Fillip 18 — Spring 2013

The Making of Labour: The Movie
Sven Lütticken

Capitalism presents a constant aesthetic challenge; while the movements of finance capital seem to be beyond representation, labour could theoretically be represented, but often isn’t. The cinema in particular has occluded labour. If, as Harun Farocki has noted, the cinema starts with a sortie de l’usine, throughout its history film has not been drawn to the factory and [is] even repelled by it. Films about work or workers have not become one of the main genres, and the space in front of the factory has remained on the sidelines.1 What is true of the space in front of the factory is doubly so of its insides. That a factory’s exterior is only minimally expressive of its content is of course a central tenet of Marxian aesthetics. Bertolt Brecht’s famous remark that a photograph of the Krupp factories does not say anything about their functioning picks up on the aesthetic dimension in Karl Marx’s analysis of capital. In his mature work, Marx reformulated essential questions from idealist aesthetics—revolving around the relation between form and content and between concretion and abstraction—in social and economic terms. The commodity is pseudo-concrete, determined as it is by the real abstraction of money.

When Marx polemically applied the notion of the fetish to the commodity and its “theological whims,” he addressed an issue that is as aesthetic as it is political: while the value of commodities is determined by the labour invested in them, this labour does not “show up” in the object, whose price appears to be determined by its social intercourse with other commodities. It took the extended analysis of Marx’s Capital (1867) to make legible the workings of capitalism, and to make them visible would require a comparably extensive undertaking. A number of recent film and video projects can be seen as examples of “Marxian” aesthetic practice, constituting investigations into the contemporary political economy of visibility, where labour is at once more and less visible and accessible than ever. As certain forms of work become more theatrical and performative, others fade ever more from view; furthermore, the most visible labour frequently obscures its status and its functioning as labour.

Capitalism and Visual Accumulation

A few years before Brecht remarked on the Krupp factory, in 1928, Sergei Eisenstein stated that the stock exchange should not be represented by a stock exchange, as in Fritz Lang’s Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler (1922), but by a thousand little details, connected by a dialectical montage. In 2008, Alexander Kluge revisited Eisenstein’s aborted 1927–28 plan for a film version of Marx’s Capital in the DVD set Nachrichten aus der Ideologischen Antike (or, News from Ideological Antiquity). The content consists of a seemingly endless series of short segments, most of them conversations between Kluge and various representatives of what is known as Suhrkampkultur—Suhrkamp Verlag having long been the preferred publisher of the German progressive intelligentsia, including Kluge himself. The work’s shamelessly sprawling and rambling nature entails an abandonment of Eisensteinian dialectical film montage in favour of a televisual enfilade of talking heads. Nachrichten reflects radical changes in medium, production, and distribution in its very structure. Insofar as Kluge’s sprawling assemblage of performers is dialectic, it is an open-ended dialectic of intermingling discourses that regularly collapse into virtuoso sophistry.

Recent art and filmmaking are not short on works that could be seen as covert attempts to make a filmic Capital for the twenty-first century, though such an intention is never stated explicitly. The most wide-ranging and indeed monumental of these works is Allan Sekula and Noël Burch’s 2010 feature-length film, The Forgotten Space, which is subtitled “a film essay.” Co-director Burch was one of the early theorists of the essay film, pitting it against the traditional documentary: I set the essay film against “documentary” in the classical sense, that supposedly objective rendering of reality, my bad objects were [Robert] Flaherty, [John] Grierson and the GPO [General Post Office Film Unit]. An essay film was about getting across ideas.2 In the case of The Forgotten Space, the ideas come largely from Sekula’s work: The Forgotten Space is a continuation of Fish Story (1989–95) with other means. Consequently, discussions of the film are often somewhat skewed when it comes to authorship: Sekula’s contribution seems easier to pin down than Burch’s.

