Agricultural Figures[11/2013]
{Critique of the economic understanding of life}
An interview with Alice Creischer and Andreas Siekmann

Mikhail Lylov: Industrialization of agriculture and the so-called Green Revolution were promoted as a recipe against famine, saviors of the world's poor and the only solution to manage the exponential growth of world’s population. Paradoxically, these proclamations are done by food monopolies in the light of what they have been aiming to eradicate: a decade long growth of prices and the consequent growth of hunger amongst the global rural and urban poor. A tendency of persistent growth of food prices that originated in 2000 reversed a 150-year old trend of price decrease, which followed capitalist processes that drove peasants and small holders off the land and proletarianized them into cities, in turn requiring affordable food for the reproduction of labor power.
Such a contradiction involved many critical artists into analyzing tendencies within agriculture on a global geographical level or on a level of economic paradigm, combining the experience of postcolonial political theory and Marxist analyses.
This year you have been working with activists and farmers in Benin around the problem of land grabbing and accomplished an installation in Norway analyzing global systems of food production. When artistic practice traverses both local and global geographical spaces it requires organizing an experience that takes place between different temporalities and registers: the temporality of global capitalism with its universalizing logic of productivity and the experiences of resistance originated in concrete struggles.
What are the spatial and temporal configurations of artistic work dealing with global problem on geographical level? What was your experience?

Andreas Siekmann: I think there is no strict opposition between “global” and “local”. Probably one could speak about composing different perspectives. While working on “In the Stomach of Predators” we found ourselves inside of series of local histories, which in no way could have lead us to establish a total perspective. Narration in this case turns into the argumentation of local facts, which brought together give an impression of a globalness. In fact, sum, global perspective, is always less than a composition of partial perspectives.
I think “global” as a perspective exists in the place of those who pretend to narrate history. It starts from a speaker’s position and produces an illusion that his position is the vanishing point of the global perspective. To resist this approach we try to understand history as series. In doing so the problem of contingency becomes decisive... But it is naive to try to overcome contingency by presenting a falsified view from the axiomatic historical point.
For the work we are doing, it was more important for us to understand a trap mechanism of the “disaster and demand” politics unfolding on the global level. When we are concerned with a problem of famine and agriculture, for example, it does not take long to see that our “big enemies” are pointing in the same direction. The interest of the companies to point out global problems is to create demand for a solution they are going to sell, which in turn will produce new disasters. Catastrophe politics really take global scale, including NGOs as PR vessels for global monopolies. Thus the aim for us is to locate a position from which to act and at the same time not to aid “politicians of disaster”.

Alice Criescher: Difficulties of positioning within local/global dichotomy have been discussed in the art field for long time. Due to an ethic of a local, site-specific, “authentic” artistic engagement, artists are often commissioned by ambitious exhibition projects for engagements on local levels. They are traveling between communities, cities and villages. In fact, institutional frameworks never provide enough time for any real engagement. Correspondingly, the works result in a mere demonstration of the functionality of this or that artistic method - – participation projects, public art, intervention etc. They demonstrate the institutional possibility to fulfill these approaches - just as a mere demonstration of institutional productivity, a performance of work devoted from any weight... This confronts us with a dilemma. When we encounter with materials and witnessing from different places it is hard to reserve a desire for engagement, but the schemes offered to artists by art-reality is dangerous.
For example, we did a trick film workshop about land grabbing with activists and farmer cooperations in Cotonou in Benin, which resulted in production of several short animated films.
If there were no locally established networks and infrastructures and friends we would never have been able to do that. It was great experience for us, and I hope for everybody, to be engaged in making of animations. Unfortunately the time was very, very limited.
And we would not declare the films of the workshop nor the workshop itself as our “artwork.”

ML: I think that the problem of political representation in art, I mean speaking in the name of others, also runs a risk to turn into primary accumulation when artists are acting in global/local matrix. Representation of others turns into an accumulation of images, narratives, experiences excavated elsewhere and accumulated in the exhibitions.

AC: Yes, accumulation in this case is demonstrated as a kind of art’s “expansivity”, as a symbol of its connective capacity. Western art has always had global concerns. Conceptual art was pretending to be a global art as well... More to this, there is a twist in the logic of local/global: perspectives cast from outside the west are treated as local, while the local western affairs are always regarded as globally important.

