ESSAYS Mousse 42

Liberation through Laziness. Some chronopolitical remarks

by Sven Lütticken


Barbara Visser, Slothism, 2008. Courtesy: Annet Gelink Gallery, Amsterdam Barbara Visser, Slothism, 2008. Courtesy: Annet Gelink Gallery, Amsterdam


Contemporary capitalism prods us to make the most of our potential, sticking with the program and doing our best. Sven Lütticken offers fascinating insights into the concepts of sleep and boredom and the potential of refusal as a counter-politics of the times, whose hero might be Melville’s Bartleby, the scrivener who not only stops writing but also explains that he would “prefer not to.” Intuition tells us that these modern concepts developed between the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution are as anachronistic as they are absolutely timely today.


Politics of time, to this all politics ultimately reduces itself.[1] Such a statement might seem bizarrely reductive: what about exploitation, pollution and health, repression? In fact, all of these political problems could be seen as being branches of chronopolitics, with a decaying ecosystem and expensive healthcare providing radically different time frames and future horizons for the wealthy and the poor, and covert or overt forms of repression imposing a drastically reduced temporal horizon, suggesting that another world is or should not be possible—that the only option is more of the same. The most obvious instance of the politics of time, however, has of course been the struggle over the working day, over reduced working hours and regular leisure time. When this battle was finally won by the unions in the West, in the post-war society of affluence, it proved a Pyrrhic victory, as industries started migrating to the “developing world” and new forms of non-unionized labor started to proliferate in the West. Today, in a “globalized” economy that interconnects yet keeps apart sweatshop workers in Bangladesh, the underclass in the West and mobile “immaterial” workers, notions such as laziness, sleep and boredom once more unfold their anachronic potential.



The politics of time can be as aesthetic in nature as it is political; aesthetic in the sense that we are dealing with the senses, with our bodies, with rhythms. A notion such as laziness has freely moved from the political realm to the artistic avant-garde, and in fact it has been particularly dominant in contexts where two avant-gardes mixed or merged. A tiny Dutch left-wing press, De Dolle Hond (Mad Dog Editions), has published a number of editions of Herman Schuurman’s 1924 pamphlet Work is a Crime, which Schuurman wrote as a member of the radical Dutch group De Moker. “Only when we will not work again, life will start,” Schuurman notes in this short and condensed pamphlet. “Working is a social evil. This society is life’s arch-enemy and only through the destruction of the current and future communities of work animals—i.e. through revolution after revolution—will work disappear.” And: “Creation is the intense joy of life, working is the intense suffering of life. Under these criminal social relations creating is impossible. All work is a crime.”[2]


02 pierre-huyghe_le-proces-du-temps-libre_1999Pierre Huyghe, Le Procès du temps libre, 1999. Courtesy: the artist and Esther Schipper. Berlin. Photo: © Andrea Rossetti


It is no great surprise that the editor responsible for the historical dossier accompanying this obscure pamphlet, Els van Daele, was for a while part of Guy Debord’s extensive network.[3] The latter is of course the author of the famous graffito “Ne travaillez jamais.[4] Like Schuurman’s “Work is a Crime” manifesto, Debord’s “Never Work” is aimed not just against ameliorist trade-unionism and social democracy, but also against the communist glorification of work, even as capitalist wage labor was rejected. The locus classics of “never work” discourse is Paul Lafargue’s The Right to Laziness, written in prison in 1883, and likewise published in a Dutch edition by De Dolle Hond.[5]

Lafargue was Marx’s son-in-law—and Mladen Stilinovi? has mischievously projected Lafargue’s idea back onto the father-in-law, ascribing the slogan “Work is a disease” to Marx.[6] The founder of modern socialism had been less than thrilled that his daughter Laura had fallen for someone with a “Creole temperament,” or indeed a “member of the negro tribe.”[7] If his roots brought out the Victorian in Marx, Lafargue himself projected modern primitivist longings onto both historical and contemporary peoples who had a contempt for labor—from Ancient Greeks and the Northern Europeans of the late Middle Ages, who enjoyed a staggering quantity of holidays and feasts, to “the happy Polynesians.”[8] Lafargue accuses the communist movement of buying into the myth of labor: “lending ear to the fallacious words of the economists, the proletarians have given themselves up body and soul to the vice of work; they precipitate the whole of society into these industrial crises of over-production which convulse the social organism. Then because there is a plethora of merchandise and a dearth of purchasers, the shops are closed and hunger scourges the working people with its whip of a thousand lashes.”[9] In this situation, Lafargue claims rather mischievously, the unemployed do not demand an actual share of the accumulated wealth; all they can think of, tormented by the “passion for work,” is to beg for jobs—to be exploited again.