Like the photo essay that is Fish Story, the two-hour film focuses on ocean transport and the labour conditions it entails. As a covert, filmic take on Capital, it is necessarily an essay on abstraction: on the reality of abstraction as embodied, in this instance, by the shipping container. The Forgotten Space is, as Sekula’s voiceover puts it, “the unlikely story of a steel box.” It is not particularly surprising that an unashamedly Marxian film starring metal boxes should have spent a long time in development hell, during which the directors and SKOR | Foundation for Art and Public Domain tried to find co-producers and secure funding. In the process, the script underwent changes. One element that disappeared was the leitmotif of a Disney Winnie the Pooh doll that would appear in various contexts, from its consumption in Holland to its fabrication in China.3 The Disney-fied bear would have given the containers’ contents an anthropomorphic face: the abstract box would have opened up and revealed just what kind of commodity it contains. In the finished film, the box remains a hermetic, modernist volume, yet this nonhuman protagonist is joined by, and at times eclipsed by, a human supporting cast that ranges from Dutch farmers and technocrats to Indonesian sailors and young female workers in Shenzhen—migrants from the countryside who flocked to the expanding city.

The Forgotten Space, that “story of a box,” is also much more. While the film focuses on the distribution rather than the production of commodities, the work involved in this process and the labour conflicts it entails also play an important role in the film: there are vignettes focusing on young Chinese female factory workers in the Special Economic Zone of Shenzhen and on Filipino women working as nannies. In addition to shots showing people at work, or at leisure, there is no shortage of talking heads, discussing their work or lack thereof. A particularly poignant episode is set in a tent camp for the homeless in California, patrolled by underpaid guards right next to the railway track on which the “Winnie the Pooh” containers move. A black woman with a blonde wig—her hair is falling out—clutching some dolls makes for a talking head of a rather different sort than those in Kluge’s DVD film.

In his review of Kluge’s opus, Fredric Jameson recalled that while Eisenstein had theorized a “discursive film” that would be non-anecdotal, filming capital necessitates a dialectic of the discursive and the anecdotal; when trying to track abstraction in real and concrete situations, one can hardly avoid the telling—and thereby anecdotal—example.4 However, with Kluge the discourse itself tends to become an anecdotal kind of virtuoso performance, whereas with Sekula and Burch the filmic “anecdotes” are eventually reintegrated into a whole that is both musical and discursive, an ebbing and rising, rhythmic montage. The overarching structure of The Forgotten Space allows its makers to include many vignettes, including one that shows children on a “container port” playground, ludically preparing themselves for life in the containerized world.

Helped by its geographic trajectory, which allows the directors to explore the different facets and effects of containerization, the film is much more linear than Kluge’s Nachrichten; and yet, the digressions that feed the analysis also make for a “rather rambling structure,” as Burch puts it. If, towards the end, there are a few too many false stops and restarts, a few too many rambles, Sekula’s voiceover provides for a fitting finale by intoning that “the lowly crew must seize the helm” and that the last thing left in Pandora’s box, after all the horrors had escaped from it, was hope—the film’s last word. Kluge’s DVD set, of course, has no “last word” properly speaking, as it almost necessitates piecemeal viewing.

Other recent video essays that need to be included in this constellation are Hito Steyerl’s In Free Fall (2010), which centres on a different kind of metal box, the airplane: specifically on the “lives” of Boeing airplanes, leading from the Israeli army to an airplane junkyard in the Mojave desert. Steyerl references Sergei Tretyakov’s 1929 essay “The Biography of the Object,” as well as the stock market crash of that same year, which also figures heavily in Kluge’s Nachrichten. The thirty-minute short combines shots from the airplane junkyard with shots of the artist and a few others, as well as a clip from a television documentary on the recycling of airplane aluminum in CD and DVD production; while the planes are at times used for filmic spectacles such as Speed II, they can also become the DVD hosting such a film.

