDS ward.

50:05 - The Stiff Sheets performance sought to provide the protesters with a much needed dose of playful, if penetrating entertainment.

50:10 - The collective consisted of 20 gay men from across the creative industries, many were also members.

50:16 - Similar to how the acronym for the virus kept mutating during the 80s, the artists collective transformed with each event it planned so as to remain anonymous.

50:24 - Names were the Altared Boys, Bad Seed and Fags in Flags.

50:28 - The evocative, and yet puzzling name Stiff Sheets was a two-fold reference to the sheets covering a lifeless body in the morgue and to the sheets with dried up fluids.

50:39 - This remarkable intervention was captured on video by artists and collective member John C Goss who might be watching from California where it is very early in morning.

50:49 - Stiff Sheets was on national scales. Thanks to its inclusion in the compilation Video Against AIDS organised by John Greyson and Bill Horrigan.

50:57 - The Stiff Sheets collective was invited to adapt it for a similar protest at the Cook County Hospital in Chicago.

51:02 - As critics pointed out the HIV AIDS and Covid-19 pandemics are different.

51:06 - They have much in common as to their uneven distribution across communities and nations and the ways in which they are structured by historical, ineequities related to race, gender class, colonialism and so on.

51:18 - Over the past year, I have written a few essays about the cultural politics of Covid-19 via the ongoing history of HIV AIDS and I believe that the archive of AIDS activism remains of acute relevance to our current situation.

51:29 - We find ourselves worn out. Our patience wearing thin.

51:32 - The clothes we wear every day are wearing through and covered with mysterious stains that are conveniently invisible to Zoom audiences.

51:38 - My local dry cleaner at least is still closed.

51:39 - Meanwhile, in America, the wearing of a mask tends to be dangerously insufferable from the embrace of a political agenda.

51:48 - Personally speaking, it os sill lates between rage.

51:50 - I’m reminded of how Rowan Bart finds wariness.

51:53 - The endless process of ending. “ This understanding works nicely alongside the comment from 1998, “AIDS begs the question we ask of all dreadful performances.

52:01 - When will this ever end? “ To be sure, the Stiff Sheets performances were one that we hope won’t end.

52:08 - It insists that wariness can be a generative force, something filled with potential for remaking the world.

52:13 - Finding humour, joy and political possibility in the devastation of the HIV AIDS crisis.

52:17 - This intervention could be a model for cultural activism and collective care in the age of Covid-19.

52:22 - Thank you. CHRIS: Great. Thank you, Jackson.

52:25 - We have got lots to talk about there. If I could just move on to Oreet and then we can start our conversation.

52:33 - OREET: Thank you, Chris. Thank you Shauna and thank you everybody for your contributions.

52:38 - It was really great to listen to everybody and as I was listening, I was reform lating what I wanted to say.

52:49 - It is but it is kind of nice to actively think through learning which I found more and more is happening in an optimistic way.

53:01 - Yes, when Chris asked me about this idea of wearing out, I thought about it as a useful symptom to think about dysfunction, a productive dysfunction, and the activation of healing.

53:11 - It took me become to something I wrote on the first week of the lockdown in March 2020.

53:20 - I’m going to attempt to share it. Hopefully it will be the right document.

53:26 - Am I sharing it? CHRIS: You are. OREET: I can’t see it.

53:30 - I don’t perform my writing. I was asked Chris if you’re comfortable – I’m subcontracting labour to you if you’re comfortable reading this.

53:36 - CHRIS: I’m happy to read this for you. Acknowledging how we die is how we live, only more so.

53:40 - We have been preparing this for our whole lives.

53:42 - Existing daily with the conscious presence of death that measures liveness and life under oppression, knowing that belonging is everything particularly when out of reach and in pieces.

53:53 - Playing equal parts in democratic support groups and international networks that serve our recovery daily and exist for decades.

54:00 - Living in a constant state of productive grief.

54:02 - Practising gratitude within and outside the remits of privilege.

