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A projectarian breathes in exotic soundscapes of different places, overridden by the all-present pidgin English, and penetrated by global pop culture.

  • Aug 08 2022
  • Kuba Szreder
    is a researcher, lecturer and interdependent curator, based in Warsaw. He actively cooperates with artistic unions, consortia of postartistic practitioners, clusters of art-researchers, art collectives and artistic institutions in Poland, UK, and other European countries. Editor and author of books and texts on the political economy of global artistic circulation, art strikes, modes of artistic self-organisation, instituting art beyond the art market and the use value of art.

To understand and analyse rhythms, one has to let go, through illness or technique, but not completely. There is a certain externality which allows the analytical intellect to function. Yet, to capture a rhythm one needs to have been captured by it. One has to let go, give and abandon oneself to its duration. Just as in music or when learning a language, one only really understands meanings and sequences by producing them, that is, by producing spoken rhythms.

━ Translation of Henri Lefebvre, “Seen from the Window” 

In his autobiographical essay “Seen from the Window”, Henri Lefebvre describes, lives through and analyses the urban rhythm of Paris, his home city, as viewed and experienced through the window of his own flat. When invited to write about songs of the contemporary proletariat, I embarked on my own exercise in rhythmanalysis, focusing on the rhythms of the no-spaces in which projectarians dwell. What are the intervals and tempos of the interrupted rhythms of contemporary artistic production? How many beats per second has this rhythm? These soundscapes are not easy to be tracked and recorded, as projectarians are sometimes here, next week there. But then – wherever they go – they are always stuck to their desktops and mobile screens, exposed to a monotonous cascade of alerts: new emails, messages, e-calendars, counterpointed by melodic ringtones of incoming calls and hushed voice messages. Tap-tap-tap, fingers swirling on keyboards, another email, another text, another chat, another short message. 

The plunderphonics of disaster capitalism sometimes release themselves in the storm of noise, dissolved in a broken rhythm of dance floors, bass that moves your pants and penetrates your body, just dancing non-stop. Friendly faces, a good talk here, a chit chat there. Another round. Another cheer. Another tune. 

The buzz is a background noise of the contemporary apparatuses of artistic production. The elevator music of contemporary art is made by a random generator of art talk, bits and pieces of theories and commentaries reshuffled into a constant whisper at the back of our heads. Sometimes a buzz intensifies into a rumble of inflamed commentaries, a stampede of trolls, a growl of social media. 

The murmur of art talk is counterpointed by the deadly silence of exclusion, a vacuum of dark matter, when no invites are coming, a lack of contact, a gap in communication. And then, in the middle of the night, one listens to the hum of one’s own flat, a hotel room, or an Airbnb apartment. Nights filled with anxious heartbeats. Counting sheep or reshuffling a litany of to-do-lists, bills to pay, applications to fill, and deadlines to follow. 

Nights like those are filled by a longing for calmer lands, the desired soundscape of life-work balance. Retreats filled with chirping of birds, buzz of insects, whistling of wind, sighing and groaning of trees, resounding noise of waves. Some projectarians hate it. Others love it. I am in the second camp. 

A projectarian breathes in exotic soundscapes of different places, overridden by the all-present pidgin English, broken and mutilated by an international art crowd, and penetrated by global pop culture. Similar hits may be played on radio stations all over the world, similar songs please crowds in different cities, local flavours are redistributed, all over the place. The cities have different vibes, but all are being underpinned by the frenetic rhythms of overarching hyper-modernization. Projectarians add their own notes to the ambient noise of late capitalism by overproducing projects, pushing announcements, uttering their own trajectories, voicing themselves into being, in the never-ending quest to kill the silence that may kill them. 

But generally speaking, projectarians are urban animals, you need to tune in or drop out. Either you publish or you perish, you are tasked with procuring too many hits per season, or not invited at all. And you move, baby, you move. You bump, and you woosh, you listen to gate calls and to the rattle of starting engines. You take Easyjets. And trains. And Ubers. One after another. Always on the road. 

From time to time, some of the projectarians start to whistle tunes of disobedience. This collective refrain of dissent does not necessarily emerge in a chorus of protest or as a crescendo of critique. Often it is a softer sound, more tranquil, not as noisy, and yet even more prevalent, like a song that people sing at work, to ease their toil, or like a comradely murmur made by a bunch of friends who talk their talk when walking a walk. Those are melodies of everyday resistance. 

This analytical column is based on the arguments that I develop more thoroughly in the sixty-seven entries in ABC of the projectariat: living and working in a precarious art world, published in December 2021 by the Manchester University Press and the Whitworth, spearheading a new publishing series, The Whitworth Manuals.


Banner: Emmanuelle Castellan, Behind the coat, 2022

This Contribution was released with the support of Rudolf Augstein Stiftung, Bundesverband Soziokultur, Neustarthilfe, Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien.



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