The Brooklyn Rail

OCT 2020

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OCT 2020 Issue
Special Report

Virtual Architecture: Art, Pandemic, Protest

Installation view: <em>Tsedaye Makonnen:  Senait & Nahom. The Peacemaker & The Comforter</em>, 2019. Acrylic mirror, LED light bulbs, wire mesh, MDF, lighting wiring. Courtesy Addis Fine Art, Addis Ababa and London.
Installation view: Tsedaye Makonnen: Senait & Nahom. The Peacemaker & The Comforter, 2019. Acrylic mirror, LED light bulbs, wire mesh, MDF, lighting wiring. Courtesy Addis Fine Art, Addis Ababa and London.

Human experience has always been a mixture of the virtual and the real. After all, that’s the lesson of Plato’s allegory of the cave with its flickering shadows mistaken for reality. During the same historical period, Buddhism was teaching the illusory nature of perceived reality. But the virtual can be just as real as the real. Plato’s observers of the shadows on the rear wall of the cave conduct their lives as if those shadows are the actual world, just as Buddhism encourages individuals not to mistake their perceptions, which are more like a set of projections, for external reality. In the postwar era of the simulacrum, and now in the early twenty-first-century digital media age, the border between virtual and real has collapsed to fit onto a smartphone screen with the accompanying difficulty of detecting factual from fake, story from advertisement, Photoshopped from analog, self from representation, while language and signs become not something to interpret but rather to react to and circulate. Like Tupac, we all live in a “hologram” now. These epistemological crises are the result of an omnivorous capitalist economy in tandem with the inevitable integration of human and machine, to the degree that this hasn’t already irreversibly occurred.

The ideologies of religion and race are similarly lenses through which to view the world, although it would be more accurate to say that they help produce the world. As Sylvia Wynter has argued, the secularizing substitution of the human/inhuman dichotomy in place of the prior mortal/divine distinction was part of what ushered in a Western modernity that has culminated in the current racialized capitalism founded in slavery in the United States and European colonies (Spain in South America, and England and France in the Caribbean).1 Capitalism may have sprouted in England with the dispossession of peasants from their little plots of private and common land, but without the vast engines of slavery and colonialism providing the raw materials for its factories and financial system, it never would have become the world-dominant power it is today, albeit one in the process of being replaced in the twenty-first century by China’s state-controlled mixed economy. While China extends its Belt and Road Initiative infrastructure program around the world, the United States can’t even figure out how to build a high-speed train between Los Angeles and San Francisco (or convince its population to wear masks during the coronavirus pandemic). One could make the argument that capitalism in Western Europe and the United States was at its most formidable in the mid-twentieth century when the state was heavily involved in its management. These days, that role has been mostly supplanted by the central banks and the scorched-earth imperative to maximize shareholder returns.

Karl Marx provided a glimpse in Capital that the exploitative economic system he dedicated his life to analyzing rested heavily on slavery and colonialism, but his focus was on wage labor as opposed to the unfree kind. Nevertheless, Marx followed the American Civil War closely and declared in Capital that, “In the United States of America, every independent workers’ movement was paralysed as long as slavery disfigured a part of the republic. Labour in a white skin cannot emancipate itself where it is branded in a black skin.”2 The Combahee River Collective Statement from 1977 takes this one step further toward an intersectional materialist politics by adding gender to the mix:

We are not convinced, however, that a socialist revolution that is not also a feminist and antiracist revolution will guarantee our liberation. [. . .] We need to articulate the real class situation of persons who are not merely raceless, sexless workers, but for whom racial and sexual oppression are significant determinants in their working/economic lives. Although we are in essential agreement with Marx’s theory as it applied to the very specific economic relationships he analyzed, we know that his analysis must be extended further in order for us to understand our specific economic situation as Black women.3

The breakthrough of post-Marxist thinking was in showing that ideology shapes reality at least as much as Marx’s “very specific economic relationships,” and possibly more so. After all, at least since the 1980s and the era of Ronald Reagan, white US workers have consistently voted against their own economic interests in favor of candidates who represent their “values,” with the dog whistle guiding this choice being race. His ham-fisted staged photoshoot with a Bible in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, DC, notwithstanding, Donald Trump doesn’t even feign to display “moral” or “family” values—the hypocrisy in which the Republican Party began wrapping itself in the 1960s simultaneous with the development of its racist Southern strategy.

