TE KOOP peugeot



EXHIBITION by Benjamin Li


OPENING: Friday 04/07 at 17.00

04-07-2014- 04-09-2014

Publication TE KOOP



“Maybe the garage sale is a metaphor for the mind”

Martha Rosler, Monumental Garage Sale, 1973

All of us scoured one of those sites where you can buy and sell all that human inventiveness has ever produced. A bike for example: scrolling through all the mostly incomplete descriptions, checking the out of focus, awkwardly lighted photograph of it taken with a digital camera which probably came from the same website reckoning the cubist pixel rate. Then, after having checked all the offers, one of them stands out. You look at the photographs another twenty times, compare it with the description and then take your chances and send a message to the seller, that goes something like: “Hello Benjamin. I love your peugeot! Is it still on sale? how high is the frame? where can i buy it? and when? have a nice day, cheers! Tine”. You cannot wait for the seller to respond and cracking of excitement you manically keep on refreshing your inbox while persistently glancing over the photographs of the object you desire to have.

The photograph of this particular bike is an exception though; the bike, a Peugeot is standing in the middle of a room in an apartment. The peddle leaning on a couple of thick books of which the colours of the covers match the blanket in the left corner of the image, what a coincidence. Pretty weird he left a beverage can in the bottle holder of the bike, well he must have forgotten. The room is rather shabby, to be honest: no carpet on the floor, a daubed traffic sign on the heating, spray-paints on the wall. Yet there is a nice plant standing there and a funny poster hanging on the wall with a yellow fellow on it pulling a somewhat mocking grimace face. The one whom sells this bike must either be moving out or in this apartment you reckon. There is a box stacked with painting materials in the corner, you see. Isn’t there somebody lying behind it, all in white? Anyways, concerning the photograph there is too much background noise to it but the way the bike is lit brings it out beautifully! It is quite a peculiar picture, but hey, the bike looks great.

Finally you got an answer in your mailbox. “Hi Tine, Whats your offer? I have other people on hold now. What about trading for something you have? Let me know, I am open for anything. Best Benjamin”. The market usually is seen as a place where someone whom produced a good offers its product for sale. The price of the product is established by the cost of the raw materials and labour time used to produce it, plus the tension between offer and demand at a certain place and time. The sale of the product involves an exchange. This might be an exchange of the product for other goods; then you made a ‘deal’. But soon one finds out it is difficult to establish the right amount of the one good for another; and above all you are still stuck with a load of stuff which does not have a stable value. Gold then is the material which has the most universal value (it can be traded for everything else) and because of it scarcity its value is stable. But that last advantage is at the same time a deficit to the market; there is only that much of it and even if it increases in value the market will stay limited. Money then, the most common yet unrecognizable means of exchange, because of its obviousness and nearness it is a rather inscrutable simulacrum; its trade value is universal while its material value is insignificant. The peculiar thing is that ones you have it you can use it to make more of it. Money makes markets limitless. Your answer: “Hey Benjamin. I hope I’m not too late? As my beloved bike was stolen 2 days ago, I didn’t save any money for getting a new one… so if it would be ok for you I would pay you 60 pounds?! When could I come to get it? cheers, tine”.

The sellers response: “Hi Tine, I had another bike a few years ago, the stole my tires and couldn’t use that bike anymore. I was very much attached to it, so I know how you feel. Somebody offered me another bike in return, so I’m checking out if I like it better than the one I have now (which is for sale). Ps. I see you are from Germany? What are you doing in London? I’m from Holland:) Best Benjamin”. Well obviously your money doesn’t buy you everything, since this person is trading the bike he is selling for another bike…?! But he seems to be really nice; compassionate to your situation and interested in what you do. Whence people who had money were beginning to use it to buy and bring together raw materials and labour-power, not only production changed but also the market which now seemed to cover all the fields of life; so all-encompassing it subsumed all of the possible refuges from it. In bringing together raw materials and living labour-power, capital from the start put in to play a network of social interaction between (living)things. In its earlier age by a rather uneconomic form of exploitation: by rampaging the raw materials which nature offered to them without asking a return and draining the life force of the multitude of living labour-power; like a vampire sucks the blood of its victims even though they are the only source of for its survival. Après moi le déluge!

“hey benjamin. I’m here for doing an internship. and you? Cheers”. Something though has changed in this assemblage of production, not that exploitation is a thing of the past rather its nature has been altered. The dead-end of the earlier forms of exploitation has been inversed to a form which tries to audit, guide, and control the productive life-force of labour power. The productive life force of the multitude is managed as human capital; searching for the optimum of incentives to let them guide themselves as supposed autonomous rational human beings to a fitter, healthier, and more productive life. The production process itself concurrently changed from a mechanistic apparatus to a network of informational flows; even in the iconic monument of the industrial age, the factory, the informational network has become hegemonic. But this network of informational flows is only able to flourish coincidentally with the energy of social interaction of the multitude. Labour-power as such has changed its nature in the shift from an emphasis on physical-labour to cognitive-labour: interpreting, constructing, and communicating symbols, through social and affective networks. While economic and political forces continually try to contain and lead multitudes flow of force through the canals of the production of surplus value, the cognitive-labour of the multitude paradoxically at once contains the creative, affective and social elements to potentially overflow the embankments. The productive life-force of the multitude thus is prior to the forces that try to contain it. “Hey Tine, I’m an artist trying to get connection into the art world, graduated last year, so its all new to me the world after art school. I like Berlin a lot, hope to end up one day there. I had friends living in Grunbergerstrasse near Warschauer subway if I’m correct. What kind of internship? Best Benjamin”.

“Im a product designer. but in berlin are no jobs so i had to come here. but I miss berlin really really much…” The actual economic-political apparatus thus involves all fields of life, and to those who make the distinction, even our virtual life; this need not necessarily be a dystopian scenario. Yes big data is big business, everything you do is monitored and analysed in order to shape your life world such that you guide yourself towards the ‘good life’. But it seems frivolous to denounce any media because of that. The potentiality of social interaction and communicative cooperation exactly comes forth out of the experience of the present, by inciting new forms of life it can become a critical war machine: imagining a production with other goals than the ones promoted and feeding the desire for alternative, more autonomous, and egalitarian forms of life.

This struggle commences with the individual questioning established norms and therefore exposing oneself as a subject while at the same time undermining this status by self-(de)forming. This critical ontology propagates new subjectivities, alternative norms and temporary possibilities of a ‘we’. Life formed by experience and experiment is not a refusal or denial; it is not the work of destruction but rather an investigative work. This work consists of suspending and expanding the normative system one inherently is part of. Spreading curiosities like the photograph described above into the networked market places. Engaging in conversations that try to circumnavigate a ‘deal’; even reversing the goal minded logic thereof by laying an affective curiosity into this form of social exchange, like in the excerpts from one such conversation used above. This seems to be such an idiosyncratic strategy that fiddles with expected scenarios and seeks to perform and stage actual experiences of the present in order to work through the cracks in the barriers and proliferate the possibilities to overflow the embankments.

This text is based on the experience of engaging with Benjamin Li’s project Te Koop (2013 – on going) and has been loosely influenced by the lives and works of Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, and Antonio Negri, among others.

Rob Ritzen