Dee Glazer

Techno-Capitalism and the Cyborg Artist

  • Mar


    Posted In: Writings




    Techno-Capitalism and the Cyborg Artist

    In The Question Concerning Technology, Heidegger?s definition of Enframing is ?the way in which the real reveals itself as standing-reserve.?[1] In The Origin of the Work of Art, Heidegger states that the work of a work of art opens up a world, and that ?the work lets the earth be an earth.?[2] If Enframing is the way that the real reveals itself as standing-reserve, and the work of a work of art is to reveal a world, what is the fate of the contemporary artist? Is the modern artist a ?standing-reserve? for this revealing power? That is, for the production of the art work which works by revealing? For the production of what Heidegger termed Enframing?

    Specifically within the realm of capitalism, whose looming presence haunts the earth much like Heidegger?s description of the looming presence of technology, the artist is a standing-reserve. He sits and waits, for the looming power of technology to call upon him to make. But this presence of technology has merged with the capitalistic market place, producing a ?techno-capitalism.? Thus, the artist is called upon by techno-capitalism to make, and not only to make, but to make works that ?work.? But work in what way? Certainly not in the way Heidegger is describing in his bringing up of techné and poésis, where the artist is a truth maker, and that his work reveals the truth and is in fact truth-making. For this would cause techno-capitalism to shatter in its foundations.

    Let us examine an example from popular culture. In Terry Gilliam?s The Zero Theorem, the main character receives phone calls that tell him his next projects. He must fulfill these projects and update them to the server in order to obey what is simply referred to as ?Management.? He always answers these calls, and he always obeys their orders, and while not working on these tasks, his existence merely consists of waiting for them. He is a standing-reserve for this labor. Later in the movie you find out that these calls are delusions. Furthermore, the main character is a hermit who has not left his house in about 10 years, and so never faces reality but rather exists in the reality created by the looming presence of ?Management.? Which we will understand here as the looming presence of what I am calling techno-capitalism.

    Now take the modern artist. ?Management? can be understood as the gallery, or the institution that demands the work. They can call upon the artist, requesting specific work. Such as, ?we need more white paintings, white paintings are in.?[3] And the artist, if he wants to continue his successful existence in this structure of techno-capitalism must obey. For the looming power of this structure demands it, for what exists outside of it is unknown, and acts as an abyss, an anxiety where fears are projected. And in some cases, the artist is in fact just as secluded as Gilliam?s fictional character.

    A further example is Slavoj Zizek?s description of Mark Rothko, to whom he refers to as ?the most tragic figure of American abstract expressionism.?[4] In his paintings Rothko created a colored square existing within a boundary on a canvas. The looming presence of the barrier separating the real from the ?real? reality, i.e. the barrier separating the colored square from the edges of the canvas, finally consumed him. Which is to say that he was acting as a slave to this looming presence, he had to create them. But in creating them, he revealed too much to himself, and he found his eventual demise. The revealing power was too real.

    The modern artist is the standing-reserve for the revealing power. But he can only reveal so much, for if he revealed too much he would see reality for what it really is. Which is found in the case of Rothko stated above, or in regards to Gilliam?s character that can only reveal within the guidelines dictated by ?Management.?

    I understand the looming presence of technology as the looming presence of capitalism.  I do not believe that it is possible to reveal in the sense of poésis in this power structure of reality. But where does this leave the artist? And what does this imply for modern art as a whole? Should the artist remove himself from the techno-capitalist structure? Or is this move futile since the cycle is still perpetuated? I believe the modern artist is, in part, a working gear in this structure of techno-capitalism. A cyborg if you will. Part artist, understood as the producer of works that reveal or ?Enframe,? but also part techno-capitalist, another cog in the machine of reality building.







    Works Cited

    Heidegger, Martin. ?The Question Concerning Technology, And Other Essays.? Harper and Row, 1977.

    Heidegger, Martin. ?Poetry, Language, Thought: The Origin of the Work of Art.? Harper and Row, 1977.

    The Zero Theorem. Dir. Terry Gilliam. Perf. Christopher Waltz. Voltage Pictures, 2013. DVD.

    Zizek, Slavoj. ?Looking Awry: An Introduction to Jacques Lacan through popular Culture.? MIT: 1992.

    [1] Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology, p. 23

    [2] Heidegger, The Origin of the Work of Art, p. 46

    [3] Taken from conversations concerning the experiences of artist and professor Heide Trepanier.

    [4] Slavoj Zizek, Looking Awry, p.19