Ideology may be the cloud of unknowing, but the sun of Plato’s Good has never felt so far away, which may be for the best given the profoundly inequitable society it shone down on, a condoning of slavery, racism, xenophobia, and misogyny that has been the West’s legacy ever since Athenian so-called democracy. bell hooks has called this “imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy,”4 a phrasing that unfortunately has fallen out of favor, perhaps because it’s a mouthful, but more likely because it takes too long to type out on our smartphones and because it’s too encompassing, and not encompassing enough, of the ways in which identities have become differentiated along an increasingly widening spectrum. With neoliberalism, this expansion extends representation while simultaneously providing capitalism with more subjects to whom it can sell its wares, services, and experiences especially now that its traditionally most reliable consumer—the (mostly) white middle-class—has been gutted. Capitalism will always try to multiply its markets because its only immutable law is the generation of profit no matter how many human—and nonhuman—bodies stand in the way, almost as the kind of self-generating and self-perpetuating system some people fear artificial intelligence will become. Everything is interconnected, and that’s a terrifying prospect given the exterminating tendencies of humans. Where economic colonialism ended because it ran out of physical territories to conquer—or where it was fought off, overthrown, or resisted—it has now moved online where it has virtually unlimited subjects and spaces to colonize. For Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, there’s always Mars to escape to after they’ve turned this planet into a wasteland.

The current coronavirus pandemic has given Big Tech the largest laboratory in human history for testing and refining its products and methods. No wonder Bezos’s worth increased in 2020 by more than $76 billion (and counting) and Mark Zuckerberg’s by more than $42 billion (and rising) while one third of US households had trouble paying their July rent or mortgage—and that’s before the stimulus money ran out. (According to Robert Brenner, the wealth of all US billionaires went up by nineteen percent between March 18 and June 4, 2020.5) It has almost become a cliché to say that profound, centuries-long structural inequality has been both exposed and exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. It has also almost become a cliché to say that for many people, life has become more virtual, as everything from education, to ordering food, to visiting the doctor, to going to a museum increasingly shifts to online platforms. It cannot be stressed enough that as the pandemic is currently playing out, the result will be an even greater gap between the rich and poor, the 1% and the rest of the world, the owners and the workers, Big Tech and other companies, and those with access to digital technologies and those without. Even more than during the financial crisis of 2008, the US Federal Reserve Bank has become the private bank of the ultra-wealthy with its more than a trillion dollars used to secure the US stock market (in part by stabilizing the corporate bond market), eighty-four percent of which is owned by the richest ten percent of Americans.6 The Federal Reserve has also kept interest rates so low that it almost forces the rare person with extra money to keep it away from a savings account and instead stuff it into the stock market (or gold or maybe bitcoin), thereby further fueling the vicious predations of finance capitalism with its reckless speculations—and its socializing of losses every time the bubble bursts.

Meanwhile, a heavy reliance on digital technologies means that businesses (including universities) now have access to workers at all times, threatening the forty-hour work week and uninterrupted vacation time that people in the nineteenth century were killed trying to achieve. With widespread surveillance systems tracking individuals both on- and off-line, there is no longer wasted time or movement: every keystroke, finger tap, and human step has the potential to be collected for advertisers to sell back to the same individual who gave away this data for free. The communications embedded in our social relations—quaintly called “sharing”—are now searched and sold for profit, as the I becomes another character in an endless string of ones and zeros, as I become my own QR code. It is the human subject as a site of constant extraction and exploitation, a situation that used to occur only during the traditional “work day”—but what Jodi Dean calls “communicative capitalism” has expanded that concept to 24/7. (A gallery assistant recently emailed me at 10:52 p.m. on a Thursday evening, but at least this person wasn’t working all night as an Uber driver barely making $10 an hour after expenses and trying to keep the viral load inside the car to a minimum.) Where this wasn’t clear before, the stay-at-home orders of the current coronavirus pandemic made the ubiquity of work—perhaps most painfully for those without it—exhaustingly obvious. In the precariat economy, you are always on call, even when you’re not.

