Accelerating
degrowth
May 2022
KY: For the next round of AIR InSILo call, I would propose discussing the following: to meditate on the present state of technology and think about how the projects of artists working on the fringe of art and science can contribute to the very space of the residence. But to continue this, I would like to determine a clear framework for this discussion. So what would this contribution mean?
Since we agreed to define art as a basic need, we put it on the same level as other basic needs, be it food, water, shelter, clothing, safety, or security. It is essential to say that the concept of 'basic need' was synthesised by the UN's International Labour Organization to define and fight poverty. Let's say we don't necessarily need to take the optics of those who are sitting in Geneva deciding about poverty and will agree that art or creativity has enormous importance for a living being, let's say in Greaber's meaning-making category. This we agree and put out of brackets.
So the task of the residence which a space, an entity, a future community that urges us to be aware of consumption, energy, climate, equality, etc. issues and important to say: in a non-capitalist way (we do not aim to create any surplus value out of the produced commodities) is to provide a proper environment, where the potential of the artists working there could be maximally rendered. It would mean we need very particular decisions on the model of our work: be it circular economy, alternative economic models as a barter system, usage of decentralised tools or technologies, usage of specific alternative sources of energy, green systems, and so on. So here we come to the crucial moment if we speak about technology, which strategy to choose? Shall we focus and put in the centre of our discussion the clash of two approaches: degrowth and acceleration?

MB: We define AIR InSILo as "another kind of space: isolated from urban pollution, obligations, productivity, deadlines and generic motivations. Focused on the local community's interests and the calm scrupulous research of hidden layers of the average and unremarkable countryside area instead. By this, AIR InSilo wants to facilitate a safe environment for recharge from burnouts and provide black soil for new creativity sprouts." (AIR InSILO concept).
This may sound very much like a degrowth concept: 'deceleration' (slowing down, German: 'Entschleunigung'). In contrast, accelerationists recognise that technology is a crucial driver of social and economic change. Aaron Vasintjan, an environmental scientist and philosopher, co-editor of "Uneven Earth", debates in his essay "Accelerationism… and degrowth? The Left's strange bedfellows" the question of speed an refers to the foremost "philosopher of speed", Paul Virilio: "Through Paul Virilio's ("Speed and Politics") eyes, the history of Europe's long emergence out of feudalism into 20th-century modernity was one of increasing metabolism of bodies and technologies. [...] What's important for this discussion is that Virilio does not separate the two types of speed: changing social relations also meant changing metabolic rates—they are the same and must be theorised simultaneously".
So one keyword for our research is 'speed' or 'velocity'. Another one: is the 'size of the space'. And how they are interrelated, respectively defining each other. For example, solar panels: with the prospect of producing energy for mining, should contribute to a lesser economic dependency on funding, which would mean spending less time writing applications and having more time for creative and productive work within the residency frame.
BUT, again, Aaron Vasintjan: "efficiency doesn't work that way. If you would take away one lesson from ecological economics, it is this golden rule to be repeated to every techno-optimist you come across: without limiting in some way the use of resources and energy (e.g. by taxing it), any advance in efficiency will likely lead to progressively more resource use, not less. This is called the rebound effect, or Jevons' Paradox." How to avoid this trap? In the case of solar energy, not just to feed it into new gadgets or devices, but to comprehend it as an investment in our time economy.
Same with automatisation of any kind. I clearly favour accelerationists' envision of a fully automated communism by leaving us to four hours working week, but any proof that this can be implemented is still missing. On the contrary, as Graeber describes, although technically possible, it tends to lead to more working hours and bullshitization of jobs.
Can we eventually find a small scale system for AIR InSILo, which would work for our residents and us, and how would ideas in this direction develop? Can there be a conception and eventual implementation of an artistic network system based on commons, at least partially building up on Vilém Flusser's utopia of democratisation of society through networks, where you can permanently participate in politeia from home; something he very well described in "Something about roofless and wallless houses with different cable connections" from 1989, which - technically - is state of the art now?
And a very crucial point in our current situation: the war has shown clearly how vulnerable any global economy is and how deeply it affects the individual lives of people, even tens of thousands of kilometres away (for example, an upcoming hunger crisis in African countries because of export stops in Russia and Ukraine). We have to admit that the development of every single technology we use was spurred by weapon technology (or the porn industry, yes).
So technology isn't neutral, and by using it, we are no longer innocent. A sad insight shared by many media artists of the first generations, who were given access to high-end technology at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique) or other labs without any restrictions - only to find out that later on some of their (artistic) developments were used by the army (as a prominent example during Gulf war) which were the main sponsors of these labs. Something which the Austro-Canadian pioneer of media art, Robert Adrian X, often
Ahead of the new AIR InSILo 2022/2023 round, Ksenia Yurkova and Martin Breindl debate the present condition of technology in its conceptual domain and its possible use for the autonomy of the residence space.
emphasised and transferred to the contemporary use of the Internet or cell phones when speaking about his artistic work with technology.
For Vasintjan, the core question is: "what does accelerationism mean in the context of a war machine that has historically thrived on speed, logistics, and the conquest of distance? Is non-violent acceleration possible, and what would class struggle look like in that scenario?"
Maybe circular economy and care work as a pair (both terms of degrowth) to create feedback loops of materials and ideas through increased attentiveness and care.

