"Positivity" or "positivization" doesn't refer to an optimistic outlook or a positive attitude in the typical sense. Instead, Han’s conceptualization of "positivity" is entwined with his critique of neoliberalism and the self-exploitative tendencies it nurtures within individuals and society.
Individuals become subjects that exploit themselves in the name of achievement and productivity. This self-exploitation is a pervasive form of violence that is subtly embedded in everyday routines and behaviours.
Han also discusses positivity as an inability to say "no." In the relentless pursuit of accomplishment, people are unable to resist demands for continuous labour and productivity. The act of constant doing, working, and optimizing oneself and one's output is part of what Han refers to as the positivization of society.
Han elucidates that in the burnout society, people believe they are free because they think they are making their own choices. However, these choices—such as working relentlessly, sharing intimate details with big data, or endlessly consuming—are conditioned by an ideology that prioritizes market values, consumerism, and individualism. Therefore, this perceived liberty is an illusion, masking the coercive forces operating beneath the surface of everyday actions.
In our work, we aspire to preserve two forms of "negativity" that are otherwise at risk in a culture of positivization: rage and beauty. We seek to explore means by which a "constructive negativity" can be restored to the world.
We are one month into our new space, The Bridge, and have begun prototyping approaches that serve as interruptions to "more and more and more" culture that drives us toward a helpless sense of inadequacy. A culture for what's coming is unlikely to rely on constant addition, optimization, and revelation. In fact, the challenges we face are products of the acceleration of these patterns.
Here is how we organize our thinking around this:
- Create pauses and rests from productivity.
- Build non-instrumental connections (connect around play, improvisation, or art and not toward some goal)
- Facilitate non-instrumental learning (learn things you are interested in but that don't make you 'better')
- Make knowledge free whenever possible
- Enable spaces for dissent and critique
- Encourage play and joy without purpose
DJ workshops (Pioneer-oriented) are held every Monday afternoon we are in Toronto (December 4, 2023 is our next one) from 4 - 6 pm with UKAI's prototyping lead Kasra Goodarznezhad. We start from the very basics of how to analyze your tracks with Rekordbox, all the way to hands on training on a Pioneer DJ setup. It's free. And fun.
We do our game nights here at The Bridge on Monday nights after the DJ workshops (and often in parallel). You can bring your own tabletop RPG or try out our GROUND game (see below) which incorporates beauty and rage in both obvious and less-obvious ways.
At each game night we look to have a pair of speakers set up for folks to come and improvise music. Our first experimental improvisation session happened on October 2nd with our very own Kasra and Luisa Ji (our studio lead). The set was recorded and the plan is to put the recording out in the wild at some point.
We are in the process of turning one of the rooms at The Bridge into a permanent gallery space that will be focused mainly on New Media art. Watch out soon for the opening of the first exhibition and calls for submissions!
Since the frequency of events is increasing, we are looking for folks willing to step in and volunteer. Prior to and during events, we will teach lighting, audio, projection and sometimes laser setup and tear down to our volunteers. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, please send Kasra an email to email@example.com.
There is a lot of discussion underway about the future of arts and culture in this city and in this country. Too many seem to be using this moment to get to the top of a broken system rather than trying to build something new. Efforts to improve equity in who is developing real estate in Toronto, for example, seem admirable on the surface, but only serve to shift who is doing the exploiting rather than changing the underlying conditions. We need to be able to step outside the patterns that we take for granted and to arrest the relentless positivity of our current culture.
We're experimenting and trying new things. Some will work. Some won't. We'd love to hear from you what you'd like to see next!