Extracts From The Counsel of Spent

By Inventory, 28 September 2018
Image: The Shard, London, c.2016

Drawing upon the divagating adventures of the fondly missed Inventory journal (1995-2005), Inventory have authored a new book in a series commissioned by Nina Power for Book Works. We have taken the opportunity to preview this cavalier text that traverses the cosmological scale and the anxieties of everyday survival under latest capitalism. This is the counsel of spent, asking how far we must be pushed as a species, as a planet, and how much more must be tolerated in the interests of ‘survival’ before we awake and understand that there is no natural evolution under capitalism?




Towards the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century, the latest in a long line of radio telescopes was flung into space. It was then manoeuvred into a Lissajous orbit, anchored by the gravitational pull of the Earth’s trajectory around the Sun whilst sheltering from the Sun’s rays. Enshrouded in perpetual night, the satellite was ideally placed to be able to stare out into the larger universe far beyond our solar system.

The highly sensitive on-board instruments spent many months in search of the most detailed picture yet of the cosmic microwave background, the relic black body thermal radiation from the earliest observable period of time in the chronology of the universe. Yet, in order to achieve this picture, the satellite’s instruments measured light emissions at wider frequency ranges, in more bands, and at higher sensitivities that allowed a much more accurate separation of different light sources. So, even though this telescope was positioned in a fixed point in time and space, it was in fact receiving information from across time and across space. Its gaze was such that it penetrated through various strata that layer the universe, separating foreground sources such as the Milky Way, filtering tiny fluctuations of light from other star-forming regions, to finally arrive at the cosmic microwave background, the oldest light in the universe. This light has been travelling towards us for 13.8 billion years, a light that was formed 380,000 years after the Big Bang, a fossil that has imprinted upon it the residues and traces of the building blocks from which stars and galaxies eventually formed.

This ancient light set out on its journey long before we came into being, and now that we are here it continues to radiate outside of our perception of it, independently of our life-cycle and the affairs of human civilisation. In all probability it may continue to emit its cosmic waves long after we have ceased to exist; an ancient time that coexists in the past, present and future time.

Image: Planck Cosmic Microwave Background, ESA and Plank Collaboration, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

What service has this separation performed? Perhaps such celestial strata and our varying responses to them show the subtle changes, effects and interplay between the ‘manifest image’ we have of ourselves, our surroundings and the confrontation with the, often intuitive, scientific image. Although, as Jacques Rancière has noted, it is also a question of recognising how and for whom science speaks, and in this regard astronomy is at the summit because:

It is the science that sensually or sensibly separates sensible experience from itself. But this separation itself can be understood in two opposite ways. It is the knowledge that strips the sky of its religious veil and deprives superstition of the prestige it places in the service of the established order.

But it is also, conversely, the knowledge of the immutable order that confounds the vain pretensions of men to change the course of things. And, sure enough, the gravitational attraction that imposes the same laws upon the revolutions of the stars as upon falling objects here on earth only redoubles this ambivalence. Is not the order of the heavens stripped of its difference only at the price of reinforcing the immutability of sub lunar events?

Capitalism aspires to be such an absolute, separated from yet bound to the logical necessities that constructed the satellite that, in turn, enabled the acquisition of heretofore unavailable information that, once processed and evaluated according to current theoretical frameworks, will provide a richer and clearer picture of the universe. This resultant image may equally provoke a partial undermining of those frameworks, those logical necessities. Perhaps it may soon be possible to establish that there was no singular ‘Big Bang’ at all. Science not only reveals: it is also like a god in that it can make what has been – not have been. Our picture of the celestial canopy is a tapestry that is continually being woven and unwoven. For Bataille, this is the distinctive valueof knowledge because ‘it depends on its ability to make any conclusive image of the universe impossible. Knowledge destroys fixed notions and this continuing destruction is its greatness, or more precisely, its truth.’1

A meteorite threads its way through space: is it conscious, not of zero gravity, but of the metal dwarf that clings to its surface? That whispers in its ear ‘tell me everything... for I cannot live without it’? An unadulterated and pure curiosity is difficult to sustain without an additional motive other than to simply know, without speculating, assembling propositions and building upon them. Frequently we have succumbed to, rather than examining, the dominant feeling that by staring into an abyss, the abyss stares back at you. The initial sense of wonder that the ‘Earthrise’ photograph, taken by astronaut William Anders during the Apollo 8 mission to orbit the moon, also gave way to feelings of disquiet.

This snapshot and subsequent images, such as ‘The Blue Marble’, brought home the sobering realisation of a helpless fragile unity suspended in a black lifeless void. An awareness that, apart from galvanising the environmental movement, has yet to summon the sort of holistic, long-term, political thought and action that could fundamentally alter the manner in which we live. The solace and awe provided by the religious cupolas that we once looked up to, now give way to the view from the International Space Station that looks down upon us. This closer, partial yet intimate image of our planet, framed by the module interior and often with a human presence, may be seen as a form of visual initiation, a preparation for the next phase in the inexorable process of separation. It is a view from where rigorous and indispensable experiments are conducted, which are necessary in order to defy everything, our biology, our environment, to make and remake ourselves, so as to develop and adapt for an eventual farewell.