Lafargue sketches a different scenario, in which the unemployed appeal to the capitalists thusly: “Put at the disposal of your working girls the fortune they have built up for you out of their flesh; you want to help business, get your goods into circulation—here are consumers ready at hand. Give them unlimited credit. You are simply compelled to give credit to merchants whom you do not know from Adam or Eve, who have given you nothing, not even a glass of water. Your working women will pay the debt the best they can. If at maturity they let their notes go to protest, and if they have nothing to attach, you can demand that they pay you in prayers. They will send you to paradise better than your black-gowned priests steeped in tobacco.”[10] There is an oddly proto-Keynesian streak about some of Lafargue’s advice, as when he stresses the importance of consumer spending: “given the modern means of production and their unlimited reproductive power it is necessary to curb the extravagant passion of the laborers for work and to oblige them to consume the goods which they produce.”[11]


Guy Debord, Ne travaillez jamais, 1953; reproduced in Internationale Situationniste, 1963.Guy Debord, Ne travaillez jamais, 1953; reproduced in Internationale Situationniste, 1963.


Going into greater detail, Lafargue predicts that “In order to find work for all the non-producers of our present society, in order to leave room for the industrial equipment to go on developing indefinitely, the working class will be compelled, like the capitalist class, to do violence to its taste for abstinence and to develop indefinitely its consuming capacities. Instead of eating an ounce or two of gristly meat once a day, when it eats any, it will eat juicy beefsteaks of a pound or two; instead of drinking moderately of bad wine, it will become more orthodox than the pope and will drink broad and deep bumpers of Bordeaux and Burgundy without commercial baptism and will leave water to the beasts.”[12] There is thus a rather curious instrumentalization of laziness at play here: laziness becomes consumption, and consumption in turn becomes work. Thus we can construct rather divergent and conflicting genealogies: on the one hand from Lafargue to the Mokergroep and the Situationists, and on the other from Lafargue to today’s consumption imperative, in which the good citizen is supposed to work hard and consume hard—preferably even by spending money he doesn’t have. In a credit-based economy, consumption has become a duty—or perhaps one should say that “prosuming,” post-producing, circulating has become imperative.

This shift was articulated in Malcolm McLaren’s pro-situ pop stratagems. As a former hanger-on of the post-Situationist King Mob group in London, McLaren had imbibed a fair amount of Situationist rhetoric, if not necessarily theory. After the Sex Pistols, McLaren grafted the underage singer Annabella Lwin onto Adam Ant’s first band to form Bow Wow Wow, whose frequently dodgy lyrics were an ambiguous détournement of the music industry’s exploitation of teenage sexuality.[13] One of the most directly Situationist-derived songs is W.O.R.K. from 1981:

Slow down, start to think, what’s the matter of not having a job
Gonna tell you, I’m not working anymore, never ever say!
Hey Ho! off we go, Not never ever
Slow Down, go to work, daddy just laughs Hah!
All the time, there’s no need to work ever!
T.E.K. technology. Is demolition of daddy
A.U.T. Autonomy, cos work is not the golden rule

The music video shows the band performing in front of a giant silhouette of a cassette tape. Bow Wow Wow, with their “pirate” look, promoted a medium associated with pirating music, but also a medium that was creating new markets and contributed to making music ever more portable, ever more intimate (the Sony Walkman was introduced globally in 1980), thus helping to make the day a “media day.” Technology may be an emancipatory force and hasten the demolition of patriarchy, but this hardly means that “school’s out forever,” as the song has it: if anything, school is everywhere and learning is life-long, a permanent retooling of the subject. Of course, the song was released in a period with mass (youth) unemployment, with old industries in decline. If a sizable (well-educated) part of the no future generation would go on to have careers in the economic bubble produced by deregulation, mass unemployment nevertheless became structural in western European states, which are still shuffling around members of the former working class from one pseudo-job to the next.


