The Read-In Series is a collaboration between the Willem de Kooning Academy and Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, for the minor Critical Studies.The central theme of the Read-In Series 2015–2016 is ‘collapsology’, a neologism meaning ‘the study of collapse’. The term refers to the title of Pablo Servigne and Raphaël Stevens’ book, Comment tout peut s’effondrer: Petit manuel de collapsologie à l’usage des generations présentes (How Everything Can Collapse: A Short Guide to Collapsology for Present Generations) recently published by Antropocène (2015). In this work, Servigne and Stevens study the current state of unsustainable growth in all aspects of human life and culture and give practical advice on how to turn the future into a chance for real change after the inevitable fall of our current system. Closely related to the notion of ‘crisis’, ‘collapse’ is central to the tradition of critical theory, its history, and some of its present-day adaptations. This year’s Read-In Series texts are specifically selected to highlight different forms and perspectives on the subject of collapse understood as a necessary historical, socio-psychological, critical, and political phenomenon.
The Manifest of the Communist Party1
The first close-reading session focuses on ‘Bourgeois and Proletarians’, the first chapter of Karl Marx’s infamous Manifesto of the Communist Party of 1848. In this political pamphlet, Marx and Engels proceed to an analysis of class struggle as the motor behind historical developments and future changes in the society of their time. They predict the fall of the bourgeoisie is unavoidable. Just as the bourgeoisie had once defeated its political adversaries, the proletariat will prevail in the future. With their triumph, however, class struggle, and hence History itself, will have to come to an end.
The Tears of Eros2
In his last published book, Bataille traces the conjunction of the sacred and eroticism throughout history. Just as in previous works, Bataille breaks down boundaries between binary opposites to reveal the arbitrary nature of their culturally upheld antinomy. Like excess and play, eroticism constitutes a taboo-breaking strategy in Bataille’s writing that may defeat the limited understanding of the fundamental identity of life and death inherited from Christianity.
Capitalism and Schizophrenia 2: A Thousand Plateaus3
In this seminal text, Deleuze and Guattari develop their concept of ‘rhizome’, a descriptive and epistemological model used for many purposes, including data analysis, visualisation, and resistance to oppressive, hierarchical social structures. The rhizome also functions to challenge the dualist categories that structure prevalent modes of understanding the world, including those that hold academic and artistic work apart. The rhizome collapses epistemological boundaries and opens new perspectives on creative labour.
Accelerate Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics 4
The fourth and last close-reading session is dedicated to Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek’s controversial manifesto, written partly in reaction to Nick Land’s concept of ‘accelerationism’. Unlike Land, Williams and Srnicek argue that capitalism – accelerated or not – lacks the potential to cancel itself and create an alternative future. According to its authors, neoliberal capitalism needs abolishing once and for all to unleash technology’s hampered capacity to foster definite and positive social change. Only in this way can the collapse of the future be prevented.