Inventory’s paper assembly: fierce sociology, sovereignty and self-organisation in London’s small press publishing scene 1995 to 2005

Iles, Anthony (2019) Inventory’s paper assembly: fierce sociology, sovereignty and self-organisation in London’s small press publishing scene 1995 to 2005. PhD thesis, Middlesex University.

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Abstract

This study attempts to deliver an intellectual history of the journal Inventory and its place within theories of knowledge, publishing, artistic practice, ethnography, politics and critical theory. The initial movement of the thesis, Chapter 1, establishes Inventory’s formal structure as a journal. Chapter 2 establishes the presuppositions and models for the use of a journal or magazine as a platform for heterodox cultural practice and inquiry. The study then follows Inventory’s proposition of a method derived from the fusion of the heterogeneous sociology of Georges Bataille and his circle in Chapter 3; and the speculative aesthetic theory, and ‘anthropological materialism’, of Walter Benjamin in Chapter 4. In Chapters 3 and 4 Inventory’s ‘constellation of methods’: surrealism – as a mode of research and publishing, rather than as a visual art – meets ethnography, the study of the culture of all humankind on a common plane of praxis. This partisan reappropriation of surrealist and ethnographic method is shown to generate a complex para-academic publishing and research project, one which has a relation to, but ultimately exceeds, contemporary theories of either the ‘artist as anthropologist’ (Joseph Kosuth), ‘ethnographic surrealism’ (James Clifford) or ‘the artist as ethnographer’ (Hal Foster). Chapter 5 discusses the journal’s presentation as writing or literature and the relation between the whole and its parts developed philosophically in the previous chapters in terms of the form of the journal itself as a constellation and the writing it cohered around and presented. This chapter therefore also discusses the development of mental or perceptual spaces of resistance to the restructuring of space discusses in the preceding chapter through experimental writing and publishing (artist projects, found texts, visionary or prophetic texts). The study subsequently situates the intellectual and cultural productions of Inventory journal within the dynamic social, political and cultural context of London in the 1990s and 2000s. This contextualisation is achieved by engagement, in Chapter 6, with a specific site of dissemination for Inventory, Info Centre (1999-2000), through it the journal associated with parallel cultural and political practices of self-publishing and self-organisation by artists, writers and activists in the late-1990s and 2000s. I argue that these practices sought to challenge existing forms of organisation, knowledge production, cultural and social totality during a period of capitalist restructuring of work, social reproduction, the urban environment and the institutions of art. The opposition to this restructuring and its re-colonisation of space in London is conceived both in terms of the production of critical commentaries on the production of space in the city (urban sociology, psychogeography); contesting established cultural histories (e.g. of surrealism, the Situationist International and conceptual art); creation of small autonomous institutions and development of mental or perceptual spaces of resistance through experimental writing and publishing. I argue that Inventory itself takes on a ‘self-institutional’ form in this situation, and as journal provides a space and singular spaces (in terms of individual contributions) for independent critical thinking (artist projects, urban sociology, found texts, visionary or prophetic texts). Chapter 7 presents the journal’s contribution to critical accounts of practices and legacies of urbanism (housing, city planning, spatial practices and government) in London in the post-war period and during the period of the journal’s publication (1995-2005). The journal’s identification of, and opposition to, forces restructuring London spatially during this period is conceived in terms of the production of critical commentaries on the production of space in the city (urban sociology and psychogeography). The Conclusion evaluates the aims of the study and reevaluates Inventory journal on the basis of the critical traditions surveyed in the prior chapters and in terms of problems arising from the path the journal followed and gaps between its projected programme or method and the achievements it attained.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Research Areas: A. > School of Art and Design
B. > Theses
Item ID: 28185
Depositing User: Brigitte Joerg
Date Deposited: 15 Nov 2019 12:28
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2019 12:45
URI: https://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/28185

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