Bow Wow Wow, W.O.R.K., 1981Bow Wow Wow, W.O.R.K., 1981


With an increasingly punitive bent, various measures force the unemployed to do any work whatsoever, but without taking “real” jobs. Some ten years ago in Germany, the Schröder government’s “Agenda 2010” resulted in so-called one euro jobs, with the unemployed being offered (at least) one euro extra per hour for their labor. In 2007, Andreas Siekmann designed a print that functioned as a quasi-poster for a fictitious government campaign.[14] Around an image of a simplified figure reclining on a beach are grouped contained references to the “1-Euro jobs” and the Agenda 2010, as well as the slogans “NIE WIEDER ARBEIT(en)” (no more work/jobs) and “Nie wieder Lohn” (no more pay), and “Wir machen einfach mal nix” (Let’s just do nothing). The portmanteau word “governsituationality” suggests that the state itself has become Situationist. We’ll never work again, in the classic sense of wage labor. In this sense, those that are “put to work” as surplus labor are the mirror image of self-employed precarians, for whom the distinction between work and “free time” has collapsed.

In 1995, Pierre Huyghe founded the Association des Temps Libérés, which in its official announcement in the Journal Officiel de la République Française declared as its aim “the development of unproductive time, for a reflection on free time, and the creation of a workless society.” The reference to Lafargue is made more explicit in Huyghe’s 1999 Le Procès du temps libre, part 1: Indices, a display that includes a poster of a naked girl in the grass with the wall text “The right to laziness, 1880” and a copy of Lafargue’s pamphlet. However, here Huyghe uses the term “temps libre” (free time/leisure), whereas the Association des Temps Libérés sought to go beyond that concept: “Whereas free time is time which is subjugated to working time, ‘liberated time’ would aim to extend various practices to unrestricted durations and more specific types of reception.”[15] The association was a reaction to the temporality of group shows, in which people work together briefly before going their separate ways, on to the next project; the Association wanted to develop a long durée of collaboration.

That the distinction between free time and liberated time is anything but clear-cut is suggested by the installation Atari Light, which is part of the Le Procès du temps libre complex.[16] This architectural version of the early computer game Pong, with a backlit ceiling grid functioning as screen, exemplifies the “gamification” of life, in which boundaries between work and leisure become ever more blurred and, by consequence, working time itself once more stretches towards “unrestricted durations.” In such a situation, the interconnected concepts of sleep and boredom take on new meaning. Both are seen as being in crisis, and both are seen as being of vital importance.



The cover of the De Dolle Hond edition of Lafargue’s book contains an old illustration of a sloth, an animal named after one of the Seven Deadly Sins; an animal that is not a good Protestant, that lives in slow-motion and snoozes with abandon. Again and again, this animal functions as a kind of totem of laziness, and of sleep as its culmination; in a poster from 2008, Barbara Visser combined a photo of a (stuffed) sloth with the name of a hypothetical movement named Slothism.[17] Meanwhile, sloth also functions as a term of abuse with which right-wing politicians criticize European workers for not being productive enough.

In his book 24/7, Jonathan Crary notes the gradual erosion of the average time of sleep per day during the 20th century (from 10 hours to less than 7), and argues that sleep “is a ubiquitous reminder of a premodernity that has never been fully exceeded, of the agricultural universe that began vanishing 400 years ago. The scandal of sleep is the embeddedness in our lives of the rhythmic oscillations of solar light and darkness, activity and rest, of work and recuperation, that have been eradicated or neutralized elsewhere.”[18] Crary reminds us that industrial temporality still had its zones of exception, its archaic pockets; industrial time was imposed only gradually, finally triumphing in the postwar consumer society, ready to morph into the post-Fordist 24/7 time of permanent performance, permanent readiness.[19] In this 24/7 regime, Crary “dreams of sleep” in order to begin to imagine a future beyond capitalism, “a shared world whose fate is not terminal, a world without billionaires, which has a future other than barbarism or the post-human, and in which history can take other forms than reified nightmares of catastrophe.”[20]