Conveniently downplaying its ideological role under capitalism, progress adopts a guise of unanimous, altruistic ambition, apparently uncomplicated by society, politics and history, offering the colonial promise of new frontiers to plunder, of starting over afresh oblivious to the cost and those who will bear it, a future nevertheless sustained by the same eternal economic imperatives.

The astonishing element of Kubrick’s 2001 was not the speculation that our development was aided by an unseen extraterrestrial force. Rather that it was simply accepted as given that humankind’s evolutionary journey from ape to star child would be borne by a commercial carrier and space terminal replete with Hilton hotels and restaurant outlets. Only a revolutionary politics could possibly counter this picture of capitalist inevitability and offer a radical alternative route for the future.

This would no longer mean averting our gaze from terrestrial problems and placing our faith in an image of ‘out there’ as a manifest destiny of interstellar worlds to colonise and tame, even though we have barely begun to prepare ourselves for such a task. Initially, it would involve a political challenge to the global, social and political stratification that has already taken place – this celestial, hierarchical, inevitability that creates the conditions for further capitalist expansion.

Whereby this notion of our ‘species ambition’ is a purposefully simplified argument that is easily won, far from the level of immediate aspiration for self and family, yet almost in accord with it, because it is characterised as an endeavour whose successful pursuit outweighs all measure.

A long-term struggle that is willingly carried by all in the name of a generalised, supposedly shared, universal hope; it is only in the intervening layers, closer to home although not across its threshold, at the level of our society itself, that our communal ambitions must suffer neglect, flounder and perish. For how can we legitimately leave this world where millions have not enough to eat, no shelter, no access to clean water; problems that can be solved with the resources and technology that we already possess; as the poet Gil Scott-Heron once said, ‘No hot water, no toilets, no lights, (but Whitey’s on the moon)’. […]

Image: Inventory, Untitled, c.2016



I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a recession. Encouraged to take on enormous personal debt, people are struggling, unemployed, clinging on to part-time, flexi-hour, zero-contract drudgery, or voluntarily accepting wage cuts to avoid losing their jobs. All the while we are told to ‘keep calm and carry on’ to the food bank. […]

Before you decide to make a stand, you have to let go of the delusion that you have a stake in the current order of things. Identifying yourself as part of the 99% is not a sufficient social and political allegiance. If you hang on to the idea that, one day, you will be allowed to dine at the top table, or that order will be restored once the student debt campaign has been won, then that will be the day when you have compromised yourself and made a miserable deal with power.

Contrast this with the riots of 2011, criticised by both left and right alike as a chav rebellion. Ungrateful scum with an exaggerated sense of entitlement, the rioters attacked their own neighbourhoods, looted and burnt the symbols that make their lives so much better – Cash Converters, JD Sports, Carphone Warehouse and betting shops. They wanted little more than the brief sensation that anything was possible. This was their ‘dirty protest’ – soiling the prison walls that had been constructed for them. In order to communicate as these events unfolded, they instinctively utilised the ‘freedom’ offered by mobile telephony and Web 2.0 – an interaction that proved to be nothing more than an open prison – Facebook and ‘cell’ phones acted like electronic tags leading to immediate arrest.

The Internet, a refracting prism of power relations: yet another public space colonised by a society of surveillance, spectacle and distraction. Where interactivity is reduced to its crudest banality – to ‘like’ something. It’s the new coliseum, bread and circuses where everyone has the opportunity to be a little Caesar giving the thumbs up or thumbs down. Unwitting labourers in a never-ending consumer survey, haplessly producing data to be stored, collated and mined. Nevertheless a dissident subjectivity can take root in each one of us if it is motivated by committed comradeship and a desire radically opposed to mere survivalism.

We must redirect this exaggerated sense of entitlement, the divine right of the ruling elite, towards a selfless, living democracy whose birthright belongs to all. A cry so dumbfounding that it will strike fear at the very heart of power.

Images: Inventory, Two views of the city, c.2017

You have to teach yourself exile. You have to lose the idea that a controlled, administered, and more equitable capitalism will result in justice for all. You cannot reform a system that is dependent upon credit and debt, endless growth, and the perpetual search for profit. The rich have already prepared their safe havens; the City of London understands the threat of insurrection. The Remembrancer, the archaic figure who sits behind the Speaker’s Chair clutching the Civil Contingencies Act, protecting the City with the Multi-Hazard Emergency Action Plan – business continuity and disaster recovery – supply chain management and Internet provision. They are on a constant war footing and they will not hesitate to put down peaceful protest with violence. But there can be no resignation, no retreat.


Any attempt to call to account, expose, question or undermine must be positively embraced. We must skive, steal, and circumvent. Cultivate a recklessness that seeks no recompense other than to be done with the judgement of capitalism.



Image: The Windmill Hill enclosure in Wiltshire



If the Treasury were to fill old bottles with banknotes, bury them at suitable depths in disused coal mines which are then filled up to the surface with town rubbish, and leave it to private enterprise on well-tried principles of laissez-faire to dig the notes up again... there need be no more unemployment and, with the help of the repercussions, the real income of the community, and its capital wealth also, would probably become a good deal greater than it actually is.

