Follow the Money – project

Description

Cities and megacities across the globe continue to grow. The urban trend has since the industrial revolution been constant. Globally today more people live in cities than rural areas. The harbor city Malmö has grown more than any other city in Sweden since the end of the 1990s, after what is often referred to as a long period of post-industrial ‘depression.’ Just as many struggling harbor cities, the city of Malmö reinvented itself. The metamorphosis was not unique. Of course, it had its local flavor, but it followed a typical pattern seen in many post-industrial cities.

The main ingredients of the new city politics serum contained two acknowledged and official positive substances and a few disturbed substances that were and are defined as problematic, although essential to the logic of neoliberal economics and thus neoliberal city place-making. Both David Harvey (2012) and Henri Lefebvre (1991/1974) early on have pointed out the tight connections and contradictions between the flow of capital and work and the production of space. Harvey has in particular shown how this often leads to gentrification, but also rebellion. Manuel Castells amongst others has shown how networked information technology has contributed heavily to a new spatial regime of capital, work, but also resistance.

The two positive ingredients of neoliberal postfordism city place politics were to increase knowledge-based work and attractive ostentatious housing with vibrant cosmopolitan multi-cultural city life. It came about, as is pointed out by Hörnqvist et al (2004), at a time when state run welfare institutions diminished that were once created to minimize social unrest and forced mobility. Furthermore, it was based on the idea that regional growth had become more important than the nation state.

This in turn lead to that regions – often defined as expanded cities (Smith 2005) – need to compete with each other. Politicians and city official produced – and still do- in assembly line fashion policies and marketing material in one city after another that manifests the current logic of the global economy. These documents, based often heavily on Richard Florida’s marketing books on creative class and creative cities, aimed to attract the well-educated and global capital by profiling attractive housing, vibrant city life, and cheap services. It also led to regions measuring their tolerance index based on Florida’s claim that creative, well educated people are attracted to places that score high on his famous three t’s: technology, talent and tolerance, (addressed more fully Björgvinsson & Severson 2014).

Suddenly Florida popped up everywhere. Malmö was no exception and it lead to the establishment of Malmö university that has now 20 000 students and the extensive support of IT and media start-ups and the establishment of the media cluster Media Evolution. Both placed mainly in the Western Harbour. It also led to the building of the posh eco-friendly The Western Harbour housing district. Its beacon became the ostentatious sky rise Turning Torso. The new city landmark, drawn by the star architect Calavatras, signaled serene, cosmopolitan agility. It replaced the old city landmark – namely Kockums crane; a shipbuilding crane that had been dismantled and shipped to Korea and was mourned and memorialized on t-shirts and underwear. Two decades later Malmö has seen the establishment of global corporate headquarters and service companies. The changes have been heavily policy-driven where new links between the city and the global economy have emerged; namely affluent companies and individuals and cheap service labor.

While education and attractive living are painted as prosperous ingredients, the disturbing ingredients—consistently defined as problematic—are increased unemployment and segregation, which in turn are linked to increased immigration. As Hörnqvist (2005) (referring to Davis, 2005) states, today’s migration to cities consists largely of a massively expanding fragile informal service sector made up of precarious workers. This sector is growing fast, as Guy Standing (2011) has shown, and includes now not only service-related work. This sector, as Sassen (2005, 2008) points out, is gendered and ethnic, largely consisting of immigrants, in particular immigrant women. This unseen highly gendered class has been studied in Swedish and European perspectives in, amongst others, Rebecka Bohlin’s (2012) book “De Osynliga – Om Europas fattiga arbetarklass” (The invisible – On Europe’s poor working class) and in Paula Molinari’s work on Malmö (2007). We have thus seen increased social and economic gaps. Gaps, as Hörnqvist et al (2005) states, have provided the middle class with inexpensive services while the working conditions of such cheap services are rarely addressed if at all, since such an open debate would demystify and diminish the cities’ exotic multicultural attractiveness.

Dalia Mukhtar-Landgren (2005) in ”Den delade staden—Välfärd för alla i kunskapsstaden Malmö” (The divided city – Welfare for all in the knowledge city Malmö), shows how the city of Malmö through its policy and marketing produces a divided city. She states, referencing Massey (2005) that “political processes and descriptions of reality do not happen in the city—they produce the city.”