ML: Precisely because it is true, it brings about very pessimistic aspiration for European and American artist. I think works based on the excess of self-criticism are more problematic and painful than those interested in the excess of experience.

AC: Experiences of others are concrete while traveling elsewhere is a form of engagement where new live experience is formed and multiplied. Politics stems from relations and not from a critique of the impossibility of having relations.

AS: We should take into account different attempts by artists to escape from western universalism, for example site specific practices, ethnography-oriented practices commented by Hall Foster, which were regarded as emancipative. Unfortunately, there is still a dialectical relationship between liberation and subsumption, that was proved later by the inclusion of those practices into the techniques of expansion that Alice mentioned. The same dynamic is common for the social confrontations: achievements of liberation and struggles are transformed into paths for control measures to cripple in. Nowadays this dynamic is apparent but has not become less difficult to escape. This is sad about our experience in Benin. The people we were working with are very energetic and militant, but it is difficult to realize that bringing their activity into the field of artistic representation might spoil their work. At the same time you realize that the fight of activists is also pulling water on the wheel of the politics of disaster because of the victimization...

ML: I agree. It is possible to understand artwork not as a rigid form locked in the body of a commodity, but through your aleatory perspective, as a form of spatial and temporal configuration of experience. Adopting this position, how would you describe the connection you made between Benin and Bergen.

AC: Contingency is a key aspect of this configuration. There are always local stories, examples that are not part of a “grand” historical narrative. For example Punjab is hardly attacked by the Green Revolution, and lots of fighting against the industrialization of agriculture is going on. The conflict generates knowledge and energy that connects to a global narrative. The connection is not objective because there is no objective mechanism of history.

ML: There are different modes to relate between diverse concrete knowledges of struggles and their accumulated form. Is it possible to draw a parallel between forms of the knowledge-politics relation within social movements and your work? For example La Via Campesina acts as an agency for globalizing struggle at all local points of resistance. Potentially, collecting information from local points and organizing coordination does not lead to the representation of singularities to themselves as part of a totality, or as part of an objective historical development, in which an homogenous fraction of people called “peasants” are fighting on the land for survival.

AC: I cannot say that our art practice is organized in a form of an activist network, nor in the form of an artistic framework. What we are doing is quite old-fashioned, and I am not sure that it is right. What we are doing is collecting materials, facts, witnessing, and texts. This activity results in a new narrative that affects our understanding of the current reality. A process of apprehension, an epistemological process is important for work; also a desire to demand dignity, a realization for all the muted documents and voices.

AS: We call this process “visual actualization” (Vergegenw?rtigung). For us to bring diverse political figures and facts on one tableau is a form of political and historical actualization. Being brought together into presence, they organize a configuration that itself is a call to reflect on the meaning of this particular actualization of what possible. One could also translate Vergegenw?rtigung as “to imagine”, to imagine what consequences will follow from actualizing this or that configuration of history, facts and figures. Because of the Vergegenw?rtigung tableaus sometimes have a complex appearance as history has no linear development, but is a succession of potential configurations.


ML: "Modern" methods utilized by the Green Revolution and gene modifications seem to cancel all the residual sentiments about immediate relationships with nature, no romantic figure of a farmer in direct exchange with earth persist.
For anyone employed on a patch of land today a confrontation with objectifications of an immense complexity starts. For example seeds and fertilizers are all "intensified". It is possible to say that industrial agriculture is becoming more abstract for the people who are actually working on the land. Concrete knowledge and the necessities of actual producers are ignored, thus they are subject for an organizational scheme concerned not with concrete people but with an abstract individual. Intensified industrialization brings about further division between hand and head.
This division and its practical implications calls for mapping a trajectory between knowledge of capitalist processes and an alternative knowledge of production, or knowledge that is produced in the moment of resistance; in terms of the contemporary division of head and hand, to insert yourself into entanglement between concrete subjectivities and the abstract capitalist dynamic.

AC: The abstract dynamic you mentioned has to do with wealth, with the universalization of language, which brings everybody into the realm of value. To destroy the universalism of value one has to be involved with concrete things and cases. Inside of the theoretical discourses there are always some “dirty philosophers” and “dirty theoreticians” who are putting too much of empirical research in their papers. This is a form of devaluation of research, ripping it from the wealthy and clean theory. Indeed the capitalist dynamic is abstract, but it always results concretely. Traveling to encounter facts reveals what universalism of value (capitalism) does. To tell about this brutality and misery is obscene, thus there is some obscenity in these empirical data and facts.

