Bahar Norizadeh

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Still from After Scarcity (2018), by Bahar Noorizadeh
Still from After Scarcity (2018), by Bahar Noorizadeh

Stranger than Sci-fi: Towards Weirding Economies 

This thesis aims to analyze a number of art projects in which I examine social organization, composition and infrastructural footprints of neoliberalism, with a focus on economic justice in our systemically informal economies. Through reflecting on my practice as an art-subject implicated in the larger-scale cultural economy, I demonstrate the pragmatic and historical limits of regulation in art’s casualized structure. These limits warrant a search for alternative economic paradigms in distinct domains of thought and practice. I find this systemic analogue in the 20th century economic theory and history. Tracking the transformation from cybernetic socialist planning to speculative finance, this economic history phase-shifts the question of political reform from a regulative economic approach to one under the reign of speculative capitalism. Specifically, and somewhat counterintuitively for received critical approaches, it is the current reputational hegemony of finance that provides the paradigm for restorative justice.  

Marxian Art Theory thus far has described the antinomy of speculation-qua-negation in art, while providing an analysis of speculation as a shared mode of production rooted in the history of philosophy, art, and finance. The theory however lacks a perspective stemming from art practice, and from art practitioners as performative of this immanent speculative paradox. Practice-based approaches, on the other hand, reduce art’s inherent speculative contradiction to a stance, either fully subsumed and implicated in the neoliberal economy, or, on the other hand, imbued with absolute speculative agency that can traverse its material conditions. In this thesis I suggest a practice-based methodology that doesn’t abide by this false binary and that can contain an account of politics, therefore justice, while upholding speculation as the operative emancipatory modus operandi for art. The question interrogated here is whether it is possible, in practice, to construct a notion of speculative justice, in lieu of regulation, as a collective claim in art? And whether such experiments are generative for political theory and practice beyond art, given the synergy of art and finance in the latest stage of capitalism?  

To lay out this transformation from regulative to speculative strategies, I interrogate a series of projects that cover an array of distinct conditions of production and thematics around art’s own governance and its relation to speculative capitalism. As it concerns art’s formalized regulation, I will hash out the Art Protocol (2017) and BLOCC (2018-ongoing) as two preliminary projects within my body of work on the governance of art’s globalized casual economy and its complicity with urban space capitalization. I then follow through with these works’ inferences that have guided me towards producing the sci-fi essay film After Scarcity (2018). This film thematically engaged with utopian projects of distributed planning and decentralized non-market economics in the context of the Soviet Union’s cybernetic experiments from 1950s to 1980s. The chronological account of my practice will eventually lead to a compilation of theoretical and practical findings, integrated into the design of the platform Weird Economies: A online platform, journal and programming space for artistic practice and research, centered on economic futurisms and speculative politics that takes platformization as a historical reality for any wager on future commons.   

In this sense, my chronicle acts to illustrate the figure of the artist as not an origin but a corollary of historical transformations in production and distribution formats. The premise of this thesis is that my work as an artist is performative of the historically contingent structures and infrastructures reproduced by institutions. Reflecting on my experience of working in the art field, this thesis enables my articulation of these theoretical and historical postulates as life-qua-practice and its institutions, evolving from industrial capitalism to financial capitalism and, more recently yet, platform capitalism.  

The goal is to move away from the reproduction of an essentialized speculative subject in line with the labour theory of value and to de-essentialize this subject. Doing so enables an examination of the networkification of art’s social domain and the ways in which it allows for the accumulation of prestige capital, as exposing precisely how speculation-qua-fabulation has replaced the artist as labourer. If the network (consolidated today in the global market) with its protocol engineering, valuation metrics, social design, and forecasting models, has overcome the subject/agent, it demands a pragmatic understanding of agency derived from our rating reality today.

Supervisors

Suhail Malik and Simon Martin

Website

www.baharnoorizadeh.com