Speculation on Change from The Posture of Performance Art Practice


In this exposition, change is perceived as an essential part of the paradigm of immanent capitalism, where the transcending immanence articulates the world of capitalism. In other words, capitalism is a system of exchange and economy, where all arrangements within this system are determined by economic functions, such as exchange or constant flux of matter and meanings articulated by sufficient reason. The capital form of thought - that is to say the philosophy of capitalism - is economic, sufficient and productive. The transcending immanence of capitalism produces the world, the immanence of capitalism is a transcending immanence.1 This exposition is set to inquire how these forms affect the position of artistic practice. 

The focus will be on the possible limits of economic and sufficient forms of thought, or what is speculation in this context. In the recent discourse on the paradigm of Anthropocene and speculation of nonhuman thought, the distinction between the human and the ‘world not for humans’, or the world in itself and the experience of the world, have instigated another perspective to regard the immanence of capitalism only as an arrangement or ‘pseudo-immanence’. However, due to space constraints, this exposition is a mere introduction to the ongoing research of mine subsequent to the examination of my doctoral research on schizoanalysis and artistic research held on January 2016.2 In short, I ask: how can we speculate on the limits of change from the perspective of artistic research including the different arrangements of nonhuman thought and the immanent capitalism? 

These theoretical speculations are set aside with a performance and installation project “Exception”, which was presented in the Sinä&Minä (You&Me) exhibition at the ARTSI Art Museum of Vantaa in 2016. The project was based on an interview I conducted with an Iraqi asylum seeker in early 2016. My intention in this project was not explicitly political, but rather focused on the topic of ‘stranger’ or ‘exception’ from the juridical and speculative. This project will be presented in this exposition in conjunction with a theoretical part, where the concepts of economy, sovereign and ‘decisionality’ are set in the context of the contemporary art practices and regarded from this point of view.  



1   See more in: “Speculation on Artistic Research and Performance in The Context of Immanent Capitalism”. RUUKKU: Studies in Artistic Research, Nr. 5/2016

2 See more in: Schizoproduction: Artistic Research and Performance in the Context of immanent capitalism. Acta Scenica, Helsinki: University of the Arts

The economy of change

In ancient Greece, oikonomia referred not only to the management of a house, the people who composed the household — free men, slaves, and animals — but also to the skill of acquiring wealth, and maintaining the properties and possessions of a house (Aristotle 1991, 1253b1-1253b14). Oikos, the house and ownership of it, was ruled by a free man, despotēs, who had a particular character, but did not have a science of management or acquired knowledge, eidos, in his use (ibid., 1255b16-1255b39). In contrast to the government of a polis, oikonomia had no other purpose or end than itself. Oikonomia is then distinguished as the art of administration, instead of politics. It is in the household, where all things are connected in an orderly manner (Aristotle 1991b, 1075a). In The Kingdom and the Glory (2011) Giorgio Agamben articulates how it is this contingency of a household that functions as a basis for the neoliberal politics. Moreover, the Christian theology is distinguished between the reign and the administration, represented in the triune of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. The transcendental oikonomia of God is not based on necessity, but on absolute freedom, whereas the secular government reflects the immanent praxis of economy bound with decision and necessity (Agamben 2011, 54). A transcendent God is idle and indifferent to the immanent government of the world, and in political theology, the ‘king reigns, but does not govern’ in the immanent relation with other things. However, in decisional form, the government transcends, or rather ‘cut off’ from the real. In conjunction with the transcendental oikonomia, Carl Schmitt argues for the liberal government in the Political Theology (1922), that the immanent world does not require a government, but must reign like a pilot. A government needs an ability to make a decision between the familiar and foreign; it needs an ability to make a decision over an exception, and thus cut off from the radical immanence a governable world (Schmitt 2005, 6; Agamben 2011, 75-76).

Agamben continues, in disjunction with Schmitt, that in the context of late capitalism the indifferent and idle God has been replaced with a transcendent representation of Man, and in this philosophical auto-production the transcendent king is being secularized: “the essence of man is nothing other than the praxis through which he incessantly produces himself” (Agamben 2011, 91). This auto-production of Man, God is superseded by man-as-transcendence. However, this auto-production of Man, based on the transcending thought of sufficient reason, oikonomia is kept as central operation, instead of the governmental politics.

