Richard Ibghy & Marilou Lemmens’ art practice investigates the ways in which the economic sciences and the theories of management represent the world. Taking an approach that is both conceptual and pragmatic, grounded in a process of research and relying on the subversion of ordinary experience, the duo seeks to disclose and disarm the influence of neoliberalism’s ideology on the most private facets of our lives. The notion of work, seen through the lens of its recent transformations, is central to Ibghy & Lemmens’ approach, as it embodies what Michel Foucault defined as biopower; that is, the capacity of economic thought to control, direct and orient the life of human beings.1
This exhibition of works produced since 2009 explores the critical relationship between the artists’ practice and the internalization of the logic of productivity. The works examine the ways in which the injunction to perform affects the body-actions, thought, attitudes, language-from the point of view of work and life, two spheres that tend to be conflated within a model that many researchers refer to as “cognitive capitalism”.2 The works underline the physiological, subjective and cognitive dimensions of the body and is a central element in the artists’ critical stance against neoliberalism’s ideology. Due to its physical boundaries, as well as the important social and affective components of human activity, the body cannot be reduced to economic models and to the logic of growth, both of which increasingly determine its conditions for existing. Thus, the works of Ibghy & Lemmens define the body, both as the site where the mechanisms of productivity are realized and as an agent of their disabling.
Véronique Leblanc, curator
1. Christina Morini and Andrea Fumagalli, Life Put to work: Towards a Life Theory of Value, trans. Emanuele Leonardi, Ephemera, Theory and Politics in Organization 10 (3/4), 2010: 234-252. While it does not directly reference this work, the title of the exhibition takes up a central concept of the definition of cognitive capitalism, whereby neoliberalist ideology exerts control over our lives, deriving profit from them beyond the mere sphere of labour.
2. The cognitive capitalism model is characterized among other things by the shifting of the objectives of labour from production of merchandise to production of “immaterial” knowledge, via a new organization of labour based on use of information technology and communications, and via blurring of the distinction between “work-time” and “life-time”. See, among others, Fumagalli, Life Put to Work.; Christian Azaïs, Antonella Corsani and Patrick Dieuaide, eds., Vers un capitalisme cognitive (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2001); Multitudes - Capitalisme cognitif, 1/2008 (No. 32).
Putting Life to Work | La vie mise au travail (2016)
Galerie Leonard & Bina Ellen Gallery
February 18 - April 16, 2016
Curated by Véronique Leblanc