Meanwhile, popular discourse tends to dream of boredom as a psycho-temporal mode that is under threat and that is as important as sleeping, being a sort of waking equivalent of sleep: “It’s sad to think kids of this generation won’t be able to experience boredom like we have. Consider how boredom was handled at a younger age, as though it was a matter of solving a problem. Do children really need to worry about that, or can they just boot up their iPad? […] Instead of embracing boredom and using it as a creative application, we choose to replace it with some ‘busy’ activity. Instead of sitting in thought, we impulsively pull out our phones.”[21] However, relearning how to be bored is not a Craryesque exercise in imagining a different future beyond catastrophe, but rather an attempt at improving one’s performance: “It probably sounds a little counterintuitive to suggest to anyone that they start slacking off, but in reality it’s about as important to your brain’s health as sleeping is. Being bored, procrastinating, and embracing distraction all help your brain function. In turn, you understand decisions better. You learn easier.”[22]


International Times, 1968International Times, 1968


Boredom is a modern concept. Just as people had gay sex before modern notions of homosexuality were around, this does of course not mean that premodern people never experienced states that we would now characterize as boredom. Rather, it means that boredom “in the modern sense that combines an existential and a temporal connotation” only become a theoretical concept and a problem in the late 18th century—in fact, the English term boredom emerged precisely in that moment, under the combined impact of the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. As Elizabeth Goodstein puts it, boredom “epitomizes the dilemma of the autonomous modern subject,” linking “existential questions” to “a peculiarly modern experience of empty, meaningless time.”[23] Boredom became a crucial notion for the 1960s avant-garde in different ways. On the one hand, the Cagean neo-avant-garde (Fluxus) embraced boredom as a productive strategy; on the other, the Situationist International attacked boredom as a disastrous symptom of capitalism.

In the late 1960s, Situationist and pro-situ slogans such as “Boredom is always counter-revolutionary” and “there’s nothing they won’t do to raise the standard of boredom” made the term a battle cry, though it is not particularly prominent in Debord’s writings. Boredom for the SI was a symptom of the inhuman nature of capitalism. As Raoul Vaneigem put it: “We do not want a world in which the guarantee that we will not die of starvation is bought by accepting the risk of dying of boredom.”[24] Boredom is a kind of byproduct of industrial labor that creates new markets for entertainment, for while boredom during working hours is unavoidable and can only be alleviated in part by half-hearted measures (playing music to the workers), boredom also infects “free time,” where various leisure activities and the products of the entertainment industry are ready to help—if only, as the slogan has it, “to raise the standard of boredom.”

In fact, “raising the standard of boredom” could be taken as a tongue-in-cheek description of some Cage-inspired aesthetic practices of the early 1960s, particularly in the context of Fluxus. The theorist of the role of boredom in Fluxus is Dick Higgins. “The use, in Fluxus format works, of boredom became not so much a structural factor as an implicit factor, as, for example, when Jackson Mac Low proposed a project, a film which, for financial reasons was not executed (but which was widely published). The film was to be made of a tree on which the camera would be trained from the start of light to the end of light in the course of a single day. This film would clearly have been more environmental than entertaining, cinematic or educational. One would relate to it in direct proportion to the ability to look with concentration at it. Boring? Of course; if one were to ignore the more intense activity involved, which one might call ‘super-boring,’ and which took one beyond the initial level of simple boredom.”[25] The Mac Low film of course immediately recalls some of Warhol’s cinematic work from the 1960s, such as Sleep or Empire—and in fact Maciunas pointed out Warhol’s “plagiarism” in 1969.[26]


Bik Van der Pol, Sleep With Me, 1997. Courtesy: the artist and Duende, RotterdamBik Van der Pol, Sleep With Me, 1997. Courtesy: the artist and Duende, Rotterdam


It is significant that Warhol’s Sleep was incorporated into installations by younger artists during the 1990s, in the context of “relational” practice. Pierre Huyghe’s Sleeptalking (1998) projected the film in one room, while an adjacent room (with a window through which one could see the film) contained an audio monologue by John Giorno, who was Warhol’s “actor” in that film, reminiscing about the 1960s. The other piece, Bik Van der Pol’s Sleep With Me (1997), is an installation in which people can lie down on mattresses and watch the film or sleep with it/through it. In this case, the circle has in a sense been completed: sleep produces a boring or “super-boring” viewing experience, which is in turn transmuted into more sleep. Furthermore, this sleep, like Giorno’s but on a more collective basis, has been made productive: it is part of an art event and as such an exemplary manifestation of the time of continuous performance.