In this short exposition, I will investigate what such procedures entail would for the artistic practice. I will argue that the ‘immanence produced by transcending thought’ or the auto-production of Man, is counter to a concept of ‘radical immanence’, or the Real, which have been recently developed by a French philosopher François Laruelle. He argues that such a transcending immanence, and in my jargon the ‘immanent capitalism’, has only a unilateral relation with the radical immanence, or the Real. Such a radical immanence is indifferent to the transcending thought of philosophy or the production of capitalism. Laruelle writes of the radical immanence, that:


This radical autonomy, not relative to Being, to the Other, or to thought, does not follow from an essence distinct from and higher than itself; radical autonomy is its essence; if it must be described, it will be described starting from itself in-the-last-instance. Radical immanence amounts to more than a ‘transcendental fact’: more than a fact, it is the given (in) itself before every transcendental givenness; more than transcendental: it is the Real which ‘precedes’ every description of itself or every usage of transcendence. (Laruelle 2013, 26)


In his postulations of immanence and transcendence, the last instance of the economy is being replaced by the Real, whereas in the context of capitalism and through the transcending thought, where economy function as a milieu for the knowledge to emerge. The capital form of thought is philosophy, that is to say, the philosophy of capitalism, which is economic, sufficient and productive, and such transcending thought produces the World.

The radical immanence is a critique of oikonomia as a transcendental form of the human world, in the citizens of polis and inhabitants of oikos. Moreover, this critique leads to a speculation of artistic practice as a performative thinking of heresy or hairesis, thinking with a diversity of opinions, which are all bound in the unilateral relation with the radical immanence or the Real. Such a heretical practice is equally foreclosed and equally material thought. There are no exclusive interpretations or reflections of the real. Artistic practice thinks in its right, without the philosophical representatives. A body is foreclosed from the subject, but it thinks in performance and practice.

In contrast, the economic thought of sufficient reason is founded on ‘trust’, ‘exchange’, or ‘faith’, whereas the proposed speculation may be based only on a unilateral relation with the radical immanence; that is to say, a thought is an effect of the Real, which in turn does not unilaterally affect the real. There is a unilateral separation between the Real and the world. The world has relative effects on subjects, and philosophy or aesthetics affect beings (human and non-human) by determining them, but only in a relative sense (only in this world), and only as sufficient thought. Eventually, the concept of ‘immanent capitalism’ thus articulates the decisional nature of philosophy, which is the a priori function of capitalism. In relation to the analysis of the decisional role of philosophy by Ray Brassier, capitalism has produced the world with a “horizon of intentional ekstasis”, and that “[i]t is the unobjectifiable distance implied in the philosophical Decision through which immanence is posited as immanent in a gesture of thought” (Brassier 2001, 72). In short, immanent capitalism is a transcending product of a philosophical and sufficient capital form of thought — it is the world.

The heresy of artistic practice does not contain a proposition for a rampant anarchy, nor a flattening of all opinions, but a shift from competition, agon or oikonomia, to regard the determination in the last instance of practice, not of the economy, but the foreclosed real – the radical immanence. It is a proposition to consider artistic practice from ultra-materialistic posture: art is matter, and a thought of art is matter; a thought of a body is matter as much as the body is matter itself. The transcendental nature of thought is apparently taken into consideration, but is more akin with the axiomatic thought of science and, taking a critical stance, with a positional thought of practice, that is to say, critical toward being antagonistic. Art, like science, is not a translation of the Real. Art does not tell us how to live, even if we request it to do so, which, in other words, is an application to have a function determined by the last instance of the economy. Art as Philosophy may converse about anything. Artistic practice may be viewed as a translation of the meaningless into the meaningful in the economy of the world. Only in the context of late capitalism does artistic practice alongside science become a translation of the meaningless into new knowledge — morality, truth or how to live a life in this world. Nevertheless, science and art are deaf and blind to the truth. 

