∞venns∞ Commute and Commune

VNNDRM Foreground
Notes on No 2, - Commute and Commune
occurred on 20th September 2016

The agenda: original e-mail invite

__ Art is against us.

Anne Boyer made a point on how literature appears to be against us--with its relationship to the power imbalances governing the structure of the world. This could be applied to the art world for as open-minded, inclusive and progressive it makes itself out to be, the art world is still full of exclusions. From the way the system is still larger supported by the rich and powerful to the art bubble with its art speak and specialised audience. Nik Kosmas of AIDS3D left the art world, hoping to have a more direct engagement with a general audience as oppose to remaining within the circuit. He felt that while he had to dumbed down for the more general audience, it was therefore 'more effective and important'.

In a lot of sense, the fact that the nature of art production is difficult--where one has to sustain themselves through odd jobs on top of their practice--points to how art is a form of resistance against the system. But, is this act enough? Is it enough considering how isolating, exclusive and elitist the whole she-bang is?

Does art need to remain antagonistic to act as a form of resistance against the system? I am interested in models such as DIS or Nik Kosmas' companies, where their relationship towards capital isn't overtly pessimistic, but are operating through a more obscure manner, often flirting with what is taken to be 'bad'. A collapse of what is traditionally defined as 'good' and 'bad' is needed to open up a space for new ideas, discussions and debates. How can we work within capital to destroy it? Or, perhaps, besides and in adjacent?


'Literature is against us': In Conversation with Anne Boyer here.
Nik Kosmas, why did you decide to end your career as an artist? here.

__ Cultural Appropriation

Capital is indeed an unrelenting homogenising force, capable of commodifying anything and everything. In an economy fixated on growth and material wealth, money becomes a colonising authority, toppling all other forms of value. Cultural value is superseded by wealth accumulation, stripping away its weight, histories, problems and significance.

Thank you, Maria, for sharing Lionel Shriver's speech of being against cultural appropriation. While I admire and share some of her position of writing as an empathetic matrix or being against categories limited by identity, I cannot take to her lightness on the subject. Considering that she is speaking from a position of white privilege. She appears oblivious to the fact that inequality is rampant, that the political and economic structure of our society is still very much racialised, gendered, presupposed by class, sexual orientation, able-bodiedness...and it goes on and on. That our present condition is historically specific amidst colonialisation, slavery, violent wars and injustice. When certain voices and experiences are not heard or legitimised, when some of our identities have constantly been suppressed, deprived, twisted and distorted, we can't get to the point of being post-identity just yet.

The question of cultural appropriation is certainly tricky. At what point does such policing halt our own progress or contribute to the state of disruptive political correctness? Are individuals only allowed to participate in the representation of their identity? How can we interact with different cultures without exploiting, exoticising them? These days, with the ease of travel, what becomes of tourism?

I guess there is a need to have a strong understanding our one's own position, its problems and privileges, before situating it in relation with the other. I am interested in how residencies can create long-lasting relationships with the community involved as opposed to tourism, with its problematic reliance on spectatorship, commoditification and reduction.

Lionel Shriver's controversial cultural appropriation speech here.
Yassmin Abdel-Magied on walking out during the speech here.
Other writers' opinion here.

__ Untapped Potential | Things discussed but yet to be expanded on 
  • 'Cognitive capitalism' 
  • The process of valorisation. 
  • The turn towards a image-based literacy: capitalism takes away our time / selling off our labour power just to survive / What becomes of reading and activities that takes time? What is the state of contemporary image-making? (read: Anne Boyer - 'Literature is against us') 
  • Attention economy 
  • Community, friendships and relationship (amidst an increasingly transactional time) 
  • De-centralised mode of production and structures (rhizomes, fractals) 

__ Other links in circulation


Feel free to share your thoughts on the session.


And the idea of a post-colonial identity… how much of it is based/a reproduction of your coloniser’s projection?

What constitute the Singaporean identity? Much of ‘Singaporeaness’ is based on food and ‘Singlish’, which is skewed in favour of the Chinese (think: Halal, ‘Aiyoh’ being an Tamil but often interpreted as Mandarin). What becomes of racial identity when much of it is reduced to CMIO or how culture is suppressed in light of ‘social harmony/cohesion’? How can we talk about identity and its relation to the state, the government?

Recognising that a critique of Capitalism isn’t merely pointing out all the negatives, but recognising what positive outcome it has bear...and the fact that the denunciation of capitalism has proven ineffective, otherwise it would have already vanished.

‘Capitalism’ and ‘capital’ cannot be used interchangeably. In developing a rigorous critique, in expanding one’s knowledge, one must be sensitive and capable of distinguishing such terms.

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