While sleep, according to Crary, is under attack because it is a reservation of unproductive life that is subjected to various forms of biopolitical primitive accumulation, various expert and non-expert authors argue that boredom can actually be productive, and important for kids’ development. “Some experts say that people tune things out for good reasons, and that over time boredom becomes a tool for sorting information—an increasingly sensitive spam filter. In various fields including neuroscience and education, research suggests that falling into a numbed trance allows the brain to recast the outside world in ways that can be productive and creative at least as often as they are disruptive.”

It would no doubt be possible to make a similar case for sleep. In fact, Franco “Bifo” Berardi appears to do just that in a gloss on the Italian Autonomists’ version of the Lafargian motif, with their “refusal to work” rhetoric: “Refusal of work means quite simply: I don’t want to go to work because I prefer to sleep. But this laziness is the source of intelligence, of technology, of progress. Autonomy is the self-regulation of the social body in its independence and in its interaction with the disciplinary norm.”[27] Here, laziness and sleep are in fact seen as productive forces, but one should be careful to distinguish Berardi’s version of “intelligence, technology and progress” from their perverted, “actually existing” incarnation in contemporary hyper-capitalism. Crary, of course, rejects this kind of psychic productivism, proposing a type of anachronic resistance on the basis of surviving premodern behavior patterns.



In modernity, the past surviving into the present was often seen in terms of the dead weight of tradition; the nightmare of history. Thinkers like Freud, Warburg and Benjamin were highly attentive to various psycho-social and/or visual “survivals,” such as neurotic repetitions of primeval events, anachronistic Pathosformeln, or historicist repetitions, but these were seen in a highly ambiguous light. At worst, they oppressed and perverted the mind and social life, creating a Kerkerwelt (“prison world”), to use a nice Benjaminian phrase). Of course, certain repetitions might in fact explode this Kerkerwelt, creating a revolutionary Jetztzeit or now-time.[28]

If the notion of the contemporary has been the object of much theoretical effort in recent years, as in the work of Giorgio Agamben, it is precisely to arrive at a “non-presentist, multi-temporal” understanding of contemporaneity, as Claire Bishop puts it.[29] Con-temporaneity as anachronic, as a layering and clashing of different temporalities, and as such also opening up history—being not in strict opposition to “the past” but in fact a crossroads of pasts and futures. The temporality of the contemporary that we experience and co-produce on a daily basis thus has a (potential) historical dimension. Suddenly, for instance, a 19th-century short story with a dysfunctional protagonist can appear contemporaneous, for all its and his otherness: a comrade of time.

What is the potential of the outmoded? What is the potentiality of survivals within the layered time-zone that is the contemporary? In a protracted and layered critique of Agamben, Georges Didi-Huberman has critiqued the latter for ultimately not living up to his understanding of the contemporary as fractured and conflict-ridden, and instead offering an apocalyptic and “de-dialecticized” diagnosis of the present.[30] A particular bone of contention is Agamben’s Debordianism; contemporary capitalism has established a total(itarian) rule, and images have no longer any real anachronic potential, being part of the spectacle.[31] If images are so powerless, then people cannot fare much better. By contrast, Didi-Huberman—following in the footsteps of Warburg, Freud and Benjamin—attempts to “liberate” the time of images and of the subjects that are entangled with them. On the other hand, there is the danger of fetishizing and romanticizing such survivals—say, in the form of sleep—when in fact time is indeed increasingly homogeneous, the “real time” of instant feedback, of 24/7 media and just-in-time production, of stock market fluctuations and speculations.


Andreas Siekmann, Trickle Down. Der öffentliche Raum im Zeitalter seiner Privatisierung, 2007. Courtesy: Galeria Barbara Weiss, BerlinAndreas Siekmann, Trickle Down. Der öffentliche Raum im Zeitalter seiner Privatisierung, 2007. Courtesy: Galeria Barbara Weiss, Berlin


