Lucie Stahl - Surge @ Cabinet Gallery

Wed, 21st Feb, 2018 to Sat, 24th Mar, 2018
Thursday - Saturday 12-6pm

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There are significant structural similarities between the fossil fuel and dairy industries. Both involve a lot of sucking and flowing, as well as the need to refine what has been sucked and pumped into buttery, cheesy or powdered consumable products like petrol, diesel or heating oil.

There is a dumb inevitability in the circular movement of extracting from mud that which drives the wheels on it to perform the extraction itself, but this doesn´t explain the shared rise and decline of these two products marketwise.

In fact, the similar levels of volatility milk and oil share can only be explained with the shared demand of a global and growing middle class that tends to buy regardless of the price. McDonald’s won’t instantly change its menu—nobody wants to eat hamburgers instead of cheeseburgers because cheese prices doubled. Neither will it show generosity and give us a double layer of cheese when prices are low.

This type of everyday Marie Antoinette’esque behaviour is mirrored in the figure of the dairyman. Having retreated from the politics and terrors of the urban metropolis to the countrified idyll of a barn this persona engages in the simple joy of pouring a glass of milk—over and over again. In a constant selfish flow, all too liberal amounts of the dairy produce exit and enter diverse vessels, while the petrochemical wheels of prayer are forever turning—evoking the slow and steady rotation of a milking carousel.

Lucie Stahl, 2018

If capitalism can be understood not only as a mode of production but also as a social relation, then to maintain its own power and legitimacy, which it fiercely does, it must organise a society that is internally atomised and antagonistic. The imperative to fragment the social body can be understood through the political categories of labour and gender.

Labour power is intellectual and/or manual labour, which represents one’s capacity to work, to produce, as a commodity for sale. It represents potential gain for some and vital necessity for others, those who need to take their labour to the market to ensure their means of subsistence, to reproduce themselves.  The reproduction of labour power is structured by an internal division, producing a subject who provides often invisible, non-direct but socially necessary labour, generally understood as extra-economic or on the side of production. It also produces another subject whose direct labour or potential value is latent; sometimes these subject positions are combined, but in both cases make possible the ‘reproducibility of a system based upon the accumulation of value and the exploitation of wage-labour’ (Gonzalez). This division of labour is made possible by underpaid or indirectly paid work and by gender subordination (‘women’s work’), regardless of the sex (or gender) a subject of reproductive labour power possesses and regardless of their relation to the domestic sphere (cf. the global care chain): they are ‘feminised’, racialised and marketised subjects who care, clean, feed, bear children and provide sex, respectively.

By extension, the family, despite its multiple manifestations, can be seen as a foundational ‘social form’ of capital, wherein a subject’s capacity for labour is truly institutionalised, disciplined and regulated. The duality of direct and indirect labour instrumentalises family and gender relations as capitalist relations, thereby imposing what Marx calls ‘self-evident natural laws’ instead of ‘denaturalising’, and thereby, politicizing the asymmetric structural logic of the class relation between capital and labour, and unity through separation.


8 Mar 2018
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