In the past twenty years, the techno-social-scientific revolution has joined forces with neoliberal reformers to produce a generalized crisis in empathy and thought. Through the coronavirus pandemic we have all, in one way or another, become cognitariats—isolated data workers laboring for free within the abstract conundrum of the infosphere. As Franco “Bifo” Berardi stated in Breathing: Chaos and Poetry, “Neoliberal reformers have put competition at the core of the daily life, and since digital connectivity has replaced physical conjunction in the sphere of social communication, the psycho-cultural conditions of empathy have been undermined.” [1]1
Franco “Bifo” Berardi, Breathing: Chaos and Poetry (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2019), 136.
Berardi’s comments offer an insight into the inadequate response to this pandemic as a disjunction of comradeship, a pervasive lack of social solidarity. These are symptoms of a disease in which our community is rotting from within.

As this already global condition has been further complicated by the coronavirus pandemic, “Care, Caring, and Repair in Cognitive Capitalism” was the focus of this year’s Saas-Fee Summer Institute of Art. We ask: Is the still-rising global death toll in many regions a result of the powerful effect of neoliberal capitalism on empathy? Is this making the necessary care impossible? Will the effects of seclusion and the growing importance of virtual technology in our daily life (such as remote learning, shopping, and communication) intensify the loss of comradeship and solidarity already in progress? Finally, if the pandemic is linked to a coming global catastrophe, will the governments, corporations, and other institutions that have proved so ineffectual in the current moment fail miserably again? In the hope of creating awareness and addressing the causes of the factors that are breaking our social webs apart, we will interweave four broad categories of care, caring, and repair: (1) Cognitive Capitalism and Affective Labor; (2) Theory of Mind, Empathy, and its Psychopathologies; (3) Class Consciousness and Solidarity; and (4) Climate Change and Global Warming. Through online discussions, deep reading, and performative lectures, we aim to develop strategies of counterinsurgency.

Saas-Fee Summer Institute of Art (SFSIA) is a nomadic, intensive summer academy with shifting programs in contemporary critical theory that stresses an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the relationship between art and politics. SFSIA originated in Saas-Fee, Switzerland in 2015 and migrated to Berlin, Germany in 2016, where it is currently hosted by Spike. Additional programs have been hosted by Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles and Performance Space New York. The institute was founded by artist and theorist Warren Neidich and codirected by art critic and poet Barry Schwabsky. Sarrita Hunn is the artistic coordinator.


Preview image: Robby Herbst workshop, Spike Art Quarterly, for "Art and the Politics of Collectivity,” Saas-Fee Summer Institute of Art 2017.

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