How It Is

By Sophie Carapetian, 1 May 2019

Image: Sophie Carapetian, How It Is, 2019

An introduction by Nick Thoburn

Communist publishing, in its forms, processes, and relations, is traversed by crisis. This is not a lament, for crisis is its condition of existence, intrinsic to its singular quality and allure. Communist publishing emerges from conditions that are fundamentally hostile, and succeeds only insofar as it interrogates and undermines these conditions — it can have no happy accommodation with capitalist society. This is true not only of publishing’s relation to the external world, but also to itself as a part of this world — the destructive orientation of communist publishing is necessarily self-reflexive, carried into its own forms.

We are accustomed to reflexivity in literary form, but publishing takes a communist step further when it interrogates its full materiality. Publishing materiality is a mesh of forms, processes, and relations — writing, editing, design, distribution, media objects and platforms, meanings, readings, sensations, affects — which bear the economies of production and consumption that govern its field. And this materiality is traversed by racialisation, gender, and class, by world-historical events, by local struggles, and by the pleasures and injuries of everyday social and psychic life. It is these latter social conditions that compel communist publishing, and that are the leading edge of its attention, but when the materiality of publishing enters into this mix, communism gives publishing a strange and vertiginous form.

Yet publishing, this ‘refined form of oppression’ as Blanchot has it, dissimulates its capitalist conditions and diminishes its materiality with appeals to ‘culture’ and the immaterial textual work. Hence it too often evades communism’s wrenching critique. That is not so in Sophie Carapetian’s text here, first given as a talk at London’s Artist Self-Publishers’ Fair in December 2018. Written, spoken, published, this text is a ‘communist object’ wrought of hostile terrain, critical and luminous through the crisis that is its very form.



1. our silence, our words

Im not sure where I am, I do not trust this place, the parameters. If speech through words off tongues is always a form, however intangible, of self publishing — where are we now? The words break into syllables, double back on themselves, are layered, trace contours, sometimes they are violent, sometimes they are a viscid film, sometimes razored blocks, disintegrating, detaching moving disorientating carving out spaces. They mark time they mark place you can step inside them you can live inside them.

Typesetting breaks the meaning away, you stare at the forms shapes spaces the picas push them around every letter every pica on the page must be just so they move towards October, the Petersburg soviet was founded. The soviet, made up of delegates from striking factories workplaces, formed a kind of workers government. Wondering if every time a typesetter speaks, i mean with every spoken word and with what is left unsaid, the spaces between all those marks, if, somehow, they become books and that those are books piling up somewhere else even as you cant see them? Typesetters spit bars in reverse burst open the prisons until there are none left and, so where and when is that place then and all those books? More than ever in this moment we need books, in the face of fascism we need as many books as possible. I realised a few years ago publishing can be a hostage situation. Why do we have to pay for books at all. Pdf is posed as an answer, these days Im worried that the books will be disappeared, deleted, with them, our histories and our lives. Used to read avidly now who can concentrate in the endless scroll this outrage set the stage for the second great wave of strikes in October. What began with Moscow typesetters striking for a shorter workday and a higher piece rate, including pay for punctuation, quickly grew into a national strike wave 1905 this small event set off nothing more nor less than an all-Russian political strike — the strike that started over punctuation and ended by felling absolutism.

The web-form of permanent presence without history, it cant fade as photographs do. The photograph, a direct imprint of light off forms. I look at the photograph i watch you fade at the edges each glance a little less there then forgetting details of what was off frame the impression of all that time is something i cling to. Instead digital perma-presence, steals memory, tangibility, touch, materiality reconfigured as history but without texture, flattened processed I want to put my head through the screen. I would have the glass rip my skin. Is anyone there. Where did the books go the ones spat in reverse those they purposely bury alive? Can you remember how to focus? Aperture depth of field exposure the dark rooms red veil scale parameters solid forms retina light. The Soviet came into being as a response to an objective need a need born of the course of events. It was an organisation which was authoritative and yet had no traditions; which could immediately involve a scattered mass of hundreds of thousands of people while having virtually no organisational machinery; which united the revolutionary currents within the proletariat; which was capable of initiative and spontaneous self-control — and most important of all, which could be brought out from underground within 24 hours.