AS: Political and critical theories are often extremely speculative and do not refer to the basic experience of facts. Bringing both parts together radicalizes theory. Another form of relating to empirical experience is similar to writing of annals or reports. These facts always lead to the histories of confrontation. Recording experiences of struggle is not the same as representing it. Documenting facts, collecting photographs, texts and showing them is to constantly remind about the fights behind them. Vergegenw?rtigung is similar to this and I remember the practice of demonstrators in Latin America directed against forced disappearances which I took part in 2002. They shout loud names of disappeared or arrested comrades and then finish with “presente”, making it clear that the muted are present here as a threat. A similar aspiration is behind our work, to bring out something that shall be present.

ML: Speaking about concrete and empirical data, this is something that the ideology of productivity is also concerned with, but it represents the data in the form of statistics. Statistical data is very ambiguous, it has the accumulated power of many represented in one figure, while at the same time it is adequate for what the categories of managerial thinking demands, meaning that it creates the monotonous time of re-production cycles. In the Stomach of Predator uses a lot of statistic data as well. What do you think allows statistics to be re-functioned?

AS: Pictographic language demonstrates what numbers mean; it gives space to the numbers. By being transformed into pictograms digits turn into the masses, which cannot be counted and comprehended immediately. You have to spent time to count them and this somehow helps to imagine what it means to be confronted with a mass. Maybe, I could say, our pictograms are closer to the “egypt-style” reading, rather than to scientific cause-effect presentment. On the one side we have facts and numbers from different sources, on the other side pictograms organizing a storytelling, combining different figures into one. We are interested in how is it possible to make continuities, in how to show genealogies, and how to keep narratives productive in the meta-affects.

AC: When the discussion goes around empirics today, arguments usually refer to statistic data. Statistics takes the place of an expression of reality. Categories, paradigms, concepts are arising very quickly when it comes to a political discussion, and they make us to think that we are dealing with reality. It is possible to compare such an apparatus of cognition with The Real in the sense of this psychoanalytic term and the impossibility to know or reveal this “Real”. The political realm also produces its own Real in the form of cognitive patterns, methods, categories, etc., which organizes or blocks the access to the reality.

ML: The connection between the real and abstract is something very interesting. Biological organisms, seeds and the whole process of elemental exchange, in a word reality, is boosted and augmented. One might say nature has become even more super-natural than it used to be. What does an inquiry into these concrete matters allows one to see? Does contemporary agriculture open up a more speculative approach to the understanding of nature? The figure of “speculative” lays in proximity with the deeds of industrial agriculture. The idea of improvement is based on, first, the understanding of the “laws of nature” in a broad sense, and secondly on the expansion of these laws and their partial re-functioning to the ends of selective productivity. Thus scientific reflections as well as ideology of productivity are already included into the natural product. That’s what I would call super-natural...

AC: Vandana Shiva is arguing that objectification of nature has to be understood parallel to the epistemological objectification. In my opinion the question is of action, of disturbing the marriage between technology and productivity. (...)

ML: Maybe the amount of knowledge and speed objectified in agriculture today is creating a gap between the knowledge of actual producers and that of global industry. Is this gap irreversible? It is like dragging behind the locomotive on a rope, and the only thing to do is to cut it – and then to look for knowledge and technology based on the ideas of social self-sufficiency and autonomy?

AC: We usually hear something like “Monsanto has monopolized this amount of seeds patents”, or “four companies have 95% of patents”, and so on. These narratives are totalizing too. At the same time agricultural monopolies are arguing the same, that there is no agriculture in Africa, thus their monopolies are naturally necessary. It is peculiar that in the midst of apocalyptic lamenting about the disasters of GMO and full subsumption of life under it, we have to realize that 80% of food is grown in self-subsistent economies. And the knowledge used there have no importance for economic giants, these are organic knowledge, that sometimes are not even codified in any form, a form of common knowledge that exists locally in the ways of life. The division of hand and head starts from the codification of these knowledge into forms open for appropriation, and proceeds by the destruction of local social living forms.

AS: The process of destruction and codification is a method of primary accumulation.

