The ordure.org dump is both a static resting ground and a decomposing pile of files and information that is or was related in some way to the ordure.org project.
Please see http://www.ordure.org/
talking hygiene – ordure::realtime
An interactive installation at 291 Gallery, Hackney, London.
18th January – 27th January 2001
(for Harry McMahon)
I was dreaming
it was night
I was on a beach
yet the sea made no sound
and as I walked
I found myself walking backwards
I knew time was present
I knew that time was all about me
surrounding me, yet also inside my head
in the way that the sound of the sea and the wind surrounds
one’s being and yet is inside
a part of the mind
a part of the body
there was sand
there was water
there was time
and I knew that time was going backwards
its numbers were names running
on a clock I could not see
but knew was present
my feet were well shod
my hands were well gloved
(though it was neither hot nor cold)
one foot was in the water
one foot was on the sand
and to the left of me and to the right of me
was sand and sea
the sand was a desert
the sea was an ocean
and above me the heavens
lay somewhere behind a tented sky
that was without moon or star or cloud or colour
across the dark water black shadows sped towards me
against the sky sped bird shapes lured by the shadows
they travelled backwards, head following tail
movement without sound
action without purpose
the shadows ran through the gloved cage of my cupping hands
I made each hand into a fist
I buried my fists in salt water and sand
what could I do
Objects are ascribed meanings according to the cultural agenda of the museum and the preferred knowledge of the larger culture that the museum represents. The UK Museum of Ordure is consistent with this, and in keeping with the destructive tendencies of capitalist relations of production, its collection is subject to an unmanageable process of corruption that slowly deforms and disables its data. This is not simply a question of a politics of the representation of ordure but also a process of ordure in itself that slowly ‘corrupts’ all in its collection. The broader suggestion is that if capitalism is by definition a system of corruption, how might we conceive of its negation.
A critique of the institution of the museum is nothing new. In ‘On the Museum’s Ruins’ (1990), Douglas Crimp argued that museums strive to represent art coherently and provide a prescribed meaning to the object through an imposed order. In a similar way, Susan Stewart (in Clifford, 2000: 61) described how the museum creates the illusion of adequate representation of a world by ‘first taking objects out of their specific context of production and then making them stand for abstract wholes’. The museum, and the other institutions that present objects to us, permeates itself into every cell of the object – every fragment and pixel. This is analogous to what Mannheim called ‘total ideology – the despotism of a fragment imposing itself as the pseudo-knowledge of a frozen whole, as a totalitarian worldview.’ (in Debord, 1995: 150-1) In other words, the concept of the museum is a strange perversity, sustained by a series of systematic fictions. Eugenio Donato describes this as the: ‘uncritical belief in the notion that ordering and classifying, that is to say, the spatial juxtaposition of fragments, can produce a representational understanding of the world. Should the fiction disappear, there is nothing left of the Museum but “bric-a-brac”, a heap of meaningless and valueless fragments of objects.’ (1990: 49)
The Museum of Ordure takes this idea at face value in collecting ordure (rubbish, shit, waste), aiming to draw attention to what and how the culture assigns value. In the Museum of Ordure, the value and status of its objects are left in question. Operating in the spirit of artist’s dealing with the material of shit and producing shit (eg. Manzoni), the Museum of Ordure aims to question the relationship of what we produce and its relative value in the wider culture and economy. Inadequate toilet training has contributed to a particular form of political organisation, wherein capital and surplus-value are produced and reproduced in limitless transformation. The museum perhaps poses the question whether the best kind of ordure resists commodification?
At the other end of the cultural stratification lies the traditional museum, holding vast and predominantly dusty collections of ‘bric-a-brac’ with an equally dubious hold over preferred value and meaning. The curators at the Museum of Ordure would no doubt be as interested in what a conventional museum like this – Ulster Museum – chooses not to display, or indeed what it chooses to label use-less, worth-less, value-less. As a result, UKMO refuses to fix the object in such a way that it might be ascribed meaning and value in the conservative (conservatorial) sense. Moreover, the curatorial intention is to destabilise meanings and value, in recognition of the process of their construction and their ‘immaterial’ form.