But what about that which seems to take on no pseudo-concrete form—financial capital? Technology allows for an ever faster and more massive circulation of capital, of capital-as-data. In his video Unsupported Transit (2011), Zachary Formwalt combines footage of the construction site of the Koolhaas-designed Shenzhen Stock Exchange with a voiceover recounting Eadweard Muybridge’s collaboration with the railroad tycoon Leland Stanford that showed there was a moment of “unsupported transit” in a horse’s gallop. The later development of time-lapse photography by a former stockbroker and the use of this technique in showing large buildings being constructed seemingly within minutes and without human agency recalls what Karl Marx described as the “abbreviated form of capital”: capital seemingly breeding capital on the stock market, rather than being generated as surplus value through production.5 Capital circles the globe in ways that seem to escape representation. It has concrete effects, but the effects seem to spring from mysterious and overly complex causes. Unsupported Transit uses time-lapse photography to show work on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, but the speed of the images is not such that we see the building miraculously reach completion before us. Instead, things glide somewhat aimlessly; we see some workers, but the actual work disappears in the intervals between the recorded moments.

In Unsupported Transit, Formwalt notes that as capital spends less time in production, as fixed capital, its moments of concretion become rare; it circulates in the form of money, which is to say, data. Marx already noted that the “growth of scientific power” and its transformation into fixed capital was both fuelling and ultimately undermining industrial capitalism.6 Thus the real abstraction of money (and of money in the form of capital) is complicit with the real abstraction of technoscience—of science that has become immediately economically productive.7 Any attempt to chart the workings of real abstraction in the form of film or video essays employs the tools of technoscience; such essayistic attempts to “film capitalism” are therefore profoundly implicated in what they film. Formwalt’s video essays themselves are as mobile as financial capital, effortlessly transferred online—although, in keeping with the art world’s economy of exclusivity, they cannot be viewed online in their entirety.

Formwalt’s recent video, A Projective Geometry (2012), deals with a railway line built under the British colonial regime in Ghana, allowing for the transport of minerals extracted from the local mines to the port of Sekondi and to Britain, and for the import of goods produced in Britain back into the colony. Formwalt’s tool—a camera on a tripod—is eerily close to a surveyor’s equipment; both the surveyor and the filmmaker come to chart the African country and extract materials from it, abstracting the space in the process. Formwalt reflects on this by including conversations with people he encountered during production on the film’s soundtrack. Is Formwalt not in fact a postindustrial prospector, extracting visual commodities from Africa? In contrast to many other works, Formwalt’s film actively invites such a line of questioning, foregrounding its own status as a problematic commodity. As with Steyerl’s In Free Fall, then, the work of art and its own production come into focus as pseudo-concrete commodities with especially capricious whims, and with them so does artistic labour.

The New Labour

Contemporary artists such as Formwalt or Steyerl will often present their work in the form of public talks accompanied by screenings. While their films can effortlessly travel the globe, there is a demand for the filmmaker to be present and to perform the work. The data needs to be embodied by the artistic worker.

The dominant form of film production in the twentieth century was modelled on (or part of) industrial capitalism, with specialists in various disciplines selling their labour power to the studio. By contrast, the production of art was largely artisanal, with artists selling their works on the market. The latter case always seemed difficult to integrate into a Marxian labour theory of value predicated on a quantitative abstraction—labour power as an average. However, even the apparently more “normal” case of the culture industry provided many anomalies, both in the fluctuating value attributed to individual stars and in the profit of films, which, despite the efforts of studio management, continued to escape standardization.

For Marx, the logical outcome of the growing role of technology in production would be the undermining of the whole basis for capitalist production: As soon as labour in the direct form has ceased to be the great well-spring of wealth, labour time ceases and must cease to be its measure, and hence exchange value [must cease to be the measure] of use value.8 This means that production based on exchange value breaks down, and the direct, material production process is stripped of the form of penury and antithesis. The free development of individualities, and hence not the reduction of necessary labour time so as to posit surplus labour, but rather the general reduction of the necessary labour of society to a minimum, which then corresponds to the artistic, scientific etc. development of the individuals in the time set free, and with the means created, for all of them.9 Thus the contradictions of capitalism would have exploded, and wage labour would have been rendered obsolete.

