As I try to seize the moment after reading Stephen's post: ‘The Fate of Public Time: toward a time without qualities’, I cannot separate myself from my recent trip to the U.S., the place where I was born and raised but do not reside.
The last two weeks of the global economic crisis might be termed as the end of the era of borrowed time. Beginning with deregulation during the 1980's Reaganomics and exascerbated by greed, borrowed money -‘leverage’ has lead to the crash on Wall Street. Central to the bailouts and interrelationship of a networked world are these ‘credit default swaps’ (coined 'weapons of mass destruction' by Warren Buffet). A kind of insurance sold by financial institutions, they insure against a possible default by an issuer of debt. Privately written, in unknown terms, the financial entities are now expecting to cash in. Culminating in the government bail out of the national mortgage company, insurance company, Wall Street firms (not all), the 700 billion dollar bill that doesn’t state the ‘value’ of these assets (though includes an option for a stock injection plan! with preferred stock) was finally passed by the congress. The US government has never been so directly involved in the financial market since the Great Depression. Has America gone social? I doubt it. But look at how time has changed the financial world: the investments of 'long-term' securities, savings and pension plans aren’t secure, contrasted by the banning of short-selling, making a quick buck, futures. Gambling was somehow deemed legal - outside of the casinos, certain Native American reservations and the state of Nevada. Deregulation on Wall Street had reinvented the art of speculation - borrowing shares and betting on the fact that their value will go down in order to pocket the difference, accounting for potentially the largest purchase of nothingness (devalued stock- assets without price) in history. What happened to the coined ‘treadmill of progress’ in the 'United States of Capital?'
Returning to Boym, briefly, one value of reflective nostalgia is its defense of idleness and of recapturing leisure time. ‘Time is money,’ she says, ‘but we want time that is not money.’
What is or can be 'time that is not money'? Mackenzie Ward's manifesto of 'freeing the body from commodity labour, no longer frees the worker from the commodity, but merely releases the subject as producer for the even more burdensome task of being the subject as consumer,' made me dire to attempt to articulate something beyond the thought of consumption as leisure in my 'free' time. ” So Stephen's question of how to initiate a 'time without qualities', where time itself must be freed from commodification and an economy of scarcity lead me to rethinking how I can ‘slow time down’, gain reflective time through 'work', 'fun', the 'art of living' as well as public time, which I will attempt to do here.
So can leisure be the 'third time' i.e. a ‘fuzzy, slothful or vacant time, recalcitrant to the tyranny of real time?’ This brings me back to a recent conversation about leisure with Charlie, Josh and my friend Sal with whom I had the pleasure of dining with in NYC during the Conflux Festival. Charlie and Josh are 'Hideous Beasts' who explore the concept of leisure through their work. Sal mentioned her interview with Randall Szott, 'Art Leisure Instead of Art Work' posted at 'In the Conversation'. Szott's statement, 'as you mentioned before, and extending from Allan Kaprow, I am interested in the art of living, not the art of art', brings to bear all aspects of not only how we live, but how we 'work' and who we 'work' for. In this he constructs a theory of leisure, by which he means, ‘the notion of leisure itself has been fairly richly theorized and as you note, I have come to utilize it as a way out of professional forms of meaning-making and creative activity. I have been thinking about the implications of conceptualizing art leisure instead of art work and about how to think differently about the entire culture of work itself (the political dimensions of that are a whole other story, especially with regard to the rise of "immaterial labor" as a theoretically fashionable discussion). He explains further, ‘when an activity is your job, your profession, it creates a set of externalities that transform it. Some people thrive on that sort of framing, but I find it inhibiting for the most part. It's not about "purity" so much as it is about the qualitative dimensions of shared experience. If your interest is primarily in criticality and activities as an intellectual exercise, then professional domains are highly appropriate and useful. For me, because I'm more interested in passion, pleasure, and sin of all sins - fun, I tend to avoid professional contexts.' Sounds like the Situationists ? Let me enjoy my 24/7 lifestyle. Am I then the 'ideal-type' worker of the future, whose work time never stops and thus never starts? Or have I sacrificed my private time for social fun and games, pleasure, enjoyment that is not necessarily consumptive? I spend my time also working on things I never get paid for, hence they have no ‘real’ value in the market system. Only, I have to make my ‘art of’ living. Can leisure be an available time, an undisciplined time, a public time?