54:05 - Dealing always with hypo dropb con dreia, general anxiety, trauma, chronic illness and fear and by always, I mean for generations, summoning our successful ghosts.

54:13 - Sharing affinities and solidarity with service workers for as long as we can remember.

54:18 - We don’t survive without them and celebrities are not nothing but a good distraction from co dependency.

54:24 - Loving friends and chosen families actively according to myth we chose our biological family too.

54:30 - Acknowledging that how we die is how we live only more so, and owing that that lineage to Palestinian solidarity mosmtsz and Black Lives Matter and queer deaths.

54:40 - Sickening by extraction capitalism in the body.

54:42 - Sustaining stillness for parts of the action.

54:44 - Endorsing solitude. Making work about withdrawal out of necessity, soft resistance.

54:47 - Recovering tools with complex PTSD. Researching crip theories about politicised self-care and survival plus resistance written by much younger.

54:54 - Refreung our poll politics daily to a tooth while remaining open to change our minds.

54:58 - Taking things for granted was never an option, that’s for normal.

55:01 - We survived this lockdown crisis. Written during the first week of lockdown March 2020.

55:05 - OREET: Thank you, Chris. I’m trying to come out of that sharing.

55:10 - Have I stopped sharing now? SHAUNA: Yes, you’ve stopped sharing.

55:14 - OREET: Thinking about writing that a year on and sort of being in that constant on the one hand, being in that state of crisis and being prepared for it, and then within that pandemic, and what was a structural crisis that really highlighted inequality.

55:29 - As we were talking and as I was listening to everybody I was thinking about the productive state of being worn out by structural inequality, but the difference between worn out and being jaded in the art world prides itself of being jaded, been there and done that and how my optimistic sense is perhaps myself and at least sections of the art world are a lot less jaded or less ironic and I feel there is a lot less irony around which I really welcome.

56:06 - So yes, that’s me. Thanks. CHRIS: I will ask Dante and Jackson to start their cameras.

56:13 - I was particularly struck by the reference to this idea of wearing out and in the case of Jackson, this idea of transgression and the sense of appropriating the vernacular language of the medical industry and twisting it or querying it to provoke and kind of celebrate something that would otherwise be marginalised or punished.

56:37 - Dante, you open up a series of fragments around in a sense even, co-opation and for your poetry to run between those lines and I suppose jam them a tiny bit or expose them on some level.

56:49 - I wondered if we could talk about what it means to participate in these structures and also then not find ourselves being drawn into them full in a way or finding modes of resistance within these structures and also participating within them.

57:03 - I wondered if we had any thoughts on that either specifically or more generally.

57:11 - DANTE: I’m happy to start. I think one of the things that struck me, certainly in my last point, was emerging from the Tate Britain and thinking about the incredible privilege it was, not to have just seen an amazing exhibition, but the fact that this was still happening in the middle of a global pandemic and seeing these very two distinct groups of people neither of which I felt I belonged to.

57:30 - Neither the bohos or the art lumeries. I think as a poet I often find myself in this space because there aren’t many poets who are alive that aren’t say recognised on the street.

57:39 - So when we are in groups, larger groups of various kinds of artists, we just tend to blend in as spectators of the art.

57:44 - I think that’s when the observation gene kicks in and you start to see how the institutions usually where this art is taking place or being exhibited is interacting with the various kinds of artists and I suppose that is what I was sort of trying to get a sense of in my comments around the precarity because I know that - I mean I know what that social occasion looks like versus what the phone calls sound like or what the e-mails read like of you know, not making enough money to feed yourself or ensure shelter for yourself or for your family or for your loved ones or being in a again owe graphically privileged space like London or New York City and having responsibilities to family who are in other places where the pandemic is having a much larger devastating effect like India or Brazil and so it is always this weird limbo to find myself in and I hope that that is what I captured in sort of thinking about the precarity of what it is we do as artists.

58:45 - CHRIS: To sort of pick up on Marc Aziz’s point, something that you were saying Jackson, about how they formed and how they manifested these moments.