Speculation on exception

The decision of exception is a transcending operation that in turn creates dyad positions. It is the basic operation of philosophical thought, and thus a philosophy serves as the operator of government and administration. Through the necessity of decision upon exception and norm, the decision cut off from the real. Change is a cut off, a transcending operation, which requires us to ‘leap’. However, it is not a leap into the unknown, but rather in the representation of the unknown, since the transcending operation of decision paradoxically cut off from the foreclosed real. The unknown, or the exception for Schmitt and other liberal, political philosophers, is a fiction of the unprecedented. 

Change is a transcending operation, a leap, which actualizes a metaphysical concept of ‘god’, ‘man’, ‘people’, ‘type’, ‘ideology’, ‘race’ or ‘nature’. Therefore, change is productive or auto-production, to be precise. Change is conditioned by the conditions of transcendence, or philosophical thought. Change has a decisional form, where the unknown will be represented by the dyad structure such as one/the other, condition/conditioned. In other words, the changed is positioned in a gesture of thought, which does not indicate that there would not be changes in the radical immanence of the Real. The changes take place on the matter, but due to the transcending nature of thought, and philosophical thought, in particular, these changes in matter are being represented by the dyad structure of thought. 

Moreover, the operation of change as a transcending operation, akin to a decision, creates collateral damage. Agamben (2011, 119) writes, about Philo, how the “’malevolent elements of creation (from lightning to hail, from poisonous snakes to scorpions) are conceived as concomitant effect, or blurrings [bavures] of the providential structure of the cosmos … are [collateral effects] {epakoloutheí}.” Each act based on a modern governmental reason conceals a collateral damage within, Agamben (2011, 119) argues. Collateral damage is an inherent part of a government, and it is present in each decisional operation on exception, as well.  The reason administers the contingent effects accordingly, with the economy as the determination-in-the-last-instance3. In my argument, the processual practices of contemporary art, which follow the same decisional form, produce collateral effects too.

In the case of performance art, which in this exposition is presented through a project “Exception”, the same relation between practice, economy and administration, is present. The economy of artistic practice has a decisional function, which manages the relations, knowledge production and representation. The economy “extends throughout the depths of the consciousness and bodies of the population – and at the same time across the entirety of social relations,” write Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri (2001, 23-24). The economy of things and beings is an assemblage of social production, where subjectivities are put in relation through language or intensive flows, and where a decision has a paramount role. A decision is that cutting off form of thought, which produces both exception and norm. 


The decision is always a position, where the position is always at another position, that is to say, decision leads to relationality and relativity, which in turn is the apparatus of the oikonomia. The position is a decisional cut off from the background in the process of making a foreground. It is a dislocation from the real and withdrawal into a position. The object such as body, animal or victim do not withdraw itself from the philosopher, but the philosopher makes a move and decides for a withdrawal to have a position of the object in the world (Ó Maoilearca 2015, 168). This withdrawal what François Laruelle calls a ‘hallucination’ of “self-imposed distance or auto-position” (op.cit., 169).


The oikonomia is an assemblage of a system, which is posited as immanent in a gesture of thought, and eventually may acquire the attribute of a ‘natural’ or ‘normal’ state of being. However, no natural systems exist and the relations, which produce immanence as such, are bound to the transcending forms of thought in any case of an assemblage. The neoliberal government was not propagated naturally as a form of democratic government, but it is a product of particular and synthetic operations of secularisation, where the economy in the last instance has superseded God. These ‘natural’ systems are based on the decisional operation of oikonomia, exception, and the norm. Outside such a normative system – lead by a despot, authority, pilot or administrator – nature or natural do not exist: nature is a normative concept. 


Carl Schmitt writes in the Political Theology (1922) that, “exception proves everything: it confirms not only the rule but also its existence, which derives only from the exception” (2005, 5-15). It is sovereign, which decides on nature, exception, norm and mutations. In our present form of ecological, political, economic and psychopathological crisis where, “[r]eality disappears like the Amazonian forest, or a territory devoured by the desert, until the entire context that used to guarantee the living continuity of the community ends up being eliminated,” (Berardi 2009, 156)  the crisis brings forth the normative order, where change, revolutions, and transformations exist only as the reflections of the transcending rule of oikonomia. Here, determined in the last instance by the economy, no change is possible, without a correlation in human thought — the capital form of thought, philosophy. The necessary government of the neoliberal world is founded on the economy, where any collateral damage is only a means to fortify the norm. 

