Metallurgy of the Subject is an ongoing project which has taken a number of forms, including images for publication, wall drawings, lecture-performances, and an animation. The impetus for Metallurgy came out of philosophical reconceptions of 'community' and 'communism', e.g. The Inoperative Community by Jean-Luc Nancy and The Coming Community by Giorgio Agamben. I employ a diagrammatical-allegorical method of representing political subject positions, picturing the movement from individualist to collectivist modes of political subjectivity, drawing on the symbolism of alchemical images and processes. It is an attempt to imagine collective and communistic modes of being which do not by necessity result in the establishment of homogeneous essential identities under the tutelage of a sovereign power. As such it is an artistic contribution towards a communist imaginary, and a critique of dominant neoliberal market based individualism.

The picture presented may be described as follows: in order to maintain the ‘nature of things’, i.e. competitive individualism, the spectre of the non-democratic essential identity is conjured up. Competitive individualism in fact limits freedom, produces an homogenous mind set and social isolation. The confrontation with the fact of death (finitude) means that life only attains meaning beyond the individual. However any attempts to disturb the existing order must take account of how the desire for collective subjectivity can lead to an absorption in an essential body. Nancy differentiates these forms of the common as ‘Common Being’ and 'Being-in-Common', the latter pointing to an exposure to finitude (death/mortality without redemption in an afterlife) which is what we all share with each other. Kenning’s work proposes a socially realised 'equality of being' (Raymond Williams) for productive symbolic energies, difference no longer conceived as advantage, but as collectively produced 'idiosyncrasies'. The ‘individual’ itself is sacrificed not to an essential, enclosed communal body, but to a radical exposure of networked singular bodies, causing novel, unrecognized phenomena to sprout.

Image for poster, first shown in the exhibition Obsediana, Gallery AFA, Santiago, Chile, 2009

Dean Kenning Metallurgy

Chalk drawing on wall, Greene Naftali, 2017

meatallurgy of the Subject Greene Naftali

Install shots from Commonism (2010) at Five Years

Dean Kenning Metallurgy ean Kenning Metallurgy

Published in Uncle Chop Chop

Dean Kenning Metallurgy

Performance at Kingston University, 2010

Dean Kenning Metallurgy Kingston

Talk at Arts Against Cuts, Goldsmiths Long Weekend, 2010.

Dean Kenning Metallurgy

Talk at Communist Gallery, Hastings, 2012.

Dean Kenning Metallurgy

See also: Banner Repeater Blackboard Series, SPACE Gallery, London and Torna Gallery, Istanbul.

Harry Weeks discusses Metallurgy of the Subject in this talk on Bataille, Community and Contemporary Art