– John Maynard Keynes


There have been many interpretations of the Neolithic period based upon scant evidence, nevertheless we will make a cavalier attempt to play with what facts may exist. Causewayed enclosures represent perhaps the first trace of humankind’s repeated attempts to come to terms with, and therefore master, the environment. The Windmill Hill enclosure in Wiltshire is composed of three concentric ditches and mounds. Within the inner circle deposits of human and animal bone, along with broken pottery, have been found. […] [A]lthough the interior circles surely offer evidence of communal solidarity, shared resources and culture, there is also a frightening consciousness that must also be held in check. It is perhaps no accident that human and animal bone lie buried together within these concentric graves – the recognition of the possibility of becoming animal is ever present. Along with the broken earthenware traces of Homo faber, the template of humanity is cast.

Although, over time, we have found other customs with which to treat our dead, the manner in which we dispose of the detritus of everyday existence, our objects and commodities, all the cultivated fruits of our civilisation, has remained remarkably similar. Reminiscent of the interred fragments of pottery, arrowheads and jewellery, modern landfill is the long barrow for our age. Yet it serves an opposite function, for it is not an act of remembrance but of forgetting.

At its most pragmatic, landfill is a testament to the inbuilt obsolescence (or forgetting) desired by capitalism in order to maintain the endless search for further growth. However, if we dig deeper, we could say that this burial represents the active suppression of the excess, the remainder, the unaccountable anomaly that persists in all human endeavour.

At the register of the history of ideas and technological development, there is an intellectual landfill of extinct ideas, concepts and inventions that were snuffed out by the rigours of the capitalist ecosystem, precisely because they did not assist in the evolution of further capitalist growth and development. The master illusion is one of capitalism as the great evolutionary enabler where only the best ideas naturally survive, yet plenty of examples show that this is clearly not the case. There is the famous example of the qwerty keyboard layout which, although vastly inferior to the rival Dvorak system, dominated as a result of the economic power, marketing and technical support that typewriter manufacturer Remington was able to muster.

Capitalism is deeply inefficient and will squander resources, goods and people, only because it would cost to act differently. The supposed flexibility and mutable qualities that are attributable to capitalism exist only in its pursuit of new and novel ways in which to materialise and extract profits. Surplus production, people, resources, technologies, etc., must be squandered, buried, suppressed in order to continue the search for further growth. As Keynes noted ‘the form of digging holes in the ground known as gold-mining, which not only adds nothing whatever to the real wealth of the world but involves the disutility of labour, is the most acceptable of all solutions.’ Capitalism is not interested in the general improvement of living conditions of humankind, it is not concerned with the development of civilisation, scientific and technological progress, it matters little that the earth’s resources are finite. These things are only of concern to capital when seen through the lens of the profit motive, and the creation of a value relation that can be bought and sold.

Image: GCHQ, Chelmsford

Yet everyone is index-linked into this system of value generation, through the need to sell one’s labour, through personal debt and a servile culture that is disciplined by an ideology of fear that subjugates all opposition. Our modern cultural constructions, like the Neolithic circles of former times, unconsciously persist with the ancient idea that culture acts as an opposing and civilising force to a hostile environment and as an internal interdiction of the violence within us. It is a way of coping with this unproductive excess that lies within and without.

Whereas, with the development of capitalism, we became unaware that this primal vision has gradually distorted itself to the needs of a capitalist culture that serves to pacify and tame, comfort and succour, to abstract and normalise the brutal social relations that we all come to accept as ‘the way it is’. Capitalism is a system of terror that has inculcated the neoliberal fear that, just as with the Neolithic, savagery lies outside its borders and that, if these perimeters were to be torn down, this would awaken an unimaginable violence within us. […]




Over long periods of geological time, palaeocontinental shifts and extreme volcanic and sub-oceanic volcanism spewed carbon dioxide that provoked progressive warming of the planet. This in turn summoned storms and torrential rain that swelled rivers, washing nutrients into the sea. Photosynthesising phyto-plankton, the microscopic organisms proliferating in the upper levels of the water column, engaged in the incessant struggle to multiply and evolve, explode and bloom by absorbing the nitrogen and carbon. With the absence of Arctic poles to re-oxygenate the seawater, the stagnating seabed produces hydrogen sulphide generating an anoxic extinction event, suffocating the ancient seas of all oceanic life.

The plankton wither and die, their tiny bodies falling, sprinkling, and amassing a thick sedimentary layer on the ocean floor. Volcanic activity subsides, yet the process of sedimentation continues, the thick black band of decaying carbon-rich microorganisms is slowly entombed by other geologic material. Over millions of years, the weight of accumulating earth crushes and boils this seam, transforming it into a thick yellowy- black liquid, enabling it to bleed and migrate according to tectonic movements, the anticline folds, fissures and porosity of its surrounding rock, forming entrapped reservoirs when it can move no further. Much of the source rock for oil is a result of this extraordinary combination of events that spanned the Mesozoic age. This was the dermatology of the earth, formed by events that we did not witness, had no role in, by forces independent of our consciousness. This is the moral of geology!

Only the index fossils, the molecular guides isolated by isotope analysis reveal the biomarkers of transition, the catastrophic seams traced with a fingertip, between which lies nothing but a moment, the boundary event between life and its extinction.

