Subject To Capital
Abrons Arts Center
March 3 - April 17, 2016
João Enxuto & Erica Love, Doreen Garner, Baseera Khan, Jennifer Moon & laub, Hélio Oiticica & Neville D’Almeida, Kembra Pfahler, Alan Ruiz, Allan Sekula, Aliza Shvarts and Hong-Kai Wang, D-L Alvarez & Jorge Ignacio Cortiñas.
Catalog [full version]
We are not only subjects of, but also subject to capitalism. Artists and theorists have mounted powerful critiques of the way capital’s economic system is built upon the conditions of our exploitation. And while such critiques point to capitalism as a system of domination that looms over our lives, perhaps less well attended is the way capitalism figures the very form for our subjectivities. Capitalism tells us what to be (productive, efficient, autonomous) as well as what to want – exacting violence against deviant formations that persist in spite of being illegible to this system. Noting the way capitalism circumscribes life to a relation with the market, Allan Sekula writes “[t]hese forces sought to organize people as atomized ‘private individuals,’ motivated en masse by the prospect of consumption, thus liquidating other dangerously oppositional forms of social bonding.”*
If we are stuck with capitalism, then capitalism is stuck with us – it flows through us as pedestals and frameworks that sustain its very function. Being subject to capitalism, in that sense, points to the duality of being ruled and yet depended upon by structures of capitalist power. How we take shape within these forces can as easily reproduce us as good subjects as it can throw the entire system off course.
Drawing on feminist and queer methodologies, the artists featured in Subject To Capital both illuminate and circumvent the violence of a capitalist logic. Utilizing perceptual, visceral, and mediatized strategies, the collected works unmoor a given sense of subjectivity as fixed or singular while simultaneously hypothesizing alternative modes of representation. If being “subject to” calls to mind subjugation and contingency, then the forms of subjectivity proposed by the collected works refuses any easy recognition. It is ultimately not a matter of who is seen in these works, but how they unfold the subject as a site that may be traversed by interruptions, and even resistances, to the smooth functioning of capitalism.
*Allan Sekula “School Is A Factory” from Photography Against The Grain (Nova Scotia: The Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design, 1984), 226.