In post-Fordist practice, these contradictions have been contained (albeit barely) in part because of the rise of new forms of labour and of value. Fixed capital (technology) cooperates with surplus value—adding “immaterial labour” to destroy the status of abstract labour—of quantifiable, average labour power as the measure and source of wealth, without destroying capitalism in the process. No longer being anchored in labour time, value is up for grabs.10 This fluctuating value goes not just for iPhones or sneakers; the value of “immaterial labour” is similarly unmoored, resulting in a few big-name brands and a large precariat. As it becomes impossible to assert the value of labour power, in conjunction with the absence of collective bargaining, under- and unpaid work proliferates. Diedrich Diederichsen has argued that the value of an artwork is created not simply by the artist, but also in part by the other parties that invest their time in the work: critics, collectors, and all kinds of viewers. This is a fair point, one that can in fact be extended to all kinds of media products; it is a staple of post-Fordist theorizing that viewers or users now produce surplus value.11

The essential point remains that labour has become unquantifiable—beyond measure and “timeless,” so to speak. If the value of Facebook or Apple depends on millions of users or customers whose value-producing activities include clicks that take a fraction of a second but ultimately also encompass large portions of their lives, and potentially all of their playful performance, then commodity fetishism has stopped being an illusion and become a reality. In this situation, any attempt to “film Capital” or to “film capitalism” must also foreground the production, distribution, and consumption of cultural commodities. On the release of his Film Socialisme (2010), Jean-Luc Godard developed a curious fantasy that involved parachuting a young boy and girl into France and having them screen the film at cafés in order to investigate if and how it should be released “officially.”12 Reflecting the crisis in the cinema distribution of “difficult” films, this utopian scheme also foregrounds Film Socialisme’s status as a problematic commodity.

The Forgotten Space, too, is a film in search of an audience; it is, perhaps thankfully, unfinished business. Burch’s grim diagnosis that the kind of essay film he has advocated “is out of fashion, ratings are king, audiences are meant to be too dumb to follow anything the least bit complex” seemed to be borne out by the fact that during its release in Dutch art house cinemas, The Forgotten Space was seen by some one hundred and thirty people; subsequent cinema releases in countries that included Britain and Austria (where, improbably, Sekula’s voiceover was dubbed by singer Nina Hagen) seem to have been more successful in drawing larger audience numbers. That The Forgotten Space was coproduced by Dutch and Austrian public TV stations means that it can reach viewers via this medium as well, but the broadcasters demanded shorter TV edits of the film. The Forgotten Space traces the lines drawn by boxes shipped across the globe, but what of the distribution of the film itself? Since it will usually be shown in a digital format anyway, screenings for students and other groups, in contexts not foreseen by regular film distribution, may be a more interesting option, one that inscribes the film in a regime of cultural labour in which the dividing lines between productive labour and reproductive leisure have all but ceased to exist.

While The Forgotten Space is a digital film that can easily be shown in art spaces, Steyerl’s In Free Fall was made expressly for that context. Steyerl has argued that the museum is now part of the post-Fordist “social factory” that exceeds traditional boundaries and spills over into almost everything else. It pervades bedrooms and dreams alike, as well as perception, affection, and attention. It transforms everything it touches into culture, if not art. It is an a-factory, which produces affect as effect.13 An art space is a factory, which is simultaneously a supermarket—a casino and a place of worship whose reproductive work is performed by cleaning ladies and cellphone-video bloggers alike. In this economy, even spectators are transformed into workers.14 Older industrial (and preindustrial) rhythms continue to exist, even if they are also subject to change, as the rise of “just-in-time” production makes clear. A highly problematic aspect of post-Fordist theorizing, especially in its derivative forms, is the fact that the Mac-equipped creative worker seems to be the exclusive focus and that certain crucial differences between “cleaning ladies” and “cellphone-video bloggers” are forgotten. If, for the latter, measured industrial time is replaced by a flexible duration, is this not articulated and measured in a new way, by multiple deadlines?15 In a recent essay, Steyerl has proposed the ultimate art-world black box. If “black boxes” in art spaces usually host videos such as In Free Fall, this would be a dark space without any projection or other image: [If] we unplug the Black Box and stop any projection, constant visibility and performance cease. The Black Cube becomes a zone of respite. Turn off the lights. No WIFI, no context, no show, education, iPhone, discourse, network, distraction. Go there to disengage, uninvolve, deproduce or simply breathe. Nobody can see you: there’s no point in producing yourself as subject/spectacle. A place to sleep, to whisper, sleep again. Play seek and hide. Have sex or prefer not to. Swap files or kisses. Close your eyes. Unperform.16 The very need to “unperform” shows that the black box, that the art space, is in fact a space of continuous performance in both economic and theatrical terms.

