Common Seminar by Michele Masucci

Date and time
21 January 2021 at 01:00 PM - 04:00 PM
Type of event
Place and route

Zoom meeting:

This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S. Virus particles are shown emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. The spikes on the outer edge of the virus particles give coronaviruses their name, crown-like. Credit: NIAID-RML. Source: Wikimedia commons.

Preliminary thesis on Asphyxial Capitalism

2020 will be remembered as the year of the global covid-19 pandemic. A viral disease that for many causes aggressive immune responses impeding proper breathing, causing almost two million deaths worldwide: the measures taken by many nations to handle the pandemic are exceptional. Death and suffering due to secondary causes, are expected to be much higher than the virus alone. Experts project that another much more lethal virus might follow covid-19.

2020, this was the year when the Black Lives Matter movement brought global attention to the systemic racism and police violence against black people in the United States and worldwide. After the brutal murder of George Floyd, the BLM movement came together under the slogan "I can't breathe". Suffocation is a standard measure used by police and military and a common cause of death in domestic violence cases. Suffocation does not leave evidence. Suffocation requires a persistent and a dedicated stronghold. Suffocation provides ample time to reflect on the situation. Thus, death by suffocation requires strong motivation by the perpetrator.

2020, this very same year the Australian bushes and Amazon rain forest burned on a record number scale. The Amazonian rainforest alone is estimated to provide 12% of the oxygen production in the world through photosynthesis each year. The increased deoxygenation of the world's oceans due to climate change is rapidly disrupting sensitive ecosystems accelerating the ongoing mass extinction of species. Manmade deforestation, the toxification of the oceans and global warming is slowly suffocating life on earth, decreasing biodiversity.

Looking through the process, access, and symbolism of oxygenation, this common seminar will discuss life conditions under contemporary necropolitical capitalism. Oxygen is a fundamental precondition for life and is thus part of most forms of death. To understand the material conditions of oxygenation in a social, political and cultural context, three common human pathological conditions will be discussed: viral infection, cancer and depression. The contemporary scientific, institutional and industrial approach to disease is based on the simultaneous individuation and abstraction of the human body reduced to a crude source of value. In the wastelands of neoliberal austerity and neocolonial extraction, the interest in alternative forms of care and caregiving have increased as a form of resistance to this conception. How have these alternative and spontaneous care practices operated during the covid-19 pandemic? Can the tracing of the conditions for some of the most fundamental and common biochemical processes of life be a critical tool to understand the fragmentary processes of the current order and imagine a holistic communizing medicine bringing both intraspecies solidarity, climate struggle and emancipation together.

The seminar will present shorter readings of texts by Franco Basaglia, Frantz Fanon, Audre Lorde, Jackie Stacey and Susan Sontag. The presentation and text selection are a reduced summary of my PhD thesis at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. Participants are invited to interact throughout the seminar that will include participatory exercises and moments for sharing. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and ongoing social distancing measures the seminar will be organized through videoconferencing. This is not an optimal format for sharing, however the very nature of this psychotechnical condition will also be examined together thorough the seminar.

Michele Masucci – artist, curator, educator, writer and researcher. Working in and through different forms of collaborations his work combines the autonomous Marxist tradition with feminist and queer theory elaborating on care as a form of ethico-aesthetic practice.

Michele is currently a guest lecturer in art theory at Konstfack University of Arts, Craft and Design, PhD fellow in Theory at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, and scientific coordinator at Karolinska Institutet Stockholm. He recently co-edited Red Love: A Reader on Alexandra Kollontai and is currently participating in the 2020/21 edition of the Luleåbiennial. Michele has curated the exhibition A Careful Strike* at Mint konsthall, opening fall of 2021.


Department of Fine Art

Reading material
For PDFs of the reading material please contact

Fanon, Frantz. Alienation and Freedom. Ed. Jean Khalfa and RobertJ.C. Young: London: Bloomsbury, 2018.

Foot, John. The Man Who Closed the Asylums: Franco Basaglia and the Revolution in Mental Health Care. NY: Verso Books, 2015

Lorde, Audre. The Cancer Journals. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 1980

Malabou, Catherine. Philosophers, Biologists: Some More Effort If You Wish to Become Revolutionaries!. Critical Inquiry 43. Chicago: The University of Chicago, 2016

Mbembe, Achille. Necropolitics. Public Culture 15(1): 11–40, Durham: Duke University Press, 2003

Sontag, Susan. Illness as Metaphor. NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1978

Stacey, Jackie. Teratologies: A Cultural Study of Cancer. Abigdon: Routledge, 1997

Thomas, Lennox. Psychohistoriography: a post-colonial psychoanalytic and psychotherapeutic model. Psychodynamic Practice, 20:1, 83-88, 2014