Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Songs of Labour and Pleasure, from Postpaganism to Neoliberalism

An idiosyncratic mixtape based on an impromptu listening seminar held at Labour Camp, part of Paul Chaney’s Critical Camps series at Kestle Barton, traces the relationship between work and eroticism through popular song.

Starting with a bucolic idyll of self-suffiency where labour is not yet separated from life, continuing with traditional English folk song in which collective pleasure is embedded in and resonates with the cyclical patterns of agricultural labour, the mix then traverses the industrial revolution, where the new mechanical tools are at first reinscribed into this postpagan cosmology of jouissance, going on to chart the divergence of pleasure and labour as their intertwining shifts, in early popular mass entertainment media, into mere burlesque and innuendo; remembering colonial slave labour and the appropriation of its affect and expression in Western popular music; arriving at the refusal of exploitation, the separation of work and love into mutual exclusivity, the culminating existential frustration of the commuter; and the thanatropic joy of being absorbed into the machine. It ends in the present day with the queasy rapture of a libidinal economy in which work and pleasure are once more integrated, but this time according to new meshings in which human desire no longer resonates with meadow and the cosmos, but is re-engineered and modulated by a fluid media apparatus.