Luc Boltanski and Ève Chiapello have argued that there are two traditions in the critique of capitalism: a social critique focusing on inequality and poverty and an artistic critique focusing on alienation and sensuous impoverishment.17 However, these two strands have been interlinked practically from the beginning. Much of early socialist thought as well as Marx’s thinking can be seen as repoliticizing Friedrich Schiller’s On the Aesthetic Education of Man in a Series of Letters (1794), with the end of the division of labour making possible a more sensuously rich and diverse existence.18 When Marx, in The German Ideology (1846), predicted (or demanded) that under communism there would no longer be specialized painters, who are exclusively that, but only people who also paint, he announced the transformation of work as the aesthetic project par excellence. In a communist society, you would hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner. This is the Marxian aesthetic vision, radicalizing Schiller’s and the Romantics’ ideology of the aesthetic. One might claim that this is “early Marx,” still rooted in Romanticism, whereas “mature Marx” left behind aesthetic concerns in order to engage in a hardboiled critique of capitalism’s contradictions; yet such a schematic opposition is obviously insufficient.

Aiming at a full-blown cultural revolution rather than a mere takeover of the state, the avant-garde of the 1960s re-excavated the political promise of communism.19 The art of the future would be a kind of free play, or work transformed (work indistinguishable from play). Culture could no longer be seen as a mere superstructural/ideological reflection of the base; it was clear that the “productive forces” were no longer exclusively industrial, and that the culture industry and the media were themselves “base” as much as they were “superstructure.” Hence—to summarize complex and contentious debates—artists and students were potentially as much of a revolutionary class as the traditional working class. If, as Marx had already argued, capitalist technology makes knowledge part of the productive forces, the general intellect controlling production is super- as well as substructural.20 While intellectual labour is as stunted and specialized as manual labour, this in fact would be the presupposition for action. The cognitariat would have to become a provotariat, to use the Dutch term.21

For a scattered audience largely consisting of artists and intellectuals of some description, viewing parts of Kluge’s News from Ideological Antiquity on a laptop that may be in London one day and Seoul the next becomes part of their daily performance—it becomes a performance that mirrors those on screen. This project is ultimately an exercise in performative, social montage that goes beyond using the social life of this or that object (pepper or a pair of silk stockings) in a cinematic sequence to represent capitalism; the DVD set is that object. At the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou, teachers and students realized a Chinese version of Kluge’s project, Film Action. For A Not Yet Existing Film, which focuses on dimensions of practice that Kluge had denied: Economic production and exchange, political interventions and a form of teaching that understands itself as interaction and intervention itself.22 Such an “action” is also a continuation of Kluge’s project: a renewed and more explicit articulation of its founding contradictions as a performance of critique in an economy marked by forms of labour that demand performative involvement.