AC: Hegel would say it is a beginning of history, when Weltgeist has finally arrived to the people, in the form of primary accumulation. And as artists we are unfortunately on the side of the Weltgeist. This is a huge dilemma...


ML: I think that a lot of work in the field of activism has been done to promote and to try out different economies of self-subsistence. Many experiments are imagining the disappearance of exploitation via the reworking of a concept of surplus. Local and global activist initiatives are concerned with the alternative forms of economies, and have turned to agriculture. Though modern agriculture is fully integrated in global economic monopolies, there is always a resistance present inside of the power structures.
There is an interesting situation, a special entanglement between the postmodern concept of biopolitical power and the locus of agriculture. Biopolitical power extends economic domination over life and creates a perpetual movement of value extraction from the bottomless potentiality of live labor. It imposes some sort of an imperative of productivity, whereas industrial agriculture re-introduces a figure of life’s finitude carried in by the ecological and social crisis it produces.
So agriculture is an ambiguous figure because on the one hand it threatens with an apocalypse as finitude of the accumulation, and finitude of life if this accumulation will continue.
At the very same time it promises perfect balance, because land is the only thing that multiplies matter, creates means of subsistence. In a sense it is an embodiment of a dream of production about itself.
Land in this respect becomes an absolute predicate of economic life, a cause of its death and a figure of redemption.
Do these factors determine the strategic importance of agriculture for political and artistic activism?

AS: I am afraid that the idea describing nature as a self-balanced world substance is quite romantic and proponents of it risk to end up in self-loathing because any divergence from the idea of balance become hated as a progressivist standing.
While we were working on In the Stomach of Predator, FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN) acknowledged that agriculture of self-subsistence is probably a more preferable solution to world hunger than industrial methods. This is a big change of course for them. Previously they were fully supporting World Bank and IMF packages of structural reformation of agriculture.

AS: “Disaster and demand” politics also produces a crisis of believe and trust. All news and every disaster can be instrumentalized for the interest of disaster producers.

AC: If FAO promotes such an idea it will end up with BoP-marketing of Monsanto, like they do in Africa, selling small packages of fertilizer and pesticides, herbicides to the small self-subsistence farmers, organizing outsourcing of labor and land and putting people into debt. If such an organization as FAO speaks about self-subsistence agriculture it has nothing to do with reality, because self-subsistence and autonomy of production is not what international players are interested in. Valorization of small agriculture is a first step to sell it.


ML: While looking at your In the Stomach of Predator, it is hard not to recall one of the foundations of Physiocratic thinking, Francois Quesnay’s Tableau Economique. The similarity between the two tableaus is formal, as they try to describe an economic system schematically, while both also are concerned with production of value through land.
The Physiocrats were the first to move the analysis of value to the sphere of production, but fully privileged agriculture as the only source of value, thus establishing a centrality of "productive life" inside of the economic and political doctrine, establishing a sort of vitalism.
Vitalist interpretations are quite dangerous, precisely because they paralyze the contradictions of the world and of society to the extent that they consider them unresolvable. Or it leads to definitions of the very essence of the world starting from the postulate of the invariability of these contradictions. Life and death are locked in a relation of great ambiguity. This ambiguity is maybe expressed by what you call Philanthropy-capitalism? What is this figure and what kind of implication does it have when it comes about loving people who work in agriculture?

AC: Modernization is a big dilemma and Marxism is a corner stone in this discussion. From the vitalist point of view and the point of view of Vandana Shiva, for example, Marx can be accused in being blind about the problems progress brings about. But when Marx was writing feudalism was just over, reminding about personal dependence on the land, on the family, on the lord, making peoples’ lives condemned. From here a belief in the emancipative quality of progress is rising. Importantly, Marxist interpretation of progress is not self-sufficient dynamics, but a process appropriated by the producers. In my opinion the trap of fascination for the economy of self-subsistence is to return back to the natural, fairy-tale understanding of the society that characterized feudal structures.

AS: There is a continuity in the persistence of the vitalist understanding of society. The “Blue blood”-machine rendered social divisions as natural law, and in the market economy the “invisible-hand”-machine is doing the same. The complexity of the global economy and industries are naturalized, just as the reproduction of crises and expansion of industries that follows is an automatized process. One does not want to stop after another disaster and say: “look, perhaps the industry is wrong!” On the contrary every new disaster leads to an organization of another enterprise. Objective crisis lies in coming to the limit of nature’s reproductive capacities, and thus to the genealogical origin of “Invisible hand”-machine. The closer we come to the limit more steam the engine gets, because resources are becoming more capitalized, more expensive.

