“Do Androids dream of surplus value? Robotic Labor Exploitation and the Falling Rate of Profit”
As part of the “Imaging Post-Capitalism” Festival (May 1-6, 2018) Kal Spelletich & Chris Carlsson conducted a performative lecture, asking the question of where profit will come from, if the much ballyhooed robotic future arrives as scheduled. And what better way to play with this issue than with some of artist Kal Spelletich’s robots, especially the ones that engage in “affective labor?”
Kal Spelletich was born and raised in Davenport Iowa, recently named “America’s Worst Place to Live.” He started working at his father’s construction company when still a child. Shortly after being given a chemistry set at the age of nine, he started blowing up stuff, experimenting with electricity, fire, alchemy and constructing tree houses and boats to launch on the Mississippi river. Kal ran away from home at the age of 15 and started squatting abandoned buildings and living on the streets. He worked as a dishwasher, cook, carpenter, auto mechanic, day laborer, plumber, salesman, teacher, union factory worker, stagehand, fix it guy. Discovered art through a camera. He somehow put himself through college and graduate school.
Kal founded Seemen, an interactive machine art performance collective, in 1988. Kal has collaborated with Survival Research Labs and countless others from rock bands to scientists, politicians, NASA, Hollywood television and filmmakers. He curates art exhibits and is involved in political activism. He works on the waterfront of San Francisco scouring junkyards and dumpsters for industrial items whose technology can be reapplied. Exploring the boundaries between fear, control and exhilaration by giving audience members the opportunity to operate and control some downright dangerous machinery. His work has terrified and thrilled tens of thousands of people all over the planet, gotten him in trouble with the law and thrown out of galleries. People have cried, he has been threatened with violence and lawsuits and his work has been banned. For 28 years he has been experimenting with interfacing humans and technology to put people in touch with intense real life experiences and to empower them. Kal’s work is always interactive, requiring a participant to enter or operate the piece, often against their instincts of self-preservation.
He sometimes teaches at Universities, lectures, presents workshops and exhibits around the world. And Kaltek University.
VIDEO Documentation of this event HERE.
As part of the “Imagining-Post Capitalism” Festival, a selection of shorts from P2P Fightsharing III: Precarity was screened at the New Wall of Oakland, right outside of Pro Arts Gallery, including Mayday Barcelona (8:52); St. Precarious Goes Shopping (5:51); Yomango Tango (6:11); Gimme an occupation of the premises with that McStrike (4:05).
The action methods of the précaires varried from traditional syndicalist action to innovative actions based on subvertising, culture jamming and media stunts : the occupation of the premises by McStrikers in Paris (McStrike, Paris), the picketing of chainstores open on Sunday’s (Mayday Parade – Milan), the interruption of the French prime time news (Intermittents du spectacle, Paris), the devotion to Saint Precarious (Saint Precarious goes shopping, Milan), the reality hacking of the hot spots of consumerism (Chainworkers, Milan – YoMango-Tango, Barcelona – Adbusters, Japan) and the docu-fictions “Precarity Academy” (Teleimmagini, Mayday Parade Milan) and “Trash Contract” (UBU TV, Barcelona).
The videos on “Precarity” show the emerging of a new form of labor auto-organisation that is moving from the level of negotiation into reticular and direct-action based organization. 197 min of digital video are translated into 6 languages to enforce the building of a disruptive, socio-political identity and to demonstrate the possibility of insurrection beyond any classical trade union scheme of representation.
Hey! May Day Play! w/ L.M. Bogad
HEY! MAY DAY PLAY! after the march, before the uprising, come over and play
This “performance game” devised by L.M. Bogad repurposes and detourns the structures of popular role-playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons, to draw audience members into playing actual scenarios from the history of social movements. The inherent joy of play and gaming draws audiences into an imaginative, engaging and at times troubling exploration of turning-point moments from the history of the civil rights movement, the labor movement, and others. Bogad will also present a small collection of radical games from near and far.
HEY! MAY DAY PLAY! was made possible by the Zellerbach Family Foundation.
