Six Contradictions and the End of the Present

26 March - 28 November, 2018 - (check programme)
Adam Curtis. HyperNormalisation. Film, 2016
Adam Curtis. HyperNormalisation. Film, 2016

Lectures and film screenings: Free, until full capacity is reached

Research workshops: Free, with prior registration by writing to

Workshop capacity:

35 participants


aLabs and Traficantes de Sueños

Organized by
Museo Reina Sofía

This seminar of public lectures, film screenings and research workshops explores how contemporary capitalism, in its galloping escalation and capacity to assimilate and produce aspects of private life, works through contradiction as a mechanism of regulation and adaptation. In recent years, the dominant social model has verifiably stopped functioning in alignment with normality based on stability, welfare, growth and identity, all defined in the aftermath of the Second World War. Conversely, today this normalcy assumes an inscrutable and unpredictable state, devoid of expectation and a source of existential uncertainty. It is not just the future that has slipped from the social imagination; the present is fragmented and has withdrawn into itself, with this same present mimicked by forms, spaces and subjectivities of capital in all its permutations in such a way that contemporary time is just another mode of production in this total regime.

Therefore, this programme seeks to provide critical tools to illuminate this hijacked present and to re-imagine a landscape that is under transformation. In contrast to previous decades, the aim is to unravel the complexities, folds and forms of resistance in our era, not to think of the future as a utopia. The series, alluding to 17 Contradictions and the End of Capitalism (2014), a book by British geographer David Harvey, which explores how the neoliberal system is based on impossibility as a model of social reproduction, takes up the methodology of this study, employing contradiction to break away from the constant, serialised and homogenous time of contemporaneity. 

Each of the six seminar sessions is put together in a double format: encompassing lectures, film screenings and public discussions on one side, and ongoing research workshops, readings and annual analysis on the other. It introduces a disruption to the core conditions of this paradigm, seeking to open dialectic possibilities in order to build a new present.   

The first year will approach the following contradictions: the authoritarian impact of digital technology with Evgeny Morozov; the possibilities of art criticism as a tool for subjectivation and constitution with Franco Berardi Bifo; radical changes to employment and the new precarious class this gives rise to, with Tiziana Terranova and Trebor Scholz; the racial inequality as a persistent vector in social movements and care set apart from commodified values, conducted by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor and Yayo Herrero; the possible contours of a post-capitalist imagination, with Paul Mason; and, finally, the postcolonial subject and its perception as a historical actor at a time of immense inequality, on a socioeconomic level and in accounts and narratives, with Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o. 


Actividad pasada 26 and 27 March
Evgeny Morozov
Digital Capitalism and Discontent

Monday, 26 March, 7pm / Nouvel Building, Auditorium 200

Tuesday, 27 March, 12 noon / Nouvel Building, Study Centre
Research workshop

The meteoric rise of the digital giants has been put down to the founders’ business and technological genius by numerous critics, yet still it poses a raft of questions surrounding the concentration of political, economic and social power in the hands of technology brokers. There is a pressing need to have a critical diagnosis of the situation at hand in order to explain this period in terms of the geopolitical vacuums created in the aftermath of the Cold War. This session will analyse and discuss the traits of this new abstract government of the algorithm and Big Data, in addition to the possible alternatives to this new condition i.e. other models that differ from data ownership, subjecting algorithms to the corresponding audits and creating corporate tech platforms.