58:56 - Do you want to say a little bit about how they actually grouped and how they manifested, these actions? JACKSON: Sure.

59:04 - One thing that I have been thinking about throughout this series of talks is perhaps a tension between his models of cultural work and how we’re talking about labour today of cultural practitioners.

59:16 - I suppose looking at the archive of AIDS cultural activism, a lot of these people are not necessarily seeking to participate in an art world system or an academic one, but rather to challenge and to raise aware nrs as ness to enable their own community to survive as best they could.

59:36 - They saw themselves frequently and it is not to generalise, but it seems to me there is a different debate happening as we look to what Leigh Claire was talking about and some of the points that Dante raised too.

59:49 - This might have something to do with these economic concerns too and there are intersections between this moment of crisis in the 80s and the 90s when it comes to the AIDS crisis and what is happening today k but it is a little bit different in terms of how patients, AIDS patients and those greatly affected by the virus were leading in the cultural conversation surrounding these issues in a way that they’re not precisely in the same way today.

60:23 - CHRIS: I think you ended with the idea - when will this end? It is interesting when one is never in the position to find an end because we are not in the position to find it.

60:33 - Oreet, you mentioned there is no option in a way to not wear out.

60:36 - I wonder if you could say a little bit about what that constitutes for you, this demand really? OREET: I guess there was a sense, particularly as an educator throughout The manager that comes on a course that hasn’t manifested as planned and the other student that is saying, the the pandemic where some students were talking about this sense of crisis.

60:52 - more precarious student who is saying, “We have always been in a state of crisis.

60:57 - “ I think the relationship, some of that happens.

60:58 - Some people can’t leave the house. They can’t travel.

61:02 - They have do everything online. There are various examples of that.

61:06 - I would like to take the opportunity to respond to a question in the Q and A about the art world because I’ve used that term.

61:15 - That terminology and our state of psychosis when there isn’t a art world.

61:19 - Each of us have our own art world and we fluctuate between different art worlds, but there is also this uncanny sense of wherever you in the world, if you go to an opening and it could have been anywhere where what constitutes an opening? What constitutes an art world event that is so kind of isolating from the geographical, geopolitical reality of this space.

61:40 - That can be very alienating and the hope for less irony is in relation to that.

61:44 - The hope, we can’t afford to be insular anymore.

61:47 - We have been penetrated. I’m saying, “We”.

61:49 - I’m talking about sections of the art world have been called to respond and I’m curious to see what will happen, but on a flippant note, yes, that lack of irony and being jaded which is so different to being worn out.

62:02 - Being worn out, you earn it. Being jaded, it is a privilege and there is a difference.

62:10 - JACKSON: That really resonated with me. That was something I was trying to articulate towards the end of the presentation.

62:16 - So thank you. OREET: I heard it in a shared sense of precarity that I think yeah, when wearing out is productive.

62:20 - CHRIS: Can I ask the rest of the contributors to start their cameras and we’ll try and do a quick conversation between ourselves before drawing to a close.

62:29 - I realise that we have been speaking for sometime so I do appreciate everyone being here and still being awake and not exhausted! We have one question from the Q and A.

62:40 - uncertainty. “I hear the term new normal, psychologically one would argue this might bring fear of the unknown and What are your thoughts on that? ” This idea of returning to something.

62:51 - Maybe that picks up something that Jackson was saying about this idea of when will something end and one is not in a position to find that at this time.

63:04 - Does anyone have anything to say? Response to that question? MONICA: I was thinking if I may? CHRIS: Of course.

63:21 - MONICA: Just thinking on the fact that sometimes phrases are deployed strategically.

63:37 - This phrase, “New normal” it is helping people say that this is a pause, but now this pause has to be just dealt with and my question is, I meanks my response is much more, how does one ask questions, what is the normal in the first place? What is new about it? A lot of has only been raised in many of the speakers.

63:59 - For many people this is not spectacularly new.