In the scrolling text in their video Television Delivers the People from 1973, Richard Serra and Carlota Fay Schoolman write that, “In commercial broadcasting the viewer pays for the privilege of having himself sold. / It is the consumer who is consumed.” These days, internet users not only pay for the privilege of having themselves sold (despite Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., being “free”), they also labor for sometimes hours a day on these platforms for that privilege (TikTok in particular is remarkable for the amount of free, creative labor people invest in it; it’s also an app that secretly employed a method for tracking user data that even Google—an uber-surveillance system—banned). Yet as Shoshana Zuboff argues in The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power, the goal of digital corporations is not only to collect data on their users that it can sell to advertisers who then try to sell something to that same user, but to mine this data in order to predict future behaviors and, most dangerously, to guide and influence them, with the end goal being a purchase of some sort.7 It’s shocking to think for a moment that the world’s resources and human labor are increasingly being absorbed in the service of a digital economy whose goal is to sell someone a pair of shoes via their social media feed or email inbox. This is virtual architecture—shaping the space and routes through which an individual moves, ultimately toward a commodified object or experience. Of course, the best way to prod an individual along is by stimulating emotional responses, and Big Tech companies have adjusted their online platforms to maximize their affective dimensions, with Facebook going so far as to conduct a surreptitious experiment in 2012 on nearly 700,000 of its users to ascertain the degree to which it could manipulate their emotions. Anyone who spends any time on social media knows that joy is not the primary emotion one experiences on these platforms.

So when a gallery requires you to register an email address in order to enter an online viewing room of its artworks, is it the equivalent of requiring you to write down your mailing address before allowing you to enter its physical space? Or are you not in fact providing even more information that way, given the largely unregulated—and still partly undisclosed (despite the best efforts of Edward Snowden)—hoovering of online data by both corporations and governments? Although going into a gallery can be intimidating for those not accustomed to the experience, one of the remarkable aspects of the contemporary art world is that galleries don’t charge for entry. In the fall of 2019, David Zwirner allowed tens of thousands of people to step inside—if only for a literal minute at a time due to the overwhelming demand—Yayoi Kusama’s newest “infinity room,” EVERY DAY I PRAY FOR LOVE (2019). However, given the enormous financial success of cultural phenomena like Meow Wolf, there is no doubt that galleries will find more ways to produce and charge for these kinds of fully immersive experiences. They will keep the Kusamas free for experiencing, but these will shrink in comparison with bigger and more absorptive offerings, themselves now created in escalating cost-and-profit-driven competition until Random International’s Rain Room (2012) seems quaint in comparison. Pace Gallery’s leadership has already started along this road with the co-founding of a separate company, Superblue (formerly PaceX), by Pace CEO Marc Glimcher and former Pace London President Mollie Dent-Brocklehurst, which designs and builds immersive visual and performance environments for a wide variety of potential clients. One of the reasons why Pace constructed a massive new building on West 25th Street in Chelsea, New York—in tandem with rapid and large physical expansions by David Zwirner and Hauser & Wirth a few blocks away—was in order to begin accommodating immersive and performance projects, with a whole floor built to accommodate a live art program labeled, i.e., branded, Pace Live.

But for now, interactive means online, and in the rush to create online content after the New York City art world shut down during the afternoon of Thursday, March 12 (or that’s when I experienced it), galleries worked frantically to create online exhibitions. (9/11 unleashed, via the United States imperial war machine, two decades of inferno in the Middle East; it remains to be seen what “3/12”—admittedly, a much more arbitrary date—will unleash in the United States and abroad alongside precipitous inequality.) Mega-galleries like Gagosian, Pace, Hauser & Wirth, and David Zwirner along with famous, wealthy artists like KAWS, Jeff Koons, and Marina Abramović had already stepped into the virtual and augmented reality game, but COVID-19 has accelerated the process. (“The pandemic has supercharged ‘what may have taken five or 10 years and compressed it into this very short period of time,’ said Chip Bergh, Levi [Strauss & Company]’s chief executive.”8) Back in April, galleries rushed to upload visual content and viewing rooms that were glorified websites and in certain instances resembled short, online exhibition catalogues. During the summer the push has been to get virtual reality materials online. Of course, there’s a difference between using virtual reality to exhibit artwork and virtual reality as an immersive artwork. Art that people pay to see will need to shade toward entertainment, not that art shouldn’t be entertaining. Yet how many global recessions shadowed by rapid climate change does it take to reveal the limitations of this consumerist-oriented approach? What’s needed is not an aspirational economy but a de-aspirational one. During the pandemic, both rich CEOs and poor people alike have seen the benefits of a state with a strong social-welfare mandate, even if in the United States this abruptly ended—at least for the poor—on July 31 with the inability to pass a new stimulus package. Give us back our money!