Image: Hans Haacke, Condensation Cube, 1965 and domestic damp, n.d.

Here I was born, and there I died. It was only a moment for you; you took no notice. Time past is present in every exhaust fume, every cremated algae. Time past and time future are introduced into time present the moment you turn the ignition key, the moment you open the refrigerator door, revealing the polypropylene food container that encloses a growing culture within.

Shatter our double-glazed cell! The padded cell of self-imposed house arrest. ‘We got the whole building done last year for half the price, front and back.’ For what? To cut out the outside world, its manifold whispered breath expiring on sheets of polished glass and white plastic. A constant, artificial lunar module of regulated temperature all year round. We pull down the blinds, curl up in a onesie and watch the spoon-fed crap on telly while the world around us could be engulfed in the flames of alien invasion.

And so we fulfil our side of the bargain, ‘slash’ our energy bills (while they crank up the price year on year), deface our buildings, so that the last foetid dribbles of fossil fuel can fund the status quo, keep the oil-, gas- and coal-rich nations wealthy for another year before it all runs out. Rich from this muck they call ‘mineral’ oil as if embarrassed of its true origins; the distilled remnant of prehistoric landfill! Billions of tons of dead animal and vegetable matter, exotic long extinct species, slowly decaying, reducing, reeking like the garum sauce of ancient Rome.

Image: (above) Belas Knap long barrow, Winchcombe (below) Fracking site, unknown location

Day after day, without a second thought we awaken the nascent energy of millennia, crank up the turbines, let the street lights flicker on the last near-spent remnants of the Carboniferous and Devonian ages, the horsetails, clubmosses, ferns, zooplankton, ammonites and trilobites whose ghosts teem in the fuel tanks and power plants of all great cities; all those conurbations stretching like Christmas-glittering shanty towns throughout the night; streets of bungalows lambent with ancient light strung like phosphorescent garlands across the surface of the earth to enchant the dispassionate electronic eyes of orbiting satellites.

Need we mention that the very plastics we depend upon also share this animal lineage: by-products of the petrochemical industry, broken down and reformed, monstrously deformed, they still maintain a direct origin to the mountains of decaying flora and fauna of millions of years ago. UPVC windows: the bastardised and neutered final product of a process that began with the piles of rotting mouth parts, shells, legs, tentacles, and internal organs of past ages… Gas! An antique fart of millennial maturity. Coal! A frangible halva of rot. Oil! The black distillation of aeons of ordure.

Now, as this noxious fug hangs in the air, and the planet gradually recalibrates its climate towards temperatures that were once known to the Triassic, another extinction event appears to be underway.

Like the plankton and micro-bacteria, we have now begun to realise our role as prime catalyst in the continuing evolution of the planet. A role that, within a geological timescale, may be as brief as it is consequential. Maybe, from the perspective of deep time, the capitalist period itself was only ever an extinction event: how could it be otherwise? Some would prefer to contemplate the course of humanity itself as one all-too-brief episode, as we are constantly reminded that it is easier to imagine the apocalypse than a revolution. In fact, it is not so simple. If we allow that the film industry, the soft power of Hollywood, represents the collective unease of the body politic, then we can see that, in recent years, ‘the end’, the apocalypse, is usually sudden, instantaneous and all-embracing, wiping out all in its path. It is never portrayed as an incremental, torturous and protracted decline; there is no spectacle in that, no shock and awe, no glorious ruins to be left behind.

Furthermore, amongst these ruins, there are always survivors, usually representing the nuclear family and the capitalist ethos, who will pick up the threads, carry on and restore continuity. This eschatological fear, that is summoned by the evidence of global warming, chimes in with the primordial fear of nature itself which first focused man’s mind on the task of harnessing the forces around him. The very forces of nature that make us feel vulnerable, towards which we can do nothing other than to adapt ourselves, to understand and, where possible, exploit them in accordance with our will.

Nevertheless, regardless of these anxieties, capitalism, in the endless search for economic growth, surplus and profit is on a relentless death drive. With science and technology instrumentalised in the service of capital, we mined and released the ancient corpses that had remained trapped, dormant for millennia. We absorbed them into our capitalist ecosystem as we transformed them into the plastic bottles that, once their short life was over, were entombed once more as landfill, or cast into the sea, where they eventually eroded to resemble their original form as millions of molecular fragments. From here, this remainder, the poisonous excess of production, escapes into a myriad of unforeseen future relationships, the most dangerous being the food chain itself.

There are those who would exploit ‘the fossil’ to further decentre ‘the human’ – as if this chump hadn’t been dislodged already! But no! It is not enough! We must progress by embracing the truly objective knowledge, which is completely independent of our agency. That is the only source of real truth! It must be cold and austere; therefore one must impose an ascetic renunciation of all enchantment. One must deny that it is the imagination, but merely the tank’s caterpillar tracks alone, that squeal and whine as it clambers over mountains of skulls. Nevertheless, one can detect the traces of a conceit, a supercilious delight in such a conclusion, maybe even a whiff of sulphurous romanticism that secretly hopes that, by pursuing the nihilistic embrace of ‘facticity’ as far as possible, this will initiate the presumed evolutionary overcoming of all pretensions to safeguarding any image of ‘human’ agency. For some, the only reason to destroy capitalism would be so that we can accelerate our technological evolution, our destiny – a notion that no serious scientist would share; they demand the right to evolve into glowing balls of pure energy, to pollute the scientific image of man with a seething Gothic misanthropy – all this is so much self-loathing whimsy, a masochistic rage against their own impotence, that only the middle class truly knows how to do well.


