Jana Vanecek

Our Immune System

A research based textprint series | 2020 – ongoing

Biomedical language – with its fascinating artifacts, images, architectures, social forms, and technologies – is able to shape the different experience of health, disease and death for millions of human animals. This power of biomedicine and biotechnology is a social fact, always dependent on a diversity of social processes. This is as true for the names of the overlapping discourses and their objects of knowledge as it is for the abstract corporate names after which the concrete sites of the spread of these discourses are named.

The immune system – an object of the 20th century – is an elaborate icon for systems of symbolic and material difference, emphasizing the increasing importance of North-South conflict even at the height of the Cold War. It represents a discursive mapping that guides the recognition and misrecognition of “self” and “other” in the dialectics of Western biopolitics. The immune system is a historically specific domain where medical-clinical practices, digitization and venture capital, international patent law, and intimate personal and collective experiences of corporeality, vulnerability, power, and mortality interrelate with an intensity that has already formed the basis for a new form of capitalism for decades. This is not a one-way cause-and-effect chain, but rather a kind of co-production.

Capitalism has never been a unitary ahistorical system. Capitalism has always had many faces and is changeable, so we are always dealing with different manifestations of capitalism. However, what all the different historical forms of capitalism essentially have in common with each other is their structuring through crises and the transformation of “things” into commodities. The coming decades will bring diverse challenges and unprecedented political dilemmas and difficult choices. Some of them will be new and others will look quite old. They will certainly shape the adult lives of the currently young. However, this is not necessarily all bad. We also have the opportunity to do things differently. It is a chance to enter into relationships with each other whose forms will be different from those of previous generations.