You may have heard that The New Centre for Research & Practice has been invited by e-flux journal to contribute a series of short responses through the e-flux Conversations platform to the texts included in the special 56th Venice Biennale edition of e-flux Journal titled “Supercommunity”. The Supercommunity, we are told by the editors, possesses “no body and no name”, and is “wild… free to move across (some) countries, (some) political boundaries, (some) historical ideologies, and (some) economies”. As presented, the Supercommunity is seemingly no more human than technological, no more alive than dead, and no more material than ideal. It consists of artists, thinkers, and laborers, as much as cargo ships, public squares, and crowds. And although it may do so unevenly, it allows its participants to be “dispers[ed]… everywhere and all the time”, whether connected or disconnected.
While this description may sound utopian, might it not also be fair to suggest that it resembles the technocultural body of late capitalism, that of the precarious labourer and the terrified intellectual fighting daily, both online and offline, to remain relevant? Even if that were the case though, is it not also precisely the resonance between culture and capital that remains to be bootstrapped and diverted towards different, more productive ends? If the lurking danger of the Supercommunity is its consolidation into a Supercommodity, we should not forget the paradoxical nature of every commodity which is constituted by both its use-value and its exchange-value. While community and technological mediation can both be easily reduced to money, without the allure of non-instrumental usefulness, no community would ever succeed. People don’t join Facebook or Twitter simply to accumulate cultural or economic capital: they also join because they are not free-floating individuals, but rather singularities that emerge from conditions of collectivity. Supercommunity begins from this assumption.
Inside the Italian Pavillion, Biennale visitors are greeted with a work of art consisting of a 100-day recital of Marx’s Capital. Outside however, they are confronted with e-flux’s installation, a billboard featuring excerpts from multiple texts selected for the Supercommunity special issue, which thereby invite participants to view the online equivalent, perhaps then becoming involved in these networks. While the readership of Capital historically created community, as in every other case, the book form required live interaction not only between reader and author, body and book, but also between reader, author, and a live community of commenters and interpreters.
We at The New Centre look forward to the unfolding of such a Supercommunity over the course of the next 100 days. What united us in purpose with e-flux is that we both have taken advantage of precarious media to build impactful institutions in the realm of culture at the threshold of the 21st century. e-flux’s model serves as an inspiration for our own projects arriving more recently, both with respect to the seriousness with which we engage the qualities of our medium - the Internet and its associated platforms - and with respect to our commitment to inventing a future.
In the next 100 days, the New Centre’s community members will serve as first respondents to texts from the Supercommunity special issue of e-flux, thereby framing the initial development of the discussions. Subsequent commentary is open to all: please join us in this project by registering your own e-flux Conversations account at http://conversations.e-flux.com/signup.