Looking at social imageries that describe a subjectivity that does not comply with the logic of the individual.
The Dividual is an ongoing project of various scales, initiated and developed by Joshua Simon as a seminar and an exhibition curated by him as a seminar in the Critical Studies Master Study Programme at Leuphana University and the Kunstraum at Leuphana University in Lüneburg, with the assistance of Simone Curaj. An extended version of the exhibition is scheduled for display at Los Angeles Contemporary Archives in 2022. Research and coordination were done by Ilkay Aydemir, Ludovica Chiodi, Eli Duncan, Kristina Elhauge, Leon Follert, Tobias Gaschler, Gundula Gross, Lorenzo Huskamp, Catherina Janssen, Marie Jessen, Kassia Karras, Hannah Koerner, Estefania Morales, Anna Penner, Sophie Peterson, Marie Poivret, Nataliya Pysareva, Lucia Razza, Gorina Shah, Luca Tueshaus, Fred Volske, and Max Waschka.
Being Together Precedes Being
On The Dividual
by Joshua Simon
“The Dividual” explores an emergent subjectivity divided from itself and always-already a part of something. Since antiquity, the Individual (άτομο or átomo in Greek, individuum in Latin) has been defined philosophically, legally, and psychologically as an entity that is distinctively separate from the rest and indivisible from itself. In many societies, the individual is perceive as an objective subjectivity. As the relations and social institutions that constitute the individual and those that are formed around it change, there have been throughout history struggles around the gender, class, race, age, ethnicity, and species of those recognized as individuals.
While the long history of individuation is well documented in philosophy, literature, law, and social sciences, it is in the history of the arts that we find iterations
and examples of the dividual and its proposition. Within the realization of individual-based structures collapsing all around us before, during, and after
the pandemic, various recent cultural products have described the rise and fall of individualism and invited conversations on other forms of being in the world. As it denotes a broad set of subjectivities that are divided and at the same time always in relation to others, The Dividual was developed through a multidisciplinary approach that examines these contingent subjectivities as they provide for us other forms of self. The Dividual looks at social imaginaries that describe an emergent subjectivity that does not comply with the logic of the individual (Bertolt Brecht, Gilles Deleuze, Paul Klee, McKim Marriot, Sabina Spielrein and Marylin Strathern all use the term in their writing). Six different perspectives provide entry points to this incipient subjectivity: In anthropological literature of South Asia and Melanesia, and of the Andes and Amazonia, the dividual appears as a form of kinship. In the critique of the society of control and the rise of digital and financial networks, it is presented as a distributed subjectivity. In Black study, it is experienced as a presence that expands historically and by that generates the solidarity of the undercommons. Within the shock of modernity, it emerges as a form of being that both expands and divides the individual (in digressive modernities such as psychoanalysis, feminism, Marxism, and surrealism). In relation to the Soviet science of management and shock work, it is perceived through new divisions of labor that provide measures or scales between individual and mass, or person and collective. And in the philosophy of symbiogenesis, it is perceived as a holobiont—a unit that is an assembly of elements folded into one another. “The Dividual” is informed by the persistence of these social imaginaries, their histories and futures, and provides a proposition for living, thinking, and organizing. Being together precedes being.
In a seminar that took place during the spring and summer of 2021, within the framework of the Critical Studies Master Study Programme at Leuphana University, which included visiting students from Designing Design II course led by Irena Haiduk at Barnard College, New York, we organized an exhibition at
the Kunstraum of the Leuphana University Lüneburg (July 2–16), which included contemporary artworks, archival materials, films, posters, and historical artefacts, by Emanuel Almborg, Drexciya, Sergei Eisenstein, Luce Irigaray, Platon Kerzhenetsev, Paul Klee, Jacob Lawrence, El Lissitzky, Sylvère Lotringer, Shana Lutker, Chris Marker and Alain Resnais, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Ruth Patir, Nadia Pereira Benavente, Roee Rosen, Emmanuela Soria Ruiz, Sonnie Wooden, Aztec Maps of unknown cartographers, and a Lichen terrarium. In addition, we had a library with written works by Georges Bataille, Walter Benjamin, Bertolt Brecht, Octavia Butler, Luce Irigaray, Paul Klee, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Rigoberta Menchú, Fred Moten and Stefano Harney, Andrei Platonov, and Cedric Robinson. The works exhibited were courtesy of the participating artists, the Museum of Applied Arts in Zurich, Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern, the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection of Aztec maps at the University of Texas at Austin, the Marx and Engels manuscript archive at the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam, and private sources.
Individuum und Masse
Unser Massebegriff ist vom Individuum her gefaßt. Die Masse ist so ein Kompositum; ihre Teilbarkeit ist kein Hauptmerkmal mehr, sie wird aus dem Dividuum mehr und mehr selber ein Individuum. Zum Begriff „einzelner“ kommt man von dieser Masse her nicht durch Teilung, sondern durch Einteilung. Und am einzelnen ist gerade seine Teilbarkeit zu betonen (als Zugehörigkeit zu mehreren Kollektiven.) Was sollte über das Individuum auszusagen sein, solang wir vom Individuum aus das Massenhafte suchen. Wir werden einmal vom Massenhaften das Individuum suchen und somit aufbauen.
by Emmanuela Soria Ruiz
I take Eileen Gray’s Brick Screen (1918) as a point of departure, constructing a prototype of it in order to explore its potential as a performative object. Gray’s
designs, themselves inspired by Orientalist spatial notions, provided an ambiguous and multi-sensorial organization of space for the sexually dissident lifestyles in the community of queer white women that she was part of.
Gray’s design for Brick Screen opposes dominant notions in Modernist architecture and interior design, which aimed to produce a healthy subject within
“neutral” white walls and clear spatial programming. Her designs instead provided “recognizably modern places for subjects that modern architecture and design had recognized as pathological threats” . The performance and installation attempts to subvert the binary relation between subject and object by taking the screen (object) seriously as a subject. As such, one can begin to consider the agency of her design in reorganizing private space to make room for non-heterosexual female subjectivities.
Eileen Gray was observed in her own home by neighbor Le Corbusier, who developed an obsession with her and painted murals of other naked women in
her former home. In contrast to this story of patriarchal violence, the screen acts as a proto-queer design that imagines an alternative to the imbalanced relationship we know to be held between a voyeur and their object of viewership, in designing a horizontal reciprocity of the sexualized gaze through both sides of the screen. I’ve developed a series of performances with objects and people that occur around Gray’s screen. Hijacked from the museum pedestal or the private collection, the screen lies directly on the ground in my installation, and is allowed to perform and even exceed beyond its architectural role as organizer of space, bodies, and vision, to extend to interlocutor, agent, and listener. The performative actions take inspiration from the colonial and Orientalist influences of Gray’s designs and Beatriz Colominas’ account of Le Corbusier’s painted murals in Eileen Gray’s house E-1027 , as well as from Gray’s sketches for a never-realized “Animal Ballet”. It brings an extended conviviality with the object, and attempts to organize and reorganize relationships between performers and objects, performers and animals, viewer and viewed, subject and object.