As Agamben has stressed, on the basis of ancient and modern theorists of potentiality (Aristotle and Schelling), potentiality has two forms: the potentiality to be and the potentiality to not-be. The latter, the potentiality to not pass ad actum, is a potentia potentiae. Contemporary capitalism instills us all to “live up to our potential” by getting with the program, by playing the game, by giving it everything. By contrast, as Agamben states, Melville’s character of Bartleby, “a scribe who does not simply cease writing but ‘prefers not to,’” could be seen as the example of the this second potential, a withholding.[32] In his essay on the contemporary “society of exhaustion,” Byung-Chul Han has taken exception with Agamben’s “onto-theological” interpretation.[33] Han too focuses on the potency of not-doing, as opposed to mere impotence, but argues that Bartleby’s “preference” to not-do and to wither away and ultimately die does not amount to any form of liberation. Still, the phrase “I would prefer not to” has developed a potential in its own right, becoming an autonomous slogan and functioning almost like an image, like a textual Pathosformel—even making it onto T-shirts.

Thus Bartleby, or Bartleby’s phrase, exists in a now-time for many of today’s real-time, just-in-time workers. But does its potential remain just that? Do we ultimately prefer to “not do” anything with it and about it? What are the possibilities and the limitations of an anachronistic politics and aesthetics of boredom, sleep, laziness, and “preferring not to?” The imperative to perform non-stop is insidious; we are constantly reminded that we may miss out altogether if we don’t get with the program. Recently, Nobel Prize winner Peter Higgs noted that “Today, I wouldn’t get an academic job. It’s as simple as that. I don’t think I would be regarded as productive enough.”[34] He would, in other words, be seen as slothful, and rejected in favor of more promising and productive candidates. Today’s academia is marked by a drive for quantification and control; immaterial labor needs to become measurable. The increasing integration of art in the academic system, with the rise of artistic PhD programs, is another example of this. The seeming paradox is that we are dealing with a form of labor that is already beyond measure, that is intensified and permanent (24/7). However, what is measured is not temporal input (as in the days of punch cards) but output. When a university transforms its offices into “flex-work stations” with a “clean-desk-policy,” the hidden agenda seems to be to make sure that employees stay away from the office as much as possible—making the whole world their potential office.

In the edu-factory, as elsewhere, “associations of liberated time” need to be formed that go beyond individual qualms about the system’s insane extension and intensification of labor—qualms that must remain inefficient if they remain individual. While it is obvious that an aesthetic-political liberation of time will never be linear, and is always ready to collapse under the contradictory temporal demands made on its various participants, this does not make the project any less crucial and urgent. A genuine “association of liberated time” should not only comprise artists and academics, but also their less visible counterparts: migrants workers performing jobs that combine rote routine with the “dynamic” precarity of neoliberalism, or illegal sans-papiers whose motto is a state-imposed “never work,” as they are forbidden from “taking away jobs” and terrorized into boredom while struggling to find a place to sleep.[35]



