School of Mutation within the framework of the iteration We have a situation here. The online meeting is on Thursday July 16 at 19:00 CEST. Facilitated and composed by Dmitry Vilensky, with Oxana Timofeeva.
Today provoked by pandemic situation we hear more and more often different proposals for establishing Universal Basic Income (UBI). The UBI is often presented as the only measure which could save human life in front of growing precarity and forthcoming competitions with AI and robots.
As correctly and precisely mentioned by previous panel of IRI:
it is a necessary condition in order to rethink our extractivist ecological model, to correct many race and gender asymmetries and, last but not least, to change the art world’s present neoliberal structure. UBI must be seen as a tool to open up new subjective spaces, alternative to the dominating entrepreneurial individualism and focused instead on commons and care.
At the moment looks like that some affluent societies could come closer to implement this measures not at universal/global level but at their national proximity – regulated by local governments and national agencies.
If we look back, we could discover that something similar to BI was already existed – in the West it was called welfare system, in the socialist countries it was a system of all-embracing social support and exchange of basic work/services for basic wage covering basic housing, basic food and basic health care.
I think that we should analyses what is basic?
Within welfare state it was pretty clear that bureaucracy has an expert power to calculate how many calories one should consumer a day, how often one need to new underwear, how many sq. meters should be sufficient for one person, what kind of medical services should stay accessible and at which quality level. So, it did not differ much from the situation when one speaks about regulation of prison’ population or orphanages.
In general we are demanding the return to some bio-political regulations which right now sounds like a golden age of humanity which was later kind of annihilated by the assault of neo-liberalism.
But we definitely not returning – we reconsider this radical survival strategy in completely new political situation. And we should stay sensitive to this new challenges.
To recognize them more precisely we suggest to reconsider the BI through the concept of the gift. Right now young generation do not remember that the topic of the gift economy was the most fashionable in artistic and intellectual discourse during the nineties. Jean Baudrillard (after Marcel Mauss and Georges Bataille and some other anthropologists) in his work differentiate between the symbolic realm and the realm of signs and signification. According to his ideas “signs can be exchanged like commodities; symbols, on the other hand, operate quite differently: they are exchanged, like gifts, sometimes violently as a form of potlatch”. And he warns us that contemporary society more and more often converting this “symbolic” element into commodified signs. This we could watch very clearly in the tendencies of art world.
Anthropologist Marcel Mauss studied the notion of the gift, particularly the notion of the “hau” – the invisible energy emanating from social relations which keeps valuable objects in circulation – to imagine a socialist state or rather commons, based on non-commodified and generalized reciprocity permeating all social relations.
According to Georges Bataille, there are two types of economies: the general and the restricted one. Restricted economies are human activities subordinated to the production, accumulation, and growth of individuals, households, states, etc. The general, or planetary economy is the one of the non-productive expenditure. In nature, it is presented by the sun which gives light and warmth to all living beings without ever receiving anything back. In case of humanity, the general economy becomes the gift economy. How does the gift economy relate to the contemporary condition of total capitalist alienation of labor, and especially artistic labor? What is the connection between labor as our essential activity, and the gift?
So we would like to suggest to look deeper what the idea of gift means nowadays and see if we could re-approach the BI – as a new form of unconditional gift system. And as we know that any gift is a manifestation of sovereign power it imposes a certain rules of exchange – putting someone into position of debt. Gifts are not innocent and to operate inside gift economy one need to acquire a special knowledge and type of behavior – then we could reclaim a gift – basic income not as a basic compensation to temporary save our life (and as a general recognitions of our humanness) but as a precondition for plenitude of living in commons.
So we would suggest the basic questions in relation of the transformation of art system in connection with possibility of establish BI
1) If artists receive BI (in its minimal or utopian version) as a kind of a “gift” should they consider their artistic manifestation as a gift to society and do not demand additional remuneration? How do we combine BI and new market regulations which keeps competition afloat?
2) With implementation of BI the old dream which haunting art world might come true: everyone becomes an artist and do not need a special institutional recognition. Would BI diminish a professional approach to art and undermine the difference between professional and amateurish approach?
3) Would artist with BI need art system at all or they manage to establish their own system of the distribution of artistic practice – making it more local, more social and convivial?
4) The implementation of BI could be hardly imagined practically at global scale. Like industrial revolutions it could start from the most affluent countries and then (hopefully) spread around globe. How could we soften the growing inequalities between the artists with BI and those who do not have any support? What kind of international structures of redistribution we might need?
5) If we consider BI not just as a gift, but more as a dole could it be particular “poisoned” for the artists which system put in the position of returning gift in a form of “welcomed” withdrawing from work and from any additional responsibility of the cultural institutions?
Oxana Timofeeva is a Professor of the Centre for Practical Philosophy “Stasis” at the European University at St. Petersburg, leading researcher at Tyumen State University, member of the artistic collective “Chto Delat?” (“What is to be done?”), deputy editor of the journal “Stasis”, and the author of books History of Animals (Maastricht: Jan van Eyck, 2012; Moscow, 2017; London: Bloomsbury, 2018), and Introduction to the Erotic Philosophy of Georges Bataille (Moscow: New Literary Observer, 2009). She is also author of numerous contributions to e-flux journal and other art magazines.
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