64:03 - Elements or aspects of what we are living through or what a larger number of people are living through and I think by calling it, “New normal” it is a way of deflecking from that.

64:15 - This is a strategic deployment of a concept that papers over by using the word, “Normal “I would prefer it if we didn’t use the word, “New normal” and ask ourselves what is truly new and what is truly normal? MARC: Can I jump a bit on this, also, thank you, Monica? Also, it is an expression of hope.

64:38 - I think one of the long-term - there has been a slow death of the social, but there is a slow death of the norm.

64:45 - Kind because theorising. That mod has been dying a slow death and this pandemic has made it very clear how fast norms are dying and I think there is a certain hope that’s being expressed that we can go back to being governed by norms and that we can find new norms that could govern us because the fear might be how will we have a social order without norms? That’s how I see it.

65:17 - CHRIS: Any further thoughts? I can move on to the next question from an audience member.

65:24 - Someone asks, “More many years artwork has been working hard towards slowing down, but not producing sources of income.

65:32 - I wonder if you could speak about when slowing down and or being idle, the need to be visible becomes more especially for art professionals who work project to project, fee to fee.

65:45 - DANTE: We are all speaking from this incredibly privileged space.

65:50 - We have laptops and phones and we can see one another and we can talk to one another.

65:59 - I think I have been fairly critical of all of my sort of privileged middle-class social circle in thinking about the pandemic, you know, people are caring on as if this is the worst thing that has ever happened to them and if it is then, they should consider themselves incredibly lucky.

66:19 - Bombs aren’t falling on us. I’m thinking what is happening in other places right now.

66:25 - We aren’t being pulled from our homes and we we aren’t being enslaved.

66:29 - If I look around London, it is a hip ster haven, people are in queues for lattes and the sun is out and people are getting ice cream.

66:39 - I think to go back to something that Monica was saying about, you know, thinking about different times, you know, this isn’t comparable.

66:48 - Our version, our meaning, us living here in London and perhaps other sort of international cities that respect hit as hard by the pandemic, this isn’t comparable I think to some more historical pandemics as far as the level of suffering and it isn’t even as devastating as I mentioned.

67:08 - We’re looking constantly at the news from India.

67:10 - It isn’t as devastating as what is happening there.

67:13 - Something like oxygen has become a commodity.

67:16 - So, I think this idea of slowing down is, you know, frightening to a lot of people because they are now forced to notice that the lives that they lead are directly related to and responsible for some of the disparities, if not all of the disparities that other members of our species are faced with day-to-day.

67:44 - If anything, my hope is that and I’m fairly pessimistic about it.

67:48 - My hope is we don’t go back to any normal that I’ve experienced before this pandemic which, you know, again from a privileged place seems rapidly coming to a close, you know, if we believe what the politicians are saying to us here in this country, and perhaps even in my own in the US, but for other people, again who are struggling to receive basic medical attention, it probably doesn’t feel like it is coming to a rapid end and it might be getting worse.

68:26 - CHRIS: Leigh Claire had to sign off for the day.

68:31 - She has left in the middle of that conversation.

68:35 - I agree in terms of the discrepancy or the disorientation between the life that we’re seeing happening around us versus the true consequences of this pandemic, both in terms of those in hospital and also in a broader political position and so on.

68:55 - You talked about Brazil and India. We’re seeing a complete disorientation of consequences around this pandemic.

69:01 - I am interested in Marc Aziz’s point around the idea around structured and unstructured behaviour and being and also the ways in which Zoom and technology is interfering in that space or maybe forging different kinds of attrition around that.

69:13 - Marc Aziz, I wonder if you could say a bit more about that? MARC: Sure.

69:20 - It is coming a lot from noticing how much amongst my own friendship circles.

69:25 - A lot of my work in sociology has been analysing the ways in which bonds are formed and relationships are formed.

69:32 - I was very interested in what is part of a relation or not and that’s why I was talking about the material dimensions of affect that I spoke about, but on a much more kind of day-to-day level.