Ready to be any thing, in the extasie of being ever.

– Thomas Browne

I, Nemo, do this day command an end to this festering desire to dominate those around you, this need for recognition, the need to be Somebody… Middle-class striving, the thirst for minor celebrity, Geordie princess or orange-faced dancer!

The face on the magazine, the next big thing! From workhouse to workhouse in three generations, DNA tests and ancestral records provide much needed attention for celebrity Somebodies who discover embarrassing skeletons in closets; gypsy grannies, Jewish tailors, deported thieves, prostitutes, fishmongers and farm labourers... Nobodies!

As if we did not know that our common ancestor

was not Adam but a nameless club-wielding savage!

When Adam delved and Eve span who was then the

gentleman? Nemo, nobody, niemand!Nobody is my name, I bear everybody’s blame.

– Jörg Schan

Before the mass political movements of the nineteenth century but distinct from the millenarian libertines and egalitarian brethren of medieval revolt, I, Nemo, threaded my way through the broken crockery and ruined households of Europe, taking with me the bitter blame and shame of society’s bad conscience, the whipping boy of bad faith, censored and accursed, forced to keep the truth from being spoken:

But now beholde, here I am

whom all the worlde doeth deffame,

Long have they also skorned me

and locked my mouthe for speking free.

– Jörg Schan

Now the lock has been broken and the truth uttered, but with it the abstraction of political science has named me, calling me the common man, the people, everyman. And with this naming I have been tamed, deprived of individual action, of opposition, of contradiction. Making me Somebody! That I never will be.

I am Nobody...

For the state the underclass is simply a category for the undefinable, a mixed bag of limited political use, illegal immigrants, a criminalised subculture, second-generation benefit claimants; some apolitical, some apathetic, ever-shifting ever- mutating, of unknown number, unaccountable… Dangerous.

Look for me there.

The riot without cause, the unmotivated or unsolved crime, the graffiti, the wanton destruction: for these I bear the blame because nobody can answer back...

But I am more than this:

I am the crowd behind the front rank, the off-camera looter, the nurse behind the doctor, the copper with a conscience, I take food from the bins and leave bread for the pigeons, I am the one who stepped in that dog shit before you, the one whose other glove is left on the fence.

I am the grey area, uncategorised, unrecognised, oppositional. Nobody will answer back, Nobody knows his potential...

Nobody cares.



Image: Inventory, Perfect Harm, c.2016

Contemporary Art, the Capitalist Inquisition Against Heresy

[…] I saw a strange and frightening winged beast hovering in the sky, blocking out the Sun. It spoke and said that it was an ‘ArtAngel’ and that it had come to cleanse the population. Seemingly benevolent at first, its gaze turned upon the working class... Then, the Angel flew north and wept false tears for the miners as it forced them to re-enact their battles, their struggles, it made them live their defeats over and over again for the delectation of the bourgeoisie. The battle of Orgreave was re-engineered, via a one-man Blairite ‘truth and reconciliation committee’ into the effective

neutralisation of all past, present and potential class conflict. All that was painful and heartfelt becomes simultaneously pacified and retouched as it is refracted through the reactionary lens of historical re-enactment societies, stained and tainted by the appeal to the quaint, the eccentric and the amateur. Not only did they lose their livelihoods, they would be forced to suffer further indignity by becoming the exhumed corpse of middle-class hand-wringing, manipulated and re-employed in the form of cultural entertainment. As a result of the Angel’s actions, more vultures encircled the miners, everyone wanting a piece: West End musicals, Gay Pride, Billy fucking Elliot, heart-warming tales with amusing asides, tragic interludes concluding with salutary lessons learnt; it makes so much meat out of the soul.

But the beast was not content with this debasement, the ArtAngel then turned towards South London in its unquenchable appetite for class war. Here it found abandoned apartments, municipal dwellings, evicted proles. The Angel chose an empty home and transformed the interior into crystal. Once more it cynically wept, wallowing in melancholy, lamenting the failed modernist architectural project, its idealistic pursuit of egalitarian social values, and its utopian aspirations. Such a foolhardy delusion! No, these habitations must be shown for what they are, in order to justify their oblivion; merely remote curiosities, ghetto-grottos, Cheddar Gorge meets Lascaux, the spectacular ossified mineralisation of antiquated working class, a quaint archaism of prehistoric socialist ideals! So it came to pass that the culture class recognised the Angel’s lamentation and they gathered and joined the Angel’s mournful song while buying up refitted ex-council apartments in Lasdun tower blocks.

And the ArtAngel said it was good and so decided to dwell in this place a little longer, spreading its wings, casting a long shadow over Elephant and Castle, a district of London where mass evictions were underway, a major ‘regeneration project’ whereby housing projects were to be demolished to make way for perfect harmony. But before the new luxury glass towers could be built, it became necessary to placate and soothe this passage with contemporary art.

