FROM UTILITY TO FUTILITY (OR/AND/MAYBE/NOT), 2015
BY KATARINA STRASSER
Now, this is really painful.
Probably because I am standing right next to you.
In the beginning there was nothing. And in the end there was nothing.
And also, it was always going to be an action.
An endless shift from utility to futility. Forward and backward, more under than over.
In fact, any way you want it.
In the beginning there was the rock. Chiseled out only to be built together again.
An edifice of utility built to be futile.
A notoriously greedy and cunning man. Or the wisest of mortals.
Towards the dawn of Sisyphus’ life, Hades, the King of the underworld came to get him personally.
Unable to postpone the inevitable for much longer he was condemned by the gods to perform a perpetual futile act of labour by carrying a stone up a mountain. As soon as he reached the top, the stone would roll back down only for Sisyphus to push it back up again.
Sisyphus, labourer of the gods, labourer of the antique. You animal of production.
The tongue is cut off, mutened by the despair of its own uselessness.
A way out of the land of the dead.
You are the grandfather of capitalist production.
The labour that is always in vain. The hand that produces in vain,
makes in vain.
For it is made of,
When my flesh speaks,
on the verge of mania.
A frantic sense of overproduction, of imagination.
That seems to be dominating the very first thought.
The guts they had!!
I want to fit in.
Let me point this out in a subtle fit of madness:
The state of being useful, profitable, beneficial, functional, practical, capitalist, easily operated, masculine, useful, well built, technical.
Pointlessness, uselessness, no useful results, redundancy, lack of importance, lack of purpose.
The amputated hand, all over the place.
On the other hand, an imputation.
And reclaiming, the invisible hand in a velvet glove.
Bite it. Bite the hand that feeds
have really marked a shift. A transformation into something, and then other.
Rumbling, stumbling, mumbling, crumbling, tumbling. For now anyway. Sputtering and hurrying words.
An inner dialogue, pushed out by a sudden gush of cold air injected into my lungs.
And back again to the short nails and the flesh working its way through the velvet glove.
It acts, it does.
With no material substance.
Beyond the mask of this materiality,
Whether here, or there, far
it is always in contact.
Utilitarian as an idea. Futile in reality.
And always built for a fictitious reality.
Now is the time for high fermentation.
Everything comes into existence as nothing, a shell of its own being, into which meaning is placed. Everything exists as an aura first then meaning is placed onto it.
The hands had to be amputated. They had become futile. They came into existence as futile, despite being utilitarian.
In the beginning there was nothing and in the end there was nothing
and on the top of my head.
At the heart of this I recall.
Utility to Futility (and/ or/ maybe/ not) Part 2, 2016
In her essay ‘Affective Economies’ Sara Ahmed speaks of a “social as well as a psychic field” and “borrowing the Marxian critique of logic of capital”. (Ahmed, 2004). Karl Marx was a constant companion during the making of the piece ‘Utility to Futility (and/ or/ maybe/ not)’ and although it is related to an emotional value it communicates directly with the material world of today.
In ‘The Capital’ Karl Marx writes about use value and that “it has value only because human labour in the abstract has been embodied or materialised in it.” (Marx, 2013)In short: the more things are produced the less labour time is required. However, the more emotions are produced the greater the affect. Capitalism is very much centred around the idea of ownership. In fact, the idea of ownership is the very root of modern capitalism and human emotions in turn are deeply rooted in the idea of ownership, too.
For instance: I have an emotion and it belongs to me - to my being. Emotions are felt products created by ourselves, our beings. The word being to describe the human existence is used deliberately here, for the emotion is being produced [by this fleshly machinery called man]. The emotion itself is never producing. And returning to the question of what constitutes a shift from utility to futility. It is the making, it is the act and the being being.
“The capitalist is not interested in the use value of commodities, but the appropriation of even more wealth” and is offering a “theory of passion” whereby affective value “is accumulated over time” (Ahmed, 2004)
Indeed, a language of anxiety was accumulated during the making of the work. Switching between object and subject or marking a shift between subject and object. The artist’s anxiety is the nodal point in the work “rather than its origin and destination” (Ahmed, 2004) There is a fight between the non-materiality of the spoken word and the materiality of the paper-mache sculpture. The written word is “in here” and “has its fulfilment in itself and does not produce” whereas the rock, the sculpture is “out there” urging to evaluate and make value/ give value. (Virno, 2004) and (Ahmed, 2004) Interestingly, Ahmed describes that fear has an object.
As the exhibition approached there was a clear anxiety. An anxiety that soon turned into fear or as Ahmed puts it “a thread that is identifiable”.(Ahmed, 2004). The fear is materialised through the sculpture and eventually operated as a vessel containing the fear rather than being an approaching object. The exhibition was coming close, the work had already been made and the fear was “intensified by the [potential] loss of its object”. (Ahmed, 2004)
Not having anything left at all - fully fledged - with a rising fear of its own futility. Fear is the written word, fear is the language being used. A fear almost contained by itself and a fight between non-material and material.
Ahmed, S. (2004) ‘Affective economies’, Social Text, 22(2), pp. 117–139.
Marx, K. (2013) Capital: Volume One and Two. London, United Kingdom: Wordsworth Editions.
Virno, P., Bertoletti, I., Casson, A. and Cascaito, J. (2004) A grammar of the multitude: For an analysis of contemporary forms of life. Cambridge, MA: Semiotexte/Smart Art.