Kind of like buying the cave and the allegory, Hauser & Wirth purchased buildings on the Spanish island of Menorca and has now rendered one of them as a virtual exhibition space before the physical exhibition opens in 2021; as in the allegory of the cave, viewers see the shadows before the objects that cast them. Beside Itself, which went live on April 30, features HWVR, a virtual reality technology developed by the gallery’s in-house art and technology division, ArtLab. Using what Hauser & Wirth’s website calls “a bespoke technology-stack,” the experience of HWVR is a bit like a combination of Instagram and Google Street View. The exhibition begins outside in a courtyard where Lawrence Weiner’s contribution, the phrase “beside itself” (a work from 1970 that provides the exhibition with its title), is painted in blue capital letters on the exterior of the building. Nearby, one of Louise Bourgeois’s giant metal spiders can be seen through a gap in the wall. It appears to be an edition of Maman (1999), but it remains unapproachable (and unlabeled)—a virtual work in this virtual environment. While immersive in appearance, mobility is limited throughout the exhibition. Clicking little white circles on the “floor” both zips the viewer through the gallery Star-Trek transporter-style and leads to frontal views of artworks by Jenny Holzer, Mike Kelley, Bruce Nauman, Lorna Simpson, and others, along with a couple of miscellaneous items such as a copy of Hauser & Wirth’s Ursula Magazine on a bench, in a gallery which features nine works on paper by Roni Horn entitled Remembered Words—Clutch (2012–13). Ellen Gallagher’s DeLuxe (2004–5), a grid of sixty prints of collaged portraits of Black faces and figures, is large enough to warrant two frontal views on the left and right sides of the work, but neither of Mark Bradford’s two text and abstraction paintings installed side by side have white circles in front of them.

Without the ability to zoom in on individual works, much of the art-viewing experience is lost, or at least elided, mixing a static and verging on blurry social-media and website framing with the horizontal slide of Google Street View. And while the Hauser & Wirth website boasts about the architectural dimension to its virtual reality experience, which allows it to build a total space and lets the viewer look down at the floor and up at the ceiling (or sky), physical movement is generally restricted to hopping between white circles. Excluding Bourgeois’s spider, which would be wonderful to wander around and peer up at, sculptural works that might in fact be better suited for this viewing mode are absent from Hauser & Wirth’s initial presentation of its new technology. So, too, is a more robust zoom feature, which in current virtual reality modes tends to pixilation and fuzz. Where online deep-zoom capacity does exist—in, for instance, the Google Arts & Culture platform—a viewer sees what the camera sees (Camille Pissarro’s brushstrokes, for instance), and not what the human eye does (to say nothing about the inevitable variations in color display on different screens). At its most intimate, the camera’s eye sees pixels; at its most intimate, the human eye encounters a fundamental materiality that signals death. It is a place where time slows, however imperceptibly; in contrast, digital technologies aim to erase time in the opposite direction, increasing speed until history collapses into an infinite present otherwise known as: click here to purchase. Yet for all the talk of the Anthropocene, the human is but a speck on the surface of geologic time, its vast cities destined to one day be nothing more than a thin layer buried deep in the geologic record.

Billed as the “first-ever VR fair,” UNTITLED, ART Online (July 31–August 9) used virtual reality technology created by Artland, a Copenhagen-based firm that has been creating virtual-reality art galleries for more than a year (shot using a 3D camera). Architecturally modeled on UNTITLED, ART’s actual—IRL—art-fair tent during Art Basel Miami Beach in previous years, the virtual version of the fair featured 40 galleries from around the world, with a focus on the United States, Europe, and South America, and generally in the midsize to larger range (e.g., James Cohan). Unlike the drag and scroll of Hauser & Wirth’s HWVR technology, UNTITLED, ART Online felt more like a first-person shooter video game, with direction controlled by a computer keyboard’s arrow buttons as the viewer scoots over gray carpeting, glides between pristine white, art-fair room dividers, or floats over couches in the central open area. The works were overwhelmingly paintings and photographs, although Tsedaye Makonnen’s Senait & Nahom. The Peacemaker & The Comforter (2019) at the Addis Fine Art booth with its five stacked, black lightbox towers was a haunting standout. Otherwise, there was no equivalent to a Bourgeois spider outside other than a lifeguard tower watching over a beach dotted with blue umbrellas and bathers. Viewers could also click on a map of the fair that took them directly to a gallery’s booth or a 3D “dollhouse” view of the space from above. Each gallery also had its own virtual reality space accessed from the fair’s home page.

