A discussion with Josephine Bosma, Metahaven, David Riff and Hito Steyerl

Saturday 24 May,
14.30 – 17.00

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Imagine a factory made of light – and darkness. It is nowhere and anywhere, making it’s way through global sewers and seas, logical to the degree of utter incomprehensibility. This is where circulation takes place. But circulation is not only about surface access. It is about deep inequality too. It is an imbalance about who has the keys and who privatizes the commons contributions. Circulation is about conformism, affirmation and voluntary servitude. It is the petting zoo of rising plutotechnocracies.

If the early age of the internet somewhat resembled the technoeuphoria around 20th century electrification and mass production, its current age resembles 20th century paranoia and surveillance bureaucracy. It conjures up the spectre of not too distant algorithmic Stalinisms, in which oligarchs / art collectors / secret courts are dispatching bot armies to fight proxy wars, track attention spans or gentrify ever new neighborhoods.

What used to be called productivism by the Soviet avant-garde of the 20th century – the claim for art to enter production and the factory – could now be replaced by circulationism. Circulationism is not about the art of making an image, but of post-producing, launching and accelerating it. It is about public relations of images in social networks, about advertisement and alienation, conformism and quantified spread and velocity.

But crucially circulationism, if reinvented, could also be about short-circuiting existing networks, circumventing and bypassing corporate “friendship” and hardware monopolies. It could become the art of recoding or rewiring the system by exposing state scopophilia, popular compliance and wholesale surveillance. Of course, it might also just go as wrong as its predecessor, by aligning itself with a Stalinist cult of productivity, acceleration and heroic exhaustion. While productivism left little traces in a dictatorship sustained by the cult of labor, could circulationism change a condition, in which heartbleed, insomnia and exposure are an algorithmic factory? Will circulationism alter reality’s hard- and software; it’s affects, drives and processes?

Auditorium Van Abbemuseum


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Supported by Goethe Institut