The web-form of permanent presence steals memory steals texture, tangibility, touch what about touch? I remember a memory it flashes the impression of that memory, up the side of its body its edges there was a hand fingers from a fist the impression of a feeling a memory of touch. Materiality reconfigured history as perma-presence, retranslated unscratchable, no rips no tears. I want to put my head through the screen i want to reach through. Is anyone there. I have some fucking questions yeh i do, apart from was it always this bad and i just didnt notice not sure of these last years have concentrated on making books and flyers, not thought of as art whatthefuckever, collaborations, often unauthored, the image objects circulate in ways sculpture or painting refuse. Arts institutions its various actors are cut out of the picture, the object moves from white spaces turns red. Typeset hard left always. Use and abuse remember to think through that as we break through the redefining borders.

Fuck borders by any means. What happens to history without borders?


( Bookmark / Arts Against Cuts)

Image: Arts Against Cuts, Bookmark, 2015

2. bad feelings

Some time later when there's nothing left apart from the police running away to occupied Glasgow, Barcelona, past the burnt out shell of feeling one, break into the semblance of an art school a new build a clear view of Grenfell is visible on that spot from the outside of the giant pine hub, in clear and spiteful view there, the charred and burnt out shell of feeling one with charred and burnt out books as building stones. Drew blood fighting the security guards, scratched thru skin to blood and bruises before being pushed by 6 pigs into the cop van then on the way to the loony bin aka royal infirmary torture chamber there was police detainment. And later, past the night, the old codger dribbled his words “bring a van get me a van give me a kiss a real kiss” so kissed the toothless spittled mouth yellow dried forced saliva crusts of carelessness congealed incarceration. Another mustered a warning “psychiatry has killed me” before daily pacing of the wards there is no exit from that labyrinth of sections and meds the door is open everyday but past running just pacing still. There are no books in the wards. There are plenty plexiglass viewing screens zero tolerance full surveillance. They dont care in the Shoreditch office comfortable salaried arts council funded charity art-publishers holding books for hostage for their city breaks, their insured dwellings so well practiced in the application of familiar lime green halftone filters, helvetica font without lip, retrogressive geometric decals for variations on cover art, reeking of kitsch and deceit, bundled and swathed and sold as correct and tasteful aesthetic works 


( Bad Feelings / Arts Against Cuts)

Image: Arts Against Cuts, Bad Feelings, 2015

Hashtag austerity as last years trending topic for the struggle against the formal domination of capital over labour, the first historical mode of domination of capital 2018 too late. This is really happening call of duty black ops 2 pc download free commented on the aftermath of yesterday's frenzied reporting on the UK riots and as tales of burning homes, personal robbery and damage to #london riot, pt 2 artsagainstcuts — approve trash mark as spam. Google alerts, arts against cuts, daily update November 29, 2018 Council shoots down boost for libraries, declines to freeze arts, introduced a notice of motion calling for a freeze on others, on the other hand it could have been so hi .. All 2016, Further to our protracted correspondences around 2 months ago, I believe that AAC had been reassured that once the plastic fists had been delivered you were happy to continue production of the bookmarks. If i distrust my memory, the content of the labour process determines within the proletarian a producer’s consciousness, which is reinforced by the fact that, confronting him, the capitalist appears as a lazy


( Bad Feelings / Arts Against Cuts)

Image: Arts Against Cuts, Bad Feelings, 2015

parasite Hey thanks for this 2015 I really have to say im fucking upset that they didnt tell us and have just sold 600 odd copies of the book without the bookmarks. From the beginning we have always said we seek the re-appropriation of the means of production, the expropriation of the expropriators dropped 22 bookmarks in on Friday night, these were the last ones given these were the last ones Jesus ever heard of a paragraph break 2015, Really no need for facetious comments. I assumed we would be told when they were being put on the website for I'll put £50 in the bank now we need 250 we need these books beyond defensive unions i will be home all day 2-4 is fine and my address is finally dropped 22 bookmarks in on friday night, these were the last ones. These were the last ones given it appears that the capitalist does nothing for production, but is content to live off it, while the workers do everything 2016 Dear 2016 maybe if we hadnt been treated like we owe you a fucking favour and demanding ridiculous working rates i might be sending polite emails and there would be a good feeling between the groups. this is a total farce. dont try and police the way i speak or hit me with any bourgeois comments about my manners. Focus on what i and others have been saying over the