KY: I will start from the very end of your statement. You are correct in pointing out that war has for a long time seduced thinking of what we now call right accelerationists as the most efficient way to speed up progress and to get rid of all redundant. Not to mention that they perceived the warfare tech as the avant-garde of progress; this is the beast we need to feed to have an intelligent and peaceful toaster in our kitchens. But let's assume that this type of thinking is profoundly wrong at its core and deserves nothing more than to be left to rot in the debris of Cyberia.
Avoiding libidinal drives of military complexes, we will focus on the left accelerationism that has proposed its way of thinking about technology as something that should serve society, not corporations. To make it simple: imagine you have a useful app that is not profiting from hooking your attention and time to sell it to the advertisers. Here we speak about the radical democratisation of technology following concepts by Chantal Mouffe mentioned in her writing "Hegemony, radical democracy, and the political." This can be seen as a control of the society, not corporations, over technologies; the attempts to achieve it exist in the digital domain and the open-source movement. Tiziana Terranova explains the process in the article "Red Stack Attack! Algorithms, Capital and the Automation of the Common."
She proposes a concept of the "Red Stack" – a new nomos for the post-capitalist common. It involves engaging with (at least) three levels of socio-technical innovation: virtual money, social networks, and bio-hypermedia. In the text "Accelerate: Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics" by Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek, one can read the following passage: "We believe the most important division in today's Left is between those that hold to a folk politics of localism, direct action, and relentless horizontalism, and those that outline what must become called an accelerationist politics at ease with a modernity of abstraction, complexity, globality, and technology. The former remains content with establishing small and temporary spaces of non-capitalist social relations, eschewing the real problems entailed in facing foes that are intrinsically non-local, abstract, and rooted deep in our everyday infrastructure. The failure of such politics has been built-in from the very beginning. By contrast, an accelerationist politics seeks to preserve the gains of late capitalism while going further than its value system, governance structures, and mass pathologies will allow."
The authors outline the problem by mentioning that they do not seek to destroy the material platform of neoliberalism but to repurpose it to the common ends. They do not believe that technology is the only answer but do not object to quantification. But the achievement of the post-capitalism condition is drawn peculiarly. Their To Do tablet rests on several pillars: intellectual infrastructure, media, raising funds ("from governments, institutions, think tanks, unions, or individual benefactors"), mobilisation of the precariat, and a Promethean politics enclosing this structure. I will remind you – Prometheanism is an environmental orientation that perceives the Earth as a resource repository for human needs; it opposes the direction of either deep ecology perceiving the environment as an interconnected system of human and non-human actors, or the egalitarian model of eco-feminism. Onwards, the manifesto suggests abandoning openness, horizontality, and inclusion and turning to secrecy, verticality, and exclusion to make the political action effective. Surprisingly another influential thinker Antonio Negri supports this passage, reading it as "a sort of 'ecology of organisations,' insisting on a framework of multiple forces that come into resonance with each other and therefore manage to produce engines of collective decision-making beyond any sectarianism.' Well, debatable, isn't it? Yet, I do not want to sound as radical as another prominent scholar Isabelle Stengers, for whom this approach of accelerationism with its "speeding up to cross a threshold of capitalist exploitation" is nothing more than "trash of the male chauvinist pigs." She, in the paper "The Cosmopolitical Proposal," is referring to the Greek transcript of Deleuzian conceptual character of an 'idiot', the one who is slowing down the process; and in the work "Cosmopolitics" points at the importance of avoiding both speeding up and mobilisation, to slow down, to achieve "multi-critter thinking, caring for entanglement, learning the art of paying attention." This sounds tempting, but such a view on science and technology is scandalously counter-capitalist, even in the sense that none of the investors would ever be interested in something that doesn't offer a technological revolution in the foreseeable future and makes it almost inaccessible in the realm of fast profit.
I see a significant problem in this aforementioned generic division of accelerationism and degrowth: whereas one seems to render itself in abstract slogans of mobilisation without proposing tactical movements, another proposes rapid measures without answering more critical questions about alternatives. Let's agree that as it can appear to be narrow-minded to perceive accelerationism as speeding up, it can be identical mistakenly to perceive degrowth as slowing down. What if we perceive accelerationism as intensification? For me, the most crucial proposal will be to point to the intensification of thinking. Whereas by 'slowing down' we could mean reconsideration of time and speed and purpose of labour, production and consumption.