On the one hand, through the political vision document “Malmö 2000” and marketing documents such as “Därför Malmö” (Therefore Malmö), a success story is painted that aimed to steer Malmö out of the post-industrial depression to become an entrepreneurial knowledge city, as earlier accounted for. These documents, as Mukhtar-Landgren (2005) states, are written from a specific political point of view and are directed to the well-educated and the affluent, as it puts forth and ideal image of how the city and its citizens should be. It also strongly affects how resources are allocated, which to a large extent goes to entrepreneurs; in particularly within IT, media as well as attractive housing districts, while welfare services are cut. She also points out how policy and marketing documents are tightly intertwined. Together they form a success description where economic prosperity and life style is combined in an effort of giving the impression of a homogeneous rational wholesome city attractive to global capital, when it is fragmented and conflictual. As Mukhtar-Landgren (2005) points out, this is in line with Short & Kim (1998) who put forth how American cities are marketed as conflict free and full of multicultural culinary experiences, while ignoring how such businesses fiercely compete to survive and are forced to live on scarce resources.

On the other hand, the policy documents “Välfärd åt alla ”(Welfare to all) and more recently we would like to add, Malmös väg mot en hållbar framtid (2013), describe increased socio-economic segregation, alienation, increased unemployment, decreased well-being and health, crime, and drugs: how it was and is to be solved. The problem, as Mukthar-Landgren writes, is that an increased socio-economic gap was and still is described as stemming from increased immigration. The Malmö mayor Ilmar Reepalu’s demands that Malmö should be given the right to pause immigration to the city for five years, Reepalu’s and Percy Liedholm’s demands that the municipal tax allocation system should be revised since Malmö has a higher percentage of immigrants than other municipalities contributed to such a view. Statements such as …”at the same time as the large “safe” industries disappeared large groups of immigrants moved to the city and the number of unemployed increased (Välfärd åt alla) helped cement the opinion that increased unemployment and decreased growth were due to migration rather than global economic forces.

This binary description of success and drawback, as Mukthar-Landgren (2005) argues, reproduces and increases differences and inequalities. Multiculturalism is brought forward to promote the city as cosmopolitan and dynamic, but at the same time immigration is described as threatening the cities attractiveness and thus its economic growth. Furthermore, she shows how Swedish values are described as being neutral, while the immigrants values are described as culturally based. The migrants are thus doubly excluded. They are not seen as a part of the cities progress and mainly demoted to stand for drawbacks and problems facing the city. Rosengård is thus seen as a problematic immigration district while the Western Harbour comes to stand for the bright future. Both the success and drawback descriptions, as Mukhtar-Landgren (2005) states, are produced descriptions that have become interpretative prerogatives.

Hörnqvist et al (2005) point out that counter narratives and strategies exist. Such strategies focus on resuscitating the meaning of citizenship, which has been replaced by the notion of customer. Some places have also seen the emergence of grassroots-driven political decision-making as well as the struggle to maintain or reclaim places, housing, institutions and cultural practices as belonging to the common good.

Art and design-based economic research lab

In the City Fables project we will address through analysis and creative productions, the hyper-fluid capital and place production, which as Hörnqvist et al (2005) state, is seen as the globalization motor and that would not be possible if it was not for inexpensive service work concentrated to big cities. Instead of only focusing on commonplace research interests that typically focus on those suffering under the neoliberal place production, our interest instead rests with understanding and debating those that profit from it. What are the dynamics that shape the society we find ourselves in now? The City Fables project will therefore engage in analysing and re-articulating the naturalized language of the current spatio-economic order, the flow of capital and in particular taxation (and the avoidance of taxation) as it is a central instrument for allocating financial resources and thus foundational for deciding what should belong and be funded by the state and thus belong to the common good and what should be financed and paid for by private means and owned privately. We will also address how precarious just-in-time labor produces a new spatial order and embodied experiences and how housing place a role in current postfordism spatio-economic order.