ML: Maybe it is too much of a generalization to say there is a kind of cycle in thinking about nature. Romanticism discovered a nature that has no final goal higher than itself, while the pragmatist perspective imposed quantification on it through the measurement apparatus, in a word turned it into a quantifiable resource, and now the romantic potential of nature is back to explode the cage, the measure-apparatus of value production.

AC: I think it is not only this that brings attention to agriculture. There are very practical reasons that require reaction: the hunger crisis in 2008 resulted from speculation and financial crisis, and since then you see that the capital has fled into natural resources. Since then agriculture is on the top of economic speculation, capital is restructuring itself toward extraction of profit from resources. Not only from oil; half flex crops [needs a footnoted explanation?] are booming as a result of their use as biofuel and for animal nutrition. The interest is directed towards extraction of energy (in a broad sense) from nature.

AS: To speak about crisis, means to believe that there is an a priori perfectly functioning system. Modern economy was always crisis economy. The crisis idea is based on the expectations of profit rates, and these expectations has to be kept high, that the investments are flowing and making money to grow. The productivity of contemporary economy is so high that profits in real production are naturally very low. Consequently financial crisis resulted from the crisis of profits in the real production. Since real production and financial speculations have experienced structural crises, the capital has increased expansion into natural resources, and agriculture. But the appetite has been already formed by the unstoppable rise of profits, thus natural resources are exploited with an appetite for hyper-outcome. Taking into account energy politics of BRIC countries, the increasing demand for energy resources provoked the increased production of biofuels. From here starts the subsumption of biological life under the category of energy resources. All organic life becomes a mere potential energy resource.
Maybe industrial exploitation appears to be more brutal from the humanist point of view but it was only a beginning of a crazy drive through the world with an idea of turning life into profitable energy resource. Fighting against energy-totalitarianism worldview is apparently more difficult then to make sabotage at the factory.

AC: Regarding the Philantrocapitalism, it is of course not necessarily connected with agriculture. It includes politics of international aid on all different levels. IMF and World Bank financial aids are philantrocapitalist phenomena. Another dynamic to admit is a commodification of the critical conditions, for example CO2 emission sales, is a market-based eco program aiming on the prevention of climate change via selling quotas for pollution. Philanthropy in this case is no more then a commodification of human rights.

ML: Capitalism of the “disaster and demand” politics, if I understand correctly, is acting in the name of an abstract dying subject while making concrete people to die. Death for me is connected with a mere life, life as an energy source. I am thinking about this along the lines of thanatopolitics, which organizes a figure of power where “surplus population” of starving bodies is produced and used for making the “state of exception”, intervening in all forms of life, local economies, and of course into the “laws of nature”.

AC: I see a connection here with colonial history for example of India, where you had famines throughout the 19th century. Back then India was regarded as a laboratory for political philosophers of England, for example Bentham, Mill. You can find innumerable amount of reports, protocols and essays about the famines that were going on and on due to the typical cash crops policies of the colonial systems. Reading hundreds of reports about thousands of deaths is an uncanny experience. Scientists, philosophers have been documenting and commenting on the death roll for long time, and still it appears to be a common thing to do in the new political conditions.

ML: The centrality of life in economical thinking, and turning life into biological source of energy, in a word intensified expansion of capital, have created a demand to look at life in an expanded way, maybe beyond human or humanist perspectives and to seek political alliances with other forms of life. Non-human life today is also subjected to a set of measuring mechanisms used in production. For In the Stomach of Predators, you researched many of the technics allowing for such subjection.

AC: Mostly they are very simple projections, talking about waging war on insects, brand names of pesticides that are infused with military jargons. The idea is to open warfare on the Vietnam of pests, to produce paranoia of threat; some sort of “american” ideology-like thinking is involved here...

AS: Leaving the anthropocentric perspective is not so easy. One should also remember that there were interesting developments within it, as for example when Ecuador’s constitution was made to include the Rights of Nature... But non-anthropocentric perspectives in art, so far, have been the silliest continuation of the logic of expansion.