MB: Bruno Latour also refers to Isabelle Stengers, developing the idea that "economics has to be disenchanted". In his dissertation "Plantes animées. De la production aux relations avec les plantes", 2020, the anthropologist Dusan Kasic suggests "never to accept that any given topic has 'an economic dimension'." Because this implies that there is a deep, essential, vital reality (or truth) - the economic - and only if there is time and space one could consider "other dimensions" (ecological, social, moral, political, among others). It would imply that economy is the basis of all thinking and acting – thus giving the economy a hegemonic power over every other approach.
We spoke about the limitation of accelerationism if we comprehend it in a capitalist framework. Latour's/Kazic's denial of an 'economic dimension' can be sympathetically approved if we define this dimension as capitalist. But does it mean to turn away from any economic thinking? Can something sustainably exist without an economic grounding?

If we see accelerationism and degrowth from an anti-capitalist angle – shall we omit the economic aspect at all? Or shall we think about alternative economics? You mentioned commons. It is also a perfect example of what sounds good in (leftist) theory but what faces extraordinary difficulties in practice in a capitalist society.
I have the feeling that William's and Srnicek's critique of degrowth is rooted in the fact that this "folk politics in localism" is functioning very well and efficiently (of course, only on a small scale), whereas the accelerationist idea is prone to take a rapid turn into the neoliberal right. And here we are, of course, building up a local community which sustains itself by growing all the food it needs on its land doesn't solve the problem of exploitative labour conditions worldwide. Developing a horizontal digital network on the base of commons sold after many years of (self-exploitative) coding to Google or Meta doesn't either. Both find themselves in the trap of (subconscious?) capitalist thinking.
If we take your suggestion of thinking acceleration as intensification and slowing down as reconsiderations as points of departure, I can think of creating keywords in both realms that are linked (or glued) together to show that the one isn't possible without the other.
Also, here we may have to re-think my question about size. And also to maybe comprehend localism differently. Latour points out that the adjective 'local' is misleading because it continually defines sth as 'small' in comparison to a – quantitative larger – situation (actually, terms of mapping). But in territorial thinking, territory reaches as far as the interaction with all the others on whom we depend – and not farther. 'Near' is not defined as the quantitative, measurable distance but as "what touches me immediately (directly) or keeps me alive." It is a measure of engagement and intensity (Latour). It's an obligation (Stengers) towards the beings we depend on (the more we depend on, the more precisely we can describe them) and the ability to meet/ to encounter them, regardless of how far (in kilometres) they are.
This doesn't contradict Leopold Kohr's concept of localism but updates it so that 'global' and 'local' – the traditionally antagonistic pair – can also be comprehended differently. Let's see them in terms of interwovenness and measure them in density, which would mean that global and local may coincide/ overlap sometimes. Not necessarily, but it can happen.
So accelerationism (attributed to the 'global') and degrowth (attributed to the 'local') may also overlap. One has to be attentive to find their contact zones.

