Our conversation with Jasper Bernes, recorded in May of last year, might be called a delayed Part II or even Part III as it features a previous guest extending the parameters of a previous conversation and begins with a consideration of the artist, activist, and social and political critic, photographer and filmmaker, Allan Sekula, who was the subject of another Interchange conversation. Sekula was a critic of capitalism and an influential theorist of documentary photography and photojournalism. The links to these shows are below.
The discussion ranges from Sekula political art to the Oakland Port Blockades and Occupy Oakland of which Bernes was an integral organizer, facing the question of how to initiate a general strike in a moment in which Organized Labor is not the power it once was. Bernes’ work seeks to understand the best ways to disrupt the distribution systems that supply us with products to consume while describing the inefficiencies and waste of resources (human and material) that spring from the singular efficiency of reducing shipping costs for capitalists. Yes, I promise we’ll unpack all that in the show.
We begin with Allan Sekula’s documentary/essay film, made with Noël Burch, The Forgotten Space, which examines the world surrounding and supporting the capital flows via containerization of product distribution by oceans and seas and through harbors and ports.
What one sees in a harbor is the concrete movement of goods. This movement can be explained in its totality only through recourse to abstraction. Marx tells us this, even if no one is listening anymore. If the stock market is the site in which the abstract character of money rules, the harbor is the site in which material goods appear in bulk, in the very flux of exchange. Use values slide by in the channel; the Ark is no longer a bestiary but an encyclopedia of trade and industry. – Allan Sekula, from “Loaves and Fishes” in Fish Story
Jasper Bernes is Managing Editor of Commune magazine and the author of The Work of Art in the Age of Deindustrialization (Stanford, 2017) and two books of poetry: We Are Nothing and So Can You, and Starsdown.
Our only song today is John Coltrane’s “Transition” from the album of the same name, recorded in 1965 but released posthumously in 1970. Transition is surely a theme for our economic, ecological, and geopolitical future.
Shooting the Gulf: Allan Sekula In the American Grain
Capital’s (Hidden) Art of War and the Belly of Revolution
The Future Cannot Be Capitalist: Michael Yates on the Working Class
Producer & Host: Doug Storm
Audio Editor: Sean Milligan