ML: To establish a juridical subject, as in the case of the Ecuadorian Constitution, does not guarantees freedom from exploitation. On the labor market people are free individuals with the right to sell their potentiality as labor to the employers, or nowadays with the full right of self-exploitation. One can say ironically, that it is the capitalist perspective on life as biomass, which brings us closer to the other forms of lives and not the expansion of legal power into new areas of life.

AS: I think a general discussion about non-anthropocentrism shouldn’t turn into the idealist debate. In US for example the discussion about free society follows the idea of non-institutional self-regulation. But all idealist discussions have to be paid by people because discussions do not cancel present state of things while they promise too much. People of no freedom usually pay discussions about freedom. Foucault attributes this to the renaissance times, what kind of history repetition is this?


ML: There is another understanding of life (biopolitics), a Foucauldian concept that Antonio Negri has developed. This concept cuts across the Physiocratic idea of a natural order of economy as well as other naturalist-vitalist conceptions based on the phantasy of nature. I see here a parallel to your work: In the Stomach of Predators represents not a natural order, but un-natural hunger for accumulation. “Power of biopolitical resistance, is not a return to origins, a manner of re-embedding thought in nature: it is on the contrary the attempt to construct thought starting from ways of life (whether individual or collective), to remove thought (and reflection on the world) from artificiality — understood as the refusal of any natural foundation — and from the power of subjectification.” This subjectification is using surplus for resistance. It exceeds capitalist measure and permits surplus to be used by producer and not the proprietors.

AC: Ambiguity of life is very interesting idea coming from the thoughts of the Italian Operaists: exploitation is always bringing a resistance and new forms of organization.

ML: I think it is possible to imagine a positive understanding of the idea of self-sufficiency from this standing outside of the “natural order”. This would be a situation when surplus is produced beyond the measure, beyond labor law of value. One of the tableaus of In the Stomach of Predators represents farmer-managed agriculture with an example of successful restoration of earth in Burkina Faso. Traditional methods and natural rotation of seeds were implemented to build an autonomous and self-sufficient ecology.

AS: I learned only recently, that the wood produced by the Sawadogo’s project actually belonged to the former colonizers, maybe that was the condition for him to start the project... We did not know before that the trees were in another’s ownership and did not belong to the producers. More important condition for the project was the Sahel desert region itself, where many foreign initiatives to start some agricultural activity had failed. Sawadogo’s project of re-greening was very intensive in a non-capitalist understanding of the word, and this made it completely unattractive for the investments. The project intensively contributed to the climate improvement and made wood available for the local people. But this intensity is unsatisfying for capitalist commando, 16 working days to process 1 hectare is too labor-intensive method, it just simply takes too much time to use the method of Sawadogo project. This shows that the speed of machine of progress is not the only one available. One can make a lot, but it is a question of intensities and of speeds that bring you outside of the capitalist commando timing. Sawadogo’s example obviously has some persisting negativity that pushed it away from profit-oriented production. On the other had if it were made today, most probably people would have had to pay him for producing oxygen according to the CO2 emission standards.

AC: I think the negativity of Sawadogo’s project is concluded in wasting time. There was another figure, Wangari Muta Maathai, a Kenyan political and ecological activist, who founded the Green Belt project. There one could see something typical of the international aid project situation. They were planting commodified trees of which 80% consequently went down.

AS: The problem is that they collect money from all over, and plant trees like bombs. It is unclear today weather more money and energy are spent for doing things, or whether to communicate the act of philanthropy.


ML: If capitalist production is based on extraction of time, then it also produces its own configurations of temporality. The figure of intensified monocultures proposed by Vandana Shiva is an example of such a temporality in agriculture. Only monocultures are counted in production. Only mono output is intensified. Capitalist temporality is an abstract, quantitative and analytic temporality. Thus production represents the synthesis of the living creativity of labor and of the exploitive structures organized by fixed capital and its temporal laws of productivity.
This temporality is the basis of Tableau Economique. In the Belly of the Beast is representational, but has completely different temporality and spacial organization. I would say it represents temporalities of ruptures and overlaying. It was also built as a maze, which to some extent makes it “un-productive”.
Another divergence from this temporality is the agriculture of poly-cultural schemes that are based on reproductive capacities of local diversities. This is a temporality that intensifies differences.

AC: Sometimes exhibitions are organized as if they are not destined for wasting time. There is an infamous sentence from the art scene of 80’s saying people’s attention spans every 3 seconds. This idea is good for building a supermarket. When organizers of exhibitions are thinking in terms of productivity and full accessibly it sounds like a Ford factory management.

