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.
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;

What Money Wants: An Economy of Desire by Noam Yuran | Stanford University Press

Out Now!

cover for What Money Wants

Noam Yuran’s What Money Wants: An Economy of Desire (Stanford University Press): 

Noam Yuran’s brilliant book offers a new point of view about the relationship between money and the desire for it. Arguing that desire is built into the nature of money and is not an external attachment to it, Yuran opens up new readings of Marx, Veblen, and Weber, and also gives readers a new perspective on the ways in which money can inspire excess and destabilize economies. This book will be of great interest to economists, philosophers, and social theorists.”—Arjun Appadurai, New York University

One thing all mainstream economists agree upon is that money has nothing whatsoever to do with desire. This strange blindness of the profession to what is otherwise considered to be a basic feature of economic life serves as the starting point for this provocative new theory of money. Through the works of Karl Marx, Thorstein Veblen, and Max Weber, What Money Wantsargues that money is first and foremost an object of desire. In contrast to the common notion that money is but an ordinary object that people believe to be money, this book explores the theoretical consequences of the possibility that an ordinary object fulfills money’s function insofar as it is desired as money. Rather than conceiving of the desire for money as pathological, Noam Yuran shows how it permeates economic reality, from finance to its spectacular double in our consumer economy of addictive shopping. Rich in colorful and accessible examples, from the work of Charles Dickens to Reality TV and commercials, this book convinces us that we must return to Marx and Veblen if we are to understand how brand names, broadcast television, and celebrity culture work. Analyzing both classical and contemporary economic theory, it reveals the philosophical dimensions of the controversy between orthodox and heterodox economics.

2014, Available Now

 

Sunday 4/6/2014

(1 note)

money; book;

Sculpture Center Conversations: Neomaterialism | Saturday, April 12 2pm

SculptureCenter Home
SC Conversations: Neomaterialism
Saturday, April 12, 2pm
Inline image 1
SculptureCenter is pleased to present the New York City book launch of Neomaterialism (Sternberg Press, 2013). Following the ideas presented in his new book, Joshua Simon’s talk will engage with notions of the commodity, the general intellect, debt, labor, subjectivity, thingness, the dialect of material and dialectical materialism.
 
Joshua Simon is director and chief curator at MoBY – Museums of Bat Yam. He is co-founding editor of Maayan Magazine for literature, poetry and ideas, Maarvon (Western) – New Film Magazine, and The New & Bad Art Magazine, all based in Tel Aviv-Jaffa. Simon is a 2011-2013 fellow at the Vera List Center for Art and Politics, The New School, New York, and a PhD candidate at the Curatorial/Knowledge program  at Goldsmiths College, University of London. He is the editor of Solution 196-213: United States of Palestine-Israel (Sternberg Press, 2011), and author ofNeomaterialism (Sternberg Press, 2013)
 
The event on facebook
About the book
Blog

LIVING LABOR: MARXISM AND PERFORMANCE STUDIES
APRIL 11-13, 2014 DEPARTMENT OF PERFORMANCE STUDIES, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY, 721 BROADWAY
Capital is dead labor, which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks.—Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. 1
FRIDAY APRIL 11, 2014
TRACES (10:00AM – 11:45AM)
The Traces of Their Hands: Women’s Work at American Animation Studios, 1928-1961Hannah Frank (University of Chicago)“Do they hold as much mystery for you as they do for me?”: On Jean-Pierre Gorin’s My Crasy Life and Documentary ImprovisationsAnthony Yooshin Kim (University of California, San Diego)Frozen History: Sound, Ice, and Mexican MarxismsIván A. Ramos (University of California, Berkeley)▣世界から解放され▣ or, “To be freed from the world”: Vaporwave and the Sonic-Affective Glitching of Real SubsumptionNick Bazzano (New York University)
ANIMATE THINGS (10:00AM – 11:45AM)
Theater of Circulation: Marxist Fembots in Walt Disney’s Carousel of ProgressLi Cornfeld (McGill University)Replica Res Publica: A Theoretical Consideration of Japanese Replica FoodKsenia Sidorenko (Yale University)Neomaterialism: the dialect of matter and dialectical materialismJoshua Simon (MoBY-Museums of Bat Yam; Goldsmiths College)
For more on the schedule go here. 
Contact: livinglaborconference@gmail.com

LIVING LABOR: MARXISM AND PERFORMANCE STUDIES

APRIL 11-13, 2014 DEPARTMENT OF PERFORMANCE STUDIES, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY, 721 BROADWAY

Capital is dead labor, which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labor, and lives the more, the more labor it sucks.

—Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. 1

FRIDAY APRIL 11, 2014

TRACES (10:00AM – 11:45AM)

The Traces of Their Hands: Women’s Work at American Animation Studios, 1928-1961
Hannah Frank (University of Chicago)

“Do they hold as much mystery for you as they do for me?”: On Jean-Pierre Gorin’s My Crasy Life and Documentary Improvisations
Anthony Yooshin Kim (University of California, San Diego)

Frozen History: Sound, Ice, and Mexican Marxisms
Iván A. Ramos (University of California, Berkeley)

▣世界から解放され▣ or, “To be freed from the world”: Vaporwave and the Sonic-Affective Glitching of Real Subsumption
Nick Bazzano (New York University)

ANIMATE THINGS (10:00AM – 11:45AM)

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)

For more on the schedule go here

Contact: livinglaborconference@gmail.com

Saturday 3/22/2014

display; laxart; book;

LA><ART 
2640 S. La Cienega Blvd. 
Los Angeles, CA 90034 
Monday, April 7, 2014 at 7pm
Please RSVP for this free event at: rsvp@laxart.org

Thursday 2/27/2014

(109 notes)

unreadymade; book; neomaterialism;

p-dpa:

Neomaterialism by Joshua Simon, designed by Avi Bohbot (2013)

Neomaterialism explores the meaning of the world of commodities and re-introduces various notions of dialectical materialism into the conversation on the subjectivity and vitality of things. Reflecting on general intellect as labor and on the subjugation of an overqualified generation to the neo-feudal order of debt finance, Neomaterialism merges traditions of epic communism with the communism that is already here.

The xeroxing distorts the book cover, echoing the duality between the palpable presence of the object and its mass produced clones.

See also: The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Walter Benjamin, designed by David Pearson.

(Source: avibohbot.com)