Inventory, 9000 Bodies, poster, c.2016

Thus the ArtAngel appeared to an artist, whispered deceptions and manipulated him to propose the construction of an enormous pyramid from the remains of working-class homes. An idolatrous structure that would be the final insult to the evicted, to all workers left in the capital — kneel and embrace your Pharaoh! But the community rose up with one voice and the Angel fled. Not before silencing the population, so that no one dared speak of what had occurred. Because the gentrification must continue, with contemporary art as its handmaiden, remodelling and redecorating homes into real estate, places that were once communities must be hollowed out as lifestyles with no living resonance.

Despite this defeat, gentle authors and bloggers heard the song of the ArtAngel and took up its task, and they went out and wandered around with camera phones, that act like a knife in the back, in the desperate attempt to make the city strange, romanticising street markets, greasy spoon cafés and eccentric ‘ordinary people’, all the while augmenting the bovine callousness that makes spikes grow on window ledges and in the doorways of apartment blocks. The fixed wheel, flat white mentality that refuses to see that their pop-up restaurant is as much a symptom as a poor door.

I did not want this vision, I had hoped something would remove it from my mind’s eye, I had longed for a lake of ale, yet with a single shot of spirit, my troubled mind found itself on the warwagon, presented with images of casemates, hornworks and bastions! Stevinus-Sisyphus! Siegecraft! What is the exact force required to move an object up the inclined plane, to find the kingdom within that is touched by neither rust nor moth? How to build the universal living-thing-hood through the rejection of greed-driven self-love? My soul flew high above me and there I saw an immense citadel built within the fortress of London.


If gentrification is an act of enclosure, we cannot, in turn, desperately ring-fence what little public space is left. Let us go out and take back what belongs to us all. Occupation of the city’s squares is the art of attrition – siegecraft! Like the Bagration flèches before the armies of Napoleon we will recapture and withstand. We will wither and waste the forces thrown against our walls and bastions of material indifference!


Gracián teaches us that ‘defective execution is less harmful than infirmity of purpose’. Because there is no need to get mad, no need to become angry or violent, first we must free ourselves from fear, the fear of debt and loss, the terror that is the engine of survival.

The renunciation of survival leads to as yet unknown experience, stepping off the apex, entering the tumult. From the six streets at the Royal Exchange, a star is formed. A citadel formed by exiled minds that have allowed the shackles to fall, there they stand, as a calm redoubt of refusal that rejects the free market manacles that render all enslaved. We become the possessors of radical chains, a simple and defiant refusal. We are NObody – we have no desire to assume power, to be somebody, only a collective, an interconnected series of councils, communes and neighbourhoods – only a kinship of souls who have finally found a way to assert themselves with a loyal understanding that heretofore would have been thought of as only possible within the falsehoods of blood ties, nationalisms, gender or race.

Unlike the rich, we have no property to inherit, nothing to pass on. We have but one, only one gift to give – and such a force can only be given as an ensemble – with clear-eyed generosity, perfectly prepared to be everything by risking all that we have left to give, through our fidelity to one another in the pursuit of a truly communal, communistic society.

An absolute refusal of the mantras of labour, profit, austerity and so many other words that mask only one: exploitation. A sedentary rejection of all capitalist values, a position that we will not relinquish until the police and the military have laid down their arms, until all corporate and governmental institutions have capitulated.


It cannot be a temporary, half-hearted gesture. It must be resolute, long-term and brave. For such a force will be met with violence, the full strength of the capitalist machine. People will be attacked and killed by government forces, the administrative police of capitalism, you will be called terrorists, traitors and thugs because they are frightened of you.

Images: Seige machines

Yet this oppositional enclosure is built from bare life, from which nothing more can be extracted, taken, put to use. If you really desire change, then there is nothing more to lose; because nearly everything you have has already been spent on mere survival. It is an energy that has been felt from the riots before, but now it is assembled, concentrated and focused within the heart of the city itself, a spatial Satyagraha, a determined strength, whose fortifications are one immense inner emigration that will refuse any victory other than the destruction of capitalism itself. […]



This book you hold in your hands is filled with uncertainty, fury, resignation, defiance, pessimism and as such is necessarily incomplete. Because it cannot offer anything more than an imaginative perspective upon a terrain that has been covered countless times before. In fact, there is a veritable industry of authors, bloggers and public speakers, artists, philosophers, sociologists, activists, etc., continuously circulating, feeding off of an audience hungry for change, who not only want to make sense of things but also wish to intervene and alter the course of the death drive of capitalism and destroy it.

We seek nothing more than to add our voice but, like many others, we don’t want to feed off this discontent, we don’t wish to be seen as part of this industry. A production house of theory producers, concept generators and thinkers that, like a self-help manual or spectacular capital itself, wants you to believe you can have it all, that, like Žižek, you can wage your personal assaults upon capital then retire to bed with two litres of Coca-Cola and clutch of DVDs.