Follow the Money is conducted as a speculative art and design-based economic research lab that addresses strategies and experimental materializations dealing with procedural techno-economic analysis, capital flux, transnational flow, multicultural money, tax haven bliss, free/grey zones, invisibility, space-time compression, systemic depersonalization, fractalized precarious work, cellularization of time, fable-capitalism lingo and economic bullshit speak. The fundamental question we wish to address is how we can operate elsewhere and under the radar, in a transnational/multinational “nowhere” reserved for corporate entities, or the ultrarich. Where is and how accessible is this “nowhere” to the “little people”, as the American billionaire, and notorious tax evader, Leona Helmsley called those who pay taxes? But rather than hunting the white whale of the knowledge economy where “information is our vital fluid” as Bill Gates states, as quoted by Berardi (2009), we ask ourselves how we can become parasites on that white whale. How we can become invisible, engage in corporate governance through networked media and, engage in “business”, and, we would like to add, research and development “at the speed of thought” to quote Gates once more. Furthermore, how can we speak from nowhere, engage in the Lean rhetoric and language of the new frontier of innovation and kindhearted cruelty of the smooth governance of New Public Management? In short, we want to engage in how we can excel at KPMG’s slogan “Cutting through complexity” while transforming us into what Foucault (2008) calls “homo calculans”. However, we also show interest in the increased micro-control of profit and people prevalent in neoliberal management and business.

Laboratories

Different laboratories will be made public in Malmö and elsewhere and will function as experimental zones for investigation, affectation, and negotiation. Each of these labs operates along a set of mappings and remediations. The various labs will map the language of economism, the flow of big money, and the biopolitics of controlling and quantifying working bodies for example through New Public Management as well as quantifying labour, health, and housing conditions. We can observe that the field of economics is entangled in futuristic rhetoric of potential return of investment while engaging in the exploitation of new markets and carving out new frontiers. It is thus more about prospects in the form of semiotic signs, cunning rhetoric and (science) fiction than facts. We can also observe, given how datafied society has become, how contemporary dilemmas and controversies – such as those of employment, working, housing, and health conditions – are increasingly an entangled web of humans and technology and how the borders between the fields of politics and science are becoming less and less distinct. Datasets are often used as argumentative components – for example by politicians, policy-makers and scientist and remediated by journalists – in mapping out one specific point of view, but maps are more than the exact mirroring of a terrain; instead the complexity of data can be used to map the diversity of, at times almost invisible, perspectives and agendas. Outcomes from these labs include working through, with and against the language of economy & economism; and, making visible and providing counter strategies of the flow of big money, various demographic statistics (relating to work, health and housing). The remediations can include fables, manuals, dictionaries, pharmaceutical language products, controversy actor diagrams, locative narratives and other material formations (employing sonic and visual remediation) as strategies for navigating terrains shaped by obfuscated economic realities. These remediations allow us to address the mechanics of today’s capitalist world: flow of capital, fractalized precarious work, cellularization of time, economic rhetoric, or what we term, borrowing from Fuller and Goffey (2012), fable capitalism.

Diagnostic and Pharmaceutical Language Lab

Depressed? Too thin? Overstimulated? Crash diet, anyone? As Sordello has argued, economics is repeatedly described with the language of psychopathology. We might find us left with (or in) a corpus in need of treatment, of medicaments, of Pharmakon (Derrida 1968).

In the DPLLab, we take seriously the contention that the “the economic system is a living organism” (Kornai 1973, 1990). In DPLLab the “ani­mal spirit’s” “spontaneous urge to action rather than inaction” (Keynes 1936) is examined, diagnosed and prescribed/pre-scribed. DPLLab offers calculating machines (people), daily confronted with the excess of language, a minor disturbance as a way to decode our paradigm. The lab is a zoning by poetic praxis, dealing with the emancipation of the metaphors of illness from their referential task, following the contemporary semiotic procedure of the financial sign (money). The DPLLab examines the language of economism, subjected to linguistic machinery. It analyzes its standardization, its metaphors, its authoritarian and poetical phrases.

