SFSIA 2020 | Care, Caring and Repair in Cognitive Capitalism

Building upon our past five year engagement with topics concerning estrangement, individuation, collectivity and art and politics, Saas-Fee Summer Institute of Art 2020 will focus on care, caring and repair in cognitive capitalism.

In the past twenty years, the techno-scientific revolution has joined forces with neoliberal reformers to produce a generalized crisis in empathy and thought. Contemporary cognitariats – data workers laboring within the abstract conundrum of the info-sphere – are prey to a number of distinct psychopathologies ranging from depression, attention deficit disorder, anhedonia, and alexithymia to alienation and panic. As Franco “Bifo” Berardi has stated in Breathing: Chaos and Poetry, “Neoliberal reformers have put competition at the core of the daily business of life, and digital connectivity has replaced physical conjunction in the sphere of social communication: so the psycho-cultural conditions of empathy have been undermined.” This crisis, as we know, has had related effects in the cultural, sociological, political and economic spheres; most notably with the destruction of human bonds and the resultant return of nationalism, the election of despots and the resurgence of fascism. These are symptoms of a disease in which our community is rotting from within. Trumpism has led to a national condition of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The question then: How do we repair the social fabric and cure the disabled social mind? 

Care, Caring and Repair in Cognitive Capitalism is next year’s focus of Saas-Fee Summer Institute of Art. In the initial stages of cognitive capitalism, caring and effective economies were sites of subsumption – especially through reconfiguring what Sylvia Federici called reproductive labor. In the present day, cognitive capitalism has become another means of instrumentalizing subjectivities. A new powerful assemblage of apparatuses including sentiment analysis, biometric sensors, facial expression algorithms, and camera-imbedded smart dust, combine to create huge amounts of emotionally generated data that can be bought and sold as behavioral surplus and utilized by machine intelligence to fabricate prediction products. Furthermore, according to Shoshana Zuboff, “The means of production are subordinated to an increasing complex and comprehensive means of behavioral modification.” In the hope of creating awareness and addressing the causes of the factors that are breaking our social webs apart, we will interweave six broad categories of care, caring and repair: (1) Affective Labor (2) Cosmopolitanism and Hospitality (3) Curating (4) Solidarity (5) Theory of Mind and (6) Post-humanism in the Anthropocene.

Applications for SFSIA 2020 will be open to students, practitioners and scholars from the fields of art (including video, photography, installation and multimedia), design, architecture, critical writing, science and technology studies, critical theory, cultural studies, film and media studies, and beyond. Please check back early 2020 to see our Call for Applications or sign-up for our mailing list to receive updates and notifications.

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