From After to Already

A Day of Perspectives on Reclaiming that which Has Become Diffuse

A dense day, composed of six tightly packed one-on-one panels, interspersed with vibrant discussions, tackled different aspects of the concept of the conference "After Audience."[1] With the audience organized into a circle around the two speakers, who faced one another, it almost felt like a "match," each focal point then escalating to the following discussion in more interconnected ways with each subsequent round.

The first round began with talks about strategies within museums, both large and small, and the issues and confrontations with which each context is faced. Manuel Borja-Villel spoke of financial challenges for small institutions and presented resistance strategies, including focusing on sharing, commons, transparency, and a general shift from patrimony to understanding the public as users/participants, and thereby articulating new strategies based on the agency these positions provide. He explained that in cities dependent on cultural tourism, in some cases, the demographics have shifted to consisting of 10% citizens and 90% workers. In other words, 90% of the local populations are temporary and disposable workers who tend to the needs of the culture-consuming tourists/audience, which, among other things, poses major challenges for articulating new strategies or potential solidarity among cultural workers. Stella Rollig subsequently outlined how the results of the branding of Vienna as the "heavenly city" has led to larger museums, such as the Belvedere, being occupied by a majority of (millions of) tourists, thereby focusing the evaluations and funding of such institutions to relying on statistics and rankings. Departing from notions that came from 1968, regarding questions of who does the speaking and how to approach identity and involvement among the participants/audience, the foundation was laid for the multifaceted interrogations of how we can understand audiences, consumption, production, embodied knowledge, and resistance today.

From curating exhibition content for audiences of cultural institutions, the talks shifted to an analysis of the curating of audiences themselves through new/social media and virtual space. Neidich describes this "curating" of audiences that is central to cognitive capitalism, and which goes beyond purely measuring or tapping into new audiences to actually anticipating and curating future attention, through Maurizio Lazzarato's notion of noo-politics, or "the ensemble of the techniques of control [...] exercised on the brain," which "involves above all attention, and is aimed at the control of memory and its virtual power."[2] Neidich continues, referencing Paolo Virno, by stating that this curating of people's memories and attention is "molded according to the new social, political, economic, and psychic conditions produced by post-Fordist deregulation [...] defined today by ‘the sharing of linguistic and cognitive habits’ occurring in a deterritorialized time/space continuum that ‘guarantees its readiness adaptability, etc., in reacting to innovation.’"[3] It is precisely these linguistic and cognitive traits that were elaborated within deterritorialized temporal and spatial conditions in the talks by Boris Buden and Stefan Nowotny that followed.

Buden began the second round of talks, "After Experience" with Solvita Krese, by focusing on the vernacularization of language, the commodification of audiences, and the role of the left in these scenarios. By mapping out the current tendency away from a lingua franca and towards a vernacularization of language, Buden pointed to the linguistic designs for targeting and speaking to audiences in the virtual arena. Following Dallas Smythe's notion of the "audience commodity," Buden not only addressed this practice of advertisers buying their audiences by using language as a tool for this acquisition, but also the shift that has taken place in which advertisers are able to pay less and less through the involvement and participation of those very audiences. Buden defined this as a new form of primitive accumulation and posed the questions of which vernacular values or unruly languages, borrowing from Ivan Illich, could overcome these paradigms, and which role the left has in preventing this occupation of language, attention, and accumulation.

Nowotny took over where Buden left off in the panel, "After Production (of Your Own Satisfaction)" with Brigitta Kuster, to question the context in which the involvement and participation of audiences has allowed for a shift from consumer to producer. Nowotny, however, focused on the element of time in analyzing the relations between audience production and audience consumption. Referring to the Japanese model of just-in-time production, which aims at eliminating waste – both as wasted inventory and time – through tight management processes, Nowotny identified a shift from biopower to psychopower, as well as a shift in tendencies of addressing audiences for consumption to using those audiences for commercializing consumption. Referring to Christian Marazzi, Nowotny elaborated that "communication is the grease that lubricates production," allowing supply and demand to become fluid, interchangeable notions. Addressing the production of satisfaction among individuals, Nowotny outlined various examples, such as sleep-based products and services meant to "repay" people the sleep they were "robbed of" through labor/production processes, along with the ironic practices of "earning" redeemable bonuses/points through shopping in order to outline the interplay, shifts, and merging of the roles of producers and consumers in both real and virtual spaces as regulated by temporal frameworks today.

Kuster, on the other hand, explored the potential of flipping scripts in audiovisual spaces and their potential impacts on audiences. Claiming that "film has always had an obsession with the audience," she explained which strategies filmmakers have employed for creating their own audiences/publics. She elaborated this alongside notions of subjectivization as well as the precarization and labor of filmmaking itself. Projecting examples of new and nontraditional video formats, she questioned the roles of, e.g. reaction videos or surveillance footage, inferring that the roles of the audience and potential subjectivization can allow for the script to be flipped in a way that makes an individual's role on screen ambiguous. The lines can become blurred between protagonist, passerby, or surveillance subject. Referring to Frantz Fanon's statements about the racist portrayal of black bodies and colonial imagery in film as well as the historical role of women in cinematic audiences, Kuster employs postcolonial and feminist perspectives for questioning potential ambivalences in (cinematic) audiences. This analysis of on-screen bodies and their relation to real or virtual audiences occupied a blurry space between psychopower and neuropower. Kuster's talk also linked the first set of talks with the following ones, which focused more on the role of the corporeal in concrete strategies of resistance and talking back.

