Shipping and the shipped

(With Ranjit Kandalgaonkar, Arjuna Neuman, Wu Tsang, Denise Ferreira Da Silvaand Fred Moten)

2.9 – 1.10.2016

Opening: 1.9.2016, 5.30PM
Regular hours: (Tue-Sun) 11AM–5PM
Opening weekend: (Fri) 10AM–10PM, (Sat-Sun) 11AM–10PM

Shipping and the Shipped is curated by Stefano Harney with artists Ranjit Kandalgaonkar, Arjuna Neuman and Wu Tsang, philosopher Denise Ferreira Da Silva, and writer Fred Moten.

The title of Harney’s contribution for Bergen Assembly comes from his book with Fred Moten, The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study (Autonomedia/Minor Compositions, 2013) and is inspired in part by a book CLR James wrote called Renegades, Castaways, and Mariners about Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, in which James interprets the whaling ship as the first American factory, worked by a ‘motley crew’ – a crew produced by the ships involved in the African slave trade, the first and still greatest feat of commercial logistics at the dawn of capitalism. With this massive logistical movement, the infrastructure of capitalist accumulation was put in place. Not only did this slave trade infrastructure inaugurate the plantation societies (the slave labour camps) of the global south but they also disrupted and de-provincialised the coasts of Europe and their own shipping subaltern.

So it was that Norwegian fishermen, pressed into service, would end up on the coast of Ghana guarding a slave fort. However, for the motley crew this global tale of shipping was not only one of severe hardship and cruelty but, through what Marx called the cosmopolitan vocation of production, a lived fugitivity in this world.

Logistical capitalism connects the algorithm of work on the one hand to the logistics of supply and demand on the other. Shipping remains today as much at the centre of capital’s infrastructural imagination. Its crew, its cargo, its nets and its containers, connect the ship to the deepest mines and forests with more efficiency than ever. But they also carry a critical infrastructure; that is, an imperative of state violence in the protection of these global production lines of goods, people, money and energy. The trauma of being forced along the global infrastructure, reliving its anoriginary violence has never been more widespread.

Yet for all this enforcement and trauma, the danger within remains and the fugitivity of the motley crew is everywhere apparent. From activism among Filipina domestic workers, to port blockades in Oakland, to the Gulf Labour project on the one hand and to anti-dam, anti-logging and anti-mining movements on the other, logistical capitalism raises the question of whether the ship is arriving or escaping, piloted or pirated, modularised or marooned. The hapticality of those forced to repeat infrastructure always somehow escapes.

Visitors enter through the ship-breaking yards of Ranjit Kandalgaonkar’s sound sculpture of Chittagong in Mumbai, before turning to Arjuna Neuman’s film made with Denise Ferreira Da Silva, or the other way to Wu Tsang’s films made with Fred Moten. This is the watery realm of the shipped, and simultaneously the airy flight of transportation over the tide. Finally, exit through the study, where photographs and drawings by Kandalgaonkar accompany texts by Stefano Harney and Fred Moten on shipping and the shipped.

The project continues Harney’s specific research into logistical infrastructures associated with race, work and social organisation. Focusing research on a global and local scale, the Shipping and the Shipped explores the potential of connecting the logistical infrastructures belonging to both shipping and the shipped – including Bergen’s current and historical identity as a port town. The project complements The End of Oil, to which the issue of internationally ‘shipped’ labour is central.