3 François Laruelle radicalises the Marxist term of determined-in-the-last-instance reworked by Louis Althusser, for whom the last instance as a dominating force was the economy. For Laruelle, the determination-in-the-last-instance is the Real and that “everything philosophy claims to master is in-the-last-instance thinkable from the One-Real” (Laruelle 2010, xvi). For Althusser, referring to Engels, the economy is the ‘determination in the last instance’ in the long run, but only concerning the other determinations by the superstructures such as traditions. Following this, the “lonely hour of the ‘last instance’ never comes” (Althusser 2005, 112-113).

A decision of practice


Language, logos, defines a distinction of a free man to the carnal voice, phōnē, of the animal. In the performance and installation “Exception”, commissioned by the ARTSI Art Museum in Vantaa, Finland, I investigated the role of decision, fiction and matter through methods of my artistic practice. The starting point of the project was the personal narrative of an anonymous Iraqi asylum seeker, with whom I collaborated in early 2016. His story was read in Arabic, and then recorded by the sound artist Taina Riikonen and in the end, pressed on acetate vinyl record. In the exhibition, this LP record was played nonstop in the installation. The installation consisted of another vinyl record player on which a collection of Berber songs from Algeria (sung by Marguerite-Taos Amrouche) played. This record played continuously, accompanying the story of the asylum seeker.  

My method of artistic practice is to combine references from various sources, placing them in formal and aesthetic relation in artworks that include installations, performances, photographs and/or video4While working on the story of the asylum seeker, it brought to my mind the story of Meursault from The Stranger (1942), by Albert Camus, and consequently the literary response to Camus by Kamel Daoud in his recent novel The Meursault Investigation (2015). In the personal narrative and in both of the books, investigation is a central theme. The relationship between a person and law appears as a game of positions. Therefore, positions and settings had an important role in my installation. In his novel, Daoud plays a narrative game with Camus, for instance when he appropriates the famous opening sentence of The Stranger into a sentence “Mama’s still alive today” (Daoud 2015, 1); or in a deliberate reminiscence of Camus’ description of the Arabs, “like ghosts, with no language except the sound of a flute … like discreet, mute spectres, they watched us in silence—us Arabs—as if we were nothing but stones or dead trees” (op.cit., 2-11).


In the exhibition, the concepts of game and law were represented with a photograph of a stone and the book of Finnish law, respectively, and placed on the table. The book was opened from the page defining the law concerning the immigration of the non-EU members. In the performance, I cut off the words on this page with an X-Acto knife word by word. After this, these tiny words on paper were put on top of a black charcoal stone on the table, beside the book. Aside being left as part of the installation, this procedure was presented on a two-screen video, paired with a video where a Möbius band made from the paper was being cut in half with scissors, which paradoxically creates an ever-extending strip. These two videos played a part in the visual game on the connotations of identity, inversion, exception, and selection. The objects of a photograph, law book, knife, scissors and coal produced another relation with games (stone-scissors-paper, etc.), religion and jurisprudence (casting a stone) and punishment (stoning to death), also.

Alongside these objects and images, there was an archival intervention made by me, where I had borrowed a framed woodcut Seuroissa [In the community](1978), by Veikko Vionoja, from the ARTSI museum collection to be part of the installation. In this printed image there are four figures, out of which two of them are veiled in black while the two other ones have an ambiguous and androgynous appearance. In my reference, this image was intended to represent the witnesses as they appear in the scene of the wake in the novel by Camus. There, the friends of Meursault’s dead mother sit beside the coffin, dressed in black and veiled, weeping for the dead. 

These were the elements of the installation. In the performance, I continued the process of cutting the words off from the law book and laying them carefully on top of the black stone. Following a score that I had written, the next scene consisted of movements and postures in response to the narrative of the asylum seeker, which was being played at the same time from the vinyl record. I then read the story in Finnish to the audience. In the end, a physical interpretation was performed once more, but without the Arabic narrative from the record.

How then does the practice respond or avoid replying to the decision or exception? My argument is that we may regard practice, how it thinks in a subtractive logic, that is to say, it does not augment the philosophical thought; it does not have a better access with the real. Bodies, objects and matter, are foreclosed from thought, subject and the economy, but aside from this, ‘everything thinks’ – and is equally foreclosed from thought. The performance is not on the body, but like any other thought, it does not think about performance, but it is thought ‘in-performance’ — and ‘in-real’. 

