Beyond Production – The Expenditure / Some Considerations and Analytical Sketches Print
Written by Saulius Užpelkis   
Tuesday, 09 December 2008 17:56

(Short emphasis) it is reality of the struggle that produces theory.



I will start from a very obvious albeit often neglected premise that culture has become a commodity. It is a fact, which would be very difficult to deny. Commodity aesthetics extends its border further and further into the realm of cultural industries. In other words we've been witnessing culturalization of commodity production. Moreover, linguistic labour is very important to capitalist economy in terms of shaping the mind-set in which a commodity (including cultural) can become desirable. Culture, wrote Debord some 40 years ago, became totally commodified and had to become the most famous commodity in the society of the spectacle.


It was predicted that culture in the second part of the 20th century (century of the future, as we called it) was destined to take up the major role in the economic development, which in the first half was done by an automobile. It probably has. 


Back in the 1960s the art colleges were hot-beds of radical discussion. Their subsequent pacification and professionalization has seriously damaged radical agitational politics. Over the years conditions of labor and class composition have changed enormously and currently we have an increasing number of workers engaged in cultural production.

In and around New York alone in the early 1980s (prior to the first Art Strike 1990-1993) more than 150 000 'artists' were registered and that number may well have risen to 250 000 by now.

Thus the question is, how can you 'negate culture" and be involved in cultural production at the same time? Is production of 'negativity' normally assigns-,_! to artistic underground still possible when pop-culture and advertising industries constantly prey on it so they can market subcultural desire?





Thinking social reality through unproductive expenditure.



According to Bataille (...homogeneous society is productive society, namely, useful society... according to the judgment of homogeneous society, each mail is worth what he produces; in other words, he stops being an existence for itself...)

Hence unproductive expenditure emerges in a society as the useless, rejected parts. However, Bataille sees in the useless and unproductive the real power of the intimate order. Humanity recognizes the right to acquire, to conserve, and to consume rationally, but it excludes in principle non-productive expenditure: luxury, war cults, games, spectacles, festivals, perverse sexual activity etc. – in each case the accent is placed on a loss (unconditional expenditure) that must be as great as possible in order for that activity to take on its true meaning.  

Bourgeois rationalism meant nothing other than the strictly economic representation of the
world; the hatred of expenditure is the raison d'etre of and the justification for the bourgeoisie.

Human life only rediscovers agitation on the scale of irreducible needs through the efforts of those who push the consequences of current rationalist conceptions as far as they will go. We could argue that it was partially grasped by Metzger in his Auto-Destructive Art Machine Art Auto-Creative Art manifesto (c. 1961) when he stated 'In the evenings some of the finest works of art produced now are dumped on the streets of Soho'  




I am trying to connect up recent alter-globalization festivals  of resistance and revolutionary
social change. Some theorists and artists noted that festivals' participatory aesthetic and

religious experience which was absent in modern society held a catalytic potential.



Radical cultural activism and activist collaboration


We should start again talking about supersession art. 

Also, how does art become subversive of the social order?            


What are the possibilities for transformations of everyday life? 

Inherited forms of solidarity and struggle morph, hybridize, sometimes completely dissolve in the process of encountering and appropriating new tools and conceptual frameworks. 

Other people have to be brought into the play, people who are or had been oppressed, people who are interested in social equality, but have no time for art world's elite games of prestige and posing. 

Unpaid cooperation, kind of gift-economy 

The conference is a good example of that collaboration 

Instead of refusal of art I say the art of refusal.

The art of refusal is the art of living.     



SAULIUS UŽPELKIS is London based independent militant researcher, contributing editor of a left-libertarian magazine 'Juodraštis' published in Vilnius, Lithuania and some-time translator. involved in various anti-capitalist initiatives across Europe trying to merge theory & praxis.