KY: I am catching up on your proposal about key concepts. I like that intensity starts to bridge already several essential aspects. It avoids producing the megalomaniac inflated but hollow ideas but doesn't limit itself to surrounding with immense potential to resonate on farther distances. Another significant common for both sides is care. For me, it is promising not from the point of view of gendered unpaid labour. It is generally about work devoted to sustenance, reproduction, relations and the creation of a proper umwelt for playfulness. I want to imagine that playfulness is a state of mind at its peak of creativity. It doesn't suffer obligations, scarcity or fear. It is carefree. If only one can be simultaneously aware and carefree.
I mean, awareness that someone or something has created this carelessness that you could unleash yourself. This, for me, is a perfect condition of intensity. It is a promise of a breakthrough. And honestly, I like it more than a notion of conviviality dropped by Ivan Illich (in his book "Tools for Conviviality" from 1972, almost the same year when E.F. Schumacher published his "Small is Beautiful" about the appropriate technology). Playfulness contains action at its core, a clear drive, and strong potency. And, as you deliberately pointed out, this state can be secured by a particular economic condition. About that, funny enough, the adepts of degrowth and acceleration have a consensus: about commons, basic income and communal currencies that have their general idea that the distribution of an economy's wealth must begin by ensuring that everyone has 'enough' to live with dignity.
So to wrap up our long dialogue, or, on the contrary, to open it to the further inputs, I would like to formulate what kind of artistic and curatorial contributions we are looking for:
– which work with, use, and critically discuss technology in an Anti-Promethean and anti-capitalist way, and in this sense, can bridge the gap between accelerationist and degrowth concepts.
– have the idea of intensity at their core, in its meaning of work devoted to sustenance, reproduction, relations and the creation of a proper umwelt for playfulness.
– which are based on or integrating awareness and care as a substantial part of artistic practice.
– which intensify thinking and slow down the speed and purpose of labour, production and consumption.
– which can disenchant economics and consider ecological, social, political, a.o. dimensions as a base of artistic practice.
– which can contribute to the sustainability of the residency by involving different levels of socio-technical innovation.

Further reading:
Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony, Radical Democracy, and the Political, 2013.
#Accelerate, The Accelerationist Reader. Edited by Robin Mackay and Armen Avanessian, 2014.
Ivan Illich, Tools for Conviviality, 1973.
Degrowth. A vocabulary for a new era. Edited by Giacomo D’Alisa, Federico Demaria and Giorgos Kallis, 2015.
Isabelle Stengers, Cosmopolitics I (Posthumanities, Band 9), 2010.
David Graeber, Bullshit Jobs: A Theory, 2018.
Ernst Friedrich Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered, 1973.
Bruno Latour, After Lockdown: A Metamorphosis, 2021.
Paul Virilio, Speed and Politics, 1986.
Vilém Flusser, Something about roofless and wallless houses with different cable connections, 1989.
Aaron Vansintjan, Accelerationism… and degrowth? The Left's strange bedfellows, 2017:
http://unevenearth.org/2017/01/accelerationism-and-degrowth/
http://en.howtopedia.org/
https://www.appropedia.org/
Double Take [4]: Robert Adrian im Gespräch mit Martin Breindl (German only), 2011. https://vimeo.com/159169349

Artist talk by Ksenia Yurkova:
Bodies in Resonance
March 18, 2022
Improper Walls gallery space,
Vienna

