In a recent post, we drew on propositions elucidated by Hardt and Negri in Commonwealth to contemplate our questions with regard to the commodification of identity in service to radical identity politics and cultural capital. Their text continues to influence our thinking about the problems of how to make the liberation of identity a reality in the work On Symptoms of Cultural Industry. While any kind of vague historical assessment can give insight into how the world actually is and illuminate what the world can actually be, it does not give specifications about how to rectify radical politics now. This is part of the lure for us.
So, the following questions are unavoidable in the work Bureau for Open Culture is making:
1) What does this type of cultural production look like?
We are, after all, conducting research interviews with former workers of Sprague Electric. It seems appropriate that this material would culminate as a documentary. But we do not believe that “the document” deserve the end-all-be-all privileged status of authenticity.
2) How are impulses toward stilted didacticism quelled?
Bureau for Open Culture approaches this situation by acknowledging the work as part of an artistic practice. It is a work of art responsive to situations of time and place through contextual significance. We believe that for On Symptoms of Cultural Industry the truth is in the art of it, rather than the artifice. In the aspiration for true subjectivities it is easy to feel a pull towards one-to-one base representational forms.
We think about the words of the artist Tania Bruguera in relation to a recent project she produced for CREATIVE TIME. She expressed a desire for action to manifest beyond itself: “I don’t want an art that points at things, I want an art that is the thing.”
3) What would it mean to create an event not derived from, or even composed as spectacle, but a moment where its discourse creates the framework for an alternative world to that which capital has already handed us? How might we better embody our meaning, without making a postscript work serving as yet another pedagogic conversation piece?
On Symptoms of Cultural Industry seeks to complicate the traditional trajectory of art, its sources and its contemporary discourses within the frame of social practice, institution, radical identity politics and cultural production by questioning positions of histories and who gets to tell them. The transcripts from our research interviews with the former employees of Sprague Electric will be edited and reconfigured as textual material for a dialogue to be presented as a performance⎯combining history, theory and the quotidian. We intend to implicate the audience at Open Engagement and at MASS MoCA as creative interpreters and instigators for the next stage of world making and with it the possibilities for the liberation of identities.
 Nato Thompson, “Social Capital and the Unknown.” The Exhibitionist, no. 2, June (2010): 41.
Photograph by Timothy Nazzaro