Then, on one hand, the artistic practices are economic operations of management — of space, time, and material relationships. They are explicitly decisional operations. However, in my argument, there is another point of view to regard practice not through management or operations, but through a speculative approach. The role of decision, exception and speculation appear while the matter of performance is simultaneously foreclosed, in the dark. The role of decision is put forward, while the background of this operation is the material, where the words are pressed on the acetate vinyl, printed matter on paper and cut off pieces from paper. The signification of words is being obstructed in that the story is being read in language, which is foreign to most of the audience; the printed and cut out words, which rested on a stone no longer created meaningful syntax. A story on the vinyl record marked as cues for a rehearsed physical score of mine, not through meaning, but through sounds that I had learned to decipher the language I could not recognise. The cues based on sounds signified a flow of time, without a recollection of the actual story, but another story, which was the story of my script.  Asignified sounds functioned as cues for physical actions such as: “still / squeezed / escape / multiply…” It was only at the end, where the sounds were translated into a meaningful, grim story of the odyssey of an asylum seeker, and read aloud to the audience. From the material performance, we returned to the commentary, critique and traditional narrative: there is a message, a story, which emphasises the absurd relationships between individual suffering, legislature, exception and the norm. Like an audit, the articulation of the story was read aloud in front of the audience, as if they were witnesses in the court for the event where reality disappears like the Amazonian forest, and the continuity of life is being eliminated as exception appears. 

In the artistic practice, reflection, description and analysis are the decisional operations. They aim to “explain or represent the Real in one exclusive way – its own” (Ó Maoilearca 2015, 21). They are the devices of how we operate and how we position ourselves in the assemblage of artistic practice. This is how artistic practice thinks like philosophy, and how to practice as philosophy cut off from matter. This is how we make meaning in art, through the decisional forms, and this is how the significance of art is cut off from the noise, the unprecedented and the unthinkable. The indifferent, foreclosed and obscured is matter, and in this particular case, matter has a consistency of bodies, vinyl acetate, sound, and printed material. It is indifferent matter that functions alongside the structure of administration, economy of relations and decisional forms of thought. Matter is not an exception, but matter recedes in the unrepresented, the non-exceptional and generic immanence. It is only through the jurisprudence and management, where a victim is being allocated a meaning of exception.

A thought of change is not a reflection but a refraction of reality. A reflection of performance is evidently a look from afar, and as philosophy, it is always fiction as an event. Decision and refraction operate the world and create an economy of dyads for artistic practice and representation, where ‘the other’, ‘outside’, ‘nature’, ‘becoming’ or ‘change’ find their dynamic function. The asylum seeker is being represented in a form decided by an artist.



4  See for instance "Schizoanalysis as a Method in Artistic Research" in JAR, 3 (2013)

A speculation on practice

On one hand, a body is turned into an operation, and on the contrary, a body is unthinkable and inaccessible to these operations of thought and management. Through these operations a body is produced into the world, where it takes part in systems and an operation, and where morale, truth, faith, or trust have economic functions. A body transcends through operations that produce the world — a sufficient and liveable world, which is the world of collateral damage and crisis, also. 


When we regard bodies, nature, the other or the unknown, then we have utilized a particular system of transcending thought. A body is produced as knowledge within administrative oikonomia. However, bodies and matter do not conflate with the world and these operations, but are instead foreclosed in the unknown, unprecedented, and are radically indifferent to the refractive operations. Where a body-as-knowledge in the world is a body of a refracted hallucination, there an indifferent body as matter is immanent alongside the real, “unilateral against all the philosophical phantasms of reciprocity and convertibility,” writes Alexander R. Galloway (2012, 200). A body is indifferent to the allocated space, determined by the economy and it has no function in the normative assemblage of the world. In a paraconsistent way, a body is an impossible object, it is “absolutely empty, but also had something in it” (Priest 2007, 128). We know that the bodies exist, and we can have an experience of them, for sure. However, a body, being also the Real, unilaterally is the foundation for being, and in this paradoxical logic, it is foreclosed from the dyad being/beings. In relation to the non-standard thought presented by Ò Maoilearca and Laruelle, there is no claim that artistic practice, philosophy or aesthetics would have any supreme knowledge about a body or the real. A body as a form of knowledge or experience is produced through operations of decision or economies of thought.

