OPEN ACCESS FOR ABOLITION :: AUTONOMY, LIMINAL LAB, and BEYOND THE BOOK-OBJECT
An Open Letter to the Operating System community
“I want to consider a certain class of answers to the question, ‘What do you do?’”
- Adrian Piper, in To Art (reg.intrans. v.) // 1975
Dear Collaborators, Friends, Comrades:
Whether you consider yourself to be involved in the “arts” or not, you may find yourself asking Adrian Piper’s question above these days: “What do you do”? In 1975, when she posed it, Piper is explicitly seeking to unpack the quotidian, grasping act of making from its performative and/or named, legible aspects — for the artist/maker, and those both within and beyond the arts “world.” But I know that for myself, and for someone largely responsible for an “organization,” this question these days is far more than that: it is the question of reclaiming the role of the self in the world beyond the logics and power structures that have conditioned us for so long.
I believe deeply that this larger question is in fact always central to the more specific question Piper was asking: that to art in any of its forms (ideally) is to commit to a lifelong practice of asking who we are and what we do, making and remaking, sloughing away and putting back together to keep ourselves from ossifying under institutional constraints and definitions.
Fred Moten and Stefano Harney’s essential text, The Undercommons,* opens with an invitation to reconsider cinema optics, wherein the settler/aggressor is surrounded by ‘natives,’ “so that colonialism is made to look like self-defense.” Similarly, in the forms and language we’ve adapted our bodies and minds to through institutions serving this samel ideology, many have come to believe that words like anarchy or abolition are inherently anti a “norm.” Our bodies hold this logic: we’ve been taught that working 40 hours a week just to survive, ignoring and suppressing our need for rest, inhibiting our physical and somatic instincts, not having access to food, shelter, water, or care is “the system,” “just how it works,” and being the intelligent organisms that we are we’ve learned the lessons of trauma, that…