– Autumn/Winter 2014

Janice Kerbel: Killing the Workers

Tom McDonough

Janice Kerbel, Kill the Workers!, 2011, 24-minute play for stage lights. Installation view, ‘Kill the Workers!’, Chisenhale Gallery, London, 2011. Photograph: Andy Keate. Courtesy the artist and greengrassi, London

To align oneself with the impossible is to dream of a world which is not wholly defined by a means-end economy, where the laws of capital do not rule absolute and where knowledge is not assessed by use value alone.1
— Janice Kerbel

In ‘The Stage as “Virtual City”’, the third chapter of Manfredo Tafuri’s hefty La Sfera e il labirinto (The Sphere and the Labyrinth, 1980) — a book that summarises many of the concerns that occupied the Marxist architectural historian through the 1970s — we accompany the author as he traces a complex exchange between stage and street, between experimental theatre and modern metropolis. The theme itself is not new; the notion of the mutuality of these spaces has been expressed at least since the conception of the theatrum mundi was developed in its modern form in the seventeenth century. However, beginning in the milieu of late nineteenth-century Symbolism, we find a fundamental shift in these terms, with the theatre no longer operating as a mere metaphor for the world, but as something like a training ground or laboratory for the ordering of bodies

  1. Janice Kerbel, ‘Five Things I Think About When I Think About Huebler’, Untitled, no.28, Summer 2002, p.55.

  2. Manfredo Tafuri, The Sphere and the Labyrinth: Avant-gardes and Architecture from Piranesi to the 1970s (1980, trans. Pellegrino d’Acierno and Robert Connolly), Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1987, p.96.

  3. Ibid., p.110.

  4. See Andrea Kaliski Miller, ‘Films’, in Eleanor M. Hight (ed.), Moholy-Nagy: Photography and Film in Weimar Germany (exh. cat.), Wellesley, MA: Wellesley College Museum, 1985, p.128.

  5. Lázló Moholy-Nagy, ‘Abstract of an Artist’, The New Vision and Abstract of an Artist, New York: George Wittenborn, 1947, p.80.

  6. L. Moholy-Nagy, Vision in Motion, Chicago: Paul Theobald, 1965, p.289.

  7. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, ‘Manifesto of the Communist Party’, in Robert C. Tucker (ed.), The Marx-Engels Reader, 2nd ed., New York: W.W. Norton, 1978, p.476. In the years prior to his move to Berlin in 1920, Moholy-Nagy had been close to radical circles in Hungary, particularly those around Lajos Kassák and the journal MA; he reportedly attempted to join the Communist party, although he was denied membership because of his wartime allegiance to the Austro-Hungarian monarchy.

  8. Ibid.

  9. See, for example, ‘Kill the Workers!’ (press release), London: Chisenhale Gallery, 2011, available at http://www.chisenhale.org.uk/archive/exhibitions/index.php?id=117 (last accessed on 28 May 2014).

  10. See Kerbel’s exchange with Jamie Stevens: ‘Interview with Janice Kerbel’ (exh. leaflet), London: Chisenhale Gallery, 2011, available at http://www.chisenhale.org.uk/archive/exhibitions/images/ JKerbel_interview.pdf (last accessed on 28 May 2014).

  11. See J. Kerbel in conversation with Catherine Wood [audio recording], 14 April 2011, Chisenhale Gallery, London, available at http://www.chisenhale.org.uk/archive/exhibitions/index.php?id=117 (last accessed on 28 May 2014).
  12. ‘Interview with Janice Kerbel’, op. cit.

  13. See J. Kerbel in conversation with C. Wood, op. cit.

  14. ‘Interview with Janice Kerbel’, op. cit.

  15. Ibid.

  16. As paraphrased in Slavoj Žižek, ‘The Lesson of Rancière’ (afterword), in Jacques Rancière, The Politics of Aesthetics (trans. Gabriel Rockhill), London and New York: Continuum, 2004, p.70.