69:49 - What I mean is that in a place like Egypt where I’m from - Egypt wasn’t as affected as a lot of other countries in the world.

70:00 - Maybe because we have no idea of the real statistics and the real death toll.

70:04 - Perhaps also for other reasons that are kind of incomprehensible and unknown but we had a partial lockdown, ie, shops closed at 6 or 9:00pm, but everything was open, public transport was open.

70:16 - We never had real restrictions and that was lifted in July and it has never come back.

70:23 - It is like COVID never really happened for a place like Egypt and Cairo is a city of 25 million people and it is the densest populated area in the world.

70:33 - So, what I found fascinating to see how my friends who are professionals, who were connected to the internet and who had a lot of work on Zoom with other countries, started become socially paranoid in a way that my friends were not involved in these spheres weren’t and just kind of did not become infected by this logic of accounting that I’ve mentioned earlier.

70:51 - There was no social paranoia and trying to quantify the value of a social interaction and the difference was very stark.

70:59 - A lot of my work is online. I noticed that in myself too.

71:06 - I guess what I was, how I’d like to end this short comment is there is something about futurity and - it is almost like this closes down the possibility of gifting and I want to relate that back to care.

71:20 - If we’re going to change the paradigm of care and we’re not going to account for it as care work or the labour of love, whatever other gendered terms we want to find, if it is not going to be free in that owe presencive gendered sense, but it is going to be free as a gift, I think we really need to think about time as not something that we spend, it is not something that’s a commodity as an expenditure, but time is something that we share, like space, or time is something that we can gift and really take pleasure in and for that to happen, I think, we really need to get out of the logic of accounting and death because there was a question in the Q and A earlier asking if we could maybe make idleness more purposeful and there is the image of the land lying asleep and how sleep has to be minimised so we can be more productive in the future.

72:22 - It is like this logic of accounting always takes us out of the gift.

72:28 - It takes us out of the present in the sense of a gift and in the sense of now.

72:40 - You can’t enjoy, when you’re caring for someone, you can’t enjoy it, because you’re thinking will they reciprocate it, they’re already thinking about resiprication and if not, you don’t really want to engage.

72:49 - Is that even care? It is just like a chore.

72:51 - I’m not sure it is care. These are remarks.

72:54 - That’s an idea of what I’m trying to say. CHRIS: What are the other issues and a debt and how it is paid.

72:57 - Someone says, “I think the point is really important.

73:00 - She said she was concerned with the comparison between the way of the decision to use Zoom and of sexual pleasure and the AIDS crisis.

73:08 - She says it decorporalising both. The use of Zoom has made events more accessible for differently abled people and now leaving the house remains a constant negotiation of possibilities of danger.

73:17 - Jackson’s point about COVID has multiple epidemics and more of a comment than a question.

73:22 - Thanks for the interesting presentations. MARC: I don’t want to hog the mic, but it was something I said.

73:29 - I’d like to make it slightly more explicit.

73:32 - I think there has been massive digitalisation of sexual interaction and of sexual pleasure through the apps and in particular which is very much similar to what is going on in terms of social interaction and social pleasure through Zoom.

73:45 - It is not very different. It is not like there is no contact, social contact that is happening off line, there is social contact that is happening off line and it does come with very serious bodily risks as well.

73:59 - Some people have said these risks are not as important as other pandemics.

74:04 - These risks are really felt and embodied and the pain of it is felt and embodied for a lot of people.

74:11 - But I would say what I really want to point to is the mind/body distinction and there is something about the mind having a purpose.

74:24 - Whenever we’re going into the digital sphere, we’re looking for something.

74:27 - We’re engaging with a purpose in mind and then the body is this fear of bare life, not necessarily, it is this fear of just like survival, this is where we can start asking questions about lack of purpose and the meaning of existence and creation and why are we here? The mind in a way will always try to find purpose in whatever it does and will try to rationalise.

74:49 - There has been this really nice split between the online which is much more prone to be purposeful and the off line which is more prone to being non purposive and the move to everything being online leads us to be hyper purposive and that leads to a lot of wearing out.