L.M. Bogad is an author, performance artist/activist, Professor at UC Davis, Director of the Center for Tactical Performance, and co-founder of the Clown Army. He has performed across the USA, Europe and South America, from SF MOMA, the Whitney Museum, Yerba Buena Arts Center and the Mattress Factory to occupied zones and a squatted military base in Barcelona. He has led Tactical Performance workshops around the world, including in Cairo during the first month of the Egyptian Revolution, and was both Art and Controversy Fellow and Distinguished Lecturer on Performance and Politics at Carnegie Mellon University, and a Humanities and Political Conflict Fellow at ASU.
Bogad’s performances have covered topics such as the Egyptian revolution, the Haymarket Square Riot, the FBI’s COINTELPRO activities, and the Pinochet coup in Chile, and have received grant support from the Puffin Fund, Network of Ensemble Theatres, Bay Area Theatre Artists Fund, U.C. Institute for Research in the Arts, the British Academy and the British Arts and Humanities Research Council. His newest piece, ECONOMUSIC: Keeping Score, has been performed in NYC at the Austrian Cultural Forum and the Hemispheric Institute for Performance and Politics, and at festivals in Helsinki, São Paulo, Buenos Aires, Santiago, at SF MOMA, and Barcelona. His play, COINTELSHOW: A Patriot Act was published by PM Press and recently performed at the San Francisco Mime Troupe’s Studio.
Brown Bag Lunch Series
The Brown Bag Lunch Series, part of the Imagining Post-Capitalism Festival (May 1-6, 2018) aims to engage passersby and government workers on their lunch break in impromptu conversation on a specific topic. The series of three events takes place at Frank H. Ogawa/Oscar Grant Plaza in Oakland and aims to encourage engagement through an open format discussion, facilitated by the Imagining Post-Capitalism organizers and guest artists, who will help mediate thoughts and ideas proposing a different future for us all.
Working with Nature to Reduce Work and Waste
Brown Bag Lunch Series discussion (May 2nd, 2018, 12-1PM @ Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Oakland, CA)
From the perspective of one participant, by LisaRuth Elliott
One of my first conversations was with a waste worker—a plaza janitor pushing a trash can on a cart who stopped for a chat on the theme. I wanted to quote him, he had a quick quip that got to the heart of what we were getting at.
A young woman looked inquisitively at our easel with the prompt for the day’s conversation, and when invited, sat down to join us. We asked, Do we work with systems we create from the ground up that are in direct relationship to and with natural systems—like guest artist Asya Abdrahman’s fog catchers that were on display on the lawn behind us, that through simple construction available to anyone who can understand how to create a triangle, are currently collecting 55 gallon drums full of water daily from the marine fog in Point Reyes? Do we attempt to take on the larger than us, overarching systems of capitalism based on the exploitation of resources and greed we are forced to use to make our daily lives run? Do we do both at the same time? What are the chasms we have to cross first before the populace understands the starting point is that capitalism has broken our ability to thrive and live better lives?
I was approached by a man from Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS) passing out flyers for a rally coming up for voter registration, criminal justice reform, and employment opportunities. i took the flyer and asked if he would like to have a conversation about where to go beyond capitalism. Initially he didn’t want to sit down to talk, but as soon as we disagreed on whether or not capitalism was broken—he felt it is stronger than ever, evidenced by my mention of the widening gap between rich and poor—he indeed took a seat and we started talking more pointedly. He felt I was being optimistic about there being a way to approach the problem of offering a better life for all, a system that addressed the well-being of humanity. As he left he situated the conversation in an assumed hope for a socialist republic, which I wasn’t convinced had worked as a state system and wasn’t necessarily where we needed to go with our decentralized attempts, but we at least had gotten to a context for what could be.