In the discussion "After Resistance," Christoph Brunner and Kelly Mulvaney discussed various practices of resistance in different localities in recent years. Mulvaney began by presenting research on an urban housing development in Chicago, outlining strategies for dealing with racism, reclaiming urban spaces, and the roles of sympathy for making connections and setting past wrongs right. She spoke of the various obstacles in these endeavors and concluded with proposals for utilizing pauses and a reflection of both affect and effect in one's own body. Brunner continued this focus on the body and the role of breaks and ruptures. He began by departing from Janet Abu-Lughod's proposal to flip Michel Foucault's claim "where there's power, there's resistance" to "where there's resistance, there's power." Brunner thereby focused on the role of resistance as an imminent productive force, and insisted on thinking of wedges and cracks in power in resistant practices translocally. He gave an example, referring to surveillance technologies and social media in the appropriation of resistance, claiming that these kinds of tangible and visceral realities cannot be quantified so easily into binary, and that despite the attempts to create enclosures of all forms of knowledge, information, desire, and experience, there is something which gets left behind. In the following discussion, Ruth Sonderegger expanded on this point, stating that in the footage of police violence at protests that Brunner projected, such complex situations are often difficult for onlookers and even participants to decode, not to mention machines. Brunner concluded that even in the midst of "unsuccessful" protests, there is still an embodied archive of affect and knowledge that is carried by each participant.

This theme of embodiment and the corporeal was carried on into the panel "After Representation Before Study" with Isabell Lorey and Ruth Sonderegger. Lorey began by asking how we can break the dichotomy between presence and representation, and that we need to think about a new concept of the present. Referring to Derrida's notion of a coming democracy, she insisted on strategies that deal with the present in a way that can make space for the coming, for becoming, for change. Lorey related hospitality as a radical form of inclusion and a radical heterogeneity, which is always in becoming in a precarious way, to Stefano Harney and Fred Moten's concept of "study" as a social practice, something that is also taking place or being undertaken, and something that always refers to a place of power as their perspective departs from an analysis of slavery.

Sonderegger expanded these perspectives on corporeal strategies and perspectives from postcolonial and feminist thought by linking them to thoughts on knowledge and radical pedagogy. She gave an example of how education was quantified in order to determine when a slave was allowed to gain freedom. Then with a projection of Nina Simone's performance of "Mississippi Goddamn," she paraphrased Simone's lyrics, stating that doing "things gradually just brings tragedy." Sonderegger related this to current learning hierarchies and the imperative for migrants to gain certain knowledge in order to be integrated into their "host" societies. Referring to bell hooks and Jacques Rancière's perspective of universal education, she outlined ideas that attempt to dissolve the power relations between teacher/taught, host/guest, and linked them to Rubia Salgado's critique of integration attempts, in which she claims that European societies ironically insist on being "mehrsprachig aber monolingual / polyglott but monolingual." Furthermore, Sonderegger emphasized the "already" instead of "after," expanding on the thoughts about "coming" and "becoming" presented by Lorey. Frequently referring to Harney and Moten's notion of the "undercommons," the following discussion continued the focus on knowledge and the inability for individuals to determine what it is they want to learn at universities[4] as well as questions of what knowledge can mean in a new understanding of the present, how knowledge is embodied, and the power relations existing within a dissemination of knowledge.

After a long break and many informal discussions, a relaxed final round between Lucie Kolb and Gerald Raunig, entitled "After e-flux," on the problems and potential role of cultural publications began. While Kolb criticized the closed and filtering practices of e-flux, Raunig proposed certain functions that publications should have, e.g. an emphasis on translocality, the capacity to have an organizational function, an instituent capacity, and the capacity to reach a milieu. Through these strategies, Raunig claimed that the audience can then become both resonating and consuming, returning agency to audiences in the sense that was initially introduced at the beginning of the day regarding strategies within cultural institutions. The discussions of the day made numerous proposals, but they all came back to a few concrete and overlapping notions: the role of the rupture in creating/reclaiming time and space; a radical return to the body; understanding how to flip perspectives to reclaim the appropriation of audiences, knowledge, and affect; and the use of cultural and artistic strategies as well as publications as platforms for disseminating, communicating, and challenging these ideas.

Lina Dokuzović



[1] The conference was convened by eipcp in cooperation with Belvedere 21 within the framework of the Midstream project, a transnational project of the Creative Europe program of the European Union, consisting of eipcp, Museo Nacional Centro de Artre Reina Sofia, and The Latvian Center for Contemporary Art. For more info, see:

[2] (Lazzarato [2006] quoted by) Warren Neidich, "From Noopower to Neuropower: How Mind Becomes Matter," in Cognitive Architecture. From Biopolitics to Noopolitics: Architecture and Mind in the Age of Communication and Information, eds. Deborah Hauptmann and Warren Neidich (Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2010), p. 539.

[3] Ibid., pp. 539–540.

[4] I would just like to add here that during the university occupations of 2009–2010 across Europe, a rupture was created for doing just that – deciding on and creating strategies for defining what people wanted to learn. In Vienna, this was supported by the Squatting Teachers initiative in which teachers stopped executing their planned curricula, and, in solidarity with students, invited them to create programs together.

Production note to