More information

Actividad pasada 27 and 28 April
Franco Berardi Bifo
Subversion or Barbarism. The End of the World as We Know it

Friday, 27 April, 7pm / Nouvel Building, Auditorium 200

Saturday, 28 April
11am / Nouvel Building, Study Centre
Research workshop

7pm / Sabatini Building, Auditorium
Film screening: Comunismo futuro (2017, Italy, colour, original version with Spanish subtitles, 72’)

Conversation with the film-makers:
Franco Berardi Bifo, screenwriter and narrator, and Andrea Gropplero di Troppenburg, director

In this series of activities, Franco Berardi Bifo will explore and reveal new forms of power and domination, characterised by brutality, mass audiences and intangibility, which, according to Bifo, are imposed so naturally and trivially that their intellectual understanding and political contestation are unattainable. Thus, the debate between social majorities swings between the lack of possible futures and the difficulties of furnishing life itself with plausible existential meaning. As a coda to the session, Bifo will present, with Andrea Gropplero di Troppenburg, the film Comunismo futuro, an urgent call to the most idiosyncratic political approach of the twentieth century, thereby elucidating its possibilities in the twenty-first century. Is collective intelligence feasible at a time of connected intelligence?

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Actividad pasada 6 and 7 June
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor and Yayo Herrero
Raciality and Care in the Dispute Over Other Lives

Wednesday, 27 June, 7pm / Nouvel Building, Auditorium 200

Wednesday, 29 June, 6pm / Nouvel Building, Protocol Room
Research workshop featuring the participation of different collectives

This session led by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor and Yayo Herrero explores the conflict between life and neoliberalism as a result of past clashes between capital and work. Traditionally, this concept has referred to the exploitation of work and the wage earner, while its contemporary version assumes that this exploitation does not affect salaried activities exclusively, but life itself. Therefore, from an ecofeminist and antiracist perspective, the session considers the possibility of other subjectivities outside the production logics of economistic value. With this in mind, Yayo Herrero will discuss how care has become precarious and is circumscribed to women and the home; essential yet excluded from social consideration, while Taylor will focus on contemporary racism in the USA as the structural effect of a system which seeks to create a state of terror bound to supremacy through division and control.

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Actividad pasada 12 and 13 September
Trebor Scholz and Tiziana Terranova
Overexploited and Underpaid. Free Work, Insecurity, and Creation

Wednesday, 12 September, 7pm / Sabatini Building, Auditorium

Thursday, 13 September, 11am / Nouvel Building, Study Centre
Research workshop

In this session Trebor Scholz and Tiziana Terranova will explore new logics in force in the world of production and digital and cognitive work, as well their technological correlates and the relationship they bear to new models of social organisation. What are the impact and possibilities of new digital tools and what are the consequences of ownership models by the major technology conglomerates? The opportunities offered by new technological organisation applied to social reproduction will be analysed, as will the state of the current and future workforce, which has created a new work and citizen paradigm, in which the artist, in his or her continual, precarious and undervalued work not only participates but is also a clear precursor.

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Actividad pasada 27 and 28 November
Paul Mason
Postcapitalism. A Guide for the Present Future

Tuesday, 27 November, 7pm / Sabatini Building, Auditorium
Lecture. PostCapitalism

Wednesday, 28 November
10am / Nouvel Building, Protocol Room
Research workshop. From Resistance to Postcapitalist Politic

7pm / Sabatini Building, Auditorium
Film screening: Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere (2017), UK, colour, original version with Spanish subtitles, 59’) and a conversation with the director, Paul Mason

In Mason’s view, systematic trends of neoliberal capitalism are having a huge impact on current societies, making the emergence of citizen interventions that are both original and radical and comparable to capitalist intervention even more urgent. Mason argues that technology includes a potentially subversive organisational matrix with new options and practices which must be obtained for social emancipation. The corollary of this thinking is that the future is already here and the present is a threatening past and future.

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Actividad pasada Postponed to 2019, new date will be announced soon
Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
Decolonising the Mind. Postcolonialism and Other Possible Worlds

Lecture and research workshop

In recent decades, new postcolonial subjects have burst into Western societies’ political systems, altering the logic of European states. Therefore, this session will analyse the forms which generate this destabilisation from the recognition of different types of citizenship, as well as examining theoretical models of the dominant postcolonial theories at the present time, attempting to explain the appearance of other subjects, narratives, bodies and knowledge in societies —subjects that end up being culturally unassimilable and unrecognisable as political and historical agents.