paper on table

Image: Danny Hayward, Feeling I/II, Shit Valley, 2017

last 4 years ... ie IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE FOR US TO WORK FASTER ... to take time off her job cos she NEEDS TO EAT FOOD AND PAY BILLS, that we are a political group etc etc then i would not be sending these emails … just send me 3 books dont try and say im placing demands on you given the absurd history of this project. Dear 2015, I'm actually hooked up to a ecg machine in an intensive care unit at the moment can u stop emailing me and give me a dam fucking break What about I AM NOT WELL. Do u not understand I have internal bleedingbfrommfuckingstress — If I distrust my memory 2014 — Firstly I'm sorry to hear that S. is unwell. Advocated sabotage. Sabotage. Sabotage as a means of pressuring the boss without losing wages by striking, is that these reactions can no longer be neutralised by a simple wage increase. It has even become necessary to invent “job enrichment” to try to conjure away: we got it >>>>: Commission1111111!!!!!!!! A shift was nevertheless made, The unions, organs of real resistance to Capital during the mode of absolute extraction of surplus-value (lengthening of the working day), become integrated as purely capitalist operations with the generalized passage to relative surplus value. Yippee! Amazing!: we got it ! ---------- message ---------- Date: 29 January 2013 Dear Arts Against Cuts. This practical impossibility due to the evolution of capitalism in general, in conjunction with the breakdown of “producer-consciousness” among the workers in most of the important sectors, created a crisis in the workers' movement. Message -------- Commission 2013 Dear 2011 aac are doing another batch of 20,000 stickers … slogans/designs we would like are on the themes of:
demo on nov 9t
strike on nov 30th
prisoner solidarity
anti tory / anti lib dem
workfare / work program /
we can print full colour and Normal bringing down capitalism sticker size is under the shadow of happiness because the fascists turned up, normal bringing down capitalism

3. if I distrust my memory

neurotics, as we know, do so to a remarkable extent, but normal people have every reason for doing so as well — I am able to supplement and guarantee its working by making a note in writing. In that case the surface upon which this note is preserved, the pocket-book or sheet of paper, is as it were a materialised portion of my mnemic apparatus, the rest of which I carry about with me invisible. I have only to bear in mind the place where this memory has been deposited and I can then reproduce it at any time I like, with the certainty that it will have remained unaltered and so have escaped the possible distortions to which it might have been subjected in my actual memory, actual love, welcome gentleness LD50 needs to be closed.

Below are some detailed refutations.
1) The gallery’s programme was not public from the summer. It was organised in secret. This has been confirmed on the website of the Breivik supporter who spoke at LD50
2) All of the speakers are well-known racists and misogynists on the fascist/neo-nazi spectrum.
4) This is not even casual racism. It is racism *organising itself* and everything happens anyway, all pleasure, all struggles, through the snow falling in horizontal sheets, fascist puppets come and go on the fucking internet but we get out of there the “emergency situation”, in which we live is the rule. We must arrive at a concept of history which corresponds to this. Then it will become clear that the task before us is the introduction of a real state of emergency; and our position in the struggle against Fascism will thereby improve the straw people 2 die for
in opposition
to the growthless revolt
of the talking head
grafted onto stunned
Be like what you saying though really
You're like
talking of the fucking
class enemy
like, “Oh no, I didn't mean it”
standing around in the meadow lubricated
like, “Oh no, I didn't mean it”
the anaesthetic of



