Art and Politics in the Age of Cognitive Capitalism
SFSIA 2018 | Los Angeles

Otis College of Art and Design
May 21 – June 3, 2018

Faculty include: Alva Noë, Andrew Culp, Arne De Boever, Barry Schwabsky, Candice Lin, Charles Gaines, Deborah Hauptmann, Ed Finn, Eleanor Kaufman, Florencia Portocarrero, Graham Harman, Jason Smith, Jennifer Teets, Johanna Drucker, John C. Welchman, Juli Carson, Kenneth Reinhard, Mary Kelly, N. Katherine Hayles, Nima Bassiri, Renee Petropoulos, Reza Negarestani, Sanford Kwinter and Warren Neidich.


The 2018 rendition of the Saas-Fee Summer Institute of Art, Art and Politics in the Age of Cognitive Capitalism, will concern the new sites of artistic laboring in the age of Cognitive Capitalism. In Cognitive Capitalism the mind and brain are new factories of the 21st century, the proletariat has been replaced by the cognitariat and immaterial labor has replaced material labor as the dominant form of production. On this occasion, SFSIA will be hosted by Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, with the participation of California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) MA Aesthetics and Politics program.

Three topics will form the core interests of the institute: (1) immaterial labor and performance, (2) epigenesis and neural plasticity, (3) artificial intelligence. Immaterial labor is performative labor and concerns the production of knowledge and affect as part of its capacity to produce subjectivity. Today, conceptual art is no longer about the production of immaterial objects but of immaterial labor. It is said, by the likes of Paolo Virno, to “leave no trace” (1).

However, immaterial labor is not so immaterial. Virtuoso performances, for instance, can leave emancipatory vestiges as new neural networks forming the brains architecture as short and long-term memories through a process of epigenesis acting upon its neural plasticity. Secondly, this underlines cognitive capitalismrecent shift –its so-called cognitive or neural turn. This echoeswhat Gilles Deleuze stated in his Cinema 2: The Time-Image (2) that new circuits in art mean new circuits in the brain as well. SFSIA, 2018 will take this idea one step further by understanding that this neural sculpting, as a result of artistic or cinematic interventions in the cultural milieu, is a product of the coupling of the brains inherent synaptic variation with these cultural mutations. In the end this neuromodulation constitutes a form of resistance that has neuropolitical import.

Thirdly, this years gathering of the Institute proposes to delineate human cognition as but one form of cognition amongst many. It links it to animal cognition as well as to the realization that objects and the independent reality they shape can be understood as distinct from human consciousness. Deep time appreciates human evolution beyond its anthropocentric timeline and connects it to changes occurring on the planet 100,000 years ago. Finally, the Institute wantto explore the role of algorithms, machine intelligence, bots, fake news, the alt news, memes and false Facebook accounts in directing the attention economy.

Seminars will cover the following key words and topics: the processes of deterritorialization, the psychopathologies of the neuropathic self, the process of externalizationimmaterial labor and the performative turn, the attention economy, click bait and meme magic, neural plasticity and epigenesis, neural capitalism and neural technologies, mnemotechnics, the body and brain without organs, accelerationism, the anthropocene and capitalocene, deep time, deep learning, AI, algorithms, pattern learning and artificial neural networks, the statisticon, neural feminism and the digital object, neural aesthetics, neuroarcheology, poetics hacking the brain, science fiction, noise and the possibility of the future.

Warren Neidich, Los Angeles, 2018

(1) Virno, Paolo. A Grammar of the Multitude: For an Analysis of Contemporary Forms of Life. Semiotext(e), MIT Press: Cambridge, MA. 2004

(2) Deleuze, Gilles. Cinema 2: The Time-Image. University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis, MN. 1989