Neomaterialism is a blog run by Joshua Simon, curator and writer and a 2011-2013 Vera List Center Fellow at the New School, who is researching expanded notions of Thingness.


The aim of this blog is to examine the order of things today. How come symbols behave like materials (“fake” and “real” brands)? Why have commodities become the historical subject (do we furnish our world with IKEA or rather we dwell in its world)? Are humans reduced to simply absorbing surpluses (with baby diapers being a form of child labor)? How labor has shifted from production to consumption? Why is everything we do is work (even when we are not employed) and how can a generation overqualified for the labor market can change everything?


This blog hosts source materials and documents, together with commentary and analysis.

Re-introducing different notions of dialectical materialism into the already established conversation on the subjectivity of things, Neomaterialism challenges the investigation which the new-materialists have begun, relating it to labor, debt, credit, animisim and alienation, life-taxes and social organization.


With the book Neomaterialism (Sternberg Press, 2013), available in stores now the blog also operates as an ongoing archive for references, reviews and events.
A special session of the Social Theory Workshop discussing Noam Yuran’s book 
WHAT MONEY WANTS
AN ECONOMY OF DESIRE 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014 
4:30-6:30pm 
Franke Institute for the Humanities 




“When I read this book, I am alternately thrilled and enlightened, confused and frustrated… You just might be reading one of the formative tracts of our time.” Keith Hart


What in everyday life is an obvious truth, namely, that in some sense or another, people want money— is basically unthinkable in economic terms. Herein lies the starting point for the main argument of this book. If desire for money in itself is rejected by economic thought, then an idea of money as on object of desire is a point of departure for an elaboration of a comprehensive alternative to contemporary economics. Conceiving the desire for money not as an pathological aberration (“greed”) but as fundamental economic reality necessitates a radial shift not only in concept of money but also in conceptions of what commodity is, what economic behavior is, and what the economy is. So, what would economics look like if it acknowledged desire for money?

Through the works of Thorstein Veblen, Georg Simmel, Max Weber and Karl Marx, a philosopher Noam Yuran in intellectually engaging manner shows in this book how money permeates economic reality, from finance to its spectacular double in our consumer economy of addictive shopping. Rich in colorful and accessible examples, from Charles Dickens (juxtapositing him with Adam Smith) to Reality TV, this outstanding book debunks the mainstream economics perspective and lays out a radically different economic ontology.


Read the introduction here


Read the preface by Keith Hart here
Monday 10/20/2014

(1 note)

book; display; money; WMW; chicago;

A special session of the Social Theory Workshop discussing Noam Yuran’s book 
WHAT MONEY WANTS
AN ECONOMY OF DESIRE 
Wednesday, October 22, 2014 
4:30-6:30pm 
Franke Institute for the Humanities 
“When I read this book, I am alternately thrilled and enlightened, confused and frustrated… You just might be reading one of the formative tracts of our time.” Keith Hart
What in everyday life is an obvious truth, namely, that in some sense or another, people want money— is basically unthinkable in economic terms. Herein lies the starting point for the main argument of this book. If desire for money in itself is rejected by economic thought, then an idea of money as on object of desire is a point of departure for an elaboration of a comprehensive alternative to contemporary economics. Conceiving the desire for money not as an pathological aberration (“greed”) but as fundamental economic reality necessitates a radial shift not only in concept of money but also in conceptions of what commodity is, what economic behavior is, and what the economy is. So, what would economics look like if it acknowledged desire for money?
Through the works of Thorstein Veblen, Georg Simmel, Max Weber and Karl Marx, a philosopher Noam Yuran in intellectually engaging manner shows in this book how money permeates economic reality, from finance to its spectacular double in our consumer economy of addictive shopping. Rich in colorful and accessible examples, from Charles Dickens (juxtapositing him with Adam Smith) to Reality TV, this outstanding book debunks the mainstream economics perspective and lays out a radically different economic ontology.
Read the introduction here
Read the preface by Keith Hart here

NYC Book Launch: What Money Wants — An Economy of Desire | Panel Discussion with Author Noam Yuran

Book Launch: What Money Wants — An Economy of Desire | Panel Discussion with Author Noam Yuran

21 October 2014

06:30 PM - 08:30 PM

8th floor, 239 Greene Street, New York University, New York, NY 10003

image

The Cultures of Finance Group at the NYU Institute for Public Knowledge invite you to join us for the US launch and panel discussion of Noam Yuran’s What Money Wants: An Economy of Desire from Stanford University Press. This event will be hosted by the Department of Media, Culture and Communication at NYU Steinhardt, on the 8th floor of 239 Greene Street. In conversation with Noam are scholars Arjun Appadurai, Ben Kafka, Ben Lee, and Robert Wosnitzer. 