Personally speaking, we are sick of the sound of the last post, of post-human, post-work, post-capitalism, post-truth! The implicit retreat in the face of a corporate state capitalism whose forces are always painted as overwhelming, that technology will inevitably reform the continual exploitation and dispossession of one class by another. Many technocrats now see the job of protest as finding solutions for capitalist injustice as if it was simply a matter of updating the software rather than deleting the program. A question of repositioning and repurposing by those who have supposedly seen the future and have decided that, in the interests of their class, there are some necessary functions, some higher evolutionary imperative, that we cannot afford to lose. Therefore, in spite of all the reshuffling, despite repeated attempts to expunge the eschatological and transcendental within every field of investigation there is always room for a prophet who can’t help but be retroactive, a fortune teller in reverse, a betrayed sovereignty, an eternal treadmill that selects past events, aligns them with a weak prospectus of the future and quarantines them under the moniker ‘post’.

If we are to have any sense of ambition, to seize the future, then it must be anticipatory. We are not philosophers, writers or even artists in the conventional sense of the term, we are nobody, however if one must willingly self-apply a term then we are pre-war artists! Look around you! We live in a perpetual state of emergency, of crisis and quick fix solutions. This is a pre-revolutionary condition, a perpetual present where the past and the future seem equally remote, forever teetering upon a knife-edge where people are too scared to counter-attack for fear of risking what little they have. […]




In the Western world, in the absence of any forcefully collective Left opposition, people have been made to feel that there is nowhere to turn other than to enter the protectionist embrace of nationalism, a new form of ‘big man’ politics of the extreme right that preys upon this foreboding sense of inevitable decline and futility in the face of technological change; a people’s millionaire who can scapegoat immigrants, migrant labour, unfair global competition and promise to bring back old-fashioned industry and hard work. Betrayed by years of centrist politics, decimated by the ruthless pursuit of neo-liberal economic policy, the working class are again being told that politics is all about getting the best deal – but for whom? A deal that is wrapped in a flag, built behind a wall, constructed from the same well-oiled war machine. A message that Wall Street can easily work with yet makes many of the working and middle class nervous. Fascism is lurking everywhere. We are being divided yet again.

In Europe, as the state has gradually retreated from its role as arbitrator, attempting to control and regulate the flow of exploitative forms of labour extraction, this withdrawal, along with deindustrialisation, the ever encroaching privatisation has made the traditional role(s) of the middle class as privileged and duplicitous overseers vulnerable to reform. For it is expected that technological development and automation is increasing at such a rate that, within the next few decades, vast areas of current employment currently enjoyed by the middle class will no longer exist.

The scenario of full automation, and the resultant mass unemployment, would strike at the heart of the capitalist system precisely because it depends upon commodified wage labour as the generator of surplus value.

Here a conceited middle class discontent forms, scornful of the paucity of left wing future orientated thinking, contemptuous of any horizontally organised counter-attack, any exterior position, for such ‘folk politics’ can only lead to a step backwards into an anarcho-primitivist nightmare, a delusory reconciliation with a Nature that can only exist as a cultural construction. Instead, rather like certain Trotskyite ideas of old, capitalism must be permitted to naturally collapse under the weight of its own relentless pursuit of growth. That a second industrial revolution will necessarily create the conditions for the shortening of working hours, if not the abolition of full time work itself. Putting aside the fact that capitalism depends upon the production of surplus value, no matter how ‘bullshit’ the job, how seemingly pointless its task, you can be sure that a cost benefit analysis has been made. If mechanisation or automation proves itself as profitable, then it will be used. If the outlay is too expensive then the vast global reservoirs of cheap labour are instantly preferable. ‘The worker as commodity becomes not merely subordinate to the machine as its “living appendage” but, when profit or regulation require it, superfluous precisely to the degree that is determined by capital.’

Nevertheless, the threat of another wave of mass unemployment due to technological change, thus generating no incomes to spend, is tentatively creating the conditions for the speculative political possibility of a Universal Basic Income (UBI); a system that, while not providing equality for all, would offer a degree of autonomy that has been previously denied to large sections of the population.

The fact that the UBI appeals to Silicon Valley only goes to show how this new form of technocratic capitalism would slot seamlessly into their business models. A UBI funded population serving as the optimum customer base, digital tenants renting access to the enclosed and administered space where all goods, services and amenities are licensed and copyright protected; a world that one must subscribe to, register for and pay as you go.

However, the chance to escape from inadequately paid drudgery, the unemployed released from their politically imposed role as a statistical scapegoat and blight with a one-size fits all payment system seems attractive to the beleaguered poor. Yet it also potentially represents the perfect opportunity for the state to wash its hands, once and for all, of any continuing political obligation towards collective welfare. The state could easily retreat and reformat its role as a simple but effective security service, corporate legislator and tax collector, regulating the flows of global capital through the allotment of a sum sufficient for the basic survival of each and every citizen. Thus opening the way for ‘basic survival’ to include all public services. Services that could gradually be privatised as they would be weaned off government funding and regulation in the name of ‘consumer choice’, of ‘giving power back to the people’, of ‘democracy’, cultivating a further enclosure by capitalism whereby education, health, etc., would be entirely reliant upon the clientele of UBI-funded citizens. The lord giveth and the lord taketh away. This arrangement would suit the middle class very well as this has been their modus operandi for some time, their world has always been a kind of Bildungsroman, the work of acquisition as a work upon oneself, the UBI as the ‘start-up of me’ does little to alter the self-preserving nature of this class; it softens nothing of the brutal nature of capitalist competition. As a half-hearted attempt at a paltry redistribution of wealth, it indicates how low the notion of the ‘universal’ has fallen.