We were collectively thinking about how items, goods, products, art are valued. Artists and cultural producers among us have had the experience that if you give something away, people see it as a throwaway item, not worth their time, must not be worth much if it is free. If you charge, even just ask for $1, then it is more likely that someone will see the item as worth something. I suggested that nothing is actually ever FREE, that if something is given for free, it should have an asterisk and then a chart or table (like the nutritional information on a food package) breaking down the time, resources, energy usage, materials paid for or used in the creation of the item. Chris reminded us that the transactional nature enabled by money takes us away from having to interact with each other in complex ways, takes us out of a negotiation with another human, simplifies it. Digital money abstracts it even further of course, in that we no longer even have a relationship to cash in hand, it’s seen as an even bigger freedom to remove ourselves from having to touch or see money. Asya is putting together a Critical Mass Market based on bicycling as a means to transfer or trade services and goods, which reminded us of the Really Really Free Market that took place at Dolores Park earlier in this millennium. Hers is meant to be a bit of a moving barter system, though she didn’t use the word barter. I reflected a bit on my own experience with generosity with my bread project, LisaRuth’s Lovin’ From the Oven which is a skills sharing endeavor usually around a kitchen table and often results in a bit of confusion as to who is giving and receiving in the end.
When Asya’s painted fog-catching silk squares came out and were being gifted to those sitting in conversation, immediately we had a number of visitors who didn’t really communicate other than that they wanted this free beautiful cloth that was being handed out. There were no conditions to who received them, Asya included as recipients even those people who stopped briefly. She explained to those who stayed that it was part of a project that started in Morocco, and references the music that over time became the Blues. The painting has something like 30 layers. The abstract colors feature a faint outline of the figure of a woman, the sun anchoring the field, at the bottom and forming the core of the piece and located in what looks to me to be the solar plexus of the figure’s body.
All the while, Asya’s son was working with her brother on the lawn to create bamboo pole structures and affix netting to catch the fog, of which there was none on this day. He also broke down a tall plastic bottle into a continuous thin strip of plastic which can be used to wrap the poles, and when heated, shrinks to create a firm fastener. The bottle was cut down into this material using a razor screwed into a wooden board, and this simple tool quickly transformed the vessel into cordage.
Of course, the conversations naturally turned to asking us who and what Shaping San Francisco as a project is, so we were able to speak to our intention to seed our present understanding of the world, and the direction we want to see it go toward, in a deeper sense of history and where we have come from to get to this moment. We’ll be out in front of ProArts Gallery on May 3 and May 4 with new topics. We’re looking forward to it!
LisaRuth Elliott (Curator/Shaping San Francisco) produced the three-day event San Francisco History Days at the Old Mint in 2016 and 2017, organized the California Historical Society’s community outreach process for the Old U.S. Mint, and headed up a collaborative archival digitization project of neighborhood newspapers.
As part of the Imagining Post-Capitalism Festival, we will post on our blog relevant work, text, ideas, and documentation of the multitude of festival events, scheduled to take place in Oakland and San Francisco. THIS is our FIRST blog post, featuring Oakland-based artist Tanja London .
Tanja London is a kinesthetic, visual, and haptic artist based in East Oakland, CA. She grew up in Germany rummaging around in the beautiful widespread forests of the South as well as in her WWll family history. Querying social and hierarchical constructs is an integral part of who she is. Her work has a feminist viewpoint and explores sociopolitical and ecological discourses such as the erosion of democracy, inherited stress and trauma, the cultural impact of military technology, and resilience. Besides a BA in Social Pedagogy and Contemporary Dance she majored in Math and Art in Secondary School, holds a MFA in Modern Dance including a Screendance Certificate and is a certified STOTT Pilates® Instructor.
REDEFINE and CAP capitalism!
I thought I would never experience the erosion of democracy in my lifetime … I thought the sacrifices over generations were too great to give up their achievements so easily – so soon …But here we are …
The recent years and decades for me are reminders for that nothing is constant if there is not a driving momentum behind it – even if it has the best of intentions. To say the least – these last decades have been a very humbling experience and the last couple of years were rather an ironic slap in the face.
Picture this: Me … born in the Seventies, the second and last child of German parents who were children in the Second World War. I … growing up in prosperous Germany with a good education system yet under an old parenting style shaped by experiences and convictions gained in an era, which was obsessed by power structures, control, shaping a nationalist identity, hygiene, genetics as means of survival and betterment of the species and the utter repulsing results of those abysmal crimes against humanity that we all know under the heading of the holocaust.
My whole life I was and still am trying to come to terms with that history engraved in my cell memory … While doing so I was pointing fingers at my grandparents and parents …. but today – I have to point at myself … What am I doing? What can I do? What are my perspectives … possibilities?
Back when my grandparents were still alive, I was blaming them for not being part of the resistance to the National Socialist Party in the 1930’s and 1940’s. I was blaming my parents for their white supremacist and racist viewpoints… but as I have to learn today … here I am … discovering thought forms buried in my own perspectives that are shaped by my own white supremacist upbringing. Here I am living in a world that experiences a massive lateral shift to the right and what do I do? What can I do? What are my perspectives … possibilities?
I did not join the political resistance – just as my grandparents did. I am not a politician or active in that arena as I simply cannot deal with the dynamics attached to that field of taking action. I am an artist … one of many who for their labor do not get adequately compensated or heard. A profession I honed for decades, Dance, is now practiced in my spare time. Driven by passion, conviction and anger I try to learn more, understand more, express what I do observe and try to discuss issues with the public that I think are vital for the further sociopolitical developments … all species and entities included.
Well, the following films are what I can do … ‘occupation’ and ‘KAPITAL’ were made with the intent to spark one of these discussions: a discussion about democracy.
Do we still live in a democracy? Is capitalism a premise for democracy? How can we redefine and cap capitalism?
It is interesting to read about democracy in the Journal of Democracy’s Fall Volume in 2016:
“The correlation between wealth and democracy implies that transitions to democracy should occur primarily in countries at the middle levels of economic development. In poor countries democratization is unlikely; in rich countries it has already occurred. In between there is a political transition zone; countries, in that particular economic stratum are most likely to transit to democracy and most countries that transit to democracy will be in that stratum” (Samuel P. Huntington, The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late twentieth Century, 1991).
But as wealth is eroding for the general public, so is democracy.
By now you probably wonder … why choose the media movement and film to express concerns about the current state of democracy? You might think Screendance or Dance Film is a strange medium to ask these questions. You might be right, but I rather think that the abstract quality of this art form can lead to rather interesting debates as they do not start from a concrete, logical argument but rather with a kinesthetic experience and an open to interpretation audio visual impression. Watching the films, I hope, leaves you questioning in the first place what the heck you just saw rather than delivering a logical or offending point straight forward to your frontal cortex. It opens the discussion to all and does not harden into the two-camp — the ‘I’m right and you’re wrong’ mentality, which with logic it seems you cannot perturb.
Furthermore, I am just in plain love with improvisational approaches and inquiries … Movement for me is an embodied Science and the inquiry of Movement Improvisation a practice of freedom in itself. Think about it … where do dictatorships or any hierarchy of power start to control the masses … it’s the body – it’s the mind. The body shapes the mind (Gallagher, 2016).
But in the end … you tell me if these films spark an interesting starting point to ponder the erosion of democracy. I am still experimenting with the genre and this technique that I call ‘concept translation’, an artistic process to combine theoretical and studio research. You are the better judge if these films are actually doing what I am hoping them to do.
So … write me … tell me what you think!
Tanja London: FILMS:
occupation, Tanja London
occupation explores the erosion of democracy – a state of uprootedness in the continuing context of the events of the Iraq War and the World Financial Crisis of 2008.
The film features three movers: two dancers and one building. In 2009, the Odd Fellows Hall in Salt Lake City, Utah, a five million-pound building underwent an engineering feat when it was raised eleven feet off its foundation and moved in one piece. Interleaved footage of the dancers and the building in motion illustrates their correlation— it formulates a question … do we still live in a democracy?
KAPITAL, Tanja London
KAPITAL asks what the actual capital of a democratic society is and if capitalism is the premise for democracy. These performative explorations and experiments for a social form in development were developed for the 2016 theater dance production “Salon de la Démocratie or Capital and … “ by tatraum projekte schmidt from Düsseldorf/Germany.