Throughout the second half of the 20th century, economics has suppressed its long lasting association with philosophy. Its basic concepts, such as money, exchange, goods or capital, whose meanings were traditionally subject to philosophical controversies, appear today as purely technical terms. This technical form that economic language wears reflects a categorical philosophical resolution which has been made, and thus no longer appears philosophical. If that is the case, then answering the challenge to rethink economics, raised at the wake of recent financial crises, cannot stop short of reopening suppressed philosophical questions.

What Money Wants addresses this challenge through the question of money. It attempts to conceptualize money as an object of desire. As this possibility is comprehensively rejected by contemporary economic thought, it necessitates a comprehensive reformulation of the philosophical foundations of economics. The book shows that such foundations can be found in the works of thinkers who were banished from the discipline as part of the crystallization of the contemporary orthodox framework, primarily Karl Marx, Thorstein Veblen, Max Weber and Georg Simmel.

The book explores the philosophical implications of grounding money on desire as well as the new light it sheds on contemporary capitalism. It argues that we need to reread Marx and Veblen in order to better understand economic phenomena such as brand names, finance, consumer society and more.

Noam Yuran is a lecturer at the Department of Politics and Government in Ben Gurion University in Israel and a research fellow at the Minerva Humanities Center at Tel Aviv University.

Neomaterialism copy at Pro-qm Berlin
Thanks to Nitzan Wolanski
Thursday 9/18/2014

book; display;

Neomaterialism copy at Pro-qm Berlin

Thanks to Nitzan Wolanski

A seminar by Andreas Bunte on the book Neomaterialism at the Oslo National Academy of Arts.
Wednesday 9/17/2014

book; study;

A seminar by Andreas Bunte on the book Neomaterialism at the Oslo National Academy of Arts.

Monday 9/8/2014

book; review; display; commodities;

Review of Neomaterialism by Boaz Levin in Bezalel Journal (Hebrew)

Thursday 9/4/2014

(2 notes)

book; display; animism; communism; unreadymade; overqualified;

From the conference: Living Labor: Marxism and Performance Studies (April, 11-13, 2014, NYU), video archive:

ANIMATE THINGS
April 11, 2014

Theater of Circulation: Marxist Fembots in Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress
Li Cornfeld (McGill University)

Replica Res Publica: A Theoretical Consideration of Japanese Replica Food
Ksenia Sidorenko (Yale University)

Neomaterialism: the dialect of matter and dialectical materialism
Joshua Simon (MoBY-Museums of Bat Yam; Goldsmiths College)

Respondent: Barbara Browning (New York University)

 

Friday 8/8/2014

(1 note)

book; communism;

Welcome back dialectics!

with Marina Gržinić and Joshua SImon

Wednesday 6/11/2014

debt; surplus; book;

Event for Noam Yuran’s What Money Wants 

The Left Bank -

Israeli Communist Party Culture Club

Tel Aviv-Jaffa

Monday 09.06.2014, 20:00

with Uri Eran

Matan Kaminer

Tahel Frosh

Joshua Simon

Noam Yuran

Neomaterialism review by Louis Moreno | Open!

Joshua Simon, Neomaterialism, Berlin, Sternberg Press, 2013. ISBN 978-3-943365-08-5, 194 pages


Late last summer in the City of London, light reflecting off the glass curtain wall of a skyscraper caused, in no particular order, a luxury car, a white van and an energy drink to melt. The concave form of architectural firm Rafael Viñoly’s 20 Fenchurch Street building already looked like one of H.G. Wells’s Martian war machines; unloading a heat-ray seemed to take the idea of finance capital as a destructive force to fantastic extremes.1 And with the intense media interest that surrounded the accident, the event represented a new intervention in the debate on urban materialism, a kind of auto-curatorial practice taking place at the level of unconscious objects.

The episode perhaps illustrates the central theme of curator Joshua Simon’s book Neomaterialism. If, as some political economists suggest, contemporary capitalism has moved to an immaterial basis then, Simon argues, this “phase-transition” has affected the way culture gives capital its content and form. In other words, in an age where financial ownership and intellectual property rights structure global values, art and culture have a complex relationship to the way capital is distributed in space and time. Not only is art a kind of currency, not only are museums a realm of pecuniary exchange, but signifying practices have enabled capital to colonise the field of everyday life. In some respects this represents both the realisation and inversion of the avant-garde project. As theorist Sylvère Lotringer says, Dada’s project has been “fulfilled…with a vengeance, embedding art into life”,2 coating the human ensemble of social relations in a substance conducive to commodification.

