Accepted paper:

Metallurgy of the subject


Dean Kenning

Paper short abstract:

Reflecting on the art project Metallurgy of the Subject, the paper will address how diagramming can operate as an exploratory method of thinking revolutionary politics, specifically how abstraction and allegorical figuration can help us to imagine subject positions beyond the sovereign individual.

Paper long abstract:

The paper will discuss Metallurgy of the Subject, an ongoing diagrammatic art project that has taken a number of forms, including images for publication, wall drawings, lecture-performances, and an animation. The impetus for Metallurgy comes out of philosophical reconceptions of community e.g. The Inoperative Community by Jean-Luc Nancy and The Coming Community by Giorgio Agamben and the desire to delineate a new post-capitalist emblem of freedom and social equality, after the experiences of 'actually existing communism'.

Metallurgy employs a diagrammatical-allegorical method of representing political subject positions, picturing the movement from individualist to collectivist modes of political subjectivity, drawing on an alchemical imaginary of transition and becoming. It is an attempt to imagine collective and communistic modes of being which do not by necessity result in the establishment of homogeneous essential identities under the tutelage of a sovereign power.

The paper will address how the diagrammatic can operate as an exploratory method of thinking revolutionary politics through drawing, specifically how abstraction and 'synthetic intuition' (Panofsky) enable us to conceive of alternative social orders. In the case of Metallurgy this method is exemplified as a logical and affective 'thinking through' of the neoliberal 'sovereign individual's' passage toward collectivity and community, one that avoids absorption as an essential 'common being' (Nancy).

panel Pol06
Diagrams of revolution: an experiment with social and material morphologies