The Ultimate Capital is the Sun

Metabolism in Contemporary Art, Politics, Philosophy and Science

20 September–16 November 2014
Opening: 19 September 2014



nGbK, Oranienstraße 25
Akademie der Künste, Hanseatenweg 10, 10557 Berlin


Pedro Barateiro, Ricardo Basbaum, Paolo Bottarelli, Anne Duk Hee Jordan, Wietske Maas, Amina Menia, Yves Mettler, Pratchaya Phinthong, Timur Si-Qin, Hakan Topal, Clemens von Wedemeyer, Sun Xun

Project group

Elena Agudio, Dorothee Albrecht, Bonaventure Ndikung, Matteo Pasquinelli, Eylem Sengezer

The Greek word metabolē originally meant to change and, literally, to throw over. In times of worldwide human-made transformations, climate change and ecological awareness, expanding and exploding the notion of metabolism seems to be crucial to understanding present and future politics. The exhibition investigates the understanding of ‘metabolism’ in contemporary art in a dialogue with philosophical and scientific research beyond Eurocentric rationalization.

Biological metabolism is a process that constitutes living beings in continuous exchange with their environment. Photosynthesis, for instance, struggles to capture and condense solar energy at the basis of the food chain that sustains the whole biosphere. For the parasitic relation of terrestrial life with the outside cosmos, the French philosopher Michel Serres in his book The Parasite once defined the sun as our energetic horizon and the very ‘ultimate capital’.

Like many other scientific ideas, as soon as the concept of metabolism emerged in 19th century chemistry and biology, it generated a contagious fascination in art and politics. Marx himself registered the ‘metabolic rift’ provoked by the industrial revolution and envisioned a ‘social metabolism’ long before environmentalism. However, today the human appears to be made also of the non-human, of a heterogeneous stratification of minerals and microorganisms, including machines, synthetic materials and immaterial data.

The exhibition The Ultimate Capital is the Sun brings together artists, philosophers, scientists and curators to explore various grounds of metabolism with no desire to establish a centre of gravity.

In collaboration with Metabolismus Büro

The Metabolism of the Social Brain

Symposium within the frame of the project “The Ultimate Capital is the Sun”
25 – 26 October 2014
Akademie der Künste, Hanseatenweg 10, 10557 Berlin

The idea of collective mind is as old as the most ancient cultures and systems of thought. Yet only today the picture of a collective intelligence is easily exemplified by the networks of digital communication and scientific cooperation. Information technologies represent indeed the most direct incarnation of the nervous system of the planet, and so also the best example of an extended mind. Neuroscientists themselves started to investigate the mind as something expanded beyond the limits of the brain that always interacts with a multitude of media and cognitive tools. The collective mind as a social entity has had an important role across the history of political thought too: from Spinoza to the visionary figure of the general intellect of the multitude at the core of cognitive capitalism, the social brain is the political protagonist of a new conflict.

Indeed the plasticity of the brain, or neuroplasticity, has become also synonymous of the cognitive flexibility request by contemporary capitalism to labour. “What should we do so that consciousness of the brain does not purely and simply coincide with the spirit of capitalism?” has asked Catherine Malabou. Nevertheless the symposium wants to instigate also a reflection on scientific research beyond Eurocentric rationalization, exploring forms of cross-cultural psychiatry and issues of appropriation in postcolonial contexts. The symposium is an effort to deliberate on the different trajectories through which so-called ‘psychopathologies’, related to postcolonial societies or expressed by non-Western peoples in Western societies, could be understood.

Within the context of “The Ultimate Capital is the Sun” exhibition at nGbK and in a dialogue with the arts, the symposium “The Metabolism of the Social Brain” will attempt to investigate the political and aesthetic issues related to the age of neurosciences, to the rise of neuroculture and the need of a new neuropolitics.

The symposium will be held in English language.
Entrance is free

7pm – 10pm | Metabolismus Büro, first floor
Personhood and Repair beyond Eurocentric rationalization
Introduction by Elena Agudio and Bonaventure Ndikung.
Presentation and round table with Edwin Etieyibo (WITS, Johannesburg) and Ulrike Kluge (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, AG Transkulturelle Psychiatrie (Charité Berlin), (tbc).

11 am – 12am | Metabolismus Büro, first floor
Presentation of the catalogue The Ultimate Capital is the Sun (nGbK).
Presentation of the new Springerin issue “Kognitives Kapital / Cognitive Capital”

12 am – 1pm | Exhibition space, first floor
Guided tour of the Schwindel der Wirklichkeit / Vertigo of Reality exhibition (AdK). Highly recommended. Ticket 7€ / 5€ reduced (

1 pm – 2 pm | Lunch break

2 pm – 6 pm | Auditorium, ground floor
Papers and discussion (around 45 minutes each including Q&A).

The Opening of the Cerebral Gate (Homage to Drexciya)
Introduction by Matteo Pasquinelli
Brain theory Between Utopia and Dystopia: Churchland, Negri and the Promise of the Biopolitical Brain
Charles Wolfe (University of Ghent)
Continental Neurophilosophy: Challenging Malabou on the Politics of Cerebral Subjectivity
Jan Slaby (Free University Berlin)

4pm | Coffee break

On Sellars and Metzinger: Between Rational Subjectivity and Phenomenal Selfhood
Peter Wolfendale (Sunderland)
Acts of Engendering by Abstract Thought: Reclaiming the Mathematical in Politics and Philosophy
Vera Bülhmann (ETH Zurich)
The Pigeon in the Machine: The Concept of Control in Behaviourism and Cybernetics
Ana Teixeira Pinto (Berlin)

Final debate

An event by neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst (nGbK) in cooperation with Akademie der Künste Berlin in the framework of Schwindel der Wirklichkeit.
Part of the nGbK exhibition “The Ultimate Capital is the Sun” (20 Sept – 16 Nov 2014).

In cooperation with