Image: Danny Hayward, Feeling I/II, Shit Valley, 2017

watching fascism come up over the municipal swimming pool essentially. A book as a communist palimpsest a communist object, is an inorganic material entity that destabilises the commodity attributes of property and utility and their correlated patterns of subjectivity and association. It posits instead an excessive materiality in a communism of organic and inorganic process. I would make a brief methodological aside here. The communist object is of course also a conceptual perspective on the world of objects, mimesis being the hot topic, see it go tick tock all of the aesthetic decisions rip up – thats why and how the book is made communist palimpsest subject – structurally unsound a storm fills the valley, 2017, a quick word on the images used for this book. The seemingly abstract pattern is a digital photograph of large negative taken on an iPhone at this exhibition in Barcelona called Against Photography An Annotated History of the Arab Image Foundation was reading it whilst montaged in a photograph of some mass produced origami paper bought at tiger. This paper was used to make Tears ( an image used for Boycott Zabludowicz, and for accompanying a text written for Novaras buzzfeed stream ) and we need not be disturbed by the fact that in the Mystic Pad no use is made of the permanent traces of the notes that have been received; it is enough that they are present, that, once the writing has “been erased”, the Mystic Pad cannot ‘reproduce’ it from within; the wax slab with the unconscious behind them, and the appearance and disappearance of the writing with the flickering-up and passing-away of consciousness in the process of perception of can you tell me how i can i ever trust anyone again after people called the police on me and didnt tell me for 4 weeks then convinced me to go to the wards for one mouth and a hand full of hours. Sure i went to the wards, hid there and that was real, to hide, from the police and the state but for them it was sickness. How can i trust my own thoughts mind perception other people ever again? Everything i reject became reality revolution and communism became psychosis and illness. I was rightly scared of the fucking police and the writing vanishes every time the close contact is broken between the paper which receives the stimulus and the wax slab which preserves the impression do you think im a fascist do you think im bad say it say it straight say it to me straight say

we go past all that,
past the faded signs of last week’s socialism,
the howls mingling with
the choir of parishioners trans-
fixed by their watercolour stab wounds,
amid the conflicting surfaces in the depths of the world, abstract and beautiful like planes of ice kicked in at the front of Feeling II,
we go past all of that,
past where the formal stasis of violent excess dissolves into
a dog eating a dog in a side alley,
troubled by the economic aspirations of raw feeling
or pacing up and down the railway siding of an obsolete and predetermined escalation,
looking out over plain common sense with its eyes swollen shut
eyes swollen shut
next to the immigration advice centre with its files
strewn everywhere,
we go exploding the continuum of history,
peculiar to the revolutionary classes in the moment of their action. The Great Revolution introduced a new calendar. The day on which the calendar started functioned as a historical time-lapse camera. And it is fundamentally the same day which, in the shape of holidays and memorials, always returns. The calendar does not therefore count time like clocks. They are monuments of a historical awareness, of which there has not seemed to be the slightest trace for a hundred years. Yet in the July Revolution an incident took place which did justice to this consciousness. During the evening of the first skirmishes, it turned out that the clock-towers were shot at independently and simultaneously in several places in Paris. An eyewitness who may have owed his inspiration to the rhyme wrote at that moment:

Meanwhile, tourists will stand far outside any clouds of teargas that may appear. It is part of what defines them. They might want a trace of the smell on their clothes, but still it is the avoidance of pain that is the central fact of their collective dream. Nothing will cause them to disperse. They hold maps. Here is the factory. Here is the museum. Here is the hell of stars. They talk to the cops without fear of death, but without this fear they will never know or remember a thing. Teargas is the only mnemonic that counts. Its system of recitation a network of broken bones. But tourists don’t want to know about this. Instead, they want to take photos of graffiti, the shattered images that taunt them in their dreams. They don’t remember their dreams. They don’t know that remembrance is premonition, that their names are premonitions of death, are the encrypted dreams of judges, of obituaries and rainwater and pink filth. They only know what the cops have told them to know


( Feeling I/II / Danny Hayward / Shit Valley )

Image: Danny Hayward, Feeling I/II, Shit Valley, 2017

4. dear nobody

on curating cv opportunity culture and the effects this has on art making making images films writings. How does curating affect people's lives now that everyone is pushed into some form of it on social media and everything is somehow supposed to be curated and rated like that comrades, I have decided to stop involving myself in organising within current anti-fascist constellations as they stand for the time being. Wanted to send thoughts on as I do. What is culture doing in the face of fascism — looks like just fucking around like things are not real, or really bad. My intent is to think this through from the perspective of making and growing communist culture and of what blocks that, of art making in the here and now the kind of world that I want to live in — not the one it is today at all. I strongly urge for a very regular offline co-ordination between existing groups and individuals committed to anti-fascist organising, and that this should take the form of a properly open public assembly. It should address the current political landscape we face with an honest appraisal of what has not worked tactically over these last years in dedicated anti-fascist organising as evidenced by the strong and rapid global resurgence and reconsolidation of the far right in the interlinked street, state and digital arenas. Things are really fucked I really hate this world I can’t say how much. People getting fucking cold colder every day kindness receding, drift, the corrosive tears edition.