By the use of the term ‘immaterial’, the aim is to situate the museum in terms of the contemporary mode of production. The mode of production has undergone dramatic transformations, characterised by flexibility, decentralisation and networking. The increasingly immaterial form of social relations, communications networks, information systems, has also been extended to the new type of production of ‘immaterial goods’ and the ‘immaterial labour’ invested in these commodities (after Maurizio Lazzarato’s definition, 1996). This can partly be recognised in relation to the computer, in the way it has redefined labour as well as social practices and relations. Thus, the site of production remains crucial to an understanding of culture at large. In this way, any museum worth its salt might be described in the following terms: ‘[its] institutional structure is like a software program that carries a virus along with it, so that it is continually modulating and corrupting the institutional forms around it.’ (Hardt and Negri, 2000: 197-8)
Under these ‘immaterial’ conditions of production the conventional museum, indeed archives, seem a sadly fixed and passive repository for objects that lack any sense of their dynamic relation to the process of production. Correspondingly, the Museum of Ordure articulates the dialectical operations of corruption and generation. For Hardt and Negri, corruption is a good term to describe the violent, destructive and virus-like procedures self-evident in the capitalist relations of production. Capitalism is by definition a system of corruption and violence, and the task is to investigate ‘how corruption can be forced to cede its control to generation’ (2000: 392). Herein lies a crucial part of dialectical thinking – as it is as a result of the recognition of the exploitative relations of production that change is made possible. The violence of corruption is self-evident in the capitalist relations of production as exploitation. Here the world of actual human labour, of dirty production, of dirty surplus value appears in the form of material things. Dialectical thinking would suggest this is reversible, that corruption might be superseded by generation.
It might be argued that culture and politics need to articulate themselves in terms of generative processes in lieu of the regenerative and degenerative mechanisms built into contemporary capitalism. For Hardt and Negri, the dominant power structure is: ‘characterised by a fluidity of form – an ebb and flow of formation and deformation, generation and degeneration’ (2000: 202). The networked computer can be seen to be not merely a part of these processes but also a metaphor for them. As systems theory suggests, within systems or sub-systems, positive feedback loops might generate the further development of a process to the point of causing a fundamental and unforeseeable change of the existing system. This is important as it emphasises the constructive positive role that disorder might play in creating new order. This demonstrates the dialectical play between two interconnected states of order and disorder, between generation and corruption, suggesting the potential for change built into any system. Systems, even social systems, are not closed but can be seen to be also sensitive to small changes – human intervention for instance. Contradictions manifest themselves in all aspects of capitalism’s workings, however latent they may appear. These contradictory tendencies unfold in every detail of the system, ‘every one of its basic “cells”, the commodities’ (Mandel, 1990: 13) – every one of its pixels.
The advocated approach of the Museum of Ordure is thus tactical, to take account of things that rather convincingly appear to be out of control, or beyond our control, as emergent or generative systems. According to Capital, the decline of capitalism’s mode of production is inevitable, even its latest phase, as it is simply a product of history that also produced it in the first place. To the historical materialist, data cannot be seen to be fixed but is always able to be transformed – like Benjamin’s angel of history who wants to gather up the wreckage of terrible events, wasted lives and worthless objects. The angel wants to make things better, but cannot do this because of the dominant forces at work. Esther Leslie cites a statement by Adorno (in a radio lecture, 1962) who insists the angel is not only the angel of history but the angel of the machine. This would suggest that the renewal of the idea of progress is through the better use of history and technology. The Museum of Ordure sets out its stall accordingly.
Geoff Cox, treasurer UKMO
The UKMO Preservation Programme
An interactive installation in the Eating Room, Pitshanger House, Ealing. Part of the Trackers Show curated by Charlie Danby and Alejandro Ospina, the sociopathic egomaniac.
The UK Museum of Ordure maintains a collection of items submitted by members of the public from around the world. This Collection is constantly subjected to decay in the form of corrupted bits in the database files. In order to preserve the Collection from complete destruction, the UK Museum of Ordure invites the urgent assistance of the general public by submitting new items to the Collection. Visitors to the installation may make use of the computer and scanner provided to add new items. Contributions can also be made online via the UKMO web site.
See our Preservation Programme information for more details.
30th April – 4th July 2004
Trackers at PM Gallery and House
Ealing, London, W5
27 Spital Square
12th March – 4th April 2004
Friday – Sunday, 12.00 – 18.00
Stuart Brisley, Geoff Cox and Adrian Ward
Angela De La Cruz
Thomson & Craighead
The UK Museum of Ordure has been commissioned by low-fi to produce a work for their 2004/2005 commissions programme. The work is currently on show at Stills Gallery, Edinburgh and will form a permanent part of low-fi’s online archive of works.
