Organizer: Julia Landmann
Co-Organizer: Elisa PurschkeContact the Seminar Organizers
Insofar as materialist critiques of the capitalist valorization process aim at rendering the relations between use and exchange value contingent, they enable ways to think that relation differently. But claiming “use” as a critical or aesthetic category is difficult not least because it cannot avoid dealing with reification’s pervasiveness and universalizing tendency that structures spheres of experience (Lukács) as much as social practices, including aesthetic and philosophical practices (cf. Adorno/Horkheimer).
Following Brecht in that it is less about “undoing” the conditions of reification, less about recuperating the hidden use value of commodities beneath their exchange value, than about “developing” those conditions, we want to bring into conversation different forms of critique of capitalist relations of production, from the Frankfurt School to Postcolonial theories, that take reification as their inevitable basis; and that move through reification beyond reification.
While tools to work through the capitalist value-form have been provided by political economy as much as by anthropological and linguistic critiques of value, our panel looks at how aesthetic practices and philosophical critiques articulate their stakes in the question. On the one hand, we are interested in perspectives that mobilize aesthetic judgment as a critical operation to ‘make use’ of processes of reification: We could think, for example, of Adorno’s concept of mimesis in the artwork as reproducing a logic of substitution and developing a critical subjectivity throughout the process of reception that thereby intervenes into a capitalist logic of substitution. Or, we could follow Sianne Ngai’s lead and investigate contemporary “aesthetic categories” that encode capitalism’s value-motions as well as its internal barriers, such as the gimmick.
On the other hand, we are interested in exploring aesthetic operations that engage with modes of cultural production structured around developing “feasible use-value configurations” (D. Harvey): from notions of repurposing and Gebrauchspoetik and Soviet debates around how to conceive the “utility” or “purposefulness” of cultural production to interventions from Postcolonial theory and Black studies such as the concepts of metamorphosis and of the “plot system” within the plantation (Sylvia Wynter), that generate new use values by inhabiting the economical process of exchange of which they are a product.
Our panel aims at tracing critical and poetic maneuvers in alternative relations between exchange and use value across a variety of contexts, whether Soviet or Caribbean. We welcome proposals which focus on modalities and tools of engaging in ‘connective work’ between the discourses of value: détournement; remembrance; repetition; working-through; metamorphosis; appropriation; refunctionalization; estrangement; catachresis; as well as genres (Gebrauchslyrik, organon, agitational forms).