When I cut off the words from the book of Finnish law, and paid attention to the move of my hand and the blade through a magnifying glass, then a pun was barely hidden, which alludes to the etymology of a decision:“to make a cut – decaedere (de- ‘off’ + caedere ‘cut’). To cut off, to de-cide” (Ó Maoilearca 2015, 22). While doing this, paradoxically my body was ‘cut off’ from the background through the processes of decision as transcending operations. Now, there is something particular in the performance and in the artistic processes, which I refrain from conflating with the metaphysical terms of ‘embodiment’ or ‘outside’. This ‘something’ particular, is the other ‘thought’, which is being tracked down by numerous philosophers and various signifying operations in signifying this ‘thought’ with concepts such as affect, outside, the other, nature or embodiment.


What is being proposed here, is that operations of ‘cut off’ or ‘auto-affection’ have significant role in how a body and matter are regarded in artistic practice or aesthetics. Ó Maoilearca writes on philosophical thought, how: “all thought, including itself, is material. Think this, it says: thought is a thing, the Real is ‘the thing (of) thought, its ‘in-itself,’” however, a ‘performative’ non-philosophy avoids this auto-positioning, since it “explicitly posits itself as performative rather than representational — it is not saying how things really stand. As such, non-philosophy is not some form of higher-order reflection, representation (of philosophy), or metaphilosophy” (op.cit., 20).


The real, and in the case of this article a body in particular of the Real, has a unilateral relation with the world. In this way, a body is foreclosed and inaccessible to thought, and a body is not an enigma — until a transcending operation of thought. How is one to perceive the role of an artwork through these speculations? In one of the first articulations of performance and conceptual art practice in the 1960s, the base was roughly a philosophical one, where the works of art were regarded as ideas (Lippard 1997, 24). It was the concept, which was considered as priority preceding the materialisation of an idea. Then, the artist becomes ‘a thinker’ instead of a philosopher. We could say, that the work of art, in this case, is the philosophising operation of art. However, my proposition is diametrically the opposite: the work of art, such as performance, is both a processual event bound with the economy of concept, knowledge, idea or speculation and matter, where a thought has a unilateral relation with the matter. The priority of a conceptual thought would have no better comprehension of the body, matter or the Real, than any other forms of thought.  The operations of conceptual art produce an apparatus, which comprehend the world through a particular perceptions and transcending operations. Here, the conceptual apparatus represents how the performance may be thinking. Ó Maoilearca argues how: “performance is allowed to think only through (seemingly nonperformative) philosophy” (op. cit., 248). A conceptual performance is one in which a performance artist becomes a philosopher who, in proxy of an authentic philosopher, is allowed to think of a body or other materials of the performance art. 


However, the conceptual approach is not the base for the speculation that we have proposed here. Our proposition is rather an inquiry into a practice, and thinking as performance, alongside the body — alongside the real. It is a proposition to research artistic practice, which thinks in a subtractive logic, that is to say, it does not augment philosophical thought to tell us more about the real. It is both a rejection of determinist thinking or economy and the nostalgia for anti-science. In contrast to political philosophy, which “believes itself able to provide the conditions for everything [but] ends up harassing everyone,” (Smith 2016, 68) the performative thinking of the artistic research may regard the radical immanence or the lived body, indifferent to politics.


A body, stone, a book, LCD-screen or coal, are being in the world of oikonomia — the world of capitalism, where the conceptual artwork has a particular function. However, they are immanent alongside the real, also. In other words, they are simultaneously indifferent to the world of economy. It is here, where our speculation for the possibility of ‘non-standard artistic research’ is located; where body and matter may be regarded as the advent of the real, and not the events in the world. We propose not a flattening of opinions, but a shift from agon and oikonomia to practice, which proceeds to perform alongside the radical immanence of the real as an advent. It is not a practice that would be an antagonist to theory, but a practice that regards this theory as a material thing equal to bodies.


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