In addition, visitors to the UKMO web site can find more information about the project at our Structures and Policies page.
To find out about low-fi and the 2005 commissions, please see http://www.low-fi.org.uk/
[W]alls are the material declaration of the intent to repel all delinquent perception and all illicit communion. Walls are the armoury that preserves our personal integrity against the inroads of the rest of humanity and nature.’ (Robin Evans)
66 East’s third exhibition will study the wall: its characteristics, its texture, its surface, its function and its presence.
The wall can be described as an elementary particle of the urban environment. It functions as a partition between the private and the public, between flats and between rooms. It often exists as a neutral, almost unnoticed spatial border. It appears in plan as a two dimensional line, its thickness and depth possessing no significance other than its constructive qualities and ability to insolate noise and energy. Yet the wall -whether external or internal- is of primary importance for spatial division, exclusion and inclusion, limiting and enabling view and action. It is ‘split’ due to its double-sidedness, each side facing a different ambience or enclosure, defining it and being defined by its character.
Opening reception: Friday 18.06.04 18:00
Exhibition: 19 June – 24 July 2004
Opening times: Fridays 14:00-20:00, Saturdays 12:00-18:00
66 East: Centre for Urban Culture
1094 NH Amsterdam
It can be generally agreed that all subjectivity can be recognised as socially constructed and artificial. Hardt and Negri argue that as the place of production becomes more and more place-less, subjectivities become correspondingly indeterminate, still generated, but generated in new forms:
‘The imperial social institutions might be seen, then, in a fluid process of the generation and corruption of subjectivity. […] The Empire’s institutional structure is like a software program that carries a virus along with it, so that it is continually modulating and corrupting the institutional forms around it.’ (2000: 197-8)
The catalyst for generation in Hardt and Negri is desire (following in the tradition of Deleuze and Guattari). They see this as indicative of collective human action.
‘This production is purely and simply human reproduction, the power of generation. Desiring production is generation, or rather the excess of labor and the accumulation of a power incorporated into the collective movement of singular essences, both its cause and its completion.’ (2000: 388)
There is a question about whether generation itself can be seen to be dialectical. Yet, there is a broad agreement that politics needs to articulate itself in terms of generative processes in lieu of the regenerative mechanisms built into capitalism itself; in the sense that production is generative. Hardt and Negri say:
‘Generation is there, before all else, as basis and motor of production and reproduction. The generative connection gives meaning to communication, and any model of (everyday, philosophical, or political) communication that does not respond to this primacy is false.’ (2000: 389)
Don’t make the assumption that our museum only does audio files. You can see real life exhibits at the museum; visit us with your winnings from Canadian slots.
It is true that capitalism has undergone dramatic transformations, characterised by flexibility, decentralisation and networking. The system has become fully flexible and mobile, with unpredictability and complexity as the predominant metaphors for both culture and economics.
Hardt and Negri’s use of the term ‘corruption’ is interesting; taken from Aristotle, it refers to a perpetual becoming of bodies that is complementary to generation (from De generatione et corruptione, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982). Thus, corruption might be called ‘de-generation – a reverse process of generation and composition, a moment of metamorphosis that potentially frees spaces for change’ (2000: 201)
This lends itself well to my reading of ‘Ordure::real-time’ and its dialectical operations, even if, this in itself, is a corruption of Hardt and Negri’s project. Corruption (a good term as it lends itself to viruses and is a form of violence) is the negation of generation (for more on this, see Reiner Schürmann, Des hégémonies brisées, Mouvezin: T.E.R., 1996, cited in Hardt and Negri, 2000: 389). For instance, the violence of corruption is self-evident in the capitalist relations of production as exploitation.
Hardt and Negri say capitalism is by definition a system of corruption, and the task is to investigate ‘how corruption can be forced to cede its control to generation’ (2000: 392).
[Notes in response to Hardt & Negri’s Empire, University of Harvard Press 2000].
The Collection of Ordure
Curated by R Y Sirb
5th November – 15th December 2002
Wednesday – Sunday, 12pm – 5pm
The Freud Museum
20 Maresfield Gardens
London NW5 5SX
Admission £5, Concessions £2
Photograph by Manuel Vason
Supported by The Elephant Trust, The Henry Moore Foundation, and the UK Museum of Ordure