September 29, 2022

Seeking Submissions For Bellona Issue Three: Surplus

The notion of surplus is central to theorizations of contemporary social, economic, geographic, cultural and sonic phenomena, touching upon maximalism and excess, queerness and alterity, creativity and deficit. Espoused by both boosters and critics of the capitalist mode of production – the former evoking the ‘cognitive’ surpluses produced by capitalist innovation, the latter articulating its principal role in both secular and epochal crisis – surplus is a lens through which the excesses of our present moment are made apprehensible.

At the scale of everyday life, we experience surplus through quantification. How much time do I have to see friends or family after work? To produce art? To think and rest? How does a commute, with its simultaneous surfeit and deficit of experience, modulate my relationship to place and the people around me? Too often then, surplus in its negative form – overtime, debt, exhaustion, illness and disability – is the axis through which we live.

Surplus also forms the basis of macro-level economic phenomena under the capitalist mode of production. At our present moment, a ‘slack’ labor market has been posited by neoclassical economists as both cause and effect of inflation. Far from a novel occurrence, Marx noted that a relative surplus working population, or an ‘industrial reserve army’, is both an inevitable product and condition of capitalist production: there are always ‘too few’ and ‘too many’ workers depending on the rapidly shifting requirements of capital's self-valorization. 

Other strands of Marxist thought pose surpluses of accumulation, productive capacity or commodities as central to the many cyclical forms of crisis we find ourselves mired in today. Such theorizations of the so-called ‘long downturn’, wherein the economies of the Global North find themselves facing conditions of terminal stagnation since the early 1970s, have also taken a greater interest in the rise of surplus populations, groups relegated to the margins of capitalist circuits of production and circulation. In so doing, they rehearse theorizations of automation and lumpenization produced from within the Black Radical Tradition at the middle of the 20th century, as most famously articulated in the work of Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Grace Lee Boggs, James Boggs and the Black Panther Party. 

From the specific vantage of dance and electronic musics, surplus takes on further contradictory resonances. It is associated with speed, rising beats-per-minute and the associated chemical and financial overheating of the dancefloor, as well the confrontational qualities of extreme musics (metal, noise, gabber). At the same time, it is a framework through which to understand the rhythmic dynamics, slippages and vernacular forms of non- and anti-Western forms of dance and experimental music, and of the temporalities and sonics of queerness, understood in its guise as an antinormative excess or maximalism.

In this issue, we invite submissions that respond to these and other valences of surplus. What are the aesthetic functions of surplus in contemporary music, both over and underground? Can we understand various turns to excess (hyperpop, digicore, the recurrence of trance) as being related to economic and social surpluses? What forms of cultural production emanate from zones in which those deemed surplus are held and how might this production reflect back on these zones?  Finally, if surplus both constitutes and throws into crisis hegemonic aesthetic and political economic orders, how can we imagine its reappropriation in a post-capitalist future?

If you are interested in submitting to the Surplus issue, please reach out with a 3-4 sentence pitch to bellonamagazine@gmail.com. The deadline for submissions is November 1. Further details on submissions to Bellona Magazine can be found here.

January 5, 2022

A Secret Betrayed: An Art and Value Reading List

Questions surrounding the ‘value’ of art have been launched into public conversation in recent years. Museums and art galleries have been interrogated for their role in financial speculation, not to mention outright money laundering, while the chasm between the price and perceived value of artworks has been opened up to comical extents via the non-fungible token (NFT) phenomenon. Through this reading list, and the short blurbs that follow each entry, we seek to clarify the processes by which value regulates the production, circulation and consumption of art.

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December 13, 2021

Seeking Submissions for Bellona Issue Two: Empire

The second issue of Bellona is organized under the rubric of ‘Empire’. We invite submissions that address the various ways in which the economic, political and historical apparatuses of the colonial, imperial and neo-imperial eras continue to shape the locations and forms of cultural production today.

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November 1, 2021

A Sound Held in Common: The Experimental Socialities of Operaismo, Autonomia and the AACM

An exploration of the tactics, social forms and cultural production of two moments of revolutionary potential in Italy and Chicago. How is culture enmeshed in the creation of anti-capitalist socialities? And what might a conception of autonomy grounded in improvisation and experimentation look like?

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November 1, 2021

Joseon Bolshevik

Much has been written about the Korean War and the peninsula’s ensuing split into communist North and capitalist South. But what set the stage for the United States’ genocidal war and ongoing occupation? Sunik Kim explores the subtleties of revolutionary action, class composition and diaspora politics in pre-revolutionary Korea.

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November 1, 2021

Plug-in Capitalism

The tools we use are inherently political, not least the ones we use to produce music. Michael Terren addresses financialization and rentierism in the world of digital audio workstation (DAW) plug-ins. What emerges is a trend towards digital instruments as services, and, in response, the necessity of seizing the means of music production.

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November 1, 2021

The General Intellect and its Discontents

The ‘general intellect’ is one of Marx’s most fraught, misunderstood concepts. What accounts for its reemergence in discourses around fully automated luxury communism and blockchain technology? And can the ‘general intellect’ be salvaged from its presumed base in the development of Western capitalist technology?

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November 1, 2021

What a Beautiful Feeling, Crimson and Clover: Emotional Listening and Compositional Pleasures

Thea Ballard interrogates the pop song, specifically Jimmy Eat World’s ‘A Praise Chorus’, from the dual positions of composer and listener. Fundamentally ambivalent to the song’s ability to escape from, or transgress on, its commodity status, Ballard mines the form through the lenses of ‘thin’ composition and ‘emotional’ listening in order to articulate its affective potential.

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Bellona Magazine is a biannual journal and publishing collective.

We are a group of artists, culture workers and writers who seek a new paradigm for critical expression. Against the “creative” forms of mass consumption and instrumentalized social relations that predominate in the culture industries today, Bellona is our attempt to resituate criticism as a site of contemplation and contestation. Our primary object of critique is music, specifically its circumscription in the commodity-form, but our interests also range to film, literature and the visual arts, all undergirded by a broad political economic critique. At this conjuncture, it is difficult to imagine a music or a criticism unbound from contemporary exploitation, extraction and subsumption, but Bellona Magazine aims to collectivize the tools currently at hand so as to build towards that future.

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