hot off the press! following norwich transformed last weekend, and combined with upcoming essay deadlines that were making me think really hard about my relationship to institutions, i put together a minizine about recuperation. when i talk about recuperation here, i mean it in the political sense see Recuperation (politics) on Wikipedia.
it’s an 8-side minizine made from one piece of A4, that you can print at home if you want. to fold it, see this guide. you shouldn’t need to print it in any special configuration to make the folding work, just full page A4. i’ll also put the full text below for those using screenreaders.
link for easier downloading (right click, save link as)
Resist Recuperation 🔗
Ambition’s Graveyard | 2023 🔗
What is recuperation? 🔗
Recuperation is the phenomenon by which anything that is radical, transformational or truly oppositional to a dominant oppressive structure will be absorbed aesthetically by that structure as a means of neutralising its radical intent, & even using it to further its own cause. It was coined by Situationist International in the 1960s.
Other words for recuperation (& other related concepts) 🔗
- gentrification (those bars that look like DIY spaces but are actually huge chains)
- embrace, extend, extinguish
Examples of recuperation 🔗
A common example of recuperation is the aesthetics of revolutionary movements being reduced to merely fashion - like how punk aesthetics have been adopted into mainstream fashion, which are then used to sell products based purely on their desirable ‘authentic’ aesthetic. This twists the meaning of punk into more of a brand or a look than an ethos, and weakens its political power.
Another example of recuperation is corporations using language with radical origins to describe their business, disguising that they’re propping up the status quo. Notable example: join the property revolution as a property development company’s tagline (as seen in Norwich).
Often, those with cultural power will be drawn towards rebellious, radical & transformational aesthetics, whilst working to quickly neutralise the radical roots from which those aesthetics emerged. This might look like funding bodies encouraging applications from organisations which use radical aesthetics, but requiring monitoring and reporting that necessitates that organisation to have an extractive structure.
This neutralisation comes from the bottom up, too - like a zine distro which uses the visual language of riot grrl + radical feminism but is ultimately a for-profit organisation.
Everyday resistance 🔗
Recuperation is difficult to resist, because it relies on the core mechanisms of capitalism to perpetuate. We can take small acts to resist the creep of capital into our lives (and minds) in some of the following ways:
- Making art which isn’t designed to be packaged or sold
- Spending time in public places which don’t require you to spend any money
- Not monetising your hobby
- Not using branding or creating a ‘visual identity’
- Not following trends
- Recognising that political action doesn’t start or end on social media
What makes resisting hard? 🔗
Most people will find it difficult to resist some elements of recupteration because ultimately, in our current society, we’re forced to participate in capitalism to have enough money to live. It costs money to hold space for non-extractive exchange of ideas, or to purposefully not use a platform that could show your work to a new audience (but at the same time feed a global big data beast).
Under a capitalist hegemony, the influence of capitalism can get into anything that’s left to grow unchallenged, stripping it of its political centre and turning it into a purely aestheticised husk. Capitalism is like those parasites that get inside wasp brains and start piloting their bodies like mech suits. By choosing to challenge patterns of recuperation (when we have the time, resources + energy) we can build things which exist outside of the aesthetic and superficial capitalist metrics of success - and lean into something true and real.