Predicament is only three letters away from medicament. As such, the DPLLab engages in changing the order of expectations in the standardized rhythm of compulsory competition-consumerism. It offers a cure by injecting high doses of meaning into tiny bits of information, slowing down the circulation of value, disturbing the automation of perception through estrangement. Following Shklovsky, this interruption of the automatized eye/gaze is done less through clarification, than through imperfection, vagueness or blurring. Creating a comment of chaosmosis (Guattari 1992) in order to regain something interesting, or with Hejinian: something of inter est, lingering in-between. It also connects with the scapegoat in Derrida’s ”Pharmakon”, discussing writing as poison and/or remedy that produces a flickering and disorienting play where opposites are opposed or makes one side cross over into the other (soul/ body, good/ evil, inside/ outside, memory/ forgetfulness, speech/ writing, etc.) (Girard). The DPLLab also take interest in nonsense and consequently in bullshit: which offers spacious opportunities for improvisation, color, and imaginative play. (Frankfurt 1988) Possible outcomes besides inventorying, classifying, fabulating and documenting the language and rhetoric of economism and neo-liberal micro-management control mechanisms, are excessive poetic remediations in the form of physical objects, wordplay performances, uncreative collaborative writing and the like.

Neutral Taxation Lab

The Neutral Taxation Lab asks how the invisible flow of big capital can be made visible and also how the little people can play the game of big capital. It accepts that we live during the time of credit capitalism, where money and goods flow smoothly and where the precarious workers, embodying cellularization (Berardi 2011) and fragmentation of capital and complying to the optimization of labor cost, wait for the next sms to be called to work on a short notice. It acknowledged that big business operates under a different market and rules than minor businesses and little people, as exposed in Treasure Island by Nicholas Shaxon (2001) and played upon in the work of Paulo Cirio and concretely dealt with in the service provided by Robin Hood Minor Asset Management.

Instead of becoming paralyzed by indignation we want to explore various big capital strategies. Big companies engage in market analysis, transaction and restructuring analysis and so forth. Mining data from customers, clients and competitors is an essential activity. At the same some companies make their flow of capital invisible, as they want to hide their neutral tax planning. Is it possible to make such flow visible for example through making manuals and arranging taxathons where local neutral tax planning companies are traced and made visible?

Or, instead of just playing with the idea of tax evasion is there a way to genuinely democratize neutral taxation. How could a neutral tax agency for minor players look like? Could a counter-gamificiation strategy be used to for becoming a legal neutral tax expert? What if, for example, the capital flow was to be materialized as an outdoor game experience where the fable character. – Lemmus lemmus final goal is to get included in the Dubai Dolphin Luxury Resort.

Are there other ways of being parasitic, namely letting the market do the job, than those employed by Robin Hood? How can money and value be produced while doing very little work? But we also want to explore if there is a way of creating noise and disturbance in the networks that hold precarious workers detained in their homes. Possible outcomes from the lab can be the seeds of new financial services, treasure hunts, neutral tax handbooks, and counter-strategy handbooks and services for precarious workers.

Precarious workers data lab

States, as Foucault has argued, have since the 18th century operated with social control apparatuses in which biological ratios and rates have played a central role in controlling citizens. Such data was then used to decide who should, for example, be given or not given vaccines. This biological turn led to the emergence of insurance, individual and collective savings and so forth to shore up support for future possible precarious situations. For some time companies have taken on a similar role, implementing control apparatuses into the workplace to monitor and increase productivity. The most pervasive production apparatus, building upon the Toyota production model, focusing on increased productivity is lean production. Lean production, popularized by Womack’s book “The Machine That Changed The World,” concludes that “Lean production is a superior way for humans to make things. …It follows that the whole world should adopt Lean production and as quickly as possible” (Womack 1990, p. 225). One component of lean is just-in-time delivery to keep down storage cost. Today the core features of lean production processes are being applied to workers who are, much like merchandise, called in on short notice as they are needed. Spare parts inventory delivered just in time is forced upon the workforce resulting in the explosion of just-in-time labour employment. More recently large companies turn to social media to monitor customers and citizens

The art and design-lead method

Follow the Money is organized as a political art and design lab assembly. The democratic assembly par excellence is the parliament. Parliament means “to speak” and is an institutional place that has ”three functions: representation, legislation and parliamentary control (i.e., hearings, inquiries).” Parliament happens also to be the name of an African American funk band that staged Afrofuturistic utopias where a new playful culture was staged by combining Egyptian mythologies and science fiction, offering a different view of that place of speech, constructing a view of the future unashamedly replete with fables and utopian visions. Latour has proposed that we should see controversies as socio-material: things that deal with matters of concern rather than matters of fact. Franco “Bifo” Berardi (2011) argues that economics is not science but rather a “political strategy aimed to identify humans as calculating machines, aimed to shape behavior and perception.” The rhetoric of this strategy is characterized by an abundance of metaphors where language is traded and valued according to how it performs. Effectiveness, not truth-value, is the operation of language. This suggests that what is science and fiction is itself highly contested.