At this stage, virtual reality technology would seem to work better for these kinds of group exhibitions where one can spot something of interest among a larger and disparate collection of work. Virtual movement allows for this to occur in a more comprehensive way, even if the experience of individual artworks is significantly inferior to a gallery’s website or Instagram. For individual exhibitions, a website with installation shots and individual works still provides a better, more accurate, and crisper sense of the work; during the COVID-19 shutdown, some galleries installed entire exhibitions in their closed spaces in order to take installation shots for their websites. Moving through booths, galleries, and rooms via virtual reality means that one is collecting data and information more than looking at art, and the viewed—whether artwork, gallery, or website—is in some form collecting data as well from the viewer because technology is always watching. Moreover, Artland’s VR and non-VR interface is filled with friendly links for after a viewer’s initial gathering of information. At UNTITLED, ART Online, upon entering a booth, a contact button appeared in the top-left corner of the screen with four different options (phone, email, text, WhatsApp). Postmodernism may have presented the world as flat, shiny surfaces, but digital technologies are the return of the organic—except that where the organic used to be a producer of energy and resources, the digital organic is a voracious consumer of them.

In Octavia Butler’s novel Parable of the Sower, the teenage narrator, Lauren Oya Olamina, believes in the power of technology and information: “The Destiny of Earthseed/Is to take root among the stars.”9 The book is an exodus story. But in real life and in the text as allegory, the narrator also understands the profound inequalities in the availability of these resources: “They couldn’t afford to subscribe to any of the new multisensory stuff, and their old Window couldn’t have received most of it, anyway. They have no reality vests, no touch-rings, and no headsets. Their setup was just a plain, thin-screened Window.” A Window is like an enormous flatscreen TV, and the novel begins in 2024 after violent social upheaval, race and class warfare, devastating wildfires, as well as epidemics such as cholera and measles have produced a dystopian landscape. Kind of like the summer of 2020, which may be why the novel has had a recent resurgence in readers. The physical brutalities it unflinchingly depicts—raped children, tortured bodies, people eaten alive by feral dogs—is also in synch with the videos that circulated of police officer Derek Chauvin pressing his knee into the neck of George Floyd for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, slowly suffocating Floyd to death in broad daylight with an emotionless, sociopathic look on his face, in full view of recording bystanders, and at times staring directly into the camera.

There can be no doubt that as in the case of Ahmaud Arbery, who was murdered by two racists in Georgia while jogging, social media has allowed for these instances to be available for a larger public to view and demonstrate against. And yet police shootings of civilians—Black or not—have not decreased since the widespread protests following Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. The summer of 2020 has clarified, even to parts of white America, that with their bloated budgets and military equipment, the police are standing armies stationed in every city and town in the United States. They are overt shows of force patrolling the borders of property and race. The embedding of slavery in the US Constitution should make it clear that this foundational document was more about property rights than human ones. Armed to the teeth and dripping with toxic masculinity, cops in the United States abuse their wives and children at substantially higher rates than the general population. Civilians are arming themselves too. In response to both COVID-19 and the protests against homicidal police, nearly three million more guns than usual have been sold in the United States since mid-March. There are more guns in the United States than people.

It’s important to remember that the “society of the spectacle” does not mean everyone sits in front of screens absorbed by visual extravagance—or terror. “The spectacle is not a collection of images; rather, it is a social relationship between people that is mediated by images,” Guy Debord wrote.10 In her essay “Communicative Capitalism and Class Struggle,” Jodi Dean extends the mediation—and economic exploitation—of social relations to communication itself: “Communicative capitalism subsumes everything we do. It turns not just our mediated interactions, but all our interactions, into raw material for capital. Financial transactions, GPS location data, RFID tags, interactions that are filmed or photographed, and soon, the data generated by the small ubiquitous sensors in what is called the internet of things, enclose every aspect of our life into the data form” [emphasis in original]. The results for communication are similar to the transformations of the image in Debord. Dean writes: “The astronomical increase in information generated by our searching, commenting and participating entrap us in a setting of communication without communicability. As contributions to circuits of information and affect, the content of our utterances is unimportant. Words are counted in word clouds, measured by how often they are repeated rather than by their meaning.”11 Even Charli D’Amelio’s TikTok bio note once said, “don’t worry i don’t get the hype either,” and she admits to having no real explanation for her gigantic popularity.12