75:05 - togetherness. The great pleasure of being together doesn’t have a purpose, it is the nature of the enjoyment of There is no purpose in that.

75:15 - OREET: I was just thinking about Marc was talking about gifting and hanging out and accounting for what we do and about care.

75:28 - We all talked about care in different ways.

75:31 - I’m just wondering in terms of being artists, what that actually means? How does care manifest because in relation to the previous questions, I mean, one of, you know, one of the conditions of the art world is of production.

76:04 - It thrives on production and little reward.

76:07 - It thrives on it because we have - it is a capitalist system that dangles a carrot that says if you work more, you get more.

76:19 - When you get more, you think you can get more and be lulled into this sense of a production that is extremely unhelpful and culturally embedded and there is privilege where some people have to work.

76:37 - They can’t withdraw. Withdraw might be a nice cultural strategy, but some people simply have to work as artists to survive.

76:45 - I think a lot of tenuous questions where privilege lies and I’m just curious about how people feel about that.

76:57 - I think about it a lot. It is not like that I have an answer.

77:08 - CHRIS: Monica, I wonder if you had any thoughts? MONICA: Did you say me? CHRIS: Yes, in relation to subjects on what Oreet raised? MONICA: This important question as freelance artists, the question of what, when the pandemic first started there was a strange time I think that all of us were in the same time because the whole world kind of was in shock.

77:31 - It felt in the early days that oh, we’re all like frozen.

77:35 - We’re all frozen together. Even though it felt like everything had come to a standstill, at the same time that empty time was a pleasurable empty time at least for me.

77:48 - In the sense that it felt like extraordinary, of course, because the world was in an extraordinary place, but at the same time because we were all not producing at the same time it felt.

78:08 - It was of a different order and over the last month there has been a dicipation and the need to how do we all survive when that has become a real question in a different way.

78:26 - Besides the fact that what Oreet raise, the question in the Q and A box, how was time experienced differently? I want to raise the fact that it is not just a question of idleness or if you’re all idle together, is it different than if you’re all productive or if you’re all idle out of time with each other, if you know what I’m saying.

79:03 - I think this question of sharing the same experience of time that we felt in the early days of the pandemic, I have much more anxiety, I have much more worry, not just about what is happening in India.

79:22 - The machine has come back into its own which means those questions are being posed in a way - in a weird way much more harshly because one feels, A, that you’re not productive and that you’re not able to be productive and that you feel sort of almost persecuted for being not in some place at some time which I think since we’re talking about some of these ideas because of the pandemic, I would just add that to what Oreet raised.

80:02 - CHRIS: Any final comments to make? I’m conscious of time.

80:12 - If you have any further thoughts on this subject or wise I will start wrapping up.

80:21 - That includes the audience who are still in attendance.

80:36 - OREET: The word “idle” was used in the xhat.

80:44 - chat. Being productive together was what I liked.

80:57 - It felt like an act of resistance, even though it was imposed on us, but it was experiment.

81:16 - CHRIS: One final comment. “If it is a question of care and safety, withdrawal should be an option for everyone.

82:03 - As an art world this should be factored in as part of the process of reaching collective solidarity.

82:43 - This applies to burn-out and helping those who cannot and should not work, but withdrawal is the only option in precarious working conditions.

83:34 - And in regards to personal collective harm being perpetuated of any kind.

83:54 - Sorry, more of a comment as well. “” We’re conscious of those conditions.

84:06 - That’s why it is important that I hope, these kind of conversations that we’re having here at least frame some of that in a broad ranging way.

84:57 - That was the aim of both these two talks and I hope that some sense of these talks have given a context or a frame through which we can see some connections through both geographically and through time and I hope that the audience have also learned or been given something through these two panel discussions.

88:04 - I just want to say thank you to Marc, Monica, Dante, Jackson and Oreet and Sarah.

89:24 - Applause to the whole group and to everybody for coming.

93:43 - Thank you. .