Hours later, bellies full of delicious and affordable Japanese food and minds preoccupied with ‘work’ and leisure, we decided to discuss this further, perhaps a forum on conceptualizing art leisure. More on that later. But this conversation lead me back to Web 2.0 economics immanent regarding contributing to n.e.w.s. Do we do this during our 'work' time, free time, leisure, daily activities or is it all cognitive labour? Why separate them? The n.e.w.s. model of introducing remuneration for content inherently questions the Web 2.0 economy and Branka’s entry takes it a step further: ‘What are the 'application of terms “equality”, “free cooperation” and power-to-the people” to Web 2.0, which are actually standing for: centralization, new form of venture capitalism and free/voluntary labor.'
How do we 'spend' time? Maybe we first need to (re)define what is 'work' is for ourselves. Take for example, 'Wir nennen es Arbeit' (We call it work) at Riesenmaschine. Last summer I attended their 9to5 event in which all activities (performance, panels, spontaneous action) where scheduled between the hours of 9 (21:00) to 5 (AM). Obviously geared to the Berlin night owls, I felt like I was on jet-lag for a couple of days. How do we decide to structure our time, move through the universe, those hours of paid labour we can count compared to the 'work' that is incommensurable- Arbeit, precarious even?
So in which time frame does cognitive (intellectual) labour manifest, live and 'work'? The virtual intellectual, (Lovink, Dark Fiber) exists in the Internet, and this movement of minds might be termed the concept of mass intellectuality, as the digital web can redefine the process of production. But since the 'dotcom crash, cognitive labour is autonomous from capital’. Or is it?
Public Time (Öffentlichzeit-Heidegger)
Stephen states that the ongoing debate on “Öffentlichkeit” (Habermas) may better equip us to address its still ongoing yet already advanced de-definition'. In the temporary zones of unquantified time, in the vague territories and yet undefined, perhaps reallocated spaces, time-based arts practices lend themselves to artistic production, but also historically to activism- the notion of protest, non-violent demonstration. If 'Aristotle argued that the first condition of possibility of democracy was “availability” – that citizens be available, unencumbered by work, to participate in democratic deliberation,' (Wright) then last month in NYC something spectacular did happen.
Making an appointment in NYC is like pulling teeth sometimes. If anyone has been known to be too busy and not had 'enough time', then it's definitely New Yorkers. Militant work-ethic (unbeknownst Calvinist inherited) combined with success measured by capital in an economy of 60, sometimes 70 hour work weeks with 14 days vacation has contributed to mass consumption in 'free time'. If asked to demonstrate it always comes down to availability-the lack of time. Usually it's about having to 'work' in fear of loosing their jobs. In this way, the absence of free days in salaried jobs in America, along with a recent tradition of no substantial protest maintains the status quo thinking there is ‘no time’ and the inability to publicly protest.
But things changed last month - if only briefly. Maybe the days of depoliticization are not over, since thousands protested last week physically on Wall Street, outside of the mainstream media. Thousands of people sent emails to their constituents in congress imploring them NOT to sign the bail out bill. In a country where government involvement was anathema to the American way, is the time of socialization of risk (loss) and privatization of profit (reward) over or just beginning?
Certain events going on around town confirm the above. Even in Chelsea. Exit Art organised the largest collection of social protest posters from all over the world the last 40 years in their spectacular exhibition curated by Dara Greenwald and Josh MacPhee as part of Exit Art's Curatorial Incubator. Too much to take in in one go, (300? posters) you can see some of the posters on their website: and a schedule for screenings and events.
‘Democracy in America: The National Campaign’ was the largest public art initiative in Creative Time’s 34-year history and was organised by curator Nato Thompson. An exhibition, including installations and public interventions, national commissions and mobile projects all convened at NYC’s Park Avenue Armory. Among the speeches and performances, Reverend Billy, from the Church of Stop-shopping, preached politics instead of god and replaced the pulpit for protest. Beginning with ‘change’ he incites to form a ‘critical mass’ and wake them out of their ‘slow motion’, into a ‘changealleuiah’. Bottom line is- ‘it’s time to be creative with your time.’ His plea for struggle against the privatisation of the public sphere was just that, imploring his audience and all present to take the first amendment to public space. But the real ‘sin’ is to forget those past moments in time when change did occur.
Democracy in America: Reverend Billy
Gaining (world) time at n.e.w.s.
So Weng wants to 'slow things down' at n.e.w.s. and to ‘give us a bit more time,’ Stephen asks for a ‘time without qualities’ and I want a ‘time that is not money.’ Time to read, reflect and to write.