I am always trying to make communist objects — if that is possible is it — objects images and films that have a destructive relation to the structural apparatus of capitalism, to themselves. Objects that actively fight in their way of being a thing. As someone who is making these destructive objects, Im also thinking about the barriers to and ways of visual distribution, and of who I want to see them, where they go, how things move around in the world in relation to what they are. What is popular culture, fine art culture. Propaganda, as they call it, needs to be rethought beyond viral images: fly posters, stickers, leaflets, billboards, paper! in community centres, and on the streets especially in areas where fascism is creeping in. There needs to be a knock down of the claims of the far right in image form and these circulated beyond left circles and online echo chambers. Images should not be regarded as secondary, illustrative or as stylistic afterthought. Neither should they be locked away in white spaces.


( General Equivalent #1)

Image: General Equivalent #1, 2019

I have this loathing of curating CURATING in its many forms, its reach and appeal. In my mind currently, and generally — it is managerial activity and has serious effects on culture: there has been this boom of this middle management profession, now too, generalised and interpellated by everyone all pushed into it compelled to participate in curating all in it together however supposedly informal or amateur. Social medias surveillance pacts, its endless demands for a content expressing unique individuality at everyone else's expense, its ever refreshing measures of worth, of desire, of suffering, its constantly updating compositions endless demanding mutual assessment and administered forecastings, these enforced rackets as conspicuous displays of distinction, the pleasure in that, the sense of vindication, like-form as medal of honour, bonuses for the fastest hot take for the fastest denunciation, the money-like-money-heart-money-form payoff, skilled application of this game as evidence of healthy citizenship and healthy life, of worth, of desire, join or die, confess engage share nothing. Its not just me.


( General Equivalent #1 )

Image: General Equivalent #1, 2019

Curating as a profession proper is managerial, as social media participation it is, at least, a dog eating a dog in a side alley. Its history rooted in ‘arts administration’, the administration of relations between art and cultures institutions, between artists and employers, friends and comrades, political groups, public space and archive... It shapes what can be made, seen by who, and how. When I write of arts’ institutions as example — I don’t mean ‘only’ sites of exhibition with publics i.e. galleries and the like — Im saying art as a historical constellation composed of many variable institutional relations which are for certain classed gendered racialised and ideological. In the last 8 years activism on the left has focused too much time participating, uncritically, in online popularity competitions and meme wars, memes have been lauded as an inherently revolutionary communist image-form, these online tactics havent worked well we now have a larger ever re-consolidating international far right movement and tepid, borderline xenophobic social democratic projects as our dominant mainstream political trajectories. I wrote a few days ago: meme wars havent worked well because viral memes articulate an undialectical image-logic, they are antithetical to materialist history. They are image expressions designed to occupy and reproduce the kind of frozen perma present demanded by corporate web space. Their necessary formal composition, the prerequisite for their circulation and distribution: representation through the rendering of sensual material forms into commensurable digital units, the dimensions and domain of the pixel. They reorganise, through their form, relations between image, retina and brain reproducing correlate modes of concentration, focus, attention, habits, temporalities and a general sociality suited to the sites of their distribution — corporate monetised web spaces. They must make appeals to base and viral populism, for its own sake, to realise the formal ambitions of the design logic. This has its consequences, their movement through time and space is viral — less a dialectical, historical, unfolding. Amassing memes and facebook likes are not the answer havent these last years of austerity, failed fightback staged on these corporate platforms paired with a rising far right resurgence not shown us this? I know it's tiring for me to keep asking you questions am i a fascist, am i bad its the way i deal with the voices, to be direct. A properly co-ordinated social media strategy is needed across groups with commitment to shared protocols and to the values that should inform them. I wrote a few days ago: curating currently brokers contracts between, at least, what is made and what and how it is seen, so what can be made — and then made visible, general social perspectives, light that goes, light that returns everything was ok until people called the fucking pigs on me.            

