Moving Images of Speculation #5: Artistic (Non)-Labour and its Discontents

The fifth instalment of the Moving Images of Speculation Research Inlab, Jan van Eyck, April 14, Piet Zwart Institute 11:30 – 17:30

Curated by: Jelena Vesić in collaboration with BikVanDerPol and Rachel O’Reilly

Supported by: Jan Van Eyck Academie – Maastricht, Piet Zwart Institute – Rotterdam and School for Missing Studies – Amsterdam



Mladen Stilinovic, Work Is Disease [Karl Marx], 1981


Amidst the present day operations of speculative finance, the economy culturalizes, while culture is increasingly tied to economic logics and analytics. In this double bind, artistic (allegedly non-alienated and autonomous) activity is transformed into ‘exhausting immaterial labour’, while conditions for ‘regular workers’ become increasingly pervaded by ideologies of creativity, free labour and self-management. The following lecture series will speculate on these processes in various, less expected ways …


11:30 – 12:00 Gathering and Introduction

12:00 – 13:00 Jelena Vesić: Administration of Aesthetics or On Undercurrents of Negotiating Artistic Jobs – Between Love and Money, Between Money and Love … 

13:00 – 13:15 immediate Q&A

13:15 – 14:45 Marina Vishmidt and Anthony Iles: It’s Not Her Factory: Art, Abolition and the Labour of the Negative

14:45 – 15:00 Immediate Q&A

15:00 – 15:30 Break

15:30 – 16:30 Rachel O’Reilly: Poetical Unworkings of Cultural Economy Linguistics: Aesthetics between contemporary art and All that Gas

16:30 – 17:30 Discussion


Jelena Vesić


This performative lecture will explore different modes in which concepts of love and money inhabit contexts of the production and interpretation of art. Love and money – as social relations – will be analysed within this ideological space, strained by internal tensions and placed between the autonomy of art and the heteronomy of work. In our attempt to understand this “apparatus of production” we will try to approach it from a close distance, considering different practices of the administration of aesthetics in their “everyday banality.” From this proximity, we can concentrate on the very moment in which projects and collaborations are set in motion. How does art-as-ideology inhabit the speech used inside art’s occasions of labour negotiation? How are the modes of production established by means of speech? How do individual actors mediate these processes? Select dramaturgies of communication – non-official, para-legal and p2p agreements towards art production – will capture the terrain of operations of those who live at the bottom of “enterprise Culture” – independent writers, freelance teachers, experimental curators, critically oriented visual artists, leftist intellectuals, alternative theatre troupes, independent critics, essayists, columnists, etc. For the actors in this field, contemporary life is marked by the nominalism of keywords and terms, by tag cloud mentalities and excesses of networked communication that transform all its participants into “linguistic animals” – shaped and limited by a specific matrix of language.


Jelena Vesić is an independent curator, writer, researcher and lecturer.


Marina Vishmidt and Anthony Iles


In the present moment, we can say that art finds itself in a new relation with abstract value, whether it’s the typical forms of contemporary work or financial mechanisms. This means that art as a social (or asocial) practice not only reflects but revises the productive forces, which tend towards forces of ‘non-production’ and devalorisation in an era of debt-financed austerity. Modernist forms of self-abolition of art and artists, predicated as they were on a baseline autonomy of art, become impotent or compromised as the social relations of (non-)production increasingly make uncomfortable incursions into negations given form and meaning by that autonomy. This applies both to the structural re-composition of work by ‘creative’ and self-propelled forms of exploitation as well as the inscription of art in the enhancement of market values. However, as art expands to include more and more fields of social action within its imaginative and institutional remit (political activity, work, education), the paradox remains that the social effectiveness of art is guaranteed by its separation from capitalist work. Thus, art’s estrangement from labour continues apace, but, at this historical juncture, coincides with labour’s estrangement from labour: labouring subjects who do not identify with themselves as labour. This lecture will examine a few instances of recent and historical art, cinematic, and poetic practices to draw out some of these implications.


Marina Vishmidt is a writer, researcher and editor who lives in London. She recently obtained her PhD on Speculation as a Mode of Production in Art and Capital.

 Anthony Iles is a writer of fiction, criticism and theory, and a contributing editor with Mute.

Rachel O’Reilly


The visual arts tend to stereotype poetry and poets as naively (romantically) distanced from ‘real’ material macroeconomic disciplining. Critical poetry’s apparent greater territorial refrain from negotiations with capital for access to publics and payments for performativity can similarly have us assume that to invest in the poetic is to carve out mostly marginal spaces of spiritual durability and non-labour. And yet, the everyday cultural worker’s discursive suspension of art’s political economy has us all at risk of turning into this assuredly fictional ‘bad’ poet, as hyperindividuated and unorganized as this figure is. Key to Christian Marazzi’s recent work on Language and Capital is a coming to awareness that 1) speculative finance is characterized by and functions through linguistic conventions and 2) the newly dominant forms of labour are produced through language and means analogous to linguistic performance. Further, that these are linked. Let us consider that contemporary poetry understands itself as a subjectivizing ur-form of value production precisely in its apparent autonomous investment in (self-)dividing labour from non-labour, and secondly then, that within post-fordist networks, territories, and flows, more than poets write ‘poetry’ – a fact that critical poetries have tarried with so exemplarily since at least the 1970s. Drawing on the speaker’s curatorial practice and poetry collection-in-progress Rue Methanic, this lecture considers ways of tarrying differently  – at the level of language and the diagram – with current forms of globalized cultural work (esp. ‘the curatorial’), given the interpentration of this work by specific, high-level linguistic and conceptualist innovations of neoliberal governance. Rachel will read aloud from and give analytical insight into her own recent reworkings and (re-)re-territorializations of the tactical linguistics of financialized post-fordism.


Rachel O’Reilly is writer, poet, curator and researcher based in the Netherlands.