[1] “Economy of time, to this all economy ultimately reduces itself.” Karl Marx, Grundrisse, Notebook 1, the chapter on Money (part II),
[2] Herman J. Schuurman, “Werken is Misdaad” (1924), insert in Els van Daele, De Mokergroep. Hoe de opstandige jeugd in de roerige jaren twintig de libertaire beweging in beroering bracht (Amsterdam: De Dolle Hond, 2008); quoted from English edition, “Work is Crime,” in Els van Daele, “De Moker” Group: The rebellious youth in the Dutch libertarian movement of the roaring twenties (Amsterdam: Roofdruk Edities, 2013), pp. 8-9.
[3] Els van Daele was part of a circle of archivist-activists around the IISH in Amsterdam, whose doyen was Arthur Lehning. In Arthur Lehning in 1974 – een homage (Leiden: Brill, 1974), her homage to Lehning immediately precedes Debord’s. Debord admired her postscript of her Dutch translation of Gianfranco Sanguinetti’s Del terrorismo e dello stato (see various 1981 letters in Debord, Correspondance volume 6, janvier 1979-décembre 1987 [Paris: Arthème Fayard, 2006], pp. 105, 113, 121), which was published in French translation in the second volume of the Correspondance of Champ Libre (Paris: Champ Libre, 1981), pp. 118-124. De Dolle Hond used Van Daele’s Dutch translation of Debord’s preface to the fourth edition of The Society of the Spectacle for its edition.
[4] Debord claimed the authorship in a 1963 letter to the Cercle de la Librairie (27 June, 1963). See Debord, Correspondance volume 2, septembre 1960–décembre 1964 (Paris: Fayard, 2001), 244–247.
[5] Paul Lafargue, Het recht op luiheid. Weerlegging op ‘het recht op arbeid’ van 1848 (1883), trans. Anton Constandse (Amsterdam: De Dolle Hond, 2010).
[6] Mladen Stilinovi?, “The Praise of Laziness”,
Stilinovi? does not reference Lafargue directly, but he does discuss Malevich’s text “Laziness: The Real Truth of Mankind,” which is clearly indebted to Lafargue.
[7] Francis Wheen, Karl Marx (London: Fourth Estate, 1999), p. 291.
[8] Paul Lafargue, The Right to Be Lazy, chapter IV,
[9] Lafargue, chapter II,
[10] Lafargue, chapter II.
[11] Lafargue, chapter II.
[12] Lafargue, chapter IV.
[13] See also Dan Graham, “McLaren’s Children” (1981-88) in Rock My Religion: Writings and Art Projects 1965-1990, ed. Brian Wallis (Cambridge MA/London: MIT Press, 1993), pp. 142-161.
[14] See
[15] Pierre Huyghe, quoted in exhib. cat. Pierre Huyghe (München etc.: Kunstverein München etc., 2000), p. 179.
[16] Exhib. cat. Pierre Huyghe, p. 191.
[17] Slothism is part of a group of works from 2008 dealing with Futurism, futurity, speed and deceleration, triggered by Visser’s participation in the Manifesta in Trent, where she realized the work Former Futures I, which evoked lost Futurist windows in the former post office.
[18] Jonathan Crary, 24/7 (London: Verso, 2013), p. 11.
[19] Crary, pp. 61-89.
[20] Crary, p. 128.
[21] Zack Katz, “Boredom Leads to Productivity,” 27 February 2013,
[22] Thorin Klosowski, “The Holy Trinity of Inactivity: How Boredom, Distraction, and Procrastination Are Vital to Healthy Living,” 19 September 2012,
[23] Elizabeth S. Goodstein, Experience Without Qualities: Boredom and Modernity (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005), p. 3.
[24] Raoul Vaneigem, The Revolution of Everyday Life (1967), introduction,
[25] Dick Higgins, “Boredom and Danger” (1966), in: foew&ombwhnw (New York etc.: Something Else Press, 1969), p. 105
[26] George Maciunas, “Some Comments on Structural Film by P. Adams Sitney, (Film Culture no. 47, 1969)” (1969),
[27] Franco “Bifo” Berardi, “What Is the Meaning of Autonomy Today” (2003),
[28] The expression Kerkerwelt is from “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1936); the concept of Jetztzeit is of course theorized in the “Theses on the Concept of History” (1940).
[29] Claire Bishop, Radical Museology or, What’s “Contemporary” in Museums of Contemporary Art? (London: Koenig, 2013), p. 23. See also Giorgio Agamben, ‘What is the Contemporary” in “What Is an Apparatus?” and Other Essays, trans. David Kishik and Stefan Pedatella (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009), pp. 39-54.
[30] Georges Didi-Huberman, Survivance des lucioles (Paris: Minuit, 2009), p. 87.
[31] Didi-Huberman, Survivance des lucioles, pp. 81-91.
[32] Giorgio Agamben, The Coming Community, trans. Michael Hardt (Minneapolis/London: university of Minnesota Press, 1993), pp. 35-37. See also Giorgio Agamben, Bartleby oder die Kontingenz, gefolgt von Die absolute Immanenz, trans. Maria Zinfert and Andreas Hiepko (Berlin: Merve, 1998), pp. 7-75.
[33] Byung-Chul Han, Müdigkeitsgesellschaft (Berlin: Mattes & Seitz, 2010), p. 51.
[34] Decca Aitkenhead, “Peter Higgs: I wouldn’t be productive enough for today’s academic system,” in The Guardian, 6 December 2013,
[35] One example worth discussing in this context—but it will have to wait for another occasion—is Jonas Staal’s collaboration with the refugee group We Are Here in the context of his New World Academy.


Originally published on Mousse 42 (February–March 2014)

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Beaded Affairs: Igshaan Adams
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Mousse 74
The Swamp of Masculinity: Florian Krewer
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A Sculpture Looking at You Whilst Touching Itself: Jesse Wine
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