Born from the monthly “Planet Marx” reading club launched in March, “Long March Project: The Deficit Faction” is a curated group exhibition informed by the concept of deficiency. It enlists enquiries into the systemic deterioration of the natural environment, spiritual practices or badlands hazed in the fine particles of technology, and theoretical practices embracing their own limitations. The faction continues to amass. Though each member’s understanding of deficiency may differ, it nonetheless suggests a space for circulating the profusion of different knowledge or subject matters that either recognize their own shortfall, or, by speculatively exhausting their own depletion, render the ontology anew, thus allying various negative fields.
In approaching deficiency, the immediate response is reminiscent of alchemical operations that shift base materials into noble ones; artists are knowledgeable in operating between a poverty of materials and a richness of signification. Poverty here can be a wealth elsewhere. In this context, we’ve been considering a plethora of perspectives, specifically relating to how “broken landscape” would not only alluding to Marxist notion of ecological rift, but also as actual landscape visible
in our daily life. Here, eco-Marxist Jason W. Moore’s notion of Cheap Nature slides into our discussion. Cheap Nature offers multiple reference points into the Chinese reality, thus extending it beyond mere rhetoric. The generic face of capitalism lowers the conditions of life, only to benefit its margin gain. Cheap labor multiplied by fast turnover rate = Factory of the World; though such an unsustainable mode of production seems cognizant of its own DIRTY SHAMAN POOR THEORY BROKEN LANDSCAPE endpoint, as China seeks to explore green power. This discursive trajectory can hardly result in the restoration of the “richness” of nature, but considers the difficulties of fixing and tinkering as part of our existential condition. It leads us to further speculate whether cultural theorist Ackbar Abbas’s “poor theory” – the set of theoretical practices that tap into the unknown with versatile positions to accommodate its own disabilities – would possibly shed on lights to the question of cheap nature, and render obsolete the didacticism of the high/low dichotomy.
The participating artists navigate between the inside and outside of the existing models of production, observing and narrating the porousness capable of channeling various overlapping
flows between technical, cultural and environmental landscapes. Contamination ceases to signify negativity. Just as technology has redefined what we used to call Mother Nature into a second
nature through tainted synthesis, though this is only to the acknowledgement of new grounds for understanding its ontological nature. At this stage, points of contamination are nodes allowing us
to traverse through various categories. “Dirty shaman” would be one such method of reconfiguring a permeable body, with diverse layers of the production of knowledge deployable as if they are porous geological strata.