Harun Farocki and Antje Ehmann’s current project, Labour in a Single Shot, takes the form of a series of workshops in some fifteen cities on different continents: The task of the workshop is to produce short films that consist of one single shot. The subject of investigation is labour: paid and unpaid, material and immaterial, rich in tradition or altogether new. The formal restraint draws on the method and decisiveness of the early nineteenth century films, for instance the Lumiére brothers’ Workers Leaving the Lumiére Factory and Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat.23 The project, then, is an extension of Farocki’s Workers Leaving the Factory in Eleven Decades film and gallery installation (2006), but now the process of making films becomes a central part of the project, given the workshop format. In other words, while the shot may be single, the labour in question is double: in front of and behind the camera.

In the Grundrisse (1939), Marx states that production thus produces not only the object but also the manner of consumption, not only objectively but also subjectively. Production thus creates the consumer.24 What it also produces is the producer; and in contemporary immaterial labour, the dividing line between production and consumption is of course tenuous at best. Collective projects, such as the Kluge remake and Labour in a Single Shot, result in mutant commodities that may benefit some of the participants more than others. The general intellect is only gradually coming to terms with the antinomies of its modes of value production.

  1. Harun Farocki, “Workers Leaving the Factory” in Nachdruck/Inprint: Texte/Writings, ed. Susanne Gaensheimer and Nicolaus Schafhausen (New York: Lukas & Sternberg; Berlin: Vorwerk 8, 2001), 232. Farocki produced both a single-channel video and a gallery installation of Workers Leaving the Factory in Eleven Decades.
  2. Noël Burch, “Essay Film,” The Forgotten Space (Website), October 2010, The notion of the essay film or film essay was proposed by Hans Richter in the 1940s as an alternative for both conventional documentaries and feature films; because Richter’s text remained obscure, the notion was reinvented in the 1970s by Burch, among others, in order to theorize and advocate a film practice that would, through montage, develop ideas rather than pretend to “show reality.” See Hans Richter, “Der Filmessay. Eine neue Form des dokumentarfilms” (1940), in Schreiben Bilder Sprechen. Texte zur essayistischen Film, ed. Christa Blümlinger and Constantin Wulff (Vienna: Sonderzahl, 1992). Thanks to Nora Alter for pointing me towards this source.
  3. The Winnie the Pooh motif appears in the version of the script I received from SKOR (in a Dutch translation) in 2003.
  4. Fredric Jameson, “Marx and Montage,” New Left Review, no. 58 (July/August 2009), 109–17.
  5. See Karl Marx, Capital: Volume 3, trans. David Fernbach (London: Penguin, 1993), 515.
  6. Karl Marx, Grundrisse: Foundations for the Critique of Political Economy (Rough Draft), trans. Martin Nicolaus (London: Penguin, 1993), 750. In the late 1960s, Hans-Jürgen Krahl would use these remarks by Marx to support his argument that the scientific/academic caste was now a productive class on par with the proletariat, and needed to develop its own forms of political and social action. See Krahl, “Thesen zum allgemeinen Verhältnis von wissenschaftlicher Intelligenz und proletarischem Klassenbewusstsein” (1969), in Konstitution und Klassenkampf. Zur historischen Dialektik von bürgerlicher Emanzipation und proleratischer Revolution. Schriften, Reden und Entwürfe aus den Jahren 1966–1970 (Frankfurt am main: Verlag Neue Kritik, 2007), 336–51. On Krahl as an early theorist of the “cognitariat” and the need for new organizational forms, see Franco “Bifo” Berardi, The Soul at Work: From Alienation to Autonomy, trans. Francesca Cadel and Guiseppina Mecchia (Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2009), 66.
  7. The term “technoscience” was introduced by Gilbert Hottois in the 1970s and used by Jean-François Lyotard and Bruno Latour, among others. I use it to denote the increasingly tight and complex integration of science and industry, which turns science into an operative real abstraction.
  8. Marx, Grundrisse, 705.
  9. Ibid., 705–06.