For media theorists like Clay Shirky this represents an astonishing opportunity. The rise of advanced analytics and social connectivity holds the prospect of a cognitive surplus, a commonwealth of knowledge and interactivity impervious to privatisation. Simon gives us a useful corrective to network fetishism. Working in the tracks of Autonomist theory, Simon highlights strains of contemporary art examining the way the “commons” has become the new frontier of economic exploitation. For Simon, conceptual artists today don’t so much revel in the rapture of commodification, as explore the pathological forms capital takes as it accumulates social relations. In Das Kapital (1876) Karl Marx wrote that “if commodities could speak” they would speak to us in the language of value. What Simon suggests is that in a time when commodities have acquired cognitive capabilities, certain artists are developing apparatuses to decode the gibberish of objects.

Perhaps Simon’s book represents a new form of guide to contemporary art. This is art as diagnostic toolkit, able to decipher the complex threats that lurk within the fixtures and fittings of everyday life. Simon conjures numerous examples. Francesco Finizio’s installations give us access to the nonsense logic of neoliberalism spewing forth arrangements of “sweetened juices, teddy bears, funnels, buckets, masks, tape and aluminium foil”. Guy Ben-Ner hacks an IKEA showroom, laying bare a day in the life of a nuclear family undergoing a slow meltdown. Heather and Ivan Morison’s junk barricades turn New Zealand’s capital into a site that simultaneously revives the memory of the Paris Commune and the earthquake that wrecked Christchurch. Where “readymades” once gave artists the ability to liberate objects trapped in a world of utility, such artworks disclose practices that create readymade subjects; life forms trapped in contracts of debt, cycles of fashion and disaster scenarios.

Simon’s implicit suggestion that neomaterialist art embodies an auto-critique of financialised capitalism is fascinating. But due to Simon’s writing style conceptual acuity is sometimes lost in a pile-up of references that cut off ideas in their prime. At one point, Simon suggests that Robert Smithson’s land art is the progenitor for Dubai’s waterfront urbanism. Later he argues that the self-help dirge The Secret represents a type of neoliberal codex. These propositions deserve whole chapters, but as impish thought-bubbles they read like witty but inconsequential observations which pop on contact with air. Also the discussion of art sometimes gets sidebarred in favour of illustrating theoretical ideas. So while we get reams of exegesis on Maurizio Lazzarato’s notion of the “indebted man”, a block of neomaterialist work is marginalised to a mere footnote. It’s not that Simon’s readings of political economy aren’t interesting, it’s just that they become more vivid when plugged into praxis.

Finally, in a text which delights in theoretical excess, the absence of one cultural theorist—the one, who ultimately underpins Simon’s claims and, in short, made this style of theory possible—seems a little pointed. But as the point is never made clear, we can only speculate that it might have something to do with Marxist political theorist Fredric Jameson’s dyspeptic regard for a figure that Simon rarely subjects to criticism, the curator. Recently Jameson has argued that curatorial practice today is symptomatic of a political shift in the way commodities are produced and consumed.3 For Jameson, the power of the curator is the asymmetrical expression of the waning potency of a collective avant-garde. Similarly, philosopher Peter Sloterdijk has said that curating has become a basic competence “that everyone is obliged to practice”.4 Simon though never brings the relationship between the rise of the “curatorial class” and the generalisation of the “indebted man” into the discussion. Which is surprising given that in the era of immaterial labour, with the emergence of the “prosumer” and the entrepreneur as artist, the curator now functions as a kind of middle-manager in the new division of labour: moderating trends, recognising patterns, identifying properties. Nonetheless, Neomaterialism is a useful marker, signalling that contemporary art hasn’t forgotten that capitalism today weighs like a nightmare on the brains of those struggling to make a living.

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  1. James Waterson, “Exclusive: Walkie Schorchie melted my Jag,” City A.M., 2 September 2013, http://www.cityam.com/article/1378091289/exclusive-walkie-scorchie-melted-my-jag
  2. Sylvère Lotringer, interview by Nina Power, “Intelligence Agency,” Frieze, September 2009. Available online at: https://www.frieze.com/issue/article/intelligence_agency
  3. Fredric Jameson, “The Aesthetics of Singularity: Time and Event in Postmodernism” (Georg Forster Lecture, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, 7 May 2012). Available online at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qh79_zwNI_s
  4. Jean-Christophe Royoux and Peter Sloterdijk, “Foreword to the Theory of Spheres,” in Cosmograms, ed. Melik Ohanian and Jean-Christophe Royoux (New York: Lukas and Sternberg, 2005), pp. 223–240. Available online at: http://www.sed.manchester.ac.uk/research/marc/news/seminars/latour/COSMOGRAM-INTER-GB_Spheres.pdf

Louis Moreno is a lecturer in the Department of Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths, researcher at the UCL Urban Laboratory, University College London and a member of the “Freethought” group convened by Irit Rogoff.

Thursday 5/8/2014

review; book;

Thursday 4/10/2014

(8 notes)

book; display; nyc;