It is false to assume that the Left wishes to withdraw from an engagement with the global economy and technological innovation, rather it is a question of how and to what ends that engagement is conducted. The simple fact that capitalism has failed to deliver the future as promised in the 1960s is hardly a surprise to anyone. It is claimed that capitalism is inhibiting and restraining science and technology and this is entirely correct. We have absolutely no idea what science, freed from its servitude to corporate patronage, or technological development unshackled from the profit motive, would involve, what it would look like.

Across the world, we have no idea what the millions of people subsisting in unemployment, poverty and wilfully denied access to education, are capable of. As long as our vast financial wealth and material resources remain the possession of the few, bereft of the revolutionary means to take it back, the only bitter conclusion that can be reached is that this immense squandering of human life is considered progress!

The pursuit of this desperate embrace, this attempt at repurposing consumer dissatisfaction (where are the flying cars?) as mobilisation for discontent, as a call for a technocratic post-capitalism has all the hallmarks of middle class ressentiment manoeuvring, a normcore reaction to the neo-liberal destabilisation of their traditional sense of entitlement. They have no stomach to cross the river of fire, they desire the bloodless compromise that clings to the coat-tails of power, they were comfortable in the gradually accelerating heat produced by the first industrial revolution precisely because it was they who profited from it, as William Morris describes:

That fire is the hurry of life bred by the gradual perfection of competitive commerce which we live, the English middle classes, when we had won our political liberty, set ourselves to further with an energy, an eagerness, a single-heartedness that has no parallel in history; we would suffer none to bar our way, we called on none to help us, we thought of that one thing and forgot all else, and so attained to our desire, and fashioned a terrible thing indeed from the very hearts of the strongest of mankind.

Accelerationism-lite, sapped of all its misanthropic, smug, aristocratic delight, maintains that there are desires and processes which capitalism gives rise to and feeds upon, but which it cannot contain; but it is unable to remove or contain the one potentiality that lurks within both capitalism and accelerationism proper as it was originally formulated: fascism.

The middle class did not have to become philosophers, critics and publishers, churning out books and conference papers to survive, they – hang on tight and spit on me – enjoyed the hysterical, masochistic, whatever exhaustion it was of hanging on in the conference circuit, in academic departments, in the Cornish piss factories setting up little grant-funded businesses, in hell, they enjoyed it, enjoyed the mad destruction of their organic body which was indeed imposed upon them, they enjoyed the decomposition of their personal identity, the identity that middle class envy had constructed for them, enjoyed the dissolutions of their traditional family structures and mortgages, and enjoyed the new monstrous anonymity of the suburbs and the pubs converted into experimental improvised music venues, nostalgic for the sad, late-nineties ‘intelligent’ drum and bass in the morning and evening. Cabals of smartly smug middle class materials; those that revel in the counter-intuitive for the sake of their superciliousness, the titillating invention of a purer, colder and haughty form of anti-humanism based upon a misunderstanding of the miserablist outcome of the French bourgeois revolution, mixed with Anglo-American Puritanism, an ascetic self-flagellation that robs any pretension to agency.

The moment of singularity, a Gothic misanthropic conceit, suppressed sado-masochistic homoerotic Terminator fantasy, the horror of heartless intelligence please hurt me/don’t hurt me thrill of ridicule, shame and elation from what weak, fleshy organisms can set in motion, I am clever and impotent, such a bad boy – I don’t deserve to live – make me extinct! All the while, the world turns, people live and die, these cabals continue their amusing treadmill of lecturing and mortgage repayments, blogging and child rearing, public speaking and grant applications, pension investments and publishing. Some of the more politically minded might occasionally be seen bringing up the rear at demonstrations, but for the most part, they are carrying out their function, clocking up the air miles.

Transatlantic postscript: Imagine the scene, a lecture theatre or perhaps simply a theatre, maybe not, nonetheless there stands, a clean cut, middle class, middle-aged, white male, immaculately groomed and dressed. In front of the curtain, there we see him and he looks at us. Then he suddenly busts into song, a powerful voice, slightly exaggerated waspish American accent, fully enunciating every syllable in a manner somewhat akin to Sondheim musical theatre. Over and over, with different rhythms and stresses, pitch and key in infinite variation, he sings just one line — ‘Runnnnn Tings! Weeeeeeeee Runnnn Tings! RRRRRRun Tinggs… We run tiiiinnnngs!’


Inventory was founded in 1995 by Damian Abbott, Paul Claydon and Adam Scrivener. Well known for the fourteen issues of their eponymous journal (1995–2005) they have also exhibited their art works internationally



Inventory, The Counsel of Spent, London: Book Works, 2018, ISBN: 9781906012564. Excerpts from pages 5-9, 13, 15-16, 16, 21-22, 32-40, 59-62, 106-113, 158-163.


1Georges Bataille, Guilty, Trans. Bruce Boone, Venice, Calif.: Lapis Press, 1988, p.25.