What about bodies that don’t matter? Or, bodies that do matter as a means but not ‘as an end’, that is, as a Subject. These are bodies that don’t own themselves, aren’t allowed to name themselves, regulated objects who are assigned their being only through that being’s violent effacement, through its denial. Can these bodies that don’t matter even be represented, self-represented, at least? If so, could they, as a kind of nothing, as a negation, even matter to themselves or to each other as a group? If you had to choose but couldn’t choose both would you rather have a body or be a self? The former might ask: how do I make myself a body, whilst the latter would say: how do I become a self? These questions assume a sense of agency or autonomy to do and to be, to have a kind of voluntaristic entry into systems of (re)production. But what kind of non-matter is a negative body anyway? Is it more than derelict viscera? Unemployed negativity? Or vacant possession? We can talk about fixed bodies (like fixed capital or machines) and possible bodies (like variable capital or workers’ bodies), and we can talk about subjectified bodies, racialized, gendered, and queer bodies, or national bodies, bodies-without-organs, paranoid bodies, drugged bodies, family bodies, disorganised bodies, computer bodies (Turing’s hetero/homo binary machines), servant bodies and post-human bodies. How to deal with them? A machinic body could be thought of as the consequence of a tool body, largely superseding it, wherein a body’s relation to the object is based upon technique or artisanship directed toward a single aim and singular, as opposed to a machinic body that could be thought of as compartmentalised yet systematic, part of a greater unity (a factory): this division would be called something like formal and real subsumption, respectively, of bodies under the processes of capital, its imposition of the wage relation to produce surplus value in order to accumulate more of itself through the market, to persist as a mode of production, a totality of social relations. Or enslavement and subjection, respectively, now in one body. But do machinic bodies always produce value? What about unproductive bodies or surplus bodies that can’t reproduce themselves at all?
Artist: Henrik Olesen
Venue: Cabinet, London
Date: November 30, 2017 – January 27, 2018
Text (press release) and images provided by the event.
© Henrik Olesen, Cabinet, London U.K.