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Salon für Ästhetische Experimente: Anthony Iles "Imitation of Life? Vitalism, Exhaustion and Critique"

As a radical or renegade discourse, vitalism represents protest, disillusion, and hope. Life often grounds opposition today, after the political disappearance of a subject/object of history and scepticism about the philosophy of the subject in general. … A third way, Life disallows bourgeois stasis as certainly as it makes impossible the achievement of rational controls. In fine, Life conjures up experience, irrationality, and revolt. – Donna V. Jones, (2012: 17)

Workshop, 4-6pm (TBC)

Anthony Iles and Benjamin Noys will lead a workshop focusing on their recent interests in vitalism and critique (Noys), markets, entropy, exhaustion and the end of probability (Iles).

In the second half of the nineteenth century a great wave of anxiety swept through the discourses of progress animating Europe at that time. The discovery of fatigue corresponded to the new scientific theories of thermodynamics. Thus, in terms which corresponded very closely to the applications of technology and organisation of human labour, science discovered the centrality of energy to the structure and movement of the universe and the threat of inevitable energy loss, dissipation and decay. Recent theories of financial speculation have stressed the need to renew the management of probable risk in a volatile system, yet the vast increase in productive computational power tends to exhaust diversity rather than augment it. Both its prospect of a future and the prospect of its absolute destruction revolve around forms of contingency which have little to do with probability. Recent social movements have often stressed an opposition between the mechanistic routines of capitalist society against the elasticity and inventiveness of life. This ‘political vitalism’ relates in practice to the very same energetics of these earlier discourses of thermodynamics and energy conservation by promoting life as a negentropic force of excess. By seeking autonomy ‘political vitalism’ claims to operate as a replacement for critique, but actually reproduces central mystifications of life under capitalism.

Screening, 7pm

The workshop is followed by a film screening of 2 short videos by Downstairs Productions, Ilya Lipkin (US/Germany) & Joen P. Wedel (Denmark). The filmmakers will be present for and will join a discussion with Anthony Iles and Benjamin Noys after the screening.

Since 2010, the artists Ilya Lipkin and Joen Vedel have been collaborating under the rubric of a film production company named Downstairs Productions. Neither a real production company, nor a proper fiction, Downstairs Productions has provided the two with a cover under which to investigate questions of labour, value and artistic production through film and video. Working across genres and styles, Lipkin and Vedel gravitate towards the context specific, reflecting on their role as producers as well as on the relationship of artistic work to the new, networked, economy at large.

The Delegates (2010)was shot in a rubber manufacturing plant in Gotland, Sweden. The film is structured through a series of juxtapositions, cutting between scenes documenting the production process at the plant and scenes of Lipkin and Vedel acting out five interconnected vignettes on the factory grounds. The script for the film was generated through a process meant to mimic the assembly line of the rubber factory and is co-authored by several writers.

Untitled, (2012) is Downstairs Productions most recent work. This short video deals with the ideology of exercise and the institution of the gym. Without dialogue, and through a careful montage of constructed scenes, Lipkin and Vedel attempt to depict the endless feedback loop between the body and the computer, labour and appearance, value and health in the non-site that is the contemporary workplace.