  10. See Antonio Negri’s analysis of the dissolution of the “discrete and manoeuvrable time” of classic industrial capitalism in “The Constitution of Time” (1981), in Time for Revolution, trans. Matteo Mandarini (New York: Continuum, 2003), 19–135.
  11. Diedrich Diederichsen, On (Surplus) Value in Art (Berlin: Sternberg, 2008) and Diedrich Diederichsen, “Time, Object, Commodity,” Texte zur Kunst, no. 88 (December 2012),
  12. “Jean-Luc Godard Speaks with Daniel Cohn-Bendit: A Smile that Dismisses the Universe,” trans. Craig Keller, Cinemasparagus (blog), posted May 16, 2010,
  13. Hito Steyerl, “Is a Museum a Factory?,” e-flux journal, no. 7 (June 2009),
  14. Ibid.
  15. This point is acknowledged by Negri (see note 10), who argues that capitalism once more tries to impose—on a larger scale and more completely than before—the reduction of ontological time to measured time.
  16. Hito Steyerl, “Art as Occupation: Claims for an Autonomy of Life,” Open, no. 23 (2012), 58.
  17. Luc Boltanski and Ève Chiapello, The New Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Gregory Elliott (London: Verso, 2005), 38–39 and 345–472.
  18. See for instance the locus classicus on hunting in the morning, fishing in the afternoon, rearing cattle in the evening, and criticizing after dinner, in Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The German Ideology, Part 1, “Feuerbach” (1845), Marxist Internet Archive, accessed February 10, 2013, What is this if not a project for an aesthetic rearrangement of life, leading to a more fully realized sensory and sensuous life? Late in his life, in Anti-Dühring, Friedrich Engels used a related example to drive home the point, contra Eugen Dühring, that labour has no intrinsic value and that production is most encouraged by a mode of distribution which allows all members of society to develop, maintain and exercise their capacities with maximum universality. It is true that, to the mode of thought of the educated classes which Herr Dühring has inherited, it must seem monstrous that in time to come there will no longer be any professional porters or architects, and that the man who for half an hour gives instructions as an architect will also act as a porter for a period, until his activity as an architect is once again required. A fine sort of socialism that would be—perpetuating professional porters! Friedrich Engels, Anti-Dühring, Part 2, “Political Economy” (1877), Marxist Internet Archive, accessed March 20, 2013,
  19. In 1958, in the first issue of the Internationale Situationniste journal, Guy Debord presented “Theses on the Cultural Revolution,” which included the statement that “ART CAN CEASE to be a report on sensations and become a direct organization of higher sensations. It is a matter of producing ourselves, and not things that enslave us” (translation by John Shepley, While the term “cultural revolution” would have a significant career following the upheavals of 1967 and ’68, and was used extensively in German “actionist” and New Left circles, for the Situationists the concept had become tainted, not least because of the Maoist connotations that were hard to avoid from 1966 onwards.
  20. See Marx, Grundrisse, 706. Also, for instance, see Hans-Jürgen Krahl, “Produktion und Klassenkampf” (1970), in Konstitution und Klassenkampf. Zur historischen Dialektik von bürgerlicher Emanzipation und proleratischer Revolution (Frankfurt am Main: Verlag Neue Kritik, 2008), 392­­–414. On Marx’s notion of general intellect and Hans-Jürgen Krahl, see also Berardi, The Soul at Work, 58–70. It was of course in the context of Italian post-operaismo that the concept of the general intellect would come to play a central role.
  21. The Provo movement of 1965–67 used the term “provotariat” to denote a new urban quasi-class of disaffected and mostly well-educated youngsters, from which it recruited its members.
  22. Lu Xinghua, “The Hangzhou Capital Film-Action” (abstract), Marx and the Aesthetic conference, University of Amsterdam, May 10–13, 2012,
  23. “Labour in a Single Shot,” Beirut (Website), accessed March 10, 2013,
  24. Marx, Grundrisse, 92.
About the Author

Sven Lütticken teaches art history at VU University Amsterdam. He is the author of Secret Publicity: Essays on Contemporary Art (2006), Idols of the Market: Modern Iconoclasm and the Fundamentalist Spectacle (2009), and History in Motion: Time in the Age of the Moving Image (2013).

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