In contrast to virtual spaces of all sorts, one of the major lessons taught by the summer of 2020 is that change only occurs when people enter the streets. These protests received a major assist from digital technologies. In New York City, almost anyone with an Instagram account could organize a protest, which in turn might be compiled on the Instagram account @justiceforgeorgenyc, which resulted in multiple marches in each of the city’s five boroughs every day in June and July, many of them led by young people of color. URLs led to sometimes hastily created websites for brand-new political organizations. “No one should travel alone in this world,” says Olamina in Parable of the Sower. These protests might end at a designated location or they might drift; they might conclude with speeches, a poetry reading, or a confrontation with the police; they might literally cross paths with other marches and protests, with members from one joining the other; they might combine with groups or stay separate; certain gatherings were for Black people only, and some were meant for cyclists. A drawback to this rhizomatic approach was the challenge in organizing a large group march—one, for instance, that might have culminated in front of New York City Hall the night before or morning of the New York City Council’s June 30 vote on the 2021 police budget, especially given that a central concern of protesters across the United States has been defunding the police. In the end, the New York City Council only made cosmetic changes to the police budget while making sizable cuts to social and educational programs.

The virtual dimension to ideology doesn’t make it any less real, just as virtual spaces are as determining as real ones. Figurative language has also always collapsed the virtual and the real. The cyborg is arriving, and maybe it will do better than the more exclusively human has, although it wouldn’t be hard given how low the bar looks these days. But one thing we don’t need is more efficiency. “The senses must learn not to see things anymore in the medium of that law and order which has formed them; the bad functionalism which organizes our sensibility must be smashed” (Herbert Marcuse).13 The end goal of Marxism isn’t the seamless and equitable distribution of goods, but increased leisure time in the belief that humans are fundamentally creative beings. Republicans hate leisure time because it means that people aren’t working hard enough for the capitalist economy, but most Democrats do too. If I had Bezos’s money, I would buy Michaels Companies, Inc., and turn it into a nonprofit so that inexpensive arts and crafts supplies would be cheaply available to everyone. Or maybe the company could be nationalized (after that, the public utility companies; then the banks). It’s not as if humans have ever had access to the real, and at this stage in human development the imagination is needed more than ever. We need its powers to imagine a different world. We need it to elude being constantly administered. We need it in order to move away from reactive mode, because reacting all the time is exhausting and saps agency. We need that agency in order to be less enmeshed in the law and in money. We need a lot more noes than yeses. We need a politics of refusal. But to reject the system is also to reject ourselves. For the vast majority of the earth’s population, the world is fundamentally broken: it is broken economically, racially, and environmentally. The virtual—and virtual technologies—can be a tool in imagining something else. But virtual environments that simply replicate the status quo are no different than shadows flickering on the back wall of a cave.


  1. Wynter, Sylvia (2003) “Unsettling the Coloniality of Being/Power/Truth/Freedom: Towards the Human, After Man, Its Overrepresentation—An Argument.” CR: The New Centennial Review, Vol. 3, No. 3 (Fall 2003): 257–337.
  2. Marx, Karl (1976) Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Vol. 1. Trans. Ben Fowkes. Penguin Books, London and New York.
  3. Taylor, Keeanga-Yamahtta, ed. (2017) How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective. Haymarket Books, Chicago.
  4. hooks, bell (2013) Writing Beyond Race: Living Theory and Practice. Routledge, New York and London.
  5. Brenner, Robert (2020) “Escalating Plunder.” In New Left Review, No. 123 (May/June 2020): 5–22.
  6. Steinberg, Michael (2020) “The Mirage of Wall Street.” The New York Times Magazine (May 31, 2020), 25–30, 57.
  7. Zuboff, Shoshana (2019) The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. Public Affairs, New York.
  8. Corkery, Michael and Sapna Maheshwari (2020) “Online Sales Fuel Retailers Across the Country.” The New York Times (August 14, 2020):
  9. Butler, Octavia E. (1993) Parable of the Sower. Grand Central Publishing, New York.
  10. Debord, Guy (1994) The Society of the Spectacle. Trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith. Zone Books, New York.
  11. Dean, Jodi (2014), “Communicative Capitalism and Class Struggle.” In spheres: Journal for Digital Cultures, No. 1 (2014): 1–16.
  12. Andrews, Travis M. (2020) “Charli D’Amelio Is TikTok’s Biggest Star. She Has No Idea Why.” The Washington Post (May 26, 2020):
  13. Marcuse, Herbert (1969) An Essay on Liberation. Beacon Press, Boston.


Alan Gilbert

Alan Gilbert is a poet and writer whose most recent book of poems is The Everyday Life of Design.


The Brooklyn Rail

OCT 2020

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