Caveat is a collective research into the ecology of artistic practice. It is initiated by Jubilee, in partnership with Open Source Publishing, No New Enemies and Été 78. Caveat tries to find more sustainable, balanced ways of operating within the existing legal frameworks. And when the limits of the existing system are reached, it tries to come up with possible new narratives that open up space for reflection.

Report of Caveat Reading Room #10: Performing the Contractual

Collective reading and discussion of the first part of the chapter ‘Contingency, Necessity, Performativity’, from Angela Mitropoulos’ book Contract & Contagion: From Biopolitics to Oikonomia. Selection by Steyn Bergs.

In this excerpt, Mitropoulos argues that “contracts are preoccupied with the transformation of contingency into necessity as a specifically capitalist problem.” She discusses the contract as that which mediates between the exigencies of capital and the formation of subjectivities, focusing on how contracts are performed. For the tenth iteration of Caveat’s ReadingRoom events, we will take Mitropoulos’ text as a starting point for a discussion of how we, as artists and art workers, perform the contractual. What does it mean to embody and interiorise the logic of the contract? And could we do so in a way that nurtures the emergence of different (art) worlds?

Steyn Bergs is a critic and a researcher in art history. His interests lie in the intersections of contemporary art, (new) media art, political economy, critical theory, media theory, and aesthetics. He is one of Caveat’s dramaturgs.

00:00 Introduction by Ronny

Introduction by Steyn. [...] Aesthetics and performativity of the contract

People present: Steyn Bergs
Laurie Charles Florence Cheval Stijn Van Dorpe Alice Haddad Martin, environmentalist Katleen Vermeir Ronny Heiremans Jesse van Winden Julien De Smet, student in design Julie Van Elslande Grace Ndiritu Later: Laura Herman + Maarten

10:00 Reading first fragment

15:00 Florence & Steyn: Judith Butler is mentioned as an anticipation of the gendered implications of conventions of the contract. Maritime insurance in relation to slave ships. About the 'violent aesthetic' of the performativity of contract. 'Aesthetic' as sensory experience

Reading second fragment On Hobbes & Jean-Jacques Rousseau, social contract as necessary fiction. Criticism of social contract theory and modernism.

34:00 Martin & Steyn on the historical necessity of (social) contract

40:00 Julie on legal approaches of social contract. Thinks that Mitropoulos has a rather classic approach of contracts.

Reading third fragment On the aleatory

58:00 Reading fourth fragment

1:00:00 Laura on Stefano Harney and contamination/spreading

Abstract equivalence: subjects as well as objects are equal in the eyes of both law and money

1:13:00 Grace on the social contract with god, animism

1:20:00 Reading last fragment On neocontractualism, an equivalent of neoliberalism

1:30:00 Back to the beginning of the text, p. 20 Martin, Grace and Julien on being born (black/white/colored) and social contracts. Increasingly, society has people who aren't involved in the social contract. Pending citizenships.

1:40:00 Steyn on his motivations for choosing this text. Artfulness of the contract. Shrewd ways of using contract (like Caveat, perhaps). Ronny: "The contract is capitalism's most cherished axiom" (p 19): isn't it the wrong choice for Caveat to use the contract as a tool, then? On the violence of contracts, Julie: violence is putting people in boxes, and that is what contracts do.