[-empyre-] Welcome to May on EMPYRE: Social Practice and Social Reproduction
ME Cara Baldwin
carabaldwin13 at gmail.com
Thu May 5 05:55:20 AEST 2016
In reflecting on the many ways in which social practice(s) within the context of cultural production and the expanded field of art practice, both historically and in recent years, leads us inevitably to reflect on, and interrogate, the function of socially engaged practices; what are the qualities and points of engagement, and what are they directed to? This is a question that is posed both formally and conceptually. In the former case, we consider the institutional and material compositions are engaged through the work itself. Conceptually, and in terms of content, we consider the various ways these formal, material and, finally sociocultural compositions lead us to discernment of meaning and intention.
Dont’s involvement in the HIV/AIDS justice movement and organizing in the L.A. Tenants Union, as well as the extensive (both in terms of time and scale) of the involvement of contributing and collective members of Ultrared in work that, finally, inform and form their work together in aggregate and as a whole, are meaningful places to start in discussing what might be useful points of departure for what is at stake in socially engaged critical cultural practices, both in the arts and in fields of activism across multiple registers.
What strikes me, personally, about this field of inquiry and generaly and any query around the work of Ultrared in particular, is a focus in the body of work toward social practices that tend to support the survival of subjects in relation to objects. Whatever we might say about socially engaged cultural practices, in general, I think it’s safe to say that the focus in the work of Ultrared, both formally and conceptually, is aligned with corporeal and material struggles to survive that occur both objectively and subjectively; collectively and individually. This focus, in turn, seems to inform the questions put forward as those demanding response and engagement:
1. What crises does the community of poor and working people face?
2. What is the analysis of the structural causes of those crises?
3. What strategies have emerged out of the struggle for transforming those causes—or, at the very least, for testing the analysis?
4. What tactics embody that strategy and test it in practice?
5. And last, who are we in relation to those tactics, that strategy, that analysis, and those who struggle amidst the crises?
For my part, I consider the urgency of these questions, as demands of the work, equally important. They might also provide us with a set of tools for examining the many ways in which work that is put forward as socially engaged but fails to consider the material conditions of subjects and objects it engages with, might be critiqued. This critique could occur at both the level of institutions and individual cultural and/or artistic projects.
Another point of departure for our conversation might be yielded in consideration of the value-form of participation as it is related and related to from the Marxist perspectives outlined in the text Dont is providing us with her (as well as in the writings of Ultrared at large) and that provided by Kyle and by way of Maya Gonzales in Endnotes here https://endnotes.org.uk/en/endnotes-the-logic-of-gender <https://endnotes.org.uk/en/endnotes-the-logic-of-gender> both critically and from a Marxist feminist perspective:
[If we were to compare the production of labour-power with the production of any other commodity, we would see that the “raw materials” used for this production process, i.e. the means of subsistence, transmit their value to the end product, while the new labour needed to turn these commodities into a functioning labour-power adds no value to this commodity. If we were to push this analogy further, we could say that — in terms of value — labour-power consists only of dead labour.]
What emerges, in contrast, as I read these two perspectives is a divergent view on the emancipatory possibilities inherent in participation, while, at the same time, some convergence or overlap in terms of a perspective that includes participation and participatory labor, critically, as producing of value. To revisit these terms from the perspective of the practices of Ultrared, these are understood to be as follows: the value-form of participation as the extraction of value from participation in state apparatuses.
I welcome any thoughts on this, and am so grateful, again, to all who care to consider any or all of these questions, and hope that my comments and these lines of inquiry are clear.
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