a video work by Zanny Begg / Dmitry Vilensky, 2008
Сhoreography: Nina Gasteva
Animations: Zanny Begg
Capitalism makes us so stupid that we associate being with having.
The most powerful institution of contemporary capitalism is neither the state nor the different coercive machines of labor but consumerism. It could even be argued that communism was ultimately subsumed by our desires to own and consume.
When any of us goes to the supermarket we find ourselves in a utopian space: magical things constantly present themselves to our gaze. We can return to an old critique and argue that it is just commodity fetishism and we’re justified in criticizing people for being satisfied with so little. People settled for the lesser, however, because the lesser also contained the greater. Consumerist and technological utopias are being realized in a way that’s the direct opposite, as it were, of actual utopia. It’s like a caricature of any authentic utopian desires.
How are we able to attack this most attractive utopia of the capital? We return to Guy Debord’s critique of commodity fetishism in Society of Spectacle as it was developed on the cusp of the transition to post-Fordist production – a time when production was transformed from the production and circulation of things, to the production and circulation of ideas. Consumerism within this context became less about the purchase of goods then the purchase of lifestyles, dreams, personalities, and hopes.
Today the text of Debord appears like ciphered, forgotten knowledge whose language is understandable just for a few people – tragically it reminds us of the language of the Russian avant-garde that was supposed to be open to everyone and finally after the Russian revolution was perceived by masses as something alienated from any everyday meaning.
In our performance we wanted to create a situation when normal reality of everyday shopping would be interrupted by strange interventions of a group of sandwich people carrying placards with sentences from Guy Debord. Of course we did not think that this intervention would be able to raise the consciousness of everyday East-German people shopping on Saturday.
But we hoped that this work would explore some of the latent possibilities still contained within the critique of consumerism. Our performance operates as a counter spectacle, momentarily creating a break within the cycle of consumption – symbolic blockade of the entrance to the shopping mall. Through this we hoped to raise the still urgent need for a deeper break with the counter utopia of consumption.
This film is based on an action in public space by Chto Delat? realized in the frame work of the Project “Die Elektrifizierung der Gehirne” at Motorenhalle, Dresden in September 2007.