AS: Exhibitions are still dependent on the decontextualization of information. This usually turns into flashing people with ideas, images, experiences; things shall be digested fast. Many institutions are legitimizing their work by compiling enormous pedagogical and educational programs, guides for school kids and whoever. Culture mediation apparatus of institutions gives everything the Fordist aftertaste of driving through a highway of blinking lights in a car.

AC: When we build a structure where all the tableaus cannot be seen at once, and one is running away precisely at the moment when another is pulled to a viewer, the irony of decontextualization is redirected against us. Or rather, against the idea of an exhibition demonstrating world-perspective on the horrors and misery of contemporary life...

AS: Placing tableaus as if they were in museum’s cellar storage partially blocks representation. Presentation of all the tableaus in a panoramic manner of a spigelsaal would turn contingency of history into a succession of events and non-contradictory totality.

AC: Our un-productivity, that you mentioned, is connected with what we called Vergegenw?rtigung. It is opposed to the highway of efficiency weather it would be in capitalist institutions, weather in political agitation methods. Vergegenw?rtigung has to do with multiple interruptions and roundabouts leading back to this or that connection we discovered between materials, facts and stories. It is an attempt to really comprehend, and not to explain things that are very difficult ... like why this and that amount of people had to migrate from their country. To know numbers and facts about land grabbing can efficiently explain it, but to understand it we have to build these unproductive moments in work. These facts are not easy to understand at all.


ML: I would like to return to the un-natural, or rather super-natural figure.
Its scission with the idea of “nature” has lots of different implications n, . If understood as a figure born out of technology, we might describe it as human affairs with the outside of society. Then the supernatural in politics is a figure of excess, the beasty nature of a sovereign. Supernatural is also a figure of speed in the Gene Modified organisms and increased productivity of soil. As well as it could be a figure for General Intellect, accumulated social knowledge based in between of actors, in communication, in excess.
I remember an interesting passage from Andrey's Platonov novel Foundation Pit (1930), that includes in my opinion this supernaturalness. There is a bear working and living in the village. He is the last instance of “residual exploited labour”, last representative of the proletariat. Nonetheless he is a bear that is of course a natural figure, and a worker, a blacksmith. He is the last exploited worker because the action of the novel takes places in post revolutionary situation. When he sees a banner calling to increase the speed of production “... for the Shock Labor Forcing Open for the Proletariat the Doors into the Future”, he starts to work with a hammer on a hyper speed destroying his raw material before it turns into something good for further production.
I think that this dialectical figure of “embeddedness” of nature and technology suggests alliance and interruption. It is alliance of people with nature, and negation of the intensification of their dialectical relationships in the form of technology. It is also a figure of reversibility: a mythical animal inaugurating order turns into the destruction of this order, creating a negative surplus, so to say. And here another interruption, via acceleration…
In the film part of In the Belly of the Beast there are four animal-actors. What kind of animals are they? What is apparent is that they are not animals of manual labor. Are they new types? On the other hand they are still super-natural creatures...

AC: I didn’t think in this terms when we were working on the film... It was more an allegorical thinking that brought animals inside the film,. I am very careful with new post-humanism tendencies, though they are very interesting for me.

ML: I think Platonov’s bear is not necessarily a bear in flesh, an animal to which we have to elaborate a new approach. As in the case of an allegory which connects a figure with a concept, this bear connects animality, dialectics of technology and concrete politics.

AC: I would say those animals are connected with solipsist fear. They are hunting, and eating each other just as well as international companies are in a constant process of the acquisition of each other. Growth of appetites are always accompanied by the increase of paranoia of being eaten.

ML: Does it mean that capitalist cosmology starts from the act of eating, consumptive destruction?

AC: Yes, but to say that this cosmology is a truth about reality, means to step into naturalism or even Social-Darwinism. Animals from the film are not cosmological, they are blaming hunger and fear. Yes... I think it is really that simple, just as in literature, use of Aesop’s fabulation. The difference is that behind the masks of the animals is the stomach of a predator. Nature is not driven by fear, it is not afraid of itself, but people are always afraid of acquisition, fear is a driving principle of economy. The animals in the film don’t stand for nature but for some domestic-dominator psychology.