March 2022
Ksenia Yurkova is talking about how the theory of affect is influencing her artistic practice and how she is trying to expand the understanding of affects by the artistic means of photography, video, and performance. She touches upon the notions of identity shaped by trauma, neuroplasticity, radical transformation, and how all these can help in her performative interactions with those who suffered political violence.
editing by Ksenia Yurkova
Bodies in Resonance

In the new video for the InSILo Magazine, the artist Jungeun Lee is speaking about her installation Becoming One, Being Plural which will be presented in November 2022,
in FLUC Wien.
February 2022
In her latest work, using the ecospheres the artist Jungeun Lee visualises and sonifies the relations between microorganisms and humans. In AIR InSILo, the artist researched various types of water sources such as lakes, rivers, swamps and build ecospheres, to convert the movement of microorganisms into sound and amplify them in order to give a voice to many of those unheard and invisible. In a time when our planet is threatened, the ecosphere represents a contemporary oasis. These ecosystems work like time-capsules: they contain dormant resources and myriad other species with whom we share life on this planet, they contain enormous biodiversity and are inhabited by numerous plant and animal species and various communities of living microorganisms.
interview by Martin Breindl,
editing by Ksenia Yurkova
Becoming One, Being Plural

Artists Szymon Kula and Jennetta Petch are speaking about their research around the boundaries of sustainability of artistic production and showing the results of an ongoing project that was started in rural France, in Embrun, over the winter of 2020 and was continued in AIR InSILo in winter 2021.
December 2021
The project is carried out by the investigation of how one can use materials to adapt to the chaos of the environmental crisis and what materials can do to help us to exist and even thrive in a chaotic world as well as how making can provide a sense of structure in time and space.
At AIR InSILo Kula & Petch expand the vocabulary of ancient processes and modern techniques, they research local crafts and incorporate them into their practice, creating hybrid objects that are a product of different localities, difficult to anchor in a particular time period, drawing on historical references from a perspective of the future. The special focus is put on upcycling, recycling and repurposing to create multilayered installations.
interview: Ksenia Yurkova, Martin Breindl
editing: Ksenia Yurkova
Boundaries of sustainability

The invited artist Mary Maggic speaks about their work in general, and specifically about SCOBY SPIN CYCLE which was developed in October 2021 in AIR InSILo.
October 2021
SCOBY SPIN CYCLE is a post-anthropocentric performative art installation and absurd machine object that optimizes the industrial production of SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) made from a kombucha bioreactor that is kept in constant rotation by the physical and demanding labor of a human subject on a gym exercise machine.
interview, editing by Ksenia Yurkova
SCOBY SPIN CYCLE

The invited artist and writer Bernhard Kathan speaks about his sound piece All Nonsense Cancels Itself, which was presented during the Open Studio Days in October 2021 in AIR InSILo.
October 2021
The piece is dedicated to Daniel Paul Schreber (1842 - 1911) who is considered the most prominent case in the history of psychiatry thanks to his book Memoirs of My Nervous Illness. Among many others, Sigmund Freud, C.G. Jung, Elias Canetti, Jacques Lacan, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari occupied themselves with his bizarre imagery.
It is commonly thought that doctors are trying to understand the patients. Kathan reveals, that Schreber's story teaches us the opposite: in fact, the patients are required to understand the doctors who are treating them. Kathan recontextualizes the Memoirs of My Nervous Illness, and by the means of sound and graphic art, reveals meaning in the chaotic. By refusing to see Schreber as a "case", just a madman, he points that the patient to facilitate his doctors was by purpose producing all the signs he was expected to.
interview by Martin Breindl,
editing by Ksenia Yurkova
All Nonsense Cancels Itself

An interview with Maria Safronova Wahlström and Johannes Wahlström about their ongoing children book project.
October 2021
This project finds its inspiration in classical Swedish school books, in particular, How Sweden Works from 1976. While the book in a playful way described the Social Democratic Folkhem, or "people´s home" and its special place in the world, the book, How the World Works intends to describe the rapidly changing world that we and our societies are surrounded by; and that became more visible in connection with the pandemic.
interview, editing by Ksenia Yurkova
How The World Works