• 31 Mar 2022

  • SAM at Tanjong Pagar Distripark

  • 7:30 PM

The Commons, The Icon: Autonomist Marxism and Byzanthine Iconography by Farhan Idris 

In recent contemporary art debates, expressions such as “immaterial labour” and “the commons” have been used to explain the ways in which the ability to manufacture emotional experiences in people can become the basis of artistic production. Inspired by the work of thinkers like Antonio Negri, Franco Berardi and Maurizio Lazzarato and their espousal of the Autonomist Marxism, “the commons” is said to be a site of agitation that manifests in the self-activity of the common people who choose to remain independent of formal organisations and representations. One of the effects of the commons is that it dissolves the dualism between the “body” and the “mind” as everything is subsumed under capitalist production. In this way, Autonomist Marxist thinkers argue that “the commons” provides avenues of resistance against the capitalist capture of aesthetic production. 
Autonomist Marxist such as Lazarrato also evoke a concept called “asignifying semiotics”, whereby they contend that recent capitalism infused with new technologies produces subjectivities in a radically different manner; in the sense that new technologies of power such as algorithmic control produce a world mediated by signs. I recently discovered that “asignifying semiotics” has a conceptual affinity with Byzantine iconography, where the image or the icon does not merely represent holy beings but works to produce a devoted subject upon immersing oneself amongst the icons. One is led to wonder, could 8th century Byzantine notions of aesthetic mediation and Autonomist Marxist concept of “immaterial labour”, “the commons” and “asignifying semiotics” be connected?

“La vérité est image mais il n’y a pas d’image de la vérité.” 
Truth is image, but there is no image of truth" (Marie-Jose Mondzain)