Similarly, the laboratory, according to Shapin and Schaffer (1985), emerged during a time of political crisis and unrest, a time during which, as Boyle claim, the experiment was the most certain route to knowledge. Boyle called this approach experimental philosophy. It mobilized a set of techniques such as the creation of complicated instruments, through constructed experiments (for example by getting rid of central elements so as to see what effect removing them could have) and through the gathering of witnesses. This was new, since the techniques mixed art, engineering and nature. This new form of knowledge production created singular odd mechanical instances and departed from observing nature as it normally is/behaves. The laboratory produced effects that you could analyze and affect. What was needed for this was to organize people/witnesses (knowledge has to become socialized as well as distributed through written or virtual accounts). Our democratic art and design lab believes, just as Boyle does, in engaging with ‘odd mechanical instances’ or experiments that use complicated instruments – (grey data, grey language and rhetoric and grey technologies) and organized witnesses – (workshop participants) – for producing speculative knowledge that has impact on the world through virtual accounts. Given the overwhelming quantification of contemporary life and the fact that administrative authorities, ICT, big data and bio-politics are becoming more and more entangled in neo-capitalistic society, we must ask ourselves what strategies that can be used. It can be argued that the workings and mechanisms of power have been changed; means of oppression are flying under the radar and thus are no longer easily recognized. On the contrary, repressive mechanisms are most often re-dressed as being productive. An implication is that critical strategies might be operationalized alternatively than traditional resistance and opposition “from the outside”, instead making use of the same tools and protocols as power structures possess for elaborating counter-strategies.

We are indebted to:

Although we are more interested in constructing the future than digging into the past we acknowledge and are indebted to the work that pair pharmaceuticals and networked governance by Matthew Fuller and Andrew Goffey (2012) on gray media. Also, Franco “Bifo” Berardi’s (2009, 2011) intertwining of network media, organizational technologies, economic myth-making and cognitive, affective, and semiotic procedures where the ever-expanding cyber space clashes with embodied cyber time resulting in the disappearance of desire and empathy. The same goes for Marazzi’s (2008) work on semiocapitalism that points to how capital and work is no longer necessary connected, as well as Matteo Pasquinelli ’s (2008) and Akerlof and Shiller (2008) work along similar lines. Furthemore we are indebted to Brett Scott’s Heretic Guide To Global Finance (2013). We are also indebted to Venturini (2010), who building upon Latour has developed techniques and tools for mapping risks and controversies.

We are indebted to Morten Søndergaard’s poetic remediation in ”Wordpharmacy®” (2010), which intertwines the structure of language with the healing principles of various medicaments. Our work is also indebted to the economic and big data art works such as “Loophole 4all” and “World Currency” by Paulo Cirio, The London School of Financial Art, “Degenerated Political Art” by Núria Güell and Levi Orta,“A Public Misery Message: A Temporary Monument to Global Inequality (2012) and Keep Hope Alive Block Party (KHABP) (2013) by Critical Art Ensemble, and Robin Hood Minor Asset Management by Akseli Virtanen et al. to name a few.

References:

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Berardi, Franco “Bifo”. Precarious Rhapsody. Semiocapitalism and the pathologies of the post-alpha generation. London: Verso. 2009.

Berardi, Franco “Bifo”. After the future. Edinburgh: AK Press. 2011.

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Davis, Mike. “Slummens planet: Urban tillbakagång och det informella proletariatet.” Staden. Fronesis nr.18. 2005, p. 20 – 48.

Derrida, Jaques. – Derrida’s “Plato’s Pharmacy”, in Tel Quel,1968.

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Kornai, János.

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Muchtar-Landgren, Dalia. “Den delade staden – Välfärd för alla i kunskapstaden Malmö. Staden. Fronesis nr.18. 2005, p. 120 – 130.

Mulinari, Paula. 2007. Maktens Fantasier Servicearbetets Praktik. Arbetsvillkor inom Hotell- och Restaurangsbranchen i Malmö. Linköping Studies in Arts and Science, No 414. Linköpings univeristet.

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