Curating assigns value and in doing so redefines the parameters not only of what is deemed worthy of consideration visually and its scope, but what is to be considered as art and culture in general — an ongoing social and ontological redefinition in the hands of self appointed professional middle management middle class hacks. This has massive effects on and in culture in all different types of ways that I don’t understand but live each day what the hell r u taking the piss out of me. There needs to a serious consideration of authoritarianism, gender, race and class politics in all anti-fascist groups. There must be a practical application of anti-fascist politics within the meetings and groups to avoid just revelling in post-truth fuelled social media celebrity activism and online spin, and that becoming the binding standard and endpoint for meetings and political struggles i know i keep saying this but ever since people called the police on me… A well structured offline assembly could start to address some of these issues, and build commitments to a politics of solidarity in its form. If there was a properly horizontal well structured real life co-ordinating assembly with a range of militant groups, then Momentum, larger unions and Trotskyist groups could be invited to join without them being able to steer or caucus — this would open a space for. An assembly could pull and typeset Momentum as left as possible, in both a horizontal and formal way, provide a forum for mutual engagement and would block parliamentary oriented projects from swallowing everything else up, by chance or by design.


( General Equivalent #1)

Image: General Equivalent #1, 2019

I’ve got really harsh voices saying im a fascist its unbearable really you would say it to me straight? Im fucking sick of it. The digital culture that on the whole demands joy in viral conformism and veneration of popularity should be collectively and publicly challenged as it has proven to provide the most fertile ground for the far right to prosper through hasnt it hasn't it i mean we can really say this cant we? i can still withdraw i dont give a fuck about what people will think of me. What i want to do is to see through my politics my commitment to art poetry communism revolution. i thought this was an ok direction as a political intervention to change things. but it just feels like, feels like a firm, will it undo everything we all have built together? i am uncomfortable enough with authorship as it is. i dont trust my own judgement, i dont know how i can ever trust myself my perception of this world again i know i keep saying this but ever since people called the police on me.


Image: General Equivalent #1, 2019

I feel weird about selling general equivalent i want to give it away for free to as many people as possible. It cost 160 to print from my sickness benefits, need to cover costs back if possible factoring in free copies to all in this version and other comrades. have already given out some. should it be sold at cost and free or cost free and profit so as to keep printing? Its not really profit but sorry to email again but im going to do this unless someone has another way forward and shares it i dont think any of us should pay for it print 160 4 200 copies ( less 2 copies (34 pages) each more or less plus extras to give out ) = 122 copies to sell @ cost they will be £1.35 each cost... something like that i will get 300 whole pounds for speaking, this will cover me towards staying half alive and towards work ive done on it as will my sick bens at a minimum one thing to mention about Shit Valley and the fish the river was that ideal would be zero cost production — everything stolen, running copies off on institutional copiers, etc. And that the ideal would also be anonymity, or close to anonymity. This is not curating, its self organisation and class abolition let this not turn into a capitalist enterprise. Sell at cost then we all chip in for layout for ge2, if and when, and, for communism and revolution not to be my psychosis. For the poems and art and books to be real, the spaces they make to make new worlds in this one. i want it to be that people i trust and love and would fucking die for would die for me that we all gave everything up in solidarity with each other and everyone else and that this spread and generalised even if we didnt know what the fuck we were doing and it would not be private property and police and selfishness and cruelty and spite and competition. That these dreams were not a bad sick joke that it would be just so fucking fine 40gsm and typeset hard left as in real love, actual love, as in real solidarity, actual solidarity all the time. And that that has nothing to fucking do with property and appearances and statuses and practicalities and brutal and heartless reactionary conventions and fucking money disgusting money. And that wouldn't be out of order or tedious or weird or banned or punishable or impossible or a joke and that i wouldnt be condemned as deranged and delusional and locked in some fucking unit. That i could just be a communist as I am, that we all would be all the time and that would be just a good thing in this world and comrades didnt call the police on me for being one and this has been written not so much as a definitive and exhaustive treatment of the theme discussed and it does not indicate that we have dropped our previous position on anonymity as history is the subject of a construction whose site is not homogeneous, empty time, but time filled full by now-time so let this not turn into a capitalist enterprise fascism is the true face of capitalism 2019

Thanks! to Lucy Killoran, Wail Qasim, Danny Hayward, Sean Bonney, Sacha Kahir, John Barker, Helen Dimos, Darsavini, Nick Thoburn, Ben Noys, Pauline van Mourik Broekman, Ben Seymour, Matt Hall, Shit Valley and all my comrades. Fuck the police