Care of the Brain


Mónica Lacerda

October 27, 2017artist contribution,

In Mónica Lacerda’s contribution to the Open! COOP Academy research theme (Against) Neuralgia: Care of the Brain in Times of Cognitive Capitalism both language and writing float and drift, evoking a more spatial and sensory reading experience. With this the artist asks, can we play with words, letters, their sounds and images and disentangle ourselves from their prior meaning? Can we restructure our mind and thinking by postponing interpretation?

Download complete poem.

  living organism

f            fuuuuu
uuuuu           u

its existence is an uncertainty – it comes and goes and it mutates as it

m                                    o                                v                           e                  s

                                          o                                v                           e                   s

                                                                               v                           e                    s

                                                                                                               e                    s


                                                                                                                                              its passions are
part of a continuum
                               that has no time nor placement ~ as a stream, as a stream, as a stream,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,                                                      ~
                                                   ,,,,                  ''''''''''''''''            ~                           it stirrs innumerable forces                                                                  ¨¨¨  ,,,,,,                                                                                          
                                                                                                 ~                                                     being one
                                                                                                ~                                                            force
                                                         among many

                                                                                               mutable interchangeable plastic
when making sense of being one encounters a permanent flux of life. in that touching lies a tentacular feeling that observes through their own body, squeezing in between tectonic plates – airy particles that hide in all that has a solid appearence. now is a moment that has no end. it holds time, watching its motion and being part of it, either on a vortice shaped movement or anchored,

                                                                floating placidly

a living being that moves

      s       s
   s     s
  o   o
 r  r
c  c
 r  r
  o   o
   s     s
      s       s



alongside other

is a definition of


          :   ~   :



to a   dance
no begining
no end

flickering                                                                                                                                                     fleetly

                     in its aban

Mónica Lacerda lives and works between Porto and the Netherlands. Her artistic practice is an on going wordful dance – allowing words to be played by senses – taking a feminist and queer standpoint. The many ways in which Mónica engages with the written word brings out the bittersweetness that grows with the desire to be flooded by words. This overwhelming passion brings out the fragility and corruption of language, and the tension of constantly resisting the subversion of oppressive language. In an attempt to capture the nerve-wracking-now, Mónica's practice actively enquires — through thought and practice — the usefulness of language, where precision in the use of words is needed in turning them into a space for inclusion. Poems — written or performed, — choreographing an act of movement of the body through space, shaping as time unfolds.

Care of the Brain
(Against) Neuralgia: Care of the Brain in Times of Cognitive Capitalism
The seven major fibre bundles of the human brain; these tracks are created using DSI Studio and rendered in TrackVis. Image: Sudhir Pathak

The brain is a work, and we do not know it. We are its subjects, authors and producers at once – and we do not know it.
—Catherine Malabou

(Against) Neuralgia: Care of the Brain in Times of Cognitive Capitalism is a new series of artists’ publications resulting from the 2016–2017 Open! COOP Academy Publishing Class at the Dutch Art Institute (DAI). DAI is an internationally orientated MA Art Praxis focusing on art, but explicitly granting attention to the crossings and interactions with other domains, disciplines and knowledges. As a partner of DAI, Open! conducts thematical research and publishes projects with a group of MA students using the Open! platform as the overarching discursive framework and site for experimentation and presentation. You can find links to the results of the previous year below.

This year our study group questioned the state of the mind and brain under conditions of cognitive capitalism. Mainly from the perspective of the humanities and political aesthetics, we focused on current notions of the brain in our global capitalist societies. We asked after how far the brain can be ideologically infiltrated or resist that infiltration. From the assumption that culture and brain form complex systems of influence, control and resistance, and that language, memory and imagination are more and more performed by machines and automated algorithmic procedures, we looked at some of the implications of ‘cognitive automation’ in terms of our subjectivity, identity and free will. We learned how neuro-scientific conceptions of the brain can be appropriated by cognitive capitalism and charted possibilities to subvert the instrumentalization of our brains. 

Through seminars and in conversation with generous guest tutors and by studying texts and other resources, we entered the brain. We were very much inspired by philosopher Catherine Malabou’s questioning of ‘what we should do so that consciousness of the brain does not purely and simply coincide with the spirit of capitalism’. Malabou wants to instigate consciousness of the ‘plasticity’ of the brain – that is the brain’s ability to change and adapt as a result of experience – at the service of an emancipatory political understanding. We also closely looked at the ‘neuroplastic dilemma’ as described by theorist and activist Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi who asserts that neuroplasticity can be the condition for the reactivation of empathy and political solidarity’s necessary conditions for a process of self-organization of the general intellect driven by ethical and aesthetic sensibilities rather than by the an-ethical impulse of economic competition.

Artist-theorist Warren Neidich introduced us to the fields of neuro-aesthetics, neuro-ethics and concepts such as the neurobiological sublime, the brain without organs and noology. Art historian Antonia Majaca conducted a brainy seminar about the use of technology and the potential to generate non-paranoid imagination and agency in the age of algorithmic governmentality. Bifo passionately spoke about the Guattarian concept of ‘chaosmose’ and about ‘chaosmique spasm’. He urged us to find a new rhythm between the relation of the brain and the chaos of the infosphere. Art historian Amelia Groom focused on ‘viscosity with a will’ and went into the ways in which soft invertebrates and brainless slimes invite new ways of understanding intelligence, embodiment and collectivity. Finally researcher and lecturer Willem van Weelden tried to critically compare Malabou’s recent definition of trauma (brain trauma and psychic trauma), based on the advances made in neurobiology and new senses of materiality (plasticity), with Jean-François Lyotard’s investigation of time and matter – as demonstrated in the eighties by his manifestation ‘Les Immatériaux’ and his philosophy of the Inhuman. 

Alongside all this the Open! COOP Academy participants developed their individual (image)essays and experimental writings, guided by the Open! team and the guest tutors. As a collaborative exercise in thinking and writing they also created a playful image-text lexicon in relation to the overarching subject matter and the issues at stake, so as to break open concepts and create new relationships among them.1