25th of September, 2013, Node Gallery

The history of event organization in the arts is often discussed in conjunction to progressive political concepts – participation, social justice, democracy, empowerment. However, the techniques it deploys are often in close proximity to an array of dispositives also dear to management and marketing professionals. Management (understood as the government of production) promises fun and self-realization through work, while marketing (understood as the government of consumption) deeply enmeshes us within an infrastructure of promised satisfaction. Cutting across the two, there is a continuous interest in the ways in which people fantasize about their own versions of happiness.

It would be neither accurate nor effective to complain that the system simply appropriates the ideas and practices invented outside or against it. We could try instead to explore the uncanny, uncomfortable intimacy between engagement industries and the critical practices (aesthetic, pedagogical, of care) that conspire against the present post-neoliberal regime from the perspective of the pleasures they afford.

While Foucault and Deleuze famously disagreed around the significance of pleasure vis-à-vis capitalism, they both became interested in the role it played in the coming control societies, where we are no longer confronted with rigid and stable institutional clusters –the State, the Family, the Party, the Church, etc. – but with dispositives that are flexible, ephemeral, and modular, and above all, enabling.

The hypothesis of this presentation is that pleasure could provide a point of entry for unpacking some of the challenges of contemporary politics: what enables us to distinguish between situations that feel good but fulfill the predicaments of governance, and those that don’t? What can we do to activate and sustain collective pleasures inhospitable towards the aggressive seduction of capitalist culture?

At stake is not only a serious discussion of the political claim of post-representational cultural practices, but more broadly, the asymptotic split between the techniques used in funware